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THE LIFE OF M. L. ANDREASEN - by Virginia Steinweg


SEMINARY 1938-1949


THE ACCREDITATION of Union College had some repercussions in Washington. Perhaps I was not a total loss. Against tremendous odds Union College had become accredited, the constituency was beginning to rally to the school, and the city itself was aware of the existence of the school and the need of supporting it. Union College was on the way, and while we all well knew that it was the result of teamwork, nevertheless as head of the school I received some credit.

I should give public acknowledgment of the many who helped in this accreditation struggle. I began making a list of names of those who deserved special mention. But I had to give up. For while one might deserve great credit, there were others who deserved the same. And there were among the students those who deserved the highest praise. Some sat up night after night doing valuable charts and needed calculations, and never received a penny for their most valuable work. No one man deserves special credit for the success of the accreditation. A hundred persons do.

Things were beginning to look up educationally in the denomination, and the need of an advanced school for young ministers was being felt. Many young men were coming into the ministry, but there was no place to which they could go and do any advanced work. Also, each Bible teacher taught what he had been taught, and all did not teach alike.


Different views on some subjects were being set forth, and in time this might lead to difficulties. We did not need a university—such was not even mentioned—but we did need an advanced Bible school. But who could or would teach in such a school? His responsibilities would be great. He must be orthodox.

I shall not attempt to tell the story or weary the reader. But at last the lot fell on me. I had some of the needed qualifications, but was I "safe"? Would they dare to put me in charge and leave the Biblical education of all young ministers to me? What would I teach on various subjects, some of which were in dispute? After long counseling it was at last decided to conduct a kind of trial school, where only Bible teachers and general officers could attend.

The Central Union Reaper, of July 3, 1934, reports: "President M. L. Andreasen, accompanied by his wife and daughter, is en route to Pacific Union College, Angwin, California, where he will instruct in the advanced Bible school during the second term of the summer session. Shortly before his departure the Union College summer school faculty and students gave a surprise picnic supper in Pioneer Park in honor of his birthday [fifty-eighth]."

The Reaper, August 14: "Advanced Bible school:

The enrollment is thirty-three to date. . . . The students are teachers in our colleges and academies. . . . All but two of the nine union conferences in North America are represented, and four foreign divisions. M. E. Kern is secretary. . . . W. W. Landeen and G. M. Price [are teaching classes], . . . Lectures [have been] by A. G. Daniells, W. A. Spicer, William Branson, L. E. Froom. . . . A number are expressing hope that the idea of an advanced school of theology may be maintained, and that the school may become a permanent feature of our educational system."

M. L. resumes his account:


I was to conduct a school such as I would in the school itself when it was established. The students—the denominational officers—would sit in school benches, and raise their hands as other students when they wanted to speak. But they could ask any question that occurred to them and present their views. We decided that we would give opportunity for expression, take the Bible for our textbook, and ascertain whether we could speak freely on Bible subjects and in the end come out Seventh-day Adventists. The rankest heresy might be propounded, and we would discuss it freely, express our opinions, but reserve the right to change our views if we saw we were wrong, without any embarrassment.

It was an interesting class, held at Pacific Union College in the summertime. There was no summer school there. . . . It was interesting to see such students, and I must admit that it was interesting for me to find myself teacher for such a group. When I had misbehaved, they had sent me up to stand in the comer. Now I could send them up. But no one was sent up to stand in the comer. We had a delightful time, and after a little embarrassment for a few days on the part of some to find themselves in school again, all entered heartily into the school program. Perfect freedom prevailed, and no one took offense if others disagreed with him. Again and again some would deliver an oration on a certain point of doctrine, and in a few minutes retract it all. One day a veteran discoursed on Creation. Another veteran rose to a point of order, and stated in effect, and in words, "Brother X, I have listened intently to all you have said, and I must confess I do not see a bit of sense in your ideas." We were a little apprehensive, for the first speaker was a kind of authority. To our astonishment he got up, and, looking at the second speaker unhesitatingly, said: "That is just what I was thinking," and, completely reversing himself, he went on with his speech.


Another speaker denied the deity of Christ and used some common arguments. A Bible teacher arose when the first speaker had finished, and said, "The arguments you have used are exactly the ones Satan used in heaven. I know now what you are: you are a Luciferian." Next day he apologized, and no harm was done.

