The Evolution of La Sierra University

Theistic Evolutionism in "SDA" Universities

Compiled by: Sean D. Pitman, M.D.

Last Updated: February 2010


The Seventh-day Adventist Church, as an organization, holds to several unique doctrinal positions.  As the name of the church indicates, one of these unique doctrinal positions is the belief that God created all life on Earth in just six literal days in recent history (i.e., less than 10,000 years ago).  

Not all who take on the name "Seventh-day Adventist"  or "SDA" hold to this "fundamental doctrine" of the organization.  Not surprisingly, given the popularity of the modern evolutionary synthesis view of origins in mainstream cultures worldwide, some SDA universities have started promoting evolutionary views as the most reasonable story of the origin of life on this planet. 

La Sierra University (LSU), owned and operated by the SDA Church, is one of the most prominent SDA Universities when it comes to the promotion of theistic evolutionary ideas in the classroom.  Starting at the beginning of 2009, after a lecture I gave at LSU on the topic of Creation vs. Evolution, a firestorm of controversey erupted in the SDA Church concerning the rights of professors to have the "academic freedom" to teach according to their own personal ideals, vs. the right of the SDA Church organization to expect paid representatives to support, or at least not counters, the church's stated ideals on various issues and topics - especially those ideals labeled as "fundamentally important" to the church. 

This webpage is a review of this controversy thus far and contains relevant links, video clips, and various written exchanges which have been collected thus far.




Clifford Goldstein:

The Importance of Creationism to the SDA Church

GYC 2009



Review of La Sierra University Lecture:

Published by Adventist Today ( Link )



Fundamentalist Creationist Gets Lukewarm Student Reception at La Sierra University

La Sierra University (LSU) is a liberal arts institution of higher education located in Riverside, California, affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church.  In interviews recently conducted by Adventist Today, it is apparent that many LSU administrators and faculty are deeply interested in maintaining a learning environment where LSU students can develop a mature, informed understanding of important issues relating to the Adventist Christian faith tradition.  It is also noteworthy that the LSU student body currently contains students not only of the Adventist Christian faith, but also Christians of other Protestant and Catholic backgrounds, and adherents of the Hindu and Muslim traditions. It is expected that all students would be exposed to a wide range of opinion and perspective that makes up the contemporary "market place of scientific, social, and cultural ideas."

As an institution functioning within the Christian tradition, as expected, most students approach their understanding of the contemporary world from a theistic perspective and thus hold the view that God is responsible for the ultimate origin of the natural world.  In this sense, all Christians are "creationists" and thus, also in this sense, it would be expected that Adventist Christians would adhere to that view as well. 

In popular contemporary discussions, the word "creationism" has acquired a connotation that has severely narrowed its meaning to describe a belief that the world and/or all of its life forms were created in the relatively recent past (less than 6000-10,000 years) in seven literal, 24-hour days and that there has been a even more recently, a world-wide Flood.  This more restrictive understanding of creationism has been adopted by some fundamentalist-oriented Protestant denominations and the fundamentalist wings of others.

      A presentation on Friday, February 20, 2009 at LSU by Sean Pitman, M.D. sought to advance a fundamentalist understanding of the Genesis creation narratives.  In his presentation, which was attended at the beginning by what was estimated to be between 50 and 70 students dwindling down to less than 10 at the end, he particularly singled out for criticism the teaching of evolutionary biology in LSU science classes, and selectively quoted from a class syllabus.

A handful of students were supportive, including the one who initiated the speaking invitation. Among them, a non-Biology major who appreciatively told the speaker: "Thank you so much for coming here. Having grown up in the public school system, I only heard the evolution side."

By contrast, a lot of the students present afterward disagreed, and many students on campus expressed surprise and were clearly incensed about what had taken place. One biology major who remained through the meeting, commented that there was "supposed to be this informative talk, presenting a different perspective, that science may not have all the answers, followed by a Q & A, and that should have been it." Instead "it became this ugly thing at the end - completely inappropriate and way out of line, because of politics being injected with members of the outside community in the audience!" She indicated that as the speaker's agenda became clearer, she began to question his apparent objectivity, adding, "this type of dishonesty I do not appreciate." Another, a biology pre-med expressed discomfort that the presenter would "bring dated ID arguments.... and then makes a call to action on it. That is so offensive."                                                                                    

Over a three year period from 2002-2005, the Adventist Church conducted a series of conferences which focused attention on how, as an institutional church, it would approach the relation of science and religious faith. Although some highly conservative elements made a concerted attempt to add fundamentalist language to the official fundamental Adventist statement of belief, these efforts were not successful and the official summary of belief continues only to quote the Biblical expression used in Genesis to describe the origin of the world.


Ervin Taylor's picture
Ervin Taylor Ervin Taylor, Ph.D., is professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of California, Riverside, and executive publisher of Adventist Today. Dr. Taylor blogs on the creation/evolution divide, science & religion, ethics, and Adventist history/theology. He can be reached at



My response:

For those who don't already know Erv, he is, as stated, a professor emeritus of anthropology at UCR and a self-proclaimed "Adventist in good standing".  Yet, Erv admittedly has trouble with most of the stated fundamental beliefs of the SDA Church and only strongly believes and publicly promotes perhaps 5 or 6 of them at most.  Once, upon the platform of the Loma Linda University Church he was asked what he would tell his own grand daughter if she asked him for some evidence of God's existence.  He replied, "I don't know".  While admirably honest, no doubt, such a reply from any Christian much less an Adventist in good standing is rather disheartening - or so it would seem to me.  I never thought I'd see the day when someone who is essentially agnostic as far as I've ever been able to tell would refer to himself as an Adventist in good standing.  The day of a Church of Social Christians, or what I like to call, "Country Club Adventists", has arrived - at least for some like Erv Taylor.

In any case, Erv's review is understandable given his position on this issue.  He has reason to deliberately misrepresent the stated SDA position on origins.  He suggests that the Church's official position on this issue is somehow vague and open to a wider interpretation that includes the existence of life on this planet, together with its unspeakable suffering and death, over the course of billions of years.  How he can misrepresent the very clear statements of the General Conference on this issue, stated in black and white on the official GC website, is beyond me (see Link).  This is what the stated position of the GC actually is on this issue:


As a result of the two international conferences and the seven division conferences, the Organizing Committee reports the following affirmations:

  1. We affirm the primacy of Scripture in the Seventh-day Adventist understanding of origins.

  2. We affirm the historic Seventh-day Adventist understanding of Genesis 1 that life on earth was created in six literal days and is of recent origin.

  3. We affirm the biblical account of the Fall resulting in death and evil.

  4. We affirm the biblical account of a catastrophic Flood, an act of God’s judgment that affected the whole planet, as an important key to understanding earth history.

  5. We affirm that our limited understanding of origins calls for humility and that further exploration into these questions brings us closer to deep and wonderful mysteries.

  6. We affirm the interlocking nature of the doctrine of creation with other Seventh-day Adventist doctrines.

  7. We affirm that in spite of its fallenness nature is a witness to the Creator.

  8. We affirm Seventh-day Adventist scientists in their endeavors to understand the Creator’s handiwork through the methodologies of their disciplines.

  9. We affirm Seventh-day Adventist theologians in their efforts to explore and articulate the content of revelation.

  10. We affirm Seventh-day Adventist educators in their pivotal ministry to the children and youth of the church.

  11. We affirm that the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church identified in Revelation 14:6, 7 includes a call to worship God as Creator of all.


The Organizing Committee for the International Faith and Science Conferences recommends that:

  1. In order to address what some interpret as a lack of clarity in Fundamental Belief #6 the historic Seventh-day Adventist understanding of the Genesis narrative be affirmed more explicitly.

  2. Church leaders at all levels be encouraged to assess and monitor the effectiveness with which denominational systems and programs succeed in preparing young people, including those attending non-Adventist schools, with a biblical understanding of origins and an awareness of the challenges they may face in respect to this understanding.

  3. Increased opportunity be provided for interdisciplinary dialog and research, in a safe environment, among Seventh-day Adventist scholars from around the world.


Now, Erv may disagree with this official position of the organized body of the SDA Church, but he cannot honestly deny that this is in fact the official stated doctrinal position of the SDA Church on the issue of origins - at least with straight face.  The fact remains that La Sierra University is owned and operated by the SDA Church and as such the teachers at LSU are employees of the SDA Church.  If they are honest with themselves and their employer, they should seek to accurately represent the most fundamental views of their employer - views which their employer is actually paying them to present to their students.  If they cannot do this, in good conscience, then how can they not seek employment elsewhere? - where a different employer would be more than happy to pay them for their true views on this issue? 

As far as what I actually presented in my talk at LSU, if my material was "outdated" or "offensive", all are welcome to make a personal judgment.  The talk was recorded in video format and can be viewed at the following ( Link ).  Although the number of attendees is irrelevant, the talk was put together at very short notice, within a few days, because of my schedule and many could not attend because of numerous other large events that occurred at the same time.  A previous lecture that I gave at LSU a few years earlier was attended by over 250 students and numerous teachers.  Almost 100 students signed a petition to at least have the SDA position on origins presented in the science classes at LSU - a petition that has obviously been rejected by the LSU leadership and faculty.  There are a few teachers at LSU who are distressed by what is going on and discussed their concerns with me at length that weekend.  However, these teachers seem to me to be in the distinct minority at LSU - I'm sad to say.  Many parents of LSU students or potential students have also written to me and have expressed their concerns as well.  Some have decided not to send their children to LSU because of this very issue. 

It seems to me that if LSU continues on this current course that it will quickly go the way of other schools that started out Christian and are now very much secular universities - like Harvard, Princeton, Yale, etc. . .  Do we really need another secular university in this country? - supported by our tithes and offerings? 


One more thing.  Erv's suggestion that I misrepresented the science course syllabus at LSU by "selective quoting" is an attempt by Erv to misrepresent or at least soften what the syllabus actually says.  Let's at least be honest about what is really being taught in the science classes at LSU - straight up Darwinism as fact.  Why try to hide it or make it something other than what it really is? - especially if it is so beneficial to the students?  The fact of the matter is that there is nothing in syllabus that remotely represents the SDA views on origins. The entire syllabus is in blatant support of the Darwinian perspective from beginning to end.  That's a fact - for anyone who cares to actually read the entire syllabus.

Sean Pitman


Other comments on Ervin's review:

The reaction to Sean Pitman's presentation is not at all surprising. Evolution provides a mechanistic format to explain the relationship of different life forms to each other via taxonomic, anatomic, paleontologic and now genomic data. What Dr. Pitman does is suggests that science does not have "all the answers" with regards to origins. Whoever said science possesses all answers? Science is progressive. Most phenomena in the natural world are succumbing to naturalistic explanations. Throwing God into the explanation of origins explains nothing. God as creator is a faith assertion and within the context of theology is a legitimate discussion. However, "God" is not a science topic. Cudos to the LSU students who were able to discern Dr. Pitmans dishonesty and agenda.

Its about time people like Dr. Pitman mature a little bit along with SDA theology.


It is exciting to see our next generation take a stand on honest, critical approaches unlike many in our midst. We have an opportunity as a church to lead on this thinking if our young thinkers are given the freedom to observe, study, learn, and lead.


On March 10th, 2009 pbobmason says:


It seems to me that, unless the writers of fundamental beliefs 1 and 6 were being coy, the literal record of "God's acts in history," and creation in 6 literal days is the normative understanding for Seventh-day Adventism.

I watched part of one of Dr. Pitman's presentations and found him to be earnest, though not the most engaging speaker I have ever listened to. Perhaps the reason for the diminishing audience may relate to this as much as to the content. I have not read the syllabi in question so I cannot comment on his fairness in presenting the excerpts that he did.

While I agree that it is very important for students at a liberal arts college to thoroughly understand the evolutionary framework of modern science, and that La Sierra serves a student body from a variety of religious or non-religious backgrounds, it hardly seems extraordinary that members of the community of faith that operates it would expect its faculty to universally support and teach the fundamental beliefs of that very community.

I find your presentation of the development of the meaning of the word "creationism" to be the exact opposite of my understanding. I am not aware of any era, particularly in American society, in which the dominant meaning of the term "creationist" would refer to anything but a believer in the literal creation account and flood account in Genesis. I think there has definitely been movement in the direction of Francis Collins, conforming to Steven Jay Gould's generous but possibly disingenuous (I recall this to be the view of Richard Dawkins) idea of the non-overlapping magisteria of faith and science--a kind of minimally theistic evolution.

I haven't seen this really taking over the "creationist" moniker, but if there has been some movement in that direction, truly you are correct that there has been a vociferous and definitive fundamentalist reaction to that, attempting to clarify the view that theistic evolution is not 'true' creationism.

Where do I weigh in? I want to stand with those who respectfully expect our Adventist institutions and teachers at every level to espouse and teach the fundamental teachings of our faith community.


AFFILIATED with the Seventh Day Adventist Church?  La Sierra IS a Seventh Day Adventist Church-owned University.  Why does Dr. Taylor attempt to attenuate this reality?  Somehow it doesn't strike me as particularly controversial that an SDA university affords defenders of the Church's official position on creation a forum in which to express those views and question what is being taught in the classroom.  It's not like Dr. Pittman tried to do something blatantly offensive and non-PC like starting a Creation club - or worse, an SDA club in a University that exists to celebrate religious pluralism.  What was wrong with calling out the biology department for advocating heterodox views on creation?  It's a UNIVERSITY for heaven's sake. Should what is taught in the classroom be sacrosanct and beyond criticism from constituents?

For years La Sierra has had agnostic professors indoctrinating students and encouraging contempt (courtesy of Derrida and Foucault) for the traditional values and beliefs of tuition-paying parents.  And suddenly we are prepared to censure conservative ideas advocated outside the classroom because we find them offensive, politically charged, or lacking intellectual respectability?  I think I smell a double standard.

I sent my children to La Sierra to mature and strengthen their faith in God through higher education by committed Adventist professors.  Frankly, I believe Point Loma, or most any other Christian university, would have been equally strong academically, and would have provided a much stronger environment in which to grow faith.

I question whether the denomination's exclusivist stance on creationism is sound. But I question even more why La Sierra University students, or anyone who values freedom of expression, would be offended by critical exposure of ideas that are being advanced in the classroom, particularly when those ideas may be in conflict with Church positions.   We should commend Dr. Pittman for his courage in speaking what he believed was truth to power before an apparently hostile audience.  


2 Peter 3 predicted the end-time rise of persons that acknowledged creation (v. 4) yet denied a literal flood and a literal creation week (v. 5).

Prophets are incredibly accurate. (And Origins, by Ariel Roth, is a good read.)


I don't know what Sean Pittman said, but some Adventists ought to be ashamed of their treatment of the first few chapters of Genesis.  Unbelief is not limited to non-SDA's unfortunately.  If you tell the truth you will get people upset.  Check Jesus, the prophets of the old testament and Ellen White for their experiences for this.  I am afraid the SDA church may be heading for a big showdown on this issue or even a church split!!

If some people can't take Bible teachings seriously on any subject, maybe these people should just leave and take it somewhere else.  They might be happier and others left behind as well. I'm not suggesting cutting off discussion on any topic, but we all need to be honest with ourselves about what we stand for.  Hopefully those are Biblical truths. 


On March 14th, 2009 nicsamojluk says:

Nic Samojluk, Editor


Thank you for providing this report for the benefit of those who would have liked to have been present at the meeting, but who, for a variety of circumstances, were prevented from listening to Dr. Sean Pitman’s arguments in defense of the Adventist position on the issue of origins. 

I would like, though, to ask you some questions related to this controversial issue. You stated the following in your report: "LSU administrators and faculty are deeply interested in maintaining a learning environment where LSU students can develop a mature, informed understanding of important issues relating to the Adventist Christian faith tradition." 

My understanding is that the theory of evolution is being taught to the La Sierra University students not as a theory of origins, but rather as established scientific facts and that no reference is made to the official position of the Adventist Church position on this issue, and that students are not encouraged to look at the arguments favoring the theory of evolution from a critical perspective. 

My question to you is: How can “LSU students ... develop a mature, informed understanding of important issues relating to the Adventist Christian faith tradition” if the alternative explanation for origins espoused by the Adventist Church is excluded for the science curriculum?

LSU is an Adventist institution and is supported by the financial contributions of the church and its members. Wouldn’t you agree with me that whoever pays the piper is entitled to call the tune?  

A good portion of LSU science teacher’s salary comes from the tithes and offerings of Adventists who send their sons and daughters to this Adventist University, sometimes a great expense, trusting that what is being taught there is not in direct opposition to the fundamental beliefs of the Adventist Church.

If our own universities teach what is being taught at other non Adventist institutions, then what is the point of having our own schools which are maintained at great expense by the Adventist community? 

You also stated the following in your report: “It is expected that all students would be exposed to a wide range of opinion and perspective that makes up the contemporary "market place of scientific, social, and cultural ideas."

I fully agree that that our students should be exposed to the theory of evolution. Nevertheless, there is a huge difference between exposing them to the arguments used in defense of Darwin’s explanation for origins and presenting the same as scientific facts of nature with the exclusion of the alternative position advocated by the Adventist Church on the issue.

  The effects of such a policy have far reaching consequences for the sacred mission of the Adventist Church. The mission of the church is to preach and teach the biblical version of origins and to prepare our people for the soon coming of Jesus Christ. The Bible consistently points to God as the Creator of the universe and life on earth. I find no shred of evidence in the Bible favoring the notion that we are related to apes as our nearest ancestor. 

All the Bible writers, starting with Moses, all the prophets of the Old Testament, all the writers of the New Testaments do agree with one basic fact: that we are the product of a special creation and that our ancestry goes back through Adam and Eve to God himself instead of Darwin’s apes. Jesus Christ acknowledged this biblical truth and invited us to accept God as our true Ancestor.   

The Bible affirms, and the Adventist Church official position defends the belief, that we were created in God’s image instead of the image of beasts. This belief is negated by the theory of evolution. I see no way of reconciling what the Bible teaches with Darwin’s theory of origins.

If we simply evolved from a common ancestor, then sin, repentance, and forgiveness looses its meaning, and the mission of Jesus Christ makes no sense. If God merely created the original cell and then let the random genetic mutation and natural selection determine the course of evolution, then the Plan of Salvation taught throughout the Scriptures looses its meaning.

If there is no fall, there is no need for repentance and salvation. We might as well disband the church and use our tithes and offerings for other philanthropic purposes. 

If it took millions of years for God to produce the first Homo Sapiens, then how long will it take the Lord to bring all the martyrs back to life at his Second Coming? How long did it take Jesus Christ to resurrect Lazarus after he had been four days buried in the tomb?

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” He came from the tomb in the blinking of an eye. The belief that God created Adam and Eve in an instant is more credible than Darwin’s theory of descent with modification. We do share a common ancestor, but it is not an ameba. This is my humble opinion!



What have you got to say Erv, now that the stink of agnosticism is upon you?



On March 15th, 2009 Seanpit says:

Nic presents some very good questions.  How is it that a university that carries the title of a Seventh-day Adventist institution would be able to get away with presenting the Darwinian perspective on origins as the gospel truth in all of its science classrooms without any effort to mention, much less promote, the stated fundamental SDA position on origins? 

Also, how is it that someone who wasn't even at the lecture, like Erv, can go around selectively interviewing a couple of students from the biology department who only know how to parrot the old tired evolutionary arguments they've been taught by the Darwinian Theists at LSU? - without any consideration of some of the medical doctors (like Ken Heart and Paul Giem), biochemists (like James Carter and Danilo Boskovic), zoologists (like Ariel Roth), and the like who were actually at the lecture and who strongly supported what was said as accurate, up to date, and strongly supportive of the SDA view on origins without any real substantive counter from anyone in the audience?  

Of course, two of La Sierra's bio students (no faculty response) did try to counter my arguments against the creative potential of the evolutionary mechanism of random mutation and natural selection, as well as the theological implications of Darwinism.  However, these students used very outdated arguments that were clearly only being parroted from what they've been taught by their teachers at LSU. They didn't seem to grasp the statistical difficulties or theological ramifications of the Darwinian perspective on origins while many others clearly did.

If anyone is being very "selective" here in how this issue is being colored and presented at LSU, it is Erv . . .   

Sean Pitman



Erv Taylor Wrote (received as E-mail 3/15/09):


Nick and Sean:


A brief response:  It appears to me that the LSU faculty teaches science in their science classes and theology and church history in their theology classes.  The ones I know are very respectful of the historic Adventist theological positions, including traditional views on origins, and do an excellent job of explaining in detail the content and how and why these positions developed, together with the strengths and weaknesses of these positions.  They also develop thinking and analytical skills in their students who then, on their own, can identify the nature of the arguments presented both by fundamentalists on one hand and progressives on the other in the Adventist faith community and they make up their own minds as to which views they will or will not accept.





