Wesley Kime, you could learn something from Sean Pitman. …

Comment on Strumming the Attached Strings by Phillip Brantley.

Wesley Kime, you could learn something from Sean Pitman. He quotes what I wrote and does so fairly in one of his essays in which he mentions my name and discusses my views (regarding biblical hermeneutics and the relationship between Scripture and external science data). In contrast, you do not quote anything I wrote regarding the bond agreement. Instead, you misrepresent my views (in the eighth paragraph of your essay) in the strange lingo that you apparently find amusing.

It is elementary that boilerplate language has meaning that requires serious attention. The serious attention I give to the entire language of the bond agreement is evidenced by my review of the California Supreme Court opinion that explains what that language means. See, http://charitygovernance.blogs.com/charity_governance/files/california_supreme_court_2007_revenue_bond.pdf.

In your essay, you do not cite the Court’s opinion or quote and discuss the relevant language in the opinion. Instead, you invite innocent readers to surmise in their ignorance that La Sierra University is to be justly criticized for participating in the bond program.

Readers need to be reminded that the authority on California law is the California Supreme Court, not some novice who lacks appropriate feelings of embarrassment for making declarations on matters that are clearly beyond his expertise.

Phillip Brantley Also Commented

Strumming the Attached Strings
Dr. Pitman, I do not expect you to fully understand the California Supreme Court opinion or my explanatory comments. You have never learned how to think and reason like a lawyer. The law is much more mysterious to you than you realize.

I can explain a legal matter to you in all crystal clarity, but I cannot understand it for you. To respond to your last comment on the merits is fruitless, because I would just be repeating myself. I suggest that you read again the comments I have made on the various websites regarding this matter and La Sierra’s responsive statement.

Strumming the Attached Strings
Dr. Pitman, you (or some other editor) unfairly edited my last comment and the comment that I responded to, so I am forced to wipe the dust from my shoes and leave you and others to stew in anger and confusion.

[Attacks on Shakespeare and the like are off topic and are distracting to the purpose of this website and will not be published – not even in the comment section. The same is true for other topics that many often attempt to post on this website – such as those dealing with homosexuality, abortion, women’s ordination, the personal morality of one’s opponents, etc. – ET Staff]

Strumming the Attached Strings
I appreciate the comment posted by Richard Myers, because it reflects the often-overlooked fact that a major basis for the agitation against La Sierra University is fundamentalist opposition to university education. []

Critics of La Sierra University should ponder whether their agitation is based on knowledge or the fear that accompanies ignorance. I sense a lot of fear. Fear is not conducive to cerebral thought and learning. Fear also stunts one’s self-awareness ego.

Critics of La Sierra University should adopt the meekness of a criminal defendant. You have to place trust in someone, particularly your attorney, even if you do not fully understand everything your attorney knows.

Recent Comments by Phillip Brantley

Why those who hate the Bible love blind-faith Christians
The Seventh-day Adventist Church endorsed the Historical-Grammatical hermeneutic of biblical interpretation in the 1986 Annual Council. In so doing, the Church expressly rejected the Historical-Critical hermeneutic of biblical interpretation, as reflected in this statement: “Even a modified use of this method that retains the principle of criticism which subordinates the Bible to human reason is unacceptable to Adventists.” AR, Jan. 22, 1987. The 1986 Annual Council action is reflective of what has been orthodox theology of the Church during the past 147 years.

The Historical-Grammatical hermeneutic accepts scripture at face value and interprets scripture based on principles of interpretation that arise out of scripture itself. In contrast, the Historical-Critical hermeneutic puts scripture to the test and relies on external norms and bodies of knowledge to determine the meaning and truthfulness of scripture. For an excellent tutorial on hermeneutics, read the essays written by Richard Davidson, which can be found here: http://www.andrews.edu/~davidson/bibliography.html.

The cryptic language Dr. Pitman quotes in “An Affirmation of Creation—Report” from 2004 was not intended to effect a change in the Church’s hermeneutical approach to scripture. This statement did not and does not open the door to countenance criticism of the sacred text that Dr. Pitman has engaged in, notwithstanding how poorly drafted the statement may be. I make this assertion with confidence, knowing full well the fervid “line in the sand” feelings of Adventist theologians about hermeneutics.

Ellen White was a harsh opponent of criticism. Criticism as discussed above is a term of art that describes a hermeneutical effort to validate or invalidate biblical text based on an external body of knowledge such as science. She wrote, “God will punish all those who, as higher critics, exalt themselves, and criticize God’s Holy Word.” BE Feb 1, 1897.

Directly on point is her following statement: “But God will have a people upon the earth to maintain the Bible, and the Bible only, as the standard of all doctrines and the basis of all reforms. The opinions of learned men, the DEDUCTIONS OF SCIENCE, the creeds or decisions of ecclesiastical councils, as numerous and discordant as are the churches which they represent, the voice of the majority–not one nor all of these should be regarded as evidence FOR OR AGAINST any point of religious faith. Before accepting any doctrine or precept, we should demand a plain ‘Thus saith the Lord’ in its support.” GC 595 (emphasis added).

I trust the reader can now see that the Ellen White quotations assembled by Dr. Pitman in his essay are not on point.

The writings of Ravi Zacharias, a non-Adventist critic of the Bible, are void of authority in the Church and, to my knowledge, have been of negligible interest to Adventist scholars.

I know of no Church leader or theologian who presently supports this website’s campaign against La Sierra University, embraces Dr. Pitman’s hermeneutical approach to scripture, and is willing to make a public admission to that effect.

