Then I was shown a company who were howling in agony. On their garments was written in large characters, “Thou art weighed in the balance, and found wanting.” I asked who this company were. The angel said, “These are they who have once kept the Sabbath, and have given it up.” I heard them cry with a loud voice, “We have believed in Thy coming, and taught it with energy.” And while they were speaking, their eyes would fall upon their garments and see the writing, and then they would wail aloud. I saw that they had drunk of the deep waters, and fouled the residue with their feet,— trodden the Sabbath underfoot,— and that was why they were weighed in the balance and found wanting. –Life Sketches 117,118
Has your character been transformed? Has darkness been exchanged for light, the love of sin for the love of purity and holiness? Have you been converted, who are engaged in teaching the truth to others? Has there been in you a thorough, radical change? Have you woven Christ into your character? You need not be in uncertainty in this matter. Has the Sun of Righteousness risen and been shining in your soul? If so, you know it; and if you do not know whether you are converted or not, never preach another discourse from the pulpit until you do. How can you lead souls to the fountain of life of which you have not drunk yourself? Are you a sham, or are you really a son of God? Are you serving God, or are you serving idols? Are you transformed by the Spirit of God, or are you yet dead in your trespasses and sins? To be sons of God means more than many dream of, because they have not been converted. Men are weighed in the balance and found wanting when they are living in the practice of any known sin. It is the privilege of every son of God to be a true Christian moment by moment; then he has all heaven enlisted on his side. He has Christ abiding in his heart by faith.
Testimonies To Ministers 440, 441 Oh, that the people of God would take this to heart! That they would consider that not one wrong will be righted after Jesus comes! Not one error of character will be removed when Christ shall come. Now is our time of preparation. Now is our time of washing our robes of character in the blood of the Lamb. If we go on excusing our errors and trying to make ourselves believe we are about right, we deceive our own souls and will find ourselves weighed in the balance and found wanting. Many profess the truth but are not sanctified through the truth. 5 Manuscript Releases 21,22
The letter that composes the first part of this booklet was received by us on January 19, 1993. It was sent to us by a supporter of Steps to Life. In this letter we read, “in as much as this letter is to be published . . . .“, indicating that this letter was written for publication.
It appears from this letter, that the NAD (North American Division) officers and their committee, especially Robert Dale, requested letters against “certain private organizations” to be used in their ISSUES book. However, this letter is nowhere to be found in their ISSUES book. We do not concur with the author of this letter on several points. However, in the name of fair play, we believe this letter should have been published in the NAD ISSUES book along- side the others.
We did not ask permission of any person to publish this letter. The letter itself states it was prepared for publication: “in as much as this letter is to be published. . . .“ We have depersonalized it even further, as you can tell by the blank _____ lines. This booklet contains all of the letter that was sent to us. In the letter we received, certain portions were missing, you will find these in [brackets].
“This is a partial copy of a letter written by _____ of Andrews University, to Elder Robert Dale of the N. A. D. . . . . I understand the letter was sent in May 1992.” [written on the top of the letter we received]
The Letter the NAD Officers did not Publish I do not agree with everything in Our Firm Foundation. I receive a complimentary copy every month, but I do not subscribe to the magazine and have never sent a donation. Ron Spear has called me on the phone a couple of times over a period of several years, but I have never called him. I would rather the magazine didn’t exist. But I must add that I am, [ ] I among them, appreciate quite a bit of what is published in the paper. Though we deeply regret the critical spirit that appears at times and oppose that one- time instruction on tithing, we nonetheless wish that the best of Our Firm Foundation could appear in the Adventist Review. We would like to see the magazine cease publication but feel that for the time being it fills a useful place in feeding Christ’s sheep.
1. Feed the Sheep’s Four Hungers.
The Review has carried a variety of warnings, especially the Perth declaration, aimed against
Our Firm Foundation and other private publishing ventures. What I have not yet seen but would like to see is an exploration into the reasons why these private publishing ventures succeed.
Career malcontents are going to publish critical materials no matter what any committee comes up with, and neither spiritual appeals nor demagoguery will make them stop. If the Committee is trying to reach career malcontents, they might as well quote Nehemiah and refuse to waste their time.
I therefore assume that the Committee is trying to reach, not the career malcontents, but the loyal and reasonable church members who send donations to support the independent publishers. So let us ask, Why do these readers support these private publishers? I’d like to propose four reasons, four legitimate hungers.
- A hunger for what appears to be solid food.