My Response:

As noted in my original lecture, Erv and many like him, to include the "science" teachers at LSU, erroneously equate Darwinian-style evolution with "science" and argue that science is somehow a fundamentally different enterprise or approach to truth vs. other methods like "religion", "theology", or "faith". 

The fact of the matter is that "science" teachers at LSU are teaching the theory of evolution as "more than a theory" - i.e., as the actual truth on the issue of origins.  That is what they are teaching their students.  These teachers are in no way "sympathetic" to the modern SDA Church's stated position on origins nor do they even discuss this position in their classes much less explain its "strengths and weaknesses".  They do no such thing.  They only "discuss" the Darwinian perspective on this particular issue as they present this notion as the Gospel Truth to their students within an institution owned by the SDA Church - in fundamental disagreement with the stated position of the SDA Church on this issue.  In no classes, "religious", "scientific", or otherwise, should such a lopsided presentation of the Church's perspective be tolerated at a Church-owned institution by its own paid representatives.

Like it or not, and Erv clearly does not like to admit it, the SDA church has a very specific stance on the physical nature of the world in which we live to include an explanation of its physical origins.  This is more than simply a statement of religious belief.  It is a scientific statement that is open to testing and to potential falsification - just like any other valid scientific theory or position.

As Dr. Kenneth Hart pointed out during my lecture Friday night, "Everyone has the same facts here.  How these facts are interpreted is one's Religion." 

Darwinian scientists are not somehow free of the interpretive aspect of the scientific method nor are they more adept at it than those scientists who question the validity of the Darwinian perspective on origins (which currently includes at least a few Nobel Laureates).  It is a non sequitur to suggest that only those who believe in the status quo, or Darwinian evolution in this case, are doing real science while those who think to suggest that perhaps the intelligent input of a higher power is required to explain the diversity that exists within the natural world are somehow being "religious" instead.  This argument is complete nonsense - especially coming from someone who actually claims to be a "Seventh-day Adventist". 

Erv himself argues that Seventh-day Adventists along with all Christians are, by definition, creationists.  Upon what evidence do Christians, to include Erv, believe in God's existence or creative power if all they can distinguish with the use of "science" are the non-intentional forces of natural law at work in this world and universe?

Even Jesus Christ himself used physical evidences of his creative power to support his metaphysical statements of realities which are not subject to physical observation or scientific methodologies. For example, remember when Jesus asked the question, "Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'?" (Matthew 9:5). What would have happened to Jesus' metaphysical claim to be able to forgive sins if he had been unable to provide any physical evidence of his God-like powers?  If the paralytic had just laid there when Jesus said, "Get up and walk", what would that have implied about the man's sins? - that Jesus did not have the power to forgive them - right? 

In the same way, if there is no physical, testable, potentially falsifiable evidence of God's existence and character in this world and universe what solid reason do we have to believe any of the metaphysical statements in the Bible with anything more than wishful thinking or hoping equivalent to a child's belief in Santa Claus?   How is such a position in any superiority to atheism?  Is it not, in essence, atheism as far as any sort of solid hope that a Santa Claus-type of God provides?

Erv himself admittedly has no idea how to point out the active finger of God in this world or universe.  As far as I can tell, he only pays lip service to the concept of any kind of Creator or even the existence of God in order to appease those who question his statement of being a "SDA in good standing".  When specifically asked what evidence he can point too to support his belief in the existence of a God of any kind, he responds by throwing his hands up in the air and saying, "I don't know".  That is an agnostic statement - not a valid reason for any sort of solid hope in the existence of any type of God, much less the Christian version of God.  

The consequences of such a view are obvious to anyone who approaches this issue with a candid mind.  As William Provine (late biology professor at Cornell) notes:

   "Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly.

      No gods worth having exist;

      No life after death exists;

      No ultimate foundation for ethics exists;

      No ultimate meaning in life exists; and

      Human free will is nonexistent.”

    “In other words, religion is compatible with modern evolutionary biology (and indeed all of modern science) if the religion is effectively indistinguishable from atheism.” 


Of course, many think the SDA's stated position on origins (and even the notion of the need for the existence of God to explain various features of this world and universe) has indeed been falsified.  Such are certainly free to their opinion and to the above noted implications.  But, these are not free to demand the financial and moral support of those who are not of the same opinion - i.e. the SDA Church as an organized body.  Those teachers who are not of the Church's opinion on this issue are free to go elsewhere to be paid by those institutions whose fundamental views are more in line with their own.  Otherwise, they are robbing the Church by deliberately misrepresenting the Church within the Church's own institutions. 

This is a moral wrong and should not be taken lightly.

Sean Pitman



Very clever, Erv.  But I can't let it pass.  You are playing "hide-the-ball" by bringing theology and church history courses at La Sierra into the picture.  It appears to me that you have decided to lump science and religion faculty together in the same sentence so that you can say, "The ones I know are very respectful of the historic Adventist theological positions, including traditional views on origins..." This carefully worded defense relegates the church's position on creation to the realm of theology.  By removing it from the realm of science, you implicitly suggest that the Church's view of creation need be given no more respect than the Gilgamesh Epic.  Your deft sidestepping of Dr. Pittman's challenge - that the Church believes it's position is scientific, not simply theological - leaves the impression that, as science, the Church's position is not only not taught, it is not even respected. Tell us, do the La Sierra faculty whom you know respect the Church's position that the Genesis narrative is factual and scientifically defensible - and are they in the Biology Department or Physics Department?

Also, I'm not comfortable with the notion that, when it comes to the Church's faith statements, the job of it's professors is to simply present them as aspects of comparative religion.  Why should we not expect faculty in an SDA school to actively witness to, mentor and promote growth within the SDA faith tradition? But that's a topic for another discussion...

On May 18, 2009:  Ervin Taylor says:



Under your headline “Erv Taylor: Supporting the Promotion of Evolution at LSU,” you ask whether you are “way off base” in using an analogy of the responsibility of an employee that works for a corporation that makes shoes (Nike) to not “go around promoting Reebok on Nike’s dime.” You seek to apply this type of “employee corporate loyalty” to individuals who work for the Seventh-day Adventist Church.  Are you “way off base” on this one?” To respond directly to your own question, the short answer is emphatically “Yes, you are indeed way off base.”


Using a secular corporate model as the standard to apply to what is most appropriate behavior in a faith community (i.e., church) setting is often employed by apologists to argue that those who teach in Adventist academic institutions should always and without question support and promote the current “official” theological views of the institutional Adventist Church no matter what these theological views happen to be at any particular time.


The corporate model you are using here says that the church hires “employees” who are paid to “support and promote” whatever officially designated institutional ideology is currently being emphasized by church authorities.  If someone can not do that, this misguided line of argumentation says that this individual has a moral duty to remove themselves from church employment, and if they do not voluntarily leave, they should be removed by administrative fiat.


The classical rendition of this approach was eloquently advanced several years ago by my good friend and archapologist for traditional Adventism, Clifford Goldstein, in one of his periodical encyclicals in the Adventist Review.  This one was entitled “The Pythagoras Factor.”  To make his point, he used as an example the corporate loyalty of the ancient Pythagoreans.  This school of philosophy would throw out any member who divulged to outsiders the “nature of irrational numbers”—a belief that was characterized by Cliff as “wacky.”


Cliff went on to argue that it does not make any difference whether beliefs advanced in the name of a religious organization are “wacky,” the religious authorities of that organization have not only the right but also the duty to define the beliefs of their religion and then exercise that authority to exclude anyone who does not agree with these beliefs—not matter how “wacky” the beliefs might be.  He did not say this, but I suspect that he would also support the view that if some religious leader does not exercise his authority to exclude the heretic, then the leader should be replaced with someone who will.


It seems to me that the problem with the views you and Cliff advocate is that both of you are using the wrong modela secular corporate organizational model—to guide the behavior of a religious leader. I would submit that the more appropriate model is that of an extended family. Healthy families do not exclude members who take issue with the views and beliefs of other members of the family. They engage these members in dialogue in an accepting and affirming environment.  They recognize that healthy family ties are not based on a close alignment of opinions but a common commitment to making the family a positive and safe community.  In the case of a Christian church, this would be an affirming and safe community of people faithful to the spirit of Jesus.  When the family model is used to guide the decisions of an enlightened servant-facilitator-leader in such a church community, I would suggest that a hostile ethos of exclusion and conformity will be replaced by that of openness, inclusion and acceptance.


Erv Taylor  



My Response:


Hi Erv

Thanks for your response.  As I read through it, a few questions came to mind. 

Let's say I have a problem with stealing stuff. Let's also say that I have no problem with the concept of stealing. I'm an unapologetic kleptomaniac. Will my family still love me?  Will my mother and father disown me?  Of course not.  Family is family regardless of what one does or thinks or says.  However, will my family support me in any way, financially or otherwise, in my efforts to promote the benefits of kleptomania? Of course not.  They would in fact publicly oppose me on this issue even though they would still call me family and would still love me.

So, you see, there is a difference between family love and acceptance and the notion that the family must therefore support everything that everyone in the family may do or say or believe.  That's simply not true.

There are also different levels of "belonging" in family relationships.  Certain family relationships are very exclusive, being based on meeting certain very strict criteria. Marriage for example, is a very exclusive relationship within the overall family of God.  Not just anyone "qualifies" as my wife - just ask my wife and she'll give you a very strong opinion, as would your wife - no doubt ; )

To be sure we are all family, brothers and sisters, in the eyes of God - from the worst to the very best of us and from the most ignorant to the most enlightened.  Then there is the level of those who represent certain family values.  This is a more exclusive group as not all family members may represent certain family values.  Not everyone can be part of every group within the family at large.  The SDA group is a subgroup within the overall family of God.  Not everyone can be a member of the SDA group because the SDA group isn't only defined by brotherly love for all.  Hopefully brotherly love is part of all Christian denominations and even non-Christian religious groups and therefore isn't something that sets apart one perspective of God from the others. Upon this basis we should all be united.  Yet, while brotherly love is certainly a big part of the SDA message, it isn't what makes SDAs unique within the family of God.

What makes SDAs unique is the unique message or gift that we, as an organization, have to bring to the rest of the family of God.  In other words, the discovery of certain important truths concerning the nature of God and a basis for a solid hope in the future which are unique, collectively at least, within the overall family of God.  Without this unique perspective, there is no SDA group within the family of God.  Remove this basis, and you remove SDAism from existence.  No group of people can long remain "organized" if there are absolutely no controls on what their  paid representatives say and do.  Imposed control is part of what makes an organization remain, well, organized.  All that matters, in a free civil society at least, is that you are both free to join and to leave any organization within that society.

For example, I think even you would agree that a pastor or teacher who starting promoting the "benefits" of child molestation should be quickly fired without question.  Does that mean that you would no longer consider that person a part of your family?  Would my own family disown me in such a situation?  They would be devastated to be sure, but I would still be part of their family and they would still love me.  They just would no longer wish me to represent them in any sort of official capacity is all.

Of course the counter argument is that such an example is "over the top".  Ok, what about a situation where a pastor or teacher starting promoting the idea that the Virgin Mary is alive and well in Heaven and that we should all worship her and solicit her aid in the salvation of our souls?  While this sort of notion is perfectly fine from the Catholic perspective within the family of God, it is not part of the SDA message for the family of God.  What then should be done with such a pastor or teacher?  Should this sort of message be tolerated without any response from the SDA Church? as an organization?  I've asked you this specific question before, but you've never answered it.  Why not?  What makes it Ok to remove pastors or teachers who promote such a doctrine, but not Ok to remove pastors or teachers who happen to undermine other fundamental doctrines of the SDA Church with which you personally disagree as well?

It seems to me that your position isn't so much that you would argue for there to be no limits and no basis for membership or hired representation, or that the Church, as a group, shouldn't stand for anything in particular, but that your personal views should not be limited by the Church.  That's what it boils down to - doesn't it?  You're just upset that the SDA Church, as an organized body, doesn't promote what you personally believe - right?  Otherwise, you'd have no problem at all establishing an organization with various limitations to employment - correct?   If you say no, upon what basis does one establish any unique organization that is able to move toward a common goal?  beyond what we already have in general civil society within the United States?  It seems to me like you're trying to tear down a unique organization and replace with with what we already have in general civil society.  How are you working toward something new here?

Anyway, I do thank you again for sharing your thoughts.







Letter to Elder Jan Paulsen:

March 16, 2009


Elder Jan Paulsen, President

General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
12501 Old Columbia Pike
Silver Spring, MD 20904-6600 USA
Telephone: 301-680-6000


Dear Elder Paulsen,


I recently gave a lecture at La Sierra University (LSU) on the topic of Evolution vs. Creation at the invitation of the student body (2/20/09).  It is no secret that the teachers of the upper division science courses at La Sierra are teaching the Theory of Evolution as "more than a theory", the gospel truth in essence, to the science students at LSU - - to the active exclusion of any discussion of either creationists concepts or intelligent design theory - not to mention the unique SDA take on the origin of life on this planet specifically stated in the clarified fundamental positions of the SDA Church (Belief #6; as of 2004). 


I know this issue has been brought to the attention of, Elder Mostert, back when Geraty was president of LSU (before his retirement in 2006 when the current president, Randal Wisbey took over).  I am also aware of the standard line given when the powers that be at La Sierra are/where questioned regarding this matter - that "We all believe in God and Creation here at La Sierra".   While this may be true in the most general sense, it certainly is not true when it comes to the unique SDA take on this issue. 


I have extensive syllabus materials which are being presented to the science students at LSU.  I'd like to briefly quote some relevant passages from these syllabus materials to illustrate my point:


        From the Syllabus intro:  “It is vitally important for you to realize that this course—as a science course—is describing evidence from mainstream science, and is not dealing with beliefs. Some will decide they cannot 'believe' the scientific evidence, and your right to decide that is encouraged and supported. If you expect to be competitive in any modern science-based profession, and hope to perform well on standardized or pre-professional qualifying exams, you simply must know what the scientific evidence is, whether or not you ‘believe’ it.”


     From elsewhere in the Syllabus:  “Evolution is supported by an overwhelming and constantly growing amount of scientific evidence. New discoveries continue to fill the gaps identified by Darwin in The Origin of Species. The evidence is in the form of direct, measurable, empirical observation.

         Is it informed to dismiss Darwin's ideas as ‘just a theory’? In science, the word theory means something that accounts for many observations and explains & integrates a great variety of phenomena. The colloquial use of the word theory comes close to what scientists mean by a hypothesis. There is nothing ‘theoretical’ about the evidence supporting evolution. The research about evolution is ongoing and continues to support and refine Darwin's original ideas. No data have been found to refute the idea.  It is the single unifying explanation of the living world, and nothing makes much, if any, sense outside of this unifying theory.

          The reason this unifying theory has become so widely accepted in the scientific world is that it has stood up to intense, thorough, continual observation and criticism. The way to become rich & famous in science would be to show a fundamental error in the theory. The built-in skepticism of science prevents these ideas from becoming dogma.”


Aside from such statements in the syllabus, no countering statements, creationist views or interpretations, or any uniquely SDA position on origins is mentioned in the entire syllabus. The students themselves tell me that only the Darwinian-style evolutionary view of origins is being taught in the science classes at LSU and that the teachers openly claim that Darwinian-style evolution is in fact true while the historical view of the SDA Church is clearly outdated and, well, obviously wrong.  It seems to me that the teachers at LSU are actively undermining what the Church, as an organized body, has stated very clearly to be fundamentally important and that these same teachers are simply thumbing their noses at the GC's guidelines on this issue:


     “Church leaders at all levels are encouraged to assess and monitor the effectiveness with which denominational systems and programs succeed in preparing young people, including those attending non-Adventist schools, with a biblical understanding of origins and an awareness of the challenges they may face in respect to this understanding.”


Such statements seem to carry no weight at LSU and are simply disregarded - quite openly.  It seems that at the very least an employee of an organization should respect the goals that the employer feels are fundamentally important for the organization.  Yet, such respect is lacking at La Sierra.  I fear that unless steps are taken to correct this issue that irreparable damage is being done and will continue to be done to our young people - the future life blood of the SDA Church.  It seems to me that this issue is becoming a more and more prominent problem in our Church - especially in our universities and even undergraduate level schools.  Sooner or later, I think this particular issue has the potential to split the Church.  As painful as it may be, steps need to be taken now to limit the severity of this split.  I therefore solicit your help in this matter. 


If you are interested, the three-part video of my lecture at LSU (along with a developing debate on this issue stared by Ervin Taylor, the executive editor of the journal Adventists Today) can be viewed at:




I can also forward you the syllabus materials directly if you are interested and send you contact information for some of the students who have and are currently bringing this issue to my attention.  I also have numerous other letters and E-mails from concerned parents, pastors, scientists, and other educators across the country if you are interested in these as well.


Thank you again for your time and consideration of this matter. 




Sean Pitman, MD


6062 Gleneagles Ct.

Redding, CA 96003

(530) 377-5102




Reply from Elder Paulsen:

April 6. 2009


 - Removal Requested


Response to Elder Paulsen:

April 12, 2009

Elder Jan Paulsen, President
General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
12501 Old Columbia Pike
Silver Spring, MD 20904-6600 USA
Telephone: 301-680-6000

Dear Elder Paulsen,

Thank-you for your reply regarding my concerns as to the fact that all of the upper division science teachers at La Sierra University are teaching the theory of evolution to their students as fact (as of April 6, 2009). I hate to trouble you again as I know you are a very busy man and your time is valuable. It is just that I have already tried to present this issue to Dr. Wisbey, as have many others, but he has not responded to me and I know he has responded unfavorably to others on this issue during the last several weeks. One LSU pre-med student in particular, Louie Bishop, has been trying to address this issue and Wisbey has been actively trying to counter his influence by limiting his ability to tell alumni and other students about this issue. Wisbey has also had personal discussions with Bishop telling him that he has not experienced the full program at LSU and that he cannot judge LSU on his limited experience. The problem here is that I know many other LSU alumni who have had the same experience throughout their upper division science education at LSU and report that many have lost their faith in the uniqueness of Adventist theology because of their training at LSU.

Elder Ricardo Graham also seems unable or unwilling to substantively address this issue at the current time. It is only because I found no other willing party of support who can directly affect this issue that I bring it to your attention.

Now, I understand your argument that your hands are almost entirely tied when it comes to being able to personally do anything to "fix" such problems at our own universities. Yet, it seems to me that you, as the recognized leader of the Seventh-day Adventist Church body as an organization, carry at least some influence beyond the ability to make suggestions and recommendations to various institutions, churches, and schools that hope to carry the title of a "Seventh-day Adventist" institution. These are our youth we are talking about here - the future of our Church. If we loose them before they even get out of the gate, what's the point of having or supporting such organizations with our tithes and offerings?

Other prominent members of the SDA Church are also deeply concerned about this particular matter. Anthony Zuccarelli (Ph.D. in biophysics; LLU molecular biologist, geneticist, and director of science at LLU) writes:

     "Sean. . . Of course, the core conflict is not about data or observations, but the presuppositions employed in their interpretation. It is disheartening that faculty at LSU have accepted those assumptions. That they are teaching their beliefs at an SDA institution as the only interpretation of the facts is beyond incredible. Stay strong!"

Nathal Schilt (Malpractice defense attorney in San Bernardino, California; LLU consultant) writes:

     "For years La Sierra has had agnostic professors indoctrinating students and encouraging contempt (courtesy of Derrida and Foucault) for the traditional values and beliefs of tuition-paying parents. And suddenly we are prepared to censure conservative ideas advocated outside the classroom because we find them offensive ... or lacking intellectual respectability? I think I smell a double standard.
I sent my children to La Sierra to mature and strengthen their faith in God through higher education by committed Adventist professors. Frankly, I believe Point Loma, or most any other Christian university, would have been equally strong academically, and would have provided a much stronger environment in which to grow faith.
     Also, I'm not comfortable with the notion that, when it comes to the Church's faith statements, the job of its professors is to simply present them as aspects of comparative religion. Why should we not expect faculty in an SDA school to actively witness to, mentor and promote growth within the SDA faith tradition?"

Arthur Chadwick (Ph.D. Chairman Department of Biology, Professor of Geology and Biology, Southwestern Adventist University) writes:

     "I received the following email from a friend today. It breaks my heart to see my Alma Mater being used to promote atheistic and anti Adventist message at the very time in this world’s history when God intends us to stand up for truth. I am sure you are not aware of the extent to which this perversity extends, but this note illustrates the tip of the iceberg. The writer is a scientist who is well known for his work. He writes:

     'I spent Friday night and Sabbath morning with [an ethnic church] youth group. They were a really nice group of kids,[…]. In any case, they had good questions and seemed to really be enjoying themselves. The thing that I could not help but notice was that the girl doing biostatistics at USC didn’t seem to be having a crisis of faith while the girl doing biology at La Sierra clearly is. Okay, that is a sample size of one for each school, but I have seen this repeatedly. I can’t remember how many said to me that the Biology Dept. at La Sierra is all evolutionists. That struck me as a bit odd coming from students who clearly like other aspects of the school. The guys in the La Sierra Biology Dept. seem to be professionals at breaking the faith of good kids who want to believe. The teachers at USC appear to lack that highly honed skill. I’m glad I’m not the administrators who have allowed a situation like that to develop at La Sierra and I wish that there was something that we could do.
     There is no way that I would pay to send my [children] to La Sierra. I can’t really understand why anyone would aside from being mislead about what their kids will be getting there.'

