SDA Leaders are on
Pronunciation Key (rv-r)
[Middle English, revelry, from Old French, from rever, to dream.]
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
End commentary—back to Interview:
(we see it in charismatic circles today all the time) - “The Lord has shown me this.” And it doesn’t happen, now what are you going to do? Say that this person is a false prophet, an enemy of the Gospel; somebody who is going to be pilloried and never listened to again, the way biblical false prophets were supposed to be treated? Or are you dealing with a Christian with spiritual gifts who misuses a gift or mistakes a gift? That’s completely different from calling a person a false prophet. And some of Mrs. White’s statements in the early days, as I pointed out to the General Conference representatives, were theologically off the wall. They just wouldn’t stand up. These men were very tactful. They were true to their convictions, but they were not intransigent. They were willing to look at biblical evidence, exegesis, and facts. The resulting book, Questions on Doctrine, was a landmark because it said what so many Adventists had believed for so long but had never had in print as a reference.
CURRENTS: So two books came out of these discussions: one from the Adventists and one that you wrote in 1960?
MARTIN: Right. At this juncture something unique happened. Roy Anderson can confirm this for you; he knows the inner working of it. Somehow, when my book came out, they got an advance copy.
CURRENTS: Was their a prior agreement as to what would happen to your book when it came out?
MARTIN: Oh, yes. We would distribute their book and promote it through Christian bookstores, through Eternity Magazine, and anyplace else we could.
MARTIN: I have faithfully done that. And they were to take my book and get it
into all the Adventist bookstores and publishing houses so that the
Adventists could see the work I had done.
They reneged on that. The
General Conference reneged on that, and
MARTIN: I don’t, and I wouldn’t make an accusation. But they did not keep their word. As a result, only Questions on Doctrine came out in Seventh-day Adventist bookstores. The Truth About Seventh-day Adventism did not. In addition to that, they wrote a book to answer my book without giving my book a hearing. That was wrong. The book is called Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine, I don’t object to their answering my arguments in The Truth About Seventh-day Adventism; that’s only fair. But at least let the people read [for themselves] what I said!
What they did was censure they Adventist people. That’s what they did.
MARTIN: Hung heads and deep apologies from the four men I worked with, who felt that they, themselves, had not been treated fairly in that respect. I cannot say enough for the integrity of these men. They never backed down on their positions.
About my book, The Truth About Seventh-day Adventism - when I got ready to print, I went to Zondervan who said, “This is explosive stuff. Do you realize what you are saying?”
I said, “Yes. It’s true; we should print it. I am an expert on cults; you printed my other books, right? I am the director of the division of cult apologetics for the largest Christian publishing company. Are you going to believe me or not?” The Zondervan brothers said, “We believe you.” “Fine,” I said, “print it.”
about two months after that I received a call. “Walter, will you fly to
I previously had problems with Louis Talbert, at the Theological Seminary. I met with Talbert and presented the evidence I had uncovered. He was very impressed by it and said he would wait and see what the outcome of the final research was before he said anything. Well, when we published the Eternity Magazine articles he blew his cork and attacked Barnhouse.
MARTIN: Yes, that’s correct. But God gave us all those subscribers back again and more.
CURRENTS: What fraction was the 11,000 of the total?
MARTIN: We only had 33,000.
CURRENTS: Almost a third of your subscribers were lost?
MARTIN: I believe that was the figure. But to Barnhouse’s credit, when we were faced with this, he said: “It doesn’t make any difference how many we lose. If it’s the truth, God will see us through.” That’s courage - more courage than the General Conference ever had. They didn’t even have the backbone to face their own constituency.
to the problems at Zondervan. M.R. De
Haan, a popular Zondervan author, was objecting to my book. I flew to
He was their biggest seller. This was 1957. Pat and Bernie Zondervan said, “Well, M.R., we don’t want to lose you; we love you and that means a great deal to us. But if Walter is telling the truth, this is a landmark issue. We want to get out there and tell the truth about it. It is really a breakthrough and we’re going to print it.” And they did. I think the book sold between 25,000 and 50,000 copies which, in those days, was a very good sale.
But if the General Conference had kept its promise, which it didn’t, the book would have gone to all Adventist groups. Then a lot of the seeding that has taken place through the years would have been an instantaneous type of event, and Adventist laity would have seen that there were other legitimate doctrinal perspectives. But they didn’t get the chance. The “old guard, - whoever they are - apparently have enough power, probably dominated largely by the interest of the White Estate. And I feel that the White Estate and the denomination itself have got themselves into a spiritually compromising position they’re going to have to face. It’s revenue versus repentance. And Mrs. White cannot be defended against the charges of plagiarism. She cannot be defended against certain specific theological errors. She can be retained, however, as a pastoral voice in manifesting spiritual gifts of value to the denomination in the past, of value now, and of value in the future.
MARTIN: We are talking moral in the sense that she very carefully hewed the line, biblically.
Unfortunately, what you just said introduces the problem of ethical and moral integrity in her publications. Now, all of us, I have done it myself, quote sections of books. Usually I try to footnote them unless I paraphrase something and I am not even aware that I’ve paraphrased it; in which case, if it is brought to my attention, I’d change it. I can understand how it is possible. But not pages and pages and pages!
