The World Class Straw Man, part 2

In the previous issue, we drew attention to the astonishing distortion of Seventh-day Adventist history that is being attempted in the recent publication, The Nature of Christ, by Roy Adams, associate editor of the Review. In this volume, we who are trying to cling to the historic faith of our church in regard to the human nature of Christ and in regard to the doctrine of sanctification are charged with many faults. It is represented that we are neither following the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy nor yet the mainstream of historic Adventist theological opinion. It is alleged that we are rather following the individual and erroneous thinking of A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner, as amplified and promoted by M. L. Andreason.

In our last article, we presented part of the mass of historical evidence that negates this incredible fantasy and described it as a “world-class straw man.” We promised that in this article we would examine some of the bundles of straw that were used in the erection of the structure.

The Reviling Straw Bundle

Adams represents himself as attempting to write with no ill will toward those whom he accuses. Was this attempt successful? Let the reader decide. He applies the following terms to us, either directly or indirectly:

Sour, festering, self-appointed, infected with the virus of judgmentalism and suspicion, disease, martyr complex, seasoned controversialists, spirit of accusation, outraged, aghast, scandalized, pathetic, self-confessed expert, misguided, wrong-headed, steeped in their cherish position, impenetrable to any theological logic, irresponsible, almost dishonest, deluded self-appointed prophets, turn-coats, charlatans, and scoundrels.

He applies the following descriptive terms to our reasoning:

Mumblings, innuendoes, broken faith with the church, specious theology, perfectionistic agitation, petty, picayune, disgusting, speciousness, repetitive, exasperating, subtle spin, overblown, vacuousness, subtle legalism, anger, irritation, anger to new heights, radical articulation, fuss, ingenious theological gymnastics, willfulness, mischief, dishonesty, far-fetched explanations, artificial and contrived, totally fabricated, thoughtlessly, narrow, shallow, facile admonitions, simplistic pietism, shrill, provincial, manipulate, like Jim Jones and David Koresh, dogmatism, trap of perfectionistic legalism, frustration, heated, quoted piously, specious reasoning, vehement, inordinate insistence, maliciously accusing, sharpened tongues, navel-gazing, and self-flagellation.

Can you feel the warm Christian love in this language? For some reason, I cannot. But should this surprise us? By no means. We have been forewarned:

“Men of talent and pleasing address, who once rejoiced in the truth, employ their powers to deceive and mislead souls. They become the most bitter enemies of their former brethren. When Sabbath-keepers are brought before courts to answer for their faith, these apostates are the most efficient agents of Satan to misrepresent and accuse them, and by false reports and insinuations to stir up the rulers against them.” The Great Controversy, 608.

We are not yet seeing the entire fulfillment of this prediction, but it is certainly coming into view, both in Adam’s book and in the tragic Issues book, which he applauds. This is a foretaste of what we must be prepared to endure in the last days.

We are reminded of Christ’s warning against reviling others, in Matthew 5:22, and of His own example in refusing to bring a railing accusation against Satan himself (Jude 9). We remember also that Adams repeatedly refers to Andreason and the Historic Adventists of our time as persons who are intensely angry. We ask, where in our writings can there be found language that can be remotely compared to the venom of Adams’ irritation?

And why? What is our crime? Simply that we wish to cling to the purity of our historic faith. For this we must needs be buried under an avalanche of personal abuse and false accusation, which reaches its climax on page 106 of Adams’ book:

“Human society cannot move forward unless people are prepared to leave the past behind. Wherever a people or a society finds this impossible, there is bloodshed and backwardness. Look at the Middle East today. Look at Northern Ireland. Look at Yugoslavia. Look at Sudan. Yet this is what people like Wieland and Short wish on us.”

The sheer enormity of this viciously false accusation makes comment unnecessary, but it may be taken as a sampling of what we can expect from false brethren in the future. We note, in passing, the great difference between Adams’ thinking about the past and the thinking of Ellen White when she wrote: “We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history.” Selected Messages, Book 3, 162.

