Can We Fix the Problem?

Can the unity of the Seventh-day Adventist Church be maintained in the face of so much division over women’s ordination? Two possible approaches seem almost guaranteed to destroy unity at this point. One would be mandating that ordination to the positions of both pastor and elder be restricted to males only once again. Since the church first moved away from that position in the 1970s, the western world has shifted enormously in favor of full equality and inclusion for women. To step back at this time would be devastating to the mission of the church in the western world and also the Far East (China in particular). In my travels around the world I find the younger generation in areas opposed to ordaining women much more open to full inclusion as well, although the leaders of the church are still reluctant. Similarly, a position mandating the ordination of women worldwide would be devastating in many cultures where full inclusion of women is not appreciated at this time. The Middle East, Africa and parts of Southern and Central Asia and South America likely fall into this category. It would hurt the mission of the church to force a global vote on women’s ordination either way.

Clearly the flexibility of options two and three that TOSC has put forward offer some encouragement that unity could be preserved. In option two (see summary and links in previous blog) the church would affirm that ordaining women is the right application of Scripture for today, but it should not be forced on entities of the church that are not ready. Option three affirms the biblical pattern of male headship, but allows for new forms to leadership in places where that pattern no longer makes sense. In both options the biblical understanding is not taken as absolute and unbending for all cultures and places. It is the biblical summary that makes up the primary difference between the two options. My guess is that neither would garner a majority of votes in any meeting of top church leadership. Many would be uncomfortable with the assertion that the Bible affirms the ordination of women and many others would be equally uncomfortable with the assertion that the Bible affirms male leadership as the norm. Is there some other way that might point us forward?

The problem with all three options is that they presume the Bible is reasonably clear, one way or the other. Option One is so clear that it not only takes the field but pillages the opposition’s kingdom. Not a formula for unity. Option Two presumes that the Bible, rightly understood, teaches women’s ordination but that those who disagree can get permission to continue their traditional practices. Option Three presumes that the Bible teaches male “leadership,” but those who want to ordain women can apply for permission to do so. But all these positions presume that the Bible speaks to the issue with reasonable clarity.

When you have dueling positions on a topic (in this case women’s ordination), both claiming to be from the Bible, there are only two options that I can see. Either one side is perverse (deliberately twisting Scripture to get their way) or the Bible is, in fact, unclear on the subject. I have good friends on both sides of the women’s ordination debate. I cannot look either side in the eye and say, “You are perverse, you are deliberately manipulating the Bible to get your way.” To do so would be to pass a terrible judgment on people I have enjoyed as colleagues for many years. And it is a judgment that puts me in great peril (Matt 7:1-2; Rom 2:1-3). But if the Bible is, in fact, unclear, then that should be the foundation of the church’s position, rather than according victory to one side or the other.

That leaves two options for attaining unity. One is being proposed by David Newman. If ordination itself as generally practiced is a tradition inherited from the Middle Ages (the word “ordination” is Latin term, not found in the NT), then let’s not ordain anyone and solve the problem in that way. I could live with such a position, but since the Adventist pioneers adopted ordination as a practical necessity (rather than a biblical mandate), something like “ordination” is probably needed. I suggest, therefore, one other option. The simplest approach to honor the Bible and yet preserve unity is to affirm that the Bible does not directly address the question of women’s ordination and that, therefore, it does not mandate either the ordination of women to the gospel ministry nor the denial of the same. Neither party would have to give approval to a theology they disagree with. Let’s just agree that the Bible doesn’t directly address the question and that, therefore, differences of opinion on how to apply the Bible to ordination today are to be expected. When differences are the norm, unity requires that ordination be driven by the mission of the church rather than the direct teachings of Scripture. Divisions and unions should be allowed to ordain women or not ordain them, based on the leading of the Spirit and the demands of mission in those territories.

