BEGINNING OF THE END:
Martin-Barnhouse "Evangelical Conferences" and their Aftermath
A DOCUMENTARY ON
THE MARTIN-BARN HOUSE "EVANGELICAL CONFERENCES" WITH OUR LEADERS IN
AND THE AFTER-EFFECTS OF THOSE CONFERENCES
1 - 1977 -
"Adventist Heritage" Article
2 - Statement by a General Conference Worker
3 - Statement
by a Seminary Student
4 - 1971 - Froom's "Movement of Destiny"
5 - November 1956 - Articles In "Our Hope"
6 - April 1978 - Barnhouse's Search for Fellowship
7 - August 1956 to November 1957 - The
"Bombshell" Eternity Magazine Articles
8 - 1957 - "Questions on Doctrine"
9 - 1960 - "The Truth about Seventh-day
10 - December 1956 - March 1958, April 1960 - The
"Ministry" Magazine Articles
11 - 1979 -
"Without Fear or Favor"
12 - c. 1961 - "Satan's Last
13 - May 1958 - Hudson's Conversation with
Box: The scapegoat transaction
14 - January
and April 1956 - Two Anderson Letters to Grieve
15 - February 1958 - Cottrell's Letter to
16 - April 1957 to 1966 - The Protestant Reaction
17 - 1959 - A Medical Missionary Recalls Dr.
18 - November 1960 - Death of Donald Grey
19 - 1965 -"Kingdom of the Cults"
20 - 1980 -
Correspondence with Walter Martin
21 - August 1982 - Letter from W. Duncan Eva
22 - February 1983 - Getting Ready for a New
Bombshell: Martin's Update on Adventism
23 - March
1983 - Implications of Martin's Lecture
faithful Seventh-day Adventists back in the mid-fifties it was a fearful doctrinal
crisis in our Church. But to the believers in our day it is now seen to have
marked the beginning of the end.
errors that the so-called "Evangelical Conferences" brought into
our denomination grew throughout the sixties and seventies and were used by
modernists in our Church, such as Desmond Ford, to lay a solid foundation for
what is now called the "new theology."
would be no "new theology" in our Church today if certain of our
leaders had not welcomed its theological roots back in the mid-fifties.
time, certain Evangelical Protestants asked a small group of our leaders to
reconsider the stated doctrinal beliefs of our denomination- and, if possible,
to restate them in "theological terms" that would be acceptable to
the Protestant world around us. This seemed but a small concession in view of
the golden opportunity held out before us: unity and fellowship with the
other Protestant Churches.
wisdom in many counselors. And if many counselors had been consulted, they
would have pointed out that unity and fellowship with the other Protestant
Churches is not one of the objectives of the Second Angel's message of
Revelation 14:8, much less that of the Third Angel which follows it.
is fallen" and "Come out of her, My people" is the call; not
"Go in and have doctrinal unity with her." (Revelation 14:8 with
18:1-5, and Great Controversy, 603-4, 390)
in our time do not realize how firmly the error was placed in the foundations
of the Church back in the mid-fifties. In fact, many do not realize that it
was laid at all back then! But history is a wise teacher. As we study the
past we are better prepared to understand the present and meet its
present has challenges. You will find as you read Section Twenty-one, of this
lengthy documentary- that you are suddenly being thrust into the present.
Martin is again demanding "answers" from the General Conference. He
has recently told us so himself. The new set of "questions on
doctrine" have already ready been submitted to them. What will our
leaders do in reply? -What kind of doctrinal replies will they give?
kind of letters are you going to write? - urging them to
stand true to historic doctrinal Adventism, in spite of the liberals and the
Fordites in our midst and the Martin's and the other churchmen without?
This is no
time to haul down our banner. The Third Angel's Message is inscribed upon it.
God has placed you in this world at this time in history for a purpose. Stand
true to that purpose, no matter what the cost may be. The Bible-Spirit of
Prophecy teachings bequeathed to the Adventist Church are more precious than
all else besides. Some go out to the modernists and others flee to the
offshoots. But God wants men and women who will stand up IN the Church and
"sigh and cry" for the abominations that now threaten it from all
Beginning of the End" is urgently needed now;- more so than at
any earlier time in our history. Read it carefully and then share it with
others. Discuss the issues with those who need to know these issues,
Seventh-day Adventists whom you are acquainted with.
the story of the beginning of the end- how it came about
and what it led to many years ago. Here is the story of the beginning of the
great doctrinal apostasy of our time, that has since developed into a major
"new theology "attempted takeover.
the story of the beginning - at a time when we are nearing the end.
for Pilgrims' Rest
written and published twenty years later (in 1977), yet this article provides
a very helpful introduction to the entire Martin-Barnhouse General Conference
affair. We shall reproduce the entire article here. It is written from the
standpoint of both a defense of the General Conference participation in these
conferences and their subsequent publication of the book, "Questions on
Doctrines." And this is good. This major documentary, "The
Beginning of the End, " will start with a thoroughgoing defense of what
was done back in the mid-fifties. In this way, as you read through this
entire documentary, you will be enabled to have seen both sides of the issue
from the large number of materials from articles, books, letters and personal
statements that will be presented to you.
