Welcome to SDAnet's At Issue pages, with articles, essays, books, and links to other resources relevant to current issues faced by Seventh-day Adventists.
General site information. Please note that clicking on a Topic in the list on the left will take you to a menu of material available on that topic. In some cases we list an item under more than one topic, and we also cross reference some of our materials, so finding what we have on any given subject should be fairly easy. Clicking on any of the underlined material titles below will bypass the topic list and take you directly to the item. In most articles footnotes are "hot-linked" which means you can click on the footnote number in the text and be moved immediately to the footnote below. A click on "back" will take you back to your place in the text. In some of our newer material you will also find hotlinks which will take you directly to the referenced item. To return to your place in the original text from these, just click on the "back" button on your browser.
What's New November 2008?
Arthur Patrick, "Michael Campbell on the 1919 Bible Conference: New Light on a Persisting Controversy" introduces us to Dr. Campbell'sa recent doctoral dissertation, completed at the SDA Theological Seminary, Andrews University, entitled The 1919 Bible Conference and Its Significance for Seventh-day Adventist History and Theology. which "examines a luminous historical event that speaks profoundly about some of the most significant tensions in Adventist faith and experience. The 1919 Bible Conference was set in a watershed era for North American Christianity and was an epochal event for Adventists, coming as it did soon after the death of Ellen G. White (1827-1915). The principal event under examination was controversial when it occurred back in 1919, but after a few years it was almost forgotten for half a century. Since 1979 when Spectrum published transcripts from its proceedings, it has been interpreted in contrasting ways. On the one hand, earnest believers cast it as a misinterpretation of Adventism leading to reprehensible apostasy. On the other hand, equally sincere believers present it as a commendable attempt to understand Adventism faithfully and articulate it convincingly. Campbell's pioneering research offers a mature understanding of an event that has been a focus of persistent controversy."
Note that the transcripts of the two most controversial days of the 1919 Bible Conference are available for reading on-line from this site.
Materials Added February 2008
Arthur Patrick, "The Inspired and Inspiring Ellen White, Part 2: Assessing Five Examples of the Documented Evidence" . In his abstract, Patrick states: "Part 1 of this study suggests that the attendees at the first International Prophetic Guidance Workshop (1982) acknowledged and began to interpret information about the inspiration of Ellen White’s writings that was largely unavailable or unknown to most researchers even two or three decades previously. This article (as Part 2 of the study) briefly describes five examples of this evidence before claiming that such information illumines the current discussion of Ellen White’s spiritual giftedness and offers guidelines for the proper use of her writings by individual Seventh-day Adventists and by the church as a corporate entity." (See Part 1: 1982 in Historical Perspective here.)
Patrick further states, "The difficulties Adventists now face in understanding Ellen White’s inspiration are not new. The people who were close to Ellen White during her lifetime understood the issues well but they found it difficult to share their fuller understanding of Ellen White’s inspiration with the Adventist community." As one example of evidence for this, he notes the work of Gilbert Valentine, who has done extensive research and writing in the area of Adventist history and on the development of Adventist Theology, citing specifically his recently published paper listed next.
Gilbert Valentine, "The Church 'drifting toward a crisis': Prescott's 1915 Letter to William White" . Valentine's abstract describes the scope of his detailed and lengthy paper. "In 1915 Professor W. W. Prescott, wrote a letter of concern to W. C. White in which he made a number of controversial observations about uncorrected errors in authorized church publications and serious misconceptions about Ellen G. White’s manner of writing which were held by many Adventists. Initial explanations and interpretations of the letter are inadequate. These explanations are reviewed and assessed. The historical context of the 1915 letter is further explored and misunderstandings about Prescott corrected. Other senior and trusted Adventist church leaders also experienced cognitive dissonance in their attempts to understand and explain "inspiration" as it applied to Ellen White’s work. Elmshaven editorial assistants found it necessary to expand their understanding and their explanations. The foundational 1883 description of "inspiration" needed to be qualified. The work of the editorial circle around the prophet is significant. Should the theory of inspiration be adjusted so that the theory arises out of the actual data or should a presupposed theory be imposed on the data? Later explanations tended to over simply and idealize the literary process. Prescott’s letter continues to have implications for the pastoral care and education of the church."
A paper by Bert Haloviak, Ellen White and the SDA Church: Sligo Series, though not new to our site, deserves our attention at this time as a "companion piece" to the above papers. Originally presented to the Sligo SDA church, Oct. 22 and 29, 1980. Haloviak here presents an historical analysis of different views of the work and role of Ellen White that existed both during and in the years immediately following her death. Noting that "a score or more" of those who "were regarded as the most dynamic preachers and leaders within the church" near the turn of the century, had, within the next decade, not only left the church but were "working actively against" it, he says, "The question to resolve is why did this happen?" He goes on to suggest that "an important reason relates to their mistaken concepts of the role of the gift of prophecy within the church and the disunity that erupted within the church over those concepts of the role of Ellen White".