Won’t that in itself destroy the unity of the church? What will happen if an ordained woman is called to a union that doesn’t ordain women? The same thing that happens now with female church elders. If an ordained female elder moves to a church that doesn’t ordain females as elders, she should not expect to be an elder in that church (for better or for worse). If an ordained female pastor receives an invitation to pastor in a union or division that doesn’t ordain women, she should understand that her ordination will not be recognized there, and respond to the invitation with that in mind. If an unordained female pastor is invited to a region that ordains women, she should not be compelled to accept ordination. While there will be relational challenges in the process, the overall unity of the church need not be destroyed on the basis of such an arrangement. It has certainly not happened over the last forty years since women have been ordained as elders in parts of the world. Practical arrangements in one local church need not affect arrangements in another.

A possible wording for the above “unity option” could be as follows: “We acknowledge that the Bible does not mandate the ordination of women to the gospel ministry. Therefore, any union or division that considers ordination of women to be a detriment to the mission of the church in that region will not be considered out of harmony with Scripture. Likewise, we acknowledge that the Bible does not forbid the ordination of women to the gospel ministry. Therefore, any union or division that considers ordination of women to be useful to the mission of the church in that region will not be considered out of harmony with Scripture. To maintain the unity of the church, we continue the practice of the Adventist pioneers, who adopted ordination, not primarily on biblical grounds, but as a practical necessity to enhance the mission of the church.” I’m not thrilled with that specific wording, but hopefully it helps point the way forward.

21 thoughts on “Can We Fix the Problem?

  1. Debbie Jamieson

    Thank you for a viable alternative to the possible loggerhead I see ahead at the 2015 GC. While option 3 likes to present itself as “the moderate” position, it is far from it. This proposal appears to be a true moderate position which I would think rational people on both sides of this discussion could accept. Time will tell.

    Reply
  2. Ps Jacques Jonker

    Does not SOP instruct us that anything we bring to church that causes people to choose sides is from satan. Then how do we go forward with this issue.

    Reply
  3. Dr Amani Mgeni, Church Elder

    Where the Bible is silent,meaning that ordination or no ordination does not sanctify the individual Pastor or Elder let people develop the spirit of tolerance and be flexible to adjust to what stand a particular Local Church takes, not a Union or a Division, because even in a particular Union or Division, there may be a difference of opinion among them. However, consideration should be taken that it would create a spirit of human pride and confusion rather than humility and unity , if such decisions would be changed from year to year when a new Church Board would change the procedure of the previous one when a new comes to power. The whole issue really hinges on,ordination or no ordination really is not an issue of DOCTRINE nor of SALVATION

    Reply
    1. Maryann Lee

      Amen. There’s no such division in heaven (or in heavenly beings-angels) or the New Earth to come. Jesus is equal to God.

      Reply
  4. Ruth Trefz

    This is so “right, right, on”. Makes you wonder why this wasn’t done loooong before all the controversy, money, time, etc etc. spent on this issue, went into telling salvation’s story. Thank you! Post it everywhere!

    Reply
  5. DeeDee BIndernagel

    Very good summary of what we have been through. I read every one of the TOSC papers and most of the BRCs. I agree with your report except my reading of Option 2 was like your final suggestion, My one disagreement with the suggestions is in the decision being made at Division level. Instead I think we need to keep it as it legally is at present, that is, suggested by the conference, decided by the unions.

    Reply
  6. Sheila

    I agree with your proposal Jon. Even though I agree that some divisions are not ready for WO I still have had problems with the wording on the 3rd proposal. I like where you are going with this. It seems like better alternative than the ones being put forward thus far.

    Reply
  7. Barrington Brennen

    Dr. Paulien, I like your conclusion but not the way you chose to get there. If one view the Bible through intentional male prism then women are left out. But if the Bible is just a written reflection of the historical setting to give lessons for the contemporary world, then women are included in everything. I hold the view that the Bible has always been gender inclusive. Those against women ordination has a preset view that the Bible is male directed and women are appendages. Thus, their conclusions are sociological and not spiritual. However, they would find “solid” Biblical texts to support their views just like Sunday keepers find “solid” Biblical support for their views.

