OUR NEW DOCTRINAL BOOK
Seventh Day-Adventists Believe - 27 Fundamental Doctrines
A COMPARATIVE STUDY
A series of doctrinal conferences between Seventh-day Adventist and Evangelical leaders began in the spring of 1955 and continued on into the summer of 1956. These were study sessions for the purpose of bringing closer together the concepts and beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination and the Evangelical churches, and came to be known as the "Evangelical Conferences." Because Walter R. Martin and Donald Grey Barnhouse, two leading Evangelical speakers in the mid-50s, were the primary Protestant participants who took part in those meetings, the meetings came to be more commonly known as the "Martin-Barnhouse Conferences."
They were held in our denominational headquarters in Washington D.C. (An unusually complete historical documentary on these conferences and their aftermath will be found in our 116-page tractbook, The Evangelical Conferences.)
One of the primary results of those meetings was the book, Questions on Doctrine (the complete title of which was Seventh day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine). It was published by the Review & Herald Publishing Association later in that decade, and at about the same time (and by mutual agreement) that Walter Martins book, The Truth about Seventh-day Adventism, came off the press, exonerating us as now truly an Evangelical church.
News magazines in America hailed it as a major attempt on the part of the Adventists toward interdenominational doctrinal unification. One of those articles was entitled, Peace with the Adventists.
But there was also some war at the same time. A number of Protestant spokesmen protested the idea of accepting Adventists into the ranks of modern Protestant orthodoxy, saying the Adventists were just trying to trick the Protestants. On the other hand. ultra-conservative Adventists. such as Elder M.L. Andreasen a retired Adventist doctrinal expert living in Southern California, raised their voices in protest declaring that it was our church that had been tricked, not the Protestants! He detailed experiences and Questions on Doctrine errors in his series of booklets, entitled Letters to the Churches. (also available from us).
But through it all. Barnhouse and Martin maintained that the Adventist leaders sincerely wanted to return their church into mainline Protestantism and that the Evangelical grumblers should quiet down. They said, in effect, "We were there, we spoke with them; we know them to be sincere, honest, and determined in their objectives to swing Adventism back into the Evangelical orbit."
As mentioned above, 116 pages of documentation on this can be found in our tractbook, The Evangelical Conferences. There you will find all the quotations from primary sources you need in order to come to your own conclusion as to what went on back then.
When Questions on Doctrine was published, thousands of copies were sent free of charge to Protestant church leaders, libraries, and colleges all over the world. Although, declaring to our own protesting brethren that this new doctrinal book was nothing to be concerned about, since it was not an "official" doctrinal statement by the church, yet the book itself had a dramatic impact since it was released by the General Conference Ministerial Association, printed by the Review & Herald Publishing Association, and heavily subsidized by the General Conference.
With the passing of time, it was to be discovered that the major part of this impact was ultimately on our own people, rather than on the Protestants. They were busy living their own lives and running their own churches. But this new book became the instructional guide to thousands of Adventist academy and college teachers. students, church workers, local pastors, editors, and busy church officers and administrators.
Then, in the late 1970s, after two decades of partially-muffled protest. Questions on Doctrine went out of print. Over the past several years, we here at Pilgrims Rest have received copies of letters of reply sent by General Conference officers to the effect that Questions on Doctrine was not going to be reprinted. To this we all breathed a sigh of relief. At last it seemed that progress might be made toward eliminating the erroneous teachings of that book.
AND NOW A NEW DOCTRINAL BOOK HAS BEEN RELEASED.
Thirty-one years after the publication of Questions on Doctrine and only a few years after it went out of print, we now have a new doctrinal book to replace it. That book is the subject of this present analysis.
It has been said, and correctly so. that the Evangelical Conferences could never have been held and Questions on Doctrine could never have been printed without the warm, continuing encouragement of R. R. Figuhr, our General Conference president at that time. This new doctrinal book, entitled Seventh-day Adventists Believe: A Biblical Exposition of 27 Fundamental Doctrines, was first authorized by the General Conference Committee several years ago, and has received the continuing support of Neal C. Wilson, our current General Conference president.
