Confessions of a Badventist – Part 1 – The Bird’s the Word

Part 1.

I recently read an article about a bird called the Aldabra Rail that lives on the Aldabra Atoll in the Indian Ocean. It is a flightless bird that exists nowhere else on the planet. In fact, it is the only remaining flightless bird in the entire region.

The Aldabra Rail is a subspecies of the White-Throated Rail (dryolimnas cuvieri if ya nasty), which is a bird you might find in a place like Madagascar, but the White-Throated Rails are not flightless. In fact, they are a species with a very specific and somewhat unique flight pattern or persistent colonization. They build up large populations wherever they happen to be until, likely due to lack of food, they will, en masse, fly off in all different directions never to return again. It’s quite typical to see birds fly off together as a flock and stay together, like birds flying south for the winter, but that’s not what White-Throated Rails do. They dissolve their communities and separate to forge new ones. Though this behavior isn’t fully understood, it happens every 50 years, or 100 years – or regular intervals. It’s something readily recordable and noticeable.

At some point, in one of these mass dispersions, the White-Throated Rail found the Aldabra Atoll. An atoll, if you don’t remember[1], is a ring-shaped island formed out of coral, sort of like the last cheerio in your cereal bowl. The Aldabra Atoll is made up of about four of these cheerios that just so happen to be large enough to support life small enough to feed the White-Throated Rail. However, it is not a large enough island to support life large enough to threaten the White-Throated Rail or its food supply. It is simply too small and isolated. A bird is king in the atoll if one can find the atoll.

The White-Throated Rail, having no predators to evade and no reason to execute its bicentennial dispersions, began predominately walking to find food on the ground or in the crevices of the coral. Over generations, the physical bone structure of the Rails on the Aldabra Atoll began to change. Leg bones took on more density, the birds became heavier, not individually but uniformly, but their wings did not keep up. Eventually, the Rails on the Atoll were rendered flightless.

On this isolated group of islands, and only there, the White-Throated Rail had become something else. A new bird; no longer migrating, settling, building, then flying away, but a new bird that cannot fly, cannot migrate. They won’t leave the atoll. They can’t leave the atoll.

A flightless bird on an island no flightless bird can reach.

If that weren’t odd enough, the article’s whole point was that this entire process had happened before. As can happen on an atoll, because of the type and size of these islands, a rise in ocean levels can flood them. The fossil records indicate the Aldabra Atoll flooded 136,000 years ago as the sea levels rose, and all life on the island was destroyed. Included in those fossils, were bones of the flightless Aldabra Rail – bones distinct from the White-Throated Rail but compatible with the Aldabra Rails alive today. The Aldabra Rail had developed on the atoll before, but unable to fly, had become extinct in the flood.

Some subsequent time later, sea-levels fell, and the Aldabra Atoll resurfaced. Plantlife returned. Sea turtles returned. Birds returned. Eventually, during another random dispersion event, the White-Throated Rail found the Aldabra Atoll again. Examination and dating of rail bones from the atoll, dated more recently, around 100,000 years ago, showed that the Rails had returned and were already showing signs of losing the ability to fly again. It is believed that within perhaps 20,000 years[2] the White-Throated Rail on Aldabra began to lose flight.

Pre-flood fossils and bones of the Rails on Aldabra today are significantly more similar to each other than either is to the White-Throated Rail from which they both descended. One species of bird, probably from Madagascar, in two different, random dispersion events, landed on the same small ring-shaped coral islands and, due to their surroundings, both eventually patently lost the ability to fly in the same way. In so doing, a species that was not, became, died, and found a way to resurrect itself, all from the random flight patterns of the White-Throated Rail.

The development of the Aldabra Rail is an example of something called Iterative evolution. Iterative evolution is defined as the repeated development of similar or parallel structures in the development of the same mainline. Iterative evolution is finding extinct, flightless Rails in the fossil record and yet being able to go find one, alive, today. “Evolution” is having a flightless bird on an isolated atoll in the middle of an ocean at all. That the bird exists at all, proves the process of evolution is at work in the world.