Our Firm Foundation is notable for its lengthy doctrinal articles and for its republished appeals by Ellen G. White. Evidently, then, people are supporting Our Firm Foundation because they want to read lengthy doctrinal articles and they want to read earnest appeals written by Ellen G. White.
- A hunger for prophetic interpretation and application.
Several of the independent papers consist largely of prophetic interpretation and application. Evidently, then, people pay for these papers because they want to read articles on prophetic interpretation and application.
- A hunger for the serious use of Ellen G. White.
The conservative publications quote the Ellen G. White writings copiously and do so as if they regarded the writings as authoritative.
- A hunger for sincere repentance by church leadership.
It is easy to dismiss the Pilgrims Press as merely salacious and erroneous. I assure you that I don’t subscribe to it and only rarely even see a copy of it. But a very large number of Adventist church members in the North American Division are aware that some of their leaders are opinionated, selfish, and power hungry. Some of our church members hunger for evidence of humility and the character of Christ in their leaders.
Of course, a lot of our NAD members don’t have these four hungers, or don’t have all of them. Some of them scarcely read any of our papers, not even their Union papers or the Review.
And some are excited by Spectrum, with its criticism of Ellen G. White and the sanctuary doctrine and its campaign for social activism and a billions- of- years post- creation chronology.
But these less- hungry people aren’t sending their tithe to Our Firm Foundation, so they aren’t in the Committee’s focus. Speaking about those who, I presume, are in the Committee’s focus, my first suggestion for reclaiming the loyalty of people who read the independent publications is that as promptly as possible the North American Division acknowledge the four deep hungers I have listed as legitimate and meet them with a. solid, sound doctrinal articles, b. solid, sound prophetic interpretation and application, c. appropriate respect for the inspired authority of Ellen G. White, and d. evidence of humility and the character of Christ as needed among our leaders.
I have heard (the information may be incorrect) that one of the reasons the Committee is preparing a paper against the independent publications is that “third world” ministers are basing sermons on articles in Our Firm Foundation. Of course they are! Our Firm Foundation appears to meet at least three of the four hungers. By contrast, the Adventist Review usually offers little essays not over six typewritten pages in length, pays only sporadic attention to the fulfillment of prophecy, virtually never cites Ellen G. White for authoritative direction, and admits the failings of denominational leadership only in extraordinary areas of finance (e. g., Davenport and Harris Pine Mills). In response to intense criticism, the Review has commendably begun the Anchor Point series; but it occupies only a fraction of the available pages.
2. Avoid Discrimination.
The Quiet Hour accepts tithe. The Voice of Prophecy accepts tithe. The people at Hope International know that the Quiet Hour accepts tithe and that the Voice of Prophecy accepts tithe. Many other people either know this or assume it. If the Committee clamps down on Hope International and not on the Quiet Hour and the Voice of Prophecy, it will be guilty of discrimination. Worse, it will likely be ineffective— and will even run the risk of having Our Firm Foundation publish the facts about QH and VOP and embarrass leadership.
[Added later: I do not for a moment suggest that leadership ought to crack down on either the QH or the VOP, even though acceptance of tithe by both of them is contrary to voted NAD policy. They are both doing a noble work and should be encouraged. When Elder Tucker in the 1950’s accepted a call to Berrien Springs, the Northern California Conference refused to let him take the Quiet Hour with him from Oakland. Because the NCC had given the QH a small fraction of its operating cost, it persuaded itself that it had full rights of ownership. Tucker felt abused but stayed loyal. He waited till the QH in Oakland failed before resuming it in Michigan, and when he resumed it, he resolved he would never again accept even a penny from church leadership but would, if possible, give money to the church. An this he and his sons after him have done, with utmost loyalty and devotion. To discipline the QH for occasionally accepting tithe— like Mrs. White did— from people whose hungers are not being met by leadership, would be a peculiarly abusive demonstration of “kingly power.”]
Now let me enlarge the scope of discrimination. If our leadership is going to defrock conservatives, it absolutely must be even handed and defrock supporters of Spectrum. (Who the principals of Spectrum are can be identified by a glance inside any front cover.)
Let us grant that the General Conference has a right to define where tithe should be paid. Very well, if leadership is going to defrock conservatives for defying denominational policies on where tithe should be paid, what is leadership going to do about the college staff which, scarcely waiting for the ink to dry on the denominational vote restricting extramural competition, ran an ad on the back of Insight saying (as close as I can remember), “Meet You at Court Side.” Their ad listed both the old and the newly added opportunities at their college for extramural competition.
