Now living in Grand Terrace, California, T. E. Unruh is a retired
minister. When the events described here took place, Unruh was president
of the East Pennsylvania Conference.
A series of conferences between Seventh day Adventist and Evangelical
leaders, begun in the spring in 1955 and running into the summer of 1956,
led to the publication of two books: the first, Seventh-day Adventists
Answer Questions on Doctrine; the second, The Truth About Seventh-day
Adventism. The first is a definitive statement of contemporary Adventist
belief, established on a broad international consensus of church leaders
and prepared for publication by a representative committee appointed by
the officers of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. The
second work, by Walter R. Martin, a leading expert on American cults,
defines and examines Seventh day Adventist doctrines, using the first work
as source and authority. In his book Martin removed the Seventh-day
Adventist church from his list of non-Christian cults and acknowledged
that all whose beliefs followed the Questions on Doctrine should be
counted members of the Body of Christ (the Christian church in the
Evangelical definition) and therefore his brethren. While some Adventist
and non-Adventist dissidents have been vociferous in their denunciation of
the Adventist definitions and the Evangelical evaluation, in retrospect
the conferences improved the understanding and appreciation of the
Seventh-day Adventist church on the part of many Evangelical leaders, and
likewise warmed many Adventist leaders toward the Evangelicals. It was a
time when the gates between sheepfolds stood open.
There was no thought of precipitating anything of such historic
consequence when I wrote a letter on November 28, 1949, commending Dr.
Donald Grey Barnhouse for his radio sermons on righteousness by faith
based on the book of Romans. At the time, Dr. Barnhouse was a popular
radio preacher, minister of the Tenth Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania, author of a number of Evangelical books, and founder and
senior editor of the influential Eternity magazine. I was the president of
the East Pennsylvania Conference, with headquarters in Reading.
In his reply to my letter Barnhouse expressed astonishment that an
Adventist clergyman would commend him for preaching righteousness by
faith, since in his opinion it was a well-known fact that Seventh-day
Adventists believed in righteousness by works. He went on to state that
since boyhood he had been familiar with Adventists and their teachings,
and that in his opinion their views about the nature and work of Christ
were Satanic and dangerous. He concluded by inviting this strange
Adventist to have lunch with him.
We did not then get together for lunch, but we did correspond for a
time. I returned a soft answer to the first letter from Barnhouse and sent
him a copy of Steps to Christ, at the same time affirming the evangelical
character of Adventists doctrine. I thought we had an agreement that
Barnhouse would publish no further criticism of Adventists before there
was further contact and clarification. However, in Eternity for June 1950,
he sharply criticized Steps to Christ and its author. After that, I saw no
point in continuing the correspondence.
The Barhhouse article was entitled, "Spiritual Discernment, or How
to Read Religious Books." It illustrated the difficulty that
conservative Christians sometimes have in understanding one another. Here
a man of great spiritual stature, a bold crusader for truth, revealed his
prejudice against Adventism and Ellen G. White, whom he erroneously
called, "founder of the cult." Concerning the first chapter of
Steps to Christ, entitled "God's Love for Man." Barnhouse
charged that so much emphasis on God's love neutralize His justice and
that extending that love to unregenerate man smacked of the universalism
characteristic of the writings of the cult. He quoted a number of
statements which he called half truths introducing Satanic error, like a
worm on a hook, "the first bite is all worm, the second bite is all
hook. That is the way the Devil works." Yet this man came to respect
Ellen White as a sincere Christian and a great spiritual leader and to
acknowledge that Seventh-day Adventists were his brethren in Christ.
In the spring of 1955, almost six years after my correspondence with
Dr. Barnhouse began, I heard from Walter R. Martin, who had seen our
correspondence and who asked for face-to-face contact with representative
Seventh-day Adventists. Martin had written a chapter critical of Adventism
in his Rise of the Cults and now wanted to talk with Adventists before
doing further writing on the subject of our doctrines.
Walter Martin had come to the attention of Dr. Barnhouse when the
former was in this early twenties, a graduate student in the history of
American religion at New York University. By 1955 Martin had to his credit
several books about American cults, which were recognized as standard
works in that field. He was a consulting editor on the Eternity staff, a
Southern Baptist clergyman, and a member of the Evangelical Foundation,
known to the faithful as "How Firm a Foundation," an
organization started by Christian businessmen who managed the financial
aspects of the Barnhouse enterprises.
It was understood at the outset that Martin, a research polemicist, had
been commissioned to write against Seventh-day Adventism. Nevertheless, he
declared that he wanted direct access so he could treat Adventists fairly.
