@Ken: Hi Ken, You wrote: You see Sean, the reason you are …

Comment on Adventist Education–at the crossroads? by Sean Pitman.

Hi Ken,

You wrote:

You see Sean, the reason you are feared is that you you dare to stand behind your science to prove a proposition of faith rather rely on the interpretation of a text. You dare to challenge Sola Scriptura and ‘thus saith the lord” to empirically prove the case for FB#6. Admirable. Ironically, although perhaps you skirt some of these accepted adventist doctrines, you argue that SDA scientists that challenge the science behind 6 day recent biological creation should be purged. This is and will continue to be problematic for you as essentially you are creating a Pitman pocket within the orthodox robe. Sociologically this happens in all religions. Nothing wrong with that, just an observation.

The SDA Church does not and never has promoted faith based on a compete lack of empirical evidence. The SDA Church has always held to a position of “Present Truth” based on the “weight of evidence” that is currently available.

The phrase, “Sola Scriptura” does not mean that we, as a Church, believe in the Divine origin and authority of the Bible without reason – based only on the internal claims of the Bible alone. That’s not true at all. We believe in “Sola Scriptura” because nothing else has shown itself to compare with the Bible when it comes to providing clear evidence, empirical evidence that appeals to the rational candid mind, of the Divine hand in its origin and preservation through time.

So, you see, I’m not at odds with the organized SDA Church in my efforts to promote the empirical basis for faith in the doctrinal positions of the Church. The Christian faith need not be an irrational faith that is opposed to any and all empirical evidences.

God is the origin of reason and scientific inquiry and I do not think that he gave these abilities to us in order for us to then forgo their use when it comes to studying and learning about Him.

Sean Pitman

Sean Pitman Also Commented

Adventist Education–at the crossroads?

My point in quoting Davies’ review of Polkinghorne was to show that they base their ideas on God’s existence on evidence, on certain features within the universe, which they think can only be explained by deliberate intelligent design on the level of God-like intelligence. That is an intelligent design hypothesis on at least some level.

Just because those who appeal to intelligent design theories on at least some level may also believe in various aspects of the modern theory of evolution doesn’t mean that an ID theory hasn’t been invoked on at least some level. It has.

After all, even I believe in evolution via RM/NS as being responsible for many features of living things. Many features of living things are very well explained by neutral evolution or by low-level functional evolution. This doesn’t mean that all features of living things can be therefore be explained by RM/NS. It is this leap of logic or extrapolation of low-level evolution to much higher levels of evolution, within mainstream science, which isn’t scientific. Many features of living things go well beyond the creative potential of any known mindless mechanism while being well within the realm of ID. This is the very same argument used by Davies to support his belief in a God as the designer behind certain features of the anthropic universe.

By the way, I do know Norman McNulty. I’m just not familiar with his views on perfectionism – which is, in any case, irrelevant to this purposes of this particular website. Also, my transitional internship was completed at Eisenhower Army Medical Center (not an SDA institution) and my hemepath fellowship was completed at the City of Hope under the world-renown Lawrence Weiss (not SDA either).

I remain as perplexed as ever how you can hold views on the the nature of intelligent design as a natural phenomena and the requirement for faith to be subservient to reason and evidence but deny anyone in church employ any leeway to explore or articulate anything beyond what you consider truth.

It isn’t what I consider truth. It is what the Church as an organization considers to be fundamental “present truth”. All are free to join or to leave the Church at will. This is a free civil society in which we live – thank God. However, the Church, as with any viable organization, must maintain a certain degree of order and discipline within its own organizational structure if it is to survive. The Church simply cannot afford to hire those who are ardently opposed to the basic fundamental goals and ideals of the Church as an organization and who go around teaching and preaching against the fundamental positions of the organized Church.

You may not consider the organization of the Church to be all that important. I think that without organization, and the order and control that goes along with maintaining any organization, that the Church would quickly fragment into a meaningless hodgepodge of isolated groups with widely divergent ideas. The organizational aspect of the Church is what gives it its power to spread a unified Gospel message more effectively.

I appreciate your responses to my questions and the glimpses I have gained into the mind of a person who seems to discern truth and sees the justice in imposing it on others.

