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Dear Cliff, Redux

Dear Cliff,

(Yes, here we go again.) I recently read your new “Seventh-day Adventist Darwinians, Redux” article. (Dear Spectrum reader, in lieu of a summary, I recommend reading that article first.)

Back to dear Cliff: how does a book with no Adventist contributors that posits a non-interventionist God in the context of evolution equal what you’ve been saying about Adventists who take the massive weight of evolutionary science seriously? May I offer that an essay with more internal logic than polemic would include actual statements from Adventists that mirror those of the contributors. You fail to show a single example.

Are you aware of major Adventist “progressive” contributions to Evangelical thought like open theories of God’s knowledge and action, which are explicitly interventionist. Some of these fine folks are not creation literalists. For evidence of Adventist alternatives, see the sold out Creation Reconsidered.

I can also think of major non-Adventist but hermeneutically very conservative Christians who take evolutionary science seriously while making philosophically coherent arguments for evil that rely on the text. These include:

  • Henri Blocher’s In the Beginning,
  • Christopher Southgate’s The Groaning of Creation: God, Evolution, and the Problem of Evil,
  • Bruce Waltke’s An Old Testament Theology,
  • W.R.L. Moberly’s The Theology of Genesis.

If you’re going to pepper your brief essay with conditionals about what “an honest Adventist,” would read, and with Omega/eschaton dog whistles like “full-frontal assault on Adventist beliefs” you might show that you are aware of the history of Adventist and conservative evangelical integrations of scripture with geological and biological research.

You, and the Educate Truth crowd, who have made clear that your first essay motivated them to begin this attack on Adventist academia, appear less interested in really wrestling with the issues and instead grab extreme examples with which to paint your opponents. Stripping your article down, you mash together some fragments by a few Christian evolutionists and then say, this is what those dangerous Adventists believe – because of the link of evolution. That’s a non sequitur. David Koresh believed in the second coming, and so do you. Plenty of apostates accept your logical premises about the heavenly sanctuary. Beliefs are not the only determining factor in telling a person’s philosophy. As too many Adventists forget, it also matters how we act on our beliefs. Perhaps if we removed this culture of fear about exploring ways to integrate the evolving weight of evidence with our faith in God, we might find our Bibles less dusty.

In fact, it’s your polemical portmanteau, Seventh-day Dawinians that breaks down your own argument. Just like the Educate Truth crowd who forgot that one cannot teach something to an ideal, your portmanteau reveals a false choice – Darwin or Adventist. In fact, just as researchers have evolved those 19th century scientific theories, we Adventists continue to modify our own identity. We don’t have to throw out the Adventist baby with the coming scientific bathwater unless we define the Seventh-day by Cradle Roll.

I’ve noticed this slippery slope pattern in your polemics, and in your attraction to theoreticians like Peter Singer and Richard Dawkins. With you it’s either extreme literalism or extreme atheism. But I don’t see you actually addressing the questions that need answering to make the “literalism” work.

How are you helping young Adventist biology students grow into mature members of the community, beyond threatening them with scare clichés like “full-frontal assault on Adventist beliefs?” How are you actually helping the next generation faithfully address the weight of evidence in the sciences?

This logically extreme stance reminds me of a “believing atheist.” Someone who, for God to exist, must believe very little about the world. This sort of fideism puts an unbalanced emphasis on the intellectual while dismissing the physical. It’s impractical Christianity. There are dangerous strains of gnosticism in this framework and it’s not a healthy way of interacting with God’s revelation through creation. One just postpones the crash, and separates their faith farther and farther away from their ethics and our world.

There are a lot of theological assumptions that you leave unaddressed in the essay, but it would be helpful to hear from you how you explain God’s omniscience and creation of Satan. How does that differ from your reductive assay of the compilation’s theme: “God is responsible for the natural evil that He, Himself, built into the universe?”

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