As I see it anyway, what’s going on is what’s …

Comment on Academic Freedom Strikes Again! by Sean Pitman.

As I see it anyway, what’s going on is what’s been going on for a long time now in the Adventist Church. There is a popular belief that “academic freedom” should be embraced by the church and applied, not only to teachers within our own schools, but to our pastors as well. What is argued here, in a nutshell, is that pastors and teachers should be allowed to preach and teach anything that they want – regardless of the official position of the church itself on a given issue. For example, if a preacher happens to believe that the Sabbath is no longer relevant or binding for the Christian, that pastor should be allowed to preach this doctrine from the pulpit without reprimand from his employer – the church itself. Or, if a teacher working for an Adventist school decides that neoDarwinian evolution is the best explanation for the origin of life and its diversity on this planet, that the Biblical account of creation, viewed in the literal sense that the church is trying to promote, is nonsense – that teacher should be allowed to teach this without reprimand from either the school itself or the church that owns the school.

At this point, Galileo is usually brought into the discussion since the Catholic church silenced Galileo when, clearly, Galileo was right and the church was wrong. Certainly, the Adventist Church would not want to make the same mistake! – right? Of course, few mention that the situation here is quite different than it was for Galileo. The Church in Galileo’s day was also the civil authority of the day. In other words, it wasn’t simply a matter of working or not working for a particular employer. One couldn’t just leave the Church back then and go work for someone else. The position of the Church was also a matter of civil law – a law which carried the death penalty if violated.

This is not at all the situation we are talking about here. Rather, the current situation is more a matter of internal church order and government. The Adventist Church does not take on civil powers or authority for those who wish to leave the church or work for some other employer. However, as with any viable organization, if the Adventist Church is to survive, it must have internal rules and structure to defend and support its own unique identity and message. Otherwise, without any internally enforceable rules as to what it’s own paid representatives can and cannot do, it would soon crumble and dissolve into irrelevance or become indistinguishable from anything else around it – no longer unique.

Originally, the founders of the SDA Church also had this high-minded notion that everyone within the church should be completely free to do whatever each individual saw fit. This worked for a while when the church was very small and those within it were driven by the same common goals and desires. However, as the church grew and expanded, the need for internal church order and government, for actual enforceable rules and internal discipline on paid representatives, in particular, was soon realized as a necessity for survival. In this line “cards of commendation” were issued to those who were recognized as being in line with the church’s teachings so that only those with such cards would be seen as official representatives of the church.

Of course, those who did not accurately represent the views of the early Adventist Church did not receive “cards of commendation”. And what was the attitude of such persons? according to John Loughborough?

Of course those who claimed “liberty to do as they pleased,” to “preach what they pleased,” and to “go when and where they pleased,” without “consultation with any one,” failed to get cards of commendation. They, with their sympathizers, drew off and commenced a warfare against those whom they claimed were “depriving them of their liberty.” Knowing that it was the Testimonies that had prompted us as a people to act, to establish “order,” these opponents soon turned their warfare against instruction from that source, claiming that “when they got that gift out of the way, the message would go unrestrained to its `loud cry.’ ”

One of the principal claims made by those who warred against organization was that it “abridged their liberty and independence, and that if one stood clear before the Lord that was all the organization needed,” etc… Upon this point, when church order was contested, we read: “Satan well knows that success only attend order and harmonious action. He well knows that everything connected with heaven is in perfect order, that subjection and thorough discipline mark the movements of the angelic host. . . . He deceives even the professed people of God, and makes them believe that order and discipline are enemies to spirituality; that the only safety for them is to let each pursue his own course. . . . All the efforts made to establish order are considered dangerous, a restriction of rightful liberty, and hence are feared as popery.”

When those who back in the “sixties” [1860s] witnessed the battle of establishing church order now hear persons, as conscientious no doubt as those back there, utter almost the identical words that were then used by those opposing order, it need not be wondered that they fear the result of such statements as the following: “Perfect unity means absolute independence, – each one knowing for himself. Why, we could not have outward disorganization if we all believed in the Lord. . . . This question of organization is a simple thing. All there is to it is for each individual to give himself to the Lord, and then the Lord will do with him just what he wants to, and that all the time. . . . Our only safety, under God, is to go back to the place where God is able to take a multitude of people and make them one, without parliamentary rules, without committee work, without legislation of any kind.” – General Conference Bulletin of 1899.

Superficially considered, this might seem to be a blessed state, a heaven indeed; but, as already noted on a preceding page, we read of heaven itself and its leadings that “the god of heaven is a god of order, and he requires all his followers to have rules and regulations to preserve order.”

