Life Sketch of Arthur Nelson Patrick

Life Sketch of Arthur Nelson Patrick

Feb 23, 1934 – March 8, 2013

The youngest child of Bertha Emma (nee Pocock) and William Nelson Patrick, Arthur was one of over 1000 babies delivered in the Cooranbong area by his aunt, Nurse Annie Conley.  He was born in a front room of the second-last house on the left in Avondale Road, going toward Avondale School.

Shortly after his fourth birthday, along with his mother and sister Ivy, Arthur rode in the cab of “Friday” Wainman’s truck from Cooranbong to Pappinbarra Junction, northeast of Wauchope.  Siblings, Alice and Joe, followed on horseback.  They were about to become dairy farmers.  Between ages 8-11 Arthur attended the Upper Pappinbarra Public School but formal education was interrupted when Arthur and his mother relocated to Bellangry, 15 km away.  For the next five years Arthur’s education revolved around managing a milking herd, sharpening his “Kelly” axe and mastering the peg-and-rake crosscut saw.  The initial task of clearing the re-growth on the home 45 acres, followed by contract timber-cutting with elder brother, Joe, reinforced an ethic of dawn-to-dusk work.  In quiet times young Arthur could be found catching snakes or riding his horse, Donny, 22 rifle over his back, probably lost in bush poetry, much of which he learned in the saddle twixt home and the timber.

One November morning in 1949 as he and Joe began the face cut on a giant Blackbutt Arthur was reflecting on his long-term plans.  By the time they had brought the tree crashing to the ground and sawn it into three long logs, Arthur had registered the distinct conviction that he should go back to Cooranbong, to the Australasian Missionary College (AMC), now Avondale College of Higher Education.  Alternately studying and working at various jobs to support his secondary school study, the years 1950-1953 saw him lay the academic foundations which would later serve him so well.  His public Leaving Certificate results would have taken him to Sydney University but instead, in 1954 he enrolled in AMC’s first intake for the BA (Theology) degree offered under the auspices of Pacific Union College, from which he graduated in 1957.  The next year saw Arthur appointed to Christchurch, SNZ, as pastor evangelist.

Two years of lonely correspondence were rewarded on January 14, 1959, when Arthur met special Avondale friend, Joan Merle Howse at the altar in the Papanui Church: “the best thing I ever did”, has been the ongoing verdict of the groom!  It was a union which would not only produce three additional New Zealanders: Zanita Faye (1960), Adrielle Joy (1963) and Leighton Ward (1965), but enrich the lives of countless associates, students and church members.

In December 1967 the Patrick family embarked on the Australis at Auckland, bound for Elgin, Illinois, for more parish ministry. Then in 1970 it was off to the seminary at Berrien Springs and the post graduate study of which Arthur had dreamed since Avondale days.  By August 1972, after receiving special permission to overload, he had completed a nine-quarter MDiv and also a four-quarter MA in systematic theology.  To supply family needs Joan taught primary school while Arthur variously assisted with the Andrews University dairy, ran a landscaping business and taught undergraduate students in religion.  Unfortunately, the doctoral program in which he wanted to enroll was not yet accredited, so following the suggestion of the Seminary Dean, W.G.C. Murdoch, Arthur took his DMin at the Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis.  June 1973 brought graduation which was followed by a return to Australia via a three-month family holiday in Europe.

Plans for church ministry in Sydney were quickly trumped by a call, instigated by Dr Des Ford, to Avondale where the Patrick family would be located for the next 18 years.  Whether this had anything to do with the children’s plea to a well-placed Church administrator that they not be sentenced to a city will never be known!  Arthur lectured in the Theology Faculty, served as the first director of the Ellen G White/Seventh-day Adventist Research Centre, coordinated Avondale’s academic processes as Registrar and served for one year as College Church pastor. During this Avondale time he performed many student and family weddings.  Despite typical dual-career challenges Arthur and Joan always reserved Sundays as family time.  These were spent renovating the old house on the hill, on horseback and in gardens – reminiscent, perhaps, of so much early experience.  Later there were waterskiing exploits at Shingles and annual holidays at Myall Lakes with Fay and Leon Olsen and a wide circle of friends.

In the face of some employment uncertainty during this period Arthur also resumed formal study.  He credits Dr Don Hansen’s undergraduate Australian history classes at Avondale with equipping him to undertake an MLitt at the University of New England, a Distinction in which opened the way for PhD studies at Newcastle that focused on the interface between religion and society in Australia, a program from which he graduated in 1992.

Also in 1992 there was a move to Sydney.  Arthur, having requested a change, was appointed senior chaplain at Sydney Adventist Hospital, a position he enjoyed until 1996.  Then followed two years as an associate professor of church history and pastoral ministry at La Sierra University in California, where he relished association with colleagues such as Dr Paul Landa and the opportunity to attend meetings of the Adventist Society for Religious Studies and the American Academy of Religion.  A final return in 1998 to Cooranbong, and to grandchildren Braden, Kelsy, Jack, Jedda and Tom, commenced a well-earned but busy retirement.

Since ceasing full-time employment Arthur enjoyed presenting guest lectures and symposia at La Sierra, at Avondale as an honorary senior research fellow and at various conferences and Adventist Forums.  In addition, he was involved with the supervision of PhD students.  There were also trips abroad, visiting Leighton and Emma in Vermont and with friends and family to Africa, Scandinavia, Turkey, Greece, the UK and New Zealand.

While Arthur’s winsome way with both the spoken and written word was first noted during his Avondale student days, in later years his word craft became legendary.  While this gift was generally employed to illuminate precisely the topic at hand he was equally capable, when he deemed it necessary, of skillfully hiding behind his utterance.

Although Arthur’s personality was rather irenic his writings were challenging for some.  In his quest to help his church grow in understanding he could also, at times, present his view with some force.

One of his most stimulating hobbies was writing for publication, an activity that began at Avondale in the 1950s and persisted for six decades.  His scholarly articles listed on [email protected] have currently attracted 1,755 downloads and his own website, entitled adventiststudies.com, commenced late in 2011, has so far attracted over 11,000 visitors.  His last article was posted with characteristic determination just days before his death.  The SDA Periodical Index lists some121 titles from his prolific pen.  There is a much longer list of popular articles not covered by this index.

Arthur received a number of honours during his life and just in the last few days before his death he was advised by Dr Larry Geraty that he had been awarded the prestigious Charles E Weniger medallion, surely a most appropriate benediction to a life of scholarship.

He fought a successful battle against cancer for some 12 years, only to be diagnosed just weeks ago, after a wonderful NZ family holiday, with an aggressive and untreatable abdominal malignancy.  He had sat at too many such bedsides not to know what lay ahead yet his calm acceptance, his Christian faith and his courage inspired us all.  Fortunately, his mind remained clear.  Although Joe, Ivy, and Alice predeceased him Arthur is survived by his brother John.

Arthur was quick to recognise unfairness or lack of charity in the way certain individuals and groups were treated, particularly by the Church he loved.  This led him to expend himself on unpopular issues of social justice, such as the equality of women in the SDA Organisation, protection against abuse and exploitation of all kinds, and the better understanding of homosexuality.

Looking further ahead than most, he also possessed keen insight into more academic issues facing Adventism, such as developing an adequate understanding of the ministry of Ellen White, correctly contextualising the theological positions of our denominational past and exploring the interface between Christianity and science.  Arthur was totally unafraid of evidence.  His was the ability to calmly and perceptively analyse the data and masterfully synthesise a response.

For those who would seek fairness and justice for all, for those who would combine total honesty, caring pastoral concern and tireless scholarship in a mission to better their Church and for those who would be a devoted spouse and parent, I can hold up no better model than Arthur Nelson Patrick.

By Lynden Rogers

Post 100, AUSTRALASIAN SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISTS AND 1980: Toward an Historical Perspective and the Normalisation of Relationships

Since I first met Desmond Ford early in 1950, and he recommended me for acceptance as an Andrews University student in 1967, and called me as a member of his Department of Theology staff in 1973, we were comparatively close associates during the crises years of the South Pacific Division from 1974. The issues at that particular time clustered around Righteousness by Faith, the Sanctuary, Ellen White and the Age of the Earth. I saw the development of the “Concerned Brethren” party, and sat through the interminable Biblical Research Committee meetings before and after the Palmdale Conference of 1976. I was by conviction within the Church’s Community of Faith, and certainly no partisan of its most brilliant son, Desmond Ford, and never did I unthinkingly support Desmond Ford. Hence I applauded the consummate wisdom of the Righteousness by Faith consultation and its report entitled the “Dynamics of Salvation,” first published in Review and Herald 31 July 1980. I distinctly remember the Division President, Pr Keith Parmenter, asking my opinion about Dr Ford’s transfer to Pacific Union College. I agreed with him that such a change might give Desmond a fresh opportunity to express his talents for the benefit of the Church, and I settled down to engage with teaching under the chairmanship of Gordon Balharrie. There was a pervasive sense of bereavement in the Department of Theology due to Des’s enforced absence, but in essence the work of the Department continued strongly.

I had critically reviewed Desmond Ford’s book, Daniel, before it saw the light of day in 1978, and rated it as far the most useful volume on Daniel produced by the Church since the tome from Uriah Smith’s pen about a hundred years earlier. Even after the debacle of Desmond Ford’s address on 27 October 1979, only about 2 per cent of his Daniel needed any revision. To read his 900 page submission is to become aware he is a loyal son of the Church who was desperately trying to solve issues that were proved unsolvable during years of committee meetings under the leadership of President R. R. Figuhr. Ford should have been acclaimed for his sterling effort in writing the Glacier View manuscript, instead he was “de-frocked”, sacked and spurned in disgrace.

The Church failed to observe where the controversy relating to the Sanctuary had arrived, and it misread the strength of Robert Brinsmead’s anti-1844 thrust. How different it would have been had the Church even been able to read Desmond Ford’s (1979) book on Ellen White. It was totally oblivious to the short chance it had to engage its young people in serious Bible study, especially focused on the meaning of Daniel and Hebrews. Shortly after Glacier View, I along with a party of other Avondalians, stayed at a wonderful retreat in the Blue Mountains. There I read the Glacier View consensus statements with my RSV Bible open in my right hand, and was amazed that for the first time the Church I deeply loved was actually helping (not hindering) me from understanding the book of Hebrews.

These remarks are written to provide a very brief frame of reference for the document posted here, entitled “Australasian Seventh-day Adventists and 1980: Toward an Historical Perspective and the Normalisation of Relationships.”

On 11 February 2013, Joan and I (with our daughter Zanita) returned two days earlier than expected from our New Zealand holiday. The Chemotherapy from August to January was clearly successful, but from the end of January I was aware of a new enemy within, which turns out to be peritoneal carcinoma of vigorous type, untreatable.

Therefore, since 11 February 2013 I have been in Bed 638, Sydney Adventist Hospital.

(Now something written by Adrielle, my middle daughter). As Dad said above, he has advanced and untreatable peritoneal carcinoma. Although that is very sad for us all, we are relishing the time we have with Dad. He is in excellent spirits, and has embraced this stage of his illness as he has embraced so many challenges in his life. That is, with the will to do his best with the task at hand. This means he is making the most of the excellent palliative care that is available to him, and is comfortable, peaceful, cherishing family, dispensing love and blessings to us all. He is not just thinking of family though, and has had us busy sending off emails to many people. His last major editing task is to see Post 100 uploaded, along with a few suitable words of introduction. Whereas he felt the content of this paper should be confidential at the time it was submitted eleven years ago, he can find no reason why it should be kept confidential any longer.

AUSTRALASIAN SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISTS AND 1980: TOWARD AN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE AND THE NORMALISATION OF RELATIONSHIPS

Summary: With the passing of two or three decades since the conflicts of the 1970s and the 1980s and the related loss of ministers, teachers and members in the South Pacific Division, it now seems possible to map this historical period constructively and to suggest redemptive patterns for the church to adopt in the immediate future. Specifically, this submission suggests that the church currently faces relational more than theological issues, since the theological matters are potentially resolved by consensus documents already available. However, the theological basis of this proposal needs careful assessment by the Biblical Research Committee to test whether it is in fact sustainable and relevant for the current situation.

Seventh-day Adventists (Adventists), more than most other Christian groups, find it is fruitful to understand themselves in terms of a number of dates: 1844, 1863, 1888, 1901, 1907, 1919, 1950, 1957 and so on. For Adventists who live in Australia and New Zealand, 1980 is another crucial year. This presentation, a confidential submission to the Biblical Research Committee (BRC) of the South Pacific Division (SPD), explores in a preliminary way two possibilities: whether 1980 may be viewed constructively in historical perspective and whether it might be possible to normalise relationships that became tense in the 1970s and early 1980s.1

It may be presumptuous for any one human being to interpret a date that is as multifaceted as 1980.2 Clearly any such attempt must be informed by an impressive array of specialists as well as the perceptions of an entire community of believers. An Old Testament scholar may well say that at the heart of the matter is the interpretation of biblical apocalyptic in general and the Book of Daniel in particular. A New Testament devotee may well affirm that the relation of the Old Testament to the New and the interpretation of Hebrews must be understood.3 A psychologist may well posit the idea that personality theory and group behaviour are crucial considerations. An administrator may well suggest that managerial responsibilities and organisational leadership issues are of prime importance. A systematic theologian may well point out that 1980 illustrates at once the volatility of eschatology within a believing community and the constant tension between continuity and change in Adventist hermeneutics. A sociologist is likely to claim that the crux of the issue is where Adventism was located at that particular point in time on the continuum between sect and denomination. A scientist may worry that 1980 is a template illustrating how the church may be tempted to control research and researchers.4 A pastor is apt to observe that 1980 is especially concerned with relationships in a community of believers. A Reformation historian may identify 1980 as the time when Australian Adventism had an unprecedented opportunity to affirm the Reformation doctrines of Righteousness by Faith and the Priesthood of All Believers. Other historians might declare that the situation can only be understood if a number of influential personalities are considered in the context of the time: Ellen White, Dr Desmond Ford, Dr Russell Standish and Robert Brinsmead at the very least. The same professionals are also likely to point out that historical perspectives are only possible after the passage of a suitable amount of time.

Each one of these important viewpoints has a measure of validity yet an identifiable limitation. Probably most of us perceive that all of the above considerations and many more must be considered if Adventists are to understand 1980 in a comprehensive and thus sustainable and unifying way. In the ultimate, the conclusions offered by church leaders must be valid in view of all the known evidence and understandable to  rank-and-file believers if they are to win widespread support from congregations and members that currently nurture an array of opinions.

I. The Range of Perspectives

To ask Adventist retirees, employees, male members, female members and young people to interpret 1980 is to be made aware of great diversity. The range of perspectives is likely to include recognition of the role of the Concerned Brethren and others who share their mindset; the stance of the Standish brothers and those with reactionary viewpoints who are apt to criticise the church for slowness in dismissing ministers as heretics; the viewpoint of those desiring to justify the church as patiently and correctly solving a doctrinal problem; the continuing bewilderment of many at the way the church handled biblical, historical, theological, ethical and administrative issues; sadness and even anger at what is perceived to be ongoing intolerance or bigotry, and so on. It is relevant, therefore, to assess the sources that inform each of these opinions and the many variations that cluster around each of them. This paper will attempt to reconcile the known data, hoping thereby to be of some assistance as the church seeks to move coherently toward a brighter future.

The thesis of this document might be introduced in this way. During the 1970s the Seventh-day Adventist church in Australasia made significant progress in better understanding and presenting “the everlasting gospel” but it failed to win the support of certain older members to whom, in hindsight, it needed to deliver more effective pastoral care. In addition, viewpoints similar to those of the Concerned Brethren were promulgated by a variety of independent groups: some clustered around Dr Russell Standish and ministers who tacitly or openly supported his emphases; others developed similar mindsets that have since become known through such publications as Anchor, Alma Torch and The Protestant. A well-known advocate of the gospel emphasis, Dr Ford, offered suggestions in October 1979 whereby the church might resolve certain important conflicts with reference to the interpretation of Daniel and Hebrews.5 However, in the ensuing months, a rejectionist impulse further inflamed the already powerful reversionist impulse by the worldwide distribution of Dr Ford’s suggestions. A more thoughtful attitude was also identifiable at the time, well illustrated in the work of the Sanctuary Review Committee that met at Glacier View during August 1980. Twenty-two years after the central year of the crisis it seems imperative for the church to understand and nurture this stance, a transformationist response.6

Even within this volatile context the church was able to vote a new statement of its fundamental beliefs in May 1980; a consensus statement on the gospel was published worldwide in July; consensus statements on the ministry of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary and the ministry of Ellen White were voted in August. Yet the perception of several key administrators in Australia was that Dr Ford must be dismissed as one way to resolve the conflict within the church; however, it now appears that in the consequential processes the church lost sight of the significance of the July and August consensus statements and it pre-empted the positive elements of Consultation I held in August 1980. The church also may have side-lined several other important considerations as it facilitated the dismissal of Dr Ford: for instance, to protect a portion of fundamental belief 23 it seems to have disregarded the import of several other fundamentals and ignored central aspects of Ellen White’s counsel as it attempted to protect her from perceived peril. Considerably because of Dr Ford’s symbolic importance at the time and the difficulty experienced by several key church leaders in grasping the complexity of the issues, the Australian church entered a period of crisis that saw the loss of many employees and members.7 In hindsight, it appears that the dismissal of Dr Ford exacerbated rather than resolved the crisis; indeed like any literal or professional martyrdom it seemed to necessitate encores.8 Two decades later there is a deep longing in the hearts of a large number of loyal Seventh-day Adventists in the SPD to foster unity and a cooperative approach by the entire denomination so that the church of the future will be a winsome place for the nurture of its members (particularly its mobile youth) and the pursuit of its mission.

Put even more simply, at their General Conference of 1980 Adventists struggled for consensus as they formulated a fresh expression of their fundamental beliefs. On the Friday afternoon of the session it was decided that the most-discussed fundamental, number 23, must be voted without further discussion. In the Adventist Review of July 31, readers were made aware of The Dynamics of Salvation statement authorised by 145 participants, the largest group ever assembled by the church to offer counsel on a specific doctrinal issue. The church had no time to observe at length the import this document held for the discussion of the sanctuary. Even so, during August the interpretation of fundamental 23 was canvassed by 115 of the 125 persons nominated from many parts of the world to attend the Glacier View meeting, and a significant consensus was achieved. However, by largely ignoring the relationship between these consensus documents and their far-reaching significance, good men unwittingly led the Australian church into the most destructive crisis in its history. Now, with the calm perspectives of twenty years, the church can better map its past and sketch a more promising future.