If leadership is going to defrock conservatives for defying “denominational policy” in regard to where tithe should be paid, what is leadership going to do about the presidents of the Carolina Conference and the Southern Union? Denominational policy requires Conference presidents and Union presidents to respond “normally within three weeks” to appeals from workers who request the Conciliation Process. A certain pastor in the Carolina Conference has appealed at least five times for the Conciliation Process over a period of nearly four years but has been given a deaf ear, in disregard of denominational policy. I have, literally, a drawer full of evidence that this pastor has probably been treated insensitively and unfairly. I have appealed to the leaders directly involved asking them to appoint an independent third party to look into the situation and see if there might be a basis for the pastor’s complaints; but all that each of these (otherwise good) brethren has done in response has been to consult together and report to me (or not report at all) that everything has been done just right. The pastor in question has been fired and is in debt, with a wife who may be developing cancer that they cannot afford to treat. Two individuals who are closer to the pastor than I am, two people who for many years have been very loyal tithe- paying Seventh- day Adventists, pastor. You can appreciate the fact, Bob, that nothing the Committee publishes on tithe paying will persuade these two people to follow “denominational policy” in regard to where to send tithe as long as the brethren I have mentioned decline to follow “denominational policy” on the Conciliation Process. I think you can see their point.
On another theme, who is speaking out officially in favor of the loyal, tithe paying Seventh-day Adventists who for decades have supported our church schools and our missionary magazines and the Voice of Prophecy, etc., who now hate to attend their own churches because of the “evangelical burlesque” (so- called Celebrationism) going on there in a misguided attempt to retain the unconverted? Who is speaking out on their behalf? If in a given conference no one is, can leadership there in good conscience blame these loyal tithe paying Seventh- day Adventists if, after paying their tithe to the conference for decades, they now send some of it to someone who does have courage to speak out? I don’t agree with them in this use of some of their tithe. I only say that if the Committee is serious about persuading such members to return to paying all their tithe to the Conference, then the Committee should persuade Conference leadership to speak up on their behalf in respect to the worship- entertainment issue.
The Committee, I say, must do all in its power to avoid discriminating against easy conservative targets while neglecting to tackle the serious problems that so deeply concern the easy conservative targets.
3. Evaluate Actual Losses.
Inasmuch as tithe is a major bone of contention, I’d like to ask the Committee to find out just how much money the NAD is actually losing to the independent publications. Is the amount worth the blood that may be shed by a frontal assault?
To determine the money being lost to the NAD, tallying up the income of the independent publications isn’t good enough. It is my current impression that many of the Adventists who are sending donations to these publications would not start sending their money to the Conferences if these publications were today shut down. So long as their four hungers persist unsatisfied, they will send their money elsewhere or bide their time till the publications are replaced with other independent publications.
What I’m trying to say in this section is that the loss of offerings to these publications is not due to the existence of the publications but to the doubtful quality of the Review and the apparent lack of humility and repentance among some of our leaders.
I would also like to urge that the amount of money these publications are receiving is relatively small, and that the proportion of tithe involved is very small.
Suppose Hope International, the largest publisher, does actually receive $1,250,000 a year as Ron Spear, when I asked him, told me that it does. Well, the total church contributions made by NAD Adventists is over $600,000,000. So Ron Spear gets only 1/ 500th (0.2%), a sizable amount to be sure, but scarcely enough to credit him with holding up the general progress of the cause.
But what about the tithe he receives, the increment of his earnings most zealously targeted by denominational leadership? Spear says (I am told) that only about 10% of his $1,250,000 represents tithe. By nature he seems to be an open man with figures, but let’s suppose that the tithe total is closer to 20%. Twenty percent of $1,250,000 is $250,000— whereas NAD Adventists give $400,000,000 tithe each year. So let’s figure it out. The tithe that creeps into Hope International represents at most 1/ 1600th (0.0625%) of total NAD Adventist tithe paying.
Against the amount of money that might be regained by opposing the independent publications, the Committee will want to weigh the value of souls who may become discouraged by a denominational outburst. What will it profit the church to gain several thousand dollars but lose hundreds of souls?
4. Remove the Offense.
You said in your letter that the Committee dealing with Hope International wants to be “balanced.” This is commendable; and I expect the objective is sincere. You ask my comments in a desire to achieve this end. Inasmuch as you asked, let me continue to oblige.