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  8. Madeline Johnston

    Actually, if the vote goes against ordaining women, it is not going to “devastate” the church in China–because the church in China is not beholden to the world church, by mandate of the Chinese government. And the members there are thankful to their government for this, as it has allowed them to go ahead and follow what they consider to be the leading of the Holy Spirit. They would probably simply continue to do so, and be even more thankful to their government than before, if women’s ordination is voted down in Annual Council. Of course, if we want them to draw closer to the world church, we should recognize and appreciate what they have done, rather than criticize it.

    Reply
  9. Carol Peterson

    Hi,
    Dr Paulien’s comments are, as usual, considered and relevant. I fully endorse the ordination of women. I worship and have been blessed by, a young woman who has graduated from the Theology Course and who has been an excellent pastor. In Australia we “Commission” such women, and the thing that really annoys me is that the ceremony is identical ( in fact, in this instance a man was also “”ordained”. The only difference was in the terms “Commisioned” and “Ordained’. I hope this matter can be resolved soon and hopefully in the manner which Dr. Paulien is suggesting. I do not believe that we will achieve full agreement in all divisions of the world on this matter for many generations when so many countries do not treat their women in the same way that we in the western world do.

    Reply
  10. Charles Possenriede

    Hi Jon,
    I think your recommended way forward is spot on. The only problem is that the majority of delegates at the GC Session will be from areas of the world where women are not regarded as men’s equals. Once the balance of world church membership tipped to these areas all hope of our church permitting women’s ordination at a GC session was lost. The only way your suggestion could be implemented would be at the GC Executive Committee level. And it may be too late for even that. It would take a miracle of God moving upon the hearts of the delegates at the GC Session for your suggestion to pass. And probably for it to even get on the agenda.
    Charles

    Reply
  11. John Wallace

    This is so Loadicea! We, as a Church, fulfill the prophecy with stunning accuracy!
    Sunday-keeping by Seventh-day Adventists in the Pacific has been given the same treatment by the Church’s theologians, ie: The seventh-day Sabbath can be Saturday or Sunday, depending where you live and whether you agree with local time.
    The big difference is that Sabbath IS a fundamental doctrine, ordination isn’t.
    Nobody will be attracted to the Church because of women’s ordination, but even if they were, it would be for the wrong reason.
    On the other hand, as long as Adventists are keeping Sunday anywhere in the world, our message calling the world to Creator worship, has been neutered!

    Reply
  12. Irvin Glanz (South Africa)

    Of course there cannot be found in the Bible any reference to allowing women to be ordained.
    Remember that the Bible was written by Jews for the Jews and later the testaments were structured and presented into the existing Bible with 66 “Books” which was accepted by those that went before us.
    The Jewish nation even until recently did not accredit women as being ready or equipped to be leaders.
    Why then such a mission to try to align a decision of this nature to documentation clearly excluding women.
    The church must take this opportunity to march forward else it will drift back to a medieval culture.
    One cannot expect a decision to allow women leadership to be accepted in all Countries.
    Be brave, deal with those not in favour as the need arises. Don’t be presented with a notice that you have denied a woman by legislation of social inequality in some countries .

    Reply
  13. Peter S Marks

    Hi Jon,

    What a pity that such your statement, provided above, did not carry the day at the Annual Council 2014. It would be great if such a statement would figure in debate in 2015.

    Reply
  14. Tammy Greenley

    Hi Jon,
    Sounds good to me. I thought that the proposition that Nick Miller and company were working on was very similar to this.

    Reply
    1. Jon Paulien Post author

      Depends on how you read the third option. I saw Miller himself yesterday and he felt I had misunderstood his intent. he doesn’t buy headship either, but by wording things that way he hoped many would sign on to flexibility as well.