So, I feel that there is a compromise, revenue-wise. I think the General Conference leaders are compromising with the White Estate. I think they are trying to preserve the entire fabric and structure of the denomination historically. It can’t be done. There are too many holes in everybody’s denominational history and structure to try to preserve it in its entirety. Everybody has made mistakes. And they have got to come to a genuine repentance because they are trying to cover up facts. They are trying to cover up truth. If they will stand with Questions on Doctrine, and if they will answer my questions - and I have only asked three questions - directly and truthfully, then I am going to defend them as my brothers in Christ and try to work with them and pray with them towards a position that really will reflect the truth.
MARTIN: I prefer not to articulate them now because I think the General Conference has a right to see them first and respond to them before I talk about them publicly. [JANET’S NOTE: The 3 questions plus the 2 answers are given at the very end of this interview.] But the questions are very pointed and direct. There is no possibility of mistaking what I am saying. I am not trying to be an inquisitor. I did not come to the Adventists as an inquisitor 30 years ago. I am a brother. But if men will suppress truth and hold down the truth in unrighteousness, then the Scripture says, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against this.” In other words, you cannot survive this. You will not receive the blessing of God.
CURRENTS: One of your research consultants recently wrote a letter [in the summer of 1982] to an Adventist, and I quote: “We do expect Professor Martin will be making some form of public statement concerning his findings and recent dialogue with the SDA leadership in the very near future.” Have you made a statement somewhere or would you care to say something about it now for the readers of the Adventist Currents?
MARTIN: I am going to be printing, as I told Brother Wilson, a booklet discussing some of the things we are talking about now, plus more. A large amount of what I have to say is going to be conditioned by the response I get from the General Conference, and the answer to the important question, “Why did you let the most singularly influential book of the last 30 years in your denomination go out of print? Who was responsible for it going out of print? Why? Does the Adventist denomination, in fact, really hold to what it originally said, or is the Adventist denomination playing games with us? Have they changed their position or were they always playing games with us? I believe these are fair questions.
CURRENTS: Can you expect a truthful answer after what happened 30 years ago?
MARTIN: I have ways of making sure that the answer is truthful... You see, 30 years ago I didn’t have near the audience I have now. My tapes on the cults have reached a circulation of 15 million. those are not my figures but the figures of the people who distribute them.
Secondly, the Kingdom of the Cults is in print as a standard textbook and is used all over the world. It is now in its 37th printing, coming up for revision and expansion; and in there is a chapter on Adventism, which I put in deliberately. The book will be a classic for years. The chapter has got to be in there spelling out that Adventists are not a cult, because they are already classified that way. What better place to deal with it than in a classic book? Anthony Hoekoma came after me with a hammer and tongs; he is a friend of mine. And M.R. De Haan came after me, among other people because of the position I took. I haven’t recanted my position, but if the Seventh-day Adventist denomination will not back up its answers with actions and put Questions on Doctrine back in print - and, in effect, take a strong stand against people in your denomination who are a very vocal and powerful group and who very well can bring the judgment of God on up - then they’re in real trouble that I can’t help them out of; and nobody else can either.
E. Schuyler English, I should tell you, was the first to print, along with Eternity, the material on Seventh-day Adventism. He agreed with me that it was something we should do, regardless of whatever flack we got. Others picked up the same thing. We pretty much split the evangelical world. But through the years, I can say this without hesitation, the position Barnhouse took - and I took - and Questions on Doctrine took - prevailed in the evangelical world, so that a whole new climate exists. The General Conference is now jeopardizing that whole new climate. They will throw themselves back half a century if they do not clarify these issues.
CURRENTS: You wrote a review of The White Lie, Walter Rea’s book about Ellen White. In it you stated, “...another defense put forth by the SDA hierarchy is that Ellen’s writings were compiled in the same manner as that of the biblical writers. Rea presents a concise, thorough refutation of this premise.” There is a whole lot behind that. I am not confident Rea did a good job of parsing the difference between the problems of source usage in Ellen White and the problems of source usage in Scripture.
MARTIN: I didn’t write this review.
CURRENTS: Oh! I’m sorry.
MARTIN: This was done by Lynne Scheffer, a
researcher I put on the project for five months, to sift all the
materials. I have cartons of
material. The article was published in
Forward. Walter Rea I know personally. I knew him in
CURRENTS: Walter feels that you sometimes need a two by four to get a donkey’s attention, and he hasn’t been able to be persuaded away from that.
MARTIN: I know.
We talked about this in great detail.
He drove over to see me and showed me the original manuscript of The
White Lie before they ever published it.
I got in touch immediately with Roy Allen Anderson and with a
committee [Kenneth Vine, Robert Olson, Robert Spangler, Bert Beach, and R.A.
Anderson] that met at Loma Linda in January of 1982. I asked the questions I am asking the
General Conference and I specifically made clear-cut statements to them about
the dangers involved. There was a
consensus of opinion among the brethren that something very definite had to
be done of a positive nature to offset a lot of the statements that were
coming out. And I left it there until
my recent letter, since I am getting ready to publish. I sent my letter to
CURRENTS: If you are going to use source criticism on one though, it’s legitimate to use source criticism on the other.
MARTIN: Sure, if you are going to assume that you can use a source criticism, fine. Writers of the Bible drew upon pagan sources. Paul quoted from uninspired authors in Acts 17. Revelation has quotations from secular sources. Nobody is denying that, but that’s not plagiarism.