So, why am I telling you about this article? Because it is one of the countless, wonderful examples of the dichotomous life an educated Seventh-Day Adventist must lead: “science geek” Will James finds this article and this bird’s history infinitely fascinating, but “devout Seventh-Day Adventist” Will James is technically, doctrinally barred from believing any of this article is accurate.

Let me explain for the uninitiated: Seventh-Day Adventism is a protestant Christian denomination that adheres to a very specific understanding of what “Scripture” is. Part of that understanding is the belief in a strictly literal and historically accurate “Young Earth” creation as described in Genesis 1. Anything that does not confirm the literal historic accuracy of Genesis 1 is seen as objectively incorrect and dangerous.

We have a document called “the 28 Fundamental Beliefs.” It’s not a secret manual or anything, it is a readily available, published, official document. It is technically the church’s official statement of beliefs that it, corporately, and its members, individually, must hold as defining characteristics. However, the document does not describe itself as the beliefs of a specific denomination. It states that these 28 fundamental beliefs are “the teaching of the Holy Scriptures.” They should be fundamental to all “Christians,” not just one sect.

Now, if you are dealing with the Infinite Divine Mystery, ‘28’ is a lot of beliefs to require as ‘fundamental’ to your membership, but that’s neither here nor there. For my purposes right now, I only want to mention Fundamental Belief #6. I’ve been an Adventist for a long time, well long enough to remember when there were only 27 Fundamental Beliefs[3], but up until 2014, this is how the bulk of the 6th Belief read:

“God is Creator of all things and has revealed in Scripture the authentic account of His creative activity. In six days the Lord made “the heaven and the earth” and all living things upon the earth, and rested on the seventh day of that first week. Thus, He established the Sabbath as a perpetual memorial of His completed creative work.”

Growing up in the Seventh-Day Adventist tradition, the church’s view on creation wasn’t optional. It was not a point where two Adventists can agree to disagree, such as the ordination of women[4]. The historicity of the Creation account is more important and intrinsic than most things to Adventism, but to understand that, you have to know a little about the church’s founding history.

Adventism is the product of a movement that began in the 1830s when a minister named William Miller began preaching on a prophecy of the soon return of Jesus. Miller and his growing following were convinced that Daniel 8’s “cleansing of the sanctuary in 2,300 days” was a prophecy that referred to Jesus’ second coming. Using the hermeneutic of “a day = a year,” Miller believed that this prophecy was not only calculable and determinable but imminent. He originally believed “the second coming of Jesus Christ is near, even at the door, even within twenty-one years,—on or before 1843.”[5] By the next decade, it is estimated that some 100,000 people in the American Northeast had left their churches and joined Miller’s movement to prepare themselves for the Second Coming. Many Millerites changed everything about their lives. They left jobs and family members, even sold their possessions to fund the spread of the message and prepare for the Advent.

After a couple of dates were considered and then reconsidered, it was finally determined that October 22, 1844, was the day prophesied in Daniel, and the day that Jesus would “cleanse the sanctuary” by returning to earth to ultimately claim those that had accepted and remained loyal in the faith and to this prophetic message, taking them back to Heaven with Him.

When this did not happen the Millerites were crushed. More than a decade of preparation, evangelism, ridicule, sacrifice, and perseverance with nothing to show for it. Outsiders, after years of being warned to turn from their ways and denominations and join the Millerites, saw the failure of this prophecy as vindication. Some turned to violence: a Millerite church was burned, others vandalized, congregations were attacked, shot at, and one even tarred and feathered.[6] The Millerites had given everything, risked everything, and many had now lost everything. October 22, 1844, became known as “The Great Disappointment.”

As the story goes, the very next day, a Millerite named Hiram Edson was walking through a cornfield instead of the main road, to avoid being publicly shamed. While in the field he claimed to have a vision that showed him that to “cleanse the sanctuary” on the Day of Atonement meant that the High Priest transitioned into the Most Holy Place of the Sanctuary to finish the work of ridding the tribe of Israel, ceremonially, of its sins. Hiram Edson began to believe that the Daniel 8 prophecy wasn’t about the Second Coming but about Jesus’s final act as High Priest just before returning to Earth. Maybe they hadn’t been wrong in how they interpreted the Scripture; maybe they were just wrong about what event it pointed to.