Unruh, along with Roy Allen Anderson, and LeRoy Edwin Froom, were the primary
figures leading out in the Adventist side of those Evangelical Conferences.
Walter R. Martin and Donald Grey Barnhouse were the leaders on the
Evangelical Protestant side. Anderson was the coordinator and authority
figure that kept the wheels rolling toward Adventist-Protestant unity in
these Conferences. Froom was the researcher and the one, along with Anderson,
who did most of the writing. Martin was the one who approached the Adventists
for information and possible conferences to help him in the writing of his
forthcoming book about our Church and its doctrinal positions. Although a
little dubious about it all, Barnhouse was Martin's influential backer both
in the Conferences and the writing of his book. Unruh was the man that
initially got them all together to start with. His part in the later
Conferences was not as significant. It was primarily Anderson, Froom, and
Martin that made the decisions, wrote the books and led out in the defense of
entire transaction, by which Adventists moved several significant steps
closer to the fallen churches.
following was a magazine article. It was entitled "The Seventh-day
Adventist Evangelical Conferences of 1955-1956, " and was written by
Elder T.E. Unruh (the Unruh mentioned above). By the time it was written
(1977) only Unruh, Anderson, Figuhr and Martin were still alive. One
individual (the General Conference man who comments on the Evangelical
Conferences later in this documentary) maintains that this magazine article
was Okayed by Unruh but due to his advanced age not actually written by him.
the complete article. It originally appeared in the Fourth Quarter, 1977
issue of "Adventist Heritage", a scholarly journal containing
articles of miscellaneous interest to the lover of minute points of earlier
Adventist history. [Unruh is now deceased.]
The Seventh-day Adventist
Evangelical Conferences of
T. E. Unruh
in Grand Terrace, California, T. E. Unruh is a retired minister. When the
events described here took place, Unruh was president of the East
of conferences between Seventh day Adventist and Evangelical leaders, begun in
the spring in 1955 and running into the summer of 1956, led to the
publication of two books: the first, Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions
on Doctrine; the second, The Truth About Seventh-day Adventism. The first is
a definitive statement of contemporary Adventist belief, established on a
broad international consensus of church leaders and prepared for publication
by a representative committee appointed by the officers of the General
Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. The second work, by Walter R. Martin, a
leading expert on American cults, defines and examines Seventh day Adventist
doctrines, using the first work as source and authority. In his book Martin
removed the Seventh-day Adventist church from his list of non-Christian cults
and acknowledged that all whose beliefs followed the Questions on Doctrine
should be counted members of the Body of Christ (the Christian church in the
Evangelical definition) and therefore his brethren. While some Adventist and
non-Adventist dissidents have been vociferous in their denunciation of the
Adventist definitions and the Evangelical evaluation, in retrospect the
conferences improved the understanding and appreciation of the Seventh-day
Adventist church on the part of many Evangelical leaders, and likewise warmed
many Adventist leaders toward the Evangelicals. It was a time when the gates
between sheepfolds stood open.
no thought of precipitating anything of such historic consequence when I
wrote a letter on November 28, 1949, commending Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse for
his radio sermons on righteousness by faith based on the book of Romans. At
the time, Dr. Barnhouse was a popular radio preacher, minister of the Tenth
Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, author of a number of
Evangelical books, and founder and senior editor of the influential Eternity
magazine. I was the president of the East Pennsylvania Conference, with
headquarters in Reading.
reply to my letter Barnhouse expressed astonishment that an Adventist
clergyman would commend him for preaching righteousness by faith, since in
his opinion it was a well-known fact that Seventh-day Adventists believed in
righteousness by works. He went on to state that since boyhood he had been
familiar with Adventists and their teachings, and that in his opinion their
views about the nature and work of Christ were Satanic and dangerous. He
concluded by inviting this strange Adventist to have lunch with him.