CURRENTS: The phenomenon is different in that culture or in that context, perhaps, than it was is the 19th century. Plus the readers knew that the writer knew that the readers knew.
MARTIN: But, there is a circular reasoning involved in defending Mrs. White. You have probably already detected it - “The writers of the Bible did the same thing as Mrs. White. Mrs. White is permitted to do it also.” That holds if one assumes, circularly, that Mrs. White is to be considered as one of the writers of the Bible. And then you are right back to square one.
Let me read you something that’s really of a cultic mentality and dangerous, that you may not be aware of. I’m quoting an Adventist official:
“This is a statement I like very much. Speaking of Christ, the originator of all truth. This is found in Manuscript 25 that Ellen White wrote:
EGW: “In his discourse Christ did not bring many things before them at once lest He might confuse their minds. He made every point clear and distinct. He did not disdain a repetition of old and familiar truths and prophecies if they would serve His purpose to inculcate ideas. Christ was the originator of all the ancient gems of truth.”
“Now I believe there are ancient gems of truth in Hindu writings, in Buddha’s writings, and ancient gems of truth in Mohammed’s writings, in the Islam world. I don’t doubt this at all. Through the work of the enemy, these truths have been displaced; they have been disconnected from the true position, placed in the framework of error. Christ’s work was to readjust and establish the precious gems in the framework of truth. The principles of truth which have been given by Himself to bless the world, had through Satan’s agency been buried and had apparently become extinct.”
Now you’re really in trouble. You’ve got Christ drawing upon pagan religious sources as a means of restating truth - this is directly contradicted by Scripture. Actually, Jesus said, “The words that I speak unto you my Father gave me, what I should say, what I should speak.” The Father was not gleaning the ancient writings of religion in order to instruct His Son.
EGW: “Christ rescued them from the rubbish of error, gave them a new vital force and commanded them to shine as precious jewels and stand fast forever.”
“I am convinced that if someone took the time, you could find every single parable in some ancient writing that Jesus used.”
This is absolute nonsense. I am a professor of comparative religions; I find this absolute, utter nonsense.
MARTIN: Let’s keep going. I’ll tell you. [Martin forgets to say he is quoting from Ministry Magazine editor and General Conference Ministerial Association secretary Robert Spangler]
“He [Christ] gave it to begin with, He took it, changed it around and adapted it to what He wanted to teach the people. He was the originator of it to begin with, maybe a thousand years before. Who knows? First it shook me, like I told you before, but it no longer bothers me to understand that Ellen White borrowed passages, words, sentences, paragraphs from other writings, but she put it into a different framework than the original author who used it. Never forget that. And therefore, I am convinced that God is speaking to us through the Spirit of Prophecy. He speaks to us through the Word of God, and no matter where they may have gotten the words from or of some other language, the beautiful words, whatever, that does not bother me as long as I know it is the truth...
“Walter Martin who is a good friend of R.A. Anderson met us in Loma Linda in the month of January and we spent about two and a half hours together discussing the relationship of Ellen White to the Scriptures in our church. He had gotten hold of some materials; he felt that we ought to come out with some kind of statement. That’s in brief what this whole meeting was all about. So I went back to the General Conference along with Brother Robert Olson, and also Bert Beach, who was on this committee along with Kenneth Vine who is the head of the theology department from Loma Linda, four of us, and R.A. Anderson. We met with Martin for two and a half hours and he was concerned over all this talk about Ellen White being put above the Scriptures and so forth. So, as a result of that, I brought with me a tentative statement; the trouble is it’s going to take some time to go through all this but let me give it to you quickly.”
Ron’s Commentary: Notice that Bert Beach, the SDA church's ecumenical man for over thirty years, was on a comittee that was dealing with Walter Martin. Beach was the man who saw that the SDA church followed up on fellowship with Babylon. End commentary.
And he gives a statement which I think avoids it. But the gentleman [Spangler] said he had seen so much good, in Seventh-day Adventism, come out of the movement, he didn’t think there was anything that could be shown to him that would shake his faith in the inspiration of Mrs. White! now, this is the perfect cultic mentality - circular, self-authenticating, experiential, no basis in objective fact. If that’s going to be the party line, my brothers, kiss it good-bye with the evangelical world. They will descend on this.
CURRENTS: Dr. Martin, doesn’t their behavior - in regard to your book and their own book, Questions on Doctrine, basically suppress it and make sure they distance themselves from it - prove it was not really representative of the church as they led you to believe?
MARTIN: I think, as I said before, that the men who spoke to me [in the 1950’s] represented a conservative Adventism which wanted fellowship with the body of Christ.
Ron’s Commentary: Reader, do you see anything wrong with conservative Adventism wanting fellowship with Babylon? End comment.
The acceptance of Questions on Doctrine, when it was published, by so many of the leadership of the church and by people all around the world who were Adventist, hailing it as a major landmark - a bridge to fellowship and so forth - indicates that a great body of Adventists, this amorphous body, are eager for fellowship with other members of the body of Christ and welcome something like this as a means of communication. I think there is now a group of powerful individuals in positions of authority in the denomination who, because the denomination is very authoritarian, are able to control large segments of the populace, simply by being their voice.