What employer doesn’t impose various rules and restrictions on its paid employees? – rules that are known upfront before the employee agrees to take the job? You very well know that you can’t have your cake and eat it too. You can’t be paid by an organization for doing whatever you want. You are paid to do what the organization wants you to do. If you don’t like what the organization wants you to do, you don’t have to take the job. Again, it’s as simple as that. This isn’t some deep philosophical mystery here.

It is self-evident, is it not, that when one takes on employment in an organization of one’s own free will, one is obliged to take on the restriction, the rules, of that organization. Is it wrong of Reebok to require its own employees to only promote and even wear Reebok shoes? Would it be wrong of Reebok to fire and employee for publicly promoting Nike as making a superior product?

Come now. If you really believe that Nike makes the better shoe, and you are bound and determined to be honest to yourself and tell everyone about the superiority of Nike, why on Earth would you expect to be paid by Reebok to promote Nike? You’re simply making no sense here. You’re basically an anarchist who thinks you deserve to be paid simply for your honesty. I’m sorry, but no viable organization works that way. An honest Catholic should work for the Catholic organization. An honest Baptist should work for the Baptist organization. And an honest evolutionary scientist should work for those numerous organizations who would be more than glad to pay such an individual for their efforts. Why should the SDA Church pay anyone who doesn’t actually want to promote what the SDA Church, as an organization, wishes to promote?

God bless and give you as much insight into his Grace.

Likewise. God is a God of order and disciplined government – not anarchy. All are free to come and enjoy the gifts of God as given through the inspired organization of the SDA Church. However, not all are free to expect payment from the SDA Church for their services since not all are well suited to be official representatives of the Church as an organization.

Sean Pitman

Adventist Education–at the crossroads?

I’m a partner in an independent pathology practice. We do some contract work for a Catholic hospital, but I have not been hired by the Catholic Church to be a representative of the Catholic Church or to promote Catholic doctrinal positions.

Teachers in our SDA schools, on the other hand, are specifically hired by the SDA Church to actively promote SDA goals and ideals within the classroom – specifically with regard to the topic of origins. This has been made very clear, in no uncertain terms, by the General Conference Executive Committee:

We call on all boards and educators at Seventh-day Adventist institutions at all levels to continue upholding and advocating the church’s position on origins. We, along with Seventh-day Adventist parents, expect students to receive a thorough, balanced, and scientifically rigorous exposure to and affirmation of our historic belief in a literal, recent six-day creation, even as they are educated to understand and assess competing philosophies of origins that dominate scientific discussion in the contemporary world.


Science teachers, in particular, are not hired to actively undermine the SDA position on origins in our classrooms. Clearly, such activity is counterproductive to the stated goals and ideals of the Church. Why would the Church wish to hire anyone to go around and tell people that the Church’s position is irrational and part of the “lunatic fringe”? – as so eloquently put by LSU science professor Gary Bradley? – in an interview with a secular journal?

Sean Pitman

Adventist Education–at the crossroads?

J H Kellogg’s ideas were pantheistic – i.e., God actually within everything. This is not quite like suggesting that various features of the universe in which we live can only be rationally explained by invoking intelligent design on at least the human level of intelligence or beyond. Quite a number of old world and even modern physicists have come to this same conclusion as well. My position is more along the lines of Sir Isaac Newton or of the well-known Australian astrophysicist, Paul Davies, who writes:

The temptation to believe that the Universe is the product of some sort of design, a manifestation of subtle aesthetic and mathematical judgment, is overwhelming. The belief that there is “something behind it all” is one that I personally share with, I suspect, a majority of physicists…

The equations of physics have in them incredible simplicity, elegance and beauty. That in itself is sufficient to prove to me that there must be a God who is responsible for these laws and responsible for the universe.

* Davies, Paul C.W. [Physicist and Professor of Natural Philosophy, University of Adelaide],”The Christian perspective of a scientist,” Review of “The way the world is,” by John Polkinghorne, New Scientist, Vol. 98, No. 1354, pp.638-639, 2 June 1983, p.638

* http://www.abc.net.au/rn/scienceshow/stories/2006/1572643.htm

You don’t seem to grasp my argument that the term “natural” is a relative term. What seems “natural” to you may seem supernatural to someone else with less knowledge than you have. If God does in fact exist, his own intelligence and power would seem perfectly “natural” to him.