We did not
then get together for lunch, but we did correspond for a time. I returned a
soft answer to the first letter from Barnhouse and sent him a copy of Steps
to Christ, at the same time affirming the evangelical character of Adventists
doctrine. I thought we had an agreement that Barnhouse would publish no
further criticism of Adventists before there was further contact and
clarification. However, in Eternity for June 1950, he sharply criticized
Steps to Christ and its author. After that, I saw no point in continuing the
Barhhouse article was entitled, "Spiritual Discernment, or How to Read
Religious Books." It illustrated the difficulty that conservative
Christians sometimes have in understanding one another. Here a man of great
spiritual stature, a bold crusader for truth, revealed his prejudice against
Adventism and Ellen G. White, whom he erroneously called, "founder of
the cult." Concerning the first chapter of Steps to Christ, entitled
"God's Love for Man." Barnhouse charged that so much emphasis on
God's love neutralize His justice and that extending that love to
unregenerate man smacked of the universalism characteristic of the writings
of the cult. He quoted a number of statements which he called half truths
introducing Satanic error, like a worm on a hook, "the first bite is all
worm, the second bite is all hook. That is the way the Devil works." Yet
this man came to respect Ellen White as a sincere Christian and a great
spiritual leader and to acknowledge that Seventh-day Adventists were his
brethren in Christ.
spring of 1955, almost six years after my correspondence with Dr. Barnhouse
began, I heard from Walter R. Martin, who had seen our correspondence and who
asked for face-to-face contact with representative Seventh-day Adventists.
Martin had written a chapter critical of Adventism in his Rise of the Cults
and now wanted to talk with Adventists before doing further writing on the
subject of our doctrines.
Martin had come to the attention of Dr. Barnhouse when the former was in this
early twenties, a graduate student in the history of American religion at New
York University. By 1955 Martin had to his credit several books about
American cults, which were recognized as standard works in that field. He was
a consulting editor on the Eternity staff, a Southern Baptist clergyman, and
a member of the Evangelical Foundation, known to the faithful as "How
Firm a Foundation," an organization started by Christian businessmen who
managed the financial aspects of the Barnhouse enterprises.
understood at the outset that Martin, a research polemicist, had been
commissioned to write against Seventh-day Adventism. Nevertheless, he
declared that he wanted direct access so he could treat Adventists fairly.
When I explained this to friends at the Adventist headquarters in Washington,
D.C., they agreed that Martin should be treated fairly, and provided with the
contacts he sought. Martin expressly asked to meet LeRoy E. Froom, with whose
Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers he was already familiar. Froom suggested the
inclusion of W. E. Read, then a field secretary of the General Conference. I
served as moderator or chairman throughout the series of conferences.
1955, Martin came to Washington for his first meeting with the Adventists.
With him was George E. Cannon, a professor of theology on the faculty of the
Nyack, New York, Missionary College. At this first conference the two groups
viewed each other with wariness. As the Adventists had anticipated, Martin
had read widely from D. M. Canright, E. S. Ballenger, and E. B. Jones, as
well as other detractors or defectors. Martin, for his part, seemed to expect
a degree of resistance and cover-up, such as he may have met in some of his
other investigations. This first meeting can best be described as a
began going through a list of questions which reflected his reading. We
Adventists, rather than launching into a defense, began with a positive
presentation in which we emphasized those doctrines held by our church in
common with Evangelical Christians of all faiths in all ages. We stated our conviction
that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and the only rule of Adventist
faith and practice. We affirmed our belief in the eternal and complete deity
of Christ, in his sinless life in the incarnation, in his atoning death on
the cross, once for all and all-sufficient, in his literal resurrection, and
in his priestly ministry before the Father, applying the benefits of the
atonement completed on the cross. And, finally, while setting no time, we
affirmed our belief in the imminent premilleniai return of Jesus Christ.
became clear to the Adventist conferees that both questions and answers would
have to be formally stated in writing, that the answers would have to be made
crystal clear to the Evangelical conferees and to those they represented, and
that a way would have to be found to demonstrate the consensus we were sure
we had. Martin was given books and periodicals to substantiate the claims we
had made in our opening statement.
the first day of discussion both groups were busy into the night. The
immediate concern of the Adventists was the list of questions with which
Martin had begun his interrogation. Froom, who had a facile pen, took the
responsibility of composing the initial answers, in a document running into
twenty pages, whipped into shape by his secretary after hours. Until two
o'clock in the morning Martin gave his attention to the reading matter we had
day will never be forgotten by those who participated in the conferences. As
the morning session began Martin announced that, as the result of the first
round of discussion and the reading matter he had been given, he was
admitting that he had been wrong about Seventh-day Adventism on several
important points and had become persuaded that Adventists who believed as did
the conferees were truly born-again Christians and his brethren in Christ. In
a dramatic gesture he extended his hand in fellowship.
faced serious problems as a result of his turn-about. He had become convinced
that Adventists stood with other evangelical Christians on an impressive
number of basic doctrines. He was not convinced that Adventists were right on
doctrines we describe as "present truth," nor was he ever convinced
of these. But how was he to write a book in which he would expose what he
considered the errors of Adventism, while at the same time revealing his
honest conviction that there existed sufficient common denominators to
justify the inclusion of Seventh-day Adventists in the Evangelical Christian
community - and still satisfy those who had commissioned him to write a book
against Seventh-day Adventism? In his concern, he asked the Adventist
conferees to join him in praying for divine guidance.
the first formal meeting, to the publishing of the book QUESTIONS ON
DOCTRINE, LeRoy E. Froom was actively involved in composing the written
distillation of the conferences.