Ron’s Commentary: Compare the above statement with the Ellen White statement below. Walter Martin was more insightful in this area than most SDA's are:
General Conference as the Voice of God: "God has ordained that the representatives of His church from all parts of the earth, when assembled in a General Conference, shall have authority. The error that some are in danger of committing is in giving to the mind and judgment of one man, or of a small group of men, the full measure of authority and influence that God has vested in His church in the judgment and voice of the General Conference assembled to plan for the prosperity and advancement of His work.
When this power, which God has placed in the church, is accredited wholly to one man, and he is invested with the authority to be judgment for other minds, then the true Bible order is changed....Let us give to the highest organized authority in the church that which we are PRONE to give to one man or to a small group of men." E.G. White, Testimonies, vol. 9, 261. End comment.
And I don’t think the average Seventh-day Adventist would deny Questions on Doctrine, if they went through it point by point. And I don’t think they would be hostile to it. But I think people would who are conditioned by the mentality we are now seeing come out of the leadership. Yes, definitely. But to say the whole denomination was misrepresented by Anderson and Froom and everyone else - I don’t think the evidence would support that. Reuben Figuhr was about as conservative a president as the Adventists ever had. He has been questioned in this are, and is adamant that Questions on Doctrine had the major support of leadership in the denomination. After all, they sent the book out all over the world to their top people, prior to publication, and they only received minor flack.
CURRENTS: But perhaps the near unanimity with which it was hailed was the result of that authoritarian administration saying, “We want to publish this... It is going to be good for us.”
MARTIN: What you are saying is maybe the people didn’t buy it.
CURRENTS: But they felt obligated to because of the authoritarian structure that came from the highest levels. Have you considered that possibility?
MARTIN: It’s always a possibility. Who knows the minds of men and how they reason and what their methodology is? But I am not going to extrapolate from the General Conference backing out on my book and make it a personal issue.
I am not saying we are categorizing Ellen White in the biblical context of a false prophet. I’m saying that’s an ideal way to protect yourself. Joseph Smith said the same thing: “The time will come when they will challenge what I said; that only proves that I am telling the truth.” That’s logical madness.
CURRENTS: But really, do you think Adventists care if they are classified as a cult? Wouldn’t they look at this as a good sign?
MARTIN: If the mentality has degenerated to the place where they are willing to say, “For our convictions we will be called a cult,” without ever really considering the possibility that their convictions are erroneous, then what you are saying could happen.
CURRENTS: Cast out for Christ.
MARTIN: The mentality would dictate that kind of behavior pattern. Now, I don’t know the mind of the General Conference. I don’t know the mind of Neal Wilson. I haven’t talked with him. I have received correspondence. Some of the material I have - there are boxes full of it here - I’m not supposed to have. It doesn’t inspire much confidence in me regarding how they deal with their people.
Ron’s Commentary: Did Walter Martin have privy to information that even you would not nave as and SDA member of the church? Walter Martin was not impressed with how the SDA leadership dealt with its people. This is a double-edged sword that cuts at Martin also. He was impressed with the way the leaders dealt with him, but not its own people. Did Martin have possession of material that even you would not be privy to as a MEMBER of the church? End comment.
when a minister asks for a hearing, and a committee comes together, the guy
blows them away; then the committee walks away from that and blows him
away. I have to believe things are not
the way they ought to be biblically.
What I think is happening in the echelons of leadership right now is
that they have gotten to the place where they have elevated Ellen White to be
the infallible interpreter of Scripture.
By doing so they have painted themselves into a theological
corner. They are on
I never met D.M. Canright, but he was a personal friend of Mrs. White’s A lot of his personal reminiscences are very revealing about her personality. She was an ill-educated person; she was a person given to religious reveries, some of which her own husband didn’t buy.
Ron’s Commentary: Let’s remember that even Jesus received much adversity from His own family members also. End comment.
She was a person who believed absolutely that she had received some messages from God; and in some instances I think maybe she did. That doesn’t guarantee you are going to be an infallible prophet, and that whatever you say about Scripture and interpreting Scripture is going to guarantee it for other people.
Ron’s Commentary: Who was Martin to decide what was true or untrue? Ellen White never claimed infallibility, but she was correct on what she saw. What about the erroneous doctrines of Babylon that Martin believed? From whence would a commandment-breaker receive the spiritual discernment necessary to criticize Ellen White and determine what was inspired or not? We may all be sinners and commandment breakers, but God has had a faithful few in every generation who were obedience to His Word. The 144,000 are blameless. God does not level any indictment against the church of Philadelphia, and Ellen White was certainly a member of Philadelphia! Martin is rushing in (further down in this interview), where even God does not indict.
CURRENTS: Have you read the material on the injury to her head and the hypothesis that she was just suffering from partial complex seizures?
MARTIN: I read the medical material on the possible diagnosis of her in this area. Although I have not read anyone’s rebuttal of that. But I’ll say something; it’s very difficult to diagnose certain mental or emotional disturbances with the patient in the room and the machines hooked up and all the sophistication of modern medicine. I am, therefore, a little bit suspicious of the smell of roses, the color purple, and these things being connected with specific mental disorders and to fix them to her, or any person, historically. It might make a good case to chase down in a great detective story, but if you are talking about hard evidence, forget it.
I believe Ellen White had an extremely complex personality, and I think she plagiarized materials because she believed the Lord had shown her what the sources said was the truth. She simply appropriated material and gave it out. I think she wanted the credit for it and that’s why she didn’t footnote. She was mortal; she was a sinner like anyone else.
