A recent article in a prominent church publication invites a serious misunderstanding of the faith-and-works issue as Scripture presents it.Read More
It was April 14, 1912, a moonless, cold night in the northern Atlantic Ocean. Frederick Fleet stared out at the dark horizon from the crow's nest of Titanic, the new, luxurious, state-of-the-art ocean liner of the White Star line. Fleet had come on lookout duty at 10:00 p.m. and was scheduled to go off duty at midnight, in just over 20 minutes. His watch had been uneventful. Fleet and his watch partner, Reginald Lee, had been told to keep an eye out for ice. Despite repeated warnings of icebergs in the area, Titanic raced through the smooth, calm water at 22 ½ knots (about 26 m.p.h.), nearly her top cruising speed. The extraordinary calmness of the sea that night worked against Fleet and Lee, because waves breaking against the base of an iceberg were often the night lookout's first indication of the berg. As Fleet peered ahead into the night, he suddenly noticed a dark shape, even darker than the calm ocean water. Every second, it grew larger and closer. Fleet rang his bell three times to signal danger ahead, and telephoned down to the bridge. “What did you see?” asked the voice on the other end. “Iceberg, right ahead!” shouted Fleet.
First Officer William McMaster Murdoch was in command on the bridge, Titanic's Captain, Edward J. Smith, having gone to bed for the night. Murdoch ordered the helmsman to execute a sharp left turn, and signaled engineering to stop the engines. For several long seconds, Titanic bore down on the iceberg with no apparent change of course, but at the last moment she veered left of the floating mountain. It was too late, however, to avoid contact. The iceberg scraped along Titanic's starboard side for about three hundred feet, punching holes below the waterline. Murdoch then ordered the helmsman to turn right, which enabled the stern-ward two-thirds of Titanic's starboard side to slip past the iceberg without further contact. Then he ordered the 15 bulkhead doors closed, to create 16 “watertight” compartments.
Most passengers experienced the scrape as nothing more than a moderate vibration of the ship; a few went out to play with the ice that had crumbled down onto Titanic's deck. On the bridge, they thought they'd dodged a bullet, but below decks a different story was unfolding. Water was gushing into five of the 16 sealed compartments, the five closest to the bow. Captain Smith consulted the ship's architect, Thomas Andrews, who informed Smith that Titanic was designed to stay afloat with four of the forward watertight compartments flooded, but not five. That the ship would sink was a mathematical certainty. Andrews thought it would sink in perhaps 60 to 90 minutes, but Titanic managed to stay afloat for 2 hours and 40 minutes. There weren't enough lifeboats, and several were launched half full. Of the more than 2,200 souls on board, only 710 survived.
Many experts believe that Will Murdoch's best option would have been to steer directly for the iceberg and ram it. The collision would have fully stopped Titanic in about two seconds, and every person on the ship would have been jarred and tossed forward by the abrupt deceleration. It would have crushed the ship's bow and flooded one or two of the forward watertight compartments; several dozen crew members who were bunked in the bow of the ship would have been killed by the impact or drowned by the flooding, but Titanic would probably have stayed afloat. In 1879, a previous state-of-the-art British ocean liner, SS Arizona, smashed prow first into an iceberg, but did not sink, was able to limp to port, and remained in service of one form or another until 1927.
About nine years prior to the Titanic disaster, Ellen White was grappling with the subtle pantheistic statements and assertions in John Harvey Kellogg's book, The Living Temple. She received a remarkable vision:
Shortly before I sent out the testimonies regarding the efforts of the enemy to undermine the foundation of our faith through the dissemination of seductive theories, I had read an incident about a ship in a fog meeting an iceberg. For several nights I slept but little. I seemed to be bowed down as a cart beneath sheaves. One night a scene was clearly presented before me. A vessel was upon the waters, in a heavy fog. Suddenly the lookout cried, "Iceberg just ahead!" There, towering high above the ship, was a gigantic iceberg. An authoritative voice cried out, "Meet it!" There was not a moment's hesitation. It was a time for instant action. The engineer put on full steam, and the man at the wheel steered the ship straight into the iceberg. With a crash she struck the ice. There was a fearful shock, and the iceberg broke into many pieces, falling with a noise like thunder to the deck. The passengers were violently shaken by the force of the collisions, but no lives were lost. The vessel was injured, but not beyond repair. She rebounded from the contact, trembling from stem to stern, like a living creature. Then she moved forward on her way.
