Comment on Creeds and Fundamental Beliefs by Sean Pitman.
I agree with the quotes above. But there as nothing like that going on at La Sierra. There were no teachers who have “claimed that they were right, that God has especially taught, impressed, and led them.” or taught that they had “special light from God”. No one was trying to undermine the foundations of the church. No one was claiming to “have a stronger foundation than was laid”. These are simply Biology teachers trying to teach basic science the best they can with the best information they have. They weren’t even teaching anything new! They certainly weren’t trying to disrupt church organization.
So, telling one’s students that life has clearly existed and evolved, via Darwinian mechanisms, on this planet for hundreds of millions of years, that the concept of a literal 6-day creation week, not to mention a worldwide Noachian Flood, is logically and scientifically untenable, is not really an act of undermining any of the primary goals or ideals of the Seventh-day Adventist Church? Where have you been?
Did you miss the fact that the General Conference Executive Committee, at the 2004 Annual Council, asked all professors in SDA schools to also present the SDA perspective on origins in all classrooms?
“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.” (Link)
How is LSU supporting this request of the Adventist Church? How is LSU not directly undermining the Church’s position on a literal 6-day creation week as the true story of the origin of life on this planet?
I could possibly credit your concerns if the church had a clear understanding and could reconcile the Bible with the Science, but the church doesn’t and can’t. No one can, and it seems unreasonable to expect a single biology teacher to be able to do what NO ONE has been able to do in the last 150 years.
Beyond the fact that this statement isn’t true on its face (there is in fact a great deal of scientific evidence in support of the Biblical claims on origins), it is irrelevant to the question of church order and government. The church has every right to expect that those who are hired to represent its interests will actually do so. It also has the right to release those from employment who cannot support the church’s goals and ideals from pulpit or classroom.
Sean Pitman: “This is not a moral issue.”
Actually this is a moral issue. It is categorically immoral for anyone, let alone the church to use coercion and persecution to enforce anyone’s belief against reason and conscience.
Of course you are right here, but only with regard to those who do not claim to be representatives of the church. Your problem is that you think it is the right of all people, regardless of one’s individual views or ideas, to become paid representatives of the Adventist Church. It is not a basic human right to be paid by the SDA Church for promoting one’s own individual views independent of the views of the church who employs you. To be hired by the Church as an official representative from pulpit or classroom is a privilege, not a right, for which not everyone qualifies. Therefore, it is not persecution, in any meaningful sense of the word, for the church to refuse to hire or continue to pay those who do not accurately reflect the goals and ideals of the church as an organization.
The church has not taken on civil authority here. You can do as you wish with respect to your own religious preferences in this free society of ours – thank God. You can leave or join any church at will without any fear of civil reprisals. And, that’s a very very good thing. However, the church, like all viable organizations, must also be free to hire only those who actually do represent the goals and ideals of the church.
How is this not common sense? What you are arguing for here is chaos and anarchy within the church, not order and government for the Church.
Is religious freedom within the church any less moral?
There should always be freedom of religion in society at large. However, for a particular organization to remain viable, there must be selectivity when it comes to hiring official paid representatives. Freedom of religion in society at large does not mean that you can expect payment from any particular organization within that society for doing whatever you want independent of the goals and ideals of the organization that you hope will support your efforts financially.
For example, if you like to wear Reebok shoes, you think they are the best, don’t expect to be hired by Nike for promoting the superiority of Reebok. In the same way, why should the SDA Church pay someone who thinks that Catholicism is better? – or who openly promotes anything that counters the basic goals and ideals of the SDA Church as an organization?
What you are suggesting here is, again, not “freedom”, but chaos and anarchy. It was tried in the early formation of the Adventist Church. It didn’t work then, for obvious reason detailed above, and it will not work now.
Sean Pitman Also Commented
I can believe without cognitive dissonance that God created life in 7 days, 6000 years ago with the ability to evolve/diversify/adapt to a changing environment.
