It might seem ironic that a person named Calvin Thomsen would criticize the impact of Neo-Calvinism on Adventist thought and life. Yet this is what he did at the Roy Branson Legacy Sabbath School (RBLSS) in Loma Linda, California on July 8.
These criticisms were part of his discussion of Chapter 3 in Where Are We Headed? Adventism After San Antonio by William G. Johnsson. The title of this chapter is “Waiting for Jesus: The When or the Who?” He did not claim that Neo-Calvinism is present in this chapter, but that it is apparently in the minds of some other Adventists who are also addressing this topic.
Probably, the only person in the world who has earned doctorates in both ministry and neuroscience, Thomsen is a professor in the Loma Linda University School of Religion. Before that, he pastored a number of small and large churches in Southern and Southeastern California.
William G. Johnsson edited the Adventist Review for many years. A New Testament scholar from Adelaide, Australia, he previously served at Spicer Adventist University in India and at Andrews University in the United States.
The chapter begins with “The Problem of the Delay” of the Second Coming of Jesus. Johnsson challenged the assumption that there has been a “delay.” He wrote that thinking in these terms is contrary to the New Testament which speaks of it only occasionally and of “finishing the work” only once. Johnsson warned against an “eschatology by works” which wrongly leaves the impression that the timing of the Second Coming depends upon us.
This is an interesting issue about which opposite errors are possible. On the one hand, too much emphasis upon the contributions of human beings does not do justice to divine providence and to the Christian confidence that, in the end, it will prevail against the forces of evil. On the other hand, too little emphasis upon human endeavors makes divine providence wholly and solely responsible for everything that happens throughout the entire universe and in our own lives as well.
This is not the place, or it is not the only place, at which Thomsen challenged Adventist Neo-Calvinism. On this occasion, he expressed even more concern upon what he takes to be its negative impact on Adventist understandings of Scripture, religion and science, the proper relationships between men and women, and so forth. His larger point was that Adventism is theologically conservative but that not all forms of theological conservatism are Adventist. Some types of conservatism are alien to Adventism and should be treated as such.
If Roy Branson were still alive, I think that he would have reminded the group of his distinction between a “Millerite Mindset” and an “Adventist Mindset.” In terms of Johnsson’s chapter, the first mindset focuses on the “when” of the Second Coming and the second focuses upon the “Who.”
Those who were there will long remember Thomsen’s confession in the original meaning of the term. It was that all of his life, from his childhood onward, despite his youthful games with other children about the “Time of Trouble,” the Second Coming of Jesus has always been about the “Who.”
RBLSS is grateful to Adventist Forum for making this discussion available to a wider audience. It also expresses gratitude to Alan Alipoon for making the video.
WATCH: Calvin Thomsen on Chapter 3 in "Where Are We Headed?" by William G. Johnsson
William G. Johnsson Explains Why He Wrote Where Are We Headed? Adventism after San Antonio,
The Professors Valentine Expand Upon Chapter 1 in "Where Are We Headed? Adventism After San Antonio", and
Laura Alipoon Highlights Adventist Diversity in Chapter 2 of “Where Are We Headed? Adventism After San Antonio”
Dr. David Larson is Professor of Religion at Loma Linda University.
Image Credit: Video Still
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