Adventists also faced problems. The Evangelical conferees were satisfied that
we were presenting contemporary Adventist doctrines, because we were
supported by the 1931 statement of fundamental beliefs, which appeared
regularly in official yearbooks and manuals of the church, and by the
amplified statement in the baptismal covenant. But, they asked, if the
Adventist church had reached a firm consensus why did they find contrary or
misleading statements in Adventist publications, for sale in Adventist book
and Bible houses? We explained that this was the result of efforts by the
church to avoid an officially adopted creedal statement, and the
denomination's preference for an open-end theology which permitted new light
to penetrate in depth. This explanation did not impress them. They asked if
we did not think that we ourselves were to some extent to blame if these
erroneous statements were used against us. We could only reply that
correction had begun.
church leaders had known of the conferences from the start, a point was
reached where we thought it was wise to make a formal report to the church.
In a long letter to Froom and Read, dated July 18, 1955, I reviewed the
progress in understanding achieved so far in the conferences, and expressed
the hope that the Adventist conferees could be relieved of other
responsibilities so as to have more time for what was expanding into a significant
encounter, soon to include such a notable Evangelical as Dr. Donald Grey
Barnhouse. A copy of this letter was sent co R. R. Figuhr, president of the
General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Thereafter Figuhr gave the
support of his office to the conferences and the publication of the
definitive statement of Adventist belief which resulted.
immediate concern was his relationship with his sponsor, Dr. Barnhouse. He
reported to his chief his conviction that both had been wrong in their judgment
of contemporary Adventists, whom he had become convinced were not cultists
but truly members of the Body of Christ. He then asked Barnhouse if he,
Martin, was still a member of the team, and if he should go ahead with the
book he had been commissioned to write, which now would have to be different
from the one they had projected. Barnhouse gave him some reassurance but was
not troubled himself. Shortly thereafter he asked to have the conferees meet
with him at "Barchdale," his home in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.
anticipation of the extension of Evangelical participation in the conferences
Froom early in August urged the enlargement of the Adventist conferee group.
He recommended the inclusion of R. Allan Anderson as a regular member because
of the latter's background as evangelist, college teacher of religion,
author, and especially because of his gift for diplomatic dialogue with
leaders of other communions. Anderson was the secretary of the Ministerial
Association of the General Conference and editor of Ministry magazine. Since
April he had been participating in the conferences. Thereafter he was a
member of the team, a tireless and valuable participant in the preparation of
the text of the developing questions and answers. We four Adventists were authorized
by the General Conference to plan with Martin and Cannon for the meeting with
Barnhouse at his home in Doylestown. The planning session was held in
Anderson's Washington office on August 22.
So it came
about than on August 25 and 26, 1955, we four Adventists, with Walter Martin
and George Cannon, sat down with Donald Grey Barnhouse, one of the most
influential men among American Protestants and internationally famous as a
representative Evangelical, to discuss what Seventh-day Adventists really
welcomed the conferees, our host expressed his deep desire that love might
prevail, and invited the small company to kneel with him while he prayed for
the Spirit of the Lord to be present and to guide.
Barnhouse, always a very articulate man, began the conference by explaining
his attitudes towards Seventh-day Adventists. He told about his boyhood in
California, near Mountain View, where he imbibed the prevailing view that
Adventists were ignorant fanatics who believed the Devil to be the sin-bearer,
and that a person had to keep the seventh-day Sabbath in order to be saved.
Later, his bad opinions had been confirmed, he said, by reading books by men
who had been Adventists but had left the movement, notably E. B. Jones. But
since Martin had begun his conversations with the Adventists, and had shared
his findings, Barnhouse had come to see that there were sober, truly
born-again Christians among Seventh-day Adventists. With them he was glad to
fellowship as brethren, while reserving the right strenuously to refute the
two or three positions taught by Adventists which Evangelicals hold to be in
error. On this candid note the Doylestown conference began.
first Doylestown conference there was much discussion of Froom's Prophetic
Faith of Our Fathers, as providing an historical background for Adventism. It
was clear that the Evangelicals had respect for Froom's scholarly
attainments. Also, the questions and answers so far developed were reviewed
in depth during both days of the conference. We came to see that many
misunderstandings rested on semantic grounds, because of our use of an inbred
denominational vocabulary. Our friends helped us to express our beliefs in
terms more easily understood by theologians of other communions.
