Comment on The Metamorphosis of La Sierra University: an eye-witness account by Sean Pitman.
So, Sean, if I understand you correctly, fulfilled prophecy is â€œscienceâ€ (as you allude to in your response to Bill Sorensen) but observing a miracle by Jesus is not (as you allude to in your response to me). Am I right?
You’re still confusing observation with interpretation. “Science” is a method of interpreting observations. The interpretation itself cannot be known with absolute perfection.
Observing an event says nothing about what that event means. The interpretation that a particular event must indicate a Divine or superhuman cause or origin (a miracle) is an interpretation that can be based on a form of scientific reasoning… but this conclusion cannot be known with absolute certainty (as is the case with all scientific interpretations or hypotheses). The very same thing is true of “fulfilled prophecy”.
Do you really not know that scientists are in general agreement that scientific hypotheses and theories can never reach absolute perfection?
And then, I suppose, something â€œindisputableâ€ can never be â€œprovenâ€ or shown absolutely to be â€œtruth?â€
An indisputable observation does not require “proof” since it is, by definition, indisputable for anyone with a rational candid mind observing from the same frame of reference. Interpretations of such observations are, however, always potentially disputable/falsifiable.
Again, however, observations are not “science” in and of themselves… as you very well know…
Sean Pitman Also Commented
â€œYouâ€™re mistaken. If life on this Earth can be conclusively shown to have the appearance of having been here for hundreds of millions of years of time, that would be very problematic for the validity of the Genesis account of originsâ€¦ problematic for the candid rational mind.â€ â€“ Sean Pitman
Exactly, Sean. Your â€œcandid rational mindâ€ will never see or know how miracles happen. Nor how â€œHe commanded, and it stood fast.â€ Nor how â€œBy the word of the Lord the heavens were made and all the hosts of them by the breath of His mouth.â€
You don’t have to know how something happened to know that however it happened, it required the input of a deliberate and very intelligent mind. This is where scientific reasoning and rational thinking comes into play.
Your argument that the features of the natural world in which we live, and various historical sciences, are irrelevant to the validity of the claims of the Bible is a direct appeal to blind faith – – that one should simply believe the Bible even in situations where all available empirical evidence is clearly contradictory. The very same argument is used by my LDS friends – the very same argument. They argue that they know the truth because the Holy Spirit tells them the truth. This is essentially the same thing you’re saying – or so it seems to me…
And all the trees and flowers and animal life were not â€œone day oldâ€ in their development. Adam was a full grown man and so were the animals. And the trees were not â€œone day oldâ€ either. They were created full grown.
We’re not talking about a situation were God, out of necessity, produced adult forms of living things. We’re talking about a situation where God would make things look like they have lived and died on this planet over the course of hundreds of millions of years of time, and then expect us to believe the Bible despite the overwhelming empirical evidence to the contrary. I’m sorry, but that’s not a reasonable argument for belief or faith in the credibility of the Bible.
If people will not accept the bibleâ€™s own evidence of self validation, all the science in the world will not persuade them.
Again, there is no such thing as “self validation”. That concept is not a rational concept. It is an appeal to circular reasoning. For example, I could say, “What I just told you is true because I am trustworthy – just ask me. Don’t ask anyone else though because no one else is a trustworthy as I am.”
Even if the truly find Noahâ€™s ark, those who choose not to believe will remain in unbelief. So Jesus said, â€œIf they will not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe even if one rose from the dead.â€
And Paul affirms, â€œSpiritual things are spiritually discerned.â€
This is a problem with desire, not with the evidentiary basis of faith for those who really do want to know and follow the truth. Paul, in particular, argues for the evidentiary basis of faith in Romans 1:20 NIV.
Is there evidence of a flood? Yes. But all unbelievers soon find another answer by way of â€œscienceâ€ to dis-credit the bible.
One doesn’t need “science” to avoid acceptance of what one really knows to be true. The Jewish leaders in Jesus’ day knew that he was the Messiah. They just didn’t want to accept what they knew to be true. The evidence was overwhelming. They had no excuse for their rejection of Jesus and they will admit this in the end of time during the final Judgment.