When I explained this to friends at the Adventist headquarters in
Washington, D.C., they agreed that Martin should be treated fairly, and
provided with the contacts he sought. Martin expressly asked to meet LeRoy
E. Froom, with whose Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers he was already
familiar. Froom suggested the inclusion of W. E. Read, then a field
secretary of the General Conference. I served as moderator or chairman
throughout the series of conferences.
In March 1955, Martin came to Washington for his first meeting with the
Adventists. With him was George E. Cannon, a professor of theology on the
faculty of the Nyack, New York, Missionary College. At this first
conference the two groups viewed each other with wariness. As the
Adventists had anticipated, Martin had read widely from D. M. Canright, E.
S. Ballenger, and E. B. Jones, as well as other detractors or defectors.
Martin, for his part, seemed to expect a degree of resistance and
cover-up, such as he may have met in some of his other investigations.
This first meeting can best be described as a confrontation.
Martin began going through a list of questions which reflected his
reading. We Adventists, rather than launching into a defense, began with a
positive presentation in which we emphasized those doctrines held by our
church in common with Evangelical Christians of all faiths in all ages. We
stated our conviction that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and the
only rule of Adventist faith and practice. We affirmed our belief in the
eternal and complete deity of Christ, in his sinless life in the
incarnation, in his atoning death on the cross, once for all and
all-sufficient, in his literal resurrection, and in his priestly ministry
before the Father, applying the benefits of the atonement completed on the
cross. And, finally, while setting no time, we affirmed our belief in the
imminent premilleniai return of Jesus Christ.
It quickly became clear to the Adventist conferees that both questions
and answers would have to be formally stated in writing, that the answers
would have to be made crystal clear to the Evangelical conferees and to
those they represented, and that a way would have to be found to
demonstrate the consensus we were sure we had. Martin was given books and
periodicals to substantiate the claims we had made in our opening
Following the first day of discussion both groups were busy into the
night. The immediate concern of the Adventists was the list of questions
with which Martin had begun his interrogation. Froom, who had a facile
pen, took the responsibility of composing the initial answers, in a
document running into twenty pages, whipped into shape by his secretary
after hours. Until two o'clock in the morning Martin gave his attention to
the reading matter we had given him.
The second day will never be forgotten by those who participated in the
conferences. As the morning session began Martin announced that, as the
result of the first round of discussion and the reading matter he had been
given, he was admitting that he had been wrong about Seventh-day Adventism
on several important points and had become persuaded that Adventists who
believed as did the conferees were truly born-again Christians and his
brethren in Christ. In a dramatic gesture he extended his hand in
Martin faced serious problems as a result of his turn-about. He had
become convinced that Adventists stood with other evangelical Christians
on an impressive number of basic doctrines. He was not convinced that
Adventists were right on doctrines we describe as "present
truth," nor was he ever convinced of these. But how was he to write a
book in which he would expose what he considered the errors of Adventism,
while at the same time revealing his honest conviction that there existed
sufficient common denominators to justify the inclusion of Seventh-day
Adventists in the Evangelical Christian community - and still satisfy
those who had commissioned him to write a book against Seventh-day
Adventism? In his concern, he asked the Adventist conferees to join him in
praying for divine guidance.
From the first formal meeting, to the publishing of the book QUESTIONS
ON DOCTRINE, LeRoy E. Froom was actively involved in composing the written
distillation of the conferences.
We Adventists also faced problems. The Evangelical conferees were
satisfied that we were presenting contemporary Adventist doctrines,
because we were supported by the 1931 statement of fundamental beliefs,
which appeared regularly in official yearbooks and manuals of the church,
and by the amplified statement in the baptismal covenant. But, they asked,
if the Adventist church had reached a firm consensus why did they find
contrary or misleading statements in Adventist publications, for sale in
Adventist book and Bible houses? We explained that this was the result of
efforts by the church to avoid an officially adopted creedal statement,
and the denomination's preference for an open-end theology which permitted
new light to penetrate in depth. This explanation did not impress them.
They asked if we did not think that we ourselves were to some extent to
blame if these erroneous statements were used against us. We could only
reply that correction had begun.
While church leaders had known of the conferences from the start, a
point was reached where we thought it was wise to make a formal report to
the church. In a long letter to Froom and Read, dated July 18, 1955, I
reviewed the progress in understanding achieved so far in the conferences,
and expressed the hope that the Adventist conferees could be relieved of
other responsibilities so as to have more time for what was expanding into
a significant encounter, soon to include such a notable Evangelical as Dr.