In short, the term “natural” is meaningless without a much more specific definition as to what you’re talking about when you use this word. Simply saying that science is restricted to examining “natural” phenomena does not mean that science cannot therefore detect an intelligent origin behind certain types of phenomena… even if that intelligent origin just so happens to be God. While a God could certainly hide himself from us quite easily. It is most certainly within God’s power to reveal himself to us in a manner that we can in fact detect as requiring a very high level of deliberate intelligence. Certainly you can recognize this as at least a possibility given the hypothesis of God’s actual existence – can you not?

You seem to be able to do this, on at least some level, for you write:

I do agree with you that nature is not enough and is an insufficient explanation of the universe. There is an intelligibility to the Universe and that things like Love, suffering and beauty call out for higher level explanations. But in this I agree with theologians such as Haught, McGrath and Polkinghorne who see the intelligibility of the universe and the anthropic principle as well as those higher functions as supporting a notion of the divine but do not simplistically restrict the divine to [plugs] for the holes in our knowledge or immediate explanations for origins.

Scientific theories are the plugs for the holes in our knowledge. We have limited knowledge. If we had perfect or absolute knowledge, science would no longer be needed. It is because we have limited knowledge that scientific methodologies become helpful to bridge the gaps or “holes” in our knowledge. The ID hypothesis is often a valid scientific bridge for certain types of holes in our knowledge. The notion that intelligent design cannot be invoked by science is simply mistaken.

Did you leave the armed forces when the government became Democrat rather than Republican? (I am of course assuming you are republican in political persuasion but given the statistics I have a high probability of being right). Do you agree in every point with your current employer? Will you resign when they express for example a view on abortion with which you disagree? Like the pharisees of old you are placing on church employees a burden much more than I suspect you would be prepared to bear.

If I felt I had to publicly counter my employer on some issue considered “fundamental” by my employer, and I was originally hired to promote this particular position of my employer, I would most certainly resign. If an employer hires me to do a particular job, and that job is made quite clear when I am hired, it would be morally wrong of me to undermine the clearly stated fundamental purpose of the job for which I was hired. That would be, in effect, stealing money and time from my employer. I would have misrepresented myself to my employer to get paid for something I never intended to deliver to my employer. Such activity is very deceptive and underhanded. It is a lie calculated to rob the employer of what the employer hired me to do – no bones about it. And that, I’m afraid, is a moral problem in anyone’s book.

If you think the SDA Church was somehow unclear about what it expects from its science professors regarding the topic of origins, think again. The following statement of the SDA General Conference Executive Committee is very clear in this regard:

We call on all boards and educators at Seventh-day Adventist institutions at all levels to continue upholding and advocating the church’s position on origins. We, along with Seventh-day Adventist parents, expect students to receive a thorough, balanced, and scientifically rigorous exposure to and affirmation of our historic belief in a literal, recent six-day creation, even as they are educated to understand and assess competing philosophies of origins that dominate scientific discussion in the contemporary world.


Regarding Brinsmead’s teachings, and their dramatic evolution over time, I’m sure I’m not aware of all of the subtleties of his numerous theological positions as they changed over time, but I think I’m well enough informed.

Also, Des Ford (since you brought him up) was not simply let go from Church employment for some minor issue. He was attacking clearly stated fundamental pillars of the SDA Church – to include the Church’s position on origins. Ford believes in and strongly supports theistic evolutionary ideas where life has existed and evolved on this planet over hundreds of millions of years of time. Ford does believe in the Divine inspiration of Genesis, but not based on the straight forward reading of the text so much as on a hidden mathematical code similar to the “Bible Code” of Michael Drosnin – on the same level as astrology if you ask me.

It is for such reasons that the likes of Ford and Brinsmead cannot represent the SDA Church in any sort of official capacity.

Really though, I do not want to get off on a debate on perfectionism. I do not agree with Brinsmead, and am not familiar with the views of Normal McNulty on this issue, but that isn’t the purpose of this particular website.

The purpose of this website is to inform members of the SDA Church as to what is really being taught in some of our schools on the issue of origins… a fundamental issue for the SDA Church.

Sean Pitman

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