CURRENTS: So she was a commandment breaker - which to her was one of the worst sins. If you were a commandment breaker, how terrible. Where does that leave us?
MARTIN: When I was once seated with a group of Seventh-day Adventist theologians and we got on the subject of commandment breaking, I said, “I am going to sound heretical to you, but we do know each other pretty well and therefore I am speaking as your brother.” And they all laughed. I continued, “None of us in this room is a commandment keeper. Because the Scripture says, ‘If we say we have not sinned, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. Sin is the transgression of the law, and all unrighteousness is sin.’ Please tell me if anyone in this room considers himself, for a 24-hour period, totally righteous?
No one said, “Boo.” “We are all commandment breakers.” I said.
Ron’s Commentary: So were the prophets of Scripture commandment-breakers! All men have sinned. But that does not mean that God has not preserved the gift of prophecy amongst His people, and especially at the end time when we need it most.
Joe 2:28 And it shall come to pass afterward, [that] I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
Act 2:17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:
Now, we don’t begin our day saying, “Today I am going to make the effort to keep the Ten Commandments.” We begin our day saying, “Lord Jesus, give me the grace that I may walk with you.” Because if I am going to walk with Christ, I’ll be obeying the will of God and the law of God. Now, I’m not going to make it all day. Maybe I might one day, but I miss the hours of 2, 4, 6 and 8 on Thursday, and 2, 5, 7 and 9 on Wednesday, whatever it may be. That’s what the Pharisees were into - the idea of how they were going to keep the law perfectly. They missed the whole point of the law.
CURRENTS: But that’s her point. She would make that point in a very stern way and then turn around and break the same commandment.
MARTIN: I know. D.M. Canright said she was whipped up in a lather about the slaughter house techniques and how the meat was bad to eat, etc. Of course this is a well-known fact of the time and she picked it up from Kellogg and others, not through divine revelation. It was a fact in the newspapers, but Mrs. White turns around and has a pork sandwich in Canright’s presence. Canright almost choked. I believe Canright. I believe she ate a pork sandwich in his presence when she got through telling people they shouldn’t eat pork, because she was a sinner.
Ron’s Commentary: Canright was proven to be an inveterate liar. Who do we believe, him or Ellen White?
CURRENTS: I can’t corroborate the pork story but I can provide you with a letter in which she writes to her daughter-in-law, in the eighties, and orders some fresh oysters.
MARTIN: And it’s forbidden under Mosaic law. But anyway, we don’t want to get into straining at the gnat and swallowing the camel. I am not an enemy of Adventism. I am a friend of Adventist people and a lover of truth. I did my level best at great risk - in 1956 and from then on - to take a strong position on the basis of Questions on Doctrine. If they are going to repudiate the book and turn back the pages, I have no other alternative but to rewrite the chapter in The Kingdom of the Cults. And I’ll have no other alternative but to come out and do another tape or series of tapes. I mean, just lay the whole thing out. I don’t want to do that. I’d much rather see them come around to a solid position.
CURRENTS: Haven’t they repudiated it already in the Review during the last couple of years? Haven’t they condemned Questions on Doctrine as a terrible heresy?
MARTIN: Well, now...this is an important point. Is that the General Conference’s position or of that an editor of the Review? Are we talking about a person? People high in Adventism have told me that [Kenneth] Wood was an unfortunate choice for the position and they are very happy he is not there. It is possible that Wood got away in the authoritarian structure with saying lots of things because no one could get to him or get at him. Well, the next editor of the Review might come along and do a complete about-face. I’m waiting to see what they’re going to do. You see, one magazine knocking a book doesn’t bother me. One prominent Adventist knocking it, or a group of them, doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is the possibility that the governing body of the denomination has really taken it out of print because they don’t want to believe it. Well, if they no longer want to believe, I want them to answer more questions.
CURRENTS: Is there any documentation from any General Conference leadership in the 1960’s when they officially stopped publication of Questions on Doctrine?
MARTIN: I was told by a high authority it was scheduled for republication. They wanted to make a few minor changes, nothing really to do with answers; and I was to see it before they did it. He was enthusiastic about it going ahead.
MARTIN: When it was going out of print. I don’t know what the date was, but he knows. He said he okayed it and it was going to be done. Then the powers that be, dominating the publication committee, whoever they were at that time, decided just to simply let it go out of print because there was pressure being placed on them from other sources. I suspect the White Estate and other people, zealous of preserving the image of an Ellen White they had created, did not like Questions on Doctrine, because it was honest.
I don’t know the inner
workings of it. And I am not too impressed with the integrity of how
they deal in-house with a lot of their problems. I have enough correspondence
here from people - a lot of palaver that goes out: “Now,
Brothers, we’ve got to resolve this issue,” and “Brothers, we’ve
got to sit down and talk.” After the
brothers sit down and talk and the Scripture speaks on the subject,
they go right ahead and disfellowship him. I mean, this is not scriptural. So, I am not criticizing the denomination
as a Baptist. I am criticizing things
that ought to be criticized as a member of the body of Christ
and trying, as a brother, to say, “Look, there are a lot of
evangelicals out there with good will towards you. Do you want to throw everything overboard
for a position that simply will not stand up?” I said that at the meeting in Loma Linda, which
is detailed in the letter to
I have yet to receive a response to questions that went back to the General Conference - two representatives [Robert Olson and Robert Spangler] took them back. I have yet to receive a response.