Donald Grey Barnhouse. A copy of this letter was sent co R. R. Figuhr,
president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Thereafter
Figuhr gave the support of his office to the conferences and the
publication of the definitive statement of Adventist belief which
Martin's immediate concern was his relationship with his sponsor, Dr.
Barnhouse. He reported to his chief his conviction that both had been
wrong in their judgment of contemporary Adventists, whom he had become
convinced were not cultists but truly members of the Body of Christ. He
then asked Barnhouse if he, Martin, was still a member of the team, and if
he should go ahead with the book he had been commissioned to write, which
now would have to be different from the one they had projected. Barnhouse
gave him some reassurance but was not troubled himself. Shortly thereafter
he asked to have the conferees meet with him at "Barchdale," his
home in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.
In anticipation of the extension of Evangelical participation in the
conferences Froom early in August urged the enlargement of the Adventist
conferee group. He recommended the inclusion of R. Allan Anderson as a
regular member because of the latter's background as evangelist, college
teacher of religion, author, and especially because of his gift for
diplomatic dialogue with leaders of other communions. Anderson was the
secretary of the Ministerial Association of the General Conference and
editor of Ministry magazine. Since April he had been participating in the
conferences. Thereafter he was a member of the team, a tireless and
valuable participant in the preparation of the text of the developing
questions and answers. We four Adventists were authorized by the General
Conference to plan with Martin and Cannon for the meeting with Barnhouse
at his home in Doylestown. The planning session was held in Anderson's
Washington office on August 22.
So it came about than on August 25 and 26, 1955, we four Adventists,
with Walter Martin and George Cannon, sat down with Donald Grey Barnhouse,
one of the most influential men among American Protestants and
internationally famous as a representative Evangelical, to discuss what
Seventh-day Adventists really believe.
Having welcomed the conferees, our host expressed his deep desire that
love might prevail, and invited the small company to kneel with him while
he prayed for the Spirit of the Lord to be present and to guide.
Dr. Barnhouse, always a very articulate man, began the conference by
explaining his attitudes towards Seventh-day Adventists. He told about his
boyhood in California, near Mountain View, where he imbibed the prevailing
view that Adventists were ignorant fanatics who believed the Devil to be
the sin-bearer, and that a person had to keep the seventh-day Sabbath in
order to be saved. Later, his bad opinions had been confirmed, he said, by
reading books by men who had been Adventists but had left the movement,
notably E. B. Jones. But since Martin had begun his conversations with the
Adventists, and had shared his findings, Barnhouse had come to see that
there were sober, truly born-again Christians among Seventh-day
Adventists. With them he was glad to fellowship as brethren, while
reserving the right strenuously to refute the two or three positions
taught by Adventists which Evangelicals hold to be in error. On this
candid note the Doylestown conference began.
In the first Doylestown conference there was much discussion of Froom's
Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, as providing an historical background for
Adventism. It was clear that the Evangelicals had respect for Froom's
scholarly attainments. Also, the questions and answers so far developed
were reviewed in depth during both days of the conference. We came to see
that many misunderstandings rested on semantic grounds, because of our use
of an inbred denominational vocabulary. Our friends helped us to express
our beliefs in terms more easily understood by theologians of other
Donald Grey Barnhouse, Jr., a theology consultant on Billy Graham's
staff, sat with us for a time on the first day. That evening, having seen
his father's attitudes change, the son challenged the father to reveal
through the pages of Eternity his new position on Seventh-day Adventism.
Before we separated that evening our host told us he had decided to do
this, though he knew it would precipitate a storm and would cost him many
That same evening, in our motel, Martin and Cannon came to express
their amazement over the change they had witnessed in Dr. Barnhouse. To
them it seemed a miracle. To Martin it meant that he would not have
resistance from Barnhouse in writing the truth about Seventh-day
Adventism, as he had come to see it.
On the second day we observed a change in the attitude of Barnhouse
toward Ellen G. White. Anderson called Walter Martin's attention to a
statement in Mrs. White's Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers,
which Martin in turn passed to Barnhouse. The latter was so impressed with
it that he excused himself to take it upstairs for his secretary to copy.
The statement reads in part:
We should come to the investigation of God's work with a contrite
heart, a teachable and prayerful spirit ... We should not study the Bible
for the purpose of sustaining our preconceived opinions, but with the
single object of learning what God has said.