Well I knew the meaning of this representation. I had my orders. I had heard the words, like a voice from our Captain, "Meet it!" I knew what my duty was, and that there was not a moment to lose. The time for decided action had come. I must without delay obey the command, "Meet it!"
That night I was up at one o'clock, writing as fast as my hand could pass over the paper. For the next few days I worked early and late, preparing for our people the instruction given me regarding the errors that were coming in among us.
The pantheistic statements in Living Temple were subtle, and often closely paralleled statements Ellen White had made in answering the deistic argument that God created the world but then left it to fend for itself. Kellogg had drifted into error, but had stayed close enough to Scriptural modes of expression that the brethren were genuinely unsure of whether he had in fact erred.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church today faces a heresy that is not subtle, nor anywhere close to the biblical world view. The heresy is Darwinism, the rejection of the biblical creation doctrine and its replacement with the idea that we evolved by natural processes over the course of hundreds of millions of years. Over the past decade, the church has begun to realize the extent to which this false doctrine has seeped in among us; the faith-science conferences of 2002-2004 were an acknowledgment that many teachers and other thought leaders have embraced some form of Darwinism.
That Darwinism is incompatible with Christianity should be obvious to all. Take away the creation, and every other doctrine tumbles like a line of dominoes. Darwinism makes nonsense of the core Gospel teaching. If there was no perfect creation, there could be no fall into sin; if no Fall, then no explanation for the suffering and death we see around us. If there was no Fall, there is not need of a Redeemer. If there was no first Adam, there is no need of a second Adam to succeed where the first failed. The Biblical view of redemption as reconciliation and ransom from the consequences of Adam’s fall has to be jettisoned. In the place of the story of a ‘Fall’ has come the story of an ascent. “Sin” becomes an outmoded explanatory concept to be replaced by sociobiology and evolutionary psychology.
Darwinism also makes nonsense of the Eschaton. If God was incapable of creating the world in six days, as He said He did, then He is incapable of instantly resurrecting and glorifying the dead of all the ages, and remaking the world. If there was no literal Eden, there can be no Eden restored. In a 2009 sermon, Jan Paulsen said of the resurrection of the dead and the world made new:
All of these belong to the world of miracles. They are displays of God's unfathomable creative power. Those who have problems with the creative powers of God, or a God of creation, they have a problem so huge they don't know what to do with it, because they have no future, they have no --- everything that lies in God's future is miraculous.
Beyond the problems caused to core Gospel and end-time issues, Darwinism destroys the reason for existence of the SDA Church, which is to call Christian believers back to worship on the Biblical Sabbath, the day that God hallowed at the creation. The only universal rationale for keeping the Sabbath is that God created the world in six days and rested on the Sabbath Day. (Gen. 2:2-3; Ex. 20:11) If that's not true, there's no reason to keep the Sabbath. Without the Sabbath truth, we don't have anything unique or interesting to add to prophetic interpretation; the Sabbath truth is foundational to our interpretation of Bible prophecy, particularly our interpretation of the Three Angels Messages of Revelation 14. Darwinism also fatally undermines the prophetic authority of our founding prophet, who was fully invested in the biblical doctrine of creation, and repeatedly warned of the falsity of evolutionism and long-ages geology.
Taking away the biblical doctrine of creation destroys Christianity as an internally coherent system of doctrines and beliefs. If Seventh-day Adventists compromise on this issue, not only have we lost the only universal rationale for our signature doctrine of Sabbath-keeping, we've given away everything else, as well, every advance in biblical understanding and prophetic interpretation we've made over the denominations that preceded us. We will coast for a few generations on tradition and habit, but we'll soon disappear into the depths.
A century ago on the bridge of Titanic, Will Murdoch's first instinct was to try to avoid a violent collision that would shake up everyone on the ship. But it was too late to steer clear, and trying to skirt the iceberg sealed Titanic's doom. Today, our leaders in the SDA Church seem to want somehow to skirt the looming threat of Darwinism in our ranks, but it is too late. A collision cannot be avoided, and the best thing we can do is to brace for impact, and meet it head on.