A Response to San Antonio

To those who like to hear something from me here every week or so, I apologize. Between several short trips and some extra challenges at the office I have not had the extra time to think through and process thoughts to share here. Hopefully I can be consistent again from here one.

People are asking for my reaction to the ordination vote at the SDA General Conference in San Antonio, so that seems like a good place to start.

Naturally, I am disappointed in the No vote on the question of allowing divisions of the church to assess whether or not ordaining women would be helpful to the mission in those divisions. I am disappointed because I feel the action was contrary to the Bible. As I have shown in the past, unity in the New Testament did not require all regions to have the same policies and practices. But the delegates felt differently. I am disappointed because the vote did not respect the doctrine of ordination already voted by the church. According to that doctrine, there is little difference between hiring someone and ordaining them. Both actions indicate the same thing, we trust that person to speak for us. So why we would hire a woman yet not ordain her doesn’t make sense to me. I am disappointed because I felt that my brothers and sisters around the world did not show respect for the conclusions of at least five divisions, several of which studied the subject more deeply than any other SDA group in the history of the church. I am disappointed because Adventists in some parts of the world will pay a heavy price for a decision largely imposed upon them by Adventists in other parts of the world. That doesn’t feel good and is hard to explain to my children.

But enough of disappointment. If I am wrong, my disappointment needs to be repented of. If I am right I need to forgive. Either way the above paragraph needs to be the end of my disappointment, lest I lose that which matters most; peace with God, others, and myself.

An emerging take-away from the recent General Conference is the realization that both sides in the ordination debate felt their way of reading Scripture was in harmony with Adventist understanding. That understanding was voted by the Annual Council in Rio de Janeiro in 1986: http://www.adventist.org/en/information/official-statements/documents/article/go/0/methods-of-bible-study/. Nevertheless, that traditional hermeneutic did not produce agreement regarding the Bible’s teaching on the subject of ordination. I have already shared my understanding of the two different approaches and the strengths and weaknesses of each. In my next blog I will summarize my earlier work before sharing a practical hermeneutic that all can practice and which might help us to see the Bible with fresh eyes. To move the church beyond the impasse we need to find a biblical approach that all can agree on. I have an idea about that. . . (but after I summarize the current situation).

25 thoughts on “A Response to San Antonio

  1. John

    The work of theologians doesn’t necessarily translate into agreement between Churches or members, why would we think it does? Theologians have studied issues with their agenda in sight as long as they have existed. Theologians have produced rationale to justify Seventh-day Adventist Sunday-keeping in several Pacific Islands. My question is: Why wasn’t that issue on the agenda at San Antonio?

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    1. wilson

      Just a thought, not related to the current issue at all. Does the bible forbid anyone/evangilist, not ordained pastor, to baptize a convert from his own effort? I am not a pastor, if the person I have been studying the bible with decided to be baptized, why should I turn him over to a pastor? Does one really have to go to school to do this? Those disciples were commissioned to preach, baptize and teach. Now, I go preach, do not baptize and teach. Why?

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      1. wilson

        Question;
        Romans 8:35-39 Please explain. It just doesn’t make any sense to me. Please tell me the difference between love of Christ and love for Christ, love of God and love for God.

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        1. Jon Paulien Post author

          The Greek in Rom 8:35 is literally “love of Christ” which is ambiguous grammatically (love from or toward Christ). In context it is clearly Christ’s love for us that is in view. The text is assuring us of Christ’s unfailing commitment to us. We can leave Him, but He will never stop loving us.

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      2. Jon Paulien Post author

        A good question that the Bible does not specifically address. So it is wise to be guided by the community you have chosen to be a part of. In Seventh-day Adventist practice, the act of baptism is reserved for those who have been designated to perform that act. There is value in such an approach, even if it may be inconvenient in your case.

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    2. Jon Paulien Post author

      Do you mean the issue of Sunday keeping on Pacific Islands? That probably didn’t come on the agenda at GC because it was a local matter having to do with the location of the date line, a purely human invention with challenging implications for time-keeping if it happens to pass through your country. You are right, scholars constantly have to battle bias, the value in scholarship is that scholars are usually aware of their own biases, most people are only aware of the biases of others.

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      1. Wilson

        So if we go through trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger or sword because of our faith, and endure them all because we’re conscious of God, Jesus still loves us and will not fail loving us. Does that sound right? Of course were doing this for Him how could he not love us (though His love is independent of what we do or who we are). Doesn’t it sound more right if Paul had said ‘even if we fail him, fosake him and don’t wanna bear the name Christian to avoid persecution Jesus still loves us. Nothing will separate us from Hiss love.’ Of course the day is coming that the Spirit will no longer put up with such defiance. But right now this is the reality. His love toward us is unconditional, salvation is. I hope you understand where I am coming from. Thank you.

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        1. Wilson

          It is, then, a policy not really a belief kind of thing. Personally, would you acknowledge ones baptism in Crhist if he or she was baptized by me? Just curious. Don’t get me wrong sir, never thuoght about that, not even in my wildest dream. I just encountered someone long time ago who wanted to dip his converts. Thanks.