The Casuistry Straw Bundle

The word casuistry may be simply defined as subtle and evasive reasoning, deception by degrees. It is a technique that is used to avoid the resistance that might be aroused by more bold and direct deception. In his attempt to make it appear that M. L. Andreason was a disciple of Jones and Waggoner, Adams encounters a problem. The writings of Andreason do not support such a theory. Adams inadvertently reveals this in the following ingenious statement:

“Why M. L. Andreason did not more openly flaunt his connection with these two luminaries is not quite clear to me.” (Translation: Adams found no support for his theory in Andreason’s writings.)

But the lack of evidence did not deter him. He continued to enlarge on his theory by alleging that there is a fundamental theological similarity between the position of Jones and Waggoner regarding sanctification and the position of Andreason. What he does not tell his readers is that there is a much stronger similarity between Andreason’s views and those of Ellen White, as well as other church leaders.

Adams next endeavors to show that Andreason got his concept of the “final generation” who will stand without a Mediator in the last days, not from Ellen White, who originated the idea, but from some unidentified persons who, after World War I, were speculating bout the nearness of Christ’s return. The result is a classic demonstration of casuistry, making it appear that evidence exists where in fact it does not exist. Notice the carefully leading and manipulative statement on page 39:

(Andreason) “did not participate in these deceptions”

“He despised the fantastic speculations”

“Their manifest failure must have impressed him”

“leading him to articulate a theological reason for their delay”

“Andreason’s theology developed against the background of those controversies and was shaped by them.” [All emphasis supplied.]

This is an insult to the reader’s intelligence. It could be argued with equal logic that Adams’ theology was shaped by the thinking of Wieland and Short. Adams would undoubtedly pronounce that kind of reasoning utterly nonsensical—and so do we. And are we to suppose that Andreason had never read Ellen White’s description of that “final generation” in her well known The Great Controversy, 613–634; in Patriarchs and Prophets, 195–203; and in Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, 467–476? This would be rather peculiar in view of Adams’ own characterization of Andreason as a “self-confessed expert” on the writings of Ellen White.

Continuing his attempt to separate Andreason from the Spirit of Prophecy, Adams alleges that on the matter of character perfection, Andreason “followed in Ballenger’s footsteps.” He thus attempts to discredit Andreason by linking him with a man who later apostatized. We who knew Andreason would consider it preposterous to describe him as following in any man’s footsteps. But in any case, Ellen White’s views on this point, written and published at least 4500 times, were essentially the same as Ballenger’s before his apostasy, as well as Andreason’s and the other leaders of the church. Then to paint us with the same brush, Adams adds that the views of the Historical Adventists of our time on this subject are “virtually identical to that held by Andreason and Ballenger.” This has all the logical strength of an argument that because Ballenger believed in God and in the Second Coming of Christ, we who now believe those doctrines are followers of Ballenger.

Having used this casuistry to condition his reader’s minds, Adams then proceeds to openly picture Andreason as dishonest. (Pages 52, 53.) I had heard Adams make this charge against Andreason in a public meeting and wondered what could be its basis, since I had known Andreason as a man of sterling character and strict integrity. I am astonished at Adams’ “evidence.” It consists of nothing more than Andreason’s understanding of Ellen White’s use of the word passions, and is presented as if she only used the word in one way. In our The Word Was Made Flesh, we provide a seven-page word study of Ellen White’s uses of the terms “passions” and “propensities” (which Adams dismisses with a sneer.)

The evidence makes it clear that Ellen White did not always use these terms in the same sense or with the same identical meaning. Consider:

“He had all the strength of passion of humanity.” In Heavenly Places, 155.

“. . . not possessing the passions of our human, fallen nature.” Testimonies, vol. 2, 509.

This is in accordance with her own recognition that:

“Different meanings are expressed y the same word. There is not one word for each distinct idea.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 20.

In our word study, we record 28 uses of the word passions by Ellen White and draw conclusions that are in harmony with the evidence. We will refer the reader to The Word Was Made Flesh for details, but will here simply state that we regard Adams’ accusation against Andreason as grossly unfair, far beyond the boundaries of responsible scholarship, and altogether unchristian. I find it mind-boggling that Adams, who professes to have suffered great personal distress over Andreason’s alleged dishonesty, applauds the Issues book with its manifold misrepresentations.