... If there are those whose faith in God's word will not stand the
test of an investigation of the Scriptures, the sooner they are revealed
the better; for then the way will be opened to show them their error. We
cannot hold that a position once taken, an idea once advocated, is not,
under any circumstances, to be relinquished. There is but One who is
infallible, - He who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
We appreciated the warmth, honesty and deep spiritual dedication of the
man who was our host at "Barchdale." We have pleasant
recollections of his hearty hospitality and that of his charming wife. Our
entire days were spent at the Barnhouse home, necessitating our having our
meals there. For these, Margaret Barnhouse went to great lengths exploring
the unfamiliar land of vegetarian cookery.
Following the two days with Dr. Barnhouse the conferees went to their
tasks with renewed confidence. We Adventists had come to see that we could
state our doctrinal positions with clarity, in language understood by
theologians of other churches, yet never bending for the sake of clarity
or harmony alone. Our position was clearly stated by Froom in a letter to
In our statements we seek to honor and safeguard truth, not merely to
pass ... scrutiny of some group. We are not seeking the approbation of any
organization. All we ask is understanding of our actual teachings. We must
live our own denominational life under the eye and scrutiny of God. Our
sole purpose is to please Him, to whom we are accountable and whom we
We saw that, while there had been doctrinal deviation, and this was
still a possibility, it was essential for us to demonstrate the existence
of a majority position, a preponderant view, that a consensus actually
existed, and that we were correctly reflecting that consensus. As means to
this end the General Conference arranged a trip for Martin to the West
Coast, where Anderson was to introduce him to representative Adventists.
On this trip Martin spoke in Adventist churches and met the staff of the
Adventist radio station, Voice of Prophecy. In the East, Martin met with
the staff of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary and spoke at
an assembly there. On overseas trips he observed Adventist missions in
action and found occasion to clarify misconceptions about Adventists held
by missionaries of other denominations.
In another dimension, it was planned to demonstrate consensus by
submitting the questions and answers to Adventist leaders in North
America, and then around the world, using a mailing list of more than 250
names. The document by this time had grown to some sixty questions and
answers, and was beginning to be thought of as having book possibilities -
a definitive statement of contemporary Adventist theology, in convenient
reference book form. A committee of fourteen members was appointed with
General Conference approval, to prepare the document for distribution to
church leaders, then to analyze and evaluate the feedback. Figuhr, the
president of the General Conference, was chairman of this committee.*
Correspondence relating to the project was entrusted to J.I. Robison, the
president's secretary. The response was good, the consensus was
demonstrated, and the decision to publish was made. Thus Questions on
Doctrine came into being.
The conferees on the Evangelical side were also assessing the support
of their new stand on Adventism. Martin, in November 1955, reported talks
with Pat Zondervan, who was to publish The Truth About Seventh-day
Adventism and who was interested in the new direction the book was taking.
A month later, Martin reported going over the questions and answers in
their entirety in a five-hour session with Dr. Barnhouse, and stated that
Barnhouse was satisfied that Adventists were fundamentally evangelical in
all matters concerning salvation.
Martin also reported that Grank E. Gaebelein had written to James
DeForest Murch, stating his opinion that the Seventh-day Adventist church
would qualify for membership in the evangelical group, if they so desired.
Dr. Gaebelein was the founder and director of the famed Stony Brook School
(of which Martin was a graduate), a member of the Reformed Episcopal
church, and an official in the National Association of Evangelicals. Dr.
Murch, prolific author of religious works, publications director and later
president of the National Association of Evangelicals and the editor of
United Evangelical Action, was a member of the Disciples of Christ.
*Members of the committee: R. R. Figuhr (chairman), A. V. Olson, W. B.
Ochs, L. K. Dickson, H. L. Rudy, A. L. Ham, J. I. Robison, W. R. Beach, C.
L. Torrey, F. D. Nichol, T. E. Unruh, R. A. Anderson, L. E. Froom, W. E.
An editorial committee chosen by the General Conference prepared the
book SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISTS ANSWER QUESTIONS ON DOCTRINE, based on the
points raised in the evangelical conferences. credit: Review and Herald
Meanwhile, correspondence between Froom and E. Schuyler English, editor
of Our Hope and chairman of the revision committee of the Scofield
Reference Bible, resulted in an editorial statement by Dr. English in
February 1956, correcting misconceptions about Adventist doctrines as to
the nature of Christ in the incarnation, the Trinity, and the completed
atonement on the cross, followed by an article by Walter Martin in
November 1956, the earliest affirmation of the essential Christianity of
the theology of Adventism on matters relating to salvation to appear in a
non-Adventist journal of note.