What about Spectrum and its parent organization, The Association of Adventist Forums? If you don’t read Spectrum, I don’t blame you. But you probably made an exception and read about Elder Folkenberg and the anonymous donors in the August 1991 issue. Is it all right for Spectrum to be sharply critical of leadership but not for Pilgrim’s Press to be critical? What about “Growing Up with the Beasts” and “Social Reform as Sacrament of the Second Advent” in the May 1991 issue of Spectrum? These articles reinterpret the beasts of Revelation as social ills and the “remnant” as social activists. The Committee should also savor the relish with which the magazine’s March 1992 issue, on pp. 63- 64, reported that Seventh- day Adventist Kinship International won its trademark case with the General Conference. The Committee should then read the articles about Desmond Ford and by Ford himself beginning on pp. 9 and 12 of the March issue.
Inasmuch as this letter is to be published, I am deleting the names of certain individuals whose behavior and theology are strikingly out of harmony with normal Adventism. But I have privately called them to your attention.
What about the seven papers written by honor students at Walla Walla College in the spring of 1991 that have received deserved notoriety. I understand that Elder Folkenberg has reproved the WWC religion faculty, and I’m mighty glad to hope that the report is true. But will there be any real change at WWC?
What are our people to expect of Adventist education as long as strong supporters of Spectrum serve as college presidents? As long as the president of Atlantic Union College is the man who publicly praised another of our retired educators for coming out in favor of a billions- of years post- creation chronology, can we reasonably expect our conservatives to support our schools?
As earnestly as I am capable of saying it, if the Committee is serious about reclaiming the loyalty of those people who support our independent conservative publications, I urge it first of all to set about removing the most obvious offenses.
5. Review Our History.
Our Firm Foundation, like some of our other independent publications,
- (a) speaks of a “new theology” that it says arose in the 1950’s. It
- (b) emphasizes that Jesus had the same human inheritance as we all have, rather than having been created as clean as Adam. And it
- (c) talks about perfecting our characters in preparation for the second coming.
These emphases annoy a branch of our conservatives even more than they also annoy our liberals. These annoyed conservatives almost angrily scold Our Firm Foundation for emphasizing doctrines that are “not generally agreed on” in our denomination.
But does their distaste for Our Firm Foundation on these points prove that the magazine is wrong on these points? [ ]theology for over twenty years, requiring me to do constant research. I have [ ] with my antennae out for the same length of time, and have served as a minister since 1946. 1 can say unequivocally that in the 1950’s Adventist theology as taught in our NAD centers did undergo a change, one that can be attributed especially but not exclusively to two of the editors of Questions on Doctrine and to at least two fascinating and influential Seminary professors— a change which has been perpetuated and (we must recognize) distorted by students who rose quickly to positions of educational and administrative prominence. Yes, indeed, there is a “new theology,” and Our Firm Foundation is historically correct when it refers to it.
Perhaps, however, we should say, more precisely, that certain views which had been held for some time by a minority were, in the 1950’s, reformulated, given new emphasis, and taken up by a large group of those Adventists who enjoyed the advantage of attending our schools. I believe in our schools ______, but I observe that the theological cleavage which exists today among conservative NAD Adventists is largely between those who have studied the writings of non- SDA theologians in our colleges on the one hand and, on the other hand, those who, deprived of an SDA college education, have confined their study mostly to the Bible and the writings of Ellen G. White. I am repeatedly struck with the way new converts, fresh from the study of the Bible and Ellen G. White, side with the older SDA theology, while so- called “second” and “third- generation” Adventists tend to side with the new theology.
Maybe I should add at this point that I think that some language used by the QOD editors in defense of their product set an ugly stage that leadership still needs to sweep clean. Deeply embarrassed to have the Evangelicals discover that many Adventists did not agree with QOD’s new theology, the QOD editors cruelly denounced the conservatives as a “lunatic fringe.” I knew a lot of those lunatics and respected them highly. They included the fine PUC teachers who set the tone of my ministry. Well, leaders can say things like this, but it seems hardly reasonable for them to expect people they call lunatics to enjoy paying them their tithe.
The cry is often raised by the new- theology conservatives that Our Firm Foundation and similar publications are all wrong when they insist on the view that Jesus was not given a pre- f all nature like Adam’s. These new- theology conservatives say that the publications are wrong in that they insist on a view of Christ’s nature that has never been accepted as a Fundamental Belief by the church as a whole.