CURRENTS: You have talked about what you perceive to be several of Ellen White’s documentable shortcomings or sins, if you want to call them that, and plagiarism or what not. However, you have not brought up the perjury issue. I am not sure how much you are aware of the recent information concerning her involvement with the Shut Door idea, which was subsequently obscured by her statements essentially denying any involvement with the spreading of that heresy, if you will.
MARTIN: I think she believed it.
CURRENTS: The White Estate has admitted she misunderstood her early visions which seemed to teach it.
Ron’s Commentary: If you have any doubts concerning the “shut door” issue, read this document:
MARTIN: We knew a long time ago but they wouldn’t admit it.
CURRENTS: But it involves her, essentially, perjuring herself in order to save her credibility. I read your account of Jehovah’s Witnesses in The Kingdom of the Cults and the part where you are detailing the perjury committed by Russell, which totally destroys his credibility and his worthiness as a Christian leader. How would you apply that same reasoning and argument to Ellen White?
MARTIN: I think she made a mistake. I think she committed a sin. I think she panicked and tried to cover it up. I think those around her aided and abetted her in this. Also, I think the White Estate had it in conspiracy for years. About that, I don’t think there is any doubt at all.
The difference between her and the Jehovah’s Witnesses is not the crime itself. That was wrong. Whether Russell did it or whether Mrs. White did it is irrelevant. It’s the nature of the person we are talking about. Was Charles Russell a Christian? Did Charles Russell hold to the foundations of the gospel? Did Charles Russell promulgate the things of Christianity and stand in their defense? No. Did Ellen White? Yes. Therefore, though she committed the same crime he did, I cannot judge her on the same basis I am going to judge Charles Russell. She is a Christian who committed a sin. That should be brought out and spelled out clearly so it will show that Christians do these things. You have to be very careful about what they say, and even more careful in the light of something like that. That doesn’t mean everything Mrs. White ever said, or wrote, or did, automatically loses its credibility.
If you go back into Church history and look at some of the people who wrote - and some of the things that were done - you get the distinct feeling they were sinners saved by grace. And yet, you do not throw out some of the great minds of the Church - and people in Church history - and say they have no credibility because they committed a sin or made a mistake.
CURRENTS: Should a distinction be made between what are just sins and those acts committed under the guise of inspiration and absolute authority? Such as saying, “The angel has shown me...” or saying, “In the name of God, I swear, I never had those kind of visions,” and publish that under the name of God? Is there a difference between that and, say, committing adultery in private?
MARTIN: Sin is the transgression of the law. There are sins that are greater in magnitude and there are greater punishments for them. Christ taught that there were degrees of sin and there were degrees of punishment. It is an even greater sin when someone in a position of authority, who is looked to and respected, deliberately does something with full knowledge, and covers it up or perjures himself. Yes. Or plagiarizes or something like that. Yes. That is a great sin, and we cannot ignore sin. But I’ve got to make a distinction here that may not make some people happy. I have been pressed and pressed by people to get me to say Ellen White is a false prophet.
The logic used is, “But she said God told her something and it didn’t come to pass or it wasn’t true, and, she claimed to be speaking prophetically; that makes her a false prophet.”
Let me make an important distinction at this juncture. A biblical false prophet - that’s what they are really getting at - was not a believer. A biblical false prophet was a servant of the devil attempting to lead people away from the truth. You will find that in Exodus and Deuteronomy:
“He hath spoken for the purpose of turning you away from the Lord your God.” It’s a prime characteristic of a biblical false prophet in the Scripture. You don’t have a believer on your hands, you’ve got an unbeliever. And this person is deceiving the church.
Mrs. White, in my opinion, made false statements. She misused what she claimed was the prophetic gift she had. I believe this, in certain instances. But if you’re going to try to say that makes Ellen White the same as the false prophecy prohibited in Exodus and Deuteronomy, then you have to demonstrate that Ellen White was an unbeliever and that it was a deliberate and willful perversion of truth regarding salvation and revelation. That’s a very fine line.
Ron’s Commentary: It is interesting how Martin could not bring himself to say that Ellen White was a false prophet. He read much of her material and he just could not bring himself to the point of calling her a false prophet. If he truly believed that Ellen White lied about the “shut door” incident, then he should have said that she was a false prophet, for she would have been such if she knowingly, deliberately lied about that issue. But she did no such thing, and Martin knew that. End comment.
Of course, technically, I would have to say that the person who prophesies in the name of God and turns out to be wrong, has prophesied falsely. You have to say that. But they want to go further than that. They want to make Mrs. White a biblical false prophet which means she is not a Christian. I cannot endorse that.
CURRENTS: I don’t think anyone familiar with the history would deny she felt she was right and felt she had some kind of mission to fulfill. In that sense I don’t think anyone would attempt to say she was a false prophet, in the sense you just described.
MARTIN: I am just talking about people who have left the denomination and people who are hostile to Adventism generally. They are picking this line up and I am getting flack on the subject of false prophets. So I have to be very careful when I talk about a false prophet. We do admit that anyone who says something in the name of God, and it doesn’t come to pass, is prophesying falsely. But there is a deeper level to this. Is it a person who has fallen into sin and is a believer, or is it a person who is a total unbeliever? That’s your biblical part - deliberately attempting to lead people away from God.
CURRENTS: I find among disenchanted Adventists more of the charge that she was a fraud than that she was a false prophet.