     The same sentiments have been expressed to me by others on several occasions. The teachers in the Biology Department at La Sierra had a profound influence on me as a young student and new Adventist, and I attribute much of my success to the mentoring I received there. I hope you will see fit to investigate further and take what action is necessary to enable the witness of this institution to be restored. Please receive this message as from a friend who cares very much about my alma mater. I have not contributed financially to the University for many years because of this problem."

Bernard Brandstater (Medical Doctor; prominent member of LLU Church) writes to Elder Graham regarding this issue (Letter dated 3/3/09):

     "I happen to be one of the older professors at Loma Linda University. I was chair of the department of anesthesiology for ten years. Furthermore I served as head elder of University Church for three years during the tenure of Pastor Bill Loveless. I mention these facts only to let you know I am fairly well known here. I should also mention that at LSU I am well acquainted with Doctor Wisbey, and the name of my parents is attached to the Gallery in the LSU Art Department. Also, for many years I have been a close friend and confidant of Larry Geraty. So I know some key players in the development of science teaching at LSU.
     I write to support and reinforce the concerns that Dr. Pitman has expressed. After much early questioning, I have become a devotee of biblical Creation. And I have reached this position after much reading and study, and without surrendering my habits of left brained analysis and critical thinking. When you look for it, powerful evidence exists to support the Bible's account. I am well acquainted with many leaders of the Creation movement worldwide. Phillip Johnson, the founding father of the Intelligent Design movement, has been my house guest in Redlands. Today the most influential, the most articulate exponents of biblical Creation, are outside of Adventist ranks. And their message is powerful; we should be paying more attention. Please believe me when I assure you the theory of neo-Darwinian evolution is in deep trouble today; recent science has undermined many of its foundation principles. And I am a much more robust creationist today than I was even fifteen years ago.
     What is both puzzling and troubling is that many younger Adventist scientists don't seem to know of exciting recent discoveries. And they have laid aside the biblical account, rationalizing it in various ways. They don't discard faith altogether, but all their doctoral studies have been completed in university environments where philosophic naturalism is the ruling paradigm. In their scientific constructs, no place remains for a Creator. They have not purposefully balanced their reading from sources that would undergird their faith......though there are excellent materials in print these days. And in my view, Adventists apologists have been less than successful in bolstering the Church's traditional view on origins. The situation that we see now in La Sierra is the outcome of this slow erosion of conviction about the Bible story.
     Like Dr. Pitman, I believe the situation has become serious, and erosion must not be allowed to continue. The Creation story is at the very heart of Adventism. It is the basis for the Sabbath, and is attested by God's own finger in the Ten Commandments. Far from weakening the Adventist stand on Creation, I believe we should strengthen it. In so doing we will win the admiration of many millions of conservative Christians in this country and around the world who desperately look for a church that will champion the story as they read it in the Bible. Also, our preaching of Creation will endear us to a billion Muslims worldwide who are looking for a bold advocate of a six-day creation as taught in the Koran. I'm convinced Creation can be a powerful evangelistic motif for Adventism, a valuable distinctive to be displayed proudly.
     What is to be done? I have enough suggestions to weary you. I do plead that the response to Dr. Pitman's concern should be well deliberated and measured, not hasty and ad hoc. The professors who are the target of complaints are not bad men; they are knowledgeable, and believe their teaching is right. And they are not alone. A surrender to naturalistic science is happening well outside of La Sierra, and is a nationwide phenomenon. So I believe that an effective remedy must be devised at the level of the North American Division, and possibly even beyond.
     But here there is a problematic mismatch: The Church leaders who populate Church councils and are guardians of the faith are usually not well equipped in the sciences to make confident judgments. And that is true of university presidents, too. So I suspect we might begin a turnaround by thoroughly informing these Church leaders and decision-makers, to help them get a clear sense of direction. They can call upon the most balanced and best informed spokesmen in the ranks of Bible-faithful scientists anywhere. Without this kind of thorough briefing, our leaders will not have the boldness to be decisive in today's world. I would be happy to help identify the finest God-fearing scientists that could bring new conviction and energy to our Church's leaders, of whom you are one.
    My home phone is [...]. Please feel free to call me if I can be of help while you deal with this troubling issue."

Tim Standish (Ph.D. Biology; Geoscience Research Institute) excerpt of letter:

     "The bottom line is this, I see substantial misinformation, some of which crosses the line in my mind between truth and falsehood, being spread about the situation at La Sierra. My own observations have convinced me, unless there are clear and profound changes, to not send my daughter to La Sierra, or to recommend it to others. This is unfortunate as it is the nearest Adventist, at least in name, university to our home and my daughter could commute there easily. Also, I have friends who work there whom I admire and would be happy to trust my daughter to. My impression of La Sierra is not based on some preconceived negativism toward it, a problem with personalities, reading every syllabus or attending every lecture, it is based primarily on my own interaction with faculty, students and parents of students."

Jason and Janelle Shives (Medical Doctors, Alumni of LSU) write:

     "I will be praying for this meeting between these 2 men and that Wisbey does not try to twist the truth like Geraty used to by saying 'all of our professors are 'Creationists.' Ha! what a lie!"

Ariel Roth (Ph.D. Zoology; retired chair of the Geoscience Research Institute) writes:

      "One major problem I see is that Adventist parents sacrifice to grant their children an Adventist education, and when they go to La Sierra, some professors, who pose as Adventist, destroy the beliefs of the church. This is unfair to both the parents and the students."


There are many others also deeply interested and concerned with this particular issue who have written to me as well. These include letters from those like Paul Giem (Medical Doctor; prominent member of LLU Church), Dr. Warren Ashworth (retired well-known and well-loved professor of religion at PUC), Kenneth Hart (Medical Doctor; prominent member of LLU Church), David DeRose (MD, MPH; associate Pastor, Portland Maine SDA Church; President, CompassHealth, Inc), Clifford Goldstein (famous Adventist theologian, author, and editor), Christiana Harris (Ph.D. Organic Chemistry), Dr. Samuel Pipim (well-known Adventist theologian and author), David Asscherick (well-known Adventist evangelist), Greg King (Ph.D. Dean, School of Religion, SAU), David Ekkens (Ph.D. Biology, SAU), and many more who have written to me personally (and many to the powers that be at LSU as well) and expressed significant concern over this particular issue.

So, in this light, perhaps you can think of some further ways to address this important issue that is becoming more and more prominent within our church today - and threatens to significantly undermine it on a very fundamental level.

Thank you again for your further time and consideration of this very important matter for many in the church.


Sean Pitman, MD


Second Letter from Elder Paulsen:

April 22, 2009

 - Removal requested



Letter from David Asscherick to Elders Paulsen, Schneider, and Graham:

April 30, 2009
Pastors Jan Paulsen, Don C. Schneider, Ricardo Graham
General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
12501 Old Columbia Pike
Silver Spring, MD 20904

Dear Pastors Paulsen, Schneider, and Graham,

Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ. Like each of you, I am an ordained pastor of the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church. I write these words with my heart on full display--from pastor to pastor. This letter concerns the teaching of evolution at La Sierra University. While I am not a formally trained scientist, I am, however, familiar with many of the apologetic, philosophical, and theological issues surrounding the theories of naturalistic evolution. I have made this an area of special study in my life and ministry. So, I feel both comfortable and qualified to speak to the issue, especially in its ecclesiastical ramifications.

It is a matter of incontestable fact that naturalistic evolution is being taught at La Sierra University. This is not in and of itself a bad thing. Evolution should be taught at our denominational universities. But it should be taught as a competing and inimical worldview to the biblical worldview. We need our young people to know what it is they are up against, yes, but when naturalistic evolution is taught as fact or as the preferred and normative worldview, then we can be sure that the enemy has breached our lines.

There is no point in equivocating. I have seen the class materials with my own eyes. Frankly, I think every Seventh-day Adventist deserves to see them. Our people need to know what is happening. Many of them have heard various rumblings, but being the conscientious, confiding, and hopeful people they are, they have generally assumed the very best. We are making capital of their trust.

In 2003 I preached a two-week evangelistic meeting on the Loma Linda University campus. The event was student-led and university-sponsored. Many students from La Sierra University attended those meetings, and I personally visited with many of them. They told me what was being taught in some of their science classes. I shall never forget the looks and questions of unadorned incredulity that I witnessed among those students. I have talked to many more since. “What should I do?” “Should I say something?” “Should I just attend a non-SDA school?” “Do our leaders know about this?” “How come these people are allowed to teach at a Seventh-day Adventist University?” These young people, and many others like them, are justifiably nonplussed. Frankly, I share their confusion!

What deeply concerns me is that the faith of many students, who look up to their Adventist professors as more than just academic instructors, but also as spiritual leaders, is being undermined. Jesus’ words in Luke 17:1, 2 about causing “one of these little ones to stumble” carry inestimable weight, and they should be reason enough to propel us to responsible action. Brethren, what are we doing and allowing? Will not God hold us accountable in our respective spheres for what happens on our watch?

I am aware, of course, that the church’s governmental structure gives institutions like La Sierra University a necessary degree of administrative freedom. This is a good and wise arrangement. But this freedom, surely, is not synonymous with virtually unaccountable autonomy. La Sierra University is, after all, a denominational university. If the board has not yet adequately addressed this matter, then doesn’t that evince a kind of complicity, if not outright mismanagement and denominational disloyalty? I genuinely ask, at what point is La Sierra University’s board accountable and answerable to you men and the levels of church government that you represent? When, if ever, can someone step in and save our children and the institutions they attend?

Governing and administrative structures are not the church. The people are the church. The governing and administrative structures are the scaffolding of the church. Scaffolds are for building and strengthening a thing; they are not the thing itself. But what if some are using the scaffolding to tear down the very church they were commissioned and created to build up? What then? I genuinely want to know. Where does the buck stop?

Perhaps you feel that your hands are tied by policy and protocol. But surely they cannot be tied completely. What should I, as a church pastor, do if someone is teaching doctrine that undermines the church’s biblical positions in one of my Sabbath School classes? Wouldn’t it be expected of me, the pastor--shepherd--of the flock, to address it? To ask this question is to answer it. Of course, I would work though the Sabbath School council and the church board, but you can be sure that I would deal with the problem. My conference president, to say nothing of my Lord, would surely hold me in contempt if I told him lamely that my hands were tied, no?

Furthermore, the greater the errancy, the greater the urgency. As even a cursory analysis plainly reveals, few doctrines are at greater philosophical odds with Seventh-day Adventism than naturalistic evolution, the arguments of well-meaning theistic evolutionists notwithstanding. Our Magna Carta is Revelation 14:6-12. If naturalistic evolution is true, Creation is cremated, the Sabbath is sabotaged, and our very name is neutered. What becomes of Scripture? And of our unique eschatology? We are not talking about bongo drums, wedding bands, and Christmas trees here.

If our hands are tied, then surely we must let an unfaltering love for God, for His Word, and for His young people dash these fetters into so many deserved pieces! We must do something. You must do something.

Who knows but that you have come to your positions for such a time as this. My ministry places me in somewhat of a unique situation in the world church. In partnership with the Central California Conference, I run ARISE, a mission training school that has seen hundreds of young people over the last seven years. I also have the privilege of preaching regularly on 3ABN and the Hope Channel. Too, I travel all over the world holding evangelistic meetings and preaching at camp meetings, youth conferences, weeks of prayer, etc. I genuinely feel that I have my finger on the pulse of the “average lay person” in the Seventh-day Adventist church the world over. Especially the young people ages 15 to 30. I can say with unblinking confidence that God is working in His church! Praise Him!

I just arrived home from the Youth Mission Congress in Frankfurt, Germany. Over 1600 young people attended the meetings. Night after night I preached the Adventist message--I preached Christ! The theme chosen for the congress was Follow the Bible, and what an indescribable joy it was to see, at the end of my last sermon, hundreds and hundreds of young people streaming forward. All of them had personal decision cards in their hands. A beautiful, five-foot-tall wooden Bible had been constructed for just this moment. On the side of the Bible was a slot designed to receive the decision cards the young people clutched in their surrendered hands. One by one, each placed his or her card in the Bible. The symbolism was rich and thrillingly profound. It was impossible to not be moved at a fundamental level as each eager young person placed their decision, and thus their life in that wooden Bible. My translator openly wept at the sight. “We will follow the Bible,” they were each saying. All over the world, God’s people--and in particular, it seems, His young people--are saying We will follow the Word--the Living Word, Jesus, and the Written Word, the Bible.

God has entrusted us with these young people. They are His. He has given us His wise counsel to raise up institutions of learning to educate, equip, and empower them. To build them up.

But what do we do when one of our institutions turns from this inestimably important responsibility, a responsibility that is fraught with eternal significance and involves the souls of those Jesus died to save? This is what I want to know.

And so do many, many others.

I thank each of you for your time, and, in advance, for your thoughtful responses.

David Asscherick
Director, ARISE






Response of Randal Wisbey, President of La Sierra University


May 18, 2009

Board of Trustees, La Sierra University

Faculty & Staff, La Sierra University

Leadership Team, La Sierra University Church


Dear friends,


I am writing to share with you my concern and disappointment about a recent letter regarding La Sierra University (“to Adventist church leaders about La Sierra University”) that has received wide distribution on the Internet. This letter undercuts the educational work and ministry of La Sierra University, and indeed the broader system of Adventist higher education, rather than seeking better understanding and clarification of the concerns noted by the writer.


As president I take seriously any charge that La Sierra University is not fulfilling its sacred task and great responsibility to educate our students to be strong, thoughtful individuals whose worldview and hope is grounded in a close relationship with God.


In particular, this letter charges that “naturalistic evolution” is taught at La Sierra University — even while suggesting that evolution should be taught at our Adventist colleges and universities so that our students can better understand the world in which they live. “Naturalistic evolution” is a phrase that either in code or direct definition implies a perspective of “atheistic evolution.”


We reject this implied atheistic charge. Every one of our science faculty share the goal of students experiencing a vibrant Adventist Christian faith while pursuing their education in the sciences.


At La Sierra University, we take seriously the challenge of how to best integrate science education and faith development. Ultimately, our goal is to help students develop a personal relationship with their Creator. We are deeply committed to helping our students find during their experience at La Sierra University a vibrant faith that will deepen throughout their lives and lead them to the life to come. Our success in achieving that goal is demonstrated every year as we watch students being baptized into Adventist Church membership and see our students and graduates engage in lives of Christian service.


We expect that students will be introduced to the prevailing scientific views within a supportive classroom environment that values the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s contribution to the understanding of biblical creation. It is our commitment to our students and to their families that our professors will continue to support learning and encourage conversation in a spirit of openness. In this way we live out our university’s commitment to responsibly address difficult issues and our willingness to consider a variety of views. This grows from our church’s commitment to ever be open to new light.


As an institution of higher education, a Seventh-day Adventist university provides an excellent setting for examining evolutionary process — a subject that is foundational to the modern biological and behavioral sciences. This broad topic will recur throughout our students’ educational experience if they continue on to graduate studies and basic research in these fields, and is of growing importance in biomedical applications. At La Sierra, students investigate this process surrounded by faculty, staff, and peers who care about their whole person, not just their academic life. They have opportunities to ask hard questions and to address these issues in a supportive Adventist Christian environment.


People of faith who look at scientific data can reach differing conclusions and still be collegial as brothers and sisters in the church. The Seventh-day Adventist Church has always benefited from debate and indeed has matured because of it. Faculty in Adventist institutions of higher learning have played an important and sometimes courageous role in extending the boundaries of knowledge in many fields.


We at La Sierra University are continuing to examine how we teach the science relevant to origins in a supportive, Adventist Christian environment. We continue to welcome input made in a spirit of constructive Christian fellowship and which is respectful of scientific integrity — recognizing that while we may not fully agree on everything, our mutual concern is always for unity in love to our Lord and in service to His children. We are also committed to be of ongoing service to our church in this important conversation of science and faith. A number of our faculty have presented papers and have been involved in recent meetings that our church has called to give study to this challenging area.


As the Valuegenesis research spearheaded at La Sierra University has discovered, the ability to ask questions in a caring, open environment is one of the main factors in the decision of Adventist young people to stay in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.


These charges made against us, sadly, are not unique to La Sierra University. Some in our church continue to challenge and question our entire system of universities and colleges. They question our commitment to the important work of Adventist education. They challenge the orthodoxy of those who take on the important and God-inspired task of educating our students in transforming ways that have lifelong impact. I want it to be clearly understood that those of us who teach, those of us who have the privilege of serving at an Adventist university, take our mission and our responsibilities towards our students seriously. Our faculty and campus community give their lives, and the best of their intellect and service, to God through their academic preparation, ongoing research, teaching and mentoring.  La Sierra is a vibrant academic and spiritual community that forever transforms our students for God and for a life of faithful service.


La Sierra University is a place where academic investigation, Christian faith, and service to others unite. We support the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in powerful ways, such as:


      The Valuegenesis and CognitiveGenesis studies that originated at La Sierra help us to understand the young people we effectively minister to and with.

      LSU sponsored 11 mission projects this academic year in Costa Rica, Egypt, Hawaii, Honduras, India, Malawi, Mexico, Navajo Nation, Philippines, Tanzania, and Texas. Dozens of students have been involved in Share Him evangelism, and 15 student literature evangelists reach families in our community every day. Hundreds of students have served overseas, from Afghanistan to Vietnam, as student missionaries in recent years.

      La Sierra students and faculty, this past year, provided more than 45,000 hours of caring service to our local community. We earned the coveted community engagement designation from the Carnegie Foundation—one of only 118 institutions in North America to be so recognized.

      The La Sierra University Students in Free Enterprise team recently brought major recognition to the Seventh-day Adventist Church as they progressed to the final round at the 2009 SIFE National Competition in Philadelphia. Their projects helped people in Ethiopia, Thailand, and the United States.

      We will soon have the privilege of participating in the baptism of a number of our students who have been studying this year with our Chaplain and with members of our School of Religion. A few days ago I listened as the father of one of these students who stood before the Pacific Union Executive Committee and thanked God that his daughter was at La Sierra and that she had decided to be baptized.


Finally, as the president of La Sierra University, and as a parent of one of our 1,900 students, I am grateful that La Sierra is a place that is recognized for its commitment to Adventist faith and learning. Every day we dedicate this campus to the Lord. Like the father with his arms open wide in the Alan Collins’ sculpture, The Glory of God’s Grace, that stands at the entrance to our campus, it is our privilege to welcome young people in an attitude of grace and love that characterizes our Father’s deep love and passion for each of us. When I talk with parents who send their children to us, often at great sacrifice, they tell me they do so because they deeply believe in our commitment, as faculty and staff, to provide the very finest Adventist education.

As one parent noted, at a recent alumni event in Northern California, the monthly check she writes for her student’s education is the most satisfying investment she makes.


May we, as a campus community, affirm God’s powerful work that is daily revealed in our teaching, research, and service.




Randal Wisbey



My Reply:

This is in reply to the open letter from Randal Wisbey, President of La Sierra University (LSU), in regard to the fact that science professors at LSU are not only teaching, but promoting the truth of Darwinian-style evolution in their classrooms. 


Wisbey presents the standard argument heard over and over again over the years that this shouldn't matter because all of these professors believe in God as the ultimate Creator and are good Christian men and women who actually "value" Adventism.  Wisbey explains that LSU is all about teaching the "prevailing scientific views within a supportive classroom environment that values the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s contribution to the understanding of biblical creation."


I'm confused here.  What aspect of the stated fundamental positions of the SDA Church are being valued when a professor explains to his/her students that the Church's clearly stated position on origins is actually ludicrously mistaken?  - that life on this planet really did evolve over hundreds and thousands of millions of years in a Darwinian manner?  - that humans and apes really do share a common ancestor that gave rise to all hominids over the course of millions of years?  That death and suffering on this planet did not begin with the moral fall of Adam and Eve, but predates Homo sapiens by hundreds of millions of years of untold suffering and carnage? 


Wisbey admirably tries to put lipstick on this pig (Palin style), by pointing out all the good things that LSU is doing to make up for what he tries to describe as a this minor discrepancy and a general commitment to openmindedness  -  a "willingness to consider a variety of views." Wisbey goes on to explain that, "This grows from our church’s commitment to ever be open to new light." - to include "new light" that challenges the fundamental basis for the very existence of the church?  What happens to the uniqueness of the SDA Church if it actually accepts and starts promoting the validity of Darwinism? 


