Dr. Walter Martin
Dr. Louis Talbot
July August September 2010
VOLUME 11, ISSUE 3
A R T I C L E S
Before you read any further...
We are pleased to share two articles looking back to the historic conversations between Adventist leaders and Walter Martin and Donald Grey Barnhouse in the 1950s. The first, a documented piece by Stephen Pitcher showing evidence that the Adventists deceived Martin and Barnhouse, is an important contribution to the body of existing work that has recounted and analyzed those discussions occurring over 50 years ago.
The second piece is a direct response to the articles published in 1956 by Barnhouse in Eternity magazine (which he edited) in which he proclaimed Seventh-day Adventists to be evangelical believers. Written by Dr. Louis Talbot, chancellor of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (now Biola University), this article ran in the April, 1957 edition of the widely circulated The King's Business, the official publication of the Institute, and documented Talbot's reasons for denying Barnhouse's conclusion.
Behind the scenes
We acknowledge that in spite of evidence strongly suggesting that the Adventists were less than transparent with Martin, and that Martin himself had grave questions about what he was told, he expressed the highest regard for the personal integrity of the men with whom he discussed Adventist doctrine in 1955 and 1956. Moreover, he reportedly stated as late as 1989 that—in spite of the discovery and admission of her extensive plagiarism—Ellen G. White was a God-fearing woman whom the Lord used and whose writings served a devotional purpose.
We should further note that when Martin engaged in the pivotal discussions with Adventist representatives in the mid-1950s, he was a graduate student in his 20s. Despite his youth, Martin had already published The Rise of the Cults and two full-length works on Christian Science and the Jehovah's Witnesses, and Adventist leaders worried about Martin's potential condemnation of Adventism. The men with whom he conversed were older and were specifically approved to represent the General Conference to Martin and Barnhouse. They knew how to adjust their vocabulary to sound evangelical while retaining their historic Adventist beliefs. Martin did not realize that while these men were the official representatives of the Adventist church, they did not represent "official" Adventism.
Consequences of the discussions
One long-term consequence of these discussions, and the resulting Questions on Doctrine (QOD) the Adventists published in 1957 to answer Martin and Barnhouse, is that the Adventist church has been widely accepted as an evangelical denomination. In fact, it has engaged in discussions with the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) and in 2007 produced a joint agreement which required the Adventists to endorse the WEA's statement of faith, thus perpetuating the same lack of disclosure they practiced on Walter Martin.
Meanwhile, QOD went out of print a few years after its release and was not reprinted until 2003, when it was published by Andrews University Press in an annotated edition as part of its "Adventist Classic Library."
When QOD first appeared it produced a firestorm of controversy within the Adventist church that has never abated. Adventists knew it did not accurately represent their doctrines, but some altered their personal beliefs to reflect the book's language. Today, although Adventists vary in the ways they articulate their doctrines, Adventist beliefs have not changed. The denomination is as dependent upon Ellen G. White now as it ever was. Adventists are still as adamant about the Sabbath, their state-of-the-dead doctrine and annihilation, and their "great controversy theme" as they have always been.
Meanwhile, Talbot, a personal friend of Barnhouse, had done in-depth studies of Adventist teachings from the church's official printed material. Talbot strongly disagreed with Barnhouse's conclusions in Eternity and wrote a series of responses. The article which we reprint in this issue (with permission from Biola University) was published the same year as QOD. It reminds us that even though Martin and Barnhouse were misled by the Adventists, major apologists and theologians among their Christian peers understood that Adventism couldn't simply change because a small panel of men declared it.
Today the Adventist church appears to be endorsing true Adventism. In his first sermon to the world church on July 3, 2010, newly elected General Conference president Ted Wilson stated: "Don't reach out to movements or megachurch centers outside the Seventh-day Adventist Church which promise you spiritual success based on faulty theology….Look WITHIN the Seventh-day Adventist Church….The historic biblical beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church will not be moved….Utilize wonderful resources such as the Biblical Research Institute's new book on hermeneutics that helps us know the correct way to interpret the Scriptures."
We pray that the following articles will help clarify the past and shine the light of truth on the subject of Adventism today. †
Copyright 2010 Life Assurance Ministries, Inc., Glendale, Arizona, USA. All rights reserved. Revised September 27, 2010. Contact email: email@example.com