Inasmuch as we believe the General Conference has launched an Inquisition, which may result in the separation from the church of several thousand believers, it will be necessary for our response to be couched in unvarnished terms and expressed with unmistakable clarity. We would prefer to not do this, but the circumstances make it necessary.
The Apostasy Begins
Let us take a moment to explain the background and to establish the context of the present situation. Several years ago certain of us, who were Seventh-day Adventist ministers with many years of experience in the work of the church and in proclaiming the truths of the Bible, became aware that some utterly false Calvinistic doctrines were being brought into our church’s theology. We endeavored to alert our church leaders regarding the problem, in full confidence that appropriate corrective measures would promptly be taken. To our surprise and dismay, our warnings were ignored, and we were dealt with as “troublemakers” who were disturbing the peace of the church.
We eventually began to warn church members ourselves, by whatever means we could. This gave rise to a number of ministries, programs, publications (both books and magazines), schools, etc. But administrative resistance to our work increased and hardened into bitter hostility. A book called Issues was published by the leaders of the North American Division, which, along with other absurdities, alleged that we were trying to “force” our own peculiar ideas on the church. It described us as a “cancer” on the body of Christ, which needed to be cut out. This, remember, was because we were warning church members about the invasion of false doctrines into our church and were defending the historic Seventh-day Adventist faith in its purity.
Now the General Conference leadership has decided that the time for that surgery has come. Hence the Inquisition. An Inquisitorial Committee was set up, which did its work and published a report in the Adventist Review and in Ministry magazine. It is this report that is the subject of this response.
The Inquisitorial Committee
This group is represented as being most august, qualified and competent, but this cannot be taken seriously. “By their fruits ye shall know them.” (See Matthew 7:20.) The committee has testified to its own incompetence and unfairness by the report that it has produced and is now spreading around the world by every possible means. The report is filled with accusations against historic Adventists, which range from the utterly false to the outrageously false. There is absolutely no way that a competent, fair and factual investigation could have produced such a report as this.
The Inquisitorial Procedure
The procedure consists of three parts: an “investigation” (see above), some meetings, and the issuance of an ultimatum. According to the ultimatum, the accused historic Adventist leaders are being given twelve months in which to “repent” and bow to the authority of the Inquisitors or suffer the consequences. There is no hint that there will be any fair trial in which the accused might be given an opportunity to defend themselves. They must simply accept the judgment of the Inquisitors as infallible—all of which reminds us of the Catholic Inquisition in Spain.
A word about the “meetings” referred to above. They may be represented as “fair hearings,” but they were nothing of the kind. They were only occasions in which the historic Adventist leaders had to spend time responding to barrages of false accusations. Their concerns about apostasy in the church were never considered. Nothing remotely resembling a fair and factual hearing has ever occurred.
The Inquisitorial Falsehoods
Inquisitions work with falsehoods and misrepresentations. This is their stock in trade. Unfortunately, the General Conference Inquisition is no exception to this rule. The process begins with a seemingly innocuous statement in the introduction:
…they affirmed agreement on many of the major elements of the
Seventh-day Adventist faith. Adventist Review, August 2000 (Emphasis supplied.)
A totally truthful statement would have said all, not many. Using the word many prepares the reader’s mind for the assertion to come later, that the historic Adventists are holding and promoting some theological ideas that are simply their own private and peculiar opinions. This is absolutely and unconditionally false. We have originated no part of our teachings. We are not promoting our own opinions. We are defending the faith that we were taught when we joined the church, that we were taught again in Adventist schools, that we read in Adventist publications until the 1950s, and that are now set forth in the official statement of faith, Seventh-day Adventists Believe. And the accusations get worse.
The Inquisitorial Ultimatum
In the Inquisitorial Ultimatum it is alleged that we have added a “new fundamental belief” to the doctrines of the church that:
“Such change illustrates an independence from the church in doctrinal matters, as they constitute their own particular views into tests of faith, independent from the remainder of the church. Adventist Review, August 2000.
The alleged new doctrine is that Christ “took upon Himself our fallen nature.” The claim is set forth that this is only our own particular view and that such a statement has never been part of the Seventh-day Adventist Baptismal Vow or of official statements of fundamental beliefs.