MARTIN: Well, considering that 90% of her writings allegedly have been tainted by secular or religious sources, even if it was good material, one does get quite suspicious of her ethics and of her genuine commitment to truth.
CURRENTS: What about Mrs. White’s view of the atonement - that it wasn’t completed until 1844? Doesn’t that fall under the category you are talking about?
MARTIN: The doctrine of the incomplete atonement is heretical. It was later changed into a modified Armenian device with the investigative judgment and was nothing more than a poor face-saving technique - as Dr. Barnhouse pointed out to Dr. Froom, to his great chagrin. It was just a way out of a nasty situation. She really bought the idea that this was the proper interpretation of Hebrews. She believed it. She was wrong. The people around her were wrong. She thought God had shown this to her because, I think, she tried to imbue a lot of her statements and doctrines with the divine seal of authority to get people to pay attention to her. Yes, I think she did that and I think that was sinful. However, I don’t believe the intent of Mrs. White, in anything she taught, was to dishonor Christ or to turn against the gospel as she understood it.
Ron’s Commentary: The Atonement of Christ’s blood spilled for our sins was complete. But the Atonement by way of pleading that blood on our behalf and sending the Holy Spirit to those who believe in the efficacy of that spilled blood is not over until probation closes, and the Sanctuary is cleansed of all sin. End comment.
CURRENTS: It would seem that the Christian has a lot of leeway in what he believes; and if there are some mistakes in his viewpoint, in some things he does....
MARTIN: That doesn’t make him a non-Christian. It makes him a Christian - uninformed, ignorant, or sinful; but still a redeemed person. Paul says, “Mark has forsaken me; Demetrius has loved this world.” Does he send them off to hell? The man in 1 Corinthians 5, did he send them to hell? No. I therefore think Christians are capable of terribly stupid acts and statements, even dishonest and sinful acts. But they are also capable of repenting. That’s what the General Conference should be doing right now, repenting. Repenting of these things and saying, “We just cannot sustain this any longer. The church is built on Christ, not on Mrs. White or her prophetic gift, or the revenue generated from her resources.”
CURRENTS: Three Seventh-day Adventist will have to repent for keeping you from you lunch if we don’t thank you right now and get out of your hair.
The three questions [referred to in the interview] that Walter Martin asked the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists are:
1. Why is the book Seventh-day Adventist’s Answer Questions on Doctrine no longer available?
2. Does the Seventh-day Adventist church still hold to the answers it gave in that book to the doctrinal questions non-Adventists have posed?
3. Do you regard the interpretations of the Bible by Ellen G. White to be infallible, that is, to be the infallible rule of interpreting Scripture? For instance: if an issue comes up where you are debating something and Mrs. White speaks on it; is that the infallible voice?
[This question was left unanswered.]
GENERAL CONFERENCE REPLIES TO WALTER MARTIN’S QUESTIONS
When Currents originally taped the interview (17 February 1983) with Walter Martin that later appeared in the magazine’s first (Jul/Aug) issue, he had already written Neal Wilson certain specific questions. Among those questions were two that Currents is aware of:
1. Why is the book Seventh-day Adventist’s Answer Questions on Doctrine no longer available?
2. Does the Seventh-day Adventist church still hold to the answers it gave in that book to the doctrinal questions non-Adventists have posed?
queried General Conference officers and discovered that Neal
When Lesher’s office was contacted (26 August 1983), Lesher was out of town; but his associate, Frank Holbrook, answered the two questions posed above.
In answer to the first question, Holbrook said that Questions on Doctrine “went out of print for the same reason that any book goes out of print; there was no call for it.” He added the astonishing statistic - and repeated it - that there had been four copies of Questions on Doctrine printed for every North American Division member! When asked where they all were, he said, “in libraries.”
of Holbrook’s answer, retired General Conference Ministerial Association
secretary and former Ministry Magazine
editor R. Allan Anderson found it preposterous.
Responding to the second question from Martin regarding our present faithfulness to the answers given back in 1957, Holbrook said vaguely, “We answered him consistent with our 27-point Statement of Fundamental Beliefs.”
Holbrook would not elaborate on answer number two; but he did say that Questions on Doctrine was, in a sense, passe; that it had outlived its usefulness; and that a special volume (number eleven) of the SDA Bible Commentary series was being prepared to deal with various doctrinal issues (such as the nature of Christ). Fortunately or unfortunately, the new book will not be published for several years.
NEWS NOTE ABOUT “QUESTIONS ON DOCTRINE” AND IT’S ‘REPLACEMENT’
After several years of slow-moving preparation, an eleventh volume of the SDA Bible Commentary series slated for unveiling at the 1990 General Conference quinquennial session has been canceled. The project, begun in 1983 as a joint venture between the Biblical Research Institute and the Review and Herald Publishing Association, was to be a comprehensive and official elaboration of fundamental SDA beliefs.
Spokesmen for both the BRI and the Review cite as a reason for cancellation the inability of many of the thirty-four authors to complete their contributions to the volume in a timely way. One spokesman, when asked about the quality of the articles that had been submitted, asked that the question not be asked.
One of the difficulties faced by those in charge of the project was that of finding qualified writers who were willing to write mere descriptions of Adventist doctrine as it had evolved during the last half of the nineteenth century. No creative reunderstandings, applications, or even apologetics were solicited. But most theologians are loathe to think of their discipline as static.