Continuing in this unpraiseworthy work, Adams paints Andreason as a “self-confessed expert” on Ellen White’s writings (page 52) and tells us that Andreason “claims to be an authority on her writings.” (Page 67.) Such braggadocio would be impossible to harmonize with the modest and unpretentious character of Andreason, as we knew him. We therefore, sought for the basis of these accusations and were amazed to find that it was nothing more than this line from a letter Andreason had written to Elder Figuhr:

“In my more than sixty years of official connection with the denomination, one of my chief aims has been to inspire confidence in the Spirit of Prophecy. The last two hears I have spoken on the subject 204 times.” (Page 52.)

What kind of a mentality would construe this earnest and innocent statement to be boastful self-exaltation? And what kind of a mentality would refer to Andreason’s legitimate concerns about the discussions between Walter Martin and some of our leaders like this:

“Almost certainly one reason for Andreason’s reaction was that he had not been consulted.” Page 45.

To complete his hatchet job on the character of a great and good man, Adams purports to have found a deathbed confession of wrongdoing by Andreason. The document, however, is undated and unsigned. No committee of scholars and no court of law would tolerate it as evidence for a single moment. But it was apparently good enough for Adams’ work of character assassination.
“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness.” Isaiah 5:20.

The Sneer Straw Bundle

Since reference has been made to our 365 page research report, The Word Was Made Flesh, we will here mention our mystification at Adams’ failure to deal with the evidence there presented. We found and recorded 1200 statements published by our church leaders during the one hundred years 1852–1952 that Christ came to this earth in the human nature of fallen man. Four hundred of them were from the inspired pen of Ellen White. This is manifestly the evidence that Adams has to overthrow in order to maintain his position. But instead of addressing this material as a scholar should, he by-passed it and selected a modest thirty page tract by Joe Crews as his target.

How does he deal with the mass of evidence presented in The Word Was Made Flesh? Only by sneers. Here are the nine sneers that he directs at our fully and carefully documented research:

  • “. . . startling allegation . . . patently unfounded.” Page 20.


  • “. . . claims on its title page . . .” page 21


  • “. . . counters again and again. . .” page 22


  • “. . . assumption. . .” page 26


  • “. . . ingenious theological gymnastics. . .” page 53


  • “. . . labored, forced, and unconvincing. . .” page 69


  • “. . . gone to great lengths. . .” page 72


  • “. . . far-fetched . . . ingenious . . . totally fabricated. . .” page 72


Not a shred of evidence is offered in support of any of these sneers. May we respectfully suggest that it will take more than sneers to overthrow the 1200 statements that are brought together in our research report?

The Breathtaking Straw Bundle

We come now to the two most astounding propositions that Adams puts forth in his rewriting our history. They are so bold and brazen as to be utterly breath taking. In the first, he soberly assures us that the Christological problem that we have been grappling with since 1957 is actually imaginary. Here are his words:


  • “I don’t run into many Adventists defending a prelapsarian position.


  • “And in all the samplings I’ve done in preparation for this book, I’ve not seen a single instance in which one of our concerned or disaffected brethren has managed to produce a direct prelapsarian statement from a contemporary Adventist author.” Page 27.


  • May we respectfully recommend the following sources:


  • Ministry, September, 1956


  • Questions on Doctrine, page 650


  • Movement of Destiny, L. E. Froom, page 497


  • Christ Our Substitute, Norman Gulley


  • The Man Who is God, Edward Heppenstall


  • Perfect in Christ, Helmut Ott


We find it difficult to understand why Adams, with his position of advantage at the heart of our work, would have trouble laying his hand on any of these sources, not to mention materials published in the Review. But if that proposition is astonishing, the next is stunning:

“We believe—and have always believed—that Christ did take upon Himself the form and nature of fallen human beings.” Page 27.

When you have recovered your breath, you may have some questions. Why, then, was Andreason so bitterly denounced and so ruthlessly dealt with? Why was the opposite view affirmed in Questions on Doctrine? Why is this not being taught at our seminary and in our colleges? Why is it so difficult to find a pastor who believes it? And why does Adams’ own book vilify those who believe it?

Here is a suggestion. Show that statement to your pastor, your conference president, or your college Bible teacher. Watch his reaction, and draw your own conclusions. Someone is wildly out of touch with reality. In our final article, we will examine some specific differences between Adams and the Spirit of Prophecy. Meanwhile, let us remember the words of James Russell Lowell:

“Though the cause of evil prosper, yet ‘tis truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong;
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.”