Two months later, a 17- year old girl named Ellen Harmon (later Ellen G. White), also began having visions. Hundreds of visions. Visions, that confirmed and dramatically built on Hiram Edson’s claim. Miller, Edson, and White, together, spawned a renewed desire to deeply search Scriptures for truth and purpose in the Millerites that remained.

Truths were discovered in the re-interpretation, of Daniel 8’s “2300 day cleansing” leading to the denominational defining Doctrines of the Sanctuary[7] and the Investigative Judgment,[8] wherein on October 22, 1844, Jesus began His final judgment on, first, those that have died claiming to be His followers, and then the living, searching for a remnant people who can join Him as priests. A feat achieved by meeting the requirements God placed on Adam in paradise – “perfect obedience, unblemished righteousness.”[9]

Purpose was found in returning to the devoted worship of “the God who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of waters” as John described in Revelation 14, and coming out the apostasies the Christian Church, at-large, had turned to. The most visible effect of this was memorialized by Sabbatarianism: the return to worship on the Seventh-Day Sabbath, and proper observance of the 4th Commandment – the Seal of God.

Seventh-Day Adventism was born from the death of Millerism and salvaging the wreckage and despair left by the Great Disappointment. It ultimately became a church identifying itself as the Remnant. Divinely tasked of tell the world to turn from the apostasies of cheap grace (“only believe and live”) and Sunday worship (which contradicts the will of the God of Creation and Sabbath.) These Adventist Truth’s were not just the result of intense study, they were redemption. They provided ultimate meaning to otherwise incredible devastation. Ellen White’s Great-Great Grandson said of those pioneers, decades later:

“For all these years they suffered uncertainty about what really happened in 1844, and found peace when they finally understood the ministry of Christ in the Most Holy place and its relation to the Sabbath truth,” [10]

The culmination of this new denomination was the groundbreaking book: Ellen G. White’s “The Great Controversy,” first published in 1858, and still the first book an Adventist will give you. Yet, at the same time that Ellen White, William Miller, and Hiram Edson were attempting to put the pieces back together in the decade following 1844, Darwin’s “The Origin of Species” was being developed. His first iterations of the concept were born in 1842, just prior to the 1843 date Miller originally preached, and his groundbreaking work was finally published in 1859.

Adventism, to its first subscribers, saw the concepts of evolution, common ancestors, and millions and billions of years emerging simultaneously with their new revelations as a direct attack from the Evil One – direct contradictions to “Thus saith the Lord.” They also saw any challenge to the literal accuracy of the Genesis 1 Creation Week as a threat to the Sabbath and their newfound purpose and significance. Adventism and Darwin’s new theories were seen as diametrically opposed on every level. Darwinism was Adventism’s evil twin.

Many other denominations viewed evolutionary ideas with similar theological apprehension and still do, but for the Adventist, it almost seemed personal. The Spirit of Prophecy had finally given a solution and a purpose to the inexplicable disappointment the founders had experienced after decades of commitment. Science was now testing their mettle; testing their faithfulness in what they still believed in the ‘final days.’ This was more than a disagreement about math. This was full-blown spiritual warfare – an attack on God’s Last Day warnings. God had given them a message to share, and the Devil had countered, giving the world this “new science.”

From an objective perspective, this is possible but fairly ill-advised. Darwin’s potential individual motivations aside, “Science” simply presents the evidence it has as it is observed. Science makes educated guesses, then tests them. It keeps what passes tests. It leaves behind what does not. Science isn’t interested in proving or disproving God, religion, or Creation. Science is interested in proving and disproving its own hypotheses. It, as an enterprise, is not taking a theological stance, no matter how many individual scientists might be willing to do so. “Is there a God or is there not one?” is an entirely different question than “how did all of this get here?” which is the question science seeks to answer. Similarly, “How did all of this get here?” is an entirely different question than “what kind of Divine Source put this all here?”, which is the question religions have sought to answer. These debates happen because each side is having a different conversation. But there was a time in life when I didn’t know that.