Note that the allegation has two parts. First, the idea that Christ took upon Himself our fallen nature is simply our own particular view. This is not only false; it is outrageously false. It is an insult to the reader’s intelligence.
Research Proves Us Right
While serving as chairman of a department in the Far Eastern Theological Seminary, I engaged in research on this subject. I found in the historical literature of the church a total of 1200 written statements that Christ took upon His divine nature our fallen nature, yet without sin. These statements were published between the years 1852 and 1952 in the church’s journals and books. The testimony of the church to the world was clear, consistent and wholly uniform during this time. But in 1957 the infamous book Questions on Doctrine was published. This book totally repudiated the long standing position of the church concerning the nature of Christ and used utterly disgraceful methods to introduce a new view, that Christ took upon Himself the unfallen nature of Adam. A recent volume, Touched With Our Feelings, by Dr. J. R. Zurcher, a noted Adventist scholar of Switzerland, details how and by whom this was done.
Who were the authors of these 1200 published statements that Christ took upon His divine nature our fallen nature? Eight hundred of them were written by Adventism’s first line of leadership. The list includes General Conference presidents, vice-presidents, and secretaries; union and local conference presidents; college presidents and professors; Signs of the Times, Review and Herald and other magazine editors; and other ministers and writers. See my book, The Word Was Made Flesh, for a chronological listing of them all.
What of the other 400 of the 1200 statements? They were written and published by Ellen White, God’s chosen messenger to the remnant church.
False Reasoning and Misrepresentations
So what of the allegation that this is only our own particular view? Do you see now why I wrote (above) that this allegation is not only false, but it is outrageously false? It ignores the testimony of Adventism’s first line of leadership in 1200 published statements, of which a full 400 were from the inspired pen of Ellen White, and it advances the ludicrously false accusation that the idea that Christ took upon His divine nature our fallen nature is only our own particular view. Can misrepresentation be greater than this?
I pause here to point out that this kind of misrepresentation has been a consistent characteristic of the Calvinistic apostasy from its very beginning. When the book Questions on Doctrine was published in 1957 it led the way with a grossly false statement about the nature of Christ. From then until now that example has been unscrupulously followed by the teachers of false Calvinistic doctrines among us. Their writings abound in self-contradiction, false reasoning, and outright misrepresentations. I have written elsewhere about these matters, and so will not restate them here.
This leads us to the other Inquisitorial allegation, that the statement that Christ took upon His divine nature the fallen nature of man has never appeared in any official statement of our faith.
Continuing and Authoritative Source of Truth
If you will secure a copy of the 1980 statement of our faith, which is called “Seventh-day Adventists Believe—27 Doctrines,” (SDAs Believe), and which was made official at the General Conference of that year, and turn to page 216, this is what you will find:
Seventh-day Adventists Believe…One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is prophecy. This gift is an identifying mark of the remnant church and was manifested in the ministry of Ellen G. White. As the Lord’s messenger, her writings are a continuing and authoritative source of truth which provide for the church comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction. They also make clear that the Bible is the standard by which all teaching and experience must be tested. (Emphasis supplied.)
If Ellen White’s writings are thus officially described in our statement of faith as a continuing and authoritative source of truth, and she wrote 400 times that Christ came to this earth in the human nature of fallen man, how can it be said that this has never been a part of any statement of faith?
And the more meaningful question is this: In view of the fact that our doctrine of the nature of Christ had been testified to in our publications 1200 times by Adventism’s first line of leadership, including 400 statements by Ellen White, why was this not included in the statement of faith? It certainly should have been.
A statement of faith is a report. It is supposed to tell us what a group believes. The only certain way of getting this information is to examine what the group members have written. This provides evidence that cannot be challenged. To add to it something that the church has not believed would be most improper. To leave out of it something that the church has believed would be equally improper. That would make it a false report. In view of the enormous body of written evidence that our church believed that Christ took upon His divine nature the human nature of fallen man, to leave that out of the statement of faith was in itself a misrepresentation. And we continue.
(Do not misunderstand or misapply the reference to the Bible as “the standard by which all teaching and experience must be tested.” Ellen White’s writings pass this test with flying colors.)