II. A Tentative List of Relevant Considerations

Since that time some successful attempts have been made to reach out to reversionists of various types; in principle, transformationist options have often been affirmed; less enduring attempts have been made to reach out to rejectionists.9 The intervening years seem to indicate that the stance of Dr Standish well symbolises the tendency toward reversion, with Robert Brinsmead modelling the polar opposite stance of rejection. Some observers locate Dr Ford with Brinsmead, whereas others contend that he exemplifies transformationist attitudes.10

In the perception of many in the SPD, the church’s administrators missed an opportunity to envision a new future when Dr Ford returned to Australia in August 2000. An official letter dated 30 May 2001, conveying an action of the Presidents’ Council taken three weeks earlier, circulated to all administrators and many ministers in the SPD, seemed to favour the maintenance of barriers; yet it observed that the church’s relation to Dr Ford may involve a number of issues “some of which are very sensitive because of the divided opinion which exists in our church.” This letter has awakened a Division-wide discussion within the church, leading to a growing conviction that it may be fruitful for the church to prayerfully, thoroughly and openly consider a cluster of related matters that are relevant to Dr Ford’s situation and that of many other persons. The matters that might be considered include but are not limited to the following list which in whole or in part conveys the considered opinion of a significant proportion of the church’s employees and members.

1. The consensus documents formulated by the 145-member Righteousness by Faith Consultation and the 115-member Sanctuary Review Committee remain relevant in the ongoing life of the church. They indicate there is no substantive doctrinal reason for Dr Ford’s exclusion from the church’s fellowship and mission. They also provide a basis for a renewed understanding between the church and the Standish brothers and they offer a way to initiate a fresh dialogue with persons who are at various stages on the continuum between commitment to and rejection of Adventism.11

2. Dr Ford has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to and a particular effectiveness in the proclamation of core Adventist teachings such as “the everlasting gospel,” the Sabbath, the Second Coming of Christ, the nature of humankind/the state of the dead and healthful living. He presents confidently such other doctrines as the pre-advent judgment and the ministry of Ellen White. His lifestyle is exemplary as far as Adventist standards are concerned. Therefore, there are compelling reasons why the church should encourage his participation in its life and witness; to do so would be an effective way to invite into church fellowship many others who feel the church has consigned them to a spiritual limbo since 1980.

3. The way in which many non-Adventist Australians (evangelical and other Christians and even non-Christians) are currently responding to Dr Ford’s ministry indicates that Adventist mission may be enhanced by a welcoming attitude and a sense of partnership with him. To open the church to this possibility may bring a new energy into its outreach.

4. The perspectives of two decades since the Glacier View consultation, characterised by far-reaching doctrinal growth in the church worldwide, indicates that the perceived differences between Dr Ford and the church are being progressively diminished. Therefore, the church has in 2002 a more realistic opportunity to rise above the controversial patterns of the 1970s and early 1980s. Constructive recognition of this reality could exercise a leavening influence on relationships in the church, drawing people from a wide spectrum of thought into more effective unity.

5. Since in his public teaching, preaching and personal Christian experience Dr Ford has remained faithful to Adventist convictions, values and lifestyle (including the Sabbath and the binding nature of God’s law), it is relevant to document the vast difference in his attitudes and behaviours from those portrayed by rejectionists in books, pamphlets, periodicals, videos and websites (see such sources as formeradventist. com) as they attack the church.12 It is likewise important to review the stance of Dr Standish in terms of such criteria. Clarity and charity in this dimension of thought could have far-reaching effects on relationships within the church.

6. Given the development of spiritual gifts now available to the church in the South Pacific Division, embracing the human sciences, biblical studies, historical and systematic theology, administrative practice and other related skills and insights, the church is now mature and resilient enough to develop unifying patterns for the immediate future with respect to Dr Standish, Dr Ford and a host of others that are still currently in relationships that are characterised by some tension with the church.

7. A range of responsible studies such as those by Jonathan Butler and Harry Ballis indicate that the church may, by the conscious adoption of alternative methods, respond more constructively to perceived diversity in the immediate future and thus more effectively foster responsible unity.13

8. In a letter dated 15 March 2001 the General Conference president stated in part: “The door is open for reconciliation and healing. At the same time Desmond Ford has to walk through it and find it in his heart to seek healing with the church. I think he knows what he must do to be a part of reconciliation.” Since this is not a matter of private discussion, it is appropriate for the church at large to be made aware of the component factors and the expectations that underlie the president’s comments so that all who so desire may cooperate intelligently in a reconciliatory process.14 Certainly many Adventists perceive that a need exists for the church to explore and offer reconciliatory options to widely diverse individuals and perhaps groups.

9. Anecdotal evidence claims that statements made by such Adventist leaders as Neal Wilson, Robert Spangler and thousands of others attribute their fuller understanding of the everlasting gospel to Dr Ford. From a review of Dr Ford’s relations with the church in the distinct historical epochs 1955-1972, 1972 to 1980, 1980 to the present, it does seem to be appropriate for the church to acknowledge that Dr Ford has been a catalyst for constructive theological and experiential development in this core area and perhaps in such others as the church’s understanding of eschatology and the ministry of Ellen White. Many loyal Adventists perceive the corporate church as ungrateful at best in its attitude in this respect. Throughout the SPD, many loyal Adventists credit Dr Ford with facilitating their more mature understanding of the gospel; their children often wonder why the church (according to their perceptions) appears ungrateful, intolerant, vindictive, unjust, unloving, ungracious, “fascist” (that is, dictatorial) or “the church that shoots its own wounded.” For the church to more consciously lead its members to focus directly in attitude and action on Christ and salvation would issue in constructive outcomes. A crucial strand in Ellen White’s writings may be summarised in one of her vivid sentences: “Of all professing Christians, Seventh-day Adventists should be foremost in uplifting Christ before the world” (Evangelism, page 188).

10. A comprehensive survey of the fifty-per-cent-plus of the church that are women may disclose constructive attitudes to this long-standing conflict situation which might enhance the ability of the church to deal with it more effectively than by reliance upon male perspectives only.

11. A comprehensive survey of the church’s current ministers, teachers, and retirees may indicate a widespread interest in reconciliatory initiatives as well as constructive insights into how such processes might occur.

In his letter cited above (compare his letter dated 30 January 2002) the General Conference president states: “I do not believe the church made a mistake or was unfair in its handling of this situation.” This opinion is quite understandable in that the president has no access at the church’s headquarters to thousands of pages of documents which detail the actual experience of Australian ministers, teachers and members during the crisis period, nor does he have available on location advisers with a comprehensive understanding of the events, nor does he have the option of effective oral history because of his geographical location. There are important differences between the situation in Europe, North America and Australia. Therefore, a significant body of opinion deems that it may be realistic and redemptive for the Australian church to appoint an independent commission including representative women and men with the relevant expertise to hear the available evidence and offer sustainable and unifying counsel.15 Another opinion is that, given the present interpretations and options for research, several doctoral studies during the next few years may best illumine the situation.

III. Some Procedural Considerations

If a commission were to be established, part of its task might be to receive data clarifying whether or not between 1978 and 1983 (the years of most intense crisis) the response of the Australasian church was constrained by a range of related matters such as the following.

1. By both failing to call and refusing to call the Biblical Research Committee (BRC) to advise on the matters under discussion. The BRC was appointed for this purpose but was not convened for the purpose because of the decision to handle the issues “administratively.” An appeal that the BRC be convened was considered to be a serious breach of ministerial responsibility. This stance seems to have facilitated rather than prevented the drift toward polarisation.

2. The failure to publicise effectively the unifying consensus statement achieved at great expense by the Glacier View conferees, with which Dr Ford was “thrilled” in 1980 and which Dr Standish “discovered” in February 2002.

3. The improper use of the Glacier View ten-point list of differences between Dr Ford and traditional positions, a factor that intensified division. Indeed, the use made of this minority statement gave it precedence over the statement voted by the Sanctuary Review Committee of 115 persons.

4. The perceived illegality (on the basis of national law) of Dr Ford’s Australian trial and dismissal, events that occurred in his absence. It should be noted that one viewpoint is that churches are not bound to observe secular laws; another perspective is that the Adventist church should exceed rather than quibble about the moral principles of secular law. Be that as it may, the nature of the investigative and decision-making processes surrounding the dismissal of perhaps a hundred other employees does need appraisal.

5. The failure to respond transparently to the underlying reasons for such dismissals: the pressure campaign of the Concerned Brethren which for years had sought the termination of Dr Ford due to his presentation of the gospel, a conflict clarified largely in his favour by The Dynamics of Salvation statement; the alleged but non-existent link between Dr Ford and Robert Brinsmead; the incorrect allegation that Dr Ford had rejected the ministry of Ellen White. All these created flow-on effects, exacerbating the conflicts and spurring the dismissals that occurred. A result at the time seems to have been an impulse to achieve a form of ecclesiastical (as opposed to ethnic) cleansing.16

6. The divisive impact of administrative preaching that made it seem necessary to dismiss Dr Ford in order to protect the church. The profound significance of the stick insect or Praying mantis symbolism discussed openly before Glacier View might be noted as one example.

7. The use of the church’s media (including Record) in ways that polarised the church by preventing the publication of accurate information and by allowing the publication of biased and false information without correction.17

These and related perceptions may after due investigation be seen to sustain a pervasive belief that the church owes a substantial number of former employees an apology. That such convictions persist after two decades as a deep source of bewilderment and sadness indicates the church should not claim it made no mistake or was not unfair until such concerns have been investigated. On earth it is expected that justice is both done and seen to be done. The teaching of the pre-advent judgment that the church and most participants in this discussion affirm testifies to the justice of God. The church’s understanding of theodicy is a main component of the application it makes of Daniel 8:14. Therefore, the integrity of the church remains under serious question until this matter is investigated.

To summarise: If even some of the perspectives in sections II and III of this presentation are sustained after thorough investigation there is both an evident need and an encouraging potential for the church to address at the present moment. There is a role for all Adventists (leaders, ministers, teachers, other employees, members) in any attempt to normalise relations between the church and some of its former employees and members. As a subset of that process, there are important matters that can be righted with Dr Ford and the fact that his situation retains something of the symbolic value that it had in 1980 indicates that the church should not underestimate its present opportunity. There is an evident desire in the hearts of many Adventists to foster responsible consensus and to seek effective patterns of cooperation in the immediate future. This desire may well signal the fact that the present is an appropriate time to plan constructive initiatives for the church so that conflicts of this nature (involving personality factors, historical understandings, biblical insights, theological convictions, administrative roles and practices) do not impede the church’s attempts to proceed coherently with its mission. A successful outcome only seems possible if such fundamental beliefs as 11 and 13 are taken into account in the discussion of fundamental 23, and if both grace and truth are accorded their biblical roles.

IV. Observations Relating to Theological Issues

Without doubt, three issues of theological significance in Australia during the 1970s and early 1980s were Righteousness by Faith, the ministry of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary and the ministry of Ellen White. For a minister or teacher to demonstrate enthusiasm or contemplation relating to any one of these matters could at the time be deemed sufficient grounds for individuals or groups to clamour for the said worker’s dismissal. For a minister or a teacher to appear to be unorthodox in two or more of these fundamental issues compounded the perplexity of some administrative minds and indicated prompt dismissal as a necessity. From the comparatively irenic ethos of 2002 it is hard to picture adequately the intensity of the epoch under consideration.

As indicated above, the Righteousness by Faith Consultation gave Adventists a way to understand each other and their faith in this respect; thus it paved a road toward responsible unity and active cooperation. The Sanctuary Review Committee consensus statement, The Ministry of Christ in the Heavenly Sanctuary offered a similar potential for that area of doctrine. The conflict relating to Ellen White’s ministry elicited a short consensus statement at Glacier View and creative solutions during the 1980s but the dilemmas were not acknowledged as resolved adequately until the 1990s. Therefore, at this point this presentation will make some more detailed references to the church’s historical understanding of Ellen White’s ministry.

The year 1970 forms a watershed in Adventism worldwide with reference to the life and thought of Ellen White, but this fact was but dimly perceived in Australia until the 1980s and beyond. By 1976 the research of Dr Ron Numbers was becoming well known in North America and Europe and by a small number of Australians. From 1978 there were whisperings in this country about the “fallacious” claims of Walter Rea that Ellen White used literary sources in her writings but there was limited effective understanding. Probably only a handful of Australians were aware of the profoundly-important research of Donald McAdams. Although the Ellen G. White/Seventh-day Adventist Research Centre was opened in 1976 to serve the SPD and gave access to tens of thousands of pages of Ellen White letters and manuscript as well as microform and “hard” copies of primary sources from the church’s beginnings to the present, no Division leader was ever able to engage in any extended research in this new facility during the crisis years. A few illustrative events will be cited to offer an overview of the way matters were handled between 1978 and 1983.

During 1979 the Division decided to publish a book on matters currently under discussion in the churches, including the ministry of Ellen White, the topic on which I was assigned to write. The task consumed much of what would otherwise have been my vacation; the script was delivered in March 1980, entitled Ellen White in the Eighties. The text sought to express, in language accessible to the laity, responsible, consensus positions in view of the studies of the 1970s. Read in 2002 it is a tame document indeed; at the time it was so shocking to the Division administration that its reception was long unacknowledged and the intended Record articles and book were abandoned forthwith.

As the tensions relating to Ellen White’s ministry intensified, I submitted papers to the Division developed to answer the specific questions that were arriving in a constant stream at the Research Centre. I was advised that my answers were different from those emanating from the church’s headquarters. I replied that the church had made me custodian of its memories from 1844 to the present and that I was trying to offer answers that took all the data into account. So a Reading Committee was formed to read my papers and decide which could be offered more widely as reliable information for the church. Only one document achieved the imprimatur of the Reading Committee: a short list of selected documents held by the Centre. An exploration of the abundant documentation that is extant provides an almost diary-like account of the church’s thought-patterns of the time.

I proposed that a Spirit of Prophecy Resource Committee be appointed to review the data in hand, to seek a comprehensive understanding of the matters under discussion in the churches and to release appropriate information. I was appointed as a member of that committee. Papers I presented to it sometimes took many months to receive acknowledgement and much longer to be evaluated. After an almost-two-year-process it was agreed by the committee that specific ideas under discussion (later embodied in a Ministry article published in April 1991) were accurate but that no person outside the committee should be offered the information with which the committee was working or the conclusions it had reached.

I was appointed to attend the 1982 International Prophetic Guidance Workshop in the United States. It was a deeply moving experience to at last have scores of the best informed minds in Adventism consulting on the issues that were effervescing in the world church. General Conference president Neal Wilson had set out the church’s agenda effectively in major Adventist Review articles. More than 900 pages of documents distributed to workshop attendees conveyed accurate data on most of the important issues that were in dispute relating to Ellen White. For instance, instead of denying that Ellen White taught the Shut Door on the basis of visionary experience, the actual documentation was distributed and the workshop discussed whether we should say her visionary experience was wrong (the preferred option of some) or that she misunderstood it (the preferred option of others).18 We now had essential data on the issues of literary relationships, the role of Ellen White’s literary assistants and advisers, plus a host of other similarly-important matters. However, the low-key articles I prepared upon my return to Australia were deemed by the church leaders of the time to be so unacceptable that I was told that I might choose to keep a copy of them in a “personal file.” Furthermore, I was prevented from sharing effectively the papers presented at the workshop.

It was a source of distress to me that the Division president and secretary who were handling the church’s theological turmoil “administratively” were not able to participate effectively in the significant updates offered early in the 1980s by Dr Robert Olsen and Pastor Ron Graybill. In discussion of the massive amounts of fresh information that was available, the Division secretary stated wistfully how much he wished he had time to read. The most hopeful event in my calendar for the second half of 1982 was the opportunity to present five hours of lectures in Victoria for the assembled union, local conference, Signs and other workers. Pastor Geoff Garne presented a somewhat selective but remarkably positive account in Record and, as far as I am aware, no negative comment was received. The substance of these lectures is recorded in sixty pages entitled The Minister and the Ministry of Ellen White in 1982. A similar presentation was requested for the Greater Sydney Conference ministers in October 1982, but within a two-hour time frame. The outcome showed that either it was an impossible task or I was unequal to it; the benediction was scarcely over when the telephones at the Union and the Division offices were ringing, signalling an end to attempts to share effectively data relating to Ellen White.

This story has never before been told in this detail to a group of Australian Adventists. Why tell it now? Simply to facilitate an understanding of the level at which information was controlled in the 1970s and early 1980s; to illustrate the evident fear amongst church leaders that ordinary members might become aware of facts now recognised as basic for all Adventists; to highlight the need of mature pastoral care for workers and members in a situation of turmoil. The lack of information amongst church members meant that scores of ministers faced dismissal if they attempted to understand and interpret the waves of data flowing over them. One illustration must suffice at this point, though its import could be multiplied by other examples.19

By the early 1980s there was intense pressure on the Australian church to clarify the alleged relationship between the writings of Ellen White and the work of other authors. The church’s official paper, Record, published an article designed to calm the discussion, suggesting that Ellen White’s so-called “literary dependence” was in the order of 0.002 per cent.20 This response by the church was viewed as deliberate dishonesty by many readers, but the protests received did not issue in any correction. Later, of course, the four-volume Veltman study indicated that in The Desire of Ages the literary relationship was something like 30 per cent, some 15,000 times greater for that volume than the figure suggested as an over-all estimate in the Record article.

One conclusion from the observations offered in section IV is stark and unmistakable. Ministers and teachers may be unable to retain employment once they appeared to question seriously the doctrinal authority of Ellen White. The first action of the church’s leaders when biblical questions were raised in October 1979 was to publish an article setting forth Ellen White answers.21 Thereafter it became increasingly clear that Adventist workers were expendable if the evidence that was accumulating called them to revise the traditional understanding of Ellen White’s ministry. In 2002 the church fosters a constructive attitude toward Ellen White; this fact raises the question of whether or not it is appropriate for it to distance itself from certain specific actions taken in 1980 and beyond.

V. Some Broadly-based Potential Initiatives

Probably all of us think of ourselves as members of “the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven,” Hebrews 12:23; as numbered amongst the “faithful souls” that from the beginning “have constituted the church on earth,” Acts of the Apostles, page 11; as ordained by the nail-pierced hands of Christ to proclaim good news to a perishing world. Some of us may accord the same status to both Russell Standish and Desmond Ford.22 The issue that the Australian church currently has on its corporate desk is not how to control a couple of aging Christians officially barred from speaking in an Adventist setting and, in the case of Dr Ford, told by a local church pastor that he may attend church but he may not make a comment in a Sabbath School class. The actual questions are basic, simple and very easy to express. What does it mean to be Christian and to act Christianly? What does it mean to be Seventh-day Adventist and to value the diversity evident in the worldwide Adventist family? What does it mean to belong to the church of the living God, where spiritual gifts are valued and focused toward nurture and mission?