Growing up, evolution, and any quasi-related theory was viewed as another clever deception cunningly weaving itself, like the serpent in the Garden, into popular acceptance and academia. It was essentially an elaborate ruse, orchestrated to perfection, to deceive God’s people and destroy their faith. Radio Carbon dating, the fossil record, geological strata, cosmic distances all had some sinister mathematical error hidden in them to produce impossible ages in clear contradiction to biblical wisdom. The ruse had deceived so many. It sounded smart. It was simple enough to explain but complicated enough to not really comprehend and therefore really tricky to argue against (not too unlike the Doctrines of the Trinity, Incarnation, or the Sanctuary.)

Now, to be clear, what happened on the Aldabra Atoll is not necessarily the “type” of evolution that all creationism is at odds with. A bird becoming a different kind of bird, due to its surrounding conditions, is not outside of creationism’s umbrella – “And God created…. every winged foul after its kind.” A creationist doesn’t necessarily have to believe that God created every single specific animal that is currently in existence on day 6 of the creation week, just that God made all the animals from which the rest could be derived on day 6 of the first week.

However, this concession that the bird evolved flightlessness, becoming a “different bird” is already something with which Adventism wouldn’t agree. This would seem to encapsulate a type of “theistic evolution” (where God created/creates by evolutionary processes) that has been strictly forbidden for the Adventist – young-earth creationist. In a speech to educators at SDA institutions in 2014, Ted Wilson, President of the world-wide SDA church (17.9 million strong at the time), stated that life has only existed on Earth for a few thousand years and teachers who believe otherwise should not call themselves Seventh-Day Adventists, “do the honorable thing, and resign.” He admonished the teachers to “hold firmly to a literal recent creation and absolutely reject theistic and general evolutionary theory.” [11] Adventism teaches a completed creation of all things in that first week, and I’m not sure how much ‘evolutionary’ change, if any, even within kinds, the Adventist hermeneutic would allow.

Assuming the problem for the Adventist, is not the development of flightlessness in the same parent species of bird, twice on the same isolated island, the problem is definitely the timing. Perhaps, what science says happened could have happened: there is, factually, a flightless bird, that is very closely related to another flighted bird in the region, that lives on an island where it is impossible for a flightless bird to get to. In that sense, it evolved, but it couldn’t have been centered around an event 136,000 years ago, right? I mean, there are issues and various inconsistencies in the fossil record and scientific dating equations that allow for healthy skepticism, aren’t there? There must be.

As a student, I never gave any concept seemingly contradictory to a literal interpretation of Genesis 1 even the slightest of chances, even though I tried to absorb as much knowledge as I could get my hands on.  When I was 15, I was accepted into a highly selective math and science magnet school, which was the number 1 and 2 high school in the nation the years I attended.[12] I remember that, even with being the baby in the family, moving 90 miles away from my quiet hometown at 16 to live in a co-ed dorm at this magnet school in the state capital, my mother’s chief concern with my early departure from the nest was my exposure to evolutionary ideas. This wonderful education I was about to receive was also a perceived threat.

Playing with fire.

I taught myself to compartmentalize the interesting things I learned from the impossibly massive timeframes or distances they required. I knew proving Creation as the historical event described in the Biblical pages was not possible; that only faith could sustain you. However, I was also convinced that evolution was so slow a process and the Big Bang was so remote and distant an event as to lend both essentially imperceptible. These  were also not truly “provable.” Science, I figured, was a type of belief in its own. It had unanswered questions and contradictions. If anything, we both stood on equally shaky ground.

I just couldn’t let the ideas get in my brain so the roots couldn’t take hold, you know? I knew that a lot of the everyday practical scientific things I was learning, that were testable and provable, were subject to the same physical laws, concepts, and mathematics as the “taboo” evolutionary ideas in science, but “chewing the meat and spitting out the bones” was my divine test.

Learn…apply…but never believe.