This isn't about atheistic thinking here.  It is quite possible to believe in God while also believing in Darwinian-style evolution over the course of billions of years.  However, it is very difficult if not logically impossible to reconcile this view with what makes the SDA Church unique among Christian denominations.  


At the very least Wisbey and LSU should be open and honest about what is actually being actively promoted at LSU.  It is no secret what many of the science and even religion professors believe and promote as the gospel truth to their students.


For decades Larry McCloskey actively promoted Darwinian evolution occurring over billions of years to his students to the active exclusion of any substantive discussion or presentation of the unique SDA view on origins in his classroom.  In his own syllabus he wrote:


    “It is vitally important for you to realize that this course—as a science course—is describing evidence from mainstream science, and is not dealing with beliefs

     Evolution is supported by an overwhelming and constantly growing amount of scientific evidence. New discoveries continue to fill the gaps identified by Darwin in The Origin of Species. The evidence is in the form of direct, measurable, empirical observation. Is it informed to dismiss Darwin's ideas as ‘just a theory’?...  There is nothing ‘theoretical’ about the evidence supporting evolution. The research about evolution is ongoing and continues to support and refine Darwin's original ideas. No data have been found to refute the idea.  It is the single unifying explanation of the living world, and nothing makes much, if any, sense outside of this unifying theory.

     The reason this unifying theory has become so widely accepted in the scientific world is that it has stood up to intense, thorough, continual observation and criticism. The way to become rich & famous in science would be to show a fundamental error in the theory. The built-in skepticism of science prevents these ideas from becoming dogma.”




Lee Grismer has done and is doing the same thing.  His own publications as sole author overwhelmingly clarify his position for anyone who wishes to consider what he is actually teaching his LSU students.  Grismer is an expert on the vertebrate life of Baja California, which he argues, in his papers, has been affected by the "dynamic environmental history . . . over the last 4-5 million years" and that this history "has had a profound effect on the evolution, distribution, and genetic structuring of Baja California's terrestrial vertebrates." - L. Lee Grismer, Evolutionary biogeography on Mexico's Baja California peninsula: A synthesis of molecules and historical geology, Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000 December 19; 97(26): 14017–14018.


Lee Greer, who actually refers to himself as an "evolutionary biologist" ( is fairly new to LSU's faculty, but is already very active in promoting the gospel of Darwinian evolution to his students - as I know by conversations with students and personal discussions with Greer and a review of Greer's published position on origins.  Even in his bimonthly "chapels" at LSU he has actively promoted the idea that the various accounts of creation in Genesis are contradictory and allegorical - i.e., that there was no literal creation week or worldwide Noachian flood just a few thousand years ago. He has been recorded on a panel discussion of this issue at the Loma Linda University Church for a creation/science weekend explaining his views on this issue (see Link).  It is no secret, which is a shame because I personally think a lot of Greer in particular and think he is an honest, sincere, very concerned teacher who really does care about his students and wants with all his heart to lead them in what he considers to be the right direction. 


But again, this isn't about sincerity or nobility of purpose or all of the other wonderful things that LSU has done and is doing.  This is about the willingness of LSU, as an institution, to support one of the most fundamental of all SDA doctrinal positions - beyond mere lip service to their employer.  So far, such support is not only lacking, but is actively scorned in a very public and open manner.  The Church's position on origins is actually belittled and ridiculed in the science and even religion classrooms at LSU.  It is not only disrespected, it is undermined in a most active and most open way possible by LSU professors - and not without effect.  Many of LSU's students have lost their faith in the Gospel story as stated by the SDA Church and have either left the Church or become what I like to call "Country Club Adventists" - who only stick around because they appreciate the society, not the fundamental doctrines, of Adventism.  Many of my own family have left the Church over this issue as well.  So, it is actually quite personal for me. 


So, I challenge Wisbey, the leadership of LSU, and the SDA Church in general to at least take the lipstick off the pig and present the unvarnished truth of what is being promoted at LSU and let the parents of the students who are paying and often sacrificing a great deal for "Adventist education" to decide what they really want to pay for.  The lipstick looks silly anyway.        




Sean Pitman, MD


Contact Information for La Sierra University:

Office of the President: (951) 785-2020, Fax (951) 785-2019,, 4500 Riverwalk Parkway, Riverside, California 92525-8247 (951) 785-2000, Fax (951) 785-2901




Further Comments:


In short, despite common claims to the contrary, there is no necessary dividing line between science and religion.  Scientists are just as religious in their interpretations of the commonly available data as are a group of hardened sectarian fundamentalists.  The only real difference is the object of worship.  People forget that mainstream scientists who have ideas which happen to be popular at the current time are human just like the rest of us.  They are subjective creatures who have no direct access to truth but must make subjective interpretations which are just as prone to error as are anyone else's.  It is like Dr. Kenneth Hart (LLU) once told me:

"We all have the same data.  How we interpret that data is our religion."  - KH

Let me also make one more thing quite clear. The specific comment by Wisbey that this is all about a concern over atheistic ideology being taught at LSU simply isn't true.  The problem isn't the Darwinian evolution or methodological naturalism is inherently atheistic.  Obviously it isn't because there are many who hold to these philosophical positions who also, somehow, still believe in a God of some sort.  The problem is that the Seventh-day Adventist Church has taken a specific stand on the topic of origins that isn't just "religious" as Greer defines the term, but is also a scientific position that is actually subject to testability and potential falsification.  In fact, many scientists strongly feel that the stated SDA position on origins, as in life on this planet in all of its fantastic variety being produced in just six literal days in the recent past, is obviously ludicrous and clearly falsified by the data of the fossil record, geologic column, radiometric dating methods, etc.  


Therefore, the very argument itself that the SDA position has been falsified means that it is actually a scientific argument as stated.  An argument that is beyond scientific investigation could not be so clearly falsified - by definition.  It follows then that those who honestly believe that the Church's position is mistaken aren't simply attacking a religious doctrine of the Church, but a scientific doctrine of the Church.  There can be no "synthesis" here since the argument isn't "religion vs. science" but "science vs. science" and "religion vs. religion". 

Sean Pitman













Other Replies:


Art Chadwick <>
To: me, Earl, tstandish (May 21, 2009)

A frank assessment of the meaning of Whisbey's letter from a colleague.

ugh - Art, have you read this letter? it is very bad, scary. apparently the biology faculty is fully supported by the president of LSU because "LSU is an excellent setting for examining evolutionary process - a subject that is foundational to the modern biological and behavioral sciences.... [because of it's] growing importance in biomedical applications." in other words, turns out the bible was wrong after all, and they are REALLY educating the students.

LSU is lost





May 21, 2009


Hi David,
You don't know me from Adam but I do believe you have communicated with my son, Shawn Brace, at some time in the past.  It was from he that I received your email address.  
No doubt by now you have received emails both pro and con as a result of what is being termed your "open letter" and the recent response by the La Sierra president.  I have read both.  
I just wanted to send along this email to encourage you in this, what may now be, the "joined battle."  I appreciate that someone who has a degree of influence within the denomination is finally speaking up for what has been taking place for many decades now.  It is long overdue.
After having read Dr. Wisbey's response I wrote him a kindly email that essentially, with I hope Christian love, told him that after reading his reply I was more concerned than before.  Rather than allaying my fears, he buttressed them!
We have a huge challenge on our hands in this denomination we love so deeply, and I have no doubts that Dr. Wisbey loves it as well.  However, unless these issues are dealt with now I fear for the future and for God's honor and reputation.  
One of my old seminary profs who helped greatly to shape my theology, Dr. Carsten Johnsen, used to say, "academic freedom is nothing more than eros."  I think we are witnessing a modern example of this right now.
Again, thank you for your public stand.  May God give you strength and wisdom in the future.  May we go forward in the spirit of "malice toward none and love toward all."  And let us hope this issue is not ignored.
If I can be of any assistance in this matter, don't hesitate to let me know.  I would be glad to join my voice.

Bill Brace
Southern New England Conference
Co-host:  Portraits of God radio ministry
Assistant editor: 
New England Pastor





May 21, 2009


Below is a letter from David Ekkens, Ph.D. and professor of biology at Southern Adventist University, regarding the open letter from Randal Wisbey, president of La Sierra University, discussing why the Darwinian perspective on origins is actually being promoted by science professors at LSU. 

Here are some thoughts on Wisbey's letter. In my humble view, he said a lot of nice-sounding words but without a whole lot of substance.

One thing that bothered me was that he appears to be attempting to paint all the SDA colleges & universities with the same brush. "This letter undercuts the educational work and ministry of La Sierra University, and indeed the broader system of Adventist higher education, rather than seeking better understanding and clarification of the concerns noted by the writer." He sent this letter to all the university/college presidents, appearing (to me at least) to say to them--Brothers, we need to unite to stop this kind of attack on our academic freedom. In my view, he is wrong on that score. At the SDA universities that I know about, organic evolution is not being taught as THE explanation to the exclusion of special creation. If his idea is that "everyone's doing it," he is going to be sadly disappointed as he is abandoned by his brother presidents.

What he left unsaid was probably more important than what he said.

He didn't say that he had personally talked to biology profs and that they assured him they believe and teach that the best available evidence refutes a materialistic origin of life and is compatible with the SDA position.

He didn't say that he had personally talked to current and past biology (and theology) students and that their faith in God had been strengthened at LSU.

He didn't say that he had personally talked to current and past biology students and what they understood from their classes was that more scientific evidence supported special creation than organic evolution.

He didn't say how teaching only organic evolution that denies basic beliefs of the SDA church constitutes a "supportive, Adventist Christian environment."

He said, "I want it to be clearly understood that those of us who teach, those of us who have the privilege of serving at an Adventist university, take our mission and our responsibilities towards our students seriously." He possibly believes that but I don't think he is speaking for many on his staff. There are three possibilities here:

  1. He knows what they are doing and is covering it up or

  2. He doesn't understand the issue while claiming that he does or

  3. He has a different meaning of "take our mission and our responsibilities towards our students seriously" than most of the rest of us have.

It is interesting that when he says "We support the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in powerful ways, such as..." and gives examples of wonderful mission projects that students participate in. These are good but they are not evidence of support of the mission of the church when basic beliefs are being undermined. Using those examples is basically a smokescreen to cover the real issue that needs to be dealt with: is the teaching of organic evolution and the exclusion of God and any Divine activity supportive of the SDA church?.

He gives laudable evidence of students being baptized.  That is wonderful. We could all come up with wonderful stories but again that obscures the real issue.

He makes another statement that I think is a smoke screen: "In particular, this letter charges that 'naturalistic evolution' is taught at La Sierra University - even while suggesting that evolution should be taught at our Adventist colleges and universities." In my opinion, he is again confusing the issue. He seems to be suggesting that the letter’s author is confused—charging that evolution is being taught at LSU but at the same time saying that it should be taught.

Just my thoughts.

Dave Ekkens





I wrote him [Wisbey] a personal email, pointing out what he did:


Dear  Mr. Wisbey: This letter is in regard to your letter about “naturalistic evolution” being taught at La Sierra University. I graduated from LSU in 2005, and in my last year I took a biology class that did teach naturalistic evolution. There was no discussion of divine guidance or intervention. Natural selection was taught as being the primary catalyst for the evolutionary process. Sir, I think you have committed a straw man fallacy in your letter, and have thereby avoided the issue. 


  1. David said naturalist evolution is being taught at LSU.

  2. You said that implies atheistic evolution is being taught.

  3. You said, “We reject this implied atheistic charge.”

  4. You then seem to conclude the accusations are false, or at least undercut the education being offered. 


You never denied that naturalistic evolution was being taught. Instead, you denied atheistic evolution was being taught. Do you honestly believe theistic evolution is compatible with the Bible? Do you believe the biblical account of creation is literal? Naturalistic evolution is being taught, and I am a witness to it as are many others. In effect, your letter is misleading. Will you write a letter specifically denying some teachers at LSU are teaching naturalistic evolution as fact?  




Shane Hilde



Thursday, May 21, 2009

In Support of David Asscherick


I don't really know David Asscherick. We've corresponded via e-mail a few times. We have a number of mutual friends and acquaintances. And, in the grand scheme of things, I am just a "nobody" whose voice is hardly heard. But I do want to voice my support for him.

By now, many people have, no doubt, read the letter he wrote to Jan Paulsen, Don Schneider, and Ricardo Graham about his concern that La Sierra University - a Seventh-day Adventist institution - is openly teaching and promoting Darwinian evolution. It is not that they are presenting it as one scientific theory. They are presenting it as the authoritative theory, with little mention of any alternative views (ie., intelligent design or creationism).


Asscherick never meant for the letter to get a public viewing. And it is too bad that it has seen the light of day. But now that it has, his thoughts and sentiments are open to debate, I suppose. And many people have and will address them.


What he basically argues is that it is unethical and dishonest for a professor at a Seventh-day Adventist university to be paid to teach one thing, and yet teach another. When people sign their name on a piece of paper that says they will uphold the 28 Fundamental Beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (with number six being the belief in a literal, six day creation), and then they turn around and teach the opposite, such is a grossly unethical practice which would be grounds for dismissal or legal action in any other corporation or setting.


And, contrary to popular opinion, the idea of a literal, six day creation (which, as mentioned above, is officially affirmed by Seventh-day Adventists in our statement of 28 Fundamental Beliefs) is not a "minor" issue. We are not talking about women's ordination here, or whether or not a person should be able to wear a wedding band. The belief in a literal, six day creation is foundational to our Adventist identity and mission.


Of course, there will be many who try to claim that Adventists are a people of "new light" and progressive truth - and if this weren't the case, we would still be practicing indulgences and worshiping on Sunday. Fair enough. But we want "new light," not some stale scientific theory that is heralded by a community whose agenda is to do away with God.


And, aside from that, though I am no scientist, the more I understand about Darwinian evolution, the more I realize it is simply bad science, fraught with philosophical and theological agendas and presuppositions. And it is hardly "objective" at all (Darwinian naturalists declare, before they even begin, that there can only be "naturalistic" answers. Limiting the field by 50 percent before one even starts can hardly be classified as "objective." Excuse my gross analogy, but it would be like a detective, starting on a murder case, declaring that only a Canadian American could have committed a murder before he even looks at one shred of evidence).


Since Assherick's letter has gone public, the president of La Sierra sent out a formal letter addressing his concerns (click here for a text version of the letter - which is below Asscherick's letter) four days ago. Essentially, what I got from it is that, at La Sierra, they are baptizing a number of students this year, and they go on a lot of mission trips, but there was scant mention of the issue at hand. The only thing that seemed to come close is that, for some reason, professors at universities are allowed the privilege of so-called "academic freedom."


But I wonder: is it really "academic freedom" when you're simply regurgitating what 98% of biologists in the world are already saying? It sounds more like "academic slavery" to me than freedom. Of course, if those same biology professors would ever dare try to teach intelligent design in a biology class at a secular university, they would find out just how quickly "academic freedom" is not a two-way street (see Expelled as Exhibit A).


All in all, what Asscherick is hoping is that someone in a position of significant influence will step up to the plate and say "enough is enough." And I applaud him. He has put himself out there - especially now that his letter has become public. But we need more people who are in positions of influence within our church to confront this issue. It is not going to die quietly in the night. Unless it is addressed head-on, the teaching and promoting of Darwinian evolution is just going to gain more and more momentum. (And, again, we are not talking about shutting down the teaching of good science. We're talking about putting an end to the promotion of bad science that is saturated with subjective presuppositions.)

So will someone step up to the plate? Someone? Please.





Dr. Warren Ashworth - Theologian, PUC (retired)

May 22, 2009 


Words, words and pious platitudes.  Interesting and of great significance is the total absence of reference to the Word of God as the foundation of all learning at LSU, and commitment to it as fully inspired and accurate when it addresses history and science as well as theology.  


Apparently he has bought into theistic evolution along with his colleagues.  


Trying to evoke pity as the wronged and "persecuted" by some in the church is without redeeming value.

You'll receive no help from that quarter!






Pastor Kevin Paulson 
May 27, 2009 
Subject: Creation VS Evolution

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

   Many of us by now have perhaps had the chance to read the links provided yesterday by John Williams to the recent letter by David Asscherick to church leaders regarding the teaching of evolution on one of our major North American campuses, together with the reply by the president of that institution.

   There are those who may view as a waste of time any active engagement over these issues.  I think not.  It is my hope that what follows will both arouse the convictions and responsibilities of the faithful, and inspire the lurkers and slumberers among us to a newfound sense of duty on behalf of God's church.

   The reply offered by the chief executive of this particular university is, in my belief, significant.  And for the following reasons:

   1.  His willingness to place himself--and by implication, the institution he leads--in the crosshairs of a controversy likely to inflict serious injury on his own denominational reputation and that of the school he governs.  This is, after all, an issue few if any in the church will set aside as minor or peripheral, and the position receiving implicit defense in this reply is by no means a popular one, certainly not among the laity and probably not among the majority of pastors either.

   2.  The affirmation notably missing from his letter of fundamental Adventist beliefs regarding creation and the origin of natural life--hardly inconsequential when one considers this man's position and the public nature of his words.

   3.  The reply's bold support for the freedom of church employees and members to hold and promote varying views on this pivotal issue of Christian doctrine.  It should be noted from the outset that as crucial as it is for Adventist institutions to maintain the integrity of our distinctive beliefs, what we are addressing here goes far beyond this--to the very core of Christian theology in general and the doctrine of salvation in particular.

   Why this reply was written and publicly circulated in this fashion may be arguable.  From the present writer's standpoint, it could well signal the movement of the present conflict within Adventism to a higher and more intense level.  It must be remembered that the letter to which this reply is addressed was authored by one who is both a gifted communicator and widely popular among the church's young, not to mention a prominent voice within a new and growing movement among Adventist youth that poses a dire threat to the popular assumptions and accepted paradigms of contemporary Adventist youth ministry.

   Now, to the reply itself:

   For starters, the reply raises a false issue at the very beginning with its claim that "'naturalistic evolution' is a phrase that either in code or direct definition implies a perspective of 'atheistic evolution.'"  One can argue about semantics, perhaps, but the letter in question said nothing whatsoever about ATHEISTIC evolution being taught on the campus in question.  Atheism is not the issue here, nor has it ever been in the efforts of certain ones to blend the Darwinian account of origins with the teachings of the Bible.

   The fact is that belief in macro-evolution (as distinct from the mutation and multiplication of species since Creation, which no one disputes) is fundamentally at odds both with the Genesis creation story and the overall theological message of Holy Scripture.  The whole notion of sin, righteousness, and salvation loses its meaning if one accepts the Darwinian trajectory of natural history and mankind's assumed place within it.  Moreover, the brutal and merciless process of natural selection--otherwise called the survival of the fittest--is viewed by this theory as both the norm and the ultimate good in the saga of life.  The Christian imperative of mercy to the weak and defenseless finds no place in such a scheme.  The reply's mention of the need for "unity in love" within the church, and the reference to a sculpture illustrating the "Glory of God's Grace," become an absurdity if one accepts the premises of Darwinian evolution.  The cruel process of natural selection knows nothing of love or grace.

   For the reply in question to focus mistakenly on the issue of atheism in relation to evolution is at the very least to imply that THEISTIC evolution is an acceptable option for teachers and students at a Seventh-day Adventist university.  Such a conclusion, if in fact reflective of the position held by the author of this reply, places him and those whose "freedom" he defends clearly outside the limits of the church's Fundamental Beliefs, which clearly uphold a literal seven-day creation week as taught in the book of Genesis.

   Sadly, this is but the first of a variety of non-issues addressed by the reply in question.  To speak of the goal of integrating science and faith, the number of baptism and mission trips witnessed and carried out by the university, the institution's alleged contributions to scholarly dialogue and denominational life--all miss the point. Conspicuously absent from the reply, as noted above, is the slightest acknowledgement that the university, its administration, and its faculty hold unashamedly to the Biblical account of a literal seven-day creation week as upheld in Number 6 of the church's Fundamental Beliefs.  The reply simply states that the school strives for a "supportive classroom environment that values the Seventh-day Adventist contribution to the understanding of biblical creation."

   Such ambiguity offers no clarity to anyone seeking assurance that the campus in question holds to the Biblical view of how the natural world began.  To "value" something is not necessarily to believe it. Such statements raise many more questions than they answer, and will do nothing to allay the concern which prompted the letter in the first place.

   Furthermore, the reply's salute to what it calls a "spirit of openness" and the necessity of welcoming "new light" give every impression of upholding a belief in unqualified academic freedom and the unfettered tolerance of ideas in the Adventist educational system. Indeed, the reply offers not the slightest clue as to the boundaries and limits maintained by the institution he leads when it comes to the interchange of ideas, acceptable conclusions, or tolerated practices. Aside from overt atheism, the reply gives no hint whatsoever as to any beliefs or teachings which would be forbidden to faculty members or officials of the university.

