The Scandal Of A Book PART 6 of 8 (Dr Ralph Larson)
Earlier this year we noted that the vigorous endeavors of the authors of the book
Questions on Doctrine have produced a mountain of misinformation. At the very top of this mountain of misinformation there is a capstone. It is the changing of another foundational doctrine of our church, in regard to “original sin.” Because it is so dramatically illustrative of the methods that were used by the writers of Questions on Doctrine, I have chosen to deal with it separately.
The doctrine of “original sin” as held by the Roman Catholic Church and by some Protestant churches teaches that all descendants of Adam are guilty for his sin. Thus if a baby dies shortly after being born, it is subject to the second death, which is the lake of fire. (Revelation 21: 8) So writes Norman Gulley in the Adventist Review, January 25, 1990:
“If a baby dies a few hours or days after birth, it is still subject to the second death even though it has never broken any commandment.”(1) (Bear in mind that for most of those who believe this doctrine, the condemnation death, the lake of fire, never stops burning its victims.)
The Seventh-?day Adventist church has never held such a hideous doctrine, in whole or in part. Nevertheless, it appears that the writers of Questions on Doctrine labored to bring it into our church with a grim intensity that is mind-? boggling.
When they had completed their writing, they submitted their manuscript to the Review and Herald Publishing Association for printing. Fortunately, the editors there recognized some of the departures from the integrity of our faith and deleted them. And even more fortunately, the original manuscript was preserved in the Review files. Copies of it are even now available in the White Estate repositories around the world. At the top of the paper it is called the “Prepublication manuscript of Seventh-day Adventists answer questions on doctrine.”(2) I am indebted to Larry Kirkpatrick, Pastor of the Seventh-?day Adventist Church in Mentone, California, for drawing this to my attention.
This manuscript provides us with a marvelous key to understanding what the writers of Questions on Doctrine may have been trying to do. It helps us understand the mysterious cloak of secrecy that was carefully maintained during the time of writing and conferring with non-?SDA theologians. It explains the harsh severity in their dealing with our highly respected theologian, M. L. Andreasen, who caught on to what they were doing and challenged them. This caused him to lose his ministerial credentials and his sustentation (pension)(3). It tells us why the mountain of misrepresentation was necessary. If the church had been told clearly what these men were doing, there would have been an explosion and the whole evil project would have gone up in smoke.
(I once sat in a classroom at Andrews University and listened to Roy Allen Anderson explain to the class that Andreasen’s problem was simply that he was an old man whose feelings were hurt because he had not been permitted to take part in the conferences with non-?SDA theologians. If I had known then what I know now, I might have risen to my feet and challenged him from the floor. But I didn’t know. The deceptions had done their work, on me as well as on others.)
I have examined the pre-?publication manuscript of Questions on Doctrine in the White Estate repository in the LLUMC library, and this is what I have found in regard to the false doctrine of original sin. (Emphasis is mine).
“Adam’s sin involved the whole human race. ‘By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin,’ Declares the apostle Paul. (Romans 5: 12). The expression ‘death by sin’ shows clearly that he is referring, not to actual individual sins, but rather to original sin—the sinful nature which we have all inherited from Adam. Even innocent little children die, for ‘in Adam all die.’
(1 Corinthians 15: 21). By that original sin ‘death passed upon all men’ (Romans 5:12). Luther (Commentary on Romans, page 81), states the position well when he says:
“ ‘Original sin is by Adam’s transgression. This sin we bear as his children, and we are guilty on account of it, for with his nature Adam also transfers his sin to all. As he himself became sinful and evil through that sin, so he begets only sinners and evil-?doers, namely, such as are inclined to all evil and raises that which is good.’ “
Question: What happens when Jesus is born into the family of Adam? Is he guilty for Adams sin, like all other descendants of Adam?
Both Catholic and Protestant theologians have been required to struggle with this problem, and have offered to different solutions. The Catholics proposed to solve the problem by inventing a doctrine of Immaculate Conception. This is not to be confused with the doctrine of the virgin birth, as is done by some Protestants. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception teaches that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was by a special miracle protected from receiving the guilt of original sin from her own mother, so she had none to transfer to Jesus. Just how Mary’s mother was protected is not clear.