That’s not the issue here. We all believe in limited forms of evolution via random mutations/natural selection. The problem is with the modern concept of evolution where there are no limitations to evolutionary progress with respect to functional complexity – where every living thing is claimed, by modern evolutionists, to have evolved over hundreds of millions of years from a single common ancestral life form and ultimately from non-living materials via purely mindless naturalistic mechanisms.
That’s what the LSU science professors have been teaching their students for decades, that life has existed on this planet for hundreds of millions of years and that it evolved form a common life form via Darwinian mechanisms without the obvious need for the input of intelligent design from anyone – not even God. Sure, they will admit that perhaps God did guide the process here and there, but they will argue that such guidance is non-detectable by science – that science is incapable of detecting the actions of God within the empirical world in which we live.
Your arguments for evolution in action, and the low-level examples you cite, are without contest on my part. Of course evolution happens at such low levels of functional complexity – quite rapidly indeed as you point out. The evidence for design, however, is in showing that evolutionary progress is limited, this side of a practical eternity of time, to such low levels of functional complexity. Nothing functionally new that requires a minimum of more than a few hundred specifically arranged amino acid residues (in single or multiprotein systems) can evolve this side of trillions upon trillions of years of time. That’s the problem for the modern ToE.
No, I am not defending the teachers. I am saying that the church is responding to the teachers in the wrong way. I believe that the church is abandoning it’s most fundamental of principles by responding they way they have, or at least the way you would like them to.
This is interesting. What would you recommend, in particular? How should the church respond to those paid representatives who are and have long been actively attacking the most basic and “fundamental” goals and ideals of the church organization? If you can think of a better way to resolve this issue, which hasn’t already been tried in this particular case, that would be absolutely wonderful! I’m all ears…
Why do you assume that a professor turning to Atheism or some other belief would threaten Adventist belief? Are you afraid that Adventist beliefs can’t stand up to such scrutiny? To my mind, resorting to a creed and coercion implies that you really don’t have faith in your beliefs.
Just because I’m not threatened by the beliefs of atheists or agnostics or Catholics or Baptists or whatever does not mean that I should therefore hire those who hold such beliefs to preach in Adventist churches or to teach in Adventist schools. That would defeat the whole purpose of having a unique Adventist organization that actively and collectively promotes the uniquely Adventist position in all of our institutions.
No, the appropriate response is to engage with them. Find out why they are persuaded to an alternate view. Then engage in constructive argument and reason. What is more, you should do this in good faith, remaining open to influence yourself. Jesus is the light that enlightens EVERY man, so we have a lot to learn from atheists, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and Catholics. The truth has nothing to fear. Truth is truth no matter where it comes from, and no matter how long it is thought to be heresy. If Adventist beliefs cannot stand the test of reason and time without the support of coercion, then they are worthless.
Again, this is great advice when it comes to your neighbors and friends, but not when it comes to paid employees of the Adventist Church. You’re mixing up concepts here. I have a lot of friends outside of the Adventist faith, to include Catholics, Hindus, agnostics, atheists, and all the rest. We get along great and have a wonderful time together. But, you see, they don’t claim to be Adventist and they don’t expect to get a paycheck from the Adventist Church for promoting their views which are fundamentally at odds with those of Adventism.
I fail to see how it makes any sense to you that any organization would deliberately hire those who fundamentally opposed the clearly stated basic goals and ideals of the organization? It’s fine and even good to honestly and sincerely talk to those from outside of the organization who hold opposing views. But, if you or I or anyone else within the Adventist Church becomes convinced by these opposing views, it behooves us to resign from our positions within the Adventist Church and join the organization that we can honestly and actively support. Certainly one should not expect to get paid by the Adventist Church for going around attacking the clearly stated goals and ideals of the church. That’s an argument for anarchy my friend – not a viable organization of any kind.
For example, does THE TRUTH AS IT IS IN JESUS, change?
God, and therefore Truth, never changes. However, our human understanding of truth does change over time as we learn more about it. We will always be learning more and more about Truth throughout eternity. We can approach Truth, but we can never fully realize it.
