Comment on ANN reports on affirmation of creation and FB #6 enhancement by Sean Pitman.
I am concerned. We have chosen to send our daughter, who is an up-coming senior at Campion Academy, to Southern because of its historical, and traditional Adventist teachings. Dr. Bietz has me worried if we are making the right decision. My daughter, wife, and I need to take this next year into serious consideration and as a matter of prayer.
I can personally assure you that, despite the opposition of Dr. Bietz to the affirmation of creation at the GC session, SAU remains one of the strongest supporters of the SDA position on origins. The science faculty at Southern are extremely supportive of a recent literal 6-day creation and will only hire additional faculty who openly endorse the same.
I’m not sure why there is such a disconnect between the science faculty at SAU and the president of SAU, but there evidently is…
Sean Pitman Also Commented
Evidently many Seventh-day Adventists- including most EducateTruthers- feel the Bible canâ€™t be taken at face value and therefore more words must be added.
The Bible can be taken at face value given its entire context. Individual phrases, taken out of context, can be quite ambiguous and need context for clarification. Even though they are taken from the Bible, biblical passages do not stand alone. Their intended meaning is dependent upon other contributing passages and the overall context in which the passage was found.
Clearly then, taken in context, the obvious intent of the author of the first passages of Genesis was to convey the idea that the creation week was a literal week. This is quite clear to most Hebrew scholars, conservative and liberal. Even Lawrence Geraty supports this conclusion.
So, the effort to clarify the wording of SDA FB#6 by adding the word “literal” is by no means going beyond the obviously intended in-context-meaning of the biblical text itself.
Therefore, the resistance to adding this clarifying word to FB#6 by Geraty and others is based entirely on the effort to pacify those who would interpret Genesis in an allegorical manner, contrary to its clearly intended meaning, in order to try to somehow maintain the Genesis narrative while incorporating the evolutionary beliefs of mainstream scientists at the same time.
The SDA Church need not be open to this sort of pacifist effort – to pacify those with ambiguous language who hold beliefs that fundamentally oppose what we consider to be a vitally important Gospel message of hope as a Pillar of our SDA Faith; and even science.
As an academy principal at Takoma Academy, we also had strict rules on jewelry and dress and only taught what is being advocated on this web site. The results arenâ€™t a lot better. Perhaps there are more important aspects of our church that we need to worry about.
There certainly are many other important things that our Church needs to worry about, but this does not mean that our Church should no longer worry about promoting and actively upholding its fundamental doctrines – doctrinal truths discovered and preserved at the cost of many fortunes and lives so that we might have the benefit of their understanding. The current secular society in which we live is naturally attractive to many young people. Interest in religion and God in general is waning in this country and in European countries as well.
In his book, “Already Gone” Ken Ham points out that young people see the church as simply a nice social club that really doesn’t stand for anything anymore – at least not anything worth sacrificing for much less dying for. Most denominations even question the literal reality of most of the Bible stories – presenting them more as allegories or moral fables.
For me and most other people, young and old, the idea that the Bible stories aren’t really true or reliable throws out a great deal of meaning that used to be present in Christianity. No one wants to be seen as ignorant or stupid. The opinions and conclusions of mainstream scientists have largely replaced the Bible as the only really reliable source of truth. Churches are therefore rapidly becoming hardly more than glorified social clubs without real conviction or a sense of purpose or of belonging to something important – a movement that is worth risking life and limb to support.
If you really want the Church to grow, really grow in a vital way, offer something that is worth dying for. Offer something that produces real meaning in life and a solid hope for the future. The promotion of higher critical ideas of the Bible and mainstream evolutionary concepts that strike at the very heart of biblical credibility will end up eroding real growth for any Christian church. Those Churches that are experiencing the most solid growth are those Churches that actually stand for something – where people actually believe what they say they believe and are willing to sacrificing everything for what they see as extremely valuable truths.
In the final analysis, interest in God and overcoming self cannot be forced and success should not be based on the numbers. After all, looking just at the numbers Noah wasn’t very successful at all. Therefore, what’s the point in watering down truth in order to increase numbers? Numbers are up to God and His Holy Spirit. Our job is to stand for those important truths that God has given us to improve and make our lives more hopeful and joyful – truths which many have sacrificed a great deal to deliver to us; even their very lives.
These Gospel truths, these precious foundational doctrines of our Church, should not be taken lightly. I myself was brought under the threat of court martial twice while in the Army for refusing to attend unnecessary classes on Sabbath. One time Admiral Barry Black, the highest ranking chaplain in the armed forces at the time, offered to come and defend me and the case was dropped when this was made known. I would not have been able to stand against such pressure if I didn’t believe in the reality of the literal nature of the Genesis account. But, because of my carefully studied confidence in the reality of my religion, it was a thrilling experience for me to be able to stand for God in such situations – a true honor.
This same sort of call and confidence in the Word is needed to keep our young people in the Church; to successfully compete with the innumerable attractions that the secular world has to offer to distract the mind from the most important issues and decisions of life.
In these documents you will find the Standards and Criteria for Review with guidelines that visiting teams and our Commission will use to evaluate whether a university which voluntarily applies for regional accreditation meets.
I looked in your document for how WASC expects “academic freedom” to co-exist with certain specific goals and ideals of the organization that owns the school, but am still a bit confused.
For example, several Catholic schools have let professors go who opposed Catholic doctrines in or even outside of class. A recent case of a math teacher in a Catholic school who questioned the existence of God on a public website comes to mind. She was fired for this ( Link ). Would this case be viewed by WASC as a violation of “academic freedom”? – especially given that she wasn’t even a religion professor at the school?
There is also the fairly recent case of the well known evangelical scholar, Bruce K. Waltke, who was forced to leave his position at the Reformed Theological Seminary (Orlando) because of his stand on evolution ( Link ). Is this a violation of “academic freedom” according to WASC?
I apologize, but it is pretty difficult for me to tell from the document you referenced. It seems like this is about as good a definition of “academic freedom” as I could find in your document:
Institutional policies and practices that affirm that those in the academy are free to share their convictions and responsible conclusions with their colleagues and students in their teaching and in their writing.
What is a “responsible conclusion”? Who defines this term and upon what basis? What rights and protection does the institution have against the attacks of a professor against the primary goals and/or ideals of the institution? Does WASC only protect the professor’s rights? – or does WASC also consider the ideals and goals of the institution as well?
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.