Take note, Sean, how earnestly the devil works to dis-credit prophecy. It is the one infallible testimony to validate the bible and its claims.
An understanding of history, upon which the validity of prophecy is based, is not infallible my friend. It is based, as are all of your other beliefs about the reality of the world in which you live, on your own subjective interpretation of what your five senses are telling you. In other words, your beliefs, even in regard to biblical prophecy, are subject to potential error and falsification – as are mine. You simply aren’t omniscient. You cannot know for sure, with absolute certainty, if you are or are not correct. You can be very confident in your conclusions, but not perfectly so this side of Heaven…
Dr. Ford  worked earnestly to dis-credit Daniel and over throw bible Adventism and attack EGW and her ministry. And not a few have followed in his foot steps who hold a good deal of influence and authority in the SDA church today.
That’s true. But, this is irrelevant to the discussion at hand – i.e., a discussion regarding the evidentiary basis of a rational faith in the credibility of the Bible as the Word of God.
Spectrum and A-today never should have had a booth at the GC in Atlanta. They are not SDA forums, nor are they sponsored by the SDA church.
Do we let a Roman Catholic ministry have a booth at our GC sessions? To do so is to admit these ministries have a valid influence for truth and should be seriously considered for their teaching and spirituality.
I agree, but this is also irrelevant to the discussion at hand.
If through science, you can influence someone to consider the bible and its validity, then â€œthe law is a schoolmaster to lead us to (the bible).â€
This is how I was led to a confident trust in the Bible as the Word of God. And, this is how I have led many of my friends to trust the Bible as well… through an appeal to the weight of currently available empirical evidence and a form of scientific reasoning.
By a careful study of scripture, a scientist may be persuaded and even agree that natural science does not attack scripture. But you will never use natural science alone to prove the age of the earth, nor validate the creation week. On the other hand, you can use the bible alone to validate its stated truths.
You’re mistaken here. It is upon a form of scientific reasoning alone that the Bible’s credibility regarding its metaphysical and other non-testable claims can be rationally considered to be trustworthy. It is through scientific investigation into the testable claims of the Bible that the Bible is found to be consistently trustworthy and reliable. Therefore, the trustworthiness of those biblical claims that cannot be directly investigated gain credibility as well. Without this basis in empirical evidence, however, there would be no rational reason to trust the Bible as having superior credibility in anything vs. any other good book or moral fable.
Sean, you use the word â€œscientificâ€ in a loose ended generic sense. Because people can think and reason, you call this â€œscientificâ€.
Scientific thinking and reasoning invokes certain rules of logic and appeals to empirical evidence. Such thinking therefore invokes a form of scientific rational and is therefore a form of “science.”
I really don’t think you understand what “science” is. It really isn’t all that special or spectacular as far as methods are concerned. It is a very simple method of thinking that involves the interpretation of the evidence that comes into your mind from the outside world through your five senses. It is a “basic bs detector”, as one of my professors used to say. That’s it. Anyone can use a form of scientific reasoning – even children.
There is a spiritual law science that is not oppose to natural law, but neither is it validated by natural law as the authority for any conclusions.
This is not true when it comes to validating the credibility of the Bible for those who have not grown up automatically thinking of the Bible as credible or for those who honestly consider some other source of presumed authority, such as the Qur’an or the Book of Mormon, to be superior to the Bible.
And I personally doubt you can â€œproveâ€ or even substanciate with reliable evidence from nature the age of the earth. Namely, because no one know how old the earth was when God created it. The biological age could have been millions of years, even if the cronological age was only one day.
First off, I’m really only interested in the age of life on Earth and the structure of the Earth needed to support complex life. Secondly, you’re appealing to the concept of “Last Thursdayism” again. God could make things look old or young or whatever. That would remove the basis for the credibility of the Bible as being superior to the Qur’an or the Book of Mormon. After all, someone subscribing to one of these other faiths could simply say, “God just make it look different from the true reality.” That’s not a rational argument…
How old was Adam on the first day he was created? or the animals? or the trees and other plant life? We donâ€™t know and we donâ€™t need to know. Apparently, it is not relevant and so we have no biblical information to go by.
