Dear Eddie: If in fact Dr. …

Comment on PUC Professor: The Noachian Flood was just a local flood? by Kevin Paulson.

Dear Eddie:

If in fact Dr. Ness holds faithfully to Fundamental Belief No. 6, believing in the six literal days of creation and a universal Flood, it is sad that this didn’t come through clearly in the lecture under discussion. I agree that one lecture or sermon is not sufficient to define a presenter’s beliefs. But the practice of listing objections to our beliefs–in this case, belief in a literal, recent, six-literal day creation and a global Flood–while not offering substantive reasons as to why the objections are invalid, is the type of education to which many of us are offering protest.

It is like the old Native American custom of dumping a child into the middle of the river as a means of teaching him to swim. If the child floats and stays that way, fine. It he sinks and drowns, so be it. This is comparable to raising objections to one or another aspect of our faith, and not presenting sufficient evidence to demonstrate why the objection is wrong. I have seen the faith of many of my friends destroyed because of this tactic. The teacher assumes the student is mature enough to handle this kind of open-ended uncertainty, when in reality no one–regardless of age or maturity–is truly able to handle it.

If in fact Dr. Ness believes the classic Adventist stance on creation and the Flood, I am very happy. I just wish he would have made that clearer in this particular lecture. As a pastor, I realize I am always on trial. I am never off duty. If at any time I am asked about my faith, and I fail to give adequate reason for it, I know I have erred grievously. We are living in chaotic and confusing times, and clarity regarding our faith is imperative for all who represent the church in any official capacity.

One further thought about methods of education. I am fascinated by how Ellen White draws a contrast to Jesus’ method of teaching as distinct from that of the Jewish leaders of His day:

“But while His teaching was simple, He spoke as one having authority. This characteristic set His teaching in contrast with that of all others. The rabbis spoke with doubt and hesitancy, as if the Scriptures might be interpreted to mean one thing or exactly the opposite. The hearers were daily involved in greater uncertainty” (The Desire of Ages, p. 253).

When I hear people on this forum denounced as “Pharisees” because they demand clarity from Adventist teachers, I get the feeling those using this label may not know what pharisaism truly is.

God bless!

Pastor Kevin Paulson

Kevin Paulson Also Commented

PUC Professor: The Noachian Flood was just a local flood?
Dear Gary:

Welcome to the discussion. I appreciate your evident sincerity. I would like to ask, however, if you have read the Spectrum article by Dr. Ness which I referred to in an earlier post, the one found in the Fall 2009 issue of Spectrum, titled, “Creation, Evolution, and Adventist Higher Education.”

In my view, a written article is a more likely indicator of someone’s beliefs than a spoken lecture or sermon, the latter often involving spontanteous and unedited expression. If you read this article by Ness, I believe you will recognize why many are concerned about his openness to certain ideas which clearly militate against the tachings of Scripture, Ellen White, and fundamental Adventism.

Perhaps the recording of the lecture at PUC was unauthorized, though whether his comments were taken out of context is at best debatable when one watches the clip, as I have. But the Spectrum article is another matter. As one who often writes articles on controversial issues, I can attest that written material like this involves editing and the careful crafting of words, at least in most cases.

I encourage all of Ness’s defenders on this site to read the Spectrum article, and see if they can’t at least understand why sincere “keepers of the faith” (as you describe them) wouldn’t have a right to be concerned.

God bless!

Pastor Kevin Paulson

PUC Professor: The Noachian Flood was just a local flood?
This notion expressed by “Devoted SDA” about “letting God do the weeding” while we humans simply pray and “tell the world about Jesus,” exposes one of the most significant obstacles in the minds of many contemporary Adventists when it comes to the issue of church discipline.

When Jesus said to “let the wheat and tares grow together,” He was not forbidding the church to remove open sin and apostasy from the church. The Bible, and Christ Himself, give ample evidence that open offense against the truth merits the application of the disciplinary process. What Jesus forbade, in declaring that the wheat and tares should be permitted to grow together, was the judgment of character and motive (see Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 71). God alone knows the heart (I Kings 8:39), so He alone can decide someone’s eternal destiny. But when open sin and apostasy are promoted–and certainly it is open apostasy to promote theistic evolution and the denial of a worldwide Flood, in direct defiance of the inspired record–it becomes the duty of believers to call for, and initiate, appropriate action.