   Moreover, thoughtful church members will be appalled and plainly disgusted by the suggestion that Darwinian evolution might be "new light" for the church to consider.  Darwin's theory is neither new nor enlightening, whose hallmarks in the human story have included such blessings as industrial brutality, economic oppression, even genocide. Some will doubtless raise the counter argument that conservative Christianity offers a similar history, and they would be right.  What Christian advocates for evolution fail to consider, however, is that if Darwin's theory is embraced, cruelty and lack of mercy cease to be aberrations, becoming instead both normative and necessary for the sake of progress.

   In sum, the reply in question represents what can only be called an open declaration of defiance against a key and fundamental doctrine of Holy Scripture and of the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church. The imperative now rests with all church members in the Pacific Union Conference (the constituency of the university in question) to write the strongest possible letters of protest, both to the president of the university and to the board chairman, the president of the Pacific Union.  The trustees of this institution must be urged, even commanded, to muster the courage necessary to call to account both administrators and professors as regards their faithfulness to Biblical creationism and the fundamental beliefs of the church they claim to serve and belong to.

   The reply's stated commitment to "scientific integrity" is a tragic misplacement of priority.  Biblical integrity is what counts. To elevate nature over the God of nature is one of the oldest sins devised by rebellious humanity.  It has no place in the remnant church of Bible prophecy.

   We live in momentous times.  The conflict before us is not for the faint of heart, nor for those yearning for the false peace of fabricated unity.  It is my prayer that this letter and reply will sound an alarm of no uncertain tones throughout the ranks of God's people.

   May the Lord find us faithful!

God bless!





May 27, 2009


Again, "A house divided against itself cannot stand."  If someone disagrees with the Church, just go and join a different group that is more in line with one's own ideals.  Easy.  No big deal.  Why get so worked up if some crazy organization doesn't agree with you and doesn't want to pay you for your contrary ideas? - why should it? What right do you or Wisbey or the LSU professors have to demand that crazy people give up money to those who wish to tell them and everyone else that they are crazy?  

Sean Pitman




Thank you Sir.  May I have another?

May 27, 2009


Say I want to buy a certain very expensive product. I like it. That’s what I want. I don’t care if anyone else likes it or not. So, I put my money on the table and take my product home. But, when I get home, I notice it isn’t what I wanted to buy at all. In fact, it is quite the opposite. So, I take it back to the store and ask for my money back. But the management at the store tells me that they don’t have to give my money back - that I should actually be grateful because they gave me an even better product than what I wanted. They tell me that they only advertise the product that I wanted in order to get people who want that product to experience something even better. But I don’t agree. I don’t like their “better” product. I want what the product that was actually advertised - not some wannabe substitute.


Isn’t it my right to get what I actually thought I purchased with my own money? Should I not be upset by false advertising and call those responsible to task for their deception at my own expense? - and a great deal of expense at that? No? I should just eat it and be grateful? Really? 


Thank you Sir.  May I have another?!


Sean Pitman







As requested by David Asscherick, the following are my thoughts (for FIG) re: John Jones' letter (listed below) - regarding the recent query by Pastor Doug Batchelor.  I hope you don't mind if I respond line-by-line:

John R. Jones:

We've never met, but since your query has made its roundabout way to me (along, I am sure, with a number of others of my colleagues at La Sierra) I'll try to say a quick word in response. Yesterday afternoon I spent an hour and a half in a meeting with President Wisbey and the biology and a number of other faculty discussing these allegations. I am on the religion faculty so can't speak with any particular expertise either on the subject itself or on the biology faculty member's teaching, from a standpoint of personal experience.



Sean Pitman:

This is interesting.  Jones admittedly has no personal experience with this issue. He has not talked to the students involved nor has he sat in on the classes under consideration.  Yet, he feels qualified to respond substantively to the concerns in Asscherick's letter regarding the promotion of Darwinian-style evolution over billions of years within the classrooms of LSU?



But from President Wisbey's report of his lengthy conversations with the biology folks, and from their participation in the meeting yesterday, I think I can honestly and sincerely say that the answer is Yes -- in the sense that they teach ABOUT evolutionary theory, as I'm sure you would want any responsible Christian biologist to do. But that of course is a very different matter from advocacy. Our professors are dedicated believers who really do teach with great integrity, and who help our students find their way through the issues and see the ways in which genuine faith can and does work in their teachers' lives.


Has Jones actually asked the science teachers if they are or are not specifically promoting the existence and evolution of living things on this planet, in a Darwinian manner, over the course of hundreds and thousands of millions of years of time?  That is a yes or no question.  Simple.  Did Jones ask the LSU science teachers, "Are you teaching your students this theory as the most likely explanation of origins? Yes or no?  Or, are you actually promoting the SDA position that the origin of life on this planet is indeed the result of rapid creation by God over the course of a single literal creation week in the resent past?  Yes, or no?"  Did Jones ask those specific questions? 


I can tell you for a fact that Jones is not reporting on this specific type of investigation into the issue at hand at LSU.  I know this because of my own personal experience with the teachers employed there and from the personal testimonies given to me directly by numerous current and former LSU students - dozens of them. 

Anything less -- in either direction -- would be indoctrination. And a serious university, a serious Adventist Christian university -- that accepts the sacrificial tuition payments of our church members has no business shortchanging our students with mere indoctrination on either side of such important issues. Truth can stand objective and faith-based cons.


What is the difference between a church-sponsored school and a public school?  Why should anyone send his/her child to one vs. the other? - at a great deal of personal expense?  Many of the S. California public universities I know of and have actually visited on a regular basis (to include science and religion classes) are among the finest in the country.  Their professors are concerned caring individuals - just as concerned and caring about their students as the LSU professors. 


So, what is it that would cause parents to prefer to send their children to LSU at greater expense?  As far as I have been able to tell, SDA parents usually choose to sacrifice more to send their children to an Adventist school because they actually wish their children to be "indoctrinated" with the SDA perspective on life in general - to include the unique SDA perspective on origins.  SDA parents usually consider the fundamental SDA doctrines to be of more than passing interest for themselves and for their children.  They want their children to be exposed to these doctrines in the most positive light by those who actually believe in them and actively promote them with the highest quality of teaching possible.


If teachers are simply there to present both sides of an issue with equal weight and simply let the student determine, without any weight of influence of the teacher, which side is likely to be correct, why not simply send the child to a less expensive public university that does the same thing? 


Beyond this little issue, both side of the equation are not being presented to the LSU students in their science courses.  They are in fact only being presented with the Darwinian story of origin in many of their science courses.  That's a fact.  No discussion, much less promotion, of the concept of young-life, a literal creation week, or a world-wide Noachian flood is presented in these science classes - only the Darwinian perspective.  And this is not "indoctrination"?  Please . . .   



I would like to salute you for taking the initiative to go to someone at La Sierra directly, in accord with the principles of Matthew 18. It's the only Christian way to behave. Unfortunately those who have seen fit to level these charges have not conducted themselves as responsibly as you have. Thank you for caring so much about La Sierra, and the community of faith that we seek to foster on our campus.



This issue has been ongoing at La Sierra University for decades.  A few of LSU's teachers have also been promoting the Darwinian story of origins for a very long time - even before they were hired at LSU.  Many more private attempts have been made to address this issue to include private discussions and letters with the teachers and leadership at LSU.  The usual response, at least in my own experience over the past 5 years, is that, "We all believe in God here at La Sierra University.  We are all creationists here and support our students in a protective environment as they ask questions about both science and religion and how they compliment each other." 


The problem of course is that these professors who make these arguments are, at the very best, theistic evolutionists.  While they claim to believe in God as the ultimate creator of the universe and of life on this planet, they also believe and teach that God used Darwinian mechanisms in the process of his creative acts - which did in fact take place over billions of years of time in a progressive Darwinian manner. 


That theistic version of God and interpretation of the "creation week" mentioned in Genesis just so happens to be diametrically opposed to the very clearly stated and reaffirmed SDA view on origins - a view that specifically claims that the creation of all life on this planet took place over a litter week of just six days and that the Noachian flood was a literal world wide catastrophe in the recent past. 


This doctrinal position is openly considered to be so antiquated and out of data by the science professors of LSU that it is quite literally dismissed, out of hand, in class.  While this dismissal of a key fundamental position of the Church at LSU is no doubt done with the greatest sincerity of heart and purpose, sincerity alone does not an Adventist make.


After my first lecture on Creation vs. Evolution at LSU about five years ago, almost 100 students signed a petition to have the creationist perspective actually presented and promoted in their science classes.  Of course, nothing came of this.  There was a lot of talk, a few letters back and forth, a few nice words and promises, even promises to conference presidents, here and there, and then . . . nothing.  The same old things continued as before. 


So, given Jone's reference to Matthew 18, what should concerned parents and conservative SDAs in general do about this continued apparent disregard, open disregard, for the clearly stated position of the SDA Church on these matters?  More of the same?  Not according to the Bible.  Public open sins by those who have been continually addressed and made aware of the problem, and which are causing a great deal of public harm, harm that has reached many members of my own family, should be addressed in a much more public and a much more decided manner. 


In this line of reasoning, letters have been written again, and this time at least some have become more generally distributed and read by concerned members and parents within the SDA community across the country, and even the world.  Was this a mistake?  Perhaps.  Only time will tell.  But it is no mistake that something needs to be done to change the current state of things at LSU.

More information can be found at:  

http://www.detectingdesign. com/videoclips.html#Review

I'm taking the liberty of copying your query (and this little reply of mine) to President Wisbey, with the idea that he might want to add a word of his own.


Likewise . . .



John R. Jones, PhD

Associate Professor of New Testament Studies
The School of Religion
La Sierra University


Sean Pitman, M.D.




La Sierra University Does Promote Evolution - But Who Cares?

May 28, 2009


A La Sierra University student writes in support of the promoting of Darwinian-style evolution at LSU as something that can be believed in combination with belief in God and the Bible  ( Link ):




As a SDA biology student at La Sierra I have had many classes from Dr. Greer. It outrages me that people make assumptions based on fallacies rather than actual knowledge on this subject. Yes, Dr. Greer is an evolutionary biologist, but he has never once tried to challenge a student’s faith. Dr. Greer always tells his students not to believe anyone that claims that you must choice either religion or science. The truth is that the two can actually coexist. People who claim evolution is unsupported by data have closed their minds to the scientific community around them and the fossil record. I think it is vital for people to know both sides of the argument. I believe the Bible is the word of God, but it was created by man. Men are not flawless. Science is also based on research which is performed by man which also makes it imperfect. The good thing about science is that it is self correcting. When new data is found, old assumptions are thrown out and replaced with updated information. Science is adapting faster than religion which is one of the main problems. Christians understand that not all parts of the Bible are relevant in society anymore.


Adulteresses are not stoned, arranged marriages practiced, and so on. It would be a major mistake to take everything in the Bible in a literal sense. Clearly, the world is a different place then when the Bible was written. Also, what about the Creation story found in Genesis 2? Why does everyone seem to overlook this account of Creation?

I am not only upset, but also saddened by these accusations. Does Christianity not teach love? This website is filled with hateful accusations, none of which demonstrate a Christ like behavior. Dr. Greer is simply showing his students information that is well known around the scientific community. Students graduating from La Sierra University shouldn’t be taught one-sided information or they will never be taken seriously by other scientists. I believe La Sierra’s teaching methods are wonderful; they present Evolution and Creation, but don’t tell students which belief to choose. Instead, they teach us that we can believe both. Otherwise, there would be no SDA scientists. Loma Linda is well known for its medical research which has saved thousands of lives. Creation scientists are making new discoveries each day. It would be a shame to prevent students from entering a scientific career based on the assumption that we must either choose religion or science.


Anonymous LSU Student





Dear "Anonymous" LSU Student,

You write, "I believe La Sierra’s teaching methods are wonderful; they present Evolution and Creation, but don’t tell students which belief to choose. Instead, they teach us that we can believe both."

That's the problem.  The SDA Church, as an organization, has taken a very specific stand on the issue of origins.  That very specific stand does not make room to believe both Darwinian evolution and the SDA view of origins.  You might be able to be a theistic evolutionist - able to believe that God used the evolutionary mechanism of random mutations and natural selection to produce life and all of its variety over thousands of millions of years on this planet.  However, theistic evolution is not supported by the organized SDA Church.  Right or wrong, that is the Church's stated position on this issue. 

As nice as Lee Greer is, and I know by personal experience that he is a very nice, sincere, and honest young man, he is directly undermining the position of his employer, the SDA Church, when he argues before his students that they can believe in Darwinian-style evolution taking place over billions of years and still be supportive of the SDA Church as an organization at the same time.  That's simply not true.  And, it is a moral wrong for him to expect a paycheck from the organized SDA Church to promote this sort of thinking - a position that is directly antithetical to what the SDA Church is trying to promote - the truth of a literal creation week of all life on this planet in the recent past. 

You may think that the position of the SDA Church is clearly mistaken - and it may or may not be.  That's really not the issue here.  The issue here is that the SDA Church is free to be right or wrong and to promote whatever it wants to promote.  And, it is also free to hire only those who hold the same views as itself - however erroneous you or anyone else might think those views to be.  In this light, it is simply dishonest, a form of stealing, for someone like Lee Greer to take money to directly undermine such a clearly stated position of his employer.  The most honest thing to do would be for him to go and work for an organization that has stated views more in line with his own.  As must as I like Greer personally, I certainly don't want my tithe and offering monies going to support him in his efforts on this issue - as honest and sincere as he may be.  

Is it unloving to expect to actually get the particular product that one has actually paid a great deal of money for?  - and to be just a bit upset when something else entirely is received instead?

Sean Pitman, M.D. 





Another Open Letter: Pastor Steve Dayen:

May 29, 2009


For several weeks I have read, with great interest and equally great concern, the ongoing “internet dialogue” concerning the teaching of evolution at La Sierra University. The responses I have seen so far from LSU leaders, regarding the issue of whether or not Darwinian evolution is being taught as fact at La Sierra, have quite frankly been very disappointing.

My perception of this current situation, as La Sierra's leaders attempt to recover from a P.R. nightmare, is that they are circling the wagons. The problem with this approach is that they are not circling the wagons to defend against hostile attacks from "fundamentalist" enemies. We are part of the same Adventist church family! We are not enemies, but simply brothers and sisters who are asking for some accountability regarding the education of our own children.

I have spoken directly to several church leaders who have been close to this situation and there is not a doubt in my mind that the description of the crisis at La Sierra, described in detail by Pastor David Asscherick and Dr. Sean Pitman, is quite accurate.

Less than a week ago I had a lengthy telephone conversation with a former faculty member from La Sierra. He happens to be a friend of my wife's parents and they provided me with his home phone number. This former faculty member, now retired, assured me that everything David wrote in his now infamous letter is absolutely accurate. In fact, with great sadness in his voice he expressed that the problem goes far beyond the La Sierra campus and is infecting other schools as well.

Many of us believe that all Seventh-day Adventist schools, from elementary through to the university level, have one prime directive, and that is to educate students within a thoroughly Biblical context. La Sierra is not simply an academic institution. It is an academic institution that was raised up to uphold the message and mission of the church that established it, the very church that gave LSU its reason for existence.

What really concerns me most deeply about all of this is that so many people seem to be oblivious to the spiritual implications of teaching evolution. Many years ago, a very close member of my family went through a personal spiritual crisis. He had grown up in the church. His parents and grandparents were Adventist missionaries. In his twenties, he began to seriously explore evolution while doing graduate studies at a secular university. In the end, his faith was ultimately destroyed and he now considers himself to be an agnostic.

I have been a Seventh-day Adventist pastor for 30 years. During that time I have had many opportunities to recommend many of our colleges to potential students within my congregations. As you can imagine, I would never personally recommend a college or university to a prospective student unless I had complete confidence in the institution. A strong academic program is certainly very important. However, I would never recommend a school if I sensed that the spiritual foundation was shaky. For me, as for most Adventist pastors, this must include a solid affirmation of the fundamental doctrines of our church.

30 years ago I graduated from Pacific Union College to begin my career in pastoral ministry. That year happened to be the last full school year that Desmond Ford taught at PUC. I witnessed firsthand the theological soul-searching that many of us went through as we would listen to some of the greatest minds in the church sort out issues relating to salvation and the gospel of Jesus Christ. I sensed that year that the church was facing a crisis, which indeed reached its climax at the Glacier View conference, just a few months after my graduation. Many of my college friends and ministerial colleagues no longer fellowship with us, as a direct result of the fallout from that theological controversy.

Now, 30 years later, I sense that our church is facing a challenge that can cause even greater harm to the cause of Christ. I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but please heed these words. If we, as a church, do not meet this issue head on, this has the potential to divide us more quickly and more deeply than the theological crisis we faced in the late 70’s and early 80’s.

Biblical creation is part of the bedrock of our Adventist faith. Chisel away at it and several of our doctrines begin to crack under the strain. Abandon the truth of creation completely and the entire theological house will soon crumble.

We have the awesome privilege of serving the great God of creation, if we choose to. Our God was able to create a very real world in a very literal six days. Because of this theological foundation, it is not absurd to believe that the same Jesus who created the world would be willing to shed His blood to redeem the children of His creation. Because I believe in a God who could work such a miracle as creation, I am able to believe in all of the miracles that Jesus performed in His life of ministry. Because I believe in the God of creation, I can believe in the God of the resurrection, and the fact that the same Jesus who came forth from the tomb is fully able to raise His people from the dead at the second coming.

The bottom line is this. You and I are called to worship the God of the miraculous. If our spiritual eyesight is bound by what we observe in the natural world, without the inspired guidance of the Holy Scriptures, we are like ships in a storm without a compass. Mr. Darwin tried to find the answers to our origins without consulting the God of origins. If we do the same, we are destined to make shipwreck of our faith.

Without Biblical creation…
…the fallen nature of man is ridiculous.
…the motivation for worship is lifeless.
…the Sabbath is meaningless.
…the second coming of Christ is needless.
…the plan of salvation is pointless.
…the gospel is powerless.
…the Bible is useless.
…the future is hopeless.

Thank God that Biblical creation is true!

May God bless each of us as we pursue the course of truth.

Pastor Steve Dayen





Response to Spectrum Magazine's article:  

Unraveling a Witch Hunt: La Sierra Under Seige:


So we've started a "witch hunt"?   You know, I'm wondering what the response must have been when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the front door of the Church at Wittenberg?  I wonder if his tactics or methods weren't questioned?  If he wasn't accused of breaking the advice of Matthew 18 (as per the suggestion of Dr. John Jones).   Or, perhaps he was even charged with "persecuting" those who happened to hold differing views from his own?   Yet, I wonder if the wrongs addressed in his 95 theses would have ever been taken seriously or actually resolved at all had he not gone so public with his concerns for the public missteps of the Church of his day? - missteps which involved and interested a great many people? 


But hey, if the SDA Church wants to make public policy such that its own fundamental doctrinal positions are really nothing more than 28 nice suggestions, that's fine.  It just should be publicly stated that way so as to avoid any semblance of false advertising.  It should be clearly stated that the SDA Church really takes no definitive stand on anything as an organization and that its own paid representatives are perfectly free to say and do anything they please without any sort of remonstration on the part of the Church leadership or "government" whatsoever - especially when it comes to those "suggestions" that form the very basis of the name of the SDA Church itself.  After all, as long as everyone loves everyone else, the actual basis of the Christian hope in the future or the discovery of new doctrines or the maintenance of old foundational doctrines are really of no consequence - right?  After all, everyone wants complete "academic freedom" - right?!  It sounds sooo good!  Who could vote against freedom?! 


After all, didn't our early Church founders wish to avoid the problems of doctrines and "creeds" which are set in concrete as unmovable mountains?  Didn't John Loughborough argue, in the Review and Herald in 1861 that, "“The first step of apostasy is to get up a creed, telling us what we shall believe. The second is to make that creed a test of fellowship. The third is to try members by that creed. The fourth is to denounce as heretics those who do not believe that creed, and fifth, to commence persecution against such.”


Yet, the authors of this Spectrum article who quote Loughborough forget what Loughborough later said regarding the basis for Church order and discipline:


Consider again the following comments and quotes by JN Loughborough in his The Church, Its Organization, Order and Discipline (1907):


     "When those who back in the "sixties" [1860s] witnessed the battle of establishing church order now hear persons, as conscientious no doubt as those back there, utter almost the identical words that were then used by those opposing order, it need not be wondered that they fear the result of such statements as the following: "Perfect unity means absolute independence, - each one knowing for himself. Why, we could not have outward disorganization if we all believed in the Lord. . . . This question of organization is a simple thing. All there is to it is for each individual to give himself to the Lord, and then the Lord will do with him just what he wants to, and that all the time. . . . Our only safety, under God, is to go back to the place where God is able to take a multitude of people and make them one, without parliamentary rules, without committee work, without legislation of any kind." - General Conference Bulletin of 1899.


God Requires Rules:

     "Superficially considered, this might seem to be a blessed state, a heaven indeed; but, as already noted on a preceding page, we read of heaven itself and its leadings that "the god of heaven is a god of order, and he requires all his followers to have rules and regulations to preserve order." - "Testimonies for the Church," No. 32, page 30.