One of the reasons for a commentary volume on Adventist beliefs was the void that has been left by the longstanding refusal to reprint Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine. Questions on Doctrine, of course, had a controversial history and its tendentiously evangelical interpretations of SDA doctrine made it anathema to those Adventists who believe in victory life and the fallen human nature of Christ. Nevertheless BRI associate secretary Frank Holbrook told Currents, “I’m comfortable with Questions on Doctrine,” and added that he personally would be willing to have it reprinted.
the meantime, the Ministerial
Association is preparing a guide to Adventist doctrine, entitled Adventist Believe, to be published by
the Review & Herald Publishing
Association in late 1988. The book
will also serve as a supplement to those
Even though the Ministerial Association is a General Conference entity, and in spite of the fact the Adventists Believe will be published by the Review & Herald, because it will not be voted by a General Conference annual council action, it will not be “official.” This means that if a great argument should occur over some point or points in the book, GC spokesmen will be able to deny that it represents the “official” church position. Church officials would have something like what Oliver North in another context referred to as “plausible deniability.”
Some Adventist theologians are pleased with the news that the church’s theology will continue to meander somewhat pluralistically, languishing for an “official” volume that articulates its fundamental beliefs - believing that the church is better off without it because they know that on several substantive doctrinal points, Adventists simply are not agreed.
[Adventist Currents, April, 1988]
[Editorial pieces written by Douglas Hackleman.]
Questions on Doctrine: a Theological “Sting?”
Loud and bitter reaction to Questions on Doctrine came from those who felt that in it “the truth” had been sold for a mess of pottage - favor with the evangelicals. Milian Lauritz Andreason (1876-1962), long retired seminary professor, published his anguished “Letters to the Churches” and lost his credentials. According to R.A. Anderson, Andreason phoned Donald Barnhouse long-distance for 58 minutes to tell him the General Conference had apostatized and that he, Andreason, would have Figuhr impeached.
we cannot reproduce any of that conversation, the transcript of another
long-distance call suffered by Barnhouse indicates that other Adventists
shared Andreason’s sense of betrayal.
The call from Al Hudson of Baker,
BARNHOUSE: That Christ had, that He was the God-man. Adam was a created being subject to fall. Jesus Christ was the God-man, not subject to fall.
BARNHOUSE: Of course. They have taken it so strongly, and it is their book [Questions on Doctrine]. We hold, they say, with the church of all the centuries that Jesus Christ was the eternal sinless Son of God, etc., etc.
...If you do not believe that Jesus Christ is the eternal, sinless Son of God, that He could not have sinned - and goodness, we have eighteen quotations from Mrs. White saying the same thing - eighteen quotations from Ellen White stating exactly this position, and denying what you are telling me...
BARNHOUSE: One quotation.
BARNHOUSE: Oh yes we do. Look, Froom and the rest of them say that
Walter Martin knows more about Seventh-day Adventists than any [seminary]
BARNHOUSE: That’s too much, you know. She was running off at the mouth, and the Holy Spirit certainly was not doing it.
BARNHOUSE: Look, I know these men are intelligent enough to know that she was a fallible human being, and that she said so herself... Do you believe that she was in error ever?
BARNHOUSE: In her writing. Do you believe that in some of her writing that you have to point to certain sentences and say, “Boy, she sure pulled a booper[sic]! That’s for the birds! It is not true!”
BARNHOUSE: You haven’t?
BARNHOUSE: Oh, brother, are you a dupe. You are not as honest as the people at
BARNHOUSE: Of course he does. Everyone of these men have said this to me. Every man. Every man. They believe that she was raised up of God to be a great blessing, and that the Spirit of Prophecy was upon her, but they all agree that she wrote error in some places.
BARNHOUSE: They believe that God came upon her in a special way and for a message to His people at a special time.
BARNHOUSE: Of course not. Certainly not. They’re intelligent men, and they are Christians... She was a good woman who was greatly blessed and greatly mistaken, frequently.
BARNHOUSE: Of course they don’t.
BARNHOUSE: None of them do.
Ron’s Commentary: If SDA leaders do not believe that Ellen White was a true prophet, then they should not say that the SDA church has the gift of prophecy. End comment.
Two decades later these same issues continue to imperil the unity of our fellowship. Dissent over Christ’s All-atoning Sacrifice, the Sabbath School lesson quarterly for the first quarter of 1983, indicates that Adventists remain especially divided over the nature of Christ.
eruption of SDA doctrinal volcanoes fueled by Walter Rea and Desmond Ford and
the inadequate responses of official Adventist publications to those
challenges have not been lost on Walter Martin. Martin closed a presentation assessing the
Adventist situation to a gathering of evangelicals in Napa,
“This is the conclusion of the whole matter. We dare not accept any authority - any authority - that in its role becomes the supreme interpreter and arbiter of Scripture. We dare not. If Adventism embraces this, they are no longer Protestant. They have accepted historic Catholic theology, and Mrs. White becomes the infallible female pope...
“What Christ calls us to is healing - not healing by ignoring the truth... healing in the life of regenerate Adventists. If this is done then I believe God will give them blessings they have never had in their entire history...
[This piece was in an inset box within the article “Walter Martin Interview” (From Adventist Currents, Vol. 1, No. 1, July, 1983)]
[Standard disclaimer: this post is for informational purposes only. -jeb]