      Reply
  15. Pastor Richard P. Mendoz

    Greeting Jon,

    You propose here that the Bible is “unclear” on the issue of Women’s Ordination, others have said that the Bible says “nothing about women’s ordination.” If the Bible says nothing about then neither should we. We all know that we cannot NOT build a Bible Doctrine IF the Bible says nothing about it.

    “Unclear?” Jesus said;

    15 And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?

    16 Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.

    17 If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. John 7:15-17 King James Version (KJV)

    We can know Jesus’ Doctrine IF we are willing to DO HIS WILL, BEFORE His will is revealed to us about that doctrine. So, the critical question is; “Are you willing to DO God’s will no matter His will may be?” Then we will KNOW what His will is, and know His Doctrine, whether it is of God or not.

    “His Doctrine” means the doctrines which Jesus taught, and He DID NOT TEACH the ordination of women, but He did teach the ordination of men. Mark 3:14 “And He ordained twelve” and they we all and only males whom He ordained as apostles out of all the multitudes of His disciples, BOTH men and WOMEN. So Jesus’ doctrine, which was NOT His own but was His Father’s (God’s), DID NOT include the ordination of women from the cradle to His grave. He only ordained 12, and they were men. EGW’s comments on this in DA are pointed in that she says;

    “The first step was now to be taken in the organization of the church that after Christ’s departure was to be His representative on earth. No costly sanctuary was at their command, but the Saviour led His disciples to the retreat He loved, and in their minds the sacred experiences of that day were forever linked with the beauty of mountain and vale and sea.” {DA 291.2}

    “Jesus had called His disciples that He might send them forth as His witnesses, to declare to the world what they had seen and heard of Him. Their office was the most important to which human beings had ever been called, and was second only to that of Christ Himself. They were to be workers together with God for the saving of the world. As in the Old Testament the twelve patriarchs stand as representatives of Israel, so the twelve apostles were to stand as representatives of the gospel church.” {DA 291.3}

    “While Jesus was preparing the disciples for their ordination . . . .”

    “When Jesus had ended His instruction to the disciples, He gathered the little band close about Him, and kneeling in the midst of them, and laying His hands upon their heads, He offered a prayer dedicating them to His sacred work. Thus the Lord’s disciples were ordained to the gospel ministry.” {DA 296.3}

    This is the SAME Ordination we still follow today in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and it is a “doctrine” of Jesus. It is also a “doctrine” of the apostles, for the Apostolic Church “continued in the apostles doctrine and fellowship” (Acts 2:42) and that doctrine of the apostle DID NOT include the doctrine/teaching of the ordination of women as apostles, elders, or pastors of church congregations, ONLY men. Paul and Barnabas “ordained elders in EVERY CHURCH!” Acts 14:23 AND Titus “ordained elders in EVERY CITY” by the authority that was granted to him by the Apostle Paul, whom had his call to ministry approved by the saints/church, they had to BELIEVE that Jesus really called him into the ministry (there was good reason to doubt this because of all his persecution of the church), and Paul was “ordained a preacher” – “Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.” 1 Timothy 2:7.

    The ordination of men as apostles and elders/pastors (see Acts 20:16-37 for pastor-shepherds) IS a Bible Doctrine taught by Jesus Himself by His own illustrative practice and His telling us to do as He has done, which all He did was SINLESS and RIGHT, AND which was also taught by the Apostles in their “doctrine,” which they never ordained one woman as an elder or pastor, BUT THEY DID teach the ordination of MEN as elders/pastors both by precept and example;

    1 Timothy 5:22 Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure.

    1 Timothy 4:14 (AMP)

    14 Do not neglect the gift which is in you, [that special inward endowment] which was directly imparted to you [by the Holy Spirit] by prophetic utterance when the elders laid their hands upon you [at your ordination].

    1 Timothy 4:14 (CEB)

    14 Don’t neglect the spiritual gift in you that was given through prophecy when the elders laid hands on you.

    It is also clear from the Bible that anyone “who desires the office of an elder, desires a good thing” BUT they “MUST BE . . . the husbands of one wife” (1 Timothy 3:1-2) and everybody know a woman CANNOT be a “husband” which she “MUST BE” (Greek emphatic) in order to be an elder, and thus ordained.