The publication background of the new book parallels that of
Questions on Doctrine in a number of other ways also. Both were written under the auspices of the General Conference; both were released through its Ministerial Association: both were written by a small group, (the names of whom we will never fully know); both were submitted to a sizable number of busy workers for their consideration and suggestions (to what extent their recommendations and changes were accepted we cannot know, for there were both new theology and historic Adventists on that review committee); both were published by the Review & Herald Publishing Association; both in their introductory pages deny that the book is "an official" doctrinal book of the Church; both provided a full-range doctrinal presentation.
And, lastly, both were distributed under heavy General Conference subsidy in order to make them available at below cost, and both teach some similar errors.
Roy Allen Anderson and Leroy Edwin Froom were the principal authors of Questions on Doctrine; P. G. Damsteegt and Norman GuIley were the principal authors of this new book.
Elder Damsteegt, a teacher at our Seminary at Andrews University. was thought to be preeminently qualified for his part of the task in view of his background as a successful doctoral student at the Free Reformed University in Amsterdam, Holland. We understand that he wrote the final draft of Seventh-day Adventists Believe. But, according to page v of the book, that which he wrote was based on an earlier lengthy doctrinal statement penned by Norman GuIley. a religion teacher at Southern College of SDA, in Collegedale. Tennessee.
For the information of some of our readers, it was Professor GuIley that wrote the First Quarter 1983 Senior Sabbath School Quarterly that brought such protest from faithful Adventists all over North America and overseas. This was due to the fact that GuIley showed in that quarterly, and in the matching book that accompanied it Christ Our Substitute, that he espoused the Evangelical position of a "finished atonement" at the crossthe same error that was taught by Desmond Ford, and the same error that was taught in that earlier bookQuestions on Doctrinethat became such a headache in our church in previous decades.
Frankly, we are quite surprised that, after the terrific storm of protest that arose following the distribution of GuIleys 1983 quarterly and book.our leaders should now ask him to bear the responsibility of a primary author of this new doctrinal book that is to take the place of Questions on Doctrine! His doctrinal divergencies should be well known, for the Review printed his book, Christ Our Substitute and sent it all over the world field as a quarterly help. Elsewhere in this present analysis, we will place some quotations from GuIleys book. Christ Our Substitute within a box so that you can examine them for yourself. By the way. the teachings of GuIleys book. Christ Our Substitute, match its title: According to GuIley, Christ took our place, lived our life. fulfilled our obedience, died our death.and now all we need do is await eternal life with Him. the atonement is finished, there is no future judgment of any concern to Christs professed followers. Just patiently wait for the Second Advent, at which time it will be soon enough to stop sinning.
Who else helped write this new doctrinal book? We probably will never know, but the back cover of the book says that "more than 230 men and women" contributed insights to it. Whether this was done exclusively in an editorial capacity alone, or as authors of portions of the manuscript, we cannot say. But page v tells us that Damsteegt and GuIley were its primary authors.
This new doctrinal presentation. Seventh-day Adventists Believe, after being drafted by Damsteegt and GuIley. was then sent to 194 current or retired church workers. later published by the Review & Herald and in May, 1988 first made available to our people. According to some local Adventist Book Centers, this book which will normally sell for over $12 here in the United States,is now on sale for $4.95! Inquiring further into this. you will be told that this unusually low price is due to the fact that its cost of publication is being specially subsidized by the General Conference so that this hardback, 392-page book can have a wide circulation among our people. The objective is to place a copy in every Adventist home. If you want a copy, now is your opportunity to obtain one at this unusually low price.
Oh that the brethren send out copies of Great Controversy with the subsidy and commitment with which they distribute these doctrinal books! Ministry Magazine reported in the early 1960s that hundreds of thousands of copies of Questions on Doctrine had been sent free of charge to denominational headquarters and college libraries all over the world field. Probably a similar distribution of this latest book is also being made (The church was not told of the free distribution of Questions on Doctrine until five years after it took place.)
Upon opening this new doctrinal exposition, one finds that it has 27 chaptersone for each paragraph of our present official teachings.
From 1931 to 1980. our denomination had a list of 22 doctrinal paragraphs which were called our "Statement of Beliefs." The 1980 General Conference Session convened in July in Dallas, Texas under the shadow of one of the largest doctrinal controversies in the history of our church, that of Desmond Ford and his supporters. General Conference leaders had discovered, too late, that his adherents occupied key positions as Bible teachers all over North America and the South Pacific (then Australasian) Divisions, and, to a lesser extent, elsewhere. It was the Cottrell Poll that first revealed this shocking fact to them.