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      2. John Wallace

        That’s a fairly exclusive sounding statement. I think I’m aware of my biases. I am certainly biased in favour of Saturday being the Sabbath, so I object to people observing Sunday while calling themselves Seventh-day Adventist, especially with the sanction of the global leadership of the Church called Seventh-day Adventist! Here is the latest statement from the SPD paper – Record – June 18, 2016 – “The Seventh-day Adventist Church . . . officially recognises Sunday as the seventh day of the week and the legitimate Sabbath.” Does this bother you at all? Is the GC going along for this ride too? So apparently our Church has set itself up as the authority to decide which day is the Sabbath, the very same thing we have railed against regarding Roman Catholicism for a century and a half!

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        1. Jon Paulien Post author

          John, it’s a tough one. SPD decided Sabbath is every seventh day, GC decided it is Saturday as determined by the local government. Since neither solution is explicitly supported by Scripture (although the former seems closer to it), confusion is understandable. What solution would you propose?

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  2. Ranald McLeish

    Re the voting of FB 24 and Daniel 8:9-11.
    It appears the church’s understanding of these verses has become critical as far as the identity of the little horn, and the sanctuary of Daniel 8:9-11 is concerned. That is, do verses 9-11 apply to Rome and the earthly sanctuary, or to the Papacy and the heavenly sanctuary?

    I would appreciate your thoughts as to whether you see any light in the position that the little horn of 7:8 represents the Papacy only, and the little horn of 8:9 represents the Roman Empire only. That is verses 9-11 apply to the time of Rome and the destruction of the earthly temple, and the Papacy, the LH of 7:8, does not arrive on the scene of action until verse 12 in chapter 8.

    It appears this position may open a door that would allow the church to move forward regarding the identity of the little horns of Daniel 7 and 8.

    Reply
    1. Jon Paulien Post author

      Ranald, to be honest, when I went through Daniel 8:9-12 word by word and particle by particle I found it some of the most mind-numbing Hebrew anywhere in the Bible. I doubt one could come up with any compelling view based on that language, so your idea is as good as the next. 🙂

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  3. Ranald McLeish

    Re the voting of FB 24 and Daniel 8:9-11.
    It appears the church’s understanding of these verses has become critical as far as the identity of the little horn, and the sanctuary of Daniel 8:9-11 is concerned. That is, do verses 9-11 apply to Rome and the earthly sanctuary, or to the Papacy and the heavenly sanctuary?

    I would appreciate your thoughts as to whether you see any light in the position that the little horn of 7:8 represents the Papacy only, and the little horn of 8:9 represents the Roman Empire only. That is verses 9-11 apply to the time of Rome and the destruction of the earthly temple, and the Papacy, the LH of 7:8, does not arrive on the scene of action until verse 12 in chapter 8.

    It appears this position may open a door that would allow the church to move forward regarding the identity of the little horns of Daniel 7 and 8.

    Reply
  4. Jon Paulien Post author

    Wilson,

    The early church struggled with the same question and came to the conclusion that even if the pastor doing the baptizing turned out to be a wicked person, the baptism would still be valid as long as the person being baptized did it in good faith.

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  5. Anna Withers

    Thank you for your remarks. they are very healing. I support your view 100%. This is the end. We all need to be in the Lord’s army. If there is neither “male nor female,” why is this even an issue? Will pray that the Lord gives you wisdom. I am 78, and I pray for the Holy Spirit to give me wisdom. I have to believe He has instructed me. Thank you for your ministry.

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  6. John Wallace

    Thanks Dr Paulien. However local the Sunday keeping of a few SDA Pacific islanders seems, it means the SDA Church officially keeps both Saturday & Sunday. How better could we fit the Rev 3 description? Rich in ministries and message, wretchedly poor in practice. We might like to think its local but every member is affected.

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    1. Jon Paulien Post author

      Glad I don’t have to make that choice. One could argue both positions from the Bible. I agree though, worshipping on “Sunday” sounds creepy to an Adventist even if it is only a legislative fiat.

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      1. John

        The theological basis of SDA Sunday keeping in Samoa is false, ie: “the government changed the calendar and renamed the days.” This is a lie. Also it doesn’t explain Tonga’s SDA Church keeping Sunday since it’s inception, when Tonga has never changed its position in relation to the dateline. Saying that the dateline is “man made” is a red herring. God made our globe and set it spinning, so a line where the day begins is a necessity whether He mentioned it or not. He did say “have dominion.” Would that include a dateline? Does Paul’s call to respect the governing authorities include time keeping or is the SDA Church the world’s authority on that? The very thing we have consistently rebuked Rome for.
        The dominating agenda item at GC Session was pointless because the South Pacific Division is already acting independently on Adventist Sunday keeping. If it had been allowed on the floor at San Antonio I am sure the Church would have voted as they did on ordination. The issue was blocked by our Union from going forward to GC Session after our local Church and Conference voted to send it to the world Church for discussion.
        Our Church structure obviously has a weakness when a Division errs. They can stop the membership calling them to account via the system. Is there any wonder concerned members appeal for accountability through social media? Those with the power don’t even need to engage in the debate. Silence protects the status quo whether it is truth or error.

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        1. Jon Paulien Post author

          You seem like a very thoughtful person. I appreciate your comments. Would be interested in more info on Tonga. I also like your deduction that deciding on Sabbath in the islands is in part, at least, a “dominion” issue. Maybe God is less stressed about these things than we are. 🙂

          Reply

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