    Now here is EGW on how we should read THIS text;

    It is the first and highest duty of every rational being to learn from the Scriptures what is truth, and then to walk in the light and encourage others to follow his example. We should day by day study the Bible diligently, weighing every thought and comparing scripture with scripture. With divine help we are to form our opinions for ourselves as we are to answer for ourselves before God.

    The truths most plainly revealed in the Bible have been involved in doubt and darkness by learned men, who, with a pretense of great wisdom, teach that the Scriptures have a mystical, a secret, spiritual meaning not apparent in the language employed. These men are false teachers. It was to such a class that Jesus declared: “Ye know not the Scriptures, neither the power of God.” Mark 12:24.

    The language of the Bible should be explained according to its OBVIOUS MEANING, unless a symbol or figure is employed. Christ has given the promise: “If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine.” John 7:17. If men would but take the Bible as it reads, if there were no false teachers to mislead and confuse their minds, a work would be accomplished that would make angels glad and that would bring into the fold of Christ thousands upon thousands who are now wandering in error. The Great Controversy, (1911) p. 598-599

    “The word of God is the great detector of error; to it we believe everything must be brought.

    The Bible must be our standard for every doctrine and preaching. We must study it reverentially. We are to receive no one’s opinion without comparing it with the Scriptures. Here is divine authority which is supreme in matters of faith.

    It is the word of the living God that is to decide all controversies.”
    The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials. 1987; 2002 (44). Ellen G. White Estate.

    Till will all come into the UNITY of the FAITH, and UNITY in the TRUTH, EGW and how to have “No Divisions Among US”:

    “God requires more of His followers than many realize. If we would not build our hopes of heaven upon a false foundation we must ACCEPT THE BIBLE AS IT READ and BELIEVE THAT THE LORD MEANS WHAT HE SAYS. He requires nothing of us that He will not give us grace to perform. We shall have no excuse to offer in the day of God if we fail to reach the standard set before us in His word.” {5T 171.1}

    “We are on dangerous ground when we cannot meet together like Christians, and COURTEOUSLY EXAMINE CONTROVERTED POINTS. I feel like fleeing from the place lest I receive the mold of those who cannot candidly investigate the doctrines of the Bible.” (1SM 411.1; Emphasis supplied)

    “Those who CANNOT IMPARTIALLY EXAMINE the evidences of a position that DIFFERS from theirs, ARE NOT FIT TO TEACH IN ANY DEPARTMENT of God’s cause. What we need is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Without this, we are no more fitted to go forth to the world than were the disciples after the crucifixion of their Lord” (1SM 411.2; Emphasis supplied).

    If WE were all willing to follow what EGW says we would not be in such a heated debate now nor threatening what we might do IF the voted does not go our way. (This vote was already made 25 years ago in 1990, and then in 1995, and this should have settled the matter, but some will not let it go and are determined to have their way, eventually.

    “God is leading a people out from the world upon the exalted platform of eternal truth, the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. He will discipline and fit up His people. They will not be at variance, one believing one thing, and another having faith and views entirely opposite; each moving independently of the body. Through the diversity of the gifts and governments that He has placed in the church, they will all come to the unity of the faith. If one man takes his views of Bible truth without regard to the opinion of his brethren, and justifies his course, alleging that he has a right to his own peculiar views, and then presses them upon others, how can he be fulfilling the prayer of Christ? And if another and still another arises, each asserting his right to believe and talk what he pleases, without reference to the faith of the body, where will be that harmony which existed between Christ and His Father, and which Christ prayed might exist among His brethren?” {CET 201.2}