This can be a tedious process when you consider how many scholarly scientific articles, documentaries, and discoveries tangentially pertain to things stated to be older than “biblically” possible, or visible light that’s further away than biblical timelines would allow. The most common outcome for someone like me is simply not to think through what denying the story would mean must be true or ignore them altogether. “Here’s some more ‘throw out a big number science’ mumbo jumbo. As smart as they are, they can’t seem to tell their head from Balaam’s ass.”[13]

As a person fascinated with scientific discovery, you can only skip over dates in paragraphs of scholarly articles for so long before you have to start asking some hard questions. You have to find ways to merge your perceived reality and your biblical viewpoint to function in society. So, I chipped away at my childhood understanding of creationism, if not to address my own personal doubts, as one truly shouldn’t have any doubts about divine truths [sarcasm][14], but to operate in a scientific world. Young Earth Creationists learn which scientific concessions can be made in a discussion with “other people” to not seem too naïve to have a discussion with, but this typically won’t change the strict literality with which they truly believe. For instance, I eventually came to realize that what I’d always been opposed to wasn’t even evolution in the first place but abiogenesis. What’s taboo was the idea that life sprang out of no-life, arbitrarily. That’s the baseline a fundamentalist cannot cross. It is doctrinally common to believe that the perfection created in Eden and Adam and Eve was required to have the Fall. If Humanity developed slowly through an evolving process, then death occurred prior to sin and outside of being a consequence of transgressing the law. This, we cannot have. It’s not the idea that living things can change over generations based on a number of factors affecting their genetics that Creationists are opposed to (so long as you don’t cross “kinds.”) You can ride that conversational fence in righteousness, but you still need life, on Earth, to be very, very young.

To have read a story about the Aldabra Rail, and maintain even an “evolved” young earth Christianity worldview, I could maybe have conceded to things like old stars, but I’d have trouble reconciling the fact that the scientific models that allow for my everyday existence suggest that this bird originally became extinct in a flood 136,000 years ago. My belief system would need it to have been significantly more recent, likely in Noah’s flood, a mere 4500 years ago. This then, would mean that I’d be arguing that this bird, within 4500 years, developed some differing characteristics than whatever prior common ancestor that hitched a ride on Noah’s ark, migrated from wherever the Ark landed to current day Madagascar, eventually became the White-Throated Rail if that’s not what it already was, developed a species-wide pattern of dense population growth and spontaneous scatter, proceeded through this randomized pattern enough times to eventually land on the Aldabra Atoll, and then stayed and produced enough generations to slowly change into flightless versions of their prior selves. Where science is amazed that this event might have taken place in as quickly as 20,000 years, I’d need it to have taken place in one-fourth of that time. Actually, if there are ancient fossils of another version of this flightless rail on the island, which then must have died off before Noah’s flood or in it, this entire process must have taken less than 1500 years the first time, as that is all the biblical time that passed from Creation to Noah. If this bird came along, walking 2 by 2 to the ark, how did it get back to the Atoll?

It’s one thing for a sovereign Creator Being to cheat the laws of physics, but can a random bird? My worldview of origin has no answer for this; something must be off. Life on Earth would be too young for a story like this to be true. But it further begged the question: does the Earth itself have to be so young? Does the Universe have to be?

In 2014, the Seventh Day Adventist Church updated the language in the 28 Fundamental Beliefs. No big changes, just minor tweaks; however Fundamental Belief #6’s update caused a controversy within the church, when some felt it appeared to address this cosmic question:

Fundamental Belief 6 from original version:

God is Creator of all things, and has revealed in Scripture the authentic account of His creative activity. In six days the Lord made “the heaven and the earth” and all living things upon the earth, and rested on the seventh day of that first week. Thus He established the Sabbath as a perpetual memorial of His completed creative work. The first man and woman were made in the image of God as the crowning work of Creation, given dominion over the world, and charged with responsibility to care for it. When the world was finished it was “very good,” declaring the glory of God.