   "As our numbers increased, it was evident that without some form of organization, there would be great confusion, and the work could not be carried forward successfully. To provide for the support of the ministry, for carrying on the work in new fields, for protecting both the church and ministry from unworthy members, for holding church property, for the publication of the truth through the press, and for other objects, organization was indispensable."


As it turns out, the leaders of the early SDA Church at first thought that no enforcement of any kind was needed to keep the Church from fragmenting.  This was true as long as the Church was small and made up of originally like-minded people.  However, as the Church grew larger, this view soon became obviously untenable.  Loughborough was one of the main proponents of this sort of church order and discipline - along with James White.  Very quickly all of the early Church leaders changed their minds regarding Church order and discipline when they saw that their original ideas of completely hands-off freedom of Church representatives were quickly failing to do what they thought they would do.  So, the leadership started issuing cards of commendation signed by James White or John Loughborough. 


Of course, those who were not considered to accurately represent the views of the Church did not receive these cards of commendation.  And what was the attitude of such persons? - according to Loughborough?:


     "Of course those who claimed "liberty to do as they pleased," to "preach what they pleased," and to "go when and where they pleased," without "consultation with any one," failed to get cards of commendation. They, with their sympathizers, drew off and commenced a warfare against those whom they claimed were "depriving them of their liberty." Knowing that it was the Testimonies that had prompted us as a people to act, to establish "order," these opponents soon turned their warfare against instruction from that source, claiming that "when they got that gift out of the way, the message would go unrestrained to its `loud cry.' "


     One of the principal claims made by those who warred against organization was that it "abridged their liberty and independence, and that if one stood clear before the Lord that was all the organization needed," etc. Upon this point, when church order was contested, we read: "Satan well knows that success only attend order and harmonious action. He well knows that everything connected with heaven is in perfect order, that subjection and thorough discipline mark the movements of the angelic host. . . . He deceives even the professed people of God, and makes them believe that order and discipline are enemies to spirituality; that the only safety for them is to let each pursue his own course. . . . All the efforts made to establish order are considered dangerous, a restriction of rightful liberty, and hence are feared as popery." - "Testimonies for the Church," Vol. I, page 650.



Sounding familiar?  Be careful when you use Loughborough to try to support the notion of pure "academic freedom" within Church schools and a hands-off approach to Church government.  Not only does there have to be at least some very specific direction and discipline within the Church government to maintain order and viability, as with any viable organization, it turns out to be a truly loving path to travel as well. A Church without discipline and enforcement of rules on its own representatives, like a home without discipline, is a very unhappy, even angry, Church and family.


One more thing.  I just want to thank Spectrum Magazine for this article.  I think it helps to highlight a very important issue in our Church today and is relevant to a great many people who are either directly or indirectly affected by it within the SDA Church.  And hey, there's no such thing as bad publicity - right?  ; ) 


Sean Pitman


P.S.  By the way, wasn't Einstein a college dropout? - and Bill Gates too?  ; )





A Scientist and Creationist - Christina R. Harris, Ph.D.

May 30, 2009


The evolution-creation debate is an important topic, however, I am disappointed at Spectrum’s one-sided reporting of the current issue and the attempt to make of none effect the objections raised by Pastor Asscherick (and others) based on his being a “convert” and “unfamiliar with the Seventh-day Adventist higher educational system.”  A convert myself, perhaps that’s what it takes to see obvious—the “emperor is wearing no clothes” (http://www.detectingdesign. com/)!  I hold doctorate in chemistry from University of Colorado, Boulder, did post-doctoral studies at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan, NY and was later a part of the inaugural ARISE class in 2003 with Pastor David Asscherick.  Having spent 10+ years in the centers of higher education, I can say that Pastor Asscherick is one of the best teachers that I have ever had and he is a brilliant student of both the Bible and science.  To say that he speaks with “disdain” at higher education is a gross overstatement.

As scientist and Creationist—according to the Genesis account, a literal creation week with 7-literal, contiguous, consecutive 24-hour days—I find it suspicious that Darwin’s proposed theory for evolution, that is reportedly so "overwhelmingly obvious" and "intellectually superior", requires intimidation and ridicule to gain or maintain a following.  The point of controversy is not about whether science students should be informed about mainstream scientific beliefs.  Evolution (as a concept) should be taught.  Indeed, evolution on a micro-scale, as Darwin observed in finch beaks, is testable, observable and well documented in the scientific literature.  The point in this controversy is that a Seventh-day Adventist higher educational institution should, at minimum, be supportive of the 28-Fundamental Beliefs ( article.php?id=17) held by the organization for which its name represents.  This would include belief (#6) on creation—I see no ambiguity in the written statement posted on our denominational websites.

Thus, while it is possible to believe in God and hold to the idea of Darwinian-style evolution occurring over the course of billions of years, for a Seventh-day Adventist in a Seventh-day Adventist setting, these beliefs are untenable and irreconcilable.  Those professors finding themselves unable to accept any or part of these fundamental beliefs should naturally seek employment elsewhere, perhaps at a public or other non-SDA college or university—there are many options.  Having taught chemistry at the university level, I am acutely aware that young adults of college age are highly impressionable to the spoken thoughts and beliefs of their professors.  To present such material from a perspective wherein one vacillates between the two, will have a profound impact on students—as evidenced by recent LSU student reports and voiced concerns.  Those parents desiring a truly Adventist education for their students should obtain what their hard-earned dollars have paid for; otherwise, a public institution of higher learning would be more suitable and less expensive. 

As such, I challenge leadership of LSU and the leaders and laity of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to hold to and support the truths that our name represents. 

I close with the following quote taken from the pen of inspiration: “Since the book of nature and the book of revelation bear the impress of the same master mind, they cannot but speak in harmony….Inferences erroneously drawn from facts observed in nature have, however, led to supposed conflict between science and revelation; and in the effort to restore harmony, interpretations of Scripture have been adopted that undermine and destroy the force of the word of God. Geology has been thought to contradict the literal interpretation of the Mosaic record of the creation. Millions of years, it is claimed, were required for the evolution of the earth from chaos; and in order to accommodate the Bible to this supposed revelation of science, the days of creation are assumed to have been vast, indefinite periods, covering thousands or even millions of years….Such a conclusion is wholly uncalled for.  Education, p 128-130.

Christina R. Harris, Ph.D.
Senior Research Scientist




Why Send My Kids to LSU? - Roger Seheult, M.D.

Dear Sir [Wisbey]:


I will start off by telling you that I have never attended La Sierra University but I am a life-long Seventh-Day Adventist.  I went to public schools my whole life (except for medical school where I attended Loma Linda University).  I went to college at the University of California at Riverside where I completed my premed and majored in Chemistry and Biology. 


With the new medical school opening up at UCR and the superior quality of its education in the sciences for much less cost, La Sierra will be hard pressed to attract good qualified applicants into its pre-med program.  The primary reason why I could not attend La Sierra was for cost (UCR was 1/10 the cost).  I, however, was very happy with my experience at UCR as I was able to separate my scientific endeavors from my spiritual beliefs.  At the end of the day I never believed for one minute that macroevolution could exist and I never trusted my teachers to be expositors of my faith.  Even at that time many La Sierra students joined us at UCR for Organic Chemistry and used our facilities and laboratory space.  I wondered why they had to come to UCR to get an education in Organic Chemistry. 


What now will I provide for my children in terms of education.  I have a daughter who is 4 years old and a son who is 10 months old.  It is never too soon to think about (or save) for higher education.  I am convinced that they will attend a private SDA institution for K-12.  I am not so sure about post-secondary education however.  The two reasons why I might send my child to La Sierra, PUC, Walla Walla, or any other SDA University would be for them to receive:

1) a higher education founded in the principles of our beliefs as Seventh-day Adventists AND teaching them ABOUT evolution and NOT teaching them that evolution is the only scientifically feasible explanation for the origin of the species.  (this is what is occurring currently if one simply reads the syllabus)

2) a mate suitable for them

If the Biology department at La Sierra continues in the current path that it is taking, you will have taken away one of those reasons, leaving me with a very expensive dating service to which I will not subscribe for my children. 


Please do not tell me that I don't have a true understanding of what is being taught at La Sierra.  I have heard for many years what has been going on.  The syllabus is posted for all to read and see.  As it happens there are some blatant FACTUAL and SCIENTIFIC errors in the syllabus.  There is no supposition - only fact - one can look for themselves.  I urge you to take corrective action now before our SDA educational system becomes an expensive dating service alternative to higher education.  I am only one of many who think alike on this issue.  At the end of the day our decision as parents will be this: Why should I send my children to an SDA institution that is 5-10x more expensive to be taught evolution as truth when I can send my children to much cheaper schools, in most cases get a better science education and be able to tell my children that evolution is being taught to them because the public universities aren't Christian nor beleive in the second coming of Christ or the Sabbath?  It is going to be much harder to explain to my children why evolution is being taught as truth to them from an Adventist institution.  I am not willing to pay for that problem.  I am not alone.



Roger Seheult, M.D.






Charles Scriven: Genesis creation stories intended to be taken as allegorical

May 30, 2009

Hi Chuck,

Greetings from my father, Tui Pitman.

I've just been reading through your latest article and thoughts on the Spectrum Magazine blogs (Link, Link).  Interesting comments - especially one in particular. You write:

     "Now a question: who can cite examples anywhere--from the Bible, from the early or medieval church, from the Reformers--that show Genesis 1 being read as a statement that is REALLY about dates, times, and sequences? The Psalms and the book of Revelation, for example, set for very strong doctrines of creation, but they don't invoke details of Genesis 1 as if THESE were the point."

As a SDA pastor, you have to know the answer to this question. Throughout the Bible the biblical authors clearly reference Genesis in a very literal manner. Even Jesus obviously believed the literal interpretation of the Genesis account. I'm not sure how one can come to the notion that the Genesis account was ever intended to be read as mere allegory?  That certainly wasn't the author's intent and none of the biblical authors interpreted that way.

But, beyond this, consider comments of Professor James Barr, Religion Professor of Hebrew at the University of Oxford:

“Probably, so far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Genesis 1–11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that: (a) creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience (b) the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the biblical story (c) Noah’s flood was understood to be world-wide and extinguish all human and animal life except for those in the ark. Or, to put it negatively, the apologetic arguments which suppose the “days” of creation to be long eras of time, the figures of years not to be chronological, and the flood to be a merely local Mesopotamian flood, are not taken seriously by any such professors, as far as I know.”

Letter from Professor James Barr to David C.C. Watson of the UK, dated 23 April 1984.

Consider this passage in the light that Prof. Barr believes in the truth of Darwinian style evolution occurring over hundreds of millions of years.  Yet, he recognizes that the Genesis account was intended, by its author(s), to be taken literally.  He just thinks the biblical authors got it wrong - which is a lot different than arguing that they intended to write an allegory. 

All the best to you and yours.


Sean Pitman


Posted by: Chuck Scriven | 30 May 2009 at 5:35



Now I know (I considered this before) who you are. Thanks for the hello from you Dad. (What about your Mom? I...uh...admired her all through grade school and high school.)


Mom remembers you with fondness.  She really enjoyed her childhood and the memories of growing up with you are good ones.


I agree with Barr, whose quote says the "writer(s)"--a bit of a higher critic he is, or so I gather--of Genesis would have understood themselves to be describing literal events. But the biblical writers also thought (consider the word "corners") that the earth was flat.


I know that this is a common interpretation, but isn't the Hebrew word in question "Kanaph" literally translated to mean "extremity" or "extremities"?  Given this sense of the term, the passages in question could easily be read to mean to "the very extremities of the Earth."  Given that the Biblical writers also talked about the Earth as a sphere or "circle" (Isaiah 40:22), this seems to be at least a reasonable interpretation. 


The Genesis account of a literal week, on the other hand, is far more difficult to misinterpret or to misunderstand - even from an Earth-bound perspective with very limited scientific understanding or background.  After all, even a child would be able to understand and accurately describe a situation that took place over a small number of literal days and describe such an event as being marked off by "evenings and mornings".  It is very hard to misinterpret such a vision or revelation of events. 


This is especially true given the repeated confirmation of this intended message throughout the Bible - regarding the literal nature of the Genesis narrative.  This makes it very difficult to simply relegate this narrative to myth or legend or even a good moral fable without removing the basis for interpreting all such "miraculous" events described in the Bible as legend or good moral fables as well - such as all of the miracles of the Old Testament, the Virgin Birth, Jonah and the Whale, all the miracles of Jesus, the Resurrection of Jesus, the Second Coming, and the hope of eternal life itself - all lovely moral fables if you discount the attempt of the Biblical author(s) of Genesis to describe something in very literal terms, with an obvious intent to be taken literally, as a good but completely mistaken effort.


What I want us ALL to struggle with is how to be passionate about a faith that was first packaged inside of a cosmology no one today FULLY accepts.


No one?  I'm sorry, but although the group is certainly in the minority, it is hardly devoid of members.  I myself fully accept the stated cosmology as represented by the fundamental doctrines of the SDA Church - and I am by no means alone on this one.  And, I have not come to this position on blind faith alone.  I think there is a great deal of very good scientific evidence and logical argument to support this position - far more than the "moral fable" position that it seems you are trying to promote . . .  


The struggle is hard. As I heard a young PUC graduate say, "Faith is not a walk in the park for us." Some are at a different stage of the struggle than you and I. Surely people with doctorates in biology and other sciences have faced more spiritual stress than many of us--faced, as is quite likely, an even more difficult struggle.


I don't discount the severity of the Spiritual struggles of anyone. However, I am trained in the medical sciences with a particular emphasis on the more basic scientific aspect of medicine.  I have had extensive training in biochemistry, genetics, pathology, the process of disease via mutations as well as natural selection, endless blood disorders that are related to genetic mutations, etc.  I have published over a dozen papers and abstracts in the medical literature.  One of my papers formed the basis for changing the diagnostic criteria for a form of Hodgkin lymphoma. 


If anything, this training and experience has brought me to a place of much greater faith in the stated SDA interpretation of the Scriptures - as an organized body of believers. Science is in harmony with true religion.  There are not two separate paths toward "truth" that are called "religion" and "science".  Science is inherently religious in method and philosophy and religion can be scientific in method and philosophy as well.   


I may misread you and those who seem to side with you. But I take it that you expect the La Sierra science teachers we are thinking about these days to change into the same sort of creationist that you are, or leave / be fired from their jobs? Assume (for argument's sake) that these professors love the Lord, celebrate the Sabbath and embrace the Advent hope. Assume further that, by deeds and testimony, they communicate this to their students. Then why exclude them from full participation in Adventist life just because their stage of struggle is different from ours? Why do this when, in any case, God's ways and thoughts are higher than ours? Why do this when later biblical and Christian writers (up to, as I think, the modern period) never seem to think that dates, times and sequences are the main point of the creation doctrine?


Thoughts? Any room for difference inside of unity? How, really, can the church get past the curse of mutual disdain?


I think it was Madeleine L'Engle who once imagined a society so homogenous (or maybe she said "authoritarian") that the children even bounced their balls in unison. I don't think any of us wants that.


This isn't personal.  Some of my very best friends are adamant atheists.  Many others are admittedly agnostic.  And, of course, many others believe in various ideas of God from the Hindu view to the Baptist view.  And, we all get along just fine and actually enjoy each other's company.  This doesn't mean that I want my tithe dollars going to support a Hindu pastor in my church or an agnostic teacher in my school. 


You see, I think a bunch of people tie all of this in with salvation.  But, as far as I see it, these issues are not inherently a matter of salvation.  I personally believe that there will be a lot of very surprised atheists in heaven.  There are simply a lot of honestly confused people out there.  But, as honest as they are (and therefore savable) I don't want them teaching my children or friends in my schools - even though it is also true that I may be the honestly confused one.  Like Charles Barkley once said, "I may be wrong, but I doubt it."  - and that's true for everyone who has any opinion on anything.


In short, they are perfectly free to teach in their own schools paid by those of like mind who want that sort of thing taught as "truth" to their own children and friends.  In fact, I encourage such a freedom of diversity of types of schools in a free civil society at large. 


However, the SDA Church is unique from free civil society at large and one is free to join or to leave it without any fear of civil inducements or reprisals.  Despite numerous efforts to compare an attempt at producing some form of internal control and order in the SDA Church, this sort of effort is not the same thing as the efforts of the Church in the days of Galileo to enforce this or that view with the threat of civil penalties.


There is also no inherent moral condemnation for wanting to leave the SDA Church. As already noted, lots of non-SDAs will be in heaven - the vast majority in fact.  However, there is an inherent moral disconnect when those who hold views that are diametrically opposed to the church still expect the church (and therefore me) to pay them for their views.  That's obvious nonsense - at least it should be obvious to anyone considering this problem with a candid mind.  Any viable organization must have very clear rules and regulations set in place that are actually enforced.  No viable organization on Earth or in Heaven functions very long otherwise before complete fragmentation and homogeneous dispersion takes place. 


This is what the early SDA Church founders quickly realized - that without some form of enforcement of church discipline and order, the SDA Church would not long last as a distinct entity with anything worthwhile to contribute to the world (see the 1907 work of J.N. Loughborough on church order and discipline).


Anyway, I've rambled on long enough for now.  Thanks again for your thoughts on this very important issue.  










I Hope I'm Misunderstanding You . . .

On Mon, Jun 1, 2009 at 8:43 AM, Scriven, Charles wrote:



Very quickly.  (I’m at my day job now.)


I am getting lots clearer about where you are coming from. 


1) I gather you would exclude me (as I uphold creation, but not in the exact way that you do) from your ideal Adventist Church.  Hmm.  I’m 63, and have spent my entire adult life working long hours to try to make it work.

I admire your efforts, just not your theology. It's nothing personal.  I'm sure you're a great guy.  We'd probably get along famously on the golf course or on a fishing trip.  I just wouldn't want to pay you to teach me or my children your views on creation (aka: theistic evolution) is all. 



2) “Doctrines are important and should be defended.”  Are they all, in their details, exactly equal in importance?  Doesn’t too much propositional clutter produce toxicity (of the kind so evident in this weekend’s various web conversations).  And if the famous “preamble” to the 28 points means a thing, doesn’t discussion have to take place?  And how can it (on your vision) if people who veer away from even the details don’t even count as (really) Adventist?

I'd hardly call the Church's stated position on a literal creation week some "small detail".  It is fundamental to the very name of the Church after all - don't you think?

Discussion if fine, but when it comes to giving "cards of commendation and official paid recognition", Loughborough style, the Church, as an organized body, must draw the line somewhere or face complete anarchy and chaos.  It seems to me like your arguments favor this sort of chaos in the Church.  This may be fine for a general civil government, but it isn't fine for an organization that has specific goals in mind that go beyond the maintenance of mere civil order. 



3) Clifford (for all his wonderful brainpower and enthusiasm) does lots of damage, and I would not hire him as SS quarterly guy—you might make a case for the Review just because he seems to be alluringly provocative.  But I would not argue that my disagreement with his perspective is basis for claiming that he is not a real Adventist, or that his current employers are betraying the faith, or that he should join some other church.  You and I have a big-tent / shrinking tent difference.  (I don’t, by the way, think the tent should embrace just anyone; I love and embrace Matthew 18.)

I'm sorry, but it doesn't seem to me like you really do love and embrace Matthew 18 - at least not the part where there is actual official separation involved after efforts to convince a brother or sister to change his/her ways regarding certain doctrinal differences. Yet, Paul, in particular, railed against those with differing doctrinal positions trying to come into the church.  He called these false teachers and wolves in sheep's clothing and said that even if an angel of light were to contradict him the words of the angel should be rejected. Talk about chutzpa! Paul's tent was nowhere near as big as your tent - and neither were the tents of any of the other founding fathers of either Christianity at large or the SDA Church in particular. 

You seem to me to have an extremely big tent that is so big as to allow for anyone to be an official representative of the SDA Church with just about any ideas promoted from the pulpit or classroom short of breaking the civil law.  How is that form of a church at all unique from what we have in civil society at large already?  You effectively remove the reason for there to be a unique SDA Church at all given your views of Church government - or so it seems to me.  If I am wrong here, tell me, where would you "draw the line"? - specifically?

Of course, you would draw the line somewhere.  That's for sure.  You draw the line at someone teaching or preaching like Clifford Goldstein or myself.  You cannot tolerate those who believe, teach and preach that the tent of official representation should be much smaller than you want it to be. 

So, you are indeed exclusive in your inclusiveness.  You wish to exclude those who are not as inclusive as you are - at least from official paid representation of your own positions that you consider to be important.  As you observe for me, it seems like you also have this God-type view of the correctness of your position.  You think you're right!  - big shocker huh!  So does everyone with an opinion on anything.  And, you are willing to back up your position by removing from official employment those who you see as harmful to your obviously correct views of the world and of the nature of your view of church organization in particular.  You just don't want to give them your money to represent you.  And, I do sympathize with that.
You're really no different than us in your views.  You hold them just as strongly and you believe you're correct just as much as we do.  You are also willing to pick and choose who is going to represent your organization based on certain very strict criteria.  The only difference between us then is the criteria chosen to define the organization and its official representation.