A second two-day conference at the home of Dr. Barnhouse took place in
May of 1956, days which Barnhouse described as spent in mediation,
communion, and discussion. This time our host questioned the Adventist
conferees closely about our concept of the role of Ellen G. White as God's
messenger to the remnant church and the weight the Seventh-day Adventist
church gave to her writings compared to the Scriptures. There was also
thorough discussion of the Adventist teaching regarding the heavenly
sanctuary and the role of Christ as priest, mediating the sacrificial
atonement completed on the cross. By this time we had assembled an
impressive exhibit of references which demonstrated that, from the early
days of our church, Mrs. White had held the doctrinal concepts we were
espousing, and showing that deviations of persons or groups were
misrepresentations of the inspired messages, however sincerely held.
In August 1956, Russell Hitt, the managing editor of Eternity, came to
Washington to go over with us the long-awaited Barnhouse article
repudiating his former position on Adventism. Supporting articles by
Martin, to follow in Eternity, were also gone over. We were given
permission to quote or otherwise refer to these articles.
So it came about that a year after the first Doylestown conference,
where Dr. Barnhouse had come to see that he would have to report his new
position on Adventism, Eternity for September 1956, carried his article,
entitled "Are Seventh day Adventists Christians?" The article
was written with courage and clarity, and it was lengthy. The author
In the past two years several evangelical leaders have come to a new
attitude toward the Seventh-day Adventist church. The change is a
remarkable one since it consists of moving the Seventh-day Adventists, in
our opinion, out of the list of anti-Christian and non-Christian cults
into the group of those who are brethren in Christ; although they still
must be classified, in our opinion, as holding two or three very
unorthodox and in one case peculiar doctrines. The steps in our change of
attitude must be traced and the justification of our changed attitude
documented. Adventists who read this should realize that evangelical
readers have been conditioned through the years for thinking that
Adventists must be classified as non-Christians. This present article will
explain reasons why this should no longer be so.
Barnhouse went on to give an account of the conferences and the mutual
understandings resulting, and to announce the two forthcoming books,
Martin's and ours. He defined the areas of agreement which he considered
sufficient for identifying Adventists as members of the Body of Christ,
within the evangelical definition. The three major areas of disagreement
he described as conditional immortality, observance of the Seventh-day
Sabbath, and the investigative judgment. To these he could give no
credence at all, though the first two had historical foundation in the
Christian church. The last he described as a doctrine never known in
theological history until the second half of the nineteenth century.
The supporting articles by Martin appeared in later issues of Eternity.
The first gave the historical background of modem Adventism, the second a
comprehensive statement of what Adventists really believe, and the last
dealing with Adventism's unique or unusual doctrines. In these articles
Martin was both lucid and fair. And while Adventists did not find his
criticism of their distinctive doctrines either palatable or convincing,
they did appreciate his candor, as he wrote at the end of his second
"However, whatever else one may say about Seventh-day Adventism, it
cannot be denied from their truly representative literature and their
historic positions that they have always as a majority, held to the
cardinal, fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith which are necessary
for salvation, and to the growth in grace that characterizes all true
Barnhouse, speaking for Martin as well as himself, ended his historic
article with these words:
In conclusion, I should like to say that we are delighted to do justice
to a much-maligned group of sincere believers, and in our minds and hearts
take them out of the group of utter heretics .... to acknowledge them as
redeemed brethren and members of the Body of Christ. It is our sincere
prayer that they may be led to consider further the points on which they
are so widely divergent from the rest of the Body of Christ and in so
doing promote their own spiritual growth and that of their fellow
It was a sobering experience as the conferees came to this point in the
lengthy dialogue to see the warm Christian friendliness of the
Evangelicals. They expressed a concern that the Adventists might come to
see as they saw. But they also realized that we Adventists, moved by the
same Christian spirit, hoped that exposure to the special truths we
believed would lead the Evangelicals to believe as we did. This we all saw
as a dilemma of the Body of Christ, which only the Holy Spirit could
The expected storm broke quickly. There were at least a few of the
peers of Barnhouse and Martin, English, Caebelein and Murch, for whom
their stand was gall
and wormwood. The Sunday School Times, published in the City of Brotherly
Love where Dr. Barnhouse had his pastorate, carried a series of articles
against Adventism. The King's Business, official organ of the Bible
Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA), ran articles by Louis Talbot, the
editor, attacking not only the Adventists but the editor of Eternity as
well. While these attacks could not be considered typical, they at least
showed that the editor of Time was less than correct when he announced in
the December 31, 1956 issue that the Fundamentalists had made peace with
The three part series Martin wrote for ETERNITY magazine cited points
of agreement and difference between Evangelicals and Adventists. Though he
still argued against certain doctrines, he acknowledged that they had been
held by Church leaders throughout history, such as Luther. credit