Fundamental Belief 6 from the current version:

God has revealed in Scripture the authentic and historical account of His creative activity. He created the universe, and in a recent six-day creation the Lord made “the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them” and rested on the seventh day. Thus He established the Sabbath as a perpetual memorial of the work He performed and completed during six literal days that together with the Sabbath constituted the same unit of time that we call a week today. The first man and woman were made in the image of God as the crowning work of Creation, given dominion over the world, and charged with responsibility to care for it. When the world was finished it was “very good,” declaring the glory of God.

I originally thought these changes were a more conservative doubling down (which they technically are). I figured adding in “historical” and expressly referencing God’s creation of “the universe” served the purpose of even further separating ourselves from the randomness encapsulated in the theories of the Big Bang and evolution. Turns out, I was right and wrong.

The draft writers’ notes were included. Those notes stated that this Fundamental Belief used to say, “heaven and earth” and was being changed to say “heavens and the earth…” to reflect the language from Exodus 20:11 instead of Genesis 1:1 (KJV). The reasoning the draft writers gave was:

“terminology used in Exodus [the fourth commandment of keeping Sabbath] seems to restrict the creative act to what took place during the 6 days of creation and not necessarily dealing with the creation of the cosmos… By quoting Exodus instead of Genesis, we leave open the possibility that Genesis 1:1 is dealing with the creation of the Cosmos (Universe) and the creation week is about life on the planet.”[15]

Honestly, I was relieved! I thought this reasoning was somewhat of a progressive move wherein Adventism was creating the beginnings of a bridge to scientific discovery. As a person who, like basically all of you, has at one time or another observed light from the Andromeda Galaxy from 2 million lightyears away (which we should not be able to see for another 1.994 million years, give or take, in a biblically literal creationist view), I hoped that this rationale was suggesting that, at the very least, the universe could be as old as it seems.

As it turns out, this drafter’s note re-ignited a bitter rift. I found a 22-page document that was presented to the General Conference Fundamental Belief Review Committee about how dangerous the reasoning given behind this ONE change could be to the very fabric of our church and core understandings, even though the reasoning isn’t expressly captured in the new language. The big debate was over the last clause in the draft note that said, “the creation week is about life on the planet.”

There was worry that this language meant we were conceding the possibility that not just the universe at large, but even the Earth’s raw material was potentially as old as it seemed too. If God created Heaven and Earth in Genesis 1:1, but Earth was formless and void for some period of time. It is not expressly unbiblical to think that “In the Beginning” could have occurred at any random point in infinite history. Maybe only once God said “Let there be Light” in verse 3, and began organizing Earth, did the 6,000-year clock started and a day became a day of 24 hours.

Of course, you don’t really get any of that from reading the text of the belief. It is apparently “snuck” behind the clause: “He created the universe, and in a recent six-day creation the Lord made “the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them” and rested on the seventh day.

The problem was not the words used in the changes. The problem was that one of the drafters behind the changes, Richard M. Davidson, believed this old raw Earth theory 20 years prior, and it hadn’t been forgotten. The author of the rebuttal said “The changes may appear insignificant at first, but when one reads the explanation for those changes…there should be cause for alarm.” He said this of Davidson[17]:

“Davidson has now (2015) gone askew from the Biblical doctrine of ordination to defending the allowance of women’s ordination, and back in 1995 he also had gone askew from the doctrine of creation as it is given in the 4th Commandment. He still believes in the literal 24-hour day, 7-day week, of Creation, but also believes that it is “possible” that it’s only depicting the creation of “life on earth” and not the creation of the “raw earth” or the planet itself. He says the earth was still created by God out of nothing (no pre-existing matter) when He spoke it into existence, but this was “perhaps” some “millions or billions of years” prior to the beginning of the first day of the six days of Creation Week. He holds that BOTH views are “possible” because of the ambiguity of “the Hebrew text” of Genesis 1:1.”

Thing is: I wouldn’t have even caught this from the original language or the amendment if not for the 22-page rebuttal. BUT what the rebuttal was worried about is the exact problem the revisions were intended to fix. The pr-amendment iteration of Belief 6 had already been “re-interpreted to mean almost anything… including theistic evolution” [16] which is where Davidson came up with his idea in 1995 in the first place. This new language that swaps a quote of Exodus for Genesis, though written by him, was specifically placed in the amendment with the purpose of doubling down on the literality of the 6-day Creation story and the traditional Adventist interpretation. This had nothing to do with broadening its potential meanings. The Genesis quote was removed because it sounded more ambiguous than Exodus did, not the other way around. The purpose of the amendment waste support and clarify the traditional SDA belief.

The real worry was that this concept, this idea that Genesis 1:1-2 is “ambiguous,” might ultimately infect the remnant church’s membership, even though the concept is only written in a drafter’s note (that almost no one has ever read). This idea of ambiguity was perceived to be so dangerous, that even if it was silently weaved in the background of Belief 6’s language by the subconscious of the person who penned it, it was too much of a risk to take.

So, the mere idea that an Adventist might think the 28 Fundamental Beliefs left room to consider that the planet Earth (not life on it, but the planet itself) could be older than 6,000 years was too detrimental to Adventism to entertain.  The very possibility that I had gone back in search of was the very possibility the church adamantly wanted to avoid even appearing to allow.

“Shun the appearance of Evil.”

But there’s a problem: Genesis 1:1-2 is ambiguous. That point isn’t really arguable. “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth and the earth was without form and void” sounds like God might have created Heaven, where He lives, and Earth, where we live, at the same time and then finished our formless void later. To read that sentence to mean something else, such as: “in the beginning of earth time, not the beginning of everything, God, who has always been in existence and lives in a place called Heaven, made our sky, but confusingly also called that heaven, just a different heaven (even though the text uses the same Hebrew terms for both – or really there are at least 3 biblical heavens – throughout the text), and immediately began creating all that exists in our local solar system, which is all only 6,000 years old, regardless of how old the rest of the stars in the universe are” is an interpretive choice. It might be the correct one, but it objectively isn’t the “plain reading.”

In fact, to read that sentence as “in the beginning God created..” is already an interpretive choice. Many scholars believe the more proper interpretation of the original text is “In the beginning when God created the heaven and Earth…” as seen in the NRSV version of the Bible. That reading would make it even further seem as though the text is telling us God created Heaven and Earth at the “beginning” of everything, whenever that was, and that the “creation” story doesn’t really start until vs. 3. You cannot definitively tell which heaven is being referenced in Genesis 1, so you really cannot tell which “beginning” is referenced either. That’s essentially the definition of ambiguous. There are many reasons to think that Genesis 1:1 means exactly what traditional Adventism thinks it means, but there are legitimate reasons to think it might not.

My point here is in no way to try and prove that Genesis 1:1-2 says one thing over another, but merely to show that there are possibilities in the language, on its face, let alone once other interpretive factors come into play. If two rational bible believing people can reasonably arrive at different conclusions of the text, why is Adventism so deeply invested in keeping these other possibilities out of the hands (and minds) of its members?

Why can there be no room for interpretive disagreement in the denomination? -Especially since Adventism has beautifully borrowed so much from our Jewish forefathers whose entire religious system was heavily based around open interpretive disagreement. With all that goes into the theology of Adventism, why does it, so intensely matter, how an Adventist reads the first page of the Bible? Is this solid or a house of cards?…

[1] which I didn’t


[3] The 28th Fundamental Belief is actually Fundamental Belief #11 and ultimately, in my summation, deals with the process of sanctification.


Side note: allow the ordination of women already! This is not about a couple lines attributed to Paul, this is power retaining power for its own sake, and plain old misogyny being blamed on God.






also: “Let no one take up with the delusion so pleasant to the natural heart, that God will accept of sincerity, no matter what may be the faith, no matter how imperfect may be the life. God requires of His child perfect obedience. Selected Messages page 373.” – Ellen G. White



[12] based on standardized test scores (sorry about bringing us down to that #2 slot OSSM POSSUMS!)

[13] Personal anecdote: Adventists don’t “cuss” (in public) but will come up with damn near any reason to bring up Balaam’s ass. We are perpetually 12 years old.

[14] This particular use of italics = sarcasm font




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