So, explain to me the difference in mechanism between Darwinian-style evolution and something that requires intelligent design to produce? In your opinion, is it possible to produce all things via truly mindless evolutionary mechanisms? How can I tell if something did or did not require the input of an intelligent designer?
Recent Comments by Sean Pitman
Science and Methodological Naturalism
Very interesting passage. After all, if scientists are honest with themselves, scientific methodologies are well-able to detect the existence of intelligent design behind various artifacts found in nature. It’s just the personal philosophy of scientists that makes them put living things and the origin of the fine-tuned universe “out of bounds” when it comes to the detection of intelligent design. This conclusion simply isn’t dictated by science itself, but by a philosophical position, a type of religion actually, that strives to block the Divine Foot from getting into the door…
Why is it that creationists are afraid to acknowledge the validity of Darwinism in these settings? I don’t see that these threaten a belief in God in any way whatsoever.
The threat is when you see no limitations to natural mindless mechanisms – where you attribute everything to the creative power of nature instead of to the God of nature.
God has created natural laws that can do some pretty amazing things. However, these natural laws are not infinite in creative potential. Their abilities are finite while only God is truly infinite.
The detection of these limitations allows us to recognize the need for the input of higher-level intelligence and creative power that goes well beyond what nature alone can achieve. It is here that the Signature of God is detectable.
For those who only hold a naturalistic view of the universe, everything is attributed to the mindless laws of nature… so that the Signature of God is obscured. Nothing is left that tells them, “Only God or some God-like intelligent mind could have done this.”
That’s the problem when you do not recognize any specific limitations to the tools that God has created – when you do not recognize the limits of nature and what natural laws can achieve all by themselves.
Since the fall of Adam, Sean, all babies are born in sin and they are sinners. God created them. Even if it was by way of cooperation of natural law as human beings also participated in the creation process.
God did not create the broken condition of any human baby – neither the physical or moral brokenness of any human being. God is responsible for every good thing, to include the spark or breath of life within each one of us. However, He did not and does not create those things within us that are broken or bad.
“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?'” Matthew 13:27-28
Of course, all humans are indeed born broken and are in a natural state of rebellion against God. However, God is not the one who created this condition nor is God responsible for any baby being born with any kind of defect in character, personality, moral tendency, or physical or genetic abnormality. God did not create anyone with such brokenness. Such were the natural result of rebellion against God and heading the temptations of the “enemy”… the natural result of a separation from God with the inevitable decay in physical, mental, and moral strength.
Of course, the ones who are born broken are not responsible for their broken condition either. However, all of us are morally responsible for choosing to reject the gift of Divine Grace once it is appreciated… and for choosing to go against what we all have been given to know, internally, of moral truth. In other words, we are responsible for rebelling against the Royal Law written on the hearts of all mankind.
This is because God has maintained in us the power to be truly free moral agents in that we maintain the Power to choose, as a gift of God (Genesis 3:15). We can choose to accept or reject the call of the Royal Law, as the Holy Spirit speaks to all of our hearts…
Remember the statement by Mrs. White that God is in no wise responsible for sin in anyone at any time. God is working to fix our broken condition. He did not and does not create our broken condition. Just as He does not cause Babies to be born with painful and lethal genetic defects, such as those that result in childhood leukemia, He does not cause Babies to be born with defects of moral character either. God is only directly responsible for the good, never the evil, of this life.
Again, your all-or-nothing approach to the claims of scientists isn’t very scientific. Even the best and most famous of scientists has had numerous hair-brained ideas that were completely off base. This fact does not undermine the good discoveries and inventions that were produced.
Scientific credibility isn’t based on the person making the argument, but upon the merits of the argument itself – the ability of the hypothesis to gain predictive value when tested. That’s it.
Gary Gilbert, Spectrum, and Pseudogenes
Don’t be so obtuse here. We’re not talking about publishing just anything in mainstream journals. I’ve published several articles myself. We’re talking about publishing the conclusion that intelligent design was clearly involved with the origin of various artifactual features of living things on this planet. Try getting a paper that mentions such a conclusion published…