It seems to me as though this same situation is repeating itself – along with the very same arguments against any kind of internal church order and discipline. Yet, without order and discipline, you can’t have a viable organization.

Dr. Scriven, and many others of like mind, to include those usually writing for Spectrum or Adventist Today, make the mistake of thinking that any internally-enforced governmental structure is equivalent to the church taking on what Mrs. White refers to, in a negative sense, as “Kingly Power“. This is not the case. All viable organizations require the internal order and discipline of governmental structure, a certain degree of uniformity, where only those who would effectively represent the primary goals and ideals of the organization are actually hired to do so.

Where the early Christian Church stepped out of bounds is in thinking to take on civil powers of authority over all people regardless of their wish to be or not to be part of the church. It is always wrong for any church organization to think to enforce its views on those outside of the church with the use of civil power – with true “Kingly Power”. It is for this reason that the Adventist Church has always been a very strong supporter of our constitutional separation of Church and State. All should be free to join or leave the Adventist Church, or any other church, free from any fear of any civil reprisals of any kind. However, this is not to say, therefore, that no internal governmental structure is required. Such internal order and discipline is required for any large organization to avoid internal fragmentation, splintering, and eventual collapse into chaos and anarchy. Such is not the will of God for His church.

If there are those who cannot support the Adventist perspective on origins, on the reality of a literal 6-day creation week, such are and should be perfectly free to express their opinions on this matter – but not as paid representatives of the Adventist Church. If, on the other hand, the Adventist Church decides, as an organization, that the concept of a literal 6-day creation week really isn’t all that “fundamental” to the primary mission of the church, then it should make this new position crystal clear to all of its constituents. The current state of deliberate ambiguity simply isn’t honest when it comes to people who think that the Adventist Church decidedly stands for one thing when it really doesn’t. It isn’t fair to students and parents who often sacrifice a great deal to attend Adventist schools to obtain a distinctly Adventist education, who expect active support of the literal 6-day creation week from the curriculum, to be given something fundamentally different instead; such as the promotion of neo-Darwinism once they show up.

Given such a scenario, as has been going on in some of our schools, like La Sierra University in particular, for several decades now (and even some of our churches as well), one might rightly accuse the Adventist Church of false advertising. Our membership deserves more than this. We all deserve to have such a historically-important Adventist doctrine (such as the literal nature of the creation week) either clearly and actively supported by the Adventist Church or clearly and decidedly removed from our statement of Fundamental Beliefs – one or the other. It can no longer be left in limbo – in the ambiguity that has existed since the unfortunate choice of language used by the Adventist Church since the 1980s.

Let’s decide to be brave and take a clear and unambiguous stand for or against Biblical creationism, and other hot-topic issues that face the church, once and for all. Let’s either be hot or cold here. Let’s not stay lukewarm where no one knows what we really believe and stand for as a church – what we actually do consider to be “fundamental” to the church’s reason for existence (Revelation 3:16).

Sean Pitman Also Commented

Academic Freedom Strikes Again!
No one actually believes that intelligent design is not rationally detectable behind various artifacts and phenomena that are clearly the result of deliberate design and intelligent intent. It is only in an effort to avoid acknowledging “God” that secular scientists who have taken on philosophical naturalism put forth superhuman effort to avoid admitting what is otherwise obvious.

Academic Freedom Strikes Again!
Now, I like you George, but I must say that restating the very same claim over and over again, without even addressing the counterarguments or questions presented to you regarding your claim, is not helpful to me, at all convincing, or even part of what I would call an interesting, much less, a productive conversation. I mean, you keep repeating, without substantive argument as far as I can tell, your simple claim that science (or any other form of rational thought for that matter) is not able to even detect a “miracle” if one happened to happen before your very eyes – like this claim of yours should simply be taken at face value as an incontestable self-evident fact.

“As I said science cannot detect miracles, by the very definition of same.” – george

Then, you go on to claim that miracles do not exist? But, how can you make this claim when, at the same time, you also claim that it is impossible to even recognize a miracle if one were to happen? Do you not recognize the self-defeating internal inconsistency of your position here?

Note that I’m not asking you to explain how a miracle happens, but only to be able to detect one if and/or when one does happen to occur. However, you simply ignore the comments of scientists who claim that science is, in fact, able to detect the miraculous when it happens (and has, in fact, done so – according to a fair number of very well-known scientists). You’ve also consistently ignored the questions I’ve asked you that seem to me to undermine this oft-repeated claim of yours. Why is that?

