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Two participants get a bird's-eye view of the Grand Canyon during a field trip by the International Conference on the Bible and Science on Wednesday, August 20. [photo: Larry Blackmer]
August 26, 2014 | St. George, Utah, United States | Andrew McChesney/Adventist Review
Seventh-day Adventist Church President Ted N. C. Wilson expanded his recent call for Church educators to reaffirm their conviction that God created the Earth several thousand years ago to include all 18 million members of the denomination, saying the issue “involves the eternal destiny of each of us.”
Wilson’s comments came at the end of a 10-day International Conference on the Bible and Science in St. George, Utah, where about 400 educators approved a resolution pledging to teach the biblical understandings of origins in their classrooms and got ready to share the latest scientific research that they had learned with their students.
Wilson, speaking in an interview, said all Church members should carefully weigh an appeal that he made for Adventist educators to reject evolutionary origins during his opening speech at the conference on Aug. 15.
“This is so intrinsic to the beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists that it is vital for all church members to reaffirm their conviction that God truly is the Creator and created this Earth in six literal days recently,” he said. “This is certainly a personal decision that has to be made, and in all kindness and love I urge every church member to do so because it involves the eternal destiny of each of us.”
Wilson, reiterating his August 15 speech, said that educators and pastors who accepted widespread teachings that the Earth evolved over millions of years should not be permitted to lead in Adventist classrooms and churches.
As for regular Church members, he said, the matter was personal, but people who hadn’t resolved it in their minds should pray earnestly and make a decision.
“These decisions on the part of every individual will help to determine how they relate to this extraordinary mission entrusted into our hands by heaven and proclaimed by the three angels’ messages, which includes the first angel’s message to worship God and give glory to Him for He has made everything,” he said, referring to the three angels’ messages recorded in Revelation 14 to prepare people for Jesus’ return to Earth.
'Employees Should Believe in Creation'
Wilson’s Aug. 15 speech—in which he said that anyone who rejected the literal six-day creation described in Genesis could not be described as a real “Seventh-day” Adventist because “Seventh-day” refers to the 24-hour Sabbath day that ended creation week—elicited much comment on Seventh-day Adventist websites during the past 10 days.
Some Adventists have embraced a popular theory that each day of creation might have lasted millions of years rather than 24 hours, thereby mixing the Bible account with evolutionary teachings. This line of reasoning, Wilson said, not only invalided the Sabbath but also cast doubt on the inspiration of the creation account and, by extension, the entire Bible.
“It is vital that every employee—whether an administrator, pastor, teacher, or whoever—should strongly believe in the fundamental understanding of creation as the Seventh-day Adventist Church enunciates it,” Wilson said Sunday. “To continue to be employed and hold a view other than that would not be compatible to the very reason for the existence of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.”
He added: “As far as church members in general are concerned, it’s a personal matter that they need to discuss with the Lord in earnest.”
Wilson's Closing Speech
Wilson also mentioned the Church at large in a closing speech Sunday that focused primarily on the educators in attendance.
“As Seventh-day Adventist teachers, educators, pastors and church employees living in the end of time—and not only employees but all Church members—we should not reduce our ‘seventh-day’ distinctiveness but rather trumpet it as a wonderful feature of life,” he said.
Speaking directly to conference attendees, Wilson urged them to work hard, show love, and cling to the Bible.
“Scientists: Continue to do good scientific research. Do the work God has given you in a profound and careful way,” he said.
“Theologians: Do the same thing. Reach out to those who may not agree with what we have voted today and with what the Seventh-day Adventist Church has stood for. Reach out to those people in care and love—not in a condescending way, but in a loving way.
“But,” he said, “I want to tell you: Please do not in any way be reluctant to stand for biblical truth. Be open, be careful, but be bold.”
At the close of the 42-minute speech, Wilson asked the educators to reaffirm their conviction to the biblical creation by standing up and later pairing with seatmates to pray.
Conference Approves Statement
Shortly before Wilson’s speech, the conference attendees approved in a nearly unanimous verbal vote a statement that affirmed that the Bible presents "the reliable account" of a recent literal six-day Creation and that a global flood destroyed the Earth except for Noah’s family and animals in an ark.
“We reject those worldviews that intentionally remove biblical truth from public discourse and scientific endeavor,” the statement says. “We affirm the necessity of an intellectual environment in which competing theories about origins are presented and openly discussed within the context of a biblical worldview. We commit ourselves to teaching and advocating the biblical understandings of origins in our professional roles as Adventist educators.”
The document, which was developed during the 10-day event, will be submitted to the church’s major year-end business meeting, the Annual Council, in October, said Michael L. Ryan, a vice president of the Adventist world church and chair of its Faith and Science Council, which sponsored the conference.
It was unclear what influence, if any, the document would have on the wider church. Ryan said a separate working group of the world church was considering revisions to one of the church’s 28 Fundamental Beliefs—on creation—in preparation for a vote by delegates of the world church during the General Conference Session in July 2015.
High Demand for Resources
Lisa Beardsley-Hardy, director of the world church’s Education department, told the conference that she would use the statement to press for funding to produce and distribute more resources that support creation. The resolution calls for “a coordinated approach to be taken to the ongoing development, in all major languages, of high-quality, media-rich resources regarding the biblical account of origins and natural and earth sciences.”
Speaking in an interview, Beardsley-Hardy said conference participants have inundated her with requests for creation-themed materials.
“The biggest comment that I’ve gotten is, ‘We want materials so that when I go back to our schools we’ll be able to educate our students and educate our family about the issues,” she said. “They want textbooks, they want PowerPoints, they want to be able to download some of the presentations that were here so they can study them themselves and translate them into various languages.”
Beardsley-Hardy said some conference materials could be found on the Faith and Science Council’s website, fscsda.org, and the Geoscience Research Institute's website, grisda.org, and more would be released in the upcoming weeks and months.
But, as any major conference, some presentations might not be available for some time because their authors are preparing the research for publication in major scientific journals, said Beardsley-Hardy, who helped organize the conference and is a member of the Faith and Science Council.
“Some of the presentations that were here were cutting edge research, and the presenters can’t have those presentations shown elsewhere until they get published in peer-reviewed literature,” she said.
Beardsley-Hardy said she was pleased that scientists, theologians and other educators in attendance appeared enthusiastic about sharing what they had learned, and she expressed hope that they would leave feeling more informed and less intimidated about discussing the areas where science and the Bible overlap.
“Nature tells us some things, and the Bible tells us some things, and the Bible is a higher source of revelation because nature has been influenced by sin,” she said. “But there are areas of overlap, and I want our academics to be reasonably informed about the areas of overlap.”
See more stories from the conference HERE.