On the First Day, Adam and all other animal life on Earth was obviously one day old – but had the appearance, from our own perspective, of an adult or mature age… according to the Genesis account.
Just so, we donâ€™t know how old the rocks were nor any other element. This is why I find it fruitless to bicker or try to prove the age of the earth by natural science.
You’re mistaken. If life on this Earth can be conclusively shown to have the appearance of having been here for hundreds of millions of years of time, that would be very problematic for the validity of the Genesis account of origins… problematic for the candid rational mind.
It is pointless to argue that God could have created life with the appearance of having been here for hundreds of millions of years when in reality it has only been here for less than 10,000 years. Such an argument would make God look like a capricious liar who expects people to blindly believe despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary – like expecting people to believe that the Earth is flat when all the available evidence overwhelmingly shows it to be spherical…
The God I know doesn’t work like that… And, Mrs. White makes a very interesting statement to the contrary:
During the Flood humans, animals, and trees were â€œburied, and thus preserved as an evidence to later generations that the antediluvians perished by a flood. God designed that the discovery of these things should establish faith in inspired history; but . . . the things which God gave them [i.e., to us humans] as a benefit, they turn into a curse by making a wrong use of them.â€
– Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 112.
In other words, according to Mrs. White, God encourages the search for and study of fossils, and actually intends that their discovery should help to ground personal belief in the historical reliability of the Genesis account of the creation and the Flood. This forcefully illustrates that Mrs. White believed that the accounts of Genesis 1-11 are divinely intended to be interpreted historically; not only theologically. Thus, according to Ellen White, the only true biblical understanding of the creation and the flood accounts is to interpret them as referring to empirical, historical events which are of interest to the natural sciences.
So should I accept the hypothesis that Jesus was resurrected based on eyewitness accounts? Iâ€™m not aware of physical evidence to support the possibility of his resurrection; are you suggesting that itâ€™s still â€œscientificâ€ to â€œinterpretâ€ the observations reported by eyewitnesses?
It depends upon the established credibility of the witnesses, using a form of scientific reasoning to establish this credibility, in your own mind. Does this credibility have the superior weight compared to all of the evidence available to you? If not, then you really have no rational basis to accept the claim as true… and God knows and understands when this is in fact the case for certain individuals…
The bigger question for me is this: would you, today, believe in the divinity of Jesus, or a recent creation in 6 days 6000 years ago, if it was not for the Bible?
I would believe in a recent creation of all life on Earth without the Bible – given what I currently think I know without reference to the Bible. I would also believe in a God or God-like power without the Bible based on the features of the created world and universe that demand an origin in a very intelligent and very powerful Mind. It is for this very reason that the majority of physicists believe in or at least strongly suspect the existence of a God of some kind as being ultimately responsible for the existence of the universe and us within it.
It is for this reason that Paul and David could rationally say,
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… I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. – Psalms 19:1 NIV & Psalms 139:14 NIV
The specific detail of 6-literal days of creation, on the other hand, is dependent upon the established credibility of the Bible. This credibility is based on such things as the Bible’s falsifiable statements on origins to include its claim for a recent creation of all life on this planet and a worldwide Noachian Flood – claims which have not been falsified and which are consistent with the significant weigh of evidence that is currently available.
The same is true of many of the other metaphysical statements of the Bible that are not directly testable or knowable outside of Biblical revelation…
Recent Comments by Sean Pitman
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.
Pacific Union College Encouraging Homosexual Marriage?
