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An Open Letter to Educate Truth

I am addressing you in an open letter because I think that others should be aware of the places where you differ considerably from the conservative positions that most think you uphold. I have discussed this with you personally, as Matthew would have me do, and publically at your website. This letter is to help the larger community put your comments into context.

At Educate Truth, you have incessantly belittled those who accept a simple “Thus saith the Lord,” labeling their beliefs “blind faith” and declaring them as useless as belief in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. You continue to reject the clear statements from Ellen White (Great Controversy, p. 595), the Church (the 1986 “Rio” document approved by the GC in session), and SDA Biblical Research Institute scholars (Richard Davidson, Edward Zinke), all of whom leave no room for doubt: the Church’s official hermeneutic (historical-grammatical) rejects higher criticism and accepts only Sola Scriptura–God’s word at face value. You insist that we can rely on our reason and empirical evidence to judge the validity of God’s word (the historical-critical hermeneutic), but we do so at the same peril that befell Eve and Adam. Satan exploited their reliance on reason and empirical evidence; after all, he (the speaking serpent) had eaten the forbidden fruit, could talk, appeared to be wise, and didn’t die. The test Adam and Eve failed was a very simple one: Could God’s word be trusted?

I appreciate the way Dr. Richard Davidson, J. N. Andrews Professor of Old Testament Interpretation of Andrews University and a member of the SDA Biblical Research Institute Committee, cautioned against your heterodox theology. “Humankind’s mental and emotional faculties have also become depraved since the Fall; but even before the Fall, neither human reason nor experience could safely be trusted apart from or superior to God’s Word. This was the very point upon which Eve fell–trusting her own reason and emotions over the Word of God (Gen 3:1-6). The wisest man in history (who ultimately failed to heed his own warning) perceptively observed: ‘There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death’ (Prov 14:12).” You can read more about the contrast between your historical-critical hermeneutic and the Church’s historical-grammatical hermeneutic in Dr. Davidson’s outstanding article. I would like to see you articulate specifically why the SDA Church, in your opinion, has mistakenly rejected the historical-critical hermeneutic that you so forcefully espouse.

I think your position is particularly dangerous because those who learn at your knee will resonate with your call to test scripture with science, and if and when they are confronted with evidence they cannot resolve, they may give in to Satan’s deception. If, on the other hand, their faith and beliefs are well grounded in scripture and the convictions of a personal relationship with Jesus, they are much more likely to weather the storm.

Our Church needs more men and women who are willing to trust God when human reason contradicts His word. Your theology makes the heroes of old in Hebrews 11 look like fools. Noah should have disregarded God’s instruction to build a massive boat to escape a rain and a flood the proportions of which reason would dictate to be impossible. Abraham, a man of reason, should never have subjected his family to the risks of relocating to a land he knew nothing about. Moses should never have risked his life to take on Pharoah when all evidence suggested God’s request would be impossible to carry out. Joshua should have laughed at the command to bring down an entire city (Jericho) through the unprecedented use of sound waves. Why do you poke fun at modern day Daniels who believe God can be taken at his word? Yes, these wise men did have evidence of God’s leading, as you have insisted, but they were singled out by the author of Hebrews because of their extraordinary courage to go where no man had gone before–and on the basis of faith rather than empirical evidence.

I believe there is grave danger when apologetics is used as a crutch for faith. Do we really need the rocks to declare “made in heaven” before we can accept the truths of Genesis and Scripture? I have objected to your work at Educate Truth largely because of the emphasis on apologetics and how we can feel secure that the “weight of evidence” supports the SDA position.

Does the “weight of evidence” truly support our position? That depends on a highly personal and subjective interpretation of extremely technical data. Vanishingly few, if any of us, are qualified to reach such a conclusion. Sadly, many place their faith in the proclamations of self-declared authorities on creationism–like you. Sure, there is SOME evidence supporting our postion, but we are opposed by a brilliant foe whom Ellen White warns possesses considerable influence on the natural world. When we base our beliefs on empirical evidence from the natural world, we are vulnerable to deception. Satan may well have altered the evidence. God has always left room for doubt, and that is where faith comes in. Faith also allows for supernatural intervention and miracles, which cannot be confirmed by your reliance on science.