Grey Barnhouse, Jr., a theology consultant on Billy Graham's staff, sat with
us for a time on the first day. That evening, having seen his father's
attitudes change, the son challenged the father to reveal through the pages
of Eternity his new position on Seventh-day Adventism. Before we separated
that evening our host told us he had decided to do this, though he knew it
would precipitate a storm and would cost him many subscriptions.
evening, in our motel, Martin and Cannon came to express their amazement over
the change they had witnessed in Dr. Barnhouse. To them it seemed a miracle.
To Martin it meant that he would not have resistance from Barnhouse in
writing the truth about Seventh-day Adventism, as he had come to see it.
second day we observed a change in the attitude of Barnhouse toward Ellen G.
White. Anderson called Walter Martin's attention to a statement in Mrs.
White's Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, which Martin in turn
passed to Barnhouse. The latter was so impressed with it that he excused
himself to take it upstairs for his secretary to copy. The statement reads in
come to the investigation of God's work with a contrite heart, a teachable
and prayerful spirit ... We should not study the Bible for the purpose of
sustaining our preconceived opinions, but with the single object of learning
what God has said.
there are those whose faith in God's word will not stand the test of an
investigation of the Scriptures, the sooner they are revealed the better; for
then the way will be opened to show them their error. We cannot hold that a
position once taken, an idea once advocated, is not, under any circumstances,
to be relinquished. There is but One who is infallible, - He who is the Way,
the Truth, and the Life.
appreciated the warmth, honesty and deep spiritual dedication of the man who
was our host at "Barchdale." We have pleasant recollections of his
hearty hospitality and that of his charming wife. Our entire days were spent
at the Barnhouse home, necessitating our having our meals there. For these,
Margaret Barnhouse went to great lengths exploring the unfamiliar land of
the two days with Dr. Barnhouse the conferees went to their tasks with
renewed confidence. We Adventists had come to see that we could state our
doctrinal positions with clarity, in language understood by theologians of
other churches, yet never bending for the sake of clarity or harmony alone.
Our position was clearly stated by Froom in a letter to Martin:
statements we seek to honor and safeguard truth, not merely to pass ...
scrutiny of some group. We are not seeking the approbation of any
organization. All we ask is understanding of our actual teachings. We must
live our own denominational life under the eye and scrutiny of God. Our sole
purpose is to please Him, to whom we are accountable and whom we adore.
that, while there had been doctrinal deviation, and this was still a
possibility, it was essential for us to demonstrate the existence of a
majority position, a preponderant view, that a consensus actually existed,
and that we were correctly reflecting that consensus. As means to this end
the General Conference arranged a trip for Martin to the West Coast, where
Anderson was to introduce him to representative Adventists. On this trip
Martin spoke in Adventist churches and met the staff of the Adventist radio
station, Voice of Prophecy. In the East, Martin met with the staff of the
Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary and spoke at an assembly there. On
overseas trips he observed Adventist missions in action and found occasion to
clarify misconceptions about Adventists held by missionaries of other
dimension, it was planned to demonstrate consensus by submitting the
questions and answers to Adventist leaders in North America, and then around
the world, using a mailing list of more than 250 names. The document by this
time had grown to some sixty questions and answers, and was beginning to be
thought of as having book possibilities - a definitive statement of
contemporary Adventist theology, in convenient reference book form. A
committee of fourteen members was appointed with General Conference approval,
to prepare the document for distribution to church leaders, then to analyze
and evaluate the feedback. Figuhr, the president of the General Conference,
was chairman of this committee.* Correspondence relating to the project was
entrusted to J.I. Robison, the president's secretary. The response was good,
the consensus was demonstrated, and the decision to publish was made. Thus
Questions on Doctrine came into being.
conferees on the Evangelical side were also assessing the support of their
new stand on Adventism. Martin, in November 1955, reported talks with Pat Zondervan,
who was to publish The Truth About Seventh-day Adventism and who was
interested in the new direction the book was taking. A month later, Martin
reported going over the questions and answers in their entirety in a
five-hour session with Dr. Barnhouse, and stated that Barnhouse was satisfied
that Adventists were fundamentally evangelical in all matters concerning
also reported that Grank E. Gaebelein had written to James DeForest Murch,
stating his opinion that the Seventh-day Adventist church would qualify for
membership in the evangelical group, if they so desired. Dr. Gaebelein was
the founder and director of the famed Stony Brook School (of which Martin was
a graduate), a member of the Reformed Episcopal church, and an official in
the National Association of Evangelicals. Dr. Murch, prolific author of
religious works, publications director and later president of the National
Association of Evangelicals and the editor of United Evangelical Action, was
a member of the Disciples of Christ.
of the committee: R. R. Figuhr (chairman), A. V. Olson, W. B. Ochs, L. K.