He sees these "varying understandings of the role for the writings of Ellen White" as fitting into "two broad categories" which he labels "exegetical" and "non-exegetical" functions. Demonstrating how "mistaken concepts" in these areas played a vital role in the changed attitudes of some described above, he concludes that understanding how this dynamic works and developing correct concepts of the use and relevance of her writings is vital for us today.
We also call your attention to the fact that, as promised, all audios from the Questions On Doctrine 50th Anniversary Conference as well as the printed text of each paper presented, are now available for downloading from that site. Choose "Downloads" at the site main menu or go direct to the downloads page by clicking HERE .
Materials added November 16, 2007
Two more papers from the Questions On Doctrine 50th Anniversary Conference, more reports from that Conference, and a full book... plus calling your attention to some of the materials we already have on-line which are related in some way to the issues addressed at the Conference.
Woodrow W. Whidden, for many years professor in the Religion Department at Andrews University (1990–2006) is now professor of systematic and historical theology at the Adventist International Institute for Advanced Studies, in the Philippines, so it is no surprise that his Conference paper would be entitled, "Questions on Doctrine: What Should Be the Enduring Theological Legacy?". In this paper, available now for reading on our site, Woody surveys the history of the theological controversies... what he calls "two identifiable theological traditions" which have "developed two, essentially distinctive versions of Soteriology, Christology and Eschatology in the SDA Church", analyses their content, and suggests possible resolutions to some of the differences. We also have his two books which examined Ellen White's views in these areas, available here for reading on-line.... Ellen White on Salvation (Review and Herald, 1995) and Ellen White on the Humanity of Christ (Review and Herald, 1997).
A. Leroy Moore is a retired pastor and teacher, currently teaching at Weimar College. He has had long years of involvement with the QOD controversies, with his most recent book being, Questions on Doctrine Revisited (2005). His presentation paper, "That They May Be One", is a survey of his personal history of involvement with the issues as he struggled with them throughout his lifetime and an appeal that all involved may come into the unity that can only be found in love... both for God and for each other. We also have a report of the conference written by Moore in retrospect, November 4, 2007, entitled "QOD Conference Report (Oct. 24-27)", which gives another glimpse into the preparations for the Conference as well as his comments on the Conference itself.
Arthur Patrick has added a short paper, "Understanding the Questions on Doctrine Conference: Can Adventists Move Beyond the Conflict?" as both an introduction to his lengthy Conference presentation paper we posted last week (see below) and as a survey of the Conference as a whole. He sums up his intent and scope very succinctly in his sentence, "What I am really saying here is that my paper needs to be read within the context and in the light of the content of the entire conference." And, I will add, this is also true of each of the presentations, so we will all be looking forward to the time (promised January 2008) when the presentations and discussions of the entire Conference will be posted and made available to the whole world.
Materials added November 7, 2007
The Questions On Doctrine 50th Anniversary Conference, which convened October 24–27, 2007, at the SDA Theological Seminary, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan is the primary focus of the material we are adding or linking to, November, 2007. Click on the conference title above, to see the advance information on the Conference, which is still on their permanent website, including the schedule and short bios of each presenter. All papers and discussions will be available on that website... promised by January 1, 2008. But we do not have to wait that long to take a look at some of the papers and a variety of reports on the Conference.
Julius Nam, assistant professor of religion at Loma Linda University, with his "2005 Andrews University dissertation, "Reactions to Seventh-day Adventist Evangelical Conferences and Questions on Doctrine, 1955–1971," served as a catalyst for this conference. The text of his presentation, entitled, " The Questions on Doctrine Saga: Contours and Lessons" gives a very succinct overview of the history and issues that have grown out of the publication of Questions On Doctrine so many years ago. It is drawn from his dissertation and is currently available for reading on-line on his own web site. (With all of these off site links, click on the title to go to the link, then on your browser's back button to return here.)
"The Questions on Doctrine Event: Contrasting Perceptions, Their Impact and Potential" by Arthur Patrick, Honorary Senior Research Fellow, Avondale, College, Australia, gives the history from the perspective of how it has worked itself out in his field. However, Patrick says that his aim was not merely to repeat historical facts, but to seek "for an interpretive framework that may facilitate constructive answers to an elusive question: In view of the variety of perceptions of QoD and their profound and continuing impact, how can the Seventh-day Adventist Church move constructively beyond this long-continuing controversy?" Read his Conference paper on this site.
For a glimpse into the Conference as it moved along, visit The Spectrum Blog, where Richard Rice gave daily reports through Friday. Then David Larson wrote "A Reflection on the Sabbath Meeting", and pastor Bill Cork gave some added reflections on the conference two days after it ended. As on all blogs, the newest posting is at the top, so either be content to walk through the conference from its end to its beginning, or else scroll to the bottom and read the reports in the order in which they were written.
October, 30, 2007, Adventist Today also published three retrospective reports, under the heading, "Questions on Doctrine 50th Anniversary Conference: Comments and Commentaries". All three of the reports listed below can be read there.