Another veteran arose one day and said, "Brother Andreasen, I don't believe what you are now saying. I have preached the opposite for forty years, and you are the first to say I am wrong." I let the matter pass, but later in the class I turned to him and asked whether he still held to his opinion. He affirmed that he did. I let the matter go, but once more at the conclusion of the class I asked whether he was of the same opinion. This time he banged his fist on the desk and said, "I have always believed and preached this, and always shall." I knew that when that man banged his fist, he was in earnest. It took him three days to come around. Then he got up and said he had been wrong, and we were good friends again. We learned in that class that we could disagree and remain friends. It was a wonderful time we had, and a profitable one. We were every day coming close to one another and to truth, and at the conclusion of the institute it was decided that I was "safe" and that I could teach the new school. The Review editor even stated in his paper, "Andreasen is always orthodox."

So the school began with Elder M. E. Kern as principal and me as Bible teacher. It was all very primitive, but it soon demonstrated that such an institution was needed. As long as the school was located in California and was held only in the summertime I continued as president of Union College, and each summer went West to Pacific Union. After three summers at Pacific Union College, it was


moved to Washington, D.C., where it was installed in the Review and Herald cafeteria building.

A secretary recalls: "When we'd have family worship that summer we were out there, he'd have a book of theological philosophy or something he was reading. He'd read a sentence, sit there thinking about it, expound upon it, then go on. That developed in me an interest in theology."

A Seminary student comments: "We first met him when we went to the Seminary in 1937.1 never sat at the feet of anyone who made me think so hard. He took my mind and stretched it until I thought it would break." Indeed, behind Elder Andreasen's desk in the Seminary building that was soon built was a neatly framed motto, "Think Things Through." He asked people to think and to appreciate what they discovered.

M. L. had his own philosophy of teaching. One was his approach to truth. Ask all the questions you desire, but be able to answer your own questions if nobody else can. He took that attitude toward the questions he asked: "I'll never ask a question of you unless I can answer it." He didn't pretend to answer all the students' questions, but he, could his own. Seminary students sometimes complained about the unanswered questions—but they were theirs.

He would begin class by throwing out a thought-provoking question that was seemingly unanswerable; then ask leading questions until we saw the answer.

He used to say, "The limit of a teacher is the capacity of his students."

With respect to Ellen White's writings, M. L. would observe, "When I can't understand something she says, I have a pigeonhole I put the quotations into until I can understand them."

He always got right down to business—no stories, no sidelines. He drove straight through.


M. L. would always come to his early-morning classes neatly dressed, sit down at the table on his little platform under the "Think Things Through" sign, fold his hands, and bow his head. "Father," his voice would quaver. Then his prayer would continue in just a few sentences of conversation with the One he had been holding sweet conversation with for a long time already that morning.

From boyhood, M. L. had recognized the reasonableness of a conversational tone in prayer: "I noticed that preachers in general had a kind of 'cry voice' that they used when praying, and some even while preaching. This seemed strange to me, for I could hardly conceive of God as being affected or moved by such tactics. Why couldn't I talk to God as I did to a man? It seemed to me that God would appreciate having me talk to Him that way." 1

A student recalls: "In class I remember his tendency to present us a problem and see what our solution would be. One day he came in, sat down at his desk, clasped his hands, and twiddled his thumbs a bit, with a sparkle in his eye. We all sat very quietly because we knew something was coming. Then he said, 'You know, I have always carefully paid my tithe. At the end of the month I always figure it out exactly, then add a few pennies. Then I give my wife the figures, and she goes over it. She makes any corrections that she can, then she adds a few pennies. But you know, when I went out to the potato patch—and I hadn't been there for a few days—I found the plants all covered with potato bugs. Now, how do you explain that?' The discussion that followed solved in my own mind the problem of tithe and my understanding of Malachi's statements about it." An expression M. L. used occasionally would probably throw some light on the


answer: "Prayer is no substitute for mathematics." And certainly, on appropriate occasions, he would add, "Or work." Claiming God's promise cannot take the place of spraying for potato bugs.

A dean of the SDA Theological Seminary, asked in an interview whether he had known Elder Andreasen, replied: "He was my teacher at the Seminary. I appreciated his incisive mind and deep theological insight, and his sense of fairness and keen sense of humor—an unusual sense of humor. His words were few but always very well chosen. What he wrote was brief but pointed. He didn't like long letters underlined in red. His sermons and classes always sparkled with interest. He grew with acquaintance. His personality was not seen on casual acquaintance but stood the test of time. The longer one knew him, the greater became one's admiration. His store of knowledge on many subjects seemed unlimited; he touched life at many points. Elder Andreasen combined the quality of an administrator with that of the research student, a rare combination. He had a profound respect for the writings of Ellen G. White and for her personally, having lived in her home. He did not attempt to answer questions with which he was not acquainted and did not speculate on theological problems where revelation is silent."2

1 M. L. Andreasen, A Faith to Live By, p. 62.

2 W. G. C. Murdoch.

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