I sympathize with those who are attracted to Dr. Pitman’s views. Very few Adventists understand hermeneutics. I think about Uzzah. Uzzah was a good person. He tried to bolster the ark of the covenant. And the Lord killed him for it. Bolstering the Word of God with external evidence seems pious, too. But when one puts the Genesis account of creation to the test, and freely admits that his or her belief in that sacred text rises or falls based on science data, that is heresy.

To be rejected on theological grounds is this website’s claim that teaching mainstream science in an Adventist university science class undermines belief in the Genesis account of creation, because science has no evidentiary basis in determining one’s interpretation of the sacred text or one’s belief in the truthfulness of the sacred text. See Phillip Brantley, “An Open Letter to La Sierra University”, published on www.spectrummagazine.org, 10/24/10.


Clifford Goldstein: ‘A Safe Place’
I agree with Elder Goldstein that an Adventist university should be a safe place for our students. I suggest that our universities adopt and implement a rigorous screening process to determine which students should be allowed to study science and which students should not be admitted to class.

The screening process should include the following elements:

1. The university should make full disclosure of what is taught. The university should fully disclose that mainstream science is taught and accorded factual validity to the degree warranted by the natural evidence. In addition, full disclosure should be made regarding what science is, what mainstream science is, what the scientific method is, and what the differences are between science and theology/philosophy. The student should be warned that there are some Adventists who find the teaching of evolution in science class to be offensive. The disclosures should be comprehensive and exhaustive, so that no admitted student is surprised or upset. If the prospective student does not evidence a thorough understanding of these disclosures, he or she should not be admitted to class.

2. The student should be required to pass a biblical hermeneutics examination that demonstrates that he or she understands the relationship between the Bible and external data. The student should know that for Seventh-day Adventists science has no relevance in determining how the sacred text is interpreted or regarded. If the student lacks a cognitive and experiential understanding and affirmation of the historical-grammatical hermeneutic that rejects criticism of the sacred text, he or she should not be admitted to class.

3. The student should submit to an interview. If the student appears to lack emotional stability or the intellectual ability to compartmentalize and bear with tension between contradictory ideas, he or she should not be admitted to class. A psychological instrument could also be implemented to test the student to assess his or her suitability for the class.

Elder Goldstein’s concerns should be taken seriously. Not every student who wants to study science should be allowed to study science in an Adventist university. Not every student possess the requisite spiritual maturity to study science.

To study science in an Adventist university is not a right but a privilege.
It is appropriate to explain to a young person who might respond to the curriculum by passing out protest flyers in the middle of the church parking lot, “Son, I don’t think you are ready for this class. For you to discover that there is natural evidence that is not in harmony with the Genesis account of creation would be unduly traumatic for you. For your sake, we are not able to admit you to class. Thank you for submitting your application. God bless you.”

NAD President, Education Director Dialog with La Sierra Campus Community
Mr. Pickle, this is my response to your question:

1. It is irrelevant whether the presiding judge in a case possesses any expertise about the subject matter of the case. The judge does not decide the case based on his or her personal knowledge of the subject matter but on the evidence that is presented.

2. In our constitutional form of government, federal judges force public schools and other state actors to do certain things, namely in this particular case to desist and refrain from violating the first amendment to the United States Constitution.

3. Evolution is not a religious-based origin theory. It is mainstream science. Creationism is neither science, nor mainstream, and more problematically, a religious belief in which public school students have a right not to be indoctrinated.

This jurisprudence is not unduly contentious or controversial. These are not difficult cases to decide. A long string of court opinions demonstrates that the law in this area is well-established.

NAD President, Education Director Dialog with La Sierra Campus Community
Here is the Supreme Court’s opinion in the Edwards vs. Aguillard case that was decided in 1987: http://supreme.justia.com/us/482/578/case.html. You can read the opinion and form your own judgments. I think the case was rightly decided.

Revisiting God, Sky & Land by Fritz Guy and Brian Bull
Drs. Guy and Bull are to be commended for the thoughtful book they have written. They are entitled to respect.

Their thesis faces significant headwinds:

1. It is an open question whether their view of ancient Israelite cosmology is correct. In the 2011 spring edition of the Andrews University Seminar Studies journal, Drs. Richard Davidson and Randall Younker have an essay that elaborates on Dr. Younker’s quote above. A fuller treatment of what they wrote is promised. I anticipate that Hebrew cosmology will be rigorously studied rather than assumed in future scholarship. Future scholarship is necessary, because all of these authors’ writings on this matter are at present thin.

2. I spoke to Dr. Walton in Texas last fall when he shared with me his scholarly version of his book The Lost World of Genesis 1. I asked him if there were any refinements. He mentioned a couple, including his view of Raquia. In Chicago, he offered that he was not sure whether Raquia was like the air in the balloon or the solid membrane on the perimeter. In Texas, he stated that he now believes that Raquia is the air in the balloon but finds one verse in Job (I don’t have the specific cite off hand) that depicts the solid dome. I find it risky to base one aspect of Hebrew cosmology on one verse in Scripture. But I find it interesting he has abandoned the view that Raquia is a solid dome.

3. Drs. Guy and Bull were smart to limit their focus to Genesis 1. But the problem remains: how does their thesis accord with the rest of Scripture?

4. There is a hermeneutical problem as well. The innocent reader may be shocked to learn that how the author and his contemporaries understood the text is not dispositive concerning what the text means. 1 Peter 1:10-12 reflects that the ancient rabbis did not always understand the meaning of what they wrote. We see here that Peter introduces a hermeneutical principle that to ascertain the meaning of the text, original intent is insufficient.