    “Though we have an individual work and an individual responsibility before God, we are not to follow our own independent judgment, regardless of the opinions and feelings of our brethren; for this course would lead to disorder in the church. It is the duty of ministers to respect the judgment of their brethren; but their relations to one another, as well as the doctrines they teach, should be brought to the test of the law and the testimony; then, if hearts are teachable, there will be no divisions among us. Some are inclined to be disorderly, and are drifting away from the great landmarks of the faith; but God is moving upon His ministers to be one in doctrine and in spirit.” {CET 203.1}

    “It is necessary that our unity today be of a character that will bear the test of trial…. We have many lessons to learn, and many, many to unlearn. God and Heaven alone are infallible. Those who think that they will never have to give up a cherished view, never have occasion to change an opinion, will be disappointed. As long as we hold to our own ideas and opinions with determined persistency, we cannot have the unity for which Christ prayed. “{CET 203.2}

    “When a brother receives new light upon the Scriptures, he should frankly explain his position, and every minister should search the Scriptures with the spirit of candor to see if the points presented can be substantiated by the inspired word. “The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” 2 Timothy 2:24, 25.” {CET 203.3}

    Reply
    1. Jon Paulien Post author

      Richard, I have always appreciated your passion for truth and your carefulness in its defense. Your comment makes perfect sense within its own logic. But if it were as simple as you try to make it, why did the Annual Council vote a document that says the Bible neither mandates nor forbids the ordination of women (a document recommended unanimously by top leadership)? I have sat on the Biblical Research Committee for fifteen years (the parent committee of TOSC) and have heard all the arguments on both sides. Two observations have impressed themselves upon me. 1) The NT concept of “ordination” (based on a Latin word with no exact NT equivalent) does not address all the weight we place on that word due to long tradition and usage. Our pioneers started ordaining for practical reasons, not because they were driven to it by Scripture. 2) People can convincingly argue opposites from the Bible when the Bible itself never asks the question we are asking. Both sides are working from inferences. None of the texts you quote asks the question you are answering. You may prove to be right in the ultimate scheme of things, but the arguments you give are compelling only for those who buy certain assumptions. If I am right, you would be wise in God’s eyes not to pressure people to see things your way, lest they lose their faith in Scripture when they draw the conclusion that you have overstated your case.

      Best wishes and prayers for your good health and success.

      Reply
  16. Pastor Richard P. Mendoz

    Thanks so very much for being willing to respond so kindly to my burden in what I have written. I will take the time to re-read what you wrote and to prayerfully and humbly contemplate my position in that light. I highly respect you as a real Christian brother, and always have, That will never change. I also view all who are serving the church on the research committee, both for and againsts, as Christian brothers and sisters. BUT I believe the Bible is the sole standard for our faith and practice and we must follow EGW’s counsel of DEMANDING a “Thus saith the Lord” in the support of any doctrine or precept “BEFORE ACCEPTING” it. (GC 592.

    “why did the Annual Council vote a document that says the Bible neither mandates nor forbids the ordination of women (a document recommended unanimously by top leadership)?”

    Can you give me that specific document reference so I can re-read it again and re-evaluate what I have understood by what they voted?

    I believe, they did not find consensus among themselves, and NOT that the Bible does not forbid the ordination of women, for it does by virtue of the fact that no woman was ordained as described by EGW in DA “He Ordained Twelve” (not according to the Latin interpretation) in all of the Bible as an elder/pastor of any church congregation. The fact that a plain Thus Saith the Lord is that ANYONE who desires the office of an elder “MUST BE the husband of one wife” (faithful to his wife and not a flirtatious with other women), is enough to equate to a “forbidding” of women’s ordination BECAUSE they cannot be “husbands,” which by its very nature and inherent within itself is masculine. I have address Ron DuPreez personally on his rational that the Greek “aner” can include both male and female, BUT NEVER when use in conjunction with “gune,” which renders “aner” as only being translated as MAN or “husband.” He wrote back and said he was disappoint with me but never answered this point of objection. Do you have an explanation? The vast majority of Bible scholars support the rendering of this text just as it is in the KJV. I know enough Greek to know that this is what the text says, unless I am overlooking something.

