The Ford Question

Much has been written around the Ford Question.  For years in Seventh Day Adventist circles, mentioning the Ford Question instantly raised the theological skeletons of the past and the attending controversy that went with it.

The theological ruckus caused by the views of Dr Desmond Ford were seismic in their scope. The popular theologian, preacher and teacher, won many hearts and minds in the years leading up to his removal and this didn't come without significant spiritual cost.

I'm something of a collector of documents around the Ford Question.  It's a weird obsession for me.  The 1970s and early 1980s from my gleaning of it, seem to be a period where Ford brought many of the internal SDA debates around perfectionism and righteousness by faith as well as the nature of Christ and the role of the investigative judgement and our understanding of it into stark relief.

Despite the fact I was born early in the 1980s, the period around Ford's removal continues to fascinate me.  I also remain mystified by the view that Ford was by his proclamations a “reformist” [1].

Fords contentions are succinctly analysed by W.H. Johns in his excellent paper that is accessible via the Biblical Research Institute website.  In this paper he summarises Ford's assertions as the 'ABC's of Fordism'.  They include but are not limited to the following: 

A. The Doctrine of the "Investigative Judgement" Has No Scriptural Support.
B. Daniel 8:14 Must Be Viewed on the Basis of Its Inspired Interpretation Found in Mark 13.
C. Mark 13 Limits All Prophetic Interpretation to the First Century A.D.
D. The Prophecies of Daniel Must End by the First Century A.D.
E. The Apotelesmatic Principle Bridges the Gap Between the First Century and the Twentieth Century and Provides for Multiple Fulfillments. [2]

 A Leroy Moore's dissertation also provides an excellent overview of the contours of the Ford Question [3].  Further what is interesting about Moore is how he asserts that Ford was attracted to Plymouth Brethren theology and thus influenced by its thinking [4].

The question remains, do you think Ford's intellectual approach remains influential in Adventist circles today?

It's been over 30 years since Ford's removal.  There have been ongoing protestations from his supporters about what is described as the 'pontifical power' exerted by the church administrators who made the final decision to remove him and whether this removal requires an 'official apology'.

More recently Perth based lawyer Stephen Ferguson has asked if Ford received a fair trial? [5].

Anecdotally some people I have spoken to seem to believe that despite the ruckus caused and the impact in seeing a generation of pastoral leaders leave the church, it is believed many stayed to influence the church.  The question is in which direction did these remaining individuals influence the church?

Furthermore a quite prominent Adventist identity upon hearing that I had been researching the Ford Question essentially asserted that it was old news and not worthy of further research. Touchy much!

Despite the fact that I disagree with Ford's conclusions regarding the Investigative Judgement I remain fascinated by the psychological, historical and administrative elements that led to this most sensitive period of Adventist history.

Andre Reis also explores the Ford question asking whether the Ford period and its attending consequences constitutes a 'pillar of faith or mortal wound?' [6]. 

I do see echoes of Fordism right down to today, and the continual sound and movement from organs like Spectrum and Adventist Today is not that surprising.  Ford himself remains unrepentant in his views [7].

The question remains, did we as a movement reconcile the questions raised and put them to bed in an appropriate manner?

Adventists have been excellent at telling the story of her history.  Indeed the history that I gleaned from my Adventist education was one of a group of pioneers who though flawed sought to reconcile difficult questions with prayer and searching of the Scriptures.  From my perspective their sincerity is not at question.

However the question for me is how do we mediate the challenge put forth by Ford going forward?  He is an old man now — in his retirement years and still active on social media with the help of his wife.

One has to ask post-Ford, how do we as a church tell the story of this part of our history?  Will we avoid and/or bury the subject, or will we as a movement write a history that accurately portrays traditional Adventist thinking on this most important subject?

Adventism has the most complete, systematic and mature understanding of the Bible of any major religion.  We also have the Spirit of Prophecy!  Surely we are mature enough to tell the history of this sensitive period particularly to our young people in a clear unapologetic way!

 

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Aussie Mouse writes from the greatest part of Australia

 


Bibliography

 

1. Hook, M., 2008. Desmond Ford: Reformist Theologian, Gospel Revivalist. 1st ed. Riverside, CA: Adventist Today.

2. The ABC's of Dr Desmond Ford's Theology, W.H. Johns, Introduction by George W Reid. Adventist Biblical Research Institute. [ONLINE] Available at: https://adventistbiblicalresearch.org/sites/default/files/pdf/desmondfordtheology_0.pdf   [Accessed 8 March 2018].

3. Moore, A.L., 1979.Theology in Crisis Or Ellen G White's Concept of Righteousness by faith as it relates to contemporary Seventh-day Adventist Issues. Doctor of Philosophy. School of Education: New York University.

4. Pastor A.L. Moore, PhD. 2014. 2. Desmond Ford's effort to Correct our Denominational Problem: By Pastor A. Leroy Moore, PhD.. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gn-FSMMO1kY. [Accessed 29 March 2018].

5. Spectrum, Ferguson, S. 2018. Did Desmond Ford Receive a Fair Trial?. [ONLINE] Available at: https://spectrummagazine.org/article/2018/03/12/did-desmond-ford-receive-fair-trial [Accessed 20 March 2018].

6. Spectrum, Reis, A.. 2015. Perspective: 1844 - Pillar of Faith or Mortal Wound?. [ONLINE] Available at: https://spectrummagazine.org/article/2015/10/22/perspective-1844-pillar-faith-or-mortal-wound  [Accessed 21 March 2018].

7. Spectrum, Alita Byrd. 2015. Des Ford Reflects on His Adventist History. [ONLINE] Available at: https://spectrummagazine.org/article/2015/03/12/des-ford-reflects-his-adventist-history. [Accessed 1 April 2018].