Dr. Bryan Ness just wrote (in the comment section of the Spectrum website) a response to the article I wrote here, as follows:
This saddens me more than anything. When someone who knows nothing about how or what I teach in my classes assumes they know. It seems that the assumption is that I am indoctrinating students into a belief about LGBTQ+ individuals that runs counter to SDA teachings, when I am doing no such thing. I say very little about same-sex marriage to my students, but rather take the approach recommended by the NAD in it’s very fine booklet “Guiding Families” and approach the LGBTQ+ students I come in contact with in the fashion described here (which is from the booklet):
“While it is tempting to focus on causation, I want to resolve this question up front: the origins of sexual orientation and gender identity are highly complex, multi-factorial, and likely rooted in both nature and nurture. For any one person, it can be impossible to know the exact cause. For this reason, we propose that we shift our focus from causation to compassion .”
I also encourage non-LGBTQ+ students to relate to LGBTQ+ students in this fashion. I also encourage abstinence in the LGBTQ+ students I know just as much as I encourage it among non-LGBTQ+ students. I encourage a compassionate and loving attitude and open acceptance of all individuals regardless their sexual or gender orientation.
I do not go out of my way to encourage same-sex marriage nor do I promote on our campus and so it baffles me that the headline of the article cited here says PUC is “encouraging Homosexual marriage,” whatever homosexual marriage is. Neither do I keep it a secret that I think same-sex marriage should be affirmed, which as far as I am aware is not a punishable offense in any setting. I know numerous pastors who believe the same way, some of whom will not say so openly because they fear the kind of judgmental and hateful backlash that an article like mine engenders in some people.
What seems to get repeatedly lost in these kinds of discussions and attacks is that people’s lives are at stake. Suicide among LGBTQ+ individuals runs several times higher than in the general population, and those that experience religious persecution around their sexual or gender orientation are especially seriously affected. If for no other reason than to show true compassion for such individuals, this kind of judgemental and angry discussion and attack should never happen. I think, as I repeat often, that we must take seriously Jesus’ words from Hosea, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” I fear that those who speak out so forcefully against our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters are more willing to sacrifice these people than to try and understand and truly love them.
You just published a very public article expressing your position on this topic – a position that is in direct conflict with that of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (Link). Have you not, therefore, as a paid representative of the SDA Church, taken a very public position that is in fact in conflict with the position of your employer? That’s a real problem as I see it. How do you see yourself around the conclusion that you are in fact actively undermining the clearly stated goals and ideals of your employer? How is this not an ethical problem for you? How do you not see it as a form of theft from your employer?
Beyond this, how is it being “loving” to our LGBTQ+ friends and family to say that the Bible says something that it just doesn’t say? I personally think the most loving thing to do, as a Christian, is to be honest about what the Bible has to say on this topic… even if I personally might not entirely understand exactly why the Bible says what it says.
Yes, the Bible is clear. there is NO condemnation of homosexuals or homosexuality in the Bible. Our Prophet never said a word about it. Jesus never referred to it.
Really? How then do you explain passages in both the Old and New Testament that clearly point out homosexual activity as being out of line with God’s will?
As far as the argument that Jesus never mentioned it, He never mentioned a lot of things that are classified as “sins” in both the Old and New Testament. So, I’m not sure what this has to do with anything?
As far as your argument that Ellen White never mentioned it, she did in fact mention passages in the Bible that discuss homosexuality as a sin. Ellen White declared that Romans 1:18–32, which details a descent into illicit sensuality (including homosexual behavior), as especially applicable to the last days.
“A terrible picture of the condition of the world has been presented before me. Immorality abounds everywhere. Licentiousness is the special sin of this age. Never did vice lift its deformed head with such boldness as now. The people seem to be benumbed, and the lovers of virtue and true goodness are nearly discouraged by its boldness, strength and prevalence. I was referred to Romans 1:18–32, as a true description of the world previous to the second appearing of Christ” (EGW, CG 440).