Dickson, H. L. Rudy, A. L. Ham, J. I. Robison, W. R. Beach, C. L. Torrey, F.
D. Nichol, T. E. Unruh, R. A. Anderson, L. E. Froom, W. E. Read.
editorial committee chosen by the General Conference prepared the book
SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISTS ANSWER QUESTIONS ON DOCTRINE, based on the points
raised in the evangelical conferences. credit: Review and Herald
correspondence between Froom and E. Schuyler English, editor of Our Hope and
chairman of the revision committee of the Scofield Reference Bible, resulted
in an editorial statement by Dr. English in February 1956, correcting
misconceptions about Adventist doctrines as to the nature of Christ in the
incarnation, the Trinity, and the completed atonement on the cross, followed
by an article by Walter Martin in November 1956, the earliest affirmation of
the essential Christianity of the theology of Adventism on matters relating
to salvation to appear in a non-Adventist journal of note.
two-day conference at the home of Dr. Barnhouse took place in May of 1956,
days which Barnhouse described as spent in mediation, communion, and
discussion. This time our host questioned the Adventist conferees closely
about our concept of the role of Ellen G. White as God's messenger to the
remnant church and the weight the Seventh-day Adventist church gave to her
writings compared to the Scriptures. There was also thorough discussion of
the Adventist teaching regarding the heavenly sanctuary and the role of
Christ as priest, mediating the sacrificial atonement completed on the cross.
By this time we had assembled an impressive exhibit of references which
demonstrated that, from the early days of our church, Mrs. White had held the
doctrinal concepts we were espousing, and showing that deviations of persons
or groups were misrepresentations of the inspired messages, however sincerely
1956, Russell Hitt, the managing editor of Eternity, came to Washington to go
over with us the long-awaited Barnhouse article repudiating his former
position on Adventism. Supporting articles by Martin, to follow in Eternity,
were also gone over. We were given permission to quote or otherwise refer to
So it came
about that a year after the first Doylestown conference, where Dr. Barnhouse
had come to see that he would have to report his new position on Adventism,
Eternity for September 1956, carried his article, entitled "Are Seventh
day Adventists Christians?" The article was written with courage and
clarity, and it was lengthy. The author began:
past two years several evangelical leaders have come to a new attitude toward
the Seventh-day Adventist church. The change is a remarkable one since it
consists of moving the Seventh-day Adventists, in our opinion, out of the
list of anti-Christian and non-Christian cults into the group of those who
are brethren in Christ; although they still must be classified, in our
opinion, as holding two or three very unorthodox and in one case peculiar
doctrines. The steps in our change of attitude must be traced and the
justification of our changed attitude documented. Adventists who read this
should realize that evangelical readers have been conditioned through the
years for thinking that Adventists must be classified as non-Christians. This
present article will explain reasons why this should no longer be so.
went on to give an account of the conferences and the mutual understandings
resulting, and to announce the two forthcoming books, Martin's and ours. He
defined the areas of agreement which he considered sufficient for identifying
Adventists as members of the Body of Christ, within the evangelical
definition. The three major areas of disagreement he described as conditional
immortality, observance of the Seventh-day Sabbath, and the investigative
judgment. To these he could give no credence at all, though the first two had
historical foundation in the Christian church. The last he described as a
doctrine never known in theological history until the second half of the
supporting articles by Martin appeared in later issues of Eternity. The first
gave the historical background of modem Adventism, the second a comprehensive
statement of what Adventists really believe, and the last dealing with
Adventism's unique or unusual doctrines. In these articles Martin was both
lucid and fair. And while Adventists did not find his criticism of their
distinctive doctrines either palatable or convincing, they did appreciate his
candor, as he wrote at the end of his second article:
"However, whatever else one may say about
Seventh-day Adventism, it cannot be denied from their truly representative
literature and their historic positions that they have always as a majority,
held to the cardinal, fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith which are
necessary for salvation, and to the growth in grace that characterizes all
true Christian believers."
speaking for Martin as well as himself, ended his historic article with these
conclusion, I should like to say that we are delighted to do justice to a
much-maligned group of sincere believers, and in our minds and hearts take
them out of the group of utter heretics .... to acknowledge them as redeemed
brethren and members of the Body of Christ. It is our sincere prayer that
they may be led to consider further the points on which they are so widely
divergent from the rest of the Body of Christ and in so doing promote their
own spiritual growth and that of their fellow Christians.