If this attempt at analysis is seen as useful for the church, it may be helpful for those who envision a more unified future to proceed with an awareness of the following.

First, the doctoral dissertation completed at Andrews University by Rolf J. Poehler in 1995, entitled “Change in Seventh-day Adventist Theology: A Study of the Problem of Doctrinal Development,” offers a helpful framework of understanding. Poehler has written a very comprehensive work (590 pages, available from http:www.umi.com), covering the concept of development in Christian and Adventist thought with special reference to Ellen White. Poehler’s core concepts are also available in a shorter volume published in 2000, Continuity and Change in Adventist Teaching: A Case Study in Doctrinal Development (Europaischer Verlag Der Wissenchaften: Peter Lang). A comprehensive grasp of the nature of doctrinal development in the Adventist church is of fundamental importance in discussing any particular aspect of Adventist thought.23

Secondly, Dr Fritz Guy’s volume Thinking Theologically: Adventist Christianity and the Interpretation of Faith (Berrien Springs: Andrews University Press, 1999) is a mature statement of theological method. Such a book might be considered as a procedural manual for a more constructive and united future. Thirdly, Dr Richard Hammill in chapter 16 of his book Pilgrimage: Memoirs of an Adventist Administrator (Berrien Springs: Andrews University Press, 1992) sets out crucial matters that need careful consideration with reference to 1980. As the General Conference administrator who had responsibility for several key issues his testimony is invaluable.

Fourth, Dr Richard Davidson, the respected teacher of the sanctuary doctrine at Andrews University who gave a series on the sanctuary at the recent North New South Wales campmeeting demonstrated clearly that a number of the positions taken by Adventists in the 1950s and onward are untenable in the present. Indeed, in his Thursday lecture Dr Davidson said he has torn selected pages from books of that era as he does not want his children to see them. Dr Davidson is a past-president of the Adventist Theological Society; that fact indicates he is a trusted figure amongst many Adventist conservatives. It is imperative that individual Adventists and local congregations keep up-to-date with the developing understanding of such important doctrines as that of the sanctuary so that they can be faithful to their responsibility whenever the church chooses to consider such doctrinal matters in a General Conference setting.24

Further, it is impressive to note the way in which such people as Dr Alden Thompson, a long-time teacher of Bible and Adventist history at Walla Walla College, have sought to define appropriate limits for diversity in the Adventist church. Dr Thompson’s material will reward investigation, perhaps beginning with http://dlearn.wwc.edu/classes/relh457 or some of the many articles he has written, for instance “We Need Your Differences,” Adventist Review, 2 November 1989, pages 17-20.

In summary of section V, it can be said that to understand the development of Adventist thought throughout the movement’s history, to adopt well-honed methods for “doing” theology, to review perceptively the work of the Sanctuary Review Committee and the subsequent progress made in the church’s understanding and proclamation of this teaching, to appreciate responsible diversity in a community of faith–such endeavours may go a long way toward resolving past problems and charting a new future for Adventism.

VI. God and Personal Faith Within a Diverse Community

God is Absolute Truth. He has chosen to reveal Truth by enlightening the minds of His servants and inspiring the Bible; by demonstrating Truth in our human situation through the life and teachings of Jesus; by illumining the understanding of believers through the gift of the Holy Spirit as they search the Word. In these last days, Ellen White’s ministry is a lesser light leading to the greater light of Scripture.

If such summary statements are valid, they need to be applied to the Adventist experience. The massive amount of new information that inundated the church in the 1970s can be interpreted best in the light of the way the Lord had led and taught the Second Advent Movement in its past history. For the first time Australians had access to tens of thousands of pages of unpublished Ellen White letters and manuscripts; Millerite and Sabbatarian periodicals from the 1840s to the present; historical books and much more. Whereas God is Absolute Truth, human perceptions tend to be partial and relative. That is why the gifts of the Holy Spirit are so crucial amongst believers. The church would be at a loss to understand its faith without its literature: books, pamphlets, Review, Ministry, Signs, Record and so on. We tend to repeat history destructively if we do not learn from it constructively. To understand the past thoroughly we need primary sources; the Lord has given them to us in abundance. During the 1970s and early 1980s the church related to primary sources chiefly as threat; in 2002 we can relate to them as opportunity.25

So, one of the important issues of the present is how we as individuals and as congregations relate to the Seventh-day Adventist church as a worldwide community of faith focused on Scripture, faithful to the guidance of God through Ellen White and open to the ministry of the spiritual gifts so clearly promised in the Word. To be a Seventh-day Adventist is to have no creed but the Bible, to cherish the church’s fundamental beliefs as the teachings of Scripture, to be open to the leadership of the Holy Spirit toward fuller understanding of Bible truth and better ways to communicate it in worship and outreach. While this implies that uniformity is an impossible and even undesirable objective, unity will characterise a diversity that is held in fellowship by bonds of mutual trust and Christian love.

American church historian Robert Handy identifies two powerful impulses within Christianity: the desire to preserve the precious events and divine revelations of the past on the one hand, and the desire to be open to the future on the other. Handy suggests these values dwell within each Christian and each group of Christians; they are ever to be held in creative tension; whenever one impulse prevails over the other there is conflict, turmoil, anguish and chaos. For another perceptive writer, Paul Johnson, “Christian history is a process of constant struggle and rebirth–a succession of crises, often accompanied by horror, bloodshed, bigotry and unreason” that also give evidence of “growth, vitality and increased understanding.”26

In 1980, the ardent desire to preserve the precious events and divine revelations of the Adventist past prevailed over the desire to be open to the future. There was a pervasive crisis that seems to be marked by bigotry and unreason when the church turned upon its own employees and members, denying the doctrine of spiritual gifts and its biblical ecclesiology. Rather than continuing the conflicts of the past or ploughing again the troubled conceptual ground of 1980, let us thank God that we have the best-ever expression of Adventist fundamental beliefs (1980), the comprehensive conspectus of “The Dynamics of Salvation” statement (1980), the instructive consensus statement “The Ministry of Christ in the Heavenly Sanctuary” and the perceptive SPD document “A Strategy for a Better Appreciation of the Ministry and Writings of Ellen G. White.” This context seems to facilitate ways to enable the church we love to grow and be vital and experience increased understanding.27

The Sum of the Matter

It was a healthy experience between 1992 and 1996 to journey as a chaplain with a few dozen terminally-ill patients and to receive a diagnosis of cancer in 1994.

Realisation of our human temporality means the future impacts the present in significant ways, inviting us to ask ourselves what we should do and say as we live buoyantly on the cusp of eternity. The Biblical Research Committee to which this confidential submission is addressed was appointed by the South Pacific Division in 2000 to offer conceptually-coherent, pastorally-aware guidance until 2005. With that task in focus and this document as context, I wish to offer five summary comments. In the main, the first two of these are procedural, the next two are biblical historical and the final one is theological.

We Adventists have not always done well in helping our community of faith understand the various interpretations of 1844 that have flourished since Hiram Edson’s clock tolled midnight on October 23 in that disappointing year. This reality has several implications; one is an awareness that formulations and strategies need to be offered with charity for those who may not be able to accept conscientiously every majority definition in a given era. History teaches us that the heresies of one generation can become the orthodoxies of the next; expediters at times need to confess (as did that sterling educational administrator Richard Hammill) that they have dismissed employees whose essential sin was to attempt the exploration of terrain that the church would subsequently traverse.28 A current task for church leaders is to understand this dimension of Adventist heritage and to lead the church in a conflict-resolution mode. Some of the conceptual patterns for this process can be developed from an understanding and application of the historical framework offered by Rolf Poehler and the methodological suggestions made by Fritz Guy. Further, since our mission is focused toward a non-Adventist world, we may need to plan its delivery with the assistance of authors like Malcolm Bull and Keith Lockhart.29

In Revelation chapter 2, according to an interesting strand within Adventist interpretation, the church of the first Christian century is symbolised by Ephesus. The New Testament documents reveal early Christianity as embracing Jewish and Old Testament heritage yet being open to the newness arising from the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. What it means to be Christian was challenging to the extent that diversity characterised the unity of the developing movement. A similar diversity has always characterised Seventh-day Adventism; this is modelled and even celebrated in the writings of Ellen White.30 A present task of the church is to envision and facilitate clarity on the great issues of faith and exemplify charity with reference to peripheral matters. This will mean an effective dialogue and dialectic within a community of faith replaces the less productive ethos of conflict and division.

During her lifetime, Ellen White was the most creative person within Seventh-day Adventist ranks; conservative in the best sense, yet open to the future in remarkable ways as she lived the message of Proverbs 4:18. We have done her a great disservice by attempting to make her the arbiter of doctrinal disputes on the Shut Door, the moral versus the ceremonial law, the Daily, the King of the North, Armageddon, the Omega and a host of other issues. The people in Australia who claim most insistently to be the only true supporters of Ellen White are apt to call for the church to “stand firm” with reference to their ideas about her and their conclusions from her writings. The primary sources the church now has available indicate that to accede to their appeals will further diminish the church and destroy the effectiveness of Ellen White’s ministry. One of our challenging tasks during this quinquennium is to further processes whereby the church will better understand and respond to the real Ellen White. The South Pacific Division strategy document adopted in 1999 is an effective point of reference for this process.31

The greatest problem of the church’s response to the dilemmas of 1980 may have been in its relation to the doctrine of spiritual gifts; for instance, to assume that the analyses of a handful of administrators should transcend the implications of a document voted by 115 persons; to navigate the most turbulent waters ever experienced in Australia with a few administrators charting the course when at least the counsel of the Biblical Research Committee was needed; to assist or allow the Record to polarise the church by failing to present accurate information and publishing biased and inaccurate information without correction. Such are straws in the wind of the time, indicators of tendencies that polarised the church and exacerbated conflict and schism. In 2002 we can empathise with the difficult situation faced by our leaders of that tragic time; we cannot with integrity follow their example. Reconciliation and healing require us to foster a vision of the church that is faithful to the Adventist version of the Protestant doctrine of the Priesthood of All Believers, inclusive of all the spiritual gifts that God has placed in the church.

It seems, therefore, that a primary initiative of the Biblical Research Committee needs to be the assessment of the adequacy or otherwise of a foundational idea of this submission, that, in the providence of God, the potential resolution of the theological conflicts of 1980 was largely achieved in a series of consensus statements including The Dynamics of Salvation, Christ in the Heavenly Sanctuary and others relating to the ministry of Ellen White32 as summed up in the South Pacific Division strategy document of 1999. Thus an effective way forward appears to be to nurture an accurate understanding of the way the Lord has led and taught the church through such instruments in their historical context and subsequent application. With these achievements as points of reference the church may be able to draw many latent reversionists and incipient rejectionists toward effective understanding of its message and viable cooperation in its worship and witness. This transformationist stance may be best heard in the “third voice” aptly described in Ministry, November 2001, pages 20 and 21.33

Conclusion

With the Bible as our only creed, with the broadly-based, mature documents cited above as our agreed points of reference, let us covenant to deal graciously and truthfully with each other as we look for and seek to hasten the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus will our church better pattern after the winsome ecclesia of the New Testament and recapture something of the ethos characterising earlier Adventism at its best. An inevitable by-product will be relationships that evidence we have been with Jesus, One full of grace and truth Who enjoins us to love one another according to the measure of the love He has demonstrated for each of us. He calls us to seek lost coins and lost sheep; to welcome home prodigal sons; to let wheat and tares grow together until the harvest; to proclaim “the everlasting gospel … to every nation, tribe, language and people.” Let us be about our mission.

Thus will Adventists in the South Pacific Division be enabled to walk more unitedly and effectively into the future, remembering God’s leading and teaching in their past–including 1980!34

Drafted by Arthur Patrick, Cooranbong, NSW 2265, Australia, on the 22 of February 2002, posted on this website Sunday, 3 March 2013.

The introduction to the paper (above) was obviously written March 3. It is with some satisfaction that I re-iterate the value of a transformationist stance toward the issues involved. For further reading that locates this discussion within a more responsible ideational environment, please note the significance of many other blogs on adventiststudies.com.

The reader should also bear in mind that a number of other posts further illumine the picture; for instance see material published on sdanet.org/atissue and on the Avondale College of Higher Education website for Advenstist publications.

This is my LAST POST!

Arthur Nelson Patrick, Diploma of Theology and Teaching, BA (Theology), MA (Systematic Theology), Master of Divinity (Pastoral Ministry), Doctor of Ministry (Biblical Studies and Clinical Pastoral Education), Master of Literature (Themes in the History of Women and Family in Australia), Doctor of Philosophy (Christianity and Culture in Colonial Australia: Selected Catholic, Anglican, Wesleyan and Adventist Perspectives, 1891 -1900). The above diploma and degrees were awarded by Avondale College, Andrews University, Christian Theological Seminary, the University of New England and the University of Newcastle. Currently I cherish the title of Honorary Senior Research Fellow, Avondale College of Higher Education.

You may email me at [email protected] but I expect to be unable to answer beyond 4 March 2013. Hence this website has reached its terminus.

3 March, 2013

Foot Notes

1 This quinquennium will mark thirty years since I was first appointed to the BRC of the (then) Australasian Division. In retirement, that mythical period of inactivity between the end of paid employment and death, I value continued engagement with several things. First, the opportunity to learn about and attempt to alleviate some of the pervasive trauma in the church, due to a range of causes, among them doctrinal and organisational matters and the issue of sexual abuse and misconduct now so constructively addressed by the SPD Ethical Standards Committee. Secondly, doctoral dissertations-in-progress that illumine the Adventist experience. Last year, for instance, three doctoral candidates blest me by allowing me to critique their research and writing. Thirdly, since 5 October 2001, I have devoted perhaps 400 hours to exploring whether or not it may be possible for the church to normalise a number of quite varied relationships that became tense in the 1970s and thereafter. There is some cross-fertilisation between these three areas; further reference to each of them will be made at later stages in this submission.

2 For convenience, the climactic year 1980 is used as a way of signifying the period of conflict in general, but particularly the years 1974 to 1983 inclusive.

3 The vibrant discussion of Consultation II (1981) and its outcomes provides an Adventist context for such biblical exploration.

4 A physicist, Dr Lynden Rogers, has written two papers that merit consideration, one offering perspectives on the effects of the conflict on the church and the other suggesting reconciliatory options. They are entitled “The Cost of Glacier View” and “Some Perspectives on Dr Ford, Glacier View and the Current Reconciliation Initiative.”

5 To understand the Forum address of October 1979, one needs to examine the nature and content of the related discussion of the time in California and other parts of the Adventist world. Unless this specific context is understood, the remarks made cannot be evaluated objectively.

6 My use of these three terms derives from a presentation made by Robert Johnston of Andrews University to a meeting of the (then) Andrews Society of Religion Scholars some twenty years ago. Johnston drew on cogent sociological insights that suggest when a large amount of new information inundates a group, three responses are apt to occur: reversion, transformation and rejection. This is an instructive insight. Johnston should not, however, be held accountable for the application I make of this schema.

7 This interpretation is based on oral history and abundant written sources. Should any aspect of it be questioned, the SPD archival resources can offer copious further data.

8 Our Lord warned that in attempting to uproot tares, His servants may uproot wheat. This effect is likely to be compounded if His servants mistake wheat for tares. A longer history of the way in which Christian groups deal with perceived “tares” is available in Catholic history as ban and excommunication, in Amish polity as shunning, and in Jehovah’s Witness practice as disfellowshipping. Each of these responses has its own tradition; for instance, in 1411 the Bishop of Verden stated: “When the existence of the Church is threatened, she is released from the commandments of morality. With unity as the end, the use of every means is sanctified, even cunning, violence, simony, prison, death. For all order is for the sake of community, and the individual must be sacrificed to the common good.” It was such thinking that, in part, made the Reformation necessary.

9 These terms are used in a sociological rather than a pejorative or judgmental mode.

10 Among the many opinions considered recently, I find Brinsmead’s perceptions highly significant.

11 Each of these points needs to be shaped toward the needs of reversionists and rejectionists more fully than is possible in this short document.

12 For some, the issue turns on the reception or non-reception of tithe. Some claim that Dr Ford has not solicited tithe through Good News Unlimited (GNU) in North America; he did not approve the solicitation of tithe by GNU in Australia; he does not control GNU in Australia; he has consistently in private and in public urged Adventists to stay with the church, not leave it. Others contend that since Dr Ford’s focus is the gospel, there would be no problem if he did receive tithe, especially from persons who by reason of their denominational affiliation would not offer it to the Adventist church.

13 As illustrated by the current discussion surrounding Australia’s Governor General, the understanding of sexual abuse has undergone dramatic growth in the past decade. Another issue undergoing fresh appraisal is the issue of spiritual abuse in various dimensions of church life. Some of the relevant questions are posed in such books as Ronald M. Enroth, Churches That Abuse (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992); Dwight Carlson, Why Do Christians Shoot Their Wounded (Downers Grove: OM Publishing, 1994).

14 This process might begin with a consideration of applicable Ministry articles, including David Brubaker, “Church Fights and the ‘third voice’ middle,” November 2001, pp. 20-21. However, without adequate “listening” to both the implied concerns of the president and the existing concerns within the church’s membership, little progress can be anticipated.

15 It may be as challenging to carry such a process to a successful conclusion as it is to develop effective understanding between Aboriginal and Anglo-Saxon Australians.

16 Compare a recent analysis of The Remnant Herald, November 2001, page 1058.

17 It is stating the obvious to point out that in a submission of this length there is no attempt to cite the evidence that supports most of the observations made; indeed, it is impossible to do so in a paper of this length. However, I am happy to offer data on any point at the request of the BRC.  With reference to point 7, one illustration is appended on page 11. This matter may well be investigated usefully in a forthcoming doctoral dissertation.

18 Since that time a constructive deduction has gained increasing support: the Shut Door interpretation may have been a providential detour, one that allowed the believers time to study and reflect and stabilise before the Holy Spirit directed them to begin a new phase of their ministry. For some Adventists this provides a prototype for understanding subsequent deductions relating to the sanctuary.

19 It should be noted that Dr Ford was confronted with issues of revelation/inspiration during the 1960s to the extent that he developed constructive approaches to Scripture and the writings of Ellen White that proved effective during intensified dilemmas of the 1970s. Thus his volume Physicians of the Soul (1980) was ahead of its time and remains an appropriate reference-point for his current understanding of Ellen White’s writings. On the other hand, Dr Standish fosters perspectives on Ellen White that stimulate rejection of her ministry amongst those with enquiring minds.