Too many Adventists, for several decades now, have embraced the falsehood that so long as they pray, study the Bible, and witness, thus maintaing a “relationship with Jesus,” that He supposedly will do all the dirty work of getting rid of their sins, thus relieving them of this responsibility themselves. (All agree that God supplies the power for overcoming, but too many believe God will actually do the work as well, while they simply “let Him.”) When this principle is applied to the collective life of the church, a similar pious apathy results. Believers assume that “God will do all the house-cleaning necessary,” an assumption which dovetails neatly with the popular middle-class American aversion to controversy and the taking of sides.

But God has never promised to clean up either the church or our personal lives without our active involvement and participation. Paul declares: “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (II Cor. 7:1). And Jude admonishes us to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). Pious apathy is one principal reason the church is facing so many of the challenges we now confront. When we–as a church and as individuals– recover godly zeal against error and sin, revival and reformation will be given their practical meaning.

God bless!

Pastor Kevin Paulson

PUC Professor: The Noachian Flood was just a local flood?
Dear Laurie:

I thank you for answering the questions I posed regarding Dr. Ness’s classes and their influence on your beliefs. I really appreciate the spirit you have demonstrated in your comments. If in fact Ness’s classes strengthened your belief in a literal six-day creation approximately 6,000 years ago, and in a universal Flood, I am very glad.

Much has been made on this forum of the video clip from Ness’s lecture to the theology students. I am a bit surprised that no reference has been made to an article written by Dr. Ness in the Fall 2009 issue of Spectrum magazine, titled “Creation, Evolution, and Adventist Higher Education.” Spectrum is one of a number of magazines to which I subscribe, but as with many of my magazines, I don’t always get around to reading all the articles. When the controversy arose on this forum regarding Ness’s teachings, I thought of going back and actually reading the Ness article in Spectrum which I had earlier noticed. But not until this morning did I actually do so.

After thoughtfully reading the article, a number of conclusions became clear to me regarding Ness’s personal beliefs on the creation/evolution debate:

1. Ness clearly sees himself as a creationist. He believes there is no workable naturalistic model for the initial origin of life. He holds that belief in a Creator God as the One who originated life is far more sensible than to believe life just came about through evolutionary means.

2. At the same time, Ness appears to see the possibility of some sort of compromise between evolutionary theory and the Genesis creation story, primarily through viewing the days of creation as allegorical. (Not all, it should be remembered, who call themselves creationists are in fact creationists in the true Biblical sense. Much of what currently poses as “progressive creationism” is in fact indistinguishable from theistic evolution.) At one point Ness writes:

“Judging by the fact that many Jews who consider the creation days allegorical maintain Sabbath observance, such an argument (literal days as necessary to defend the Sabbath) might seem unnecessary. Sabbath observance is clearly rooted in the Decalogue; and, although reference is made to the days of creation in the fourth commandment, the seventh day can just as well be considered symbolic. What need is there for a literal seven day creation week if God ordains that the story be told as it is in Genesis and uses the story to tie in the Sabbath to His creative work? I would surely hope that if the days of creation do turn out to be indeterminate lengths of time, my faith in God’s Word would be strong enough that I would see the Sabbath just as binding” (Spectrum, Fall 2009, p. 46).

Much time could be spent responding to the above suggestions, but if nothing else, they hardly offer support for Ness being a strong advocate of the literal days of creation and the affirmation of such by means of the Sabbath commandment.

3. Ness views the Galileo controversy of centuries ago as primarily one of science versus Biblical interpretation, when in reality the best historical evidence indicates the Catholic cosmology which Galileo challenged was based more on Greek philosophy than on the Bible.

4. At another point Ness seems to imply that Adventism’s historic belief in “progressive truth” should enable scientists and theologians in the church to consider such revisions of our creationist beliefs as accepting a symbolic understanding of the days in Genesis 1 (p. 46). It would seem that Ness accepts the definition of “progressive truth” offered by many contemporary so-called “progressive” Adventists–namely, that Inspiration is sufficiently malleable that it can be interpreted in numerous, even contradictory ways. For many reasons, arising from both Scripture and Ellen White, such an understanding of “progressive truth” is problematic.