    I simple believe we ought to follow what EGW has said when trying to decide such controversies as does the Bible teach the ordination of women by precept, doctrine, or example;

    “The word of God is the great detector of error; to it we believe everything must be brought.

    The Bible must be our standard for every doctrine and preaching. We must study it reverentially. We are to receive no one’s opinion without comparing it with the Scriptures. Here is divine authority which is supreme in matters of faith.

    It is the word of the living God that is to decide all controversies.”
    The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials. 1987; 2002 (44). Ellen G. White Estate.

    “Let all prove their position from the Scripture and substantiate every point they claim as truth from the revealed Word of God.” Evangelism, p. 256.

    “We are on dangerous ground when we cannot meet together like Christians, and courteously examine controverted points. I feel like fleeing from the place lest I receive the mold of those who cannot candidly investigate the doctrines of the Bible.” (1 Selected Messages 411.1; Emphasis supplied)

    “Those who cannot impartially examine the evidences of a position that differs from theirs, are not fit to teach in any department of God’s cause. What we need is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Without this, we are no more fitted to go forth to the world than were the disciples after the crucifixion of their Lord” (1 Selected Messages 411.2; Emphasis supplied).

    “We must learn that others have rights as well as we have, and when any of our brethren receive new light upon the Scriptures, he should frankly explain his position, and every minister should search the Scriptures with the spirit of candor to see if the points presented on a new subject can be substantiated by the inspired word.”
    The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, Search the Scriptures, parg. 08, p. 991.

    Ellen G. White ~ Counsel on Argument and Debate,
    ~ The Benefits of Religious Controversy

    “If a brother is teaching error, those who are in responsible positions ought to know it; and if he is teaching truth, they ought to take their stand at his side.

    We should all know what is being taught among us; for if it is truth, we need to know it. The Sabbath school teacher needs to know it, and every Sabbath school scholar ought to understand it.

    We are all under obligation to God to understand what He sends us. He has given directions by which we may test every doctrine–“To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” But if it is according to this test, do not be so full of prejudice that you cannot acknowledge a point simply because it does not agree with your ideas.” {TM 110.3}

    White, E. G. (1923; 2002). Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers (110). Pacific Press Publishing Association.

    ​”We must learn that others have rights as well as we have, and when any of our brethren receive new light upon the Scriptures, he should frankly explain his position, and every minister should search the Scriptures with the spirit of candor to see if the points presented on a new subject can be substantiated by the inspired word.”

    The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, Search the Scriptures, parg. 08, p. 991.

    “When views are presented that do not seem in harmony with your own, it should drive you to study your Bible, and investigate it to see if you yourself hold the right position on the subject.

    That another holds a different opinion, SHOULD NOT STIR UP THE VERY WORST TRAITS OF YOUR NATURE.

    You should love your brother, and say, “I am willing to investigate your views. Let us come right to the word of God, and prove by the law and the testimony what is truth.” ”

    Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, 08-27-89, The Test of Doctrine, parg. 03.

    “Those who CANNOT IMPARTIALLY EXAMINE the evidences of a position that DIFFERS from theirs, ARE NOT FIT TO TEACH IN ANY DEPARTMENT of God’s cause. What we need is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Without this, we are no more fitted to go forth to the world than were the disciples after the crucifixion of their Lord” (1SM 411.2; Emphasis supplied). . .

    “Some have feared that if in even a single point they acknowledge themselves in error, other minds would be led to doubt the whole theory of truth. Therefore they have felt that INVESTIGATIONS SHOULD NOT BE PERMITTED, that it would tend TO DISSENSION and DISUNION.

    But if such is to be the result of investigation, the sooner it comes the better. If there are those whose faith in God’s word will not stand the test of an investigation of the Scriptures, the sooner they are revealed the better; for then the way will be opened to show them their error.