At last year’s Seventh-day Adventist world session in Atlanta, Georgia, Ariel Roth, former director of the Geoscience Research Institute, declared, “Don’t let anyone ever tell you there is no scientific evidence for young life on earth.” I don’t object to his statement. However, the more pertinent proclamation might have been: “Don’t let anyone ever tell you that your beliefs depend on whether there is evidence for young life on earth.” The difference is not so subtle, and appears to be greatly unappreciated by many readers at your website. I’m concerned, too, that the General Conference leaders fail to appreciate the difference.

I believe you are wrong not only in your theology, which clearly undermines the most fundamental of SDA fundamental beliefs, but also in your science. In your years of study, you have convinced yourself that the “weight of evidence” supports our teachings on Genesis and origins. I commend you for reaching that conclusion. However, many of us see your conclusion based on cherry-picked data. You insist, for example, that those things that can be tested have proven themselves to be true, and you can rattle off many examples. But you ignore the fact that we can test whether an axe head can float on water, whether a pile of dust has the ingredients to form a human body, and whether a deceased body can come back to life three days later. You conveniently label these as “metaphysical claims,” but they are every bit as testable and falsifiable as any other evidence, and they utterly fail your criterion of evidence-based belief. Yet you insist that you believe only where the evidence leads you.

I have been assured by several SDA biologist colleagues that the vast majority of SDA scientists reject many of your claims, as I do. This is not because many of these individuals are unfaithful heretics that are actively undermining the Church’s beliefs, much as you and others would like us to believe. They have arrived at their conclusions from careful, honest study, and yet the vast majority remain faithful to the Church and its teachings because of their simple faith in God’s word. They acknowledge that our understanding of empirical evidence is limited and fraught with problems. Nevertheless, these scientists remain true to the Church in their beliefs and teachings–and for reasons you feel at liberty to attack.

You have gone so far as to declare unfit for denominational employment any scientist unwilling to teach or proclaim that the “weight of evidence” supports our position. You chose to publicly excoriate one particular scientist at the Geoscience Research Institute, who told the SDA World Session audience that we lack a suitable working model to explain creationism, and that he accepts the Genesis account at face value based on faith in God’s word. This humble scientist should have been uplifted as an Adventist who exemplified the Church’s hermeneutic at its finest–and he did so despite intense pressure from the Educate Truth crowd to cave in to demands for all-out apologetics. Your public persecution of this scientist and call for his termination reflected the height of arrogance in your convictions.

The SDA Church, as you surely must recognize, has never adopted a position that the “weight of evidence” favors our interpretation of Genesis and origins, and it will never require its scientists to adhere to this position. Those who reach a different conclusion than you on science and empirical evidence are not necessarily undermining the Church’s fundamental beliefs. The irony, sir, is that you have been doing as much as anyone else to undermine our cherished beliefs, however well intended your methods and motives might have been.

There have been some SDA biologists who have given in to the very approach you advocate: placing empirical evidence above God’s simple word. Fortunately, they have not gone so far as you might: you have stated repeatedly that if you became convinced by the evidence that young earth creationism was wrong, you would abandon your faith (if that is what you call it) altogether. Nevertheless, I personally lament the situation created by any errant faculty member; anyone teaching science at our institutions absolutely must respect and support the Church’s teachings. However, the vast majority of the Church’s scientists do in fact place scripture above science and reason, and steadfastly resist the pressure you and your disciples put on them to issue false reassurances. These honorable men and women deserve praise for upholding Sola Scriptura, not the suspicion, scorn, and witch hunt that you have orchestrated.

I have taught thousands of young people at both private and public universities. I have seen many walk away from their beliefs when they could not resolve science, reason, and empirical evidence with the teachings from their childhood. My heart has yearned for these young people. I believe sincerely their faith was grounded inadequately in Scripture and in a personal relationship with Jesus. Who is to blame for this? Our university biologists? I don’t think so!

Please reconsider your position. I don’t think you meant to be the kettle calling the pot black, or the author of confusion. Your theological error, though, is doing untold damage to your followers as you lead them away from SDA theology and the faith of our fathers, setting them up for the great deceiver.

Until the whole world hears,

Professor Jeffrey Kent, Ph.D.

P.S. I would like to thank Phil Brantley for pointing out the distinction between the historical-critical and historical-grammatical hermeneutics. His insight has sharpened my own thinking and concerns regarding the heresy at Educate Truth.

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