Paul’s book of Romans, in particular, includes language declaring that the sexual relationships at issue are characterized by mutuality, rather than exploitation. The phrase “men . . . burned in their desire toward one another [allēlous]” uses the Greek term allēlous, which indicates a mutuality, a shared experience of desire. Moreover, the reference to “women exchang[ing] the natural function for that which is unnatural,” also reveals a concern with elements beyond exploitation or dominance. Lesbian relationships were especially known in ancient times for their lack of hierarchy, domination, or prostitution. Paul speaks of those who “exchanged natural [physikēn] intercourse for unnatural [para physin]” (Rom 1:26). But the word “natural” (physikos) here does not refer to what is natural to the person who practices it. Rather, it means what is according to the nature of things as God created it, and “unnatural” is that which is “against nature” as God ordained it from the beginning as the immediate context speaks of God’s “creation of the world” (Rom. 1:20, 26). Indeed, even in the larger Greco-Roman world, homosexual conduct of any sort was understood as being against nature. It is only the modern conception of “nature” that means whatever the human desires. Paul, conversely, held that human nature, being fallen and sinful, would be expected to have desires against God’s created order, commandments, and plans for humanity (cf. Rom 5:15–20; 7:7–23). However, Paul also teaches that an escape from “the body of death” and a new victorious life are given through the “Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 7:24; 8:1). Further, in the vice list of 1 Corinthians 6:9, Paul mentions the malakoi (lit. “soft men”), which likely alludes to men who are lain with as a man lies with a woman (see Lev 18:22 and 20:13). First Corinthians 6:9 also refers to the arsenokoitai “men lying with males,” and this term appears again in Paul’s vice list of 1 Timothy 1:10. Against those who see a Greco-Roman background behind Paul’s condemnation (and thus limit this term to something less than all same-sex intercourse), it cannot be overemphasized that this term never appears in the secular Greek of Paul’s day, but only in Jewish-Christian literature. The compound term points to the background of the LXX translators in their rendering of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, as they combined the words male (arsēn) and lying (koitē), corresponding to the Hebrew terms zakar (male) and mishkab (lying), to denote “homosexual intercourse.” The undeniable intertextual link between Paul’s use of arsenokoitai (1 Cor 6:9 and 1 Tim 1:10) and Leviticus 18 and 20, indicates that Paul is primarily referring to the OT Levitical background which forbids all samesex intercourse and not just issues of exploitation or orientation.
After surveying the evidence of both OT and NT, NT scholar Richard Hays summarizes well the biblical witness concerning homosexual practice:
“Though only a few biblical texts speak of homoerotic activity, all that do mention it express unqualified disapproval. . . . The biblical witness against homosexual practices is univocal. . . . Scripture offers no loopholes or exception clauses that might allow for the acceptance of homosexual practices under some circumstances. Despite the efforts of some recent interpreters to explain away the evidence, the Bible remains unambiguous and univocal in its condemnation of homosexual conduct.”
As far as your claim that only LGBTQ people can understand the claims of the Bible correctly regarding homosexuality, that’s just not true. Just because I may have motives to want the Bible to say this or that to support my own personal inclinations, doesn’t mean that the Bible actually supports what I may want it to support. The language is simply too clear and unambiguous to be misunderstood – except by those who are desperately looking for any way to make it say something that it just doesn’t say.
Now, you are certainly free and most welcome to strongly disagree with me in this great country of ours – as you obviously do. However, it is ethically wrong to try to force your beliefs on me or upon the church. It is also ethically wrong of you (and those like Bryan Ness) to expect to take money from me or the Seventh-day Adventist Church to support you as our paid representatives – while you continue your efforts to undermine those who pay your paycheck. That, my friend, is called stealing – an ethical wrong in anyone’s book.
Pacific Union College Encouraging Homosexual Marriage?
I wish you were right Floyd. However, unfortunately, I can’t see that you are right in your understanding of the claims of the Bible. I’m not sure anyone could claim in all seriousness that, “The Bible is quiet” on homosexual activity. The Bible has plenty to say when it comes to the expression of homosexuality. Now, having a sinful nature or sinful tendencies (which plague heterosexuals as well as homosexuals) isn’t, in itself, sin. Sin is the actual expression of sinful tendencies or propensities. On this, the Bible has plenty to say with regard to both heterosexual as well as homosexual activities that are not in harmony with God’s will.