Adventist Educators, Scholars Join in
Commitment to Biblical ‘Revolution’
Response to Wilson’s Jerusalem Sermon is Strong and Supportive
BY ADVENTIST REVIEW staff
Speaking to a June 16, 2012, congregation of more than 300 Seventh-day Adventist educators, theologians, and administrators, Pastor Ted N.C. Wilson, General Conference president, called on educators to “to lead a positive revolution on your campuses -- a revolution back to the Bible with an historicist position and with an historical-biblical approach.”
His message (see sermon text) also stressed the importance of the Adventist understanding of the sanctuary service, which, he said, holds the ultimate answer to the two distortions of Christian belief, legalism or “cheap grace.”
Delegates to the 10-day conference strongly affirmed the president’s challenge.
“I believe that his call is timely,” said Leslie Pollard, president of Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama. “On campuses everywhere we have an opportunity to make an impact on young lives. Oakwood University accepts this challenge.”
Said Frank Hasel, theology department dean at Schloss Bogenhofen Seminary in Austria, “Ted Wilson’s message was not aiming at political correctness but had the heartbeat of a person who deeply cares for the spiritual health of the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church. As a theologian, teacher, and dean I was encouraged to be a person who . . . will foster a deeper love for the Bible, igniting a positive spiritual revolution that receives its power from the living Word of God.”
Hasel continued, “There’s a need to strengthen trust in God’s Word, rather than to undermine its authority or to question distinctive Adventist teachings through historical-critical methods.”
According to Ellen G. White Estate associate director Cindy Tutsch, Wilson’s sermon struck a responsive chord: “I appreciated Ted Wilson’s challenge to look to the Scriptures to find authoritative answers to questions of cosmology,” she said. “His emphasis on the sanctuary as the key to unlocking a deeper understanding of Jesus, including the relationship of the sanctuary to other Christ-centered doctrines, needs wider proclamation!”
Gilbert Wari, West-Central Africa division president and board chairman of Babcock University, pointed to the historical continuity of Wilson’s message with classic Adventist statements: “This sermon, based on the teaching of the Sanctuary, has reminded me and repositioned the Seventh-day Adventist Church and its mission to the world as understood and preached by the Adventist pioneers.
Others put Wilson’s remarks in the context of the entire Third International Bible Conference, which brought the leaders to Jerusalem. With its theme of the “doctrine of human,” speakers have zeroed in on the Bible’s view of humankind being as made in God’s image.
“So many of our institutions have pursued ‘academics’ and financial strength at the expense of spirituality,” said Gordon Christo, education secretary of the Southern Asia Division, based in Tamil Nadu, India. “Even if all other objectives of the conference aren’t realized, if the administrators and theology teachers retain their dedication to this cause, we will have achieved a lot. This conference is leading us all back to the Bible.”
Josef Szilvasi, a professor at the Hungarian Adventist Theological College, saw the challenge in personal terms: “As a believer, pastor and theologian, I’ve taken a message that encourages me to seek and teach the truth in a time of relativism,” he said. “I dedicated myself to uplift Jesus and trust Him as my justification and sanctification.”
Adventist Review columnist Hyveth Williams, a professor of homiletics at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, Michigan, also underlined the very personal manner in which many listeners responded to the 50-minute message: “[Pastor] Wilson’s sermon inspired me to recommit to teaching and preaching our Biblical truths to empower future pastors to be great—not just good—preachers.”
Adventist leaders from many different parts of the world assessed the importance of Wilson’s call to action: “The times we are living in demand our faithfulness to God’s Word,” said Ricardo Gonzáles, president of the Universidad Adventista de Chile. “In order to make a difference in the life of people we, as Seventh-day Adventists teachers, are to be the first ones to proclaim salvation in Christ. The Lord has called us to stand firm in the truth of His ministry in the heavenly sanctuary. As an educator, I want to accept the challenge to tell my students and colleagues that Jesus is right now undertaking an important element of the plan of salvation in heaven. And as a leader, I want to nurture this biblical ‘revolution’ on my campus.”
Added Francisco Gayoba, president of Adventist University of the Philippines, Silang, Philippines, “The challenge is how to not only explain to our students the biblical foundation of key Adventist doctrines, but also to make it relevant, so that they can see that the key doctrines are interconnected as a whole. Our task is to show not simply that the teachings are biblical but “present truth”, God-ordained truth that needs to be proclaimed at this crucial time in history.
One of the handful of local church pastors attending the conference saw the connection between the president’s call and his own preaching: “I really appreciated [Pastor] Wilson’s sermon this morning as he talked about affirming the place that the Word of God has in our lives as leaders and as members and followers of Christ,” said Mike Troxel, pastor of the University Parkway Seventh-day Adventist Church in Pensacola, Florida. “It was very heartening to hear him speak about the biblical truths we hold dear as Seventh-day Adventists--part of our identity and mission. To have him articulate that so strongly from the pulpit today at this conference of scholars was so encouraging from the top leader of our church. I felt very affirmed in the things I’m preaching and teaching as a pastor in my local church. This was powerful for me.”
To Gerald Klingbeil, an associate editor of Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines, Wilson’s “call to a Scripture-based hermeneutics that understands the importance of the sanctuary message and places it within the context of a literal recent six-day creation, narrated in the first chapters of Genesis, is not only sorely needed—it reminds us of the power and passion of the Creator God who is waiting to take His people home. I want to go home!”
Lael Caesar, also an associate editor, said Wilson, “has called on Seventh-day Adventist theologians and biblical scholars to lead a back-to-the-Bible revolution framed by a global evangelistic consciousness, grounded on sound biblical interpretation and doctrine. Because the Holy Spirit is our leader in this work on both Adventist and secular campuses, I believe God will grant Pastor Wilson’s desire and give glorious success in that revolution.”
Continuing with four more days of study tours and, principally, seminars and breakout sessions on the main theme of the doctrine of humanity, the Bible Conference will conclude on the evening of June 20.
-- Reported by Bill Knott, Ed Zinke, Lael Caesar and Gerald Klingbeil; written by Mark A. Kellner