Good News Unlimited
Good News Unlimited
 Menu
Good News Unlimited
Good News Unlimited
 Welcome
 Good News Now
 Jesus... or What?
 Subscribe
 Find
 Gifts

Good News Unlimited
 Resources
Good News Unlimited
 Articles
 Ask The Pastor
 Audio
 Books
 Web Word
 eChurch
 Magazine
 Radio
 Video
Good News Unlimited
Good News Unlimited
 Articles
Good News Unlimited
Good News Unlimited
Adventist Today FORUM presents:

Reflections On Adventism - Part One

an interview with
DR. DESMOND FORD

| Intro | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Follow up |


The Interview - Part 1

AToday: Dr. Ford, I would like to explore a number of theological areas with you ranging from the Glacier View debate and the Investigative Judgment to the validity of the Sabbath and the authority of Scripture versus Ellen G. White. We will also touch on such topics as the Gospel, Women’s Ordination, last-day events, the 27 fundamental beliefs, and the future of Adventism in the Twenty-first century.

For the record, I should state that I have invited the White Estate, Biblical Research Institute, and the Review to submit some official or even unofficial questions to you, but they have all politely declined. (However, Bill Johnsson of the Review did agree to participate in a future Adventist Today forum interview.) Considering the fact that all these Denominational entities were so very involved with Glacier View and the theological conflict surrounding the Gospel, perhaps they will reconsider and submit some follow-up questions after the initial interview has been posted on the Adventist Today forum.

So, Dr. Ford, if you don’t mind, we will get started.

Dr. Ford: Fair enough.

AToday: QUESTION #1 - Dr Ford, the very mention of your name seems to stir theological controversy. In fact, when Adventist Today initially posted information about your forum interview, the activity increased dramatically and discussions intensified. Some supported you enthusiastically, while others denounced you as a heretic intent on destroying the Advent movement. To complicate matters, the vast majority seemed truly confused about the issues surrounding this on-going theological conflict. Please tell us: are you a friend or foe of the Advent movement? Do you think that the Advent movement is a continuation of the great Protestant Reformation as L.E. Froom and others have claimed? And, finally what, in your opinion, are the core issues that make you so controversial?

Dr. Ford: First, let me say that I am a friend of the Advent movement. The dedications of two of my books, the one written just prior to Glacier View, entitled Daniel 8:14, The Day of Atonement and the Investigative Judgment and the other, The Forgotten Day, written shortly after Glacier View, will help to answer these questions. The first book was dedicated:

"To those who, believing that God raised up the Advent movement to proclaim the truth for earth's last hour, value truth more than position, comfort, or reputation. For such,

New occasions teach new duties

Time makes ancient good uncouth,

They must upward still and onward

Who would keep abreast of truth."

The second dedication was dedicated to the many Adventists who see "the everlasting gospel" (Revelation 14:6) as the heart of God's last message to the world and the touchstone of all else in doctrine and behavior."

I have gone on record many times, both orally and in print, declaring with all my heart that I believe God raised up the Advent movement. Too many Adventists think Miller is someone to be ashamed of—but they are wrong. This unschooled farmer read the Scripture correctly and recognized that it foretold the pre-millennial return of Christ. Miller transcended most of the learned scholars of his day. All of the major Bible commentaries used in American homes throughout most of the Nineteenth Century taught the post-millennial coming of Christ. Who can get excited about an event at least a thousand years off? Adam Clarke, Bishop Barnes, and before both of them, Matthew Henry, made this same mistake. Miller helped turn the religious world around on this vital issue that resonates throughout every part of the New Testament—the vibrant with the hope of the soon return of our Lord. To cherish that hope is appropriate whether we live in the apostolic age or now. Following the two world wars, almost the whole religious world has followed the lead given by Miller. The fact he was wrong in following most Protestants of his day in striving to fix "prophetic dates" does not significantly lessen his stature.

Listen particularly to my Adventist Forum presentation given in San Diego on July 17, 1998 entitled, "My Vision for the Church." At that Forum, I pointed out how appropriate the timing was for the essence of the SDA message. For example, Darwin wrote his first sketch of The Origin of Species in 1844 and simultaneously God revived the Sabbath truth to challenge all atheistic theories regarding life's origin. Modern Spiritualism also emerged in the 1840s and it was countered by Adventism's emphasis on conditional immortality. It was also in the 1840s that Marx and Engels wrote The Communist Manifesto, affirming that "law, morality, and religion, are only bourgeois prejudices." So, I affirm that God raised up the Advent movement for His purposes in the last days.