Turning the Accusation back on the Inquisitors
One of the more significant of the Inquisitorial accusations against the historic Adventists is that we use the writings of Ellen White “selectively,” quoting passages that seem to support our views and ignoring other passages. We are going to have to turn this false accusation very firmly and very forcefully back on the Inquisitors. There is an abundance of evidence.
What did the church leaders do with the 400 Ellen White statements that Christ took upon Himself the human nature of fallen man, that I researched out and sent to them? They simply ignored them.
What did they do with her more than 2000 statements that, by the power of God, man can stop sinning (which Calvinism denies), that I researched out and sent to them? They simply ignored them.
What are they doing right now with her clear and Scriptural testimony against law suits between church members? They are simply ignoring them, while they continue to launch more and more lawsuits against members. (They try to cover up by having the members expelled from the church before the suits, so that they can claim that they are not suing members.) This technical charge may serve to mislead church members, but will it mislead the God of truth and righteousness? What do you think?
What are they doing right now with her writings against a false unity that is based on false doctrines? They are simply ignoring them, while they continue to publish her appeals for unity. Look carefully at these quotations:
Christ Calls for Unity Based upon Truth
I urge our brethren to unify upon a true, Scriptural basis. 17 Manuscript Releases, vol. 17, 306.
“We have a testing message to give, and I am instructed to say to our people, ‘Unify, unify.’ But we are not to unify with those who are departing from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils.” Selected Messages, Book 3, 412.
“Christ calls for unity. But He does not call for us to unify on wrong practices. The God of heaven draws a sharp contrast between pure, elevating, ennobling truth and false, misleading doctrines. He calls sin and impenitence by the right name. He does not gloss over wrongdoing with a coat of untempered mortar. I urge our brethren to unify upon a true, Scriptural basis.” Notebook Leaflets, vol. 2, 164.
“We are all to unify on the proper basis of unity.” Testimonies for the Church Containing Messages and Warning and Instruction to Seventh-day Adventists, 55.
“…harmony and co-operation must be maintained without compromising one principle of truth.” Counsels to Writers and Editors, 79.
The Ostrich with its Head in the Sand
Thus there can be no unity between Adventism and Calvinism. Several vitally important principles of truth are being grievously compromised at many levels of the Seventh-day Adventist Church today, and we who have pointed this out have been called troublemakers. We are now being told that if we do not stop sounding the alarm, we will suffer the consequences. Consider this comparison: A ship is traveling through the ocean, and a crewman discovers a dangerous leak in the hold. He rushes to notify the captain and is met with a stern rebuke. “Keep quiet,” the captain says, “you are disturbing the peace of the passengers.” The crewman persists, and so the captain orders him thrown overboard. Will this save the ship? What do you think?
“Duly Constituted Church Authority”
Another Inquisitorial accusation against us is that the historic Adventists refuse to submit to “duly constituted church authority,” unless it agrees with “their own particular views.” This is wholly false. We believe in “duly constituted church authority” as firmly as anyone does. But we do not put church authority over Bible authority. No true Seventh-day Adventist does. And we emphatically do not advance our own particular views as to the meaning of the Scriptures. We accept the statement of faith in SDAs Believe. But if we are forced to choose between Scripture and the authority of men unsupported by Scripture, we will without hesitation take our stand upon the Scripture. No true Seventh-day Adventist would do otherwise. We reject as unconditionally false the following Inquisitorial accusation:
Hope International and associates appear to have taken the position that their interpretation of the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy is the final arbiter over the Church… Adventist Review, August 2000 (Emphasis supplied.)
We say again, in response to this recurring allegation, that we are doing no such thing. We are defending the faith of our fathers, not our own interpretations. Every point of our faith is on record in the book SDAs Believe. To call this our own interpretation is emphatically to bear false witness against us. We protest against this misrepresentation and call upon all fair-minded persons to protest with us.