20 Robert J. Wieland, “Ellen White’s Inspiration: Authentic and Profound,” Australasian Record, 31 May 1982, page 9.

21 See Record, 10 December 1979, pages 6-7.

22 Robert Brinsmead says he has moved beyond Adventism but he remains interested in the wellbeing of the church. His particular focus currently is Jesus and His relationships with people. He appears able to assess accurately and charitably the stances of Russell Standish and Desmond Ford.

23 It would be fruitful for master and doctoral candidates to explore the application of these dimensions of Adventist thought to the Australian situation as Poehler has done for the global situation.

24 Much research on this matter is already available; one or more doctoral dissertations could draw it together more effectively.

25 Sociologist W. S. Bainbridge observes the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Seventh-day Adventists adopt very different stances toward the records of their history.

26 Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1976), pages 515-6.

27 The over-riding purpose of this submission is to offer a context within which the Biblical Research Committee might effectively explore the theological substance of this paragraph. The current initiatives of the College Church are attempts to fulfil the responsibility of a local congregation in view of the content of this document.

28 The symbolism can be explicated usefully by reference to Lewis and Clark in the United States and the European explorers who first traversed the Australian continent.

29 The applicable writings of Poehler and Guy are referenced above. For Bull and Lockhart’s insights, see their volume Seeking a Sanctuary: Seventh-day Adventism and the American Dream (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1989), especially chapter 5. Record and other church publications constantly alert us to the need to address “the secular mind”.

30 Although this theme needs a paper the length of this one to explicate it cogently, a beginning can be made by reading such passages as Counsels to Parents and Teachers, 432-3; Testimonies, vol. 5, 303, 706-7; Gospel Workers, 473.

31 My papers available on www.sdanet.org.au in the AT ISSUE section attempt a fleshing out of this paragraph, either within their texts or by reference to the literature they cite. Since the posting of these papers in 1998, I have been encouraged greatly and helped significantly by comments from Adventists in widely-diverse parts of the world.

32 See Ministry, Adventist Review and Record articles clarifying the church’s understanding of the role of Ellen White in doctrinal matters; for instance, “The inspiration and authority of the Ellen G. White writings: A statement of present understanding,” Adventist Review, 23 December 1982, page 9.

33 The role of local churches is crucial with reference to the contents of this paragraph. It is within congregations that reconciliation is best experienced. The reconciliation envisioned in this document accords a role for church leaders at Division, union and conference levels. It affirms that theological statements can help to facilitate the processes of reconciliation in the denomination. However, it is based on the concept that the koinonia pictured in the New Testament occurs or fails to occur primarily in the local church setting.

34 For a visual elaboration of key ideas presented in this submission, see the below appendices.

Appendix 1
Appendix 2
Appendix 3
Appendix 4

Post 99, Arthur Patrick and Angus McPhee on Revelation

It is not an easy task to enthuse people to read or study again Revelation when many might say they have suffered “Revelation fatigue” but one can only try. Dr Patrick does not appear to fall into the group of the “fatigued;” for over 60 years he has read and re-read the Book and admits to having got more from it with each reading. So his blog should reveal something of his journey and discoveries.

Yes. It is “the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Readers who overlook that and read it for reasons other than discovering what the book says about the risen Christ will miss the point and fall into many a dangerous doctrine, as did the Branch Davidians of Waco, Texas.

It seems to me that having pointed that out, Dr Patrick could and should have explored it. He moves immediately into the literary style of the book, namely “apocalyptic.” While this is a matter that must eventually be addressed, the focus of the blog is not on Jesus and His post-ascension pre-(second)advent role but rather on characteristics of the Book.

I might be pedantic when I address Dr Patrick’s description of Revelation as a mosaic. Of course he is pointing out that it is made up of many “pieces” quarried from the Old Testament and placed in a new setting, but does he emphasise its importance? I like the imagery, but I fear that that point is lost in the paragraph on mosaics. If the casual reader of Dr Patrick’s blog and subsequently of the Revelation forgets that, they will also forget to familiarise themselves with those Old Testament passages that contribute to the Book and find themselves lost in territory with which they really should have made themselves familiar. Readers of this blog should find themselves saying to themselves, “I just have to read Revelation.” For that reason I would have liked him to give appetising examples.

The original manuscript and earliest copies of Revelation did not have chapters and verses. These are a later addition. They might serve their purpose for memorising and reference, but many, like the post-colonial political divisions of Africa which cut through ancient tribal territories, cut through John’s visions and disturb the reader in his travels. It is therefore my opinion that Dr Patrick could better have outlined the Book (as he sees it) and the role of the Risen Christ in each section.

To conclude, this must be said. Any attempt by a Bible student to encourage his readers to read Revelation, at least, and the Bible at most, should be applauded.

While Dr Patrick has told his readers something of what to expect in the Revelation, he has rightly urged his readers to read the Book for themselves with his repeat of one of the blessings in the Book itself: “Blessed is he that readeth.” I agree. May I add the rest of that verse? “Blessed are they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein (Revelation 1:3, KJV).” So, read it and have it read to you, from time to time, again and again. Reader and listener, you’ll be blessed.

A final note: I applaud Angus McPhee for his critique (above), and agree that my limited purpose in my blog could not begin to embrace all the good advice that Angus has offered. So I need to encourage my readers to explore the much fuller coverage of Revelation Studies on Angus Mcphee’s personal blog and, even more particularly the online Revelation materials from the expertise of Graeme Bradford and Jon Paulien elsewhere on this blog.

Angus McPhee, 18 February 2013, posted by Arthur Patrick, 27 February 2013

Post 98, Ellen White’s inspiration, in view of her use of the writings of John Milton

This paper is more fully entitled “The similarity between certain of Ellen White’s writings and John Milton’s epic poem ‘Paradise Lost’,” by Angus McPhee, Tuesday, February 19, 2013.

Angus McPhee has been by my friend since 1958; his work on Revelation is referred to elsewhere on this website. I am in substantial agreement with his analysis of the data, but writing from my bed in Sydney Adventist Hospital I have neither the tools nor the energy to debate details. My son flew from New York on Sunday to see me (for the last time?) and shortly he will burst in the door ere he catches the plane for New York. I pointed out to Angus that an MA thesis was written at Pacific Union College on this topic during the 1950s. During the past forty years I have been trying to contextualise this type of data. My contention is that Ellen White does not need defending, she simply needs understanding in view of all the known and potential data that is available to us.

So, here is Angus McPhee’s article, verbatim.

Sabbath, February 9, 2013, a retired pastor, the teacher of the Sabbath School class I was attending, used “The Clear Word” in connection with the pre-fall snake(s) having wings. He read from Genesis 3:1 which I remember as something like this: “the serpent was the most cunning of all the flying creatures.” (I have since discovered that the 1994 edition of the Clear Word (Hagerstown MD 21740: Review and Herald Publishing Association) reads: “Of all the animals, the flying serpent was the most beautiful and intelligent that God had made.” The 2003 edition, excerpts of which can be accessed at <http://www.ccebook.org/preview/0970011156/Clear-Word-Bible>, reads: “Of all the animals, the serpent was the most beautiful and intelligent that God had made.”) When I attempted to point out that the word “flying” was not in the Bible here, this retired pastor said that our translations were versions and that the only perfect Bible was the Hebrew OT and the Greek NT. “Whoa!” [Martin Luther, I think, has been misunderstood.] Ellen White had said that those snakes had wings. That was that.

I pointed out that Ellen White was influenced, in this connection, by John Milton’s “Paradise Lost.” Some class members doubted. Naturally.

Back home I thought I’d better be sure about what I had said. I have discovered the following.

Ellen White’s descriptions of the Fall include concepts and details not in the Bible, but found in John Milton’s “Paradise Lost” (1667-1674)

____________

Satan’s pre-Fall council
Paradise Lost I: 751-757, II: 1-520
Satan and his evil cohorts gather in councel to plan their work against God. [The spelling in these quotations from “Paradise Lost” is John Milton’s 17th century English.]

Early Writings, 146
He [Satan] consulted with his angels, and a plan was laid to still work against God’s government.

The angels’ praise of Jesus for His decision
Paradise Lost III: 217-349
Jesus approaches His Father and offers to be a sacrifice for man’s salvation which His Father accepts. The angels join in praising Him.

No sooner had th’ Almighty ceas’t, but all
The multitude of Angels with a shout
Loud as from numbers without number, sweet
As from blest voices, uttering joy, Heav’n rung
With Jubilee, and loud Hosanna’s filld
Th’ eternal Regions

Early Writings, 149-151
Then joy, inexpressible joy, filled heaven. And the heavenly host sang a song of praise and adoration. They touched their harps and sang a note higher than they had done before…

The description of the Garden and the Tree of Life

Paradise Lost IV: 218-220, 256, 259-260
…amid them stood the Tree of Life, High eminent, blooming Ambrosial Fruit Of vegetable Gold…
Flours of all hue…
the mantling vine Lays forth her purple Grape, and gently creeps Luxuriant…

Patriarchs and Prophets, 47

There were lovely vines, growing upright, yet presenting a most graceful appearance, with their branches drooping under their load of tempting fruit of the richest and most varied hues. … There were fragrant flowers of every hue in rich profusion. In the midst of the garden stood the tree of life, surpassing in glory all other trees. Its fruit appeared like apples of gold and silver…

Angels visit Adam and Eve

Paradise Lost V-VIII: The angel, Raphael, goes to Eden to meet Adam and Eve and discusses:
• The war in Heaven and fall of Satan (books V & VI)
• The creation of the world (books VII & VIII)
• In VIII, 633, the angel leaves after admonishing Adam and Eve to obey God’s commandments: “Be strong, live happie, and love, but first of all Him whom to love is to obey, and keep His great command.”

Early Writings, 147 Holy angels often visited the garden, and gave instruction to Adam and Eve concerning their employment and also taught them concerning the rebellion and fall of Satan. The angels warned them of Satan and cautioned them not to separate from each other in their employment, for they might be brought in contact with this fallen foe. The angels also enjoined upon them to follow closely the directions God had given them, for in perfect obedience only were they safe.

Eve is alone at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil

Paradise Lost IX: 385

Thus saying, from her Husband’s hand her hand
Soft she withdrew, and like a Wood-Nymph light
Oread or Dryad, or of Delia’s Traine,
Betook her to the Groves, . . .

Patriarchs and Prophets, 53-56

“But absorbed in her pleasing task, she unconsciously wandered from his [her husband’s] side.” “In a state of strange, unnatural excitement, with her hands filled with the forbidden fruit, she sought his presence, and related all that had occurred.”

Compare Genesis 3:6 (Note the inclusion of the words “with her.”)

KJV: And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

JB: The woman saw that the tree was good to eat and pleasing to the eye, and that it was enticing for the wisdom that it could give. So she took some of its fruit and ate it. She also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate it.

NIV: When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

NASB: When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.

ESV: So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

NRSV: So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.

LXX (3:7): And the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes to look upon and beautiful to contemplate, and having taken of its fruit she ate, and she gave to her husband also with her, and they ate.

The serpent praises Eve’s beauty

Paradise Lost IX: 538-547

Fairest resemblance of thy Maker faire,
Thee all things living gaze on, all things thine
By gift, and thy Celestial Beautie adore
With ravishment beheld, there best beheld
Where universally admir’d; but here
In this enclosure wild, these Beasts among,
Beholders rude, and shallow to discerne
Half what in thee is fair, one man except,
Who sees thee? (and what is one?) who shouldst be seen
A Goddess among Gods, ador’d and served
By Angels numberless, thy daily Train.

Patriarchs and Prophets, 64

But the serpent continued, in a musical voice, with subtle praise of her surpassing loveliness; and his words were not displeasing.

By eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil the snake had acquired the ability to both reason and speak.

Paradise Lost IX: 598-601, 863-874

The serpent spoke to Eve:
Sated at length, ere long I might perceive
Strange alteration in me, to degree
Of Reason in my inward Powers, and Speech
Wanted not long, though to this shape retain’d.

Eve reported to Adam:
This Tree is not as we are told, a Tree
Of danger tasted, nor to evil unknown
Op’ning the way, but of Divine effect
To open Eyes, and make them Gods who taste;
And hath bin tasted such: the Serpent wise,
Or not restraind as wee, or not obeying,
Hath eat’n of the fruit, and is become,
Not dead, as we are threatn’d, but thenceforth
Endu’d with human voice and human sense,
Reasoning to admiration, and with mee
Perswasively hath so prevaild, that I Have also tasted,

Patriarchs and Prophets, 54

By partaking of this tree, he [the serpent] declared, they would attain to a more exalted sphere of existence and enter a broader field of knowledge. He himself had eaten of the forbidden fruit, and as a result had acquired the power of speech.

It was Adam’s love for Eve that motivated him to eat the fruit

Paradise Lost IX: 890-891, 908-916

Astonied stood and Blank, while horror chill
Ran through his veins, and all his joynts relax’d …..
How can I live without thee, how forgoe
Thy sweet Converse and Love so dearly joyn’d,
To live again in these wilde Woods forlorn?
Should God create another Eve, and I
Another Rib afford, yet loss of thee
Would never from my heart; no no, I feel
The Link of Nature draw me: Flesh of Flesh,
Bone of my Bone thou art, and from thy State
Mine never shall be parted, bliss or woe

Patriarchs and Prophets, 56 (cf. Early Writings, 148)

An expression of sadness came over the face of Adam. He appeared astonished and alarmed. … There was a terrible struggle in his mind. He mourned that he had permitted Eve to wander from his side. But now the deed was done; he must be separated from her whose society had been his joy. How could he have it thus? Adam had enjoyed the companionship of God and of holy angels. He had looked upon the glory of the Creator. He understood the high destiny opened to the human race should they remain faithful to God. Yet all these blessings were lost sight of in the fear of losing that one gift which in his eyes outvalued every other. Love, gratitude, loyalty to the Creator–all were overborne by love to Eve. She was a part of himself, and he could not endure the thought of separation.

Michael revealed future events to Adam

Paradise Lost

Cain and Abel (XI: 423-465)
Diseases (XI: 466-555)
Defilement and corruption (XI: 556-637)
War, violence, and crime (XI: 638-711)
Noah and the flood (XI: 712-901)
The Tower of Babel (XII:13-104)
Abraham and Moses (XII:105-269)
Jesus and Christianity (XII: 270-551)

The Story of Redemption, 47-48

To Adam were revealed future important events, from his expulsion from Eden to the Flood, and onward to the first advent of Christ upon the earth… Adam was carried down through successive generations and saw the increase of crime, of guilt and defilement, because man would yield to his naturally strong inclinations to transgress the holy law of God. He was shown the curse of God resting more and more heavily upon the human race, upon the cattle, and upon the earth, because of man’s continued transgression. He was shown that iniquity and violence would steadily increase; yet amid all the tide of human misery and woe, there would ever be a few who would preserve the knowledge of God and would remain unsullied amid the prevailing moral degeneracy. Adam was made to comprehend what sin is — the transgression of the law. He was shown that moral, mental, and physical degeneracy would result to the race, from transgression, until the world would be filled with human misery of every type.

The Edenic (original) snakes

The winged serpent of Ellen White’s writings does have an equal in John Milton’s Paradise Lost

In “Paradise Lost”, Book VII, the angel, Raphael, reciting information about Creation to Adam, describes certain creatures which Adam has already named including snakes (lines 482-488):

… some of Serpent kinde
Wondrous in length and corpulence involve’d
Thir Snakie foulds, and added wings
. . . .nor unknown
The Serpent subtle’st Beast of all the field
Of huge extent somtimes, with brazen Eyes
And hairie Main terrific, though to thee
Not noxious, but obedient at thy call.

Patriarchs and Prophets, 53

The serpent was then one of the wisest and most beautiful creatures on the earth. It had wings, and while flying through the air presented an appearance of dazzling brightness, having the color and brilliancy of burnished gold.

We should, however, note that the winged creature of Eve’s dream in “Paradise Lost” (V, 55) is said to be: “like one of those from Heaven by us oft seen” and when the serpent was leading Eve to the forbidden tree (XI, 631-633) Hee leading swiftly rowld In tangles, and made intricate seem strait, To mischief swift.
…………………….

Did Jewish thought reflect the “winged serpent” theory?

Two mediæval Jewish commentators offer these understandings of “upon thy belly shalt thou go”
• Rashi (A.D. 1040-1105): It originally had feet which were now cut off.
• Sforno (born c. A.D. 1475-1550): The serpent would derive less pleasure from life, and procure its food with more difficulty than all the animals and beasts.

See The Soncino Chumash (Hindhead, Surrey: The Soncino Press, 1947), 15.
…………………….

Since compiling the foregoing material I have had to consider another important and related matter.

It was the then head of the Religion Department of Pacific Union College, Dr. Fred Veltman, authorized by the General Conference to investigate the background to “The Desire of Ages”, who confirmed that Ellen White had indeed sourced some of her material from fiction. This was reported in the second of two articles in “Ministry” (October and December 1990). This can be accessed online at    https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/1990/December/the-desire-of-ages-project-the-conclusions

There are some who support Ellen White’s sourcing from fiction. They say that the Holy Spirit guided her in her search. This creates a problem.

On the one hand twenty-first century readers of John Milton’s “Paradise Lost” consider that epic poem to be great English literature but still fiction. On the other hand there are Seventh-day Adventist readers of Ellen White who consider the same details and descriptions sourced from Milton to be inspired fact. Further, some go so far as to promulgate that material as not only historical fact but also a contribution to and part of Scripture. Jack Blanco’s “Clear Word” is the prime culprit.

“Seventh-day Adventist! Quo vadis?”

Posted by Arthur Patrick, 27 February 2013

Post 97, Fresh light on William Miller and his Bible study

Exactly forty years ago I was standing in the library of Aurora College (Illinois, USA) with Dr Moses Crouse, then the leading historian of the Advent Christian Church. We were discussing the original letters and other handwritten documents of William Miller, the books and journals that comprised what was once called the Second Advent Library, and related historical treasures-most of them available at no other place on earth. With a wave of his hand that caused his waist-length beard to swing in a half circle toward heavily-laden shelves, Dr Crouse said: “You Adventists should have all these things. They mean so much more to you than they do to us.”

So much has changed since 1972. Back then, with the savings of twelve years in ministerial service almost spent on study at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, I travelled from Andrews University and stayed close to the institution that is now Aurora University-to read what Miller wrote, in his own handwriting, on now faded and brittle paper. Since then a shelf of excellent books based on primary historical sources have been published, like The Rise of Adventism (1974), The Disappointed (1987), The Miller Heresy (1987), Millennial Fever (1993), William Miller and the End of the World (2008). When, early in Century 21, I heard that Jeff Crocombe was writing a doctoral thesis at The University of Queensland on how Miller interpreted the Bible, I was concerned.