    We cannot hold that a position once taken, an idea once advocated, is not, under any circumstances, to be relinquished. There is but One who is infallible-He who is the way, the truth, and the life.” Testimonies to Ministers, p. 105.2

    “Those who think that they will never have to give up a cherished view, never have occasion to change an opinion, will be disappointed.”
    Testimonies to Ministers, p. 30.

    ​. . . As real spiritual life declines, it has ever been the tendency to cease to advance in the knowledge of the truth. Men rest satisfied with the light already received from God’s word and discourage any further investigation of the Scriptures. They become conservative and seek to avoid discussion. {5T 706.2}

    The fact that there is no controversy or agitation among God’s people should not be regarded as conclusive evidence that they are holding fast to sound doctrine. There is reason to fear that they may not be clearly discriminating between truth and error. When no new questions are started by investigation of the Scriptures, when no difference of opinion arises which will set men to searching the Bible for themselves to make sure that they have the truth, there will be many now, as in ancient times, who will hold to tradition and worship they know not what. {5T 707.1}

    I have been shown that many who profess to have a knowledge of present truth know not what they believe. They do not understand the evidences of their faith. They have no just appreciation of the work for the present time. When the time of trial shall come, there are men now preaching to others who will find, upon examining the positions they hold, that there are many things for which they can give no satisfactory reason. Until thus tested they knew not their great ignorance. And there are many in the church who take it for granted that they understand what they believe; but, until controversy arises, they do not know their own weakness. When separated from those of like faith and compelled to stand singly and alone to explain their belief, they will be surprised to see how confused are their ideas of what they had accepted as truth. Certain it is that there has been among us a departure from the living God and a turning to men, putting human in place of divine wisdom. {5T 707.2}

    God will arouse His people; if other means fail, heresies will come in among them, which will sift them, separating the chaff from the wheat. The Lord calls upon all who believe His word to awake out of sleep. Precious light has come, appropriate for this time. It is Bible truth, showing the perils that are right upon us. This light should lead us to a diligent study of the Scriptures and a most critical examination of the positions which we hold.

    God would have all the bearings and positions of truth thoroughly and perseveringly searched, with prayer and fasting. Believers are not to rest in suppositions and ill-defined ideas of what constitutes truth. Their faith must be firmly founded upon the word of God so that when the testing time shall come and they are brought before councils to answer for their faith they may be able to give a reason for the hope that is in them, with meekness and fear. {5T 707.3}

    Agitate, agitate, agitate. The subjects which we present to the world must be to us a living reality.

    It is important that in defending the doctrines which we consider fundamental articles of faith we should never allow ourselves to employ arguments that are not wholly sound.

    These may avail to silence an opposer, but they do not honor the truth. We should present sound arguments, that will not only silence our opponents, but will bear the closest and most searching scrutiny.

    With those who have educated themselves as debaters there is great danger that they will not handle the word of God with fairness. In meeting an opponent it should be our earnest effort to present subjects in such a manner as to awaken conviction in his mind, instead of seeking merely to give confidence to the believer. {5T 708.1}

    Whatever may be man’s intellectual advancement, let him not for a moment think that there is no need of thorough and continuous searching of the Scriptures for greater light. As a people we are called individually to be students of prophecy. We must watch with earnestness that we may discern any ray of light which God shall present to us. We are to catch the first gleamings of truth; and through prayerful study clearer light may be obtained, which can be brought before others. {5T 708.2}

    When God’s people are at ease and satisfied with their present enlightenment, we may be sure that He will not favor them. It is His will that they should be ever moving forward to receive the increased and ever-increasing light which is shining for them. The present attitude of the church is not pleasing to God. There has come in a self-confidence that has led them to feel no necessity for more truth and greater light. We are living at a time when Satan is at work on the right hand and on the left, before and behind us; and yet as a people we are asleep. God wills that a voice shall be heard arousing His people to action. {5T 708.3}

    Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5. 1855; 2002 (706). Pacific Press Publishing Association

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