It was a
sobering experience as the conferees came to this point in the lengthy
dialogue to see the warm Christian friendliness of the Evangelicals. They
expressed a concern that the Adventists might come to see as they saw. But
they also realized that we Adventists, moved by the same Christian spirit,
hoped that exposure to the special truths we believed would lead the
Evangelicals to believe as we did. This we all saw as a dilemma of the Body
of Christ, which only the Holy Spirit could resolve.
expected storm broke quickly. There were at least a few of the peers of
Barnhouse and Martin, English, Caebelein and Murch, for whom their stand was
and wormwood. The Sunday School Times, published in the City of Brotherly
Love where Dr. Barnhouse had his pastorate, carried a series of articles
against Adventism. The King's Business, official organ of the Bible Institute
of Los Angeles (BIOLA), ran articles by Louis Talbot, the editor, attacking
not only the Adventists but the editor of Eternity as well. While these
attacks could not be considered typical, they at least showed that the editor
of Time was less than correct when he announced in the December 31, 1956
issue that the Fundamentalists had made peace with the Adventists.
three part series Martin wrote for ETERNITY magazine cited points of
agreement and difference between Evangelicals and Adventists. Though he still
argued against certain doctrines, he acknowledged that they had been held by
Church leaders throughout history, such as Luther. credit: Eternity Magazine
Eternity lost one-fourth of its subscribers in protest, and the sale of
Martin's books plummeted, Barnhouse asked anxiously, "Are you sure of
your positions?" On Martin's affirmative answer, Barnhouse said,
"Then we will go ahead." Within a year the Eternity subscriptions
were higher than before, and there was again a good market for Martin's
the General Conference of Seventh day Adventists was taking a direct hand in
planning the book taking shape from the questions and answers. In September
1956 the General Conference Officers appointed a small editorial committee.*
On January 23, 1957, the Review and Herald Publishing Association was invited
to manufacture the book "as compiled by a committee appointed by the
General Conference," accepting the manuscript in its completed form.
of the editorial committee: A. V. Olson (chairman), W. E. Read, M. Thurber
(book editor of the Review and Herald Publishing Association), W. G. C.
Murdoch, R. Hammill, L. E. Froom, and R. A. Anderson, consultants.
magazine, which carried both Barnhouse's and Martin's articles acknowledging
Adventists as Christians, lost nearly one-fourth of its subscriptions as a
result. The loss was temporary though, for within a year circulation was
higher than ever. credit: Eternity Magazine
January 30 the executive committee of the publishing house accepted the
manuscript for publication on a "text basis." The General
Conference officers approved the title, Seventh-day Adventists Answer
Questions on Doctrine, and also the short title, Questions on Doctrine. The
officers also approved the exact wording of the introduction as it later
appeared in the book over the signature of the editorial committee. Here it
was made clear that the book was the work of a representative selection of
participants, not of an individual, nor even of the committee, and that those
preparing the answers made no claim to having provided the final word on
September the officers recorded a series of actions having to do with
publicity and distribution. Union conference papers and Adventist magazines
would be asked to run advertisements. Non-Adventist periodicals would be
invited to run ads and to publish book reviews. A suitable four page folder
was to be printed for distribution to non-Adventist clergymen. High-ranking
religious leaders in North America were to receive complimentary copies.
Churches were to be invited to put copies in their libraries and to present
complimentary copies to Protestant ministers in the community. Book and Bible
houses were to stock Questions on Doctrine.
on Doctrine was published late in 1957. It was designed to begin with the
"Statement of Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists," first
published in 1931, later given General Conference approval, and regularly
included in church manuals and yearbooks of the denomination. This was to
make clear to Adventists and non-Adventists alike, that in presenting an
amplified statement on doctrine the General Conference was not setting forth
a new theology, but was clarifying and amplifying the doctrines most
generally believed by contemporary Seventh-day Adventists. Included in
appendices was an extensive compilation from the writings of Ellen G. White,
covering such subjects as the Deity and eternal preexistence of Christ and
His place in the Trinity; His divine-human nature in the incarnation; His
completed sacrificial atonement on the cross; and His priestly ministry in
the heavenly sanctuary. These were the areas which had been found to be most
frequently misunderstood and misquoted. This compilation was later included
in Volume 7-A of the Seventh-day Adventists Commentary series. Many of these
same quotations appeared in the Ministry magazine, between May 1956, and
March 1957, under the title, "Counsels from the Spirit of
of Ministry, R. A. Anderson, made sure during the months preceding the
publication of Questions and Doctrine, that the Adventist clergy was fully
informed of what to expect. He described the conferences with the
Evangelicals and the removal of century-old misunderstandings. He explained
the procedure for getting a doctrinal consensus from world leaders in the
church. The unity of belief so demonstrated he attributed to the influence of
the writings of Ellen G. White. There were also articles during this period
from W. E. Read on the nature of Christ and from L. E. Froom on the
It came as
a surprise to the planners, after the demonstration of a solid consensus from
world leaders in the church and the preview in Ministry of what was to come,
that Questions on Doctrine should be subjected to attack from Adventist
sources. The critics seemed to be saying the same things, suggesting a common
source. This was not hard to find. M.L. Andreason, a respected retired
Adventist theologian, author and Bible teacher, had widely circulated eleven
mimeographed documents and six printed leaflets addressed to the churches. In
these the writer accused the compilers of Questions on Doctrine of attempting
to change traditional doctrines, and he accused the officers of the General
Conference of planning to revise the writings of Ellen White to conform.