"Maintaining Church Unity in a Post Modern Era: Many Right Ways to Think" by Ervin Taylor, Adventist Today Executive Editor.
"The Questions on Doctrine Conference: An Overview for the Busy Adventist" by Arthur Patrick, Honorary Senior Research Fellow, Avondale College.
"Questions on Doctrine 50th Anniversary Conference: A Personal Reaction", by Robert M. Johnston, Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins, Emeritus, SDA Theological Seminary, Andrews University.
And ... in case you haven't seen the original book itself, we do have it available here for online reading... clicking on Questions On Doctrine will take you to the Table of Contents page, and from there you can access the whole book.
Materials added July 2007
focused entirely on Ellen White Studies, and were designed to cause us to reflect on our past so as to help us understand the present and draw from both past and present those implications and insights that will help us chart our course for the future.
Once again Arthur Patrick is our primary guide on this historical and interpretational tour. His new article, "The Inspired and Inspiring Ellen White, Part 1: 1982 in Historical Perspective", is designed to call attention to the first International Prophetic Guidance Workshop, held at the church’s world headquarters, April 11-15, 1982. Patrick views this Workshop as comparable to the 1919 Bible Conference in significance... and the fact that probably most of us have never even heard of the 1982 workshop nor seen any of the papers presented there surely testifies to the correctness of his statements when he says that they have been kept out of sight of the public eye as effectively as were the 1919 Bible Conference records.
His paper is abundantly documented... and the good news is that the majority of his reference materials are available for reading on-line... either here on At Issue, or on off-site links. Sprinkled through his text are clickable links to some of this material, though most of them are concentrated in the end-notes. We will list only a few of these on this page, mostly you will have to seek them out as they occur in Patrick's article.
At the time of the 1982 Prophetic Guidance Workshop, Fred Veltman had only begun the work of the "Life of Christ Research Project", which would not be completed until 1988. Patrick only slightly touches on this part of Ellen White Studies history in the paper, but does give several resource links to material which addresses this. Two of these we will introduce here.
Kevin Morgan is a pastor in the Carolina Conference who has done much research and writing in collaboration with Marcella Anderson King, who was Veltman's primary research assistant throughout the 8 years of the project. He has co-authored a book with her on this topic which is in process of publication at the present time. His article, "A Quick View of the Life of Christ Research Project (1980-1988)", gives us a look into the way the project operated and how its conclusions were reached. His use of color coding helps explain the different types of "dependency" that Veltman defined and identified. He also helps us understand how the raw data was converted to numerical values.
David Conklin is an independent researcher with a website called "An Analysis of the Literary Dependency of Ellen White". His subhead reads, "We Analyze, You Decide". He notes that people who construct parallel columns for the purpose of showing literary dependence show only the "similarities"... not the "dissimilarities".... sometimes even taking measures to make the similarities stand alone, and out of their context in each of the books being compared. David's site is different in that he puts the whole text in parallel columns, and through an intricate system of color coding shows not only similarities, but dissimilarities, "so that you, the reader can easily come to your own conclusion" as to "whether the critics did a fair analysis, or whether their comparisons actually distorted reality."
Materials added December, 2006
More Than A Prophet. by Graeme Bradford, published in 2006, sold out, was edited, and enlarged for a new printing in early 2007. Click on the title to read it here on-line, or to purchase in book form. More Than A Prophet is the original scholarly work from which his two smaller books, Prophets Are Human, and People Are Human, were drawn. More Than A Prophet not only addresses the usual questions and attacks by her critics, but also examines the nature of inspiration, comparing how the wide variations in how Bible writers wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit with how Ellen White wrote... under the inspiration of that same Holy Spirit.
Arthur Patrick has for several years led the way for us in these Ellen White studies. He has now added a number of short papers, all bound together in an annotated "index page" which he calls Surfing the Ellen White Information Wave in 2006. In this he introduces over a dozen of his own papers, all of which may be accessed from that page for reading on-line. In his papers he introduces us to other writers in the Ellen White Studies field.... some of whom agree with him and some who disagree. These will provide many hours of informational reading. Allow time and plan many return visits.
Crosscurrents in Adventist Christology by Eric Claude Webster treats an important and controversial issue in Adventist theological dialogue. The first chapter gives an illuminating historical perspective, while in the next four chapters, Webster examines the Christologies of Ellen G. White and E. J. Waggoner of the 19th, and Edward Heppenstall and Herbert Douglass of he 20th centuries. This is Webster's doctoral dissertation, now out of print in book form, but we have the full text here for your in depth study and research.
How clear views of Jesus developed in the Adventist Church by Gilbert Valentine, addresses the question as to how Adventists moved from their largely semi-Arian positions of their earliest years to their present Trinitarian views. In doing this he also demonstrates the interactions between Ellen White and specific Adventist scholarly leaders. Thus this not only addresses the primary question of doctrinal development, but adds to the growing body of Ellen White studies that we are bringing our At Issue readers.
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