4) Do you not see that the Adventist vision—its apocalypticism, its historic nonviolence, its prophetic distance from all political establishments—entails a profound moral difference between us and just any Christian denomination?  That moral difference is the REAL POINT—doctrine, you remember, SERVES PRACTICE—so why send people off to other (possibly Babylon-ish) churches just because they don’t agree with your reading of Genesis 1?  (I love Genesis 1, and in my new book, “The Promise of Peace: Dare to LIVE the Advent Hope,” I contrast it—I think insightfully—with the creation story in the Gilgamesh Epic; but it doesn’t have to be read your way; the great theologians of the early church didn’t read it your way—there’s no clear EVIDENCE, even, that NT writers did, although they may have.  NT writers surely would have known, though, that the main point is that the God of Jesus Christ made heaven and earth.)

I'm not sure on what basis you can even suggest that the NT writers didn't view the Genesis account in the same literal manner that I view it and that professor Barr views it.  The intent of the author(s) was obviously to present a literal narrative of real events - and that is quite clearly how the rest of the Biblical authors also viewed Genesis. 

The whole allegorical view is not Biblical at all and seems to have only gained significant popularity in modern post-Darwinian times. 

Also, the idea that only SDAs, as an organization, are against church acquisition of civil powers and its non-violent position as well as its apocalyptic views, that's simply not true.  Many other organizations also favor separation of church and state and are non-violent as well.  The whole apocalyptic prophetic view of the church is also shared by many other denominations.  Holding such views at the expense of all other stated SDA doctrines is hardly a reason to remain SDA.  And, it is certainly not a basis, by itself, to expect to be recognized by the organized SDA Church as a paid representative of the Church as a pastor or teacher given that one rejects all the other stated fundamental doctrinal positions of the Church. 

General fellowship is one thing.  Becoming a paid representative is quite another level.



Appreciate the conversation.  Hope I’m misunderstanding you a bit.

Likewise . . .  I do thank you for taking the time to share and to clarify your thoughts and positions on these important issues.  It has been most interesting . . .










Diversity Within Limits

On Thu, Jun 4, 2009 at 11:14 AM, Scriven Charles wrote:

Thanks.  As I said, I don’t want to exhaust you. 

Hasn't happened for the past 15 years that I've been doing this on almost a daily basis. This particular topic is a hobby of particular interest for me - in case you couldn't tell ; )


Just two things (that stick in my mind) to ask questions about?


The church IS the government of the church?  That sounds more papist than Protestant.  How does it square with 1 Peter 2:9,10, where the “you” is (as I believe) all members?  What has happened to “the priesthood of all believers”?

Not everything Catholic is wrong . . .

"Many are called, but few are chosen" (Mat. 22:14).  Jesus goes on to explain that, "narrow is the way... and few there be that find it" (Mat. 7:14).

Now, don't get me wrong. I certainly believe in the Paul's argument of Romans 12:5.  We do indeed make up the "Body of Christ" in the form of the Church.  However, like all living bodies, there is no body without very careful organization and control of the individual members of the body.  When a group of individual members decides it does not want to submit to the controlling order of the body, it becomes a cancer to the body which will eventually kill the body as an organization of individual parts that forms a unique body.

Remember, "Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand" (Mat. 12:25).

So, without church order and government, there is no church.  A random collection of individuals with divergent non-unified tasks does not a body make.  A functional body must be unified in purpose and function by a system of order and government. 

Now, this is not to say that the Body of Christ is limited to those who assent to the government of the SDA Church alone.  After all, it was Jesus who said, "Other sheep have I who are not of this fold" (John 10:16).   However, the different folds have different tasks to do and their own order and governments which must be maintained for each to remain viable as a unique entity. 

A few comments from the early struggles of the SDA Church in initially trying to resist producing an orderly church government but soon realizing its necessity are interesting in this regard:

“As our numbers increased, it was evident that without some form of organization there would be great confusion, and the work would not be carried forward successfully. To provide for the support of the ministry, for carrying the work in new fields, for protecting both the churches and the ministry from unworthy members, for holding church property, for the publication of the truth through the press, and for many other objects, organization was indispensable.”—“Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers,” p. 26.

“O how Satan would rejoice if he could succeed in his efforts to get in among this people, and disorganize the work at a time when thorough organization is essential, and will be the greatest power to keep out spurious uprisings, and to refute claims not endorsed by the word of God! We want to hold the lines evenly, that there shall be no breaking down of the system of organization and order that has been built up by wise, careful labor.”—“Gospel Workers,” p. 487.

“There is order in heaven, and God is well pleased with the efforts of His people in trying to move with system and order in His work on earth. I saw that there should be order in the church of God, and that system is needed in carrying forward successfully the last great message of mercy to the world.”—“Testimonies for the Church,” Vol. I, p. 191.


 On the following there’s just a difference between us: When I say I would not hire certain people to do certain jobs, I am aware of (and at ease with) the fact that many in a position to make hires WOULD hire the very ones I might have doubts about.  Again, this is complicated.  But it just seems ungenerous, as perhaps even prideful, to suggest (as I think you do in your argument) that the only people with a right to hire anyone as a “paid representative” of the Adventist church’s “government” are those who would make exactly the hiring decisions as you?

No.  Those who are given the power to hire by the government of the Church do not have the right to hire employees who are known to have individual goals that are in direct conflict with the stated fundamental goals of the Church as an organized body. That would be a moral wrong - an inherently deceptive underhanded practice.

That's what government is all about.  A manager in the Nike organization who knowingly hired a declared agent of Reebok, should be fired along with the Reebok agent.  They are obviously both working against the Nike organization in their actions. The same thing is true in the military.  An officer of the US Army who knowingly solicited the services or promoted any soldier to directly work against a stated goal of the US Army would be considered to be a traitor to the US Government.

How can you not see that no one within any organization can knowingly work toward undermining the stated fundamental goals of the government of that organization and expect to maintain financial support as a representative of that organization?

If one within any government wishes to affect a change in the stated goals of that government, that person should work through the proper channels of communication and line of command.  If this still does not work, and the goals of the government are significantly at odds with one's personal goals, it is perfectly fine to leave that government and try to affect one's personal goals as part of a different government that is more in line with the personal goals. 

So, what have I done in this particular case?  The stated fundamental positions of the SDA Church, as an organization, are quite clear.  I'm just asking why certain groups who claim to be representatives of this organization, paid representatives, are actually acting in direct conflict with the Church's stated fundamental position?  I'm asking for clarification of this issue.  If this is indeed the will of the organized Church body, I will quickly bow out and say no more as a member of the SDA Church.  Otherwise, if the SDA Church, as an organization, upholds its fundamental position and stated goals, then it seems to me that I am in perfect rights, as a "good soldier" to call out the warning of invasion within the ranks - to notify the body as a whole so that it can be aroused to whatever it considers to be appropriate action. 


That’s a recipe for in-breeding—and in every domain of human aspiration, religious or otherwise, sheer in-breeding stifles creativity and impact.  Difference enriches.  (Within limits, of course; we may be closer together on these matters than you think.)

It is a nice sounding sound bite to say, "differences enrich" - and I actually agree.  The body would be in a very sorry state indeed if all the individual parts were exactly the same.  The body needs different parts with different talents and functionality.  However, the body also needs these differences to be very ordered and governed toward unified goals and action. 

Therein lies the concept, as you hint at, of diversity within limits.  These limitations in the form of church government are what allow the church to exist as a viable entity. 

Of course, you argue that you are not in charge, so you are just fine with whoever does the hiring and firing.  The point is that if you were in charge, you would certainly base your employment decisions on very exclusive criteria that are in line with your own philosophy of truth.  You have admitted as much when you said that you wouldn't hire individuals like Clifford Goldstein or me to perform certain tasks in your church or school - even if we were otherwise appropriately credentialed. 

Now, if you were in charge, and the Church, as an organization, declared that your way was now the new goal of the Church, I wouldn't raise a ruckus. It would be "game over" at that point for me. I would just leave your Church and join or start a new one.  No big deal. 

Again, this isn't meant to be personal.  I would still like you even though I wouldn't want to be a member of a church of your design.  We could still have a great time playing golf and going fishing though!  ; )










The following are selected portions of an E-mail between Dr. Gary Bradley, professor of genetics and biology at La Sierra University, and a student at LSU:

Relevant Quote from Bradley letter (dated May 13, 2009):

6. If you will look at the data and the literature you will find that there are thousands of papers arguing for the veracity of radiometric dating for every one that you can find suggesting that half-lives are labile. Most of my most conservative SDA friends even concede that.


7. The old argument about the "circular reasoning" that you charge is disputed by most scientists who are knowledgeable about the data -- even many conservative SDA's.


8. A major point of the John Day story is that there are multiple layers, each of which is a complete ecosystem covered by ash. This data eloquently argues for a long time.


9. "Apologetics" refers to the attempt to support a religious idea by discrediting evolutionary thought. This is usually done by ignoring the bulk of the data, finding "errors" made by working scientists, and then saying that the entire body of data is invalid.


10. Of course no one will succeed in covering absolutely everything that was presented, but the successful papers will choose the most important lines of evidence possible and not just those that seem vulnerable to an alternative position.

Please spend the bulk of this paper demonstrating that you know the mainstream data and interpretations. Don't pick out a few items. Organize the mass of data that has been presented. After having written that paper, add in the paragraphs that you requested, but don't make them the bulk of the paper.

[Student C], I am sorry about my dismal failure to communicate our assignment. It upsets me deeply.

[Signed] Gary


Gary Bradley

Dr. Bradley earned a B.S. degree from Pacific Union College in 1963, and an M.A. degree from Loma Linda University in 1967. He received his Ph.D. degree in Genetics from the University of California at Davis in 1982. He has been a faculty member in the department since 1972.


The "Lunatic Fringe":

La Sierra University professor, Gary Bradley, promises to continue to promote the theory of evolution, with life evolving over millions of years of time, as the only reasonable true story of origins in his classroom - - regardless of the official letters and recommendations of the leaders of the SDA Church (which Bradley dubs the "lunatic fringe").

From an article posted today by:  Inside Higher Ed (9/1/09):

Professor Not Changing Course

Bradley, who is semi-retired after 38 years at La Sierra, has seen evolution debates erupt on campus before -- and his traditional response is to “dive under the desk and wait for them to blow over.” In this instance, Bradley says he has the backing of his president, who wrote a letter to faculty, staff and trustees affirming the university’s role in the “important conversation of science and faith.”

“We at La Sierra University are continuing to examine how we teach the science relevant to origins in supportive, Adventist, Christian environment,” wrote Randal Wisbey, the university’s president. “We continue to welcome input made in a spirit of constructive Christian fellowship and which is respectful of scientific integrity -- recognizing that while we may not fully agree on everything, our mutual concern is always for unity in love to our Lord and service to His children.”

Wisbey did not respond to interview requests Monday.

The university plans to add a seminar for biology students in which theologians and scientists will discuss the intersections of faith and science. The university has also updated its Web site, listing “important reasons to study biology” on the campus. Students can expect to “study with professors who all deeply believe in God as the Creator of everything,” the site notes. While biology students will be expected to learn theories of evolution, they also “will be introduced to Seventh-day Adventist understandings of Creation, centered in the Genesis account, which reveals the Creator as a personal and loving God,” according to the site.

Bradley says he’s felt no pressure to change anything about his course, and says bluntly that he doesn’t plan to turn his class into a theological seminar, or to present evolutionary theory only to then dismantle it for students. While he’s fine with helping students work through struggles of faith, Bradley says he won’t undercut decades of peer reviewed scientific research in the interest of religious consistency.

“I am not OK with getting up in a science course and saying most science is bullshit,” he said.

Neither Bradley nor Greer have the protections of tenure. Bradley had tenure, but willingly gave it up in a deal to scale back his responsibilities in a phased retirement. Greer, who did not respond to an interview request Monday, is on the tenure track.

Faculty at La Sierra do not have to be members of the Seventh Day Adventist church -- unless they want tenure.

“I hope this will change,” Bradley said. “One cannot be tenure-track if they’re not a member. I’m embarrassed to say that, but it is true.”

Bradley joined the church as a boy, but when asked if he was a practicing Adventist, he said “On record, yes. You can read into that whatever you want.”

“It’s very, very clear that what I’m skeptical of is the absolute necessity of believing that the only way a creator God could do things is by speaking them into existence a few thousand years ago,” Bradley added. “That’s where my skepticism lies. That’s the religious philosophical basis for what I call the lunatic fringe. They do not represent the majority position in the Church, and yes I’m skeptical of that. But I want to say to kids it’s OK for you to believe that, but it’s not OK for you to be ignorant of the scientific data that’s out there.”


Response of LSU's PR Department:

LSU Statement
September 1, 2009
Larry Becker

Statement on Recent Article Regarding
La Sierra University Biology Department

Dr. Gary Bradley, semi-retired biology professor in the Department of Biology of La Sierra University, gave an interview to an internet-based higher education news service on August 31, in which he shared his perspectives on the discussion of how creation and evolution are taught in La Sierra University classrooms. Dr. Bradley does not speak on behalf of the university or the biology department. Some of Dr. Bradley’s statements as reported in the article posted September 1 do not reflect the views of the university. They are his views alone.

La Sierra University is fully mindful of its responsibilities and commitments as a Seventh-day Adventist institution of higher education. This includes a whole-hearted support for the doctrines, teachings and tenets of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which certainly include, but are broader than, the 28 Statements of Fundamental Beliefs. The university is also committed to a spirit of inquiry in its classrooms and laboratories that reflects the exhortation of 1 Thessalonians 5:21 to “Prove all things; hold fast to what is good.”

Dr. Bradley has served with distinction for 38 years as a biology professor at La Sierra University. During this time, he helped to academically prepare numerous biology researchers and health care professionals who continue to serve the world and the Church with a strong sense of devotion to God and a high level of competence. Nevertheless, the university is saddened that some of his statements, as reported in this interview do not reflect the university’s commitment to help our students navigate the important issues of faith and science in the context of Seventh-day Adventist higher education.

For more information:
Larry Becker
Executive Director, University Relations
La Sierra University
4500 Riverwalk Parkway
Riverside, CA 92515




AN APPEAL - Elder Jan Paulsen statements/an-appeal.html

I place this before you in awareness of an ongoing discussion in some quarters between faith and science, particularly as it relates to origins and creation.

For us as a community it has always been of utmost importance to stay close to the Scripture. Faith has that as its final point of reference. We must not allow ourselves to come adrift from the Bible in defining our values and in stating what we hold.

Our position as a church in the matter of origins is clearly although somewhat broadly stated in our Fundamental Beliefs. This position is further amplified in a statement voted by the General Conference Executive Committee at the 2004 Annual Council. To remind ourselves of the details of that action, I have included the wording in this appeal:

  • "We strongly endorse the document's affirmation of our historic, biblical position of belief in a literal, recent, six-day Creation.

  • We urge that the document, accompanied by this response, be disseminated widely throughout the world Seventh-day Adventist Church, using all available communication channels and in the major languages of world membership.

  • We reaffirm the Seventh-day Adventist understanding of the historicity of Genesis 1-11: that the seven days of the Creation account were literal 24-hour days forming a week identical in time to what we now experience as a week; and that the Flood was global in nature.

  • We call on all boards and educators at Seventh-day Adventist institutions at all levels to continue upholding and advocating the church's position on origins. We, along with Seventh-day Adventist parents, expect students to receive a thorough, balanced, and scientifically rigorous exposure to and affirmation of our historic belief in a literal, recent six-day creation, even as they are educated to understand and assess competing philosophies of origins that dominate scientific discussion in the contemporary world.

  • We urge church leaders throughout the world to seek ways to educate members, especially young people attending non-Seventh-day Adventist schools, in the issues involved in the doctrine of creation.

  • We call on all members of the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist family to proclaim and teach the church's understanding of the biblical doctrine of Creation, living in its light, rejoicing in our status as sons and daughters of God, and praising our Lord Jesus Christ--our Creator and Redeemer."

I appeal to all engaged by our church in the ministries of administration, preaching, teaching, and writing to articulate and reflect our stand as a community on Creation. We are a faith-community, and the world of faith is the world in which God's creative powers are on constant display. Sometimes the findings of science may reflect some of this, but often not. Faith is certainly not subject to findings of science.

To those who teach at our colleges and universities, let me say that you have a demanding, often difficult, but sacred assignment. It is a ministry you hold in trust. It is understood that to care for your ministry responsibly you have to take your students on many a journey of findings into various disciplines of study. They need to know what they will meet in their profession and in life. As part of that exercise you will also expose them to the elements and concepts of evolution. That is understood.

As your pastor, however, I appeal to you that when you take your students out on the journey, you bring them safely back home before the day is over. And their home must always be in the world of faith. You owe it to the students, you owe it to God, you owe it to their parents, you owe it to the church, and you owe it to yourself as a believer to safely guide them through difficult moments on their journey.

This appeal comes with the greatest respect for your integrity and your professional skills. But you are also my sister and brother in faith, and we share a common commitment to God to whom we shall ultimately bring the fruits of our labor. I pray that he will give to each of us the strength that accompanies faithfulness.

Jan Paulsen



My Comments:


I congratulate Elder Paulsen for at least publicly addressing an issue that is becoming more and more prominent within the SDA Church.  The cognitive dissonance of promoting Darwinian style evolution occurring over hundreds of millions, even billions, of years is becoming so prominent and so widespread in our schools, and even churches, that it can no longer be swept under the rug and ignored.  


It was good of Paulsen to reiterate the very specific SDA statements on origins as a fundamental doctrinal position which highlights the belief in a literal interpretation of the Genesis account of origins.  


The only fault I have with Paulsen's thoughts here is his suggestion that faith trumps science -  that faith and science are somehow independent of each other.  This simply isn't true.  The reason for faith is science and science itself is not devoid of a component of faith.  True science and rational faith will compliment each other.  Both go hand in hand since faith without reason is blind and worthless as a source of solid hope in a bright literal physical future reality. It should then be argued that the Church's "reason" for faith is based on very good evidence, scientific evidence in fact, of the reliability of the Biblical statements as they relate to physical realities that can be tested and evaluated in a scientific manner.


The argument that the Bible is not a scientific text and that it says nothing about science or the physical testable world is nonsense.  If the physically testable and verifiable statements of the Bible could clearly be shown to be false, the metaphysical claims and authority of the Bible over Spiritual matters would also be called into question to the same degree (as in the reason Jesus gave for physically healing the paralytic as evidence of his metaphysical claim to be able to forgive sins).  This is why we give the Bible much greater authority and reverence compared to other "good books" or religious-type texts - such as the Book of Mormon or the writings of Mohammad. Why? Because the writings of the Bible are backed up by physically verifiable/testable statements that have turned out to be very reliable indeed - even after extensive testing and investigation. 


This is why the claims of mainstream scientists are so important when it comes to the basis of SDA theology as it is stated by the organized Church.  The success of mainstream science does in fact mean the clear undeniable undermining of the very basis of Adventism.  If one is convinced that science clearly demonstrates the implausibility of there really being a literal creation week for all life on Earth, it is impossible for that person, as a professor in one of our institutions, to "bring them [the students] back home" into the arms of the stated fundamental SDA beliefs.  No theistic evolutionist could possibly do this.  And, it would be wrong to ask this of them - morally wrong.  Why? Because it would be asking the theistic evolutionist to go against his/her own internal fundamental convictions that mainstream science is right and the SDA Church organization is wrong.


The only way a professor in one of our institutions can actually teach about the theory of evolution, without actually promoting it, and then bring the students "back home" is if the professor actually believes in the doctrine of a literal creation week and thinks that he/she actually has good scientific evidence to support this doctrinal belief.  That's the only way that this can possibly done with any useful degree of effectiveness. 

Otherwise, if the Church hires theistic evolutionists as its teachers, the game is over.  The Church will eventually loose the conviction of its youth for its cherished fundamental doctrines. It will then crumble over time into oblivion.


Sean Pitman, M.D. 





Deceptive La Sierra University Advertisement:





When your son or daughter studies biology at La Sierra University, he or she:

  • Will study with professors who all deeply believe in God as the Creator of everything.

  • Will be introduced to Seventh-day Adventist understandings of Creation, centered in the Genesis account, which reveals the Creator as a personal and loving God.

  • Will be introduced to theories of evolutionary process, focusing on speciation and adaptation, with which students are expected to be conversant as they prepare for success in graduate school and career.

  • Will study with professors who have earned the highest degrees in their field, and are active in scientific research.

  • Will use the same textbook in General Biology that is used by Adventist colleges and universities in North America and is used by most biology classes in the nation.