denial of these charges was prepared by A. V. Olson, a General Conference
vice president, and chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Ellen G. White
Estate. This reply, dated September 6, 1960, was sent at the request of the
General Conference officers to officers of the overseas divisions of the
church and to all union conference officers and local conference presidents
in the North American Division. The incident was soon closed, and the author
of the criticism made his peace with the church to which he had formerly
given distinguished service.
Zondervan Publishing House had originally scheduled publication of Walter
Martin's The Truth About Seventh-day Adventism for January 1957, as part of
the series on cult apologetics. There were delays, but so long as there was a
possibility of his book coming out first he was supplied with page proofs of
the Adventist book, so he would have reliable references. Martin had promised
that in describing the teachings of contemporary Seventh-day Adventists he
would only use statements from the book to be published with the approval of
the General Conference. As late as October 1959, R. A. Anderson and W. E.
Read, with H. W. Lowe, chairman of the Biblical Study and Research Group of
the General Conference, were going over Martin's gallies, preparatory to
writing a statement to be included in the book. The Truth About Seventh-day
Adventism was, and is, a notable book. In the "Foreword" Barnhouse
leaders of Adventism agree that this book fairly represents their theological
position, this work is a milestone in Christian apologetics; for, during this
study, brethren talked and prayed together, assessed each other's position
and agreed to disagree while still obeying the Lord's command to love one
author's "Preface" Martin reminded both Adventists and
non-Adventists that still to be healed were wounds caused by ignorance,
prejudice, and an unforgiving spirit, of which Adventists as well as
non-Adventists were guilty. But, he wrote, the place of healing is at the
cross. Meeting there, we find strength and grace to keep the "lost
commandment," that we love one another.
Adventist statement, over the name of H. W. Lowe, as it appeared in Martin's
book, asked that members of the Adventist church, when reading the last chapter
of the book, in which Martin described his points of disagreement with
Adventism, would remember the fair and accurate statement of Adventist
teachings set forth in the earlier portions of the book. Lowe also expressed
the gratitude and respect the Adventist leadership felt toward Martin for his
correct recording of their beliefs and for his attitude of Christian
retrospect, the publication of The Truth About Seventh-day Adventism and
Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine, improved relations
between Evangelicals and Seventh-day Adventists. Martin's book did not
convince all Adventist isolationists that its author and Barnhouse spoke for
the Evangelicals, or that fraternal relations were desirable or safe. And the
publication of Questions on Doctrine did not convince all Evangelicals that
Adventists were not heretics in Christian robes. Isolated attacks on
Adventism continued. And Martin's book could not be bought in Adventist book
Hopkins, the executive secretary of the (Barnhouse) Evangelical Foundation,
struck a hopeful note in a letter to me, dated May 6, 1960:
honestly, I can see that what you began with us is still only the beginning
and I recognize that you are going to have the same problems within your
group that we have in ours. There is much land still to be possessed before
the members of the Body of Christ can recognize one another as we should. In
the meantime, let us continue to work and pray that the day may come sooner
than we might normally expect.
LeRoy Edwin. Movement of Destiny. Washington. Review and Herald Publishing
Walter R. The Truth About Seventh-day Adventists. Grand Rapids. Zondervan
Publishing House, 1960.
Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine. Washington. Review and Herald
Publishing Association. 1957.
June 1950. September 1956 - January 1957.
May. September, December. 1956, January. March, April. 1957, March, 1958.
School Times. December 1. 1956 - January 12. 1957. The King's Business. April
- June. 1957. Time. December 31, 1956.
Margaret Barnhouse. September 24, 1976.
Anderson. December. 1976. January. 1977 (numerous).
Roy A. Anderson.
to: LeRoy E. Froom. Oct. 1956.
Barnhouse. to: T. E. Unruh, Dec. 1949.
Froom, to: R. A. Anderson. Aug. 1956: Walter R. Martin
T. E. Unruh, Aug. Nov. and Dec. 1955, May 1960.
Hopkins. to T. F:. Unruh. May 1960.
Unruh. to: Donald G. Barnhouse. Nov. 1949: LeRoy E. Froom and W. E. Read.
Seventh-day Adventist Evangelical Conferences of 1955-1956," by T.E.
Unruh, in "Adventist Heritage," Fourth Quarter, 1977, pages 35-46.
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