(We will reprint essential portions of the results of that poll elsewhere in this documentary; for a more complete report on it see The Cottrell Poll, which may still be available from us as a single tract (WM22), but is also included in our tractbook, Our Schools Need Your Help).
So, prior to that 1980 Session. it was decided at General Conference headquarters in Washington D.C. that a principle activity of that Dallas Session should be the ratification (voted approval) of a carefully-worded rewrite of our 22-point "Statement of Beliefs." Those of you who read the minutes of that summer 1980 Session will recall that it was a stormy one as phrase after phrase was questioned and controverted, with many returned to committee "for restudy" with a few being changed, while most were passed under the stated urgency that "our time is running out."
And we can well agree that time is indeed running out for all the world, and many of our people as well. Oh, how near we are to the final crisis of the ages over obedience to the Laws of God. Not even in the time of Christ was humanity on the verge of physical extinction as it is today. Never since the time of the Flood has so much depended on so few. All they had then was the empowering Word of God that commanded them to build an ark; all we have today is that same Word which calls us to work earnestly for the lost and teach them the RIGHT messagewhile there is still time.
Out of that 1980 General Conference Session came our present 27-point "Statement of Beliefs." It had experienced some modification during those ten days of debate, but the plea that "we must hurry on" kept a major portion of its original draft intact. After its ratification at Dallas, new theology pastors and teachers all through our ranks breathed more easily, for that flowery statement was purposely worded with vague phrases that it might be equally acceptable to conservative, liberal, and Evangelically-oriented workers and members.
Following the 1980 Session. when backed into corners new theology teachers and pastors wouldand didwith a smile say the magic words, "I stand by the Dallas Statement," and that would settle the matter. They were safe.
The ultimate objective was to avoid any more major theological confrontations with our influential Ph.D. teachers or the firing of any more workers than necessary. Although this objective has been realized, it has been accomplished at a great cost. In the place of firing new theology pastors, teachers, editors, and administrators, the pressure has been on the laymen on the local level to accept new theology sermonizing. Those that have protested have frequently been faced with the threat of being stripped of their church offices or membership. Yes, a major crisis and the firing of many workers was averted in our church,but at what a cost. In its place the church was saddled with hundreds of local crises and the muzzlement or disfellowshiping of many laymen. Only time will reveal the full impact of this General Conference decision, made back in early 1980, to transfer the crisis from the leadership to the membership. But the result has been unfortunate both for our people, our beliefs, and the income of the church. It is the members most faithful to our historic beliefs that have always been the most financially supportive of world missions and other church projects. When they are summarily told by conference leaders that they must submit to the guidance of known new theology pastors and church workers, they are not as easily persuaded as some expected them to beto lay down either their concerns or their historic belief. What men did not realize was it is not easy to make a new theology advocate out of a firm Bible-Spirit of Prophecy student.
So now in the later 1980s we have a church crisis of far greater magnitude than the paltry Ford crisis of 1980! On one hand, members all over North America are refusing to support a leadership that in so many ways prints, preaches, and defends the new theology. On the other, thousands of Laodicean church members. quite content with the liberal teachings, recognize that those teachings give no reason to pay tithe or offerings. "Only believe" is all they needand all the doctrine the new theology pastors are giving them, so they are having a free ride at leadership expense.
Yet, through it all, that leadership cannot seem to relate cause to effectand recognize that it has been their ongoing defense of their new theology pastors and teachers that has brought us to this crisis in confidence and support.
The solution, of course, is obvious: Put the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy back in place as the authority in our church in every board meeting, church function, and missionary thrust. For "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom"and where the authority of the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy are respected, there is peace and freedom to worship Scripturally for church members, freedom from harassment from new theology pastors, and a rekindled earnest desire to support the projects of the church financially.
But rather than do that, there has been a tendency to issue official-appearing papers stating that the Spirit of Prophecy is not to be used, along with the Bible, as a guide in the formulation of church standards or beliefs, while at the same time defending new theology pastors that downgrade those books in the eyes of the church members.
So this new doctrinal book, Seventh-day Adventists Believe has been keyed to the Dallas Statement, and each of its 27 chapters is an expansion of one of the 27 paragraphs of that Statement.