Not that the subject is unimportant. Crocombe is right in claiming: “The Seventh-day Adventist Church is now a 17 million strong denomination with a worldwide presence that reads and interprets the Bible using an approach that owes a great deal to Miller’s hermeneutic.”

But I was looking at the problems Crocombe would face. Gary Land aptly observes that “Millerite historiography has basically passed through three periods”: “memoirs by the movement’s participants who sought to defend their beliefs and actions,” “a debate between detractors and apologists,” and “an academic interest” that better defines the movement in the context of American culture.[1] In this era of academic interest, I wondered if Crocombe could offer a study that would stand tall in the scholarly community and, at the same time, be significant for Adventists. Was it possible to focus on the rather well-known subject of William Miller’s hermeneutics in a way that would justify a substantial financial commitment and long years of intense study? Could the job be done by an Australian in Australia and Africa, enrolled in a secular university? In short, was the outcome likely to justify the enormous effort?

I have now read Jeff Crocombe’s 238-page thesis entitled “’A Feast of Reason’: The Roots of William Miller’s Biblical Interpretation and its influence on the Seventh-day Adventist Church” that The University of Queensland accepted in 2011. After ministry in Australia and teaching at Helderberg College in South Africa, Dr Crocombe, loaded with his newly-minted degree, tranferred to Papua New Guinea to teach at Pacific Adventist University in 2012.

So, what is the content of this sterling work? The first chapter offers a history of William Miller, the Millerites, and the Adventists. Chapter two delves into Miller’s hermeneutics, unpacking his historicism, his “Fourteen Rules” for Bible study, his biblicism and his proof-texting. Although such ground is already well-ploughed, Crocombe’s ploughshare digs deeply; his results are always fresh. Of greater interest to this reviewer is Chapter three’s investigation of Miller’s culture and philosophy. The influence of Christian revivalism, rationalism, deism, “Common Sense” philosophy, bibliolatry, biblical democratisation and freemasonry combined to make a Miller that most Adventists barely know. Crocombe the detective has traced the clues that lead us to Miller’s sources, the libararies and the specific books that he consulted. Finally, Chapter five details Miller’s influence on Adventist hermeneutics in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Most of us have come to terms with the reality that the much-loved founder of our passion about the Second Advent was a hell-believing, Sunday-keeping Baptist, willing to remain silent on truths we regard as crucial (like baptism) lest they draw attention away from “the Advent near.” Some of us have been shocked to also learn that Miller was a cigar-smoking, hog-raising farmer who was  a significant figure in Freemasonry. We cherish Miller for what he achieved under the guidance of the Holy Spirit long before health reform began to stir us, recognising that without him there would be no such movement as Sabbatarian Adventism.

Thanks to Jeff Crocombe we can rejoice anew for insights into “the way the Lord has led us, and his teaching in our past history” (to quote Ellen White’s memorable words). William Miller is a profoundly important founder for so much of what we cherish, even though we need to be duly warned by the far-reaching principle Ellen White gives us in Testimonies I,  262:

Greater light shines upon us than shone upon our fathers. We cannot be accepted or honored of God in rendering the same service, or doing the same works, that our fathers did. In order to be accepted and blessed of God as they were, we must imitate their faithfulnerss and zeal,improve our light as they improved theirs,and do as they would have done had they lived in our day.

The William Miller that Jeff Crocombe depicts in such detail makes this an arresting call for every Adventist.

Arthur Patrick, 31 January 2013

The published form of this review is available in Record, 2 February 2013, pages 14 and 15; see also a re-publication of Miller fourteen rules on page 17 of the same issue. 


[1] Gary Land, “The Historians and the Millerites: An Historiographical Essay,” in Everett N. Dick, William Miller and the Advent Crisis 1831-1844 (Berrien Springs, Mich.: Andrews University Press, 1994), xiii.

Post 96, God, Christian Worldviews and Adventist Thought

Dr William Shippen gave Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) the controversial smallpox inoculation that ended his effervescent life. Later, Shippen who would be a representative at the Continental Congress. He also attended the untimely death of Edwards, and wrote as follows to the widowed Sarah Edwards:

This afternoon, between two and three o’clock, it pleased God to let him sleep in that dear Lord Jesus, whose kingdom and interest he has been faithfully and painfully serving all his life. And never did any mortal man more fully and clearly evidence the sincerity of all his professions, by one continued, universal, calm, cheerful resignation, and patient submission to the divine will, through every stage of his disease, than he; not so much as one discontented expression, nor the least appearance of murmuring, through the whole.

Christian history is replete with narratives of “good” deaths, like that of Edwards, as people faced the end of life with vibrant faith, demonstrating courage and making inspiring comments to the loved ones and supporters that surrounded them. From 1984 to 1991 as I spent huge amounts of time in Catholic, Anglican, Wesleyan and Adventist archives, I noted many stories of those who cherished the idea of a good death. One of the most notable of these narratives was that of the Rector of the Irish College in Rome whose experiences during the 1890s I traced in his copious letters to Cardinal Patrick Francis Moran in Sydney.

But back to Edwards for a moment. Often Edwards is portrayed as a “hardline Calvinist” who had little to offer except opposition to the Arminianism (you can Google this subject in the SDA Periodical Index and note, especially, the landmark 2010 conference on this subject at Andrews University) that is so precious to Seventh-day Adventists. He did, however, subject his body to an important medical experiment. In an age when so many people accepted even serious disease as an expression of the will of God, Edwards confronted this idea by submitting to an experimental injection that it was hoped may parry the scourge of smallpox. Some of his contemporaries interpreted this courageous act as motivated by a serious lack of faith. Even much later many Christians would question whether or not women’s pain in childbirth may be lessened with newly-discovered anaesthetics; didn’t God infer in Genesis chapter three that the process would be painful? Should mere mortals interfere with God’s decree? Since 1915, Adventists have often told the story of Ellen White’s good death (see Volume 6 of Arthur White’s biography of his grandmother, pages 429-431, for instance).  Mrs White is frequently quoted as saying in a faint whisper on her death-bed, “I know in whom I have believed.”

Those who have read the trilogy of narratives on this website (Posts 91, 92, 93) may have been thinking about the way that Adventist worldviews influence how we tell our personal stories. The three stories narrate events that happened within our family during the 1940s, but I only narrated them (in writing) during 1972, close to the time when I finished my first two graduate degrees. The assumptions that lie behind the stories include a God who intervenes in our lives, sometimes saving us from an untimely death or at other times calling us to a particular avenue of service. Such assumptions raise a multitude of questions.

We Adventists place a huge dependence on William Miller as the pioneer herald of “the Advent near,” riveting our attention on the Second Coming of Christ. Jeff Crocombe’s thesis shows so clearly how much Miller cherished Bible study as “a feast of reason.” While he changed his orientation from Deism to an evangelical faith, he continued to be influenced by the “Common Sense” philosophy that was so pervasive in North America during the early nineteenth century. This attitude that we Sabbatarian Adventists have inherited from Miller owes much to the Enlightenment that we usually date as beginning about 1750. Suffice it to say that if we examined our assumptions with rigor, it may even help us with the current debate about how to understand God’s two books, Scripture and science.

The entire picture for Adventists has become much more complex in recent times, in part because of the worldwide influence of Pentecostalism. From our early beginnings we were deeply appreciative of the role of the Holy Spirit (I unpacked some of this reality in the 1999 Record articles that popularise “heavier” papers available on the Internet). Especially since the dawn of the twentieth century, we have been a bit wistful about the interventionist God of the Pentecostals, who performs miracles in abundance. The shoe pinches most acutely when we see our fellow-believers waiting on God to reveal, supernaturally, patterns of action that some of us think he leaves us to chart with the help of the capable minds he has given us.

The theological ideas of John Calvin (1509-1564), Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609), Ellen White (1827-1915) and many recent thinkers impact Adventists and their worldview. This post simply invites us to become aware of the important assumptions that so deeply influence what we think and what we do.

Arthur Patrick, 28 January 2013

Post 95, Andrews University After 36 Years

This short reflection was published five years ago in Andrews University Focus. It is more-or-less the story of how I started to engage with Adventist Studies.

Early in December 1957, three wise men from North America arrived on the campus of the Australasian Missionary College (now Avondale College of Higher Education) to offer the first-ever Seminary Extension School in the lands “Down Under.” Elder Melvin K. Eckenroth lifted our sights toward more effective  evangelism and “Christ-centred Preaching.”  Elder Arthur L. White inspired us with his “Prophetic Guidance” narratives. Dr Edward Heppenstall pushed back our Adventist horizons with classes entitled  “Law, Grace and the Covenants” and “Doctrine of the Sanctuary.”

A new graduate (BA, Theology) appointed as a ministerial intern to New Zealand, I deemed it an unusual privilege to attend the two-month Extension School before crossing the Tasman Sea. The event was so challenging that I decided I must experience more of it—at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs.

Getting to the Seminary involved far more than travel to the top side of the world.  My girlfiend’s pillow was wet with tears, more than once, just thinking about the potential stresses. But Joan Howse became my wife on 14 January 1959. We ministered together in New Zealand for nine more years and saved rigorously before transferring to the Illinois Conference. Finally, mid-1970, jobless and with three children, we arrived at Andrews University.

Desperate for work to pay Seminary fees and living expenses, Joan signed up to teach sewing. The potential returns looked promising indeed and the upfront payment was a mere $500—for the machine with which to teach. Neither the machine nor the job materialised; evidently, the company president needed our $500 to pay his personal bills! Providentially, the Michigan Conference employed Joan as an elementary teacher and then principal at Hartford. I established a landscaping business. Our children picked up stones in the lawns I planted in ancient glacial moraines, like the area of Kephart Lane. During the winter I worked night-shift, caring for the cows in the University dairy. Later, Dr Steven Vitrano employed me part-time in the University Religion Department.

Seminary classes, at last! In Old Testament, with Dr. Gerhard Hasel skilfully helping me implement Kate Turabian’s Manual for writing research papers; with Dr Raoul Dederen, master of the succinct summary of yesterday’s lecture and today’s topic; with Dr Mervyn Maxwell, narrative historian par excellence; with Dr Edward Banks, passionate enricher of marriages; with Dr Charles Wittschiebe, the white-haired advocate of the innovative idea (for Adventists!) that “God invented sex.”

There was an alphabet of memorable others for, like in the Antediluvian world, “there were giants in the land in those days.”  Other doctors like the wise Wilbur Alexander; Roy Branson who knew his Niebuhr; James Cox, cherisher of John’s Gospel; Siegfried Horn, man of both spade and Bible; Alger Johns, Old Testament seer; Arnold Kurtz, pracitioner of ministry; Hans LaRondelle, master of Protestantantism’s “Theological Heritage”; Gottfried Oosterwal, missionary to the world; Walter Specht, New Testament  exegete, and Kenneth Strand who  delighted in history. Outstanding was Dr Leona Running, who re-taught me Hebrew and Greek, after the manner in which Adventists baptise—by total immersion.

As Seminary Dean, Dr W.G.C. Murdoch felt certain that Andrews’ accreditation  for doctoral programs would be received quite soon. So, after an MDiv, I dallied with an MA in Systematic Theology and additional classwork.  Still the negotiations were incomplete. Dr Murdoch’s sterling help moved me on to Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, as the only Adventist amongst 300 students from 26 denominations.

Thirty-six years after finishing at Andrews, the grateful memories remain, in vivid technicolor. Joan also enjoyed the summer schools she attended, but she sacrificed graduation so we could return to pastoral-evangelism in Australia. I felt it was my duty to return to our home Division, despite attractive options for teaching and ministry in the United States.

How I savor those recollections of the Seminary. When I proposed a theme to Dr Dederen for a research paper about the biblical concept of the firmament, he cautioned me lest the discoveries made may be concerning for Australian church leaders. His earnest question was, “Can you handle that?” I assured him that I could: wasn’t I also equipped with Dr Harold Coffin’s explanations of the fossil forests of the Yellowstone? And Dr Richard Ritland’s  thoughtful searches for “Meaning in Nature”? I realised neither how well the Seminary prepared me to understand the issues that would so trouble the church, nor how painful the conflicts would be for so many teachers, ministers, and members in Australia, particularly through the 1980s.

We returned to Australia enthused with the information and vision of the Seminary’s giants. The huge investment of time and means seemed so worthwhile, then. After 36 years, we treasure the era we lived in Dogwood Drive and were impacted by Seminary faculty, students, and the James White Library—especially its primary documents relating to Adventist history and thought.

The Seminary was not to blame that my life-goals impelled me to study elsewhere: DMin (academic emphasis, Biblical Studies); MLitt (Ellen White Studies); PhD (Religious History). But I wonder if our two daughters and our son have forgiven us for the financial privations of their childhood, caused by a father who had to attend Andrews University?

Arthur Patrick, Honorary Senior Research Fellow, Avondale College of Higher Education, 6 May 2008, posted on Australia Day, 2013

Post 94, Adventist Studies Since 1986: Fractious Adolescent or Maturing Adult?[1]

Jesus left behind him thinkers not memorizers, disciples not reciters, people not parrots (Dominie Crossan).

The insights provided by Christ’s teaching are capable of almost infinite elaborations and explorations. The Christian matrices form a code to be translated afresh in each new situation, so that Christian history is a constant process of struggle and rebirth—a succession of crises, often accompanied by horror, bloodshed, bigotry and unreason, but evidence too of growth, vitality and increased undestanding (Paul Johnson).

Professor Bruce Mansfield, founding editor of The Journal of Religious History in Australia during1960, was still at the helm in the 1980s when I proposed the journal might publish an article on Seventh-day Adventist historiography. Mansfield could not have been more helpful in bringing to birth what he hoped would be “the first in a new, occasional, series” on sources for the study of religious history in Australia. One of my claims in the article was that the sources were already in hand for “substantial and accurate Seventh-day Adventist history to be written” that would “expose increasingly the inadequacies of numerous viewpoints current both within the denomination and beyond its borders.”[2] More than two decades later, it seems appropriate to revisit the burgeoning discipline of Adventist Studies and attempt analyses of its development. We shall begin with brief overviews of two recent examples of the genre, one undertaken in the United States and the other in Australia.

I. The McGraw Dissertation

A compelling PhD study by Paul McGraw of Pacific Union College offers fuller understanding of “one of the thorniest problems in Adventism”[3] and thereby strengthens the possibility that the Seventh-day Adventist Church can transcend a conflict that has engaged many adherents for half a century.[4]

 McGraw intimated the nature of his research at the Triennial Session of the Association of Seventh-day Adventist Historians in Portland, Oregon, on 11 April 1998; now his 315 pages fulfil the high expectations that seemed latent in his project from its beginning.[5] McGraw’s dissertation became available to me for extended scrutiny only on 3 August 2006; it was so interesting that I completed a first reading of it by the next evening. Coincidentally, on August 4 the Sydney College of Divinity gave notice that a doctoral study by an Australian pastor, Rick Ferret, had received the approval of its examiners.

I almost held my breath as I re-read Ferret’s final draft in the light of McGraw’s dissertation: both plough some of the same ground. But the two studies are vastly different in methodology. McGraw writes primarily as an historian, making effective use of copious and often new primary sources. On the other hand, Ferret offers a trans-disciplinary report with a strong sociological orientation that makes fresh syntheses and applications of existing literature. Both dissertations are greatly needed by the church, not least because they demonstrate why and how two scholars working in total isolation from each other arrived at conclusions that are congruent.

 An Adventist Problem

There are a small number of issues so close to the core of Adventist identity that constrictions of understanding relating to them threaten the wellbeing of the whole church. Elsewhere I contend that it required about one hundred years for the primary sources relating to the General Conference of 1888 to be adequately gathered, focused, understood and coherently interpreted in writing.[6] However, long before the century had elapsed, indeed, by the General Conference of 1950, a new phase of the conflict over the 1888 message of Righteousness by Faith was initiated. This controversy had little chance of an effective resolution before the Palmdale Conference of 1976 and the Righteousness by Faith Consultation that began in 1979 and published its findings on 31 July 1980.

The Adventist fire that re-ignited in 1950 was fed with explosive fuel as the reality of a sustained conversation between Adventist leaders and Fundamentalist Evangelicals became known and itself began a long process of misinterpretation. While the principal alternative viewpoint was given credence by the “Great Dane” of Adventism, Milian Lauritz Andreasen (1876-1962), it relied considerably on a rapidly developing independent press in the United States paralleled in the energetic Awakening Movement that was spearheaded in Australasia by Robert Daniel Brinsmead. By the 1970s, as other issues increased the complexity of the conversation about Adventist landmarks, their history and meaning, streams of publications were flowing over the church, many of them claiming that 1957 marked the commencement (or at least accelerated the process) of Adventism’s journey toward apostasy.

Since then, the two sides in this ongoing debate have found it very difficult to talk calmly to each other. Some strategists suggest that usually a particular conflict engages between twenty and forty per cent of the constituents of a nation or an organisation.[7] In other words, the majority (up to eighty per cent) may be unknowing of the issues or indifferent toward them. To quantify the participants in any Adventist struggle may be subjective, even risky. But there is a constructive truth that can be stated with reference to 1957: the warfare that began five decades ago can now be understood effectively in terms of the primary documents from that effervescent period.

Touring the Battlefield with McGraw

Back in 1978 at a conference in Washington, D.C., my colleague James Nix kindly offered to drive this naïve Australian to the Gettysburg battlefield. I assumed that to see Gettysburg may require an hour, or even two. How wrong I was! Nix introduced me to a particular battle but also to a war that was fought in ten thousand places, a struggle that told much about its participants, their nation, its past and its future. I came from Nix’s one-person tour of Gettysburg with a sense of profound humility and awe, sorrow and hope.

McGraw’s early chapters make clear the conflict that escalated with the publication of Questions on Doctrine must be interpreted in the light of Seventh-day Adventism as it developed after 1844 and later suffered unresolved traumas, including the departure of the stalwart evangelist D.M. Canright in the 1880s and the foreign missionary E.B. Jones in the 1940s. As a movement developing its landmark ideas in a hostile environment, Adventism cherished the distinctiveness of its remnant concept, fostering separation from the wider society and even from those Christians who also held a high view of Scripture. McGraw pictures well the towering need for a new appraisal of Adventism to occur by the 1950s and he details the pioneering efforts and considerable skill of such leaders as LeRoy Edwin Froom in effecting that process.

 McGraw’s history is not a partisan one; it is irenic, even-handed. He has listened to the confusing sounds of battle so well that he can interpret their meaning faithfully. He avoids the impulse to engage in “right-on-our-side” apologetics and the violent polemics that has often paraded as history. Like Nix at Gettysburg, McGraw’s tour leaves me with a profound sense of humility in view of documented human actions versus the way God appears to lead His people, with awe at what was actually achieved by Adventist and Fundamentalist/Evangelical leaders, with sorrow at the way in which both people and processes were misunderstood, and with hope that all of us who are members of the Adventist family can better value each other as we focus more intelligently on our identity and mission.