I’m sorry, but I just don’t see that you’re actually open to a genuine conversation here – which begs the question as to why you even bother to be here at all if you’re not a troll (although a fairly benign friendly sort of troll)?

Now, if I’m somehow misreading you and you are actually open to a real conversation on this topic, why not begin by substantively responding to at least one of the simple questions that I’ve repeatedly asked you in this forum?

    Would you recognized a highly symmetrical granite cube measuring, say, 10 x 10 x 10 cm, as miraculous from the perspective of non-intelligent natural mechanisms? – and therefore rationally/scientifically conclude that it is a clear artifact of intelligent design? – even if found on an alien planet like Mars? Why or why not?

Simple question…

Academic Freedom Strikes Again!

As I said science cannot detect miracles, by the very definition of same.

How is that? Science, while not able to determine the cause or mechanism of miracles, is indeed able, according to numerous very well-known scientists, to detect “miracles” if and/or when they may occur – according to your definition of the term. Please review my last post along these lines and explain to me how a highly symmetrical granite cube is not a miracle from the perspective of natural mindless mechanisms? – or the appearance, out of nothing, of a finely tuned universe that is miraculously predictable and understandable to us through the language of mathematics? – or the origin and diversity of life from a mindless natural perspective where there is no known mindless mechanism? Please do tell me, how are these things any less “miraculous” than any of the “miracles” described in the Bible?

In sum, a biased biblical account of a miraculous resurrection is not scientific and not proof on the balance of probabilities that it occured. The evidence that you have cited is unreliable and not corroborated by unbiased accounts.

As far as historical evidence, you seem to demand 100% reliably or proof. However, that’s not how science works – especially the historical sciences. Again, it’s all based on the weight of evidence – not absolute proof.

Also is it possible Jesus did not die on the cross but removed before he was medically dead? Did some of his followers remove his body from the cave to make it appear he was resurrected?

It is not possible given the description of Jesus’ death – where a spear was thrust through his side and into his heart, causing blood mixed with water to pour out (John 19:34). Also, His followers could not have stolen the body from the tomb because it was sealed with a Roman seal so that no one could get in or out without breaking the seal and it was guarded by a large number of Roman soldiers – specifically put in place in order to avoid having the body stolen by the disciples of Jesus (Matthew 27:62-66).

If a multitude of people saw him resurrected why are there only biblical accounts?

There are extra-biblical accounts of Jesus’ life and death – and even the empty tomb. Both Josephus and Lucian indicate that Jesus was regarded as wise. Pliny, the Talmud, and Lucian imply He was a powerful and revered teacher.Both Josephus and the Talmud indicate that He performed miraculous feats. Tacitus, Josephus, the Talmud, and Lucian all mention that He was crucified. Tacitus and Josephus say that this occurred under Pontius Pilate. And, the Talmud declares it happened on the eve of Passover. There are also possible references to the Christian belief in Jesus’ resurrection in both Tacitus and Josephus. Josephus records that Jesus’ followers believed He was the Christ, or Messiah – which wouldn’t be true if He was known to be dead. And, both Pliny and Lucian indicate that Christians worshiped Jesus as God.

With regard to the reality of the empty tomb, even the very antagonistic Toledot Yeshu, a compilation of early Jewish writings from the 11th century, acknowledges that the tomb was empty – though it is argued that the body was somehow removed from the tomb. Add to this the historical fact that Jesus’ tomb was never venerated as a shrine. This is striking because it was the 1st century custom to set up a shrine at the site of a holy man’s bones. Since there was no such shrine for Jesus, it suggests that his bones weren’t there. In this historical context, an interesting archaeological discovery lends early support to the biblical accounts of the Resurrection. The “Nazareth Inscription” is a marble tablet with Greek writing that has been dated to approximately AD 41. The inscription is likely an abbreviated form of an edict (called a rescript) from Emperor Claudius making taking body from a tomb a capital crime. (Link)

Also, the tomb was discovered to be empty by women – not men. Why is this important? Because the testimony of women in 1st century Jewish culture was considered worthless. If the empty tomb story were a legend, then it is most likely that the male disciples would have been made the first to discover the empty tomb. The fact that despised women, whose testimony was deemed worthless, were the chief witnesses to the fact of the empty tomb can only be plausibly explained if, like it or not, they actually were the discoverers of the empty tomb.

Beyond this, as previously mentioned, it is very very unlikely for a dozen fishermen to dream up this story and then be willing to die for what they knew was a lie. That’s just not a credible or otherwise reasonable conclusion. It simply is not plausible to suggest that each of these men would face continual persecution and horrifying deaths for something they knew to be a lie. After all, liars don’t make good martyrs.