As to the question about the Reformation being connected to Adventism, yes, I believe the Adventist movement was intended by God to be a continuation of the Reformation. In His providence, God directed the attention of the Adventists to the ark and the mercy seat in the Most Holy place—law and grace combining. There can be no strong gospel without a strong doctrine of law. This is what the Adventists were meant to offer to the world, with particular reference to the Sabbath, which is at the very heart of the law that authenticates the whole. It is because the law and the gospel both come from the Creator that they have validity and meaning.

As for the controversy, the theological conflict in Adventism during the 1960s and the 1970s revolved around the core issues of "the everlasting gospel." Is the gospel good news or good advice? Does righteousness by faith mean justification alone or justification plus sanctification? Did Christ have a sinful nature like ours and, therefore, one that challenges us all to obey as perfectly as He did, or is He primarily our Savior first and our Exemplar second? Can sinful human beings perfectly obey a holy law or are the believing saints covered by the imputed merits of Christ all their days and in the last judgment? Is Christian assurance part of the gospel package, or is it presumptuous for those facing an Investigative Judgment? Does the traditional teaching on the Investigative Judgment cohere with the repeated emphasis in Hebrews that Christ finished the atonement at the cross and entered immediately "within the veil"?

AToday: QUESTION #2 - How did the Righteousness by Faith debates, which focused on the definition of the Gospel, become linked with Glacier View, Daniel 8:14, and the Investigative Judgment doctrine?

Dr. Ford: Having completed two post-graduate degrees in Eschatology, one of my chief areas of interest had been biblical Prophecy. After handling every book in the stacks of the Library of Congress on the Apocalypse as a culmination to decades of prophetic study, I realized that the evidence was overwhelmingly against the historicist mode of calculating supposedly prophetic dates following the Cross. Furthermore, I concluded that none of these dates can be scripturally or historically supported as a fulfillment of Bible prophecy.

Also, and more importantly, I realized that the SDA church had failed to make Christ and the gospel central in its exposition of the prophecies. This error was made in spite of our awareness of the prophetic key found in Revelation 19:10 that prophecy is also all about Jesus. So, just as I had long protested against the teachings of perfectionism and the sinful nature of Christ, I also protested in these areas as well.

My theology is not controversial for most SDA scholars, but it is such to dyed-in-the-wool traditionalists whose time for study and research is limited by inclination and skills. Since Glacier View, concession after concession has been made by Church spokesmen in the areas once regarded as heretical in 1980. For example, the Church now officially teaches the "sinlessness" of Christ's human nature; the impossibility of perfection for sinners in this life; the fact that the Antichrist is central in the judgment prophecies of Daniel 7 and 8; that "cleansed" is a mistranslation in Daniel 8:14; that the word "days" is also not to be found in the Hebrew original of that same verse; that the atonement DID take place at the cross; that Christ DID enter the equivalent of "the most holy place" at His ascension and not in 1844; that the Lisbon earthquake, the Dark Day, and the falling of the stars in 1833 are not the fulfillment of Bible prophecy; that Ellen White was not a theologian, never claimed infallibility and relied on faulty sources for her doctrinal formulations; that Ellen White upheld the Bible as the only rule of faith and practice; that she refused to be an arbiter in the interpretation of prophecy, etc, etc. etc.

However, I must say that most pleasing of all these quiet changes has been an increasing emphasis on justification, which is the legal metaphor for the gospel. Let it also be kept in mind that the Palmdale Conference agreed that righteousness by faith in the Pauline epistles always and only means justification by faith alone and that sanctification, while always the fruit of this, is not included in the scriptural phrase. This was published in the Review immediately after Palmdale but sadly quickly forgotten. In view of these undeniable admissions in recent years, in what sense can I be classified as heretical?

But let it be carefully noted that Adventist scholars never write for non-denominational journals trying to support the traditional answers to the issues raised at Glacier View, whereas they frequently publish on other topics. And also note that while L.E Froom could marshal a multitude of scholarly supporters for the Adventist’s position on the state of the dead, he failed to find any support or explanation for the traditional Adventist position concerning Daniel 8:14.

AToday: QUESTION #3 - Can you give us a simple explanation of the traditional position of the "Investigative Judgment" versus your updated, controversial view? Are you saying that there is no "pre-advent judgment" for any Christian or just that our lives are not going to be "investigated" to see if we are "fit for heaven"? Is there a heavenly sanctuary and does it matter? How many judgments are there and how do we know if we can ever pass them? Also where does the Reformers’ "third use of the law" come in with its rewards-for-works concept? Although I think many Adventists today certainly understand the gospel much better now than they did before Glacier View, many are still very confused about the details of these issues.

Dr. Ford: The Investigative Judgment teaching was the fifth "explanation" raised to "explain" the disappointment of October 22, 1844. The Church did not adopt this teaching until 1857—thirteen years later. The Church taught that Christ, after his ascension, has two phases of ministry in the respective apartments of the heavenly sanctuary—the first phase is one of intercession and the second phase of intercession AND judgment for all who had ever professed loyalty to God. This second phase purportedly began on October 22, 1844 as Christ went "within the veil." Most SDAs listening to expositions of the traditional view of the judgment gained the impression that they must reach a certain standard of holiness in order to pass the test. Thus, Christian assurance was vitiated and the dangers of legalism and perfectionism became prominent.

I believe in a pre-advent judgment. As Christ ceases his ministry as our High Priest, He will bestow eschatological justification on all who have maintained genuine faith in Him. The believer’s faith will be evidenced by their works which, though far from perfect, demonstrate that they have indeed been regenerated and are fighting the good fight of faith. This judgment by the Omniscient One (Christ is the Judge) is the work of a moment just prior to the close of probation. "The Lord knoweth them that are his" (2nd Timothy 2:19). This judgment declaration is given in Revelation 22:11,12. Others besides Adventists have seen this as the judgment decree marking the close of probationary time. The New Testament links the Judgment with the Second Advent everywhere, not with events transpiring over a century and a half before.

Thus there is a pre-advent judgment on the eve of the second advent to decree who is to be translated and who is to be raised in the first resurrection and then another judgment at the end of the thousand years evidencing why so many fail to attain heaven (see Revelation 20:4-5,11-15).

When repentant sinners accept the gospel, they are immediately given the verdict of the last judgment. Scripture calls this verdict "justification" (see Romans 3:21-26 and all of Romans 4, see also John 5:24). We "stand" in this grace all of our days, provided faith in Christ is maintained (see Romans 5:1; 1 Corinthians 1:30,31).

Scripture does teach a reward according to our works (see Matthew 16:27), but it does not teach salvation by works (see Ephesians 2:8-10). We are justified by faith alone, but the faith that justifies is never alone. We are not saved by faith plus works but by a faith that works. God always gives his gifts with both hands and justifies none that He does not proceed to sanctify. He does not call the leper clean and leave him to die of his disease. But the enduring rewards of the world to come are determined by our works of faith (see Matthew 25:14–ff).

As Ellen White wrote, "We are not to be anxious about what Christ and God think of us, but about what God thinks of Christ, our substitute." She also writes, "We are not called upon to make our peace with God, but to accept Christ who is our peace." And again, in Steps to Christ, p. 62, "Christ’s character stands in place of your character, and you are accepted before God just as if you had not sinned" (see her many pages on righteousness by faith in Selected Messages, vol. I, pp. 32-33, etc.).

Because believers still have a sinful nature, the need remains for the law to continue to act as a schoolmaster showing us our need of Christ. The law acts in the sanctification process though it has no part in our justification.

"I would not work my soul to save,
For that the Lord hath done,
But I would work like any slave
For love of God's dear Son."

I have detailed the difficulties with the traditional view of the Investigative Judgment in the Glacier View manuscript (see particularly pages 174-176 of the published volume). I will note, however, that Uriah Smith said two things about this doctrine: first, the judgment began in 1844 and secondly, it would be short. No Adventist today can support both of these positions at the same time. At least one must be surrendered because the time period from 1844 until now is not a "short" period. Moreover, it is utterly impossible to biblically support the year 1844 as the beginning of the judgment. Ezra 7 was not a decree for the rebuilding of the city, but a temple decree. The year-day principle is not biblical as the SDA Conference President, Kai Arasola, pointed out in his book, The End of Historicism, Daniel 8:14 does not mention days, but "evening and mornings"—a reference to the evening and morning burnt offerings. Thus, the TEV translates, along with most scholars of all denominations, "Unto 1150 days…", not 2300 days.

Adventism has been greatly hindered from proclaiming its message because so few know what the everlasting gospel really is. Seventh-day Adventists have not perceived that the gospel is "the good, glad, and merry tidings that makes the heart to sing and the feet to dance." They have not recognized that we do not have to be good to be saved, but we do have to be saved to be good. It is not a matter of who we are but whose we are. How good God is! "There is nothing we can do to make him love us more, and there is nothing we can do that will make Him love us less." Only the gospel by breaking the heart can make possible the fulfilling of the law's essence, which is unselfish love. Thus by faith the law is established and not abolished.

To further answer this question, the following represents my Glacier View position that may be found on pp. 174-176 of the printed version of the Glacier View manuscript.

The great saving truths of the Christian faith never depend upon inferential reasoning from a single text. That God is our Creator; that Christ died for our sins, that we might be forgiven; that salvation is through faith; that faith always bears fruit in obedience; that Christ will return to earth; that now He intercedes for us on high—all such truths rest on substantial, immovable foundations of Holy Writ. Should certain texts on any of these topics be ambiguous, it matters not, for there are plenty of others that are not ambiguous. Pillars of the faith are firmly established, they do not rest on fluid, uncertain, equivocal interpretations.

When, however, we come to the SDA traditional sanctuary interpretation of 1844 and the Investigative Judgment, such is by no means the case. It is dependent, not upon plain didactic statements from Scripture, but upon a prolonged series of assumptions and inferences—most of which are highly debatable. Adventists have set forth dogmatic conclusions where honesty should compel the confession that the evidence is either ambiguous or contrary to Adventist traditional claims.

For example, consider the perilous dependence upon the following assumptions, many of which are interlocking in such a way that if one falls, so do the others:

  1. That Daniel 8:14 speaks of 2300 days. (While Daniel 12 repeatedly uses the Hebrew word for days, it is not to be found in 8:14. Instead we have the ambiguous "evening-morning" which most apply to the evening and morning burnt offerings. Thus instead of 2300 days, if these exegetes are correct, only 1150 days are in view.)
  2. That these 2300 "days" equal 2300 years. (Though it is quite impossible to prove that the year-day principle is a biblical datum, and even if we could, days are not mentioned in either 8:14 or 9:24, so there is no basis to apply the principle in these instances.)
  3. That these 2300 years begin centuries before the "little horn" began his attack on the sanctuary. (Though in the context, the 2300 days has been understood by almost all as applying to the length of time the little horn is trampling the sanctuary underfoot and suspending its daily offerings.)
  4. That the 2300 years begin at the same time as the seventy weeks. (Though there is Scripture to say so. The Hebrew chathak means "cut" or "decree," and there is no way of proving that the cutting off of the 490 from 2300 is intended.)
  5. That it is possible to be certain of the exact year that the seventy weeks begin. (Though exegetes have never been agreed on this point. Is the decree like that of 9:23, a heavenly one from God, or one from an earthly king?)
  6. That the decree of Artaxerxes recorded in Ezra 7 has to do with the restoring and building of Jerusalem. (Though there is nothing in Ezra 7 that says this. The context says that this decree, like those of Cyrus and Darius, had to do with the temple. The magistrates were to enforce the temple laws. See Ezra 6:14 which places this decree among the temple decrees.)
  7. That the decree of Ezra 7 "went forth" in 457 BC when Ezra had arrived in Jerusalem and set to work. (Though Ezra never says this, and the decree had been announced at least six months earlier. There is nothing in Daniel to say that this decree should be dated from the time of its implementation rather than its enunciation.)
  8. That 408 BC was the time when the restoration of the city was completed. (Admitted even by Adventist scholars to be impossible to prove.)
  9. That AD 27 was the date of Christ’s baptism. (A similarly difficult feat.)
  10. That AD 31 was the date of the crucifixion. (Almost all scholars hold to other years, not this one. Evidence from Grace Amadon’s researches, often used by SDAs, is based on doubtful assumptions, as admitted by the SDA Bible Commentary.)
  11. That AD 34 was the date of the gospel going to the gentiles. (Though there is no way of proving that AD 34 was the time of the stoning of Stephen, and Acts 13:46 presents the turning to the gentiles at a much later date.)
  12. That the 2300 days end with the beginning of the anti-typical Day of Atonement. (Though the Day of Atonement revolved around the sacrifice for sin, an event which took place about eighteen centuries earlier. The divesting of his glorious robes by the high priest prefigured the incarnation of Christ, which did not take place in 1844. The book of Hebrews clearly applies the Day of Atonement in antitype to Christ’s priestly offering of Himself on Calvary, though the Christian era is included as we wait for our High Priest to come out.)
  13. That until this date was reached, Christ was doing that work prefigured by the first apartment outside the veil. (Though Hebrews tells us that the work of that apartment symbolized the ineffectual offerings of the Levitical era when men had restricted access to God, and experienced outward ceremonial cleansing rather than perfection of the conscience.)
  14. That the work symbolized by the second apartment of the sanctuary was not to begin till over 1800 years after the cross. (Though Hebrews 9:8, 12, 24, 25; 10:19, 20; 6:19, 20 says that Christ entered "within the veil" at His ascension.) The sprinkling of the blood on the mercy seat took place immediately after the shedding.
  15. That the sanctuary of Daniel 8:14 means the sanctuary in heaven. (Though the context is about the sanctuary on earth).
  16. That "cleansed" is an accurate translation in Daniel 8:14. (Though this is certainly not the case.)
  17. That the sanctuary on the Day of Atonement was cleansed from defilement occasioned by the confession of sin and ministration of blood. (Though Numbers 19:13, etc., indicate that the sanctuary was defiled when a person sinned, regardless of whether confession was made. In most cases, blood never went into the sanctuary.)
  18. That the cleansing of the sanctuary in 8:14 has to do with the sins of the professed believers in Christ. (Though the context has to do with a defilement accomplished by Antichrist, not the host of God’s people who are suffering, not sinning, in the context.)
  19. That this cleansing of 8:14 is also found in Daniel 7 in its judgment scene and that the latter also has to do with the investigation of the sins of the saints. (Though again, in Daniel 7, as in 8, it is a wicked power, which is the focus of the judgment.)
  20. That Revelation 14:7 has to do with the same Investigative Judgment of the sins of the saints. (Though John never uses the word krisis other than in a negative sense—for unbelievers, and though the very next verse tells us that it is Babylon that endures the judgment, as the later chapters also testify.)
  21. That verses like Acts 3:19 point to the Investigative Judgment. (None of such verses studied in context yield any such conclusion.)
  22. That much depends upon October 22, 1844, as the beginning of the anti-typical Day of Atonement. (Though October 22, 1844 was not the day observed by contemporary Jews, or even by the majority of Karaites. Neither is there evidence that the baptism of Christ, or the stoning of Stephen took place on the Day of Atonement, which would have been necessary if the 49 years, the 434, 490, and 2300 years are each precise in terminus. In contrast, observe that Ellen G. White could write: "I saw that God was in the proclamation of the time in 1843. …Ministers were convinced of the correctness of the positions taken on the prophetic periods" (SG, p. 232). Observe she is talking about the 1843 terminus, not October 22, 1844. Furthermore, she is speaking of periods ending then, not just one period. Miller had over a dozen, including the 6000 years, the seven times, the 1335 days, etc.), and they were all wrong.

In contrast to this traditional precision and convoluted series of assumptions, the chapter in the SDA Bible Commentary, "Interpretation of Daniel," shows that such precision is contrary to the whole history of prophetic exegesis of the prophetic periods of Daniel. Furthermore, when the SDA Bible Dictionary refers to Daniel 8:14 in its articles on Antichrist and the little horn, it makes no reference to an investigative judgment, but speaks of Daniel 8:14 as pointing to judgment upon the little horn and restoration of true worship.

Consider the following form the Whedon commentary on Daniel 9:

  • No prophecy of Scripture is more difficult to explain than this. Anyone who thinks it easy proves thereby that he does not understand it. The more confident the explanation the less likely is it to be of any value. Like all apocalyptic calculations, these have doubtless been left enigmatical on purpose. If not, the aim of the writer has been sadly defeated, for scarcely two scholars of the old school or of the new school can agree as to the meaning of these mathematical combinations." (Daniel, p. 290.)

AToday: QUESTION #4 - After Glacier View, the Church leaders officially formed a committee known as the "Daniel and Revelation Study Committee" in order to strengthen and defend the traditional view of Daniel 8:14. Were you invited to sit on that committee and what did they conclude about this debated issue? Also, did you ever make any formal response to their voluminous published materials on the subject?

Dr. Ford: I was not invited to sit on that committee, but a kind friend and fellow scholar sent me a set of their books. Most of our own SDA scholars were not well impressed by the work prepared by that committee. A committee member told me: "On this committee, the ones who know most, say least; and the ones who know least, say most." I believe him, for the books themselves so testify. Their content was only tangential to the facts of Scripture and history presented in the Glacier View manuscript. The central issues were dodged and the whole thing was, in the words of one of the Church’s best scholars (as he exploded to me—waving his hand at the new books), "Don’t read them! They are simply awful." He viewed them as a "snow job".

(In addition, few people know that Neil Wilson called another committee to study this issue in 1983 which I agreed to join on the condition they would look at the doctrinal problems head on—chiefly Smuts and I versus Hasel, Spangler, William Johnsson, Duncan Eva, etc. But the brethren broke it up by the third day—they were not really prepared to do as promised—they failed to seriously pursue the real doctrinal issues.)

It should also be pointed out that some other long-cherished dates of supposed prophetic fulfillment have also proved erroneous—those used for Revelation 11:9, 9:15, Daniel 12:11, 12. Others, such as 538 and 1798, were questioned by SDA leaders long ago, such as W.W. Prescott (see SDABC note at close of commentary on Daniel 7.) The Bible gives no support whatever for calculating "prophetic" dates beyond the Christ event. Every attempt has been, is, and will continue to be, fallacious.

Yes, in one of our issues of GNU magazine, I wrote a brief reply to the Daniel and Revelation committee. In addition, in my book, Daniel and the Coming King, I wrote a response that can be found in Appendix 15 and 16, pp. 243-253. Here is a brief summary.

  • First, there were some good things from the Daniel and Revelation Committee. For example, in the Seventy weeks, Leviticus, and the Nature of Prophecy (vol. 3 of the series), there was a splendid article by Ivan Blazen (pp. 339-388). The article discusses the relationship between justification and the last judgment. Ivan can be faulted only in his attempt to drag in, by some thin threads of argument, the investigative judgement. But his attempt is so half-hearted no one could chide the author.
  • In addition, Gerhard Hasel’s article, "Interpretations of the Chronology of the Seventy Weeks" is excellent (pp. 3-63). I am not persuaded by his conclusions, though there is one I fully accept. He says, in his next to last paragraph that, "each of the four major schools of interpretation of [Daniel] 9:24-27 has certain weaknesses." Page 51 explains why Dr. Hasel can admit the Adventist interpretation—along with the others—has its problems. Here he clearly says that "The actual wording of the command of Artaxerxes I of 457 BC makes no explicit mention of any order to rebuild the city of Jerusalem." On the same page, he also says, "the validity of applying the 457 BC decree depends upon an uncertain interpretation of Ezra 4: 7-23."
  • So there are good and honest things in this series of books. I have by no means listed them all. However, what is lacking is a good case for supporting the Investigative Judgment or 1844 as a biblical datum. I repeat: excellent work on peripheral matters is no substitute for grappling with the central issues.
  • It should be noted that the problem is that if no certain date can be established for the commencement of the Seventy Weeks Prophecy, then on Adventism’s own premises, there can be no certainty whatsoever for the date 1844. To make matter more confusing, some of the positions taken by the committee on this issue relating to Daniel 9:25 requires that they refute Ellen White’s position in Prophets & Kings, pp. 572-573.
  • The problem is that the Adventist case for 1844 asserts that the decree for rebuilding Jerusalem is predicated in Daniel 9:25 on the decree of Artaxerxes in Ezra 7. But Ezra 7 says nothing whatsoever about rebuilding Jerusalem! Nor does any other passage attribute the building of the city to Artaxerxes or to Ezra. The whole Adventist case for 1844 depends upon missing evidence!
  • Furthermore, even those scholars who believe Ezra 4 may refer to the time of Ezra and the decree of Ezra 7, few—if any—accept the 457 BC date for the decree to rebuild Jerusalem. In fact, the date for the decree of Ezra 7 most universally accepted by exegetes and archaeologists is the Spring of 458 BC—not the Fall of 457 BC! Sadly, this date, when 2300 years is added to it, is not even close to the October 22nd date and thus will never support the traditional 1844 theory.
  • In fact, almost all the Church’s scholars I have talked to have the same doubts about the 457 BC date. Note how such uncertainties have crept into the Adventist Review (vol. 158, No. 31, Special Issue on Bible Doctrines, 1981, pp. 26-27) shortly after Glacier View. As the Review desperately tried to bolster up the Investigative Judgment doctrine, it is forced to use tentative language such as:
  • It seems clear…;" "Assuming…;" "suggests…;" "The scriptures do not offer a detailed explanation of the work that was to begin in heaven in 1844, …;" "it is reasonable to assume…" "The term ‘investigative judgment’ is not found in the Bible…."

Fundamental doctrines cannot rest upon such uncertainties. Imagine you are preaching the gospel to dying men and women. You wish to employ the strongest, most powerful argument from the Word for the certainty of God’s love. However, let us do this using the Committee’s unstable and unproven conclusions on the Investigative Judgment and apply it to John 3:16. Sadly it would read something like this:

  • It is possible, even likely, that God so loved the world and that it appears that He gave His only begotten Son. This presumably implies that whosoever believeth in Him (it seems) might not perish, but in all likelihood, have the most acceptable reward—eternal life (though no explicit proclamation to this effect is available). (John 3:16, 1844 edition).

As scholars, we need to be honest. As Christians, we need to be honest. As a denomination, we need to be honest. Fundamental doctrines must rest upon clear and convincing evidence from Scripture, nothing less.

AToday: QUESTION #5 - Dr. Ford, I would direct your attention to an article written by Raymond Cottrell entitled, "1844 Revisionists Not New: President Indicts the Church’s Scholars." In this article, Cottrell, a long-time Adventist scholar and Editor Emeritus of Adventist Today, took issue with Robert Folkenburg’s harsh position that in order to be a genuine SDA, one must accept the traditional view of Daniel 8:14. Cottrell revealed how the SDA scholars knew way back in the late 1950’s that it was impossible to defend the Church’s traditional position of Daniel 8:14.

In fact, Cottrell wrote that "Adventist college Bible teachers in North America unanimously responded to a 1958 questionnaire acknowledging that there is no valid linguistic or contextual basis for the traditional interpretation of Daniel 8:14." He went on to say, "These 27 teachers included every college Bible department head and everyone able to read the Bible in Hebrew." Is Cottrell’s information correct? If so, why was it such a shock in 1980 when you took the same position as previous Adventist scholars? Have any of the scholars since the late 1950’s ever substantiated the Church’s traditional position on Daniel 8:14? If not, I would have to conclude that any rational person would think that this whole thing has the look and feel of a theological cover up by the denomination. Moreover, it also appears that you were unfairly and dishonestly made out to be the scapegoat to protect this dubious Investigative Judgment position. Dr. Ford, what your thoughts on all this?

Dr. Ford: Yes, it is a matter of history that the Church's leading scholars in the1950's declared the traditional view of the Investigative Judgment based on Daniel 8:14 to be unscriptural. Spectrum published the relevant sections of the questionnaire authorized by F.D. Nichol in its reports on Glacier View nearly twenty years ago. I do not think Elder Folkenberg was deliberately covering up. He was merely ignorant, like so many administrators before and since. Again, I stress there are magnificent exceptions but their voices are usually not heard or heeded.

No, there has been no new scholarship to reverse the opinion expressed in that questionnaire. Adventist scholars who have their articles and books printed outside the Church never write on these topics. They gave up trying to defend the impossible decades ago. One well-known Bible Department chairman went to Glacier View and told Elder Wilson that he agreed "with Ford" and said that "I believe the Investigative Judgment has no support in Scripture." He was given this answer back from Wilson: "That's alright, but just don’t go public." I know men who are key figures in the leadership of our Adventist world church who have told me privately that they also disagree with the traditional interpretation of the Investigative Judgment. Although these men are the thought leaders of the Church, they are afraid to express themselves publicly on this matter. They cannot be honest on this subject, for if they were, they fear that they would all be sacked, and our universities, colleges, and editorial offices would be denuded. What a pity, that as Christians, we cannot be honest about scripture!

I should also point out that in Dr Hammill’s book, The Pilgrimage of an Adventist Administrator, written a few years after Glacier View, that he admitted that the whole affair was bungled and that the Church papers—such as the Review and Ministry gave false reports to the membership. It is also interesting to note the fact that three years after Glacier View, in December, 1983, Ministry magazine admitted that Christ went "within the veil"—meaning the second veil—after 150 years of denial! (Of course, the Glacier View consensus statement had also implied it.)

AToday: QUESTION #6 - Today, few people are familiar with the theological details of the twenty-year old Glacier View debate. No doubt some will be surprised when they see how difficult—if not impossible—it is to support the traditional view of the Investigative Judgment. Yet, I suspect that some still cannot reconcile how one can be a true Seventh-day Adventist and reject the "traditional view" which has been promoted as a "landmark" doctrine of the Third Angel’s Message. My question is this: if the Investigative Judgment was not developed and accepted until the year 1857, how can anyone call it a "landmark" doctrine? Wouldn’t this late date, as well as its content, actually place it well outside of the historic Third Angel’s Message of Revelation 14:9-12?

Also, did you, or any of your critics at Glacier View, take into account the distinction between the post-disappointment discovery of the "cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary" (where Jesus would complete the atonement, blot out sins, and receive the kingdom) versus the more perfectionistic Investigative Judgment doctrine that the SDAs developed later? Such a distinction, I would think, could have contributed to a much different outcome at Glacier View.

Dr. Ford: The Investigative Judgment is not one of the "landmarks" though the importance of the sanctuary with its emblems of the law and the gospel is a landmark. It is true to say that the more perfectionistic view of the judgment came with the passing of the decades.

At Glacier View, where most of the attendees had not read my manuscript, there was very limited discussion on the events surrounding 1844, practically nil. I myself was not permitted to join in the discussions though I did answer some questions from the delegates. I would, however, like to stress that most of the delegates at Glacier View were opposed to perfectionism. Today, the Glacier View consensus statement—which was sympathetic to my manuscript in a dozen key areas—had no leaning towards the perfectionism of traditional Adventism and has never been reprinted by the Church. In fact, this refusal to reprint the Consensus document was the result of the discovery, belatedly by the administrators, of what the scholars already knew—that the document endorsed many of the key positions of my Glacier View manuscript.

AToday: QUESTION #7 - Your critics have charged that you are a "preterist who wears the hat of a historicist and the cloak of a futurist." What does that mean in layman’s terms? Also, would you please define the "apotelesmatic" principle and explain the debate surrounding this issue?

Dr. Ford: In terms of prophetic interpretation, the preterist sees the fulfillment of prophecy as past, in the first century of this era. The futurist sees prophecy as yet future, for the last days, while the historicist views prophecy as a continually unfolding application with special reference to secular events affecting the church at specific dates. I do not belong to any of these categories because while each has a measure of truth, they also have a corresponding measure of error.

Bible prophecy DID have meaning for those who first received it (preterist). It does have a continual unfolding application, but no dates beyond Passion Week (see Acts 1:7), and it will have a flowering significance for those living in the last days. This is known as the apotelesmatic principal whereby prophecy in some cases is intended for more than the original recipients. George Macready Price used this term in his commentary on Daniel and it is well known to scholars. E.G. White used this principle over and over again as I have documented in my Glacier View manuscript and so, too, does the SDA Commentary (see particularly the notes of the latter on the prophecy of 2 Thess. 2). The principle was only denied when I used it at Glacier View to show that Daniel 8:14 had already been fulfilled in a primary and historical sense, which by no means would prevent future fulfillments. The Glacier View denial of the "apotelesmatic principle" was not taken seriously by the scholars present.

 

Good News Unlimited
P.O. Box 6687
Auburn, CA 95602
(530) 823-9690