 A Brief Summation of McGraw, for Now

We are less than honest if we fail to admit that currently a deep rift exists in the Seventh-day Adventist church that derives in considerable measure from events that occurred between the initial representations by Robert Wieland and Donald Short to the General Conference (1950) and the death of M.L. Andreasen (1876-1962).[8] McGraw’s journey through the disputed terrain introduces us to the participants in the struggle with honesty yet empathy. His account makes sense in terms of the existing studies by those who have particular axes to grind as well as the responsible analyses offered by George Knight and others. Therefore, McGraw’s dissertation offers a potential capstone for the arch of understanding that has been built by others with diligence despite buffeting crosswinds. The builders have demonstrated enthusiasm and yet often they have encountered the need for demolition and redirection of effort.

McGraw also helps us interpret the theological climate of Reuben Figuhr’s presidency (1954-1966), the altered ethos in the era of Robert Pierson and his colleagues (1966-1979) and the far-sighted church councils fostered by Neal Wilson (1979-1990). He provides us with a way to begin to understand the nature and mission of both the Adventist Society for Religious Studies and the Adventist Theological Society. After taking McGraw’s tour, we can better appreciate who Adventists are, why conflicting maps of their journey since 1957 abound, and how the Adventist future may be more promising as we choose to learn from our past.

Such a limited review as this can only intimate some of the strengths of McGraw’s study, it cannot express or evaluate them adequately. McGraw’s dissertation illumines two related matters: Adventist identity and the relationship between Adventists and other Christians. His concluding paragraph illustrates something of the significance of his message:

Because of the fact that even in 2003 there continue to be individuals on both sides of the debate who hold to opinions which mirror those held by both sides prior to the Evangelical Conferences of 1955-56, this work is important. Just as the conferees on both sides realized that the issue which most deeply divided them was that of terminology, it is equally important for those who still see an insurmountable divide to look at the complete story in which at least some individuals on both sides tried to reach out the hand of fellowship and bridge the divide created in the minds of many by a simple word, “cult.”

That “complete story” has dynamic potential for the Adventist future. Internal unity is crucial for our mission as Seventh-day Adventists, as are mature relationships with other Christians.

II. Another Case Study: The Ferret Dissertation

For the past seven years Richard Ferret has juggled the demands of employment while undertaking a doctoral program with the Sydney College of Divinity (SCD). Earlier this year when Ferret completed his dissertation, the SCD appointed three examiners to assess it and provided them with fifteen criteria to apply in the process of evaluation. On Friday, 4 August 2006, the SCD advised Ferret that the reports were in hand: all three examiners rated Ferret’s work in Category A, accepting it as meeting the requirements for a PhD degree without change of argument or content. The comments of one typify the general tone of all: “the research is particularly thorough, academically responsible, historically accurate and complete, balanced, its conclusions credible, and expressed with a suitable academic precision.”

The two examiners in the United States and the one in Australia share long experience in higher education with particular expertise in history, theology and sociology; they were chosen by the SCD as matching well the historical substance of the dissertation, its theological content and its sociological orientation. “Charisma, Sectarianism and Institutionalisation: Identity Issues in Seventh-day Adventism” developed from Ferret’s long years of struggle with the history of his church since 1844, including its teachings and its controversies. A comparison of his text and bibliography (pages 384-416) indicates Ferret has a thorough grasp of the diverse literature.

Ferret suggests “Seventh-day Adventism has proved immensely successful in terms of both evangelism and institutionalisation.” He also states:

The proliferation of SDA institutions throughout the world suggests, however, that Adventism remains embroiled in tensions between imminence and occupancy; between apocalyptic ideals and modern realities, between what it teaches and what it actually does (361-2).

Light on the Dilemma

Ferret retains some of the patience and active listening skills fostered by his initial training as a nurse, to which he has added the insights of tertiary teacher, chaplain and pastor. To read his dissertation is to note the effective way that he incorporates published studies of Adventism like those of Rolf Pöhler (1999, 2001) and Douglas Morgan (2001).[9] Pöhler’s dissertation at Andrews University investigated the nature, extent and direction of Adventist doctrinal developments in the light of the religious background of the church and the sociological forces at work in it, analysing the Adventist response to doctrinal adjustments and discussing Ellen White’s involvement in and conception of doctrinal change. Based on Pöhler’s work, Ferret argues that Adventist teachings have been significantly affected by theological and hermeneutical developments under the impact of sociological forces that have tended to move the denomination closer towards evangelical Protestantism. Ferret also finds Morgan’s dissertation written at the University of Chicago particularly illuminating in the way it traces continuity and change in Adventist apocalypticism within American society.

However, Ferret also draws upon the insights of many other major researchers. He cites Michael Chamberlain’s trans-disciplinary study (2001) of Adventist education at Avondale College with its special interest in socio-cultural change and the associated need to develop a thoroughly informed hermeneutic for Ellen White’s writings.[10] Ferret is clearly appreciative of Bruce Manners’ dissertation (2004) and its implication that Adventist publishing is at its finest when it is frank. However, although Ferret drinks from many deep wells, he provides his own cup: an interpretive model that (he claims) fits the church’s need.

An Overview of Adventism

Ferret’s exploration begins with Millerism and the painful transition that birthed  Sabbatarian Adventism.[11] A long introduction (pages 9-51) introduces Weberian methodology, defines charisma, legitimation and its routinisation. Chapter 2, “American Revivalism, Millennial Dreams, Crisis and Charismatic Inauguration” prepares the way for two chapters on how Ellen White’s charisma was legitimised and Adventist identity was formulated. Chapters 4 and 5 (“The Routinisation of Charisma in Adventist Experience,” “Imminence and Delay: A Constant Impasse”) prepare the reader for two chapters that tour the sectarian controversies within Adventism from 1844 to the present. Chapter 8, “Doctrine and/or Deed: Dilemmas of Institutionalisation” summarises the main issue of the dissertation in readiness for ten pages of conclusions.

Ferret observes that the student of SDA theology “can easily recognise the themes of restorationism, perfectionism, Arminianism and revivalism that were common” in the society that birthed Adventism as one of 279 utopian communities established in the United States between 1787 and 1919. While he displays a deep commitment to the Adventist pioneers who transformed a Great Disappointment into a dynamic new movement, he wants contemporary Adventists to better implement Scripture as the church’s authority. He deems that in the controversies of the past generally, and particularly in those occurring since the Evangelical Conferences of the 1950s, too many of his fellow believers have polarised around rival extremes that may be described as reversionist or rejectionist. Ferret’s advocacy of a transformationist response to new data will resonate with those who seriously accept Ellen White as “the Lord’s messenger,” given to us as a lesser light to lead us to the greater light.

 A Subjective Interpretation

What potential is evident in Ferret’s work? It will stand the test of time and scrutiny as well as prove to have outstanding significance for the lively, ongoing discussion relating to Adventist identity. How might we compare it with other explorations of Adventism? Perhaps an illustration from history may help us at this point.

Some of my United States friends equate a difficult journey undertaken by Lewis and Clark as highly important within their culture. Before Lewis and Clark, Americans knew there was a West Coast with its Pacific Ocean. But was there a way from the Mississippi River via the Missouri and the Columbia to the Pacific? The courage, skill and effort of Lewis and Clark demonstrated that there was.

A major reason why Adventism lost so many ministers, teachers and members during the 1980s lay in our inadequate understanding of continuity and change with reference to Adventist teaching. Rolf Pöhler fills for Adventism a Lewis and Clark role, demonstrating with his Andrews University dissertation of 1995 that change was a reality and that it could be constructive if we related to it coherently.  There was a way through the Rocky Mountains of Adventist controversies; equipped with the grace and the graciousness of God the rivers could be forded and the dangerous passes negotiated.

Rick Ferret cannot be expected to redo the more pioneering explorations already undertaken by Rolf Pöhler and others. His work is that of a mapmaker for some of the road construction that is needed for the Adventist journey toward the Kingdom of God. Ferret adds to the growing evidence that historical and theological studies are crucial for our self-understanding and mission. More than that, his dissertation offers another indicator that it is time for the Adventist church to plan another baptismal service. Sociology has been in a “class ready” long enough; it has proved itself as a constructive discipline that can reliably assist the Adventist quest to understand the way the Lord has led and taught us since 1844.[12]

III. Identifying Other Pieces of the Jigsaw Puzzle

Even from such a brief overview of the dissertations by McGraw and Ferret, three comments can be made with some degree of confidence. The first of these observations presents a daunting reality: both studies demonstrate that the present is best understood in terms of the entire Adventist past, including the rise and development of the movement, its controversies, identity and mission. This reality offers an appropriate caution for those who investigate the modern period without reference to historical considerations. Secondly, as demonstrated best in McGraw’s work, there is a great need to mine thoroughly the primary sources that have become increasingly accessible since the church made an influential decision in 1972, as indicated in my 1986 article. Indeed, it is unlikely that the church can transcend controversies effectively without detailed attention being given to the specific witness of the documents that illumine its journey; this fact renders inadequate or irrelevant much of the publishing that has occurred even since the middle of the twentieth century. Thirdly, as Ferret’s work well indicates, trans-disciplinary studies are likely to offer particular rewards that are identifiable when numerous explorations are examined and compared.

Dissertations that intersect with the territory covered by McGraw and Ferret offer ways to more fully assess each of these observations. It has already been implied that

a number of studies form an effective foundation for Ferret’s overview. Some of these will be noted further due to their role as important pieces in the jigsaw puzzle that is being assembled over time.

Douglas Morgan, writing at the University of Chicago under the supervision of Martin Marty developed an impressive longitudinal study of Adventism as a major apocalyptic sect in North America. Morgan’s dissertation in its published form demonstrates the comparative complexity of Adventist apocalyticism, the influence that external factors may exert on biblical interpretation, the nature of the Adventist struggle for continuity in its teachings and the actuality of change in its biblical interpretations and applications. These and related themes are illumined further by the 1995 Andrews University dissertation already mentioned, published subsequently in two volumes, that offers a masterful depiction of Adventist theological development.[13] Morgan writes in a North American context whereas Pöhler’s work is influenced by the long engagement of a European mind with research in the United States.

By contrast, Michael Chamberlain’s doctoral research (completed 2001) was undertaken at the University of Newcastle in Australia. Effective scholarship transcends any limitations inherent in its provenance; the discipline of Adventist Studies needs to be as ethnically and culturally inclusive as is the membership of the movement. It is perilous to hope that the findings of any doctoral dissertation can be adequately depicted in such cursory remarks as this presentation affords. Therefore, in the appendices to the archived copy of this presentation in the South Pacific Division Heritage Centre and in the Ellen G. White/Seventh-day Adventist Research Centre, reports that I have made on various studies since 1980 are available for assessment. The Foreword written for the published form of Chamberlain’s dissertation implies there are controversial aspects to both the presentation and the content of his research. However, it is likely that two strengths will be recognised as the debate continues: the substantial accuracy of the big picture Chamberlain paints and the logic this provides for concerted attention being given to the development of a coherent hermeneutic for Ellen White’s writings.

Bruce Manners, like Chamberlain, completed a trans-disciplinary study (2004) in an Australian setting.[14] Manners’ dissertation demonstrates even more fully than Chamberlain’s the value of sociological inquiry. The Millerite phase of Adventism signalled the potential of print for the expression and development of ideas; publishing became a core activity of Sabbatarian Adventism from the 1840s. Manners is able to offer an irenic account that, even so, supports the concept that Adventist print is at its best when it is frank. The secular “history wars” in Australia and the current debate over Exclusive Brethren teachings and activities in New Zealand and Australia illustrate the discomfort that politicians and Christians are likely to feel in the spotlight of investigative reporting. In such conflicts within Adventism, some researchers take comfort from Ellen White’s assurances that truth has nothing to fear from the closest investigation and that “truth can afford to be fair.”[15]

The studies by Pöhler, Morgan, Chamberlain, McGraw, Manners and Ferret have either been completed or have entered the discussions within South Pacific Adventism during the past five years. Hence any conclusions that are submitted here need to be stated with due caution. One way to test the likely impact such recent studies may have for Adventism is to view them in the context of previous interpretative attempts. My remarks are, undoubtedly, heavily influenced by the fact that my study, pastoral and teaching experience are limited to Australia, New Zealand and the United States. Further, while Adventist history and thought           have been the central focus for all my inquiries since 1960, I have attempted to approach these subjects with an awareness of trans-denominational considerations (especially Catholic,[16] Anglican and Wesleyan insights) and trans-disciplinary perspectives (embracing Scripture, history, theology and sociology in particular). Any such endeavour is likely to merit criticism for its shallowness, especially from those who are expert in one of the various disciplines that speak to the component issues most powerfully. It is in this context that I wish to suggest, albeit tentatively, the potential of selected older studies.

When, in 1976, I was placed in charge of the first Ellen G. White/Seventh-day Adventist Research Centre in the Southern Hemisphere, the groundbreaking discussion of Ellen White’s life and writings initiated by Spectrum in 1970 was almost unknown in Australasia. However, by 1978 the church was conscious of particular names (like Donald McAdams, Ronald Numbers, Walter Rea, Jonathan Butler, Ronald Graybill) and it slowly developed an awareness that ministers, teachers, historians and other employees in the United States and the South Pacific were being marginalised or dismissed because they were aware of new data and their attempts to interpret it coherently were deemed heretical. A cluster of biographical studies needs to be undertaken in order to illustrate the development of Adventist Studies during the difficult conflicts that became painfully evident during the 1970s and spun out of effective control in the 1980s.

If my published contentions are correct that the past half century of research relating to the life and writings of Ellen White may be characterised usefully by such words as certitude, controversy and consensus, it is likely that the church will come to value the concept that some of the people it has disciplined have contributed constructively to Adventist Studies. Mention of one example of many potential individuals must suffice as an illustration of this claim at this point. Ronald Numbers not only was excluded from participation in Adventism in terms of his profession as an historian, it was mooted that any employee who had supported his research (for instance, by facilitating access to relevant sources) must be dismissed as well. However, several observations can be offered constructively after the passage of thirty years. Numbers’ career demonstrates that historical inquiry enriches the church; that since the publication of research allows “the dialogue and dialectic of a community” to function effectively, correctives are likely to be discovered and effective balance is apt to be achieved over time. In effecting the professional martyrdom of Ronald Numbers, the church sacrificed an historian who is now eminently credible in the public sphere. Numbers could well have applied his evident talents for the continuing benefit of Adventism as well as for the enrichment of American society.[17]

Tensions can be constructive, despite the sensitivity the church has demonstrated toward them, repeatedly. For instance, Michael Pearson’s doctoral dissertation illustrates the likelihood of tension between Adventist millennialism and the church’s engagement with ethical issues. Such tensions are inevitable, essential and potentially creative within Adventism if the implications that may be drawn from Pearson’s dissertation are viewed in historical perspective.[18]

Another of the evident tensions in Adventist Studies is illustrated by the sometimes contrasting perspectives of the Adventist Society for Religious Studies (ASRS) and the Adventist Theological Society (ATS). Some observers suggest that the ATS may have limited its effectiveness by requiring its members to sign a statement of faith that seems to constrain their openness to genuine research as well as the publication of research findings in peer-reviewed journals. However, two considerations are important in this regard. The ATS has recently modified it confessional statement and a case-by-case analysis of the writings of ATS members is essential if this issue is to be assessed adequately. For instance, the publications of Roy Gane well illustrate the fact that an ATS member (who is concurrently an ASRS member) can relate responsibly to such perceived barriers. Gane’s doctoral research at Berkeley embraced Hebrew language and literature within the context of Ancient Near Eastern Studies (assisted by seventeen different ancient and modern languages) while maintaining a clear focus on biblical exegesis. This background has enabled Gane’s volumes on Leviticus and Numbers to achieve publication from Adventist, Evangelical and scholarly presses. Gane’s related professional roles (directing M.Th., Th.D/Ph.D. programs at the SDA Theological Seminary as well as teaching and preaching) further illustrate the challenges and rewards of Adventist scholarship that bridges what is too often a daunting chasm between academia and proclamation.

At the North New South Wales convention (held 6-14 October 2006), twelve presentations by Gane illustrated well his engagement with the processes of exegetical study, pedagogy and preaching. Comment by attendees suggested that Gane’s use of computer technology to support linguistic, contextual and inter-textual studies of Scripture can engage the interests of a cross-section of believers. If Seventh-day Adventists in fact have no creed but the Bible, the depth of exegetical study modelled by Gane with reference to Leviticus at the South Pacific Division theological congress (early in 2006) must be applied to the entirety of Scripture.[19]

Undoubtedly, one of the most divisive issues faced by the Seventh-day Adventist church since the 1950s concerns the doctrine of revelation/inspiration. This was evident in such debates of the 1970s as those that caused the termination of scientists and biblical scholars employed by Andrews University and the Geoscience Research Institute. The church at the time could not provide Ronald Numbers with a viable doctrine of inspiration but it deemed it was necessary to dismiss him for not applying its dynamic concept of inspiration to his historical consideration of Ellen White. Matters flagged at Consultation I and II (early in the 1980s) came into prominence with the publication of Alden Thompson’s Inspiration and the spirited rejoinder published privately by ATS. Subsequent research by Ray Roennfeldt has the potential to resolve many of the tensions, were it applied effectively to the Adventist discussion.[20] That the issues are ongoing is evident: for instance, White Estate has this year, again, made public its negative categorisation of Graeme Bradford’s attempt to recount the Ellen White story in popular language.

As early as 1980, White Estate voted a comprehensive agenda for the study of Ellen White’s life and writings and the Biblical Research Institute accepted a supportive role in the daunting task.[21] Groundwork for such objectives was creatively started by Arthur White’s papers on inspiration developed during the 1970s, Ronald Graybill’s and Robert Olson’s work that flowered at the 1982 International Prophetic Guidance Workshop, Fred Veltman’s research on The Desire of Ages and related initiatives. A coherent overview from White Estate was needed urgently and promised in the publication by Herbert Douglass, Messenger of the Lord (1998). This was a constructive step in the right direction despite a profound limitation: an effective study typically begins with an inclusive literature review. As a consensus volume, the Douglass tome did not even name some of the most important researchers, let alone analyse in any detail their explorations of the component issues.