  • Will study with professors who help students navigate issues of faith and science, in and out of the classroom, so that their faith in God is strengthened.

The best reason you can choose La Sierra University for your child’s education is what our students tell us: It is at La Sierra University that their faith is firmly established for lives of service to God and to humanity. As one of our 2009 graduating biology majors expressed it:


     “La Sierra had my back. When I questioned my purpose and God’s existence, they pulled me to First Service, to devotionals, to worships. They pulled me into countless offices and prayed for me...Life rarely does what you expect it to do. But that doesn’t mean that God’s the question. He is the answer.”


And this from a current biology major:


    “They aren’t teaching evolutionary theory as fact at LSU. We are presented with evidence identified by the scientific community, and informed of different methods and measurement tools by which that evidence and certain biological processes are assessed. We are able to make use of laboratory equipment to conduct experiments and can ask questions of our professors if we have any...

     In the SDA academy that I attended, my science teacher never wanted to engage in any discussion or deal with any questions from students about evolution. Just the word was enough to elicit fear. So I, and other students like me, came to La Sierra University without any level of understanding at all regarding evolutionary theory. Imagine how tense it got in the classroom when a professor announces that we will be learning about it. It was completely new to me, but I was able to spend time both in and out of class discussing it with my professor. He didn’t push anything on me. He didn’t encourage me to question the existence of God. In fact, more than ever, I gained a new level of appreciation of the incredible beauty and detail of God’s creation. And I gained an understanding of (not belief in) evolutionary theory so that when needed, I can engage in discussion with individuals who do not know my God. The experience strengthened my faith.”




This advertisement claims that the LSU students "Will study with professors who all deeply believe in God as the Creator of everything", but this ad fails to mention that the LSU professors will explain to their students that God used the Darwinian mechanism of random mutations/natural selection to create everything over hundreds of millions, even billions, of years of time of cruelty and "Survival of the Fittest".  Why not mention this little fact in the ad?  After all, this is in fact what LSU science professors are teaching their students as the gospel truth. 


Of course, the ad does mention that LSU students "Will be introduced to Seventh-day Adventist understandings of Creation, centered in the Genesis account, which reveals the Creator as a personal and loving God."  If so, this introduction is most brief indeed, and only presented to the students in order to explain to them that the stated SDA position on origins, which includes a literal creation week for all life on this planet, is clearly mistaken.  That is definitely what the LSU science professors are telling their students about the stated SDA position on origins - that it is just plain wrong.  If you don't believe me, try asking McCloskey, Bradley, Grismer or Greer if they believe in a literal creation week or if they promote this story of origins to their students as the most likely explanation for the origin of life on this planet.  Or, go and read their syllabi and lecture notes at: category/evidence/


Yet, this LSU ad goes on to suggest that the LSU professors will "help students navigate issues of faith and science, in and out of the classroom, so that their faith in God is strengthened."  But faith in what kind of God?  Certainly one can beleive in some form of God and be a theistic evolutionist.  That's certainly not a problem - especially if you're Hindu.  However, the stated SDA perspective on God is fundamentally at odds with the perspective being presented in the LSU science departments.  They simply aren't the same - not even close.  To illustrate my point, the anonymous student quoted by the ad at the end arguing that the LSU professors "strengthened my faith" no longer believes in the reality of a literal creation week.  His faith was indeed strengthened - in theistic evolution that is.  However, his faith in the SDA perspective on its "fundamental" position on origins was completely demolished at LSU.  Don't ask me how I know this, because the student wishes to remain anonymous.  However, if you don't believe me, just ask the originator(s) of this little LSU advertisement if I am correct or not . . .


So, if the SDA Church, as an organization, wishes to continue to put up with such cognitive dissonance and outright deception in advertising on the part of its own institutions, I worry for the continued viability of the Church.  The youth of the Church aren't that stupid.  Many throughout all Christian denominations are leaving their churches because they are being told that the Bible cannot be trusted as it reads, that mainstream science is far more trustworthy when it comes to determining both physical and metaphysical truths.  The force of the Bible as a trustworthy moral guide and source for a solid hope in the reality of a truly glorious physical future is being dashed to pieces, not from those outside of the Church, but from those within.  Again, if you don't believe me, read the following ( Link ) on an interesting study that has just come out on this issue entitled, "Why are young people are leaving the church: Ground breaking study says Sunday School makes exit more likely."


So, if you are at all concerned by the outright deception that is taking place at LSU regarding what is really being presented to LSU students as "the truth", by all means, make your voice heard.  Send letters to the leaders of LSU and to the leaders of the SDA Church at large.  You can also comment on the website and sign a petition regarding this issue petition/Sixdaycreation/index. html.




Sean Pitman, M.D.




Re: Adventist Evolution: An Adventist Pastor’s Reply to ...



Why are "Doctrines" important?


Many people confuse "doctrines" with "salvation".  Doctrines aren't about salvation or even what it takes to be saved.  Knowledge, by itself, is neutral.  It doesn't save or condemn anyone.  However, it does have the power to make life better and more tolerable here and now.  It also has the power to provide a solid hope in the future.  


In short, you seem to be confusing what it takes to be saved, a love of God and a love of fellow man (the Royal Law of Love), with doctrines.  Doctrines don't save anyone.  Yet, doctrines are still important for they allow us to worship God with just a little bit more knowledge about him and his character and power.  Many worship God without knowledge, but their sincere efforts of purpose are still credited to them as righteousness.  However, there is still something to be said for worshiping God with a little bit more knowledge about him and his character which is worth sharing, as a blessing given from God, with the world. 


After all, God didn't have to tell us anything about himself or the reasons for the sorry state of the world in which we live at all.  He could have just surprised us all with the real story in the end after he resurrected us all and said, "By the way...".  Many who will be saved will in fact have never heard of Jesus or the story of the salvation.  But, how much better our lives, and how much more blessed we are, who have been given a much more direct revelation about God and the reason for all the evil in this world.  Aren't you grateful for this? and for the hope that it brings? I know I am . . .


Again, to reiterate, this isn't about establishing a basis for salvation, but about hope. The basis for salvation (i.e., Love) is very simple and doesn't require any set of doctrinal beliefs.  However, a solid basis for hope (and yes, a person without hope can be saved - and many will be saved and be very surprised to find themselves in a place like heaven) is a bit more involved and keeps expanding and growing with increasing knowledge.  Is being able to provide a solid hope in the future important?  I think so.  In fact, I think it is so important that it is worth dying for.  I know my own life isn't worth more than giving solid hope to another.


Sean Pitman


P.S.  Also, no one is saying that one has to be part of the SDA Church to be part of God's "remnant" people.  That's just not true.  The SDA Church does have a special message to deliver to the world, but Jesus made it very clear that he has many sheep that are not part of any one particular fold.  




Deliberately Deceptive PR at La Sierra University

Taken from

By Shane Hilde

In a recent effort to step up its PR campaign against allegations that evolution is being promoted in the biology department, La Sierra posted a video of fourth year Biomedical Science Major, Ramona Bahnam, giving her testimony about La Sierra’s biology department.

Bahnam gives a seeming strong testimony negating the allegations that La Sierra biology professors believe and promote the theory of evolution as the best explanation.

The interview is cut into short segments of Bahnam supposedly answering the questions that are flashed up on the screen. In her segment answering the question “How does the Biology program at La Sierra prepare you for the future,” Brahnam says:

The way that they approach evolution is that this is how it is, this is what it is, a theory, and you don’t have to believe it. But it’s good to know about it so you can argue the creationist view. Because if you’re ignorant about something, it’s really hard to argue the opposite. So its just informative mainly.

Her statement softly echoes a statement from Larry McCloskey’s winter quarter, 2009, Biology 112 syllabus under the section POTENTIALLY CONTROVERSIAL MATERIAL:

It is vitally important for you to realize that this course—as a science course—is describing evidence from mainstream science, and is not dealing with beliefs. Some will decide they cannot “believe” the scientific evidence, and it is your right to decide. This is encouraged and supported. If you expect to be competitive in any modern science-based profession, and hope to perform well on standardized or pre-professional qualifying exams, you must simply know what the scientific evidence is, whether or not you ‘believe’ it.

McCloskey, a devout evolutionist, presupposes that the scientific evidence supports the theory of evolution; however, he reassures his students that they don’t have to believe in the evidence at all. In a presentation from the same class, McCloskey has this on one of his slides:

There is nothing “theoretical” about the evidence supporting evolution. The research about evolution is ongoing and continues to support and refine Darwin’s original ideas. No data have been found to refute the idea. It is the single unifying explanation of the living world, and nothing makes much, if any, sense outside of this unifying theory. (Periods supplied because the sentences were in bullet points.)

This professor obviously does not approach evolution as just a theory. If any of the biology professors do believe it’s just a theory, then they believe it’s the best theory. Which one of these evolutionary biologists is suggesting that the theory of evolution is good to know “about it so you can argue the creationist view”?

So we’re supposed to believe that McCloskey was teaching evolution so that students could better argue the creationist view? That seems very unlikely considering the above quotations from him. There is no sign that evidence for creationism is even presented in any of the biology classes.

Brahnam’s statement, “So its just informative mainly,” could have packed a little more punch if she wasn’t talking about a biology department that was completely converted to evolutionism. Later, she says:

One of my big things was evolution because at previous institution they taught it as if it were fact. We had lectures from university professors who had lectures like when are we going to get rid of God.

Of course, McCloskey, possibly one of her professors at one point, says otherwise: “There is nothing “theoretical” about the evidence supporting evolution.” While McCloskey does not speak for the other professors, we can assume that the others, at the very least, believe the theory of evolution to be the better explanation.

When asked how La Sierra teaches about evolution, she said:

They told me, no no, it’s just a theory, it doesn’t mean it’s true. It’s there. Why do you need to know it? If you want to advance in science you need to know these things.

From this statement you would almost think that these professors, while ardent believers in the theory of evolution, are almost apologetic about the idea that evolution could be anything more than a theory. However, this contrasts deeply with Gary Bradley’s statement in an interview with Inside Higher Ed, where he said he wasn’t going to present the theory of evolution to only dismantle it for students. He also called those who believe God spoke things into existence only a few thousand years ago the “lunatic fringe.” Obviously, the theory of evolution is not just a theory for Bradley, and he hardly presents it as such.

In the Biology Capstone class, he gives a 69-slide presentation titled, “Hominin Evolution.” The fourth slide says: “Recent years have shown a dramatic increase in the discovery of hominid species that are intermediate between the great apes and modern humans.” He also has another presentation on the fossil evidence of hominin evolution.

L. Lee Grismer is an expert on the vertebrate life of Baja California, which he argues in his papers has been affected by the “dynamic environmental history . . . over the last 4-5 million years” and that this history “has had a profound effect on the evolution, distribution, and genetic structuring of Baja California’s terrestrial vertebrates.” Check out his book “Amphibians and Reptiles of Baja California, Including Its Pacific Islands and the Islands in the Sea of Cortés.”

None of these professors believe in a literal, recent six-day creation. What professors is Bahnam talking about? Can we really believe these evolutionary biologists are just presenting the theory of evolution to be informative and to prepare students to be competitive in the scientific community? When the theory of evolution is being presented with the heavy bias of these professors to the exclusion of all evidence in support of creationism, then they are no longer just being informative. This type of propaganda only reveals La Sierra’s determination to cover up what their biology professors are only too honest not to hide.

La Sierra can spin their biology department anyway they want, but they can’t cover up the fact their biology professors are undermining the church’s position on origins.

Public date: November 20th, 2009
Categories: Articles, La Sierra

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Comments (6) 

  1. Sean Pitman M.D. says:
    November 20, 2009

    Regarding the following video clip from the LSU PR department:

    This video seems like deliberate false advertising to me. I don’t know how LSU can put out such a video with a straight face given the very direct testimony of LSU professors like Bradley, Greer, Grismer and others who aren’t just teaching “about” the theory of evolution, as suggested by this video clip, but are in fact promoting the modern synthesis view of the theory of evolution as the gospel truth to their students.

    Senior LSU biology professor Gary Bradley specifically said, in a public interview with a secular journal, that he wasn’t about to challenge mainstream science for the nonsense notion of a literal creation week … with the use of expletives and a reference to those who believe in a literal creation week as the “lunatic fringe”.

    Come on now, why can’t LSU at least admit what its own teachers are actually promoting in their own classrooms? At least be transparent… at the very least be honest.

    I’m beginning to have my doubts about any sincere efforts to actually reform LSU on the part of the LSU or even Church leadership. I mean really, if you can’t even admit that there ever was a real problem how can you hope to fix it?

    Sean Pitman  




    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 8 Thumb down 6

  2. Erik says:
    November 20, 2009

    Q: Why did you decide to come to La Sierra University?
    A: I was gonna go to UCLA or UC Berkeley. The reason I decided to come here is because I wanted to grow as a person, I wanted to grow as a human being, and I wanted to learn…because one of my big things WAS evolution–that was…because at the previous institution they taught it as if it were a fact. You know, we had lectures from university professors who, who, you know lectures like, “when are we gonna get rid of God?”–and just, stuff that would make me cry! and I’m like, “No! Like this can’t be!”–you know, like “What’s going on?!” So I just felt like, you know, if I went to this bigger…big institutions, if I stayed there, then I’d remain clueless and I wouldn’t be able to make that big of a difference that I wanna make….”

    The above transcription of her answer demonstrates that she had received anti-God (atheistic) lectures from evolutionist professors at a “previous institution.” Since these were “university professors,” this may have been a university.

    Now, notice her response here:

    Q: How do professors teach about evolution at La Sierra?
    A: Ever since I came here I asked them…”would it, would it, how, wh-wh, te-tell me about evolution…I don’t know, I mean, I don’t know anything…this is what I’ve heard, is it true? I’m kinda scared, I don’t know what to think”…and they explained everything to me, and they told me, “No, no, no…like, it’s just a theory…you know…doesn’t mean it’s true…but this is, this, it’s there. Why do you need to know it? You need to know it because if you wanna advance in science, you know, you need to know these things….”

    Coming from such strongly-evolutionist teaching, it surprises me that she would still feel she knew nothing about it, and need to ask her La Sierra professors about it. In another portion of the “interview” she speaks of the strong relationship she has with her professors there, as if they were close and personal friends. Knowing how friends will influence friends….

    The whole thing seemed a bit unnatural to me, as if it were staged. If they had wanted to make it appear like a genuine interview, they needed to show the interviewer on camera a time or two as well. With the girl looking off to the side of the camera, and no interviewer ever seen or heard, it’s odd. They should have had her speaking directly toward the camera, as if she were unashamed to face her audience. (I’m not saying she was embarrassed, only that the interview has room for improvement if they want to make a positive impact.)





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  3. Victor Marshall says:
    November 20, 2009

    Is Ramona Bahnam talking about the same Biology Department and the same university? Is she talking about a completely different group of professors than the ones who have been implicated? Her presentation is so diametrically opposed to all of the evidence presented on this site one has to wonder.
    Instead of students being driven from Adventist colleges because of their experience in LSU’s science department, many of her friends have been instead converted to Adventism through the science professors and program. Instead of presenting evolution as the only rational (factual) explanation for the evidence, she says her professors are saying that it is only a theory that you need to know for professional advancement – and to be able to defend creationism! Instead of the professors undermining the faith of students through the blatant promotion of theistic evolution – they are actually great role models of the Adventist faith who strongly promote science from the standpoint of the Adventist faith. What is wrong with this picture?

    The formal response of the board states, “The Board of Trustees has heard and taken to heart the concern that Seventh-day Adventist beliefs and teachings have not been given appropriate priority in biology curriculum and instruction.” This is not the real concern that has been expressed by the concerned grievants. The real concern is that core Adventist creationism has been directly undermined by the blatant promotion of theistic evolution. Since the Board has not clearly articulated the genuine concern, and since they have issued this video which seeks to totally controvert the genuine concern – I would have to conclude that the board has not really taken anything ‘to heart.’  




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  4. Ron Stone M.D. says:
    November 20, 2009


    Great analysis of the REAL problem we have, which is absolutely spineless “leaders” at LSU! It’s a tradition at La Sierra, as previous President Lawrence Geraty proves.  




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  5. Victor Marshall says:
    November 20, 2009

    If the claims of this video are indeed genuine. Then let the biology professors step forward to have their testimonies filmed in corroboration of Ms. Bahnam’s testimony.  




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  6. Erik says:
    November 20, 2009

    Victor Marshall: If the claims of this video are indeed genuine. Then let the biology professors step forward to have their testimonies filmed in corroboration of Ms. Bahnam’s testimony.  

    Excellent idea. Furthermore, let it be these professors: Bradley, Grismer, and Greer. It would even be nice to see McCloskey make some statement in support of God and Creation, although he has now retired.

    One has to wonder if Ms. Bahnam had any of these professors for her classes. Can LSU truly have two sides, so distinctly different, depending on a “luck of the draw” on professors? I hardly think so. If the professors do not all agree, there are still certain courses offered by each one, and any biology major would necessarily come into contact with all or nearly all of the professors (there are less than twelve of them).



Wisbey's response to this post on




______________________________ _____

Mr. Hilde:


I am outraged that you have used your web site, Educate, to attack one of our students at La Sierra University, our most precious resource in our church.  This young lady expressed her love for the Lord and appreciation for the experience she had in our biology classrooms.  She came to me personally asking to share her experience publicly.  You claim to care deeply about our students.  How can you then attack one of those students, especially one who was recently baptized as a result of her experience at La Sierra?  We know nothing that you have done to try to find out the truth about her experience at La Sierra. You simply attacked her words and even used a stock image of the word liar on a woman’s hand. 


We as a university demand that you take this posting down immediately, remove all the comments that followed, close further comments, and issue an apology to Ramona Bahnam. We will not tolerate attacks on our students.


In your endeavor to address an issue that you care deeply about, you have shown a willingness to attack not only professors, administrators, and board members, who are your fellow church members, but now you have shown a willingness to attack the very students you claim to protect.  It is my prayer that as a brother in this church you give serious and prayerful consideration to your motives and to your conduct and its impact on the Body of Christ. 


Randal Wisbey





Dear Dr. Wisbey,

We assume that the students attending LSU are innocent.  Our concern is with the LSU leadership who would think to take advantage of an innocent student, like Ramona Bahnam, to promote LSU with a PR video that is nothing less than blatant false advertising. 

Is it not true that this video attempts to portray the science professors at LSU as being in full support of the SDA position on origins? - to include creation during a literal creation week?  Is it not true that his video clearly gives the impression that the LSU science professors do not actually believe or actively promote the truth of the theory of evolution in their classrooms?  Is it really true that your professors only teach evolution as a false theory that LSU students need to understand, but which isn't really true?  - that LSU science professors actually believe in and actively support the SDA view on origins in their classrooms?  Is that not the PR impression given by this video? 

Now, in the light of the overwhelming evidence that many if not all of the LSU science professors, in particular, are in active support and promote of the truth and validity of the modern synthesis view of the theory of evolution within their classrooms, calling those who would wish to promote the idea of a literal creation week the "lunatic fringe", who should be upset here by such deliberate misrepresentation of what is really going on within LSU science classrooms? 

In short, we will not remove the clear evidence of what LSU is doing and trying to cover up by slick PR advertisements, with the use of innocent and/or naive students, until this issue is made clearly transparent to all who wish to know the truth of what LSU actively supports and promotes in its classrooms and is resolved.  We further suggest that you remove this very deceptive video from your website.  If you do this, we will remove our comments on it from ours.


Staff of








La Sierra University

Science Department Lectures and Syllabus



Lee Greer and Gary Bradley


Gary Bradley


Larry McCloskey

  • Deleted per request

Lee Grismer 

  • Deleted per request

Lee Greer

  • Deleted per request

Guest Speaker

  • Erv Taylor on Radiocarbon dating (deleted per request)











. Home Page                                                                           . Truth, the Scientific Method, and Evolution   

. Methinks it is Like a Weasel                                                 . The Cat and the Hat - The Evolution of Code   

. Maquiziliducks - The Language of Evolution             . Defining Evolution    

. The God of the Gaps                                                           . Rube Goldberg Machines  

. Evolving the Irreducible                                                     . Gregor Mendel  

. Natural Selection                                                                  . Computer Evolution  

. The Chicken or the Egg                                                         . Antibiotic Resistance  

. The Immune System                                                            . Pseudogenes  

. Genetic Phylogeny                                                                . Fossils and DNA  

. DNA Mutation Rates                                                            . Donkeys, Horses, Mules and Evolution  

. The Fossil Record                                                                . The Geologic Column  

.  Early Man                                                                                . The Human Eye  

. Carbon 14 and Tree Ring Dating                                     . Radiometric Dating  

 . Amino Acid Racemization Dating                   . The Steppingstone Problem

.  Quotes from Scientists                                                           . Ancient Ice

 . Meaningful Information                                                          . The Flagellum

 . Harlen Bretz                                   . Milankovitch Cycles

 . Kenneth Miller's Best Arguments




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