Dr. Larry Geraty is President Emeritus of La Sierra University in Southern California and served as a delegate at the General Conference Session when the Adventist Statement of Fundamental Beliefs were adopted in 1980. He is currently serving as a delegate at this General Conference Session.
The following is a draft of Geraty’s partially-aborted speech on the Alamodome floor during the discussion regarding revisions of Fundamental Beliefs at the 60th GC Session on Monday, July 6, 2015. His remarks fell victim to a 2-minute time limit implemented during the morning session. Being delayed by a delegation to the La Sierra University exhibit, Geraty was a few minutes late to the morning business session and missed the fact that the limit had been adopted. His prepared remarks follow. -Ed.
I applaud the work of the editors who have worked hard to revise and improve this statement of Fundamental Beliefs. Having been a delegate at the Dallas GC Session in 1980 when they were adopted, I would say the process we are engaged in now, when it comes to changes, is what was intended back then.
The editors have followed a deliberate and careful process, and have been especially successful at employing gender neutral language so all Adventist believers feel included. I’m sure I speak for all delegates when I say we are grateful for that.
A few changes, however, appear to be designed to exclude. Some of these are found in number 6, on Creation, at the bottom of page 54. Certainly all the delegates hold the Bible to be our authority. In fact the very first line of our Fundamental Beliefs on page 53, line 12, expresses it well when it says the Bible is our only creed.
So the problem I wish to address is the proposed wording in the Creation statement that is non-biblical. There are interpretations that have been inserted—interpretations that are possible and may even be right because they come from the writing of Ellen White, but not the Bible. Thus they open us to the charge by critics that we base our beliefs on Ellen White and not the Bible. We say we are committed to Sola Scriptura but in these proposed changes we suggest otherwise. Are we Protestants or aren’t we? Do we again want to open ourselves to the charge of being a cult and basing our beliefs on Ellen White rather than the Bible?
In the spirit of the editorial comment across from page 54, line 29, which says “our creation statement should reflect this biblical information without developing it,” I refer back to the committee the following:
1. Why do we need to insert on line 35 the word “recent”? Nowhere in the Bible is the date of creation mentioned. To get an answer to that we need to go to the book of nature, the second divinely-bequeathed book of revelation. Ellen White herself tells us that our interpretations need to come from the correct understanding of both God’s Word in scripture, and God’s Work in the natural world. And we’re still working on that. So why pre-empt that process for our members?
2. And again, why insert the word “literal” in line 39? I personally happen to believe Moses had nothing else in mind other than literal, 24-hour days, but those words are not biblical. That was not a biblical concern so why should we make it a test of fellowship for our scientists and historians? It is not a matter of salvation.
3. Again, line 35 inserts the word “historical.” If anything should be inserted there it should be “theological.” Genesis 1 teaches us about God. There were many other similar creation accounts in the ancient world that preceded Moses; they claimed Egyptian and Mesopotamian gods were responsible for creation. So Moses in Genesis 1 is a polemic against those other gods. He doesn’t even mention the words “sun” and “moon” because those were names of pagan deities in his contemporary world, so he calls them the greater light and lesser light. Every single sentence in Genesis 1 has as its subject God, not creation.
4. In belief number 8, the Great Controversy, on page 55, lines 28 and 29, “the worldwide flood, as presented in the historical account of Genesis 1-11” should be left out for two reasons: this insertion is the only one that puts the textual reference in the body of the paragraph; in all others the references come at the end. Furthermore the account is not really historical as we usually define history. It is really theology, though it is also pre-history.
Aren’t we here today as part of an international, global family? A family has members with many different views and levels of understanding and interpretation based on age, training, experience, and opportunity. Do we want to exclude any of them from the family because they may differ on a matter that is not crucial for salvation? Shouldn’t each member be given the opportunity to study for oneself such matters?
That is the issue before us today.
So I have four amendments to propose in statement six and eight that will allow Scripture to speak for itself:
1. I move to exclude on line 35 the word “recent” that has been inserted because it is not biblical.
2. I move to leave out lines 39 and 40 that have been inserted. They are rhetorically redundant except for the world “literal.”
3. I move to substitute in line 35 the word “theological” for the inserted word “historical.”
4. And in statement 8, I move to leave out lines 28 and 29 for both rhetorical and scholarly accurate reasons.
Should there be time, I have a more extensive rationale for each edit or change I’ve proposed—with the overall goal of making beliefs six and eight biblically sound.