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Perhaps It Really Is About Adventist Higher Ed

In the recent heated discussion here on the Spectrum blog about creation and evolution, a comment after the first article, by a Brandon shows that this is not really about evolution, but a general attack on Adventist higher education.

There he writes:

“If half of our students realize the work that has been ordained for us as Seventh-day Adventist in proclaiming the Three Angels Messages’ our modern schools of Adventist education would be bankrupt.”

Having been educated at a self-supporting institution myself, I’m very familiar with this sentiment. I recall one Bible teacher encouraging some of us not to attend college, but join with him in an itinerant evangelism enterprise. I went off to Andrews, went to graduate school, have faith and love my church. Where’s he? For a while he was working construction. Now he’s at another self-supporting academy.

Ever since Ellen White fought to establish Loma Linda University and left us a legacy of accreditation – aiming to be the Daniels to the world – there have been folks who fight against that. They try to establish “blue print” schools hoping to create a “pure” doctrinal, thus spiritual, experience. Even with massive funding from wealthy conservative Adventists these attempts fail over and over.

On the other hand, the integrated denominational system that Ellen White helped establish continues to educate hundreds of thousands of young people for Christian service and as witnesses to our variegated values. (Anyone want to count the ways that Adventists define the gift of prophecy, particularly in light of Ellen White’s literary dependency?)

We should be proud of her educational insights and the Adventist educational legacy – not wishing its bankruptcy.

On the site that is calling into question the wisdom of teaching evolution, Sean Pitman writes:

But hey, if the SDA Church wants to make public policy such that its own fundamental doctrinal positions are really nothing more than 28 nice suggestions, that’s fine. It just should be publicly stated that way so as to avoid any semblance of false advertising. It should be clearly stated that the SDA Church really takes no definitive stand on anything as an organization and that its own paid representatives are perfectly free to say and do anything they please without any sort of remonstration on the part of the Church leadership or “government” whatsoever – especially when it comes to those “suggestions” that form the very basis of the name of the SDA Church itself.

Sweeping generalization logical fallacies aside, there is clearly an attempt to force all 28 on folks contra what the preamble says. (Were we really not believers while we waited for the latest one?)

The suggestion from these two men that we evangelize or go bankrupt – believe all or it’s all meaningless sets up a false dichotomy. It is an unbalanced tendency toward purification and annihilation that lies at the end of a theology, particularly an ecclesiology, that essentializes – that treats belief, and one or two in particular, as the only way to make sense of our relationship with God and each other.

Follow the logic of recent attacks on Adventist higher ed, from Goldstein to Brandon, and one ends up exploring the far wasteland of existential alienation.

Thank God our church leadership recognizes this and knows that a random loud voice or two doesn’t mean the end of everything. That’s up to God. Until then, let’s do our best to learn (No fear – God is more powerful than Satan) and share ideas and Christian love. Through education we can better this life as well as prepare for the eternal one to come.

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