On August 1, Brad Newton (Ministerial Secretary of the Pacific Union (PUC)) sent a copy of the book "Where Are We Headed?" (William G. Johnsson) to every pastor in the PUC.
In the book, Johnsson decries the recent General Conference Session vote on female ordination, saying that he is "ashamed of what happened there." By his own admission, he "moped and grumped around the house" for a couple weeks after the GC Session--such was his resentment towards the vote outcome.
Johnsson is also critical of General Conference leadership---which we might expect from someone who resents the outcome of three GC votes. But, I have a question. Where, in all the rhetoric, is the spirit of Paul--who acknowledges that he besought the Lord three times and then humbly accepted the outcome? (2 Corinthians 12:18).
Johnson enthusiastically criticizes the Church's teaching on "Remnant Theology" (calling it "remnant arrogance") and denounces fundamentalism (code for non-progressivism) and "flat literalism" being used to read Scripture. Under such criticisms, lies a stratum of academic snobbery which stubbornly clings to the notion that Adventist elites have the final word on theology. "You wanna know what the Bible means? I'll tell you! I have the training. I have the authority." I believe it is time to hear the words of another William---a wiser one---spoken to an arrogant cleric.
“If God spare my life, ere many years pass, I will cause a boy that drives the plow to know more of the Scripture than you do" (William Tyndale).
In page 120 his book, Johnsson is openly appreciative of a theology teacher that he had at Andrews Seminary (Dr. Sakae Kubo). Kubo, was eventually removed from classroom teaching by Dr. Richard Hammill due to a plethora of complaints about his liberal approach to Scripture. Says Johnsson:
"I will always be grateful for those classes [liberal hermeneutic] from Kubo. Not only did they open my eyes, they fixed in me a determination to be true to the text, listening to what it says and let the chips fall where they may."
I can tell you where some of those chips have fallen. Dr. Sakae Kubo's approach to Scripture has led him to endorse homosexuality:
The Church should get rid of the statement, “We hate the sin but love the sinner,” with respect to alternative sexualities and should treat everyone the same. The church must let people do what is natural for them — even if that means marrying someone of the same sex.
I am told that Sakae Kubo has been influential at the Chico California Church, a church that recently baptized an openly lesbian couple. This is an individual that Johnsson praises for his theological methodology.
I don't question Johnsson's affection for the church, indeed I concur with his observation that there are two Adventist 'churches' striving together within Adventism (this is an observation that my colleague David Read has correctly made on several occasions over the years). What I question is the distorted Adventism that Johnsson has chosen. Here is my synopsis of the two Adventist factions.
These two Adventisms are not equal.
1) A large body of believers gives sacrificially of time & funds, rejoices over every new field entered with the gospel, and is eager to share the message with their neighbors. They read the Bible in faith, accepting its plain teachings. They respect and read the SOP. They take seriously the call to come out of Babylon, and appreciate the unique identity and task that our Message gives them. They are aware that the Law of God plays a major role in the End Time and seek obedience to it through His Spirit. They are increasingly uncomfortable with a liberal North American Division juggernaut that seeks its own way apart from the world church. Something within them cries out to see those entrenched agents of deconstruction in our Church held accountable for their seditions. Though larger in number, they feel a keen sense of alienation at times.
2) A smaller group of persons think of themselves as Adventists by heritage or tradition rather than by conviction. They find themselves embarrassed by direct evangelism, prefer social justice causes to direct soul-winning, are uncomfortable with church organization, and distrust any conservative leadership. Hence, they feel free to shop cafeteria-style among the beliefs & practices of the church, assembling for them a suitable selection. True to progressive values they find that their demand to be regarded as equivalent as anyone else to be reinforced in the currents of the wider society. This leads to an amalgamation of theological and cultural liberalism. When it comes to church decisions they tend to prefer one vote per dollar, instead of one vote per person.
Related to the above, today’s liberal Adventism finds within it advocates of an ecumenism that downplays doctrine as divisive, substituting experience as the universal solvent that dissolves the differences. Rather than going to the Bible to work out what it actually is teaching, the rigors of such study can be avoided by referring the matter to experience. Not “What does the Scripture say?”, but “How do you feel about it?” In liberal Adventism, reality for each person is an internal construct (different in every person because no two are the same). On this basis we must be prepared to accept all other ideas and behaviors as equally correct. We are seeing the outplay of this mindset in the proliferation of lawlessness in some of our North American churches. The only solution for this is genuine repentance or the redemptive ministry of accountability and church discipline.
That the PUC favors the latter version of Adventism, is not a surprise. It is rather, a shame. After all, our problem is not ordination, it is insubordination.
So where are we headed? It's a good question. My prayer is that we will make a steering wheel correction in the coming months, rebuke internal insubordination, formulate a new balance of faith, and exchange alienation for renewed vigor in the Advent Message. The result will be better than we think.
Walk with the King, and be a blessing!
"For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39).