You Be the Judge
There is only one of the main Inquisitorial accusations against us that is partially true. Most of us have testified that there is apostasy in the church. Some others have become so appalled and disheartened by the kind of thing that we are examining here, and other similar things, that they have gone further and said the church is in apostasy. Who has it right? I submit that there is room for honest and reasonable men to disagree on this point. When we look at the false Calvinistic doctrines being preached in so many of our churches, being taught by so many teachers in our colleges and seminaries, being published in so many of the magazines and books coming from our presses, it is hard to avoid a sense of profound discouragement about the church. Yet we are warned by God’s messenger that there will be a great apostasy in the church in the last days. In Testimonies, vol. 8, 41, we read of a great last day interchange, when “companies” will leave us and “tribes” will take their place.
How does it all fit together? When our concerns seem to overwhelm us, we may benefit by looking at this statement:
“God has a church. It is not the great cathedral, neither is it the national establishment, neither is it the various denominations; it is the people who love God and keep His commandments. ‘Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.’ (Matthew 18:20). Where Christ is even among the humble few, this is Christ’s church, for the presence of the High and Holy One who inhabiteth eternity can alone constitute a church.” The Upward Look, 315.
We Can’t Do it with Theology
By this time there must surely be some large questions forming in your mind. Why all of this shadow boxing? Why are the historic Adventists continually being accused of doing so many things that they are not doing? In order to help you understand, let me tell you about a personal experience of mine.
I was standing at the door of a room where all of the Union presidents of the North American Division were in council. I had an appointment with them, and I was waiting for my proper time to step into the room. As I stood and waited, I heard one of the presidents say to the others:
“We have to find some way to stop Ron Spear, but we can’t do it with theology, because there is nothing wrong with his theology.“
Please read those words again, slowly and thoughtfully. Say them out loud. Do it several times. When you have these words firmly fixed in your mind, you are prepared to understand the strange things that are happening in the increasing tension between the church organization and the historic Adventist people and their ministries. Let us ask some questions:
Why are the historic ministry leaders being accused of being rebels?
We have to stop them, but we can’t do it with theology.
Why are they being accused of refusing to submit to church authority?
We have to stop them, but we can’t do it with theology.
Why are they being called troublemakers?
We have to stop them, but we can’t do it with theology.
Why are they being accused of being critical?
We have to stop them, but we can’t do it with theology.
Why are they being accused of starting another church?
We have to stop them, but we can’t do it with theology.
Why are they being faulted for doing things that other groups are not faulted for, such as
printing, publishing, meeting separately, etc.?
We have to stop them, but we can’t do it with theology.
Why can’t you stop them with theology?
Because there is nothing wrong with their theology.
If there is nothing wrong with their theology, why do they need to be stopped?
Because they are rebels, critics, and troublemakers, who refuse to submit to our authority.
So the dog chases its tail, around and around and around. More could be added, but perhaps this is enough to give you the picture. Obviously there is something strangely wrong here. What is it? Bear in mind, dear reader, that it is all about theology. The questions that the historic Adventist people and their ministries are raising are theological questions. Their concerns about the false doctrines being preached in our churches and taught in our schools are theological concerns. Many of the historic Adventists recognize these false doctrines as the very ones they left behind when they came out of Babylonish churches to join the Adventist church.
Dust in the Air
Theological questions require theological answers. Exercises of church authority will not do. Evasive answers will not do. They are simply throwing dust in the air. They are applications of the ancient principle that “those who have evidence will present their evidence, while those who do not have evidence will attack the man.” The historic Adventist ministry leaders are not evil men. They are not rebels, critics, and troublemakers. They are dedicated and sincere men who have given their lives to the service of the church. They have brought thousands of people into the church, and they have a right to be concerned when they see those people being fed the soul destroying poison of false doctrines.
And they are entirely correct in their position that teachers of false doctrines have no authority. They believe in “duly constituted church authority” as firmly as anyone else does. But God has never authorized and will never authorize anyone to teach false doctrines. No teacher of false doctrines could possibly have “duly constituted church authority.” And neither could any church administrator, who supports and protects a teacher of false doctrines, have “duly constituted church authority.” How much authority did the high priest Caiaphas have over Christ? Absolutely none. How much authority did the Sanhedrin have over Stephen and Paul? Absolutely none. How much authority do teachers of false doctrine have over us today? Absolutely none. Consider this quotation: “We see here that the men in authority are not always to be obeyed, even though they may profess to be teachers of Bible doctrine.” Testimonies to Ministers, 69.