5. At another point Ness writes:

“A number of individuals believe that only enough should be taught about evolution so that our students can thoroughly refute evolutionary theory. The problem with this latter opinion is that it assumes such a thorough refutation is possible” (p. 47).

If nothing else, it would seem Ness is unaware of the considerable evidence against evolutionary theory that creation scientists have found. While few would argue with Ness’s contention that Adventist science students should understand evolutionary theory so as to interact intelligently with those who hold it, his apparent lack of confidence in the case many scientists have made against evolution would call into question his competence in being able to equip Adventist young people to rightly address these issues, irrespective of what his own beliefs might be.

As a lifelong apologist for classic Adventist theology, I fully recognize the need to understand the arguments of those who deny the Adventist faith, and to be able to refute those arguments with Biblical, logical, and historical evidence. I am a regular reader of publications hostile to fundamental Adventism, and am thus thoroughly familiar with the numerous arguments certain ones routinely make against our faith. I am happy to say that in my interaction with such arguments, I have found them to be thoroughly deficient–on logical and historical grounds as well as Biblical ones.

What is necessary in Adventist science classes is for our students to be exposed to relevant evidence both for and against the Biblical model of origins. But those who teach such classes must themselves be fully persuaded of the truthfulness of the Bible/Spirit of Prophecy model, so as to successfully build the faith of the young in the Biblical/Adventist worldview. I have seen this successfully done in classes at our Seminary on the issue of origins, and the result has been most rewarding.

God bless!

Pastor Kevin Paulson

Recent Comments by Kevin Paulson

NAD President, Education Director Dialog with La Sierra Campus Community
To all participants in the present discussion:

If we’re going to address the issue of how the origins debate should be handled in the public schools, I think we should recognize from the outset that this is most different from the basic question raised by this Web site, which of course is the question of whether theories of origins contrary to Scripture, the Spirit of Prophecy writings, and fundamental Adventist beliefs should be promoted in a Seventh-day Adventist classroom or pulpit.

As a strong Biblical conservative, I am constrained both to support the Genesis creation account as well as the separation of church and state. Seventh-day Adventists have historically supported both on strict Bible grounds. As strongly as I oppose within the church the teaching of ideas and practices which contradict God’s written counsel, I oppose with equal strength the efforts of certain Christian to impose Christian teachings and personal values through civil law.

With this in mind, I believe the best approach to origins in a public school classroom is a modified version of a proposal advanced by the late Stephen Jay Gould of Harvard, very much a devout evolutionist. Gould argued that the teaching of creationism did in fact belong in the teaching of science in public schools, but that it should be covered specifically when addressing the history of scientific thought. I would take this further than Gould and say evolution belongs in that section also.

Technically, as I see this discussion, neither creation nor evolution constitutes strict science, as science requires both observation and experimentation, and no one was present when the natural world came into existence. Science can be summoned to support both theories, but at the bottom line, both concepts invariably lead away from science into the realm of philosophy and faith.

As with other issues of theology and morality which at times enter the public square, it has long been my conviction that the objective evidence supporting the Biblical worldview is sufficiently decisive that the spurs of civil coercion need not be used to promote it to the larger society. The Christian community has sufficient resources and a massive popular presence in our culture, and these should be utilized to set before the public the evidence supporting the claims of the Bible and the Christian faith. Most of all, Christians need to focus less on impacting society through politics and more on impacting their neighbors and society in general through the power of a godly Christian example. From my experience, even the most secular minds have trouble gainsaying the power of the latter.

Finally, I think Phil Brantley needs to define a bit more carefully what he means by “mainstream,” when he says creationism is not a “mainstream” view. Does he mean mainstream in terms of accepted scientific thought, or does he refer to popular opinion? If the latter is considered, it might help to note that every poll I have seen indicates a large percentage (often a majority) of the American public at least, holds to a view of origins closer to Genesis than to Darwin.

God bless!