But if the denomination has never taken an official stand on this subject, why is it wrong for the old- theology conservatives to publish articles on the subject but perfectly right for the new theology conservatives to do so? New- theology conservatives such as the editors of Our Firm Foundation are frequently criticized for bringing up the issue. But let’s face it; they didn’t start the argument! The argument was started publicly by the 1949 edition of Bible Readings and the 1957 publication of Questions on Doctrine, and by certain Seminary professors and others in the years that followed. And the pot has been kept boiling by the professors and others in the years that followed. And the pot has been kept boiling by the new- theology liberals and conservatives, who now control several of our magazines and colleges. One recalls the old quip:
“You started the fight when you hit me back.” The fact that new- theology people control the chief NAD publications and colleges represents choices made by entities of the NAD. Choices involve consequences. If NAD entities have chosen such editors and presidents, NAD must expect a reaction. It is in my opinion irresponsible and unsportsmanlike for NAD to choose partisans of new- theology views which have not been officially accepted by the General Conference and then cry foul when loyal church members publish evidence in favor of the old- theology views which they committed themselves to when they became Seventh- day Adventists.
6. Assess the implications of Voluntaryism.
I have just spoken about the convictions of people who adopted certain understandings when they became Seventh- day Adventists. If church leadership thinks the time has come to teach different views from the views being taught when these people became Seventh- day Adventists, that is one thing. But to treat people as rebellious, heretical, disloyal, and legalist because they choose to continue to believe what they sincerely committed themselves to years ago, seems gross and boorish.
Commitment is precious, and church membership is sacred. Church membership is also entirely voluntary. Payment of tithe and offerings in the Seventh- day Adventist movement is totally unenforceable. Loyalty is unenforceable. Ours is a voluntary movement.
Members will pay or will not pay tithe as they please. They will be loyal or disloyal as they please, and no one can force them to be any different.
How important, then, that our leaders seek consensus rather than political victories. Our previous General Conference presidency was marked by increasingly sharp politicization at the expense of consensus. You and the Committee are painfully aware of this.
If leadership wants to settle for, say, a vote of 60%, let it do so. No one can stop it. But let leadership recognize that when it settles for 60% it runs the real risk of alienating many of the other 40%. Alienation and loyalty are opposite principles.
The trouble with administrating a voluntary organization on the basis of major- fraction votes is that the volunteers who are unconvinced may simply stop being volunteers. How much better, how very much better, for the church to move slowly enough and persuasively enough to secure consensus!
One of the seething causes of the current wave of unofficial publications is frustration with disenfranchisement. Church leadership, apparently intent on retaining our educated liberals, has found ways politically and editorially to give several of the denomination’s colleges, periodicals, and key administrative positions to educated liberals. Time after time our conservatives, the ones who still read the Spirit of Prophecy, have been frustrated. Their articles have been rejected by denominational editors. And even when they have written “letters to the editor,” too often their letters haven’t been published unless a contrary letter was available for publication next to theirs, to make their letters look foolish. All of this maneuvering has left many of our thinking conservatives frustrated. But they love our church more than they love their money. They are alarmed at the way things are going because they care enough to be alarmed; and so, well, they speak up through their own publications, and they put their money where their mouths and hearts are. They are, after all, volunteers, generous, giving volunteers who support the kind of Adventism they believe in.
It is my conviction, as I said in beginning, that Our Firm Foundation ought to close down. We ought not to need it. We ought to have an Adventist Review that feeds our people’s legitimate hungers without the accusing spirit and without the false tithe advice sometimes found in Our Firm Foundation. The Review— and our colleges, pastors, and teachers— should feed our people’s hunger for solid, sound doctrinal instruction, for solid, sound material dealing with the fulfillment of prophecy, and for solid respect for the inspired authority of Ellen G. White. And our administrators should use the columns of the Review to make earnest confession, acknowledging specific wrongs and offering specific restitution.
The Committee (it seems to me) should persuade leadership to act without discrimination, removing offenses, and counting the possible gain in money against the possible loss in souls.
In brief, in dealing with the supporters of Our Firm Foundation, the Seventh- day Adventist movement needs to display strong, clear- headed, moral leadership. God give us moral leadership, armed by faith, winged by prayer, and informed by the Spirit of Prophecy, its soul cleansed and its influence enhanced where necessary through public confession and repentance.
There is a danger that God’s commandment- keeping people will be found, as were the Jews, weighed in the balance of the heavenly sanctuary, and found wanting. YI, 10/14/97