You Cannot “Balance” Truth with Error
A General Conference vice-president wrote to me that my messages should be more “balanced.” I answered that I could understand how two truths, such as law and grace, can be kept in balance, but I saw no way that truth could be balanced with falsehood. I do not think we would like to hear a man say, “I have been telling the truth all morning. This afternoon I must tell some lies in order to stay in balance.” In similar vein, another high ranking church official alleged that when a church member stops giving his financial support to the church, he is violating his baptismal vow. This overlooks the fact that the baptismal vow, like the marriage vow, is a reciprocal vow, not an individual vow. The church vows to tell the truth about God. The member vows to give financial support to that truth-telling. If the church breaks its vow, and starts telling untruths about God, it no longer has any right to claim the member’s financial support.
Several references have been made in this article to the false doctrines of Calvinism that have invaded our church. How has this been done? By skullduggery.
When the book Questions on Doctrine was published in 1957 its secret authors put in it a statement of the false Calvinistic doctrine that Christ came to this earth in the human nature of the unfallen Adam, rather than in fallen human nature, as believed and taught by Seventh-day Adventists. A ludicrous attempt was made to show that even Ellen White believed the false Calvinistic doctrine, in spite of her 400 published statements to the contrary. This is how they misused one of her statements in order to accomplish their purpose:
On pages 650-651 of Questions on Doctrine the secret authors presented a passage on the nature of Christ over which they placed this heading:
“TOOK SINLESS HUMAN NATURE”
On pages 497-499 of the book Movement of Destiny, which was published four years later as a follow-up to Questions on Doctrine, L. E. Froom presents a similar statement over which he places this heading:
“TOOK SINLESS NATURE OF ADAM BEFORE FALL”
Both headings are followed by a series of brief quotations from Ellen White, including this line: “He did not in the least participate in sin.”
If you look at those three lines for a moment, you will surely have some questions. What sin was there in the sinless nature of Adam before his fall in which Christ might have participated? None whatever. There was no sin of any kind in Adam before his fall. Why, then, did Ellen White write such a senseless statement? What was the matter with Ellen White? Deeply perplexed, we go to the source, and discover that as Ellen White wrote it, the statement actually looked like this: “In taking upon Himself man’s nature in its fallen condition, Christ did not in the least participate in its sin.” Selected Messages, vol.1, 256. (Emphasis supplied.)
Secret Writers Violate Context
The secret writers of Questions on Doctrine cut her sentence in half, laid the first half aside and put in the last half beneath their own contrary headings. We gaze at this in disbelief. This is the ultimate violation of context. The writer has been represented as having said the exact opposite of what she actually did say. This was done by a scholar with a Doctor of Philosophy degree, a seminary professor. And this is not an isolated example. It is typical. In my book, The Word Was Made Flesh, I devote 33 pages to exposing, point by point, the wrongful manipulations of evidence in the paragraph presented by Dr. Froom. I also present conclusive evidence that the statement given to Walter Martin that our church had never believed that Christ came to earth in the human nature of fallen man was a methodological monstrosity and a historical fraud. How could it happen? In common parlance this is called skullduggery (underhanded or unscrupulous behavior.) That is how the false doctrines of Calvinism were brought into our church, and that is how they have been maintained and promoted ever since.
What has been the result of this gigantic fraud being perpetrated upon the Adventist people? Confusion, dissension, strife, and plummeting church standards. Our colleges and university Bible departments are in a free fall. The falsities of higher criticism are being taught, and the teaching of evolution is being urged. A videotape has been sent out from the headquarters of the North American Division of the General Conference, giving ministers detailed instructions as to how to convert all of their churches into centers for celebration worship (read Satan worship).
The teaching of a false doctrine about the nature of Christ has made an enormous difference. If Christ came to earth in the unfallen human nature of Adam, He could not have been tempted as we are tempted, and it would be altogether unfair for us to be called upon to live like He lived. That would be impossible. He could not be our example, but only our substitute. Thus this false doctrine of Calvinism leads directly to the second false doctrine of Calvinism, that Christians can never stop sinning, even through the power of God.