Perceived outcomes still seem somewhat daunting in some respects: in 2006 the agenda of 1980 is largely unfulfilled (in a comprehensive way) by the combined efforts of White Estate and the Biblical Research Institute; the ATS is only haltingly supporting the church’s efforts to embrace and proclaim a viable doctrine of inspiration, the Standish brothers channel millions of Adventist dollars into alternative programs deriving from their analysis of “the ills of God’s church” or in support of a doctrine of inspiration that claims “inerrancy in the autographs” for both the writings of Ellen White and the Scriptures.[22] Meanwhile, the church in some geographical areas of the world is still losing adherents who experience unbearable cognitive dissonance with reference to the issues.[23] Even so, the church is sometimes tempted to be hesitant in fostering research, to the point that on occasion dedicated individual members working individually are the ones who break fresh ground most effectively.

This observation is illustrated well by the research of medico Donald McMahon and historian Fred Hoyt. It is my published contention that the piece McMahon has contributed to the jigsaw is the single most important one relating to Ellen White’s inspiration that has been submitted since 1970. Even less is known by the world church about the illuminating research that historian Fred Hoyt commenced in the 1970s. Bulging filing cabinets and boxes of data in Hoyt’s crowded office enable a fuller understanding of early Adventist charismatic experiences, the education of Ellen White, the influence of Wesley on Ellen White’s life and ideas, the relationship between Ellen White’s literary indebtedness and the doctrine of inspiration and a cluster of related matters. Neither McMahon nor Hoyt claim any expertise outside their respective fields of medicine and history. Their findings need to be understood by the biblical scholars, systematic theologians and pastors who are able, in turn, to interpret their significance for the church at large.[24]

This brief report cannot mention a plethora of published studies from Adventist and non-Adventists presses, not least those by Ronald Lawson, Keith Lockhart, Malcolm Bull and Kenneth Newport. Bull and Lockhart’s update of their earlier sociological investigation will probably be read by some Australians before the end of 2006, before many Adventists even know there was a first edition of it published in 1989. In other words, the church is better supplied with research data and tentative interpretations than with initiatives that incorporate responsible studies into the warp and woof of its teachings, life and mission. Since 1970 the church has incurred an increasing debt to such independent publications as Spectrum and Adventist Today for venturing interpretations that at times become normative after a decade or two of vigorous discussion.[25]

This reality is well illustrated by the issue of origins. From their earliest years, Sabbatarian Adventists have been reflecting upon the significance of creation and the relationship between biblical cosmology and the Seventh-day Sabbath. Since the mid-twentieth century, enormous progress has been made in revising the ardent creationism of stalwarts like George McCready Price in order to better represent known realities understood by scientists working in biology, physics, archaeology, anthropology and related fields. Since the late 1960s, the Association of Seventh-day Adventist Forums (demonstrated by articles in its quarterly journal, Spectrum, as well as by numerous presentations made since 1980 at its chapters in San Diego and Sydney) has at times given effective voice to the struggle by selected biblical scholars, theologians and scientists to be faithful to Scripture and honest with scientific evidence. Avondale College, not least in a series of conferences organised by the Faculty of Science and Mathematics (led by its current dean, physicist Lynden Rogers), has exemplified the fact that rigorous scientific enquiry can proceed in tandem with a deep commitment to Scripture as divinely inspired.[26] Rogers’ teaching and preaching illustrates the way faith and science can be related coherently by an Adventist scientist. That Scripture can be expounded winsomely, in the light of such understandings, for a general audience, was demonstrated at the North New South Conference convention on 14 October 2006 when, in fifteen minutes, Rogers presented a Sabbath School lesson on Genesis 1. A further indicator that profound ideas can be conveyed in popular language came to my attention from reading a recent Spectrum Sabbath School commentary.[27]

An even more vexed issue (than that of origins) relates to whether or not the church can invite back to its fellowship at least some of the ministers, teachers and members who lost their professions and their membership in Australasia during the 1980s. To further this endeavour, I made a presentation along with others at the Sydney Adventist Forum on 22 October 2005; my script for that occasion has gone worldwide electronically and been published in summary and other forms.[28] Reactions have in the main been affirmative, although they vary from naming the presentation as “a masterpiece of concission and moderation” to further evidence that I can no longer call myself a Seventh-day Adventist. When time permits, it would be helpful to review the attempt made by Avondale College early in the troubled 1980s to ready itself for a visit by the accreditors of Pacific Union College, represented in a document on “Academic Freedom and Academic Responsibility.”[29]

IV. Assembling Pieces into a Picture

As one examines the individual pieces of information derived from the efforts of the many who have engaged in Adventist Studies since 1986, it is apparent that these can be considered to be fragments of a larger whole. In other words, they may be characterised as jigsaw pieces that suggest relationships, indicating it may be possible to assemble them into a coherent picture. Selected pieces may be identified in terms of the following observations.

1. The church has invested enormously since 1972 to implement its decision to enable research by enhancing access to primary and other sources that relate to Seventh-day Adventism. By establishing a worldwide chain of Ellen G. White/Seventh-day Adventist Research Centres (or equivalent heritage entities) to serve the various geographical sections of the world, effective research relating to Adventist history and thought as well as the life and writings of Ellen White has been facilitated.

2. It is evident that during the past two decades, trans-disciplinary research has flourished as individuals have crossed boundaries between component modes of inquiry that focus on Scripture, history, theology, pedagogy, education and an array of sciences (including the physical, biological, social, health and other sciences).

3. Such processes are enhancing the comparative study of Adventism, not least with their trans-denominational qualities. It is, for instance unlikely that the Adventist struggles over the human nature of Christ can be solved without reference to both the Christological controversies of the early Christian centuries and the specific input of Adventists who have joined the discussion since 1844. This principle can be extrapolated to every aspect of Adventist thinking and doing. It is best illumined by studies that investigate Adventism as an organic entity in terms of its antecedents, founding and development from 1844 to the present.

4. There is much to be gained from the processes that focus diverse minds on Adventist Studies, including believer-participants, researchers in Adventist and non-Adventist settings and those who do not identify with the church as adherents. In other words, the “prayer” of Robbie Burns is helpful: we need to see ourselves as others see us.[30]

5. Apologetics is a valid enterprise but it often presents particular perils.[31] The Adventist past is littered with casualties of credibility; it could be that these are diminishing in number as better research methods are adopted.

6. The church is increasingly moving to interpret data rather than seeking to control information. The advent of the mimeograph machine began to change the ethos of Adventist Studies; the ham radio and the photocopier accelerated the change; computer technology has completely democratised the process. Technology in its electronic and other forms means the church now functions in an increasingly different way.

7. This combination of realities means the church is aware of new issues, including those of justice and gender equality. The costly and demanding processes that have developed far-sighted approaches to Christian service (for example, ADRA), responses to the issues of sexual and domestic abuse (well illustrated by Adventist Support and its 2006 publications), also mean that the church’s employment practices are more transparent. It is unlikely that control of Adventist Studies will again be exercised in the mode of the 1980s.

8. The indicators suggest that in both the administrative and the scholarly spheres, the church will attempt to maintain a healthy marriage between academic freedom and academic responsibility. The self-correcting nature of effective scholarship, the ongoing dissemination of research through print and electronic publishing (including the checks and balances provided by the independent press on both the church’s right and left) will tend to maintain balance in this regard.

9. A major conclusion from the past two decades is that doctrinal development in Christianity and Adventism is a reality that may be destructive or constructive. It is a major responsibility of those individuals who engage in Adventist Studies to contribute toward constructive outcomes.

10. Further, the church is moving steadily toward fostering more effectively “the dialogue and dialectic of a community” rather than employing disciplinary measures to control research. At a time of particular concern in 2001, a substantial number of members in the College Church expressed a desire to better understand the issues that had proven unmanageable in Australasia two or three decades ago and seemed to be re-emerging in a new form. One of the initiatives spawned by this perception was the Adventist Studies series undertaken for a period of five years. In hindsight, Fritz Guy demonstrated the fruitfulness of a focus on Adventist heritage and the processes that created the church’s Fundamental Beliefs (2002). William Johnsson (2003) and Alden Thompson (2004) offered assurance that Adventists can faithfully interpret Hebrews and Daniel and live in community with each other. Kendra Haloviak (2005) enriched faith by presenting John as “the gospel of grace and glory.” Charles Scriven (2006) invited his hearers to perceive Adventism as a journey of transformation. Together these presenters gave a constructive, forward-looking vision of Adventist thought as focused on Jesus Christ as revealed in Scripture and cherished by a last-day movement since 1844.[32]

Conclusion

If this survey bears any relation to reality, it tends to support suggestions by Fritz Guy that Adventism benefits markedly from “the dialogue and dialectic of a community” and its theological development can be both a coherent and an illuminating process.[33] Long ago Robert Johnston contended compellingly that Adventism’s “most striking characteristic” is its quest for truth.[34] The past twenty years of Adventist Studies indicates progress is being made in terms of the perspectives offered by Guy and Johnston. Indeed, it is not unbridled optimism to contend that Adventist Studies is an emerging discipline that is on a very steep and mostly constructive learning curve. Indications are that, in 2006, Adventist Studies may be characterised less as a fractious adolescent than as maturing adult.[35]

Arthur Nelson Patrick, Honorary Senior Research Fellow, Avondale College. Script for a Faculty Colloquium, 26 October 2006; draft dated 26 October 2006.


[1] This document began its life as a script for a staff colloquium presented at Avondale College on 26 October 2006. It has been reused as an adjunct to oral presentations on the Avondale campus for students who have immediate access to the Avondale College Library, its Adventist Heritage Centre, the Ellen G. White/SDA Research Centre, the 1987 article referenced in footnote 2, the document entitled Adventist Studies: An Annotated Introduction for Higher Degree Students (May 2006) and its updated form as A Brief, Annotated Introduction to the Field of Adventist Studies for Higher Degree Students (Avondale College, 2009), and a plethora of other such materials. There is, therefore, no attempt herein to reference relevant studies comprehensively, since students are invited to ask questions about sources orally in the class discussion periods or to use the electronic and other indices that are readily available to them.. If other persons who read this script need help in identifying any particular information, they are invited to e-mail me: [email protected]bigpond.com.

[2] See Arthur N. Patrick, “Seventh-day Adventist History in the South Pacific: A Review of Sources,” The Journal of Religious History 14, no. 3 (June 1987), 307-326. The article consumed eighteen months of part-time endeavour between two larger projects: “Ellen Gould White and the Australian Woman” (M.Litt. thesis: University of New England, 1984) and “Christianity and Culture in Colonial Australia: Selected Catholic, Anglican, Wesleyan and Adventist Perspectives, 1891-1900” (Ph.D. dissertation: University of Newcastle, 1991, published in a limited edition, 1993). Because the journal article was completed for presentation to the editor in 1986, that date provides a boundary for this presentation.

[3] See George R. Knight, “Historical and Theological Introduction to the Annotated Edition,” Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine (Berrien Springs, MI.: Andrews University Press, 2003), xiii-xxxvi.

[4] For an earlier report on a constructive effort by Leroy Moore and the names of significant other researchers, consult my review entitled “Moore’s Light on An Adventist Trouble,” Adventist Today 14, no. 3 ( May/June 2006), 22, 23 20.

[5]Paul Ernest McGraw, “Born in Zion?: The Margins of Fundamentalism and the Definition of Seventh-day Adventism” (PhD dissertation: The George Washington University, 2004). Directed by Dewey D. Wallace, Professor of Religion, The George Washington University, it is available from University Microfilms International, Ann Arbor, Michigan. Hopefully, all Adventist institutional libraries will accession it in the near future.

[6] See Arthur Ferch (editor), Towards Righteousness by Faith: 1888 in Retrospect (Wahroonga: South Pacific Division of Seventh-day Adventists, 1989) as interpreted in a series of four articles in Good News for Adventists during 2006.

[7] See, for instance, David Brubaker, “Church fights and the ‘third voice’ middle,” Ministry, November 2001, 20-21.

[8] See sdanet.org/atissue for the biography of Andreasen by Virginia Steinweg, originally published as Without Fear or Favour (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1979).

[9] Note archival documents that relate to this theme, including my review of Morgan.

[10] See the archived Foreword that I have written for the published form of Chamberlain’s dissertation.

[11] This era is now much better understood since a perceptive and thorough dissertation by Merlin Burt (2002) explored the years 1844-1849.

[12] In a recent article I argue that we should “baptise this illuminating social science … without further delay.” See “Beyond Richard Ferret: Should Adventists Baptise Sociology, Now?”

[13] Cf. Arthur Patrick, unpublished review of Morgan (2002) and “Doctrinal Development Studied,” Record, 15 March 2003, 10.

[14] See Arthur Patrick, “Studying Record,” Record, 27 November 2006, 11.

[15] See, for instance, Counsels to Writers and Editors, 35.

[16] Reinder Bruinsma’s University of London dissertation offers the best single study of Catholicism in the setting of Adventist thought.

[17] See Jonathan M. Butler, “Introduction: The Historian as Heretic” in Ronald L. Numbers, Prophetess of Health: Ellen G. White and the Origins of Seventh-day Adventist Health Reform (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1992), xxv-lxviii), within the context of various of my publications, including those on sdanet.org/atissue.

[18]Note Michael Pearson, Millennial Dreams and Moral Dilemmas: Seventh-day Adventism and contemporary ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990). Earlier this month Pearson referred me to a trilogy by Harry Williams in the Contemporary Christian Insights series published by Continuum International Publishing Group and distributed in Australia by Allen and Unwin. The 2001 volume by Williams entitled Tensions offers a bold agenda: “Tension is inherent in the universe, the smallest particle gets it dynamism from an internal relationship of positive and negative. This work describes some of the healthy, life-giving conflicts in which we are involved as moral and spiritual beings.” The conclusions that arise from Pearson’s dissertation are further illumined by Rick Ferret’s more recent doctoral study.

[19] See Arthur Patrick, “Exploring Adventist Identity: ‘Who is the Seventh-day Adventist?’ Report on Bible Congress 2006: a Conference in the South Pacific Division,” Adventist Today 14, no. 3 (May/June 2006), 8, 9, 6.

[20] Those who find Roennfeldt’s doctoral dissertation daunting may better enjoy his report, “God has not put Himself … on trial in the Bible,” Newsletter (Avondale College: Ellen G. White/SDA Research Centre), October 2006.

[21] For the list of topics (literary, historical, scientific, theological, hermeneutical, methodological) agreed upon and the context of the endeavour, see my paper “The Minister and the Ministry of Ellen White in 1982,” 5-6.

[22] Cf. my review of five books in “Prophets Are Human! Are Humans Prophets?” Spectrum 33, no. 2 (Spring 2005), 73-74.

[23] The strategy document relating to the life and writings of Ellen White, developed by the South Pacific Division late in the 1990s (the decade in which effective consensus started to develop) and recently updated, is the most constructive document of its type ever produced by an Adventist entity on this subject. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that the chairperson of the Biblical Research Committee of the South Pacific Division (who is also general secretary of the Division) earned a doctorate in the historical study of Adventism at Andrews University.

[24] Gilbert Valentine has recently published an illuminating account of efforts by White Estate to fulfil its mission respecting Ellen White’s writings: The Struggle for the Prophetic Heritage: Issues in the conflict for control of the Ellen G. White publications 1930-1939 (Muak Lek, Thailand: Institute Press, 2006). In a volume now being researched and written, Valentine offers perceptive analyses of Ellen White’s relationships with General Conference presidents during her lifetime of ministry. Early drafts of the forthcoming Ellen White encyclopedia indicate that the projected volume (number13 in the Commentary Reference Series that commenced in 1954) will meet a real need. Another long-term enterprise by a Newbold scholar will describe the people to whom Ellen White addressed letters.

[25] This observation is based on my impression of ninety articles about Ellen White published by Spectrum.

[26] Lawrence Turner may be one of the most balanced Adventist exegetes of Genesis; one of the useful interpretive publications produced by the Association of Seventh-day Adventist Forums is entitled Creation Reconsidered; next month the Adventist Today Foundation will publish a volume by well-informed authors under the title Understanding Genesis: Contemporary Adventist Perspectives; Lynden Rogers has participated in organising conferences about such matters as cell death, origins, old universe/young life, design and other issues related to creationism. Rogers hopes to develop a conference that will focus on brain function. Extensive publications from the Geoscience Research Institute help to provide a context for such discussions within Adventism.

[27] A recent e-mail to a friend in Europe refers to this matter as follows: “Rolf, this morning (4 October 2006) I woke up thinking about the presentation that I’m writing for delivery on October 26, ‘Adventist Studies Since 1986: Fractious Adolescent or Maturing Adult.’ When Adventism in the early decades of the last century was surrounded by war between Fundamentalists and Modernists, our people saw clearly the problems with Modernism and retreated into the Fundamentalist camp. We don’t belong there, either. For instance, Nichol in his Ellen G. White and Her Critics made a sincere and strenuous effort to defend Fundamentalist concepts and apply them to Ellen White. But the wall he built in 1951 was already crumbling by 1970; it is now in ruins. The reason why the issues of the 1970s so de-stabilised us is that by then we were realising Fundamentalism was decreasingly viable and already Post-Modernism was pressing us to better understand the human quest for meaning. So we had the issues of Modernism to deal with belatedly (essentially, the demand to ask how evidence relates to faith) as well as pressure on the existential issues. Your commentary [spectrummagazine.org] on this week’s lesson is aware of all these pressures but wisely does not mention them. It simply opts for some of the clear evidence that the Book of Genesis is “true” and suggests what it actually means. Thanks, Rolf, for doing this so winsomely. One of the finest things Spectrum has done (since its founding) for the church we love is submit this type of response to the Revelation/Inspiration issue, offering a more effective road toward a brighter future. I’ll send a copy of this to Leigh (another of my Adventist heroes). I’ve already sent it to a PhD friend who got churned up in the cogs of controversy but is again searching for meaning in the life of faith.”

[28] “Twenty-five Years After Glacier View: Using the Lantern of History, Anticipating a Brighter Future.” This may be read in the wider context provided by my “Visioning and Re-Visioning Seventh-day Adventist Tertiary Education in Australia: A Centennial Assessment of Avondale College,” The Inaugural Murdoch Lecture, 1997.

[29] Recently Graeme Bradford drew my attention to a stimulating article by Edward Heppenstall, “Academic Freedom and the Quest for Truth,” Spectrum (Winter 1972), 34-41.

[30] Observe the way that the 1970s changed the understanding of history in the United States.  Religious history that had been “replete with apologetical positions,” “a poor stepchild to historical scholarship,” tending “toward anecdotal, often uncritical celebrations,” was “transformed.” Marilyn Westerkamp, “Religion,” in Daniel Vickers (editor), Companion to Colonial America (Malden, Maine: Blackwell, 2006), 366-388.

[31] This matter, illumined by both the experience and the writings of Fred Hoyt, is aptly canvassed in the paper Hoyt is developing on Francis D. Nichol.