Finally, due to the remarkable circumstances in first-century Jerusalem, Christianity would have never been able to get started if Jesus had not risen from the dead. Recall that the Resurrection of Jesus was central to the disciples’ preaching. Even if they had the courage to preach without having seen the risen Lord, what message would they have proclaimed? They certainly could not repeatedly claim to have been eyewitnesses of His Resurrection, as they did (Acts 2:32; 3:15; 5:32; 10:39; 13:31). Without this bold proclamation of the Resurrection, and if His body was rotting in the grave, people would not be converted and the memory of Jesus and His disciples would quickly fade. In fact, it may be safely said that if Jesus did not rise from the dead, very few people living today, if any, would have ever heard of Him.

In summary, there are “minimal facts” that are accepted by nearly all New Testament scholars which include:

    1. Jesus died by crucifixion.
    2. Jesus’ disciples believed that he rose and appeared to them.
    3. The church persecutor Paul was suddenly changed.
    4. The skeptic James, brother of Jesus, was suddenly changed.
    5. The tomb was empty.

These facts are nearly universally accepted by New Testament scholars, including liberal scholars.

I haven’t seen a resurrection or a perfect granite cube, Santa Claus, ghosts, demons, fairies, haunted houses, prophets or anything of a miraculous nature that I am aware of. So it is specious for you to ask me hypotheticals in this regard. It’s like me asking you if your head could swivel 360 degrees could you see the world better.

How would you know if you had? – given that you don’t seem to know how you would be able to rationally detect a “miracle” if you ever did see one? Even if you did see a definitively dead and decaying corps brought back to life before your very eyes, would that actually do it for you? – since you claim that such things are not detectable as miracles “by definition”?

The fact of the matter is that you have seen highly symmetrical granite cubes (and drift wood horses and the like) that are obvious artifacts of intelligent design – true “miracles” from the perspective of non-intelligent natural mechanisms. You also believe in the “big bang” where something came from nothing producing an extremely fine-tuned universe – which is “miraculous” from the perspective of natural law alone. You also believe that living things were produced from non-living things – which is also “miraculous” from the perspective of natural law alone since there is no known natural mechanism that can do this over a reasonable amount of time.

    “It sounds startling, but science can’t explain ordinary experiences, much less supernatural experiences. No one knows how thoughts arise, why intuition exists, where creativity comes form, or most important of all, how the porridgy gray matter of the brain, which is totally dark and silent, produces the sights and sounds of the three-dimensional world. The simplest and most profound miracle that everyone encounters every day is this miracle.”
    “There is the obvious fact that we need to know something about what normally occurs in the world to recognize when something marvelous happens. So, the better we understand the natural order, the easier it is to identify the truly miraculous. On the other hand, the existence of miracles, by definition, makes necessary a limit to the power of science to fully explain all of reality.”

Clearly then, even though science can’t explain things that are call “miracles” with the use of purely naturalistic mechanisms (because knowledge is limited), science can in fact detect the existence and reality of true miracles when they do happen in our world…

Recent Comments by Sean Pitman

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Thank you Ariel. Hope you are doing well these days. Miss seeing you down at Loma Linda. Hope you had a Great Thanksgiving!

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Thank you Colin. Just trying to save lives any way I can. Not everything that the government does or leaders do is “evil” BTW…

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Only someone who knows the future can make such decisions without being a monster…

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Where did I “gloss over it”?

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I fail to see where you have convincingly supported your claim that the GC leadership contributed to the harm of anyone’s personal religious liberties? – given that the GC leadership does not and could not override personal religious liberties in this country, nor substantively change the outcome of those who lost their jobs over various vaccine mandates. That’s just not how it works here in this country. Religious liberties are personally derived. Again, they simply are not based on a corporate or church position, but rely solely upon individual convictions – regardless of what the church may or may not say or do.

Yet, you say, “Who cares if it is written into law”? You should care. Everyone should care. It’s a very important law in this country. The idea that the organized church could have changed vaccine mandates simply isn’t true – particularly given the nature of certain types of jobs dealing with the most vulnerable in society (such as health care workers for example).

Beyond this, the GC Leadership did, in fact, write in support of personal religious convictions on this topic – and there are GC lawyers who have and continue to write personal letters in support of personal religious convictions (even if these personal convictions are at odds with the position of the church on a given topic). Just because the GC leadership also supports the advances of modern medicine doesn’t mean that the GC leadership cannot support individual convictions at the same time. Both are possible. This is not an inconsistency.