Amazing New “Doctrine” Appears
The two false doctrines are inseparably linked together. Where one goes, the other goes. Within a remarkably short time, as theological trends go, Adventist congregations all over the country were listening in astonishment to sermons affirming as truth the false Calvinistic doctrine that Christians cannot stop sinning, even through the power of God. A very highly placed theologian at the theological seminary at Andrews University became so enamored with this false doctrine that he actually began to teach that Christians sin because God wants them to sin. Here are his exact words: “It is by the wisdom, not by the impotence of God that no believer is ever perfect here below. The Lord so conducts the saints in this life that there should always remain something to give them freely when they ask, or to pardon them mercifully when they confess to Him.—From notes that he wrote and passed out to a class of ministers. (Emphasis supplied.)
The Inquisitors allege that the historic ministries are supporting “dissidents” in other countries of the world. We have no way of investigating this claim, and we are hindered by a credibility problem. If we cannot believe what the Inquisitors write about this country, why should we believe what they write about other countries?
Love for the Pure, Unvarnished Truth
The lowest point in the list of Inquisitorial false accusations is reached in the statement that it is criticism of the church that keeps the historic ministries going. This unchristian slur is entirely unjustifiable. It is grossly false. Nothing could be further from the truth. What keeps the historic ministries going is the love and devotion of the historic Adventist people to the pristine purity of the true Seventh-day Adventist faith and their desire to preserve that faith undefiled by the false doctrines of Calvinism and Liberalism. It is the steadfast and stubborn refusal of church leaders to recognize this that is a large part of the problem.
This is why we are confronted today with the appalling spectacle of a large group of high ranking church leaders sitting down together to concoct a list of totally false accusations against church members, whose only crime is that they will not accept the apostasy that is sweeping through the church. Thus the leaders align themselves with the apostasy. The grossly false accusations that the Inquisitors have prepared and published would compare favorably with the work of the Catholic Inquisitors in Spain.
Do I expect that this rebuttal will cause the Inquisitors to turn back from their folly? Not really. Once men have rebelled against truth in its purity and embarked on a course that can only be maintained by monstrous misrepresentations, it is unlikely that evidence of any kind will dissuade them. Ellen White wrote in Selected Messages, Book 2, 393: “I question whether genuine rebellion is ever curable.”
I have written this rebuttal for the church members. Many of them have been so deceived by the false accusations, along with the firm refusal to recognize that the present problem is a theological problem, that they are bewildered and confused. I trust that this article will help clarify the situation in their minds.
“Reform,” is Our Cry
One of the most frequently repeated false accusations against us is that we are wanting to start a separate church. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are trying to reform the church that we have loved and served all of our adult lives. But it is sobering to compare our situation with that of the Reformers. Neither Luther, nor Calvin, nor Wesley wanted to start a separate church. They all wanted to reform their own churches. But the stubborn resistance and opposition of authoritarian church leaders made reformation within the churches utterly impossible.
“When the Reformers preached the Word of God, they had no thought of separating themselves from the established church; but the religious leaders would not tolerate the light, and those that bore it were forced to seek another class, who were longing for the truth.” The Desire of Ages, 232. (Emphasis supplied.)
It has been said that those who cannot learn from history are condemned to repeat history. We had hoped and we had prayed that this would not prove to be true in our church. We had shared the hope expressed by Ellen White in these words: “We hoped that there would not be the necessity for another coming out.” The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, 357. (Emphasis supplied.)
But with the General Conference Inquisition moving in on us, what shall we do? Should we tremble in fear and agree to accept the false authority and the false doctrines if they will just let us stay in the church?
God forbid! That would be spiritual suicide. We will stand firmly on this truth:
“God has a church. It is not the great cathedral, neither is it the national establishment, neither is it the various denominations; it is the people who love God and keep His commandments. ‘Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them’ (Matthew 18:20). Where Christ is even among the humble few, that is Christ’s church, for the presence of the High and Holy One who inhabiteth eternity can alone constitute a church.” The Upward Look, 315.
The Lord who inspired those words is watching over us and saying: “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake: Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven. …” Matthew 5:11, 12.