Protestants, not to be outdone, invented a rather different doctrine of Immaculate Conception. According to this doctrine, Christ was somehow exempted from the laws of heredity, so that he did not inherit the human nature of His mother Mary, but did inherit the human nature of Adam before his fall.
The problem they share is that Scripture knows nothing at all of either of these special miracles, nor did Ellen White. She was, however, well aware of the use that was made of the false doctrine. Witness her words at the 1888 conference in Minneapolis:
“Now, what we want to present is how you may advance in the divine life. We hear many excuses: I cannot live up to this or that. What do you mean by this or that? Do you mean that it was an imperfect sacrifice that was made for the fallen race upon Calvary, that there is not sufficient grace and power granted us that we may work away from our own natural defects and tendencies, that it was not a whole Saviour that was given us? or do you mean to cast reproach upon God? Well, you say, it was Adams sin. You say, I am not guilty of that, and I am not responsible for his guilt and fall. Here all these natural tendencies are in me, and I am not to blame if I act out these natural tendencies. Who is to blame? Is God? Why did God let Satan have this power over human nature? These are accusations against the God of heaven, and he will give you an opportunity if you want it, of finally bringing your accusations against Him. Then He will bring His accusations against you when you are brought into His court of judgement.” The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, 122.
Many of us Seventh-?day Adventists have given up hope that we can fully live up to God’s requirements. Could it be that the seeds of doubt were planted in our mind through a belief in “original sin” “and its kindred doctrines?
So the evidence before us is unmistakably clear. Had Questions on Doctrine been published as written, it would have introduced two major changes in Seventh-? day Adventist theology, one regarding the nature of Christ, and the other regarding the doctrine of original sin. This was in spite of a denominational policy that such changes may be made only by a General Conference in session.
Such a change could not be accomplished unless the authors did their work in secrecy, using methods that can only be described as scandalous.
The Most Divisive Book
As I bring this paper to a close, I pause to reflect upon the first sentence in the “Introduction” To the newly republished (and annotated) edition of Questions on Doctrine.
“Questions on Doctrine easily qualifies as the most divisive book in Seventh-day Adventist history.” (4)
Then why, in the name of reason, is it being republished? Can folly be greater than this? Are its proponents hoping to finish the job of bringing to ruin the Seventh-?day Adventist church?
If so, I have news for them. They will not succeed. A higher power has given us this description:
“In vision I saw two armies in terrible conflict. One army was led by banners bearing the world’s insignia; the other was led by the bloodstained banner of Prince Emanuel. Standard after standard was left to trail in the dust as company after company from the Lord’s army joined the foe and tribe after tribe from the ranks of the enemy united with the commandment-?keeping people of God.” Reflecting Christ, 226.
“But there are men who will receive the truth, and these will take the places made vacant by those who become offended and leave the truth. . . . The Lord will work so that the disaffected ones will be separated from the true and loyal ones. .
. . The ranks will not be diminished. Those who are firm and true will close up the vacancies that are made by those who become offended and apostatize. . . . “Selected Messages, book 3, 422(emphasis supplied).
So let us not be confused or dismayed by the smoke and dust of the conflict.
“To stand in the defense of truth and righteousness when the majority forsake us, to fight the battles of the Lord when champions are few—this will be our test. At this time we must gather warmth from the coldness of others, courage from their cowardice, and loyalty from their treason. . . .” Sons and Daughters of God, 201.
Article by the late Ralph Larson, retired pastor and theologian, who last served as dean of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary. Far East.
“In Every Way But One: The Crucial Difference Between Us and Jesus,” 13
“Replies to a group of enquires concerning S.D.A. theology,” seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine, pre-?publication manuscript.
The US government required the church to reinstate his pension and his credentials were restored posthumously.
Andrews University Press, Berrien Springs, Mich., 2003