[32] Every Adventist needs to apply all such insights in the formulation of a personal expression of faith. See, for instance, Douglas Martin’s “Church Foundation” document that is under discussion at present.

[33] Fritz Guy, “The Future of Adventist Theology: A Personal View” (1980) and “The Theological Task of the Church: Observations on the Role of Theology and Theologians in the Church” (1980) expanded and contextualised in Thinking Theologically: Adventist Christianity and the Interpretation of Faith (Berrien Springs: Andrews University Press, 1999). Compare the thought of Alden Thompson, best reviewed with the help of his website at Walla Walla University and explicable in terms of the attitudes intimated in his article, “Conversations with the other side,” Spectrum 31, no. 4 (Fall 2003), 54-9.

[34] See Robert Johnston, “A Search for Truth,” Adventist Review 160, no. 37 (15 September 1983), 6-8; cf. George R. Knight, A Search for Identity: The Development of Seventh-day Adventist Belief (Hagerstown: Review and Herald, 2000), 28.

[35] A principal concern that troubled me as I reviewed this script before its presentation (beyond its likely need for more sub-editing!) resided in its “density” and its failure to adequately cover the wide range of issues in Adventist Studies that have assumed importance since 1986. This presentation is limited to what might be expected to be achievable in a single colloquium. Dr Ervin Taylor has proposed (in an e-mail on 19 October 2006) that an attempt should be made to review the progress of Adventist Studies annually. Should this excellent concept be implemented, it would be much more realistic than any single attempt to comment about Adventist Studies over a longer period (such as two decades in the present case). It may be that Taylor’s suggestion could incorporate an annual presentation on the topic given at an Avondale College colloquium each October and similar reflections offered elsewhere, particularly in the United States and Europe. A raft of ideas comes readily to mind as worthy of exploration for such an annual process. A focus on selected Adventist scholars and their writings (as suggested in a seminar at La Sierra University in 2003) might provide a starting point for a round table discussion of suitable options. Various research fellows might be requested to present on successive occasions, as might individuals who have completed M.A. or Ph.D. research projects. Currently, Kevin Riley, Mark Pearce, Peter Harper, Jeff Crocombe, Eric Livingston, David Thiele and others are undertaking such research under the auspices of Australian universities. Avondale students engaged in such studies could also give work-in-progress presentations on an annual basis. Avondale presentations might be published (in print or electronic form) along with similar endeavours made in other locations.

Post 93, Third in the Series: “Called at the Blackbutt Tree”

This piece, also written as an assignment for Mike Jones’ class in 1972, reflects on an experience in the Bellangry State Forest during 1949. I advise the previous two posts should be read before this one. 

The giant tree crackled, teetering in the light wind. Then, with a sound like a rifle shot it broke and gathered speed, ripping a great hole in the Australian bush. Even as he ran for safety Art knew everything would be different. There should have been a logical and orderly blending of events leading to this decision. But sometimes God changes things quickly. Very quickly. Let’s begin, though, with the events of the afternoon before.

The face of the November day was paling from pink to gray twilight as Joe plodded along West Road toward the tent. A pebble in the bottom corner of his gunny sack held one end of the rope that arched over his shoulder and grabbed the top of the bag. From inside the sack came the jingle of knife and spoon against enamel plate and tin cup. Art trailed to the left of Joe. Their hobnail boots left neat patterns in the dust of the dirt road.

Rusty, a ring-tail possum, crawled to the end of her hollow limb and blinked as the brightness blurred her sight. She yawned. Still too light. Two babies snuffling around their nest of bracken leaves in the lilly-pilly tree must wait for supper, Rusty decided. Far up the ridge in the more open forest a party of laughing jackass birds chuckled raucously, then flew to their roosting tree.

“I’ll get the water.” Joe’s voice was tired yet cheery. He emptied the canvas water bag into a blackened can and hung it over the ashes of the fire. The ferns scraped softly on the empty kerosene tin and water bag as Joe headed for the stream. The containers full, he splashed cold water on his face and neck and arms. How good it was to wash away the grime and sweat of the long day.

“This comb needs a trip to the dentist,” Joe said to himself. He dipped it into the little pool between the mossy rocks. The water, the few teeth left on his comb, and some dabs with his hands got Joe’s long black hair into some semblance of order.

As Joe hung the water bag on the end of the tent pole, Art put a second billy of water over the blazing campfire. “Joe, tomorrow let’s have a treat. Remember that jello we’ve got in our food boxes?”

The older brother nodded. Trust a fifteen-year-old to think of making jello in summer. “But we can always drink it if it doesn’t set or if its melts,” he thought.

The inky-black Australian night closed in around the small clearing before the supper dishes were rinsed and lodged among the bushes to dry. Art poured two packets of jello crystals into containers, gooey from a month of moist air. It had been a little better in Parker Brothers General Store thirty miles away.

Pulling up the flap of the tent, Joe fished in the flickering firelight for an oblong case kept on a platform of two sticks under his bunk. The light glinted on silver as he sat on a log and aimed the bell of his cornet at a low angle toward the stars. A frogmouth owl had grunted “Oom” only nineteen times, but he stopped to listen, shocked. Art thought the words as Joe played:

Anywhere with Jesus over land and sea,

Telling souls in darkness of salvation free;

Ready as He summons me to go or stay,

Anywhere with Jesus when He points the way.

Not quite out of range of the mellow notes, Rusty curled her tail around a low limb of the lilly-pilly tree and slid off the branch. Swinging back and forth for a moment, she dropped to the ground, landing easily on all four feet. Her babies, stomachs firm with fresh milk, pressed close to each other in the nest. The hungry mother tested the night air, her long whiskers twitching. Yes, they would be safe, she decided. There was the still unusual scent of man, but it was far enough away.

The undergrowth muffled the chirrup of a dozen crickets as Rusty nosed her way to a clump of saplings. She climbed easily, to swing by her tail at will and clutch bunches of tender leaves flavored with eucalyptus. Flat sides bulged slowly. At last, comfortable with fresh food, the possum knew it was time to lie near her wriggling children again.

Rusty gripped a branch here and there with her long, tapered tail. But the smooth gum trunk was nearly as easy to come down as it had been to go up. Her most direct path to the lilly-pilly tree was near the strange shape which came to the forest late last summer.

By now she knew it well, but still treated it with some caution. After her babies were born, she often carried them close to it as she hunted for scraps of fruit. Nestled in her pouch, she felt sure they were safe. But once a huge, two-legged creature had stepped from the great canvas tent. Rusty remembered having to flee in terror.

Now the woolly possum eyed the silent tent, testing the cool night air where two scents mingled. One was like the native bees nest in the knot of the blackbutt tree.  But the hole had proved too small and she couldn’t claw her way to the strong sweetness inside. Yes, this too was a sweet odor. But that was the uncertain scent of man.

Testing the air a dozen times, Rusty crept toward the tent. The sweetness invited her. It pushed her fear away. Faster now, she climbed one of the short poles that help up a wooden box. The delicious smell streamed from the cracks between the boards. Rusty clawed at several cracks before half the top of the tucker box moved. She pressed her nose into the crack. The lid slipped over her ears and rested on the middle of her back. It rattled each time she moved. But what was that compared to the taste of cool runny jello?

“Hey Joe, what’s that noise?” Art’s senses slowly came to him. Sitting up in his rough bunk made from large gunny sacks stretched between two poles, he fumbled underneath the patchwork blankets. Matches, at last. The match he struck glowed, showing a rusty-red female possum halfway in the tucker box. Art lunged forward and pressed the lid against the well-padded body, but with a great heave the animal was free.

“Joe, my jello!” With the help of another match Art peered into the food box. Half the strawberry jello was gone, and he had no appetite for the rest.

Hours later as the east tuned gray, Rusty crawled down the spout of her home in the gum tree and curled into a tight ball. It was half daylight by the time Joe gathered a handful of bluegum bark and started the campfire. Red sunlight was painting the treetops when Joe and Art knelt with thankful hearts and asked for guidance and protection during the long day.

“This fellow sounds good,” Joe said an hour later as he sunk his axe a second time into a huge blackbutt. The ring of the blow told Joe the tree wasn’t rotten or eaten out by termites.  He checked the direction it should fall, while Art put the lunch bags in the shade and returned with the saw, six-feet-six-inches long. The eucalypt was six feet through. Two keen axes cut a pie-shaped gash in the front of the tree, and then the saw tore strips of straw-colored sawdust from the back. The tree broke a great open space in the forest. It was barely cut to the right lengths for the sawmill before two pairs of sap-stained hands were groping in the tucker bags for lunch.

Across the newly-bulldozed road and along a hundred yards was a taller blackbutt. The first sixty feet of its barrel was painted black by forest fires. Beyond the fibrous bark was another forty-eight feet of smooth, blue-gray trunk before the umbrella of limbs.

“Three good logs in this one,” Art suggested.

Joe nodded. He was already deciding the tree would be least likely to break and easiest to saw into lengths if it was felled beside the small gully which made a deep furrow in the hillside. He marked a place six feet from the ground where the cut should be.

Practiced hands chopped two tight notches for the falling boards three feet above the ground. With a dull plunk the boards were thrust into place. A horse-shoe like piece of steel bit into the top of each notch and held each board steady. Six inches wide, a falling board is a safe, level, springy platform for an axeman to stand on.

Early afternoon sun filtered through the leaves and blotched brown bodies, bare from the waist up. Trickles of perspiration streaked the soot and dust on Joe’s chest and dripped from Art’s eyebrows.

With their axes in the half-done face-cut, Joe and Art sat on their falling boards to rest.

“Great life, this,” Art thought. “This forest has a thousand mountains. Every one can have its adventure. Its animals and birds, its trees and plants are friends. This is real life.  I’m staying at it.”

“Enough wood in this one for at least a couple of houses,” Joe’s voice cut Art’s train of thought. He swung his axe. The sound rang through the forest. His mind still full of the delicious green of the mountains, Art climbed to his feet.

As the patches of sawdust on the east and west of the tree got close to the face-cut, the giant tree started to crack. As it leaned, Joe grabbed the saw and leapt to the ground. The two scurried up the hill beside a crooked bluegum.

Dust drifted outwards from where the giant ploughed with a shuddering crash into the earth. Wisps of torn leaves floated down in a gentle, warm breeze. “Joe, I’m going to college,” Art said simply. “God’s changed my mind. Just while we worked on this tree.”

The older brother ran his index finger across his forehead and flung the perspiration at a tussock of flax. He looked knowingly at the lean teenager.

“I wanted to stay here. I love this life, these mountains. But I’ve got to go to Avondale. Not sometime. In six weeks.”

And looking back from this side of college, Art is sure God called him that November day at the blackbutt tree.

Arthur Patrick, posted 24 January 2013

Post 92, Another Narrative Illustrating How Their World-view Influences the Way Adventists Tell Their Personal Stories: “Does the Mountain Understand?”

This piece, also written for a Mike Jones’ class assignment at Andrews University (Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA) in 1972, reflects on my experiences during 1949 in the Bellangry Sate Forest, northwest of Wauchope, NSW, Australia. It would be best if the blurb that introduces Post 91 was read before Post 92. 

The evergreen crown of the Mile Climb rises above the heads of its brother mountains. More man-like than its fellows, one arm reaches north, fingers clutching at the deep gorge of the Wilson River. The other arm stretches south for a couple of miles, but at the elbow it arches to the sunset.

The backbone of the Mile Climb divides the watersheds of two rivers. Its spine plunges for a mile to the west, pauses, rises, falls, and levels off a hundred times.

A decade ago axemen wounded the brow of the mountain, cutting down the stately Australian hardwoods. From the scab of human ruthlessness sprout the four awkward legs of a tower. In his eagle’s nest, enclosed by glass, the fire watchman overlooks a vast forest. Squinting forty road-miles to the east, he sees a wisp of gleaming sand and ships passing in the Pacific.

The Mile Climb seems to understand human life. Every day it watches men come to peer through the windows of its tower. And a home, the only home for a handful of miles, nestles close to the tower. There children of the forest play and plant their wild garden with gladioli and zinnias. The mountain is a friend to them.

Around the south ribs of the mountain, bulldozers gouged a road for men to haul logs in their groaning trucks. On one of the ribs, close below the road, perch a few khaki tents known as Kelly’s Camp.

Big Ted spent his week nights in his tent at Kelly’s Camp, often alone. By day he nosed his huge orange caterpillar tractor into the steep gorges which plunged and twisted southwest of the Mile Climb. Autumn mellowed the April afternoon as he eased his shuddering machine against a towering brush box tree and set the winch to slowly unwind its inch-and-a-quarter steel cable.

Big Ted jerked the wire through the undergrowth until he had enough length to circle the brown end of the box log the cutters felled during March. His huge frame heaved with the exertion as he scrambled uphill to stop the winch. Steel splinters bit at his rough hands as he lassooed the log.

The Cletrac’s engine roared as Big Ted made it claw uphill, winch freewheeling. A hundred feet up he backed against another box with feather orchids decorating its rough bark. The steel cable tightened and then inched the forty-foot log upward. Forward again. Winch the unwilling log, its four-foot diameter ploughing a long black scar on the mountainside.

“That winch’s is fouled up,” Big Ted announced to himself. Setting the safety brakes, he clambered down and dropped on one knee behind the tractor. For a split second his brown face froze white as the brakes shuddered free and the monster lunged at him. He dived for safety, but tripped. Rolling as he fell, a fallen sapling sheltered the back of his head.

The blade of the first track chopped across Big Ted’s shoulders. The next one caught the middle of his back. His tractor flattened the undergrowth. Its cable made the log thrash a clearing before it snapped with a metallic twang. The crunch of steel on stone was muffled by the forest. Wedged between two rocks, the big cat purred until, its tank empty, it too slept.

An evening westerly nodded the blackbutt trees far up near the crest of the Mile Climb. Did the mountain understand every man’s brief life is given in some cause?

All that winter the Mile Climb felt log-cutters at work on another of its ribs a mile east of Kelly’s Camp. Sometimes they mentioned Big Ted and his tragic death. October warmth made being wet bearable, but Joe and Art had little use for their canvas water bag that day. Every leaf of the dense underbrush added to the rain which played muted music on a million leaves.

“Here’s a spot to eat lunch,” Joe half shivered. The pair had enough space to stand beneath the shelter of a huge eucalypt, curved centuries ago when it was a sapling. The drip-line of the incessant rain was inches from their faces as Joe and Art pulled sodden bread and canned peaches from the gunny-sacks sheltering between their feet.

“There’s the next victim,” Joe jerked his whiskery chin in the direction of a blackbutt, slim and elegant among its fellows, 108 feet of millable trunk beneath the canopy of limbs. Axemen, cold from standing for lunch, wielded their axes to cut clean and deep.

The peg-and-rake crosscut saw hissed as it tore strips of wood from the slim wound in the back of the tree. Water, running down the trunk, softened the usually harsh sound of the saw. The giant teetered. But it was balanced, its fingers lightly clinging to the hands of its companions.

“I’ll get a wedge, Joe.” The fourteen-pound sledge hammer blanked out the music of the rain. Still the blackbutt only swayed. More quick, cautious rasping with the saw. Then the ring of steel on steel.

“Okay, Art, move back and be on the lookout.” Joe, approaching thirty and older by a decade, always took the crucial risks. The lookout had his job, to watch, to shout the warning. Mostly his was a cry from comparative safety.

Joe pounded the wedges again. The tree leaned slightly. Cracking splinters sounded a staccato, dominating the soft music of the rain. A few more swift bites singlehanded with the six-foot-six-inch saw.

“Run, Joe. Timber-r-r.” The cracking swelled to a crescendo as the blackbutt leaned. Joe dived into the narrow escape track through the underbrush. A long-fallen sapling, chest height, still swathed in tough vines, forced him to drop to his knees and crawl under.

One-hundred and fifty feet up a dry limb broke loose and fell, a spear hurled by the hand of gravity. The tearing of branches shrouded Art’s cry of terror as Joe’s head emerged from the tangle of vines toward the falling missile.

Joe’s tattered felt hat was inches from the free-falling spear that dug deeply into the wet soil. As the thunder of the falling tree rumbled through the forest, Joe shook the water from his sodden hat, and ran sap-stained fingers through his black hair. It was just another of the many times he assumed necessary hazards to safeguard another’s life.

Rivulets coursed seaward between the ribs of the Mile Climb. Did the mountain understand that the finest motive in man’s brief existence is to give even his life for another’s well being?

For another month the mountain felt spring growing toward summer. November sun filtered through leaves and blotched brown bodies bare from the waist up, watered by trickles of perspiration. On the south of the Mile Climb, a hundred yards past the elbow where West Road curved from south to west, a small gully grooved the hillside. Beyond it grew another blackbutt, curiously, 108 feet from stump to limbs. The shoes of two falling boards chewed at the notches in the tree as Art and Joe chopped the face-cut in this much-stouter tree.

The early summer heat made even lean men pant. And so the two rested. Art relived his dreams during those moments. The dominant color which played on the screen of his mind was the green of the mountains. The Mile Climb was only one of a thousand. On every one adventure waited to be discovered. The fur and feather and friendliness of the wilderness flashed individual frame of ecstasy. No black-and-white vision, this. Here was wild, rough, lonely, free existence. This was real life.

Enough lumber was housed in that blackbutt for several frame houses. The pile of chips on its north side was augmented by straw-colored sawdust on its east and west. But before that giant crashed to the forest floor, Art’s whole outlook had changed. There was no sudden light, no arresting voice. But the Spirit planted an unshakeable conviction. It was time to forsake a cherished dream for years of arduous preparation to serve.

Six weeks later Joe and Art walked from the shimmering baptismal waters of Lake Macquarie. Calloused hands gripped in farewell. Joe returned to axe and saw. Art stepped into a new world at Avondale College.

Joe lived for a cause, a bigger dream than adventure. He uses a chain saw now. It roars on the mountains west of the Mile Climb. But if mountains understand, they know that many a woodman’s clearest picture of God is captioned Joe. And some of those who know him best are joined to his saving Christ.

“The best experience in a man’s short earthly span is found in full response to the call of God,” Art muses on this side of graduation.

Perhaps the Mile Climb senses that Joe’s is only a faint replica of the Ultimate Pattern for every life.

A cause consumed the brief existence of the Galilean. He still beckons us to join Him. His scarred hand is imperative in its appeal: “I demand that you love each other as much as I love you. And here is how to measure it-the greatest love is shown when a person lays down his life for his friends” (John 15:12, 13, Living Bible).

That laying down may be assuming the risk in the rain-soaked bush. Or responding, “Yes, God,” on a November day. In essence, and for all, it is living to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19, RSV).

It isn’t even important that the mountain should understand. But if you understand, maybe you’ll move the mountain.

Arthur Patrick, posted 22 January 2013