Pastor Kevin Paulson

NAD President, Education Director Dialog with La Sierra Campus Community
Perhaps it helps to remember that while Aaron was a facilitator, Moses was a watchman. The latter are the sort of leaders God seeks in a time of crisis such as this.

God bless!

Pastor Kevin Paulson

Former LSU student letter reveals professor’s agenda
Dear “Professor Kent”:

You seem to forget, once again, that neither Christ, His love, His forgiveness, nor His cross would be necessary if Darwinian macro-evolution is the story of humanity’s origins.

And once again you give evidence of your embrace of the false dichotomy so popular in modern and postmodern Adventism between “Christ” and the “doctrines.” You insist that correct doctrine will save no one. And you are wrong. Over and over again, in Holy Scripture, truth is declared to be the means of salvation (Hosea 4:6; Matt. 4:4; John 8:31; II Thess. 2:13; I Tim. 4:16). Such truth must be internalized within the heart, to be sure, but it is still the means by which God saves men and women.

You cannot separate Jesus from a literal understanding of the early chapters of Genesis, since repeatedly He made clear in His teachings that He took these events literally. The same holds true for the other New Testament authors. You cannot have the Gospel and evolution too. You cannot embrace Jesus and relegate the Genesis Flood to mythic or mere literary status. It is impossible.

The longer this discussion proceeds, the clearer it will be that you and all others who think as you do are in the wrong church. It is tragic you insist on putting yourself through the needless pain and agony of living a lie.

God bless!

Pastor Kevin Paulson

Former LSU student letter reveals professor’s agenda
Though I had briefly reviewed the letter from Jason and Janelle Shives some days ago, tonight was the first time I actually sat down to read the entire document. It is a masterful though tragic account of a most disturbing situation.

I have known Jason Shives for some time, and have admired him for his courage in standing for truth. He and I share a common experience in having both served as president of the Loma Linda University student body.

What is needed is a grassroots movement of godly students like Jason and Janelle, who will not sit and listen quietly to the perversion of truth in Adventist classrooms. Leaders with the courage to act are needed, most assuredly, but when a groundswell of concern from the young becomes evident, they can act with the awareness that the rising generaiton does not, after all, wish to see the church’s teachings trashed, as the liberals devoutly believe.

If the Bible means anything at all, revival and reformation involve drastic changes in the faith and practice of a community which for a time has departed from the written counsel of God. In the Bible story, this has generally meant the removal of unfaithful personnel from positions of influence and leadership. Most assuredly this must happen in contemporary Adventism. If it means closing departments or even institutions until we can staff them with faithful teachers, we must be prepared to do this.

Let us keep in particular our new General Conference President in our prayers, as the task of guiding the denominational ship of state rests to a large degree in his hands.

God bless!

Pastor Kevin Paulson

An apology to PUC
Dear Karl:

I truly appreciate your clarity and your speaking from the heart as you have. PUC is my alma mater also. And the things you have described I have heard described by a number of credible eyewitnesses. This climate of doctrinal indifference and postmodern spirituality, in which any and all viewpoints are given equal value (except of course those actually challenging the undergirding mindset of these folks), is a scandal of unapralleled proportions.

You are so right about constituents and school administrators turning a blind eye. I can only hope this is now starting to change, with the agitation of those like the organizers of this Web site, and the tone set by our new General Conference President.

I truly believe, however, that the real root of this tragedy is not so much postmodernism as those popular theories of salvation in modern Adventism which have devalued the necessity of correct doctrine and practical holiness. Once salvation is seen to be secure apart from correct belief and a godly life, once we accept the lie that error and sin are the unavoidable companions of even the sanctified believer, it became inevitable that erroneous worldviews and sinful practices would become less and less offensive in the church.

We need a thorough revival and a thorough reformation, and a consequently thorough cleansing of the ranks. I have been studying lately the Bible stories of revival and reformation in the faith community. Believe me, the process was never a feel-good, everybody-come-together-unconditionally type of event. False worship was destroyed. Wrong practices were condemned and expelled from the camp. Apart from such real-life consequences, these cherished words become just another empty slogan.

Thanks again, Karl, for your candor.

God bless!

Pastor Kevin Paulson