You may have heard of former pastor Ryan Bell’s coming out of the atheist’s closet he had previously entered for an experimental year, but if you haven’t, here is a representative statement from Bell:
I think at this point, you know, I've looked at the majority of the arguments that I've been able to find for the existence of God. And on the question of God's existence or not, I have to say I don't find there to be a convincing case, in my view. I don't think that God exists. I think that makes the most sense of the evidence that I have and my experience, ... I want to have a closer relationship to reality. I think before I wanted a closer relationship to God, and today, I just want a closer relationship with reality..."
In a recent Spectrum interview with Bell, Jared Wright (Spectrum’s managing editor) wrote, "It didn’t come as a surprise to most of his online followers that when the year ended on New Year’s Day, Ryan announced he wasn’t going back."
Perhaps Ryan Bell (and Jared Wright) sensed intuitively where progressive philosophy leads, a philosophy that is willing to entertain all manner of skepticism intellectually. In addition, Wright appeared to imply conservatives are anti-intellectual because of their unwillingness to entertain the propositions of non-theist thought. No, they are just spiritually smart.
Skepticism is the antithesis of faith. It is faith killing. Why would anyone who has embraced the Adventist faith of Jesus be inclined to seriously entertain faithless and unbiblical ideas in the midst of the great controversy (in the name of free discourse or not)? Forgive me, but such an enterprise appears to be the height of stupidity (doctoral degrees aside).
God gave our first parents a simple test, and outlined to them in the most emphatic language the consequences of disobedience (Gen. 2:16, 17). This was the only prohibition given to the pair. Their safety was dependent on their belief in, and adherence to, this directive. Sin and death had never been witnessed in the pure environment of Eden. Neither had Adam and Eve ever seen Satan or any of his cohorts. They could not fully comprehend the magnitude of God’s commandment, the cunning of the arch-deceiver, or the far reaching consequences of sin. They had no empirical or scientific evidence for any of these things. They must accept God’s Word by faith. God had given them no reason to distrust Him. The proof of their loyalty would be exhibited by their obedience to God’s Word by faith. The rest of the story is history, a history that bears re-examination.
The events leading to the first fall teach us how to avoid spiritual falls in general as well as the final fall at the close of time. Let us take a closer look at the first two steps leading to the fall of man, steps that I also propose led to the fall of Bell.
First: Eve listened to Satan’s skeptical, doubt filled lies.
We often refer to the first lie told to the human race by Satan as, ‘You shall not surely die.’ Actually, the first deceptive falsehood told to Eve is the devilishly contrived expression found in Genesis 3:1, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?'” This is a very cunningly devised skeptical query that subtly twists God’s plain Word, and expresses doubt as to God’s loving character (in essence a higher critical approach to Scripture). Did He really say that? Was He speaking figuratively? Though on the surface it appears benign enough, this is actually the very foundation for every lie and deception to follow. The Devil is always seeking to tamper with the plain statements of Scripture, to sow seeds of doubt and skepticism regarding God’s Word.
Second: Eve entered into a dialogue with the Devil.
Had Eve refrained from entering into argument with the tempter; she would have been safe, but she ventured to parley with him and fell victim to his wiles. It is thus that many are still overcome. PP 532
Dialogue with the Devil is more than a simply vain pursuit; it has deadly consequences. How do Adventist Christians risk conversing with the enemy today? Any attempt to debate the truthfulness, reasonableness, or obligation of God’s Word would certainly constitute a dialogue with the Devil. Any attempt to engage in debate over the foundational truths rooted in the creation account (i.e. marriage, gender, literal days of creation, Sabbath, etc.) would likewise constitute devilish dialogue. Satan ultimately led Eve to question the truths established by God in Eden.
In light of these biblical realities, how should we view efforts to provide a forum for atheists, agnostics, and Adventism haters to engage in devilish dialogue regarding the pillars of the Adventist faith (a faith based on the Creation account)?
The first two steps mentioned above quickly led to Eve’s abandoning faith in God’s Word, thus resulting in the ruin of the race, "She (Eve) disbelieved the words of God, and this was what led to her fall…. Whatever contradicts God’s Word, we may be sure proceeds from Satan (PP 55).
Ryan Bell had "long-standing differences over doctrine" with the Adventist church. Subsequently he proclaimed to the world that he was going to listen to what atheists had to say, and enter into a dialogue with their thinkers. His example should be sufficient to dissuade all Adventist Christians of faith from following his faithless example or cultivating the doubt that led to his fall. Let us turn early to our prayer closets, not some echo chamber of skepticism, "All who value their eternal interests should be on their guard against the inroads of skepticism. The very pillars of truth will be assailed," and "none but those who have fortified the mind with the truths of the Bible will stand through the last great conflict" (GC 600, 593).