The best attended presentation in the “Yes, Creation!” series put on by the Geoscience Research Institute (GRI) at the General Conference Session in Atlanta was the one by the new GC President, Ted Wilson, “God’s Literal, Six-Day, Recent Creation–The Church’s Position.” The 200+ seat auditorium was packed early, even during the lecture in Spanish that preceded Wilson’s talk, prompting the organizer, Tim Standish, to facetiously remark “I’m glad to see that there is such an intense interest in our Spanish presentations!” We were told that there were as many people outside the auditorium trying to get in as there were already seated.
During the question and answer period Wilson announced that as a General Vice President he had been chairing the GRI Board and that although he had been elected President, the chairmanship of that board was something he cherished and planned to keep. He began his presentation by saying that GRI, the GC Science and Faith Council, and the Biblical Research Institute form the core of “defense for God’s Word.” He promised that the team he was building would make sure that the “SDA Church will stand firm for the pillars of the faith; we will not flinch nor be deterred.” What he went on to share, he said, was not the officially voted position but it was the officially understood position of the SDA Church. He referred to his paper as more of a “meditational approach” to the topic of Creation.
Wilson invited his listeners to “take a trip” with him through Orion to heaven itself, to the throne room of God Almighty. He described it as opulent but not ostentatious, basing his description on Revelation 4. “Why is God worthy of honor and glory there? Because He is the Creator.”
Despite the strong evidence for God as Creator, Genesis 1-11 is often seen as mythological and symbolic, said Wilson. “Specifically there is numerous evidence for literal, consecutive, contiguous seven days for creation as well as for a global flood.” Though none of this evidence was shared, Wilson did say that the “greatest evidence of all is the account in the Bible.” He went on to share several familiar biblical texts dealing with the significance of Sabbath (Isaiah 43-44, Exodus 20, and Revelation 14) as well as references from Ellen White (Patriarchs and Prophets 48 “you can’t get more clear than that”; Testimonies, vol. 9, page 18; Signs of the Times, March 20, 1879, “a magnificent quotation”). Wilson concluded that the reason we are Seventh-day Adventists is to remember who our Creator is, so the Sabbath is crucial to who we are; we hold to a literal creation because of the three-angels’ messages in Revelation. Wilson spent considerable time reviewing the contents of the ninth chapter of Patriarchs and Prophets (“The Literal Week,” pages 112-116), drawing out several phrases suggesting “this is a summation of the church’s position.” He stated specifically that “our position is based on a literal reading of Genesis,” and that the church’s sixth fundamental belief statement needs to include the following wording, “literal, recent six days” and “global flood.” His hope was that as the delegates leave Atlanta, “God’s people may, as Patriarchs and Prophets indicates, testify to God’s power and grace.”
In the question period that followed, Wilson was asked if he would in the future set up yearly programs for scientists to get together and have discussion. He responded that GRI provides such opportunities, including field study tours, as does his Faith and Science Council, but that he would, indeed, look for more engagement with teachers especially.
Another questioner asked about the increasingly popular position that the earth itself could be millions of years old but that the biosphere could be young–and what about the sun? Wilson acknowledged that some theologians and scientists put a “gap” between Genesis 1:1 and the following verses, but he personally, believes that everything was created 6,000 years ago, including the sun.
A third questioner stated that “what’s going on at LSU is an open sore–how do you intend to address this issue?” Wilson responded that he would love to see all Adventist teachers believe and accept creation “as the church does–that is our goal and objective.” “How that happens with a particular institution, there are many ways to address problems.” “SDA education has as its specific responsibility to form thoughtful persons as the foundation of true education.” “Let’s pray for that situation which is not an isolated one.”
A final questioner wanted to know what Wilson was going to do about textbooks being used in denominational schools. Wilson said he would have to add that issue to the list of items to look at but that he would work with the Department of Education. “We can’t leave this assignment only to our schools.” “Most of the time they are giving a clear witness, but we must begin in the home where parents have a responsibility.” He went on to say that in his own home, growing up, he never heard a word of derision regarding the Bible or Spirit of Prophecy. “My precious parents left me with an anchor that will never be moved. So start with your family, then work with school administrators to bring back the central focus on the Word of God.”
Larry Geraty earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University and is president emeritus of La Sierra University.
Photo: Josef Kissinger/ANN