Comment on Further definition on tap for Adventist fundamental belief on creation by Sean Pitman.
For those who will no doubt argue that I’m mistaken in my suggestion that many liberal scholars of Hebrew support a literal interpretation of the Genesis narrative, consider the following comments from James Barr, late Professor of Hebrew at the University of Oxford:
â€œProbably, so far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Genesis 1â€“11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that: (a) creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience (b) the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the biblical story (c) Noahâ€™s flood was understood to be world-wide and extinguish all human and animal life except for those in the ark. Or, to put it negatively, the apologetic arguments which suppose the â€œdaysâ€ of creation to be long eras of time, the figures of years not to be chronological, and the flood to be a merely local Mesopotamian flood, are not taken seriously by any such professors, as far as I know.â€
Letter from Professor James Barr to David C.C. Watson of the UK, dated 23 April 1984.
James Barr also takes conservative evangelicals and other conservative scholars to task for insisting on a literal interpretation of Scripture but then abandoning it when it comes to the creation story in Genesis. Barr explains, in his work entitled Fundamentalism that, “as the scientific approach came to have more and more assent from fundamentalists themselves, they shifted their interpretation of the Bible passage from literal to non-literal in order to saveâ€¦ the inerrancy of the Bible. In order to avoid the consequence of an errant Bible, the fundamentalist “has tried every possible direction of interpretation other than the literal.” Yet, Barr rightly continues by noting that “in fact the only natural exegesis is a literal one, in the sense that this is what the author meant.”
James Barr, Fundamentalism, Philadelphia, PA: Westminster 1977, p. 42
Some criticize use of these quotes because Barr did not himself believe in the historicity of Genesis. But, that is precisely why his statement is so interesting: he believed the author(s) of Genesis got it wrong. With no need to try to harmonize Genesis with anything, because he does not see it as carrying any authority, Barr is free to state the clear intention of the author. This contrasts with some â€˜evangelicalâ€™ theologians who try to retain some sense of authority without actually believing Genesis says much, if anything, about real historyâ€¦
Hebrew scholar Dr Stephen Boyd has shown, using a statistical comparison of verb type frequencies of historical and poetic Hebrew texts, that Genesis 1 is clearly historical narrative, not â€˜poetryâ€™. He concluded, â€˜There is only one tenable view of its plain sense: God created everything in six literal days.â€™
Stephen W. Boyd in chapter 6, “The Genre of Genesis 1:1-2:3”
Form critic Hermann Gunkel concluded long ago, “The ‘days’ are of course days and nothing else.”
Hermann Gunkel, Genesis Ã¼bersetzt und erklÃ¤rt (GÃ¶ttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1901), 97.
This refrain can be continued with many additional voices, sharing the same non-concordist position. Victor P. Hamilton concludes, as do other broad concordist neoevangelical scholars, “And whoever wrote Gen. l believed he was talking about literal days.”
Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17, The New International Commentary of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, Ml: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990), 54.
John H. Stek, another broad concordist, makes a number of points in his support for literal “days”:
Surely there is no sign or hint within the narrative [of Genesis 1] itself that the author thought his ‘days’ to be irregular designations â€” first a series of undefined periods, then a series of solar days â€” or that the ‘days’ he bounded with ‘evening and morning’ could possibly be understood as long aeons of time. His language is plain and simple, and he speaks in plain and simple terms of one of the most common elements in humanity’s experience of the world…. In his storying of God’s creative acts, the author was ‘moved’ to sequence them after the manner of human acts and ‘time’ them after the pattern of created time in humanity’s arena of experience.
John H. Stek, “What Says Scripture?” Portraits of Creation, 237-238.
Numerous scholars and commentators, regardless of whether they are concordist or non-concordist, have concluded that the creation “days” cannot be anything but literal 24-hour days. They are fully aware of the figurative, non-literal interpretations of the word “day” in Genesis 1 for the sake of harmonization with the long ages demanded by the evolutionary model of origins. Yet, they insist on the ground of careful investigations of the usage of “day” in Genesis 1 and elsewhere that the true meaning and intention of a creation “day” is a literal day of 24 hours.
In short, there are very few if any liberal scholars of Hebrew (who have no inherent need to harmonize Scripture with mainstream science) who would support the idea that the author(s) of the Genesis account intended to convey anything other than a literal historical narrative of events. Now, there are many, if not all, liberal scholars who don’t believe the Genesis author(s) got it right, but arguing that the author(s) got it wrong isn’t the same thing as arguing that they didn’t intend to write a literal narrative of actual historical events.
In any case, it is and has always been the position of the organized SDA Church that the author of Genesis did in fact intend to convey to his readers a literal historical account of real events. For the Church to take a stand on a concept that forms the very basis of its name, a concept that is also well defended by many well-known liberal scholars of Hebrew (and the Church’s own prophet to boot), should not be surprising to anyone – especially when this fundamental position of the Church starts to become the target of determined attack by paid representatives of the Church (i.e., professors within the Church’s own schools). It is because of the boldness of their attacks against the Church’s historical position on origins that the Church is trying to make it very clear that such attacks will not be tolerated on the Church’s dime – that no one can continue to hide behind what some amazingly claim to be the vagueness of the language of the Bible or of FB#6 on this topic as a basis for their attacks while on the payroll of the SDA Church.
Sean Pitman, M.D.
Sean Pitman Also Commented
Further definition on tap for Adventist fundamental belief on creation
We aren’t talking about Church attendance or even membership here. We’re talking about being a paid representative of the SDA Church.
The only real reason why those in this forum oppose the proposed change to the wording of FB#6 is because they somehow think it leaves room for those who believe that life has existed and evolved on this planet over billions of years of time to teach this message in our classrooms and preach it from our pulpits. Even liberal scholars of Hebrew do not believe that the writer(s) of Genesis intended to convey anything other than the concept that the creation week was in fact a literal 6-day event. One would be hard pressed to better express the literal nature of the creation week than how it is already described in Genesis. Therefore, those who argue that the proposed changes to the wording of FB#6 are “extrabiblical” simply aren’t reading the account as it was obviously intended to be read by the author(s) who wrote it.
As Cliff pointed out, a change in wording wouldn’t be needed if professors working in our schools had not taken it upon themselves to attack the fundamental position of the SDA Church on this issue – on a doctrinal belief that forms the very basis of the name Seventh-day Adventist. Why should the SDA Church pay anyone to attack its most historically-cherished bedrock doctrinal beliefs? Even if the Church really is nuts, out of touch with reality, etc., what gives anyone the right to expect to be paid by the very Church that one is actively attacking in a very decided and fundamental manner? Here we have professors, as paid representatives of the SDA Church, telling their students that those who believe in the Church’s position on a literal 6-day creation week are part of the “lunatic fringe” and are like the ones who “fly airplanes into buildings.” Yet, these same people think to hide behind the supposed vagueness of the current wording of FB#6? Please… how disingenuous can one get?
If anyone really thinks the SDA Church is out to lunch on its very decided and very fundamental position on a literal 6-day creation week, by all means, join another Church that is more in line with your own views on this and other doctrinal beliefs. No big deal. As some in this forum have pointed out, this isn’t an issue of salvation in and of itself. This isn’t inherently a moral issue. However, taking money from an employer who has requested you to do one thing, but you decide to do the complete opposite, is a moral wrong. Regardless of how crazy you think your employer is, attacking your employer’s clearly-stated goals and ideals on the employer’s dime is still stealing. Stealing from crazy people is still stealing – a moral wrong in anyone’s book.
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.