Tuesday, January 29, 2008

QOD Conference: A Report

This past weekend, Loma Linda University hosted a series of meetings as part of their annual Mind and Spirit conference. The meetings were centered on the publishing of the book Questions on Doctrine, a controversial event in Adventist history that still impacts our Church to this day. Recently, George Knight, professor of Church History at Andrews University, republished the volume with annotations and a new preface. Julius Nam, a previous graduate student of Dr. Knight, helped organize the conference as well as a larger conference earlier this year at Andrews University.

A brief history

In 1955, Donald Barnhouse and Walter Martin, both influential Evangelical Christians, began a dialogue with the Adventist Church. They wanted to evaluate the orthodoxy of several unique Adventist teachings including the atonement, the nature of Christ, and the role of works in salvation. The three Adventist representatives involved in these discussions were Leroy Froom,
W. E. Read, and R. A. Anderson.

During these discussions, long-held Adventist positions were adjusted in subtle but important ways. For instance, the clear Adventist belief that Christ had a sinful human nature was revised to align more closely with the Evangelical understanding that Christ had a sinless human nature. This change, along with several others, was reflected in the eventual publication of the book Questions on Doctrine (QOD), an attempt to explain Adventism to Evangelical Christians.

Those who discerned the theological shifts contained in QOD spoke out against the book. One of the most outspoken critics was M. L. Andreasen. In 1961, the ministerial credentials of Andreasen were taken away due to his public protest against QOD (and subsequently restored after his death).

Despite the fact that many had reservations about QOD, the book was circulated widely among Adventist pastors and laymen as well as promoted through church periodicals. This contributed to the perception that the book accurately reflected Adventist beliefs, and perhaps paved the way for an unfortunate new theology amongst Adventists that has persisted into the 21st century.

The QOD conference

During my attendance of the afternoon sessions, George Knight articulated two aspects about the events surrounding QOD that were intriguing. One was the admission that parts of the book are deceptive. In particular, the appendix containing Ellen White quotations is misleading as it takes statements about Jesus' sinful human nature and provides headings implying that they are proving Jesus' sinless human nature.

The second revelation was an explanation of why the QOD controversy has been so divisive. The issue seems to be that Froom, Read, and Anderson engaged in dialogue on behalf of the entire church but did not accurately portray the views of those they professed to be representing. Instead, they presented a modified viewpoint that would be more palatable to the Evangelical world, unintentionally undermining over a hundred years of Adventist theology. In fact, one of the QOD panelists acknowledged that QOD never went through the appropriate church channels, and accompanying review processes, necessary to properly reflect current Adventist doctrine.

The conclusion

Ultimately, the tragedy of QOD is more than a shift in theology; it is an indictment of how we treat one another. The QOD crisis has become more than theology now. Egos and personalities are involved. Individuals feel compelled to choose sides and then they react against anything that threatens their deeply-entrenched position.

We must learn to counsel with our brethren and work transparently with one another while still seeking to reach out to those of other faiths. Only then will the Adventist Church fulfill Christ's prayer in John 17, "that they all may be one." God's people will someday stand together on the uncompromising platform of truth, but to get there, we must learn that our methods, as well as our doctrines, must be rooted and grounded in the love of Christ.

(For more information about QOD as well as other important events in Adventist history, I recommend Hindsight by Dave Fiedler.)


Blogger Adrian Zahid said...

I wholeheartedly concur with your thoughts. I am absolutely certain that our Church can, through Christ, learn from our past mistakes and move on in unity.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008 9:17:00 PM  
Blogger Rachel and Eric Nelson said...

Hey Tim, thanks for the report. Wish I could have been there. God bless, Eric

Thursday, January 31, 2008 12:06:00 AM  
Blogger skime said...

Like I've said before, the things people will do to avoid labels...The pure Christians of the dark ages were branded "heretics"--and burned (literally). Even so, they weren't willing to give up their beliefs. If we're we're willing to give up what we believe so easily as to avoid labels from the Evangelical Christians, even without fear of death, what are we going to give in to when we are faced with death?

By the way, nice counter.

Friday, February 01, 2008 4:06:00 PM  
Blogger Staci said...

I appreciated your thoughts and the bit of history. Sometimes you hear about points of Adventist history but you are only getting one person's interpretation of it. Yours was very helpful and right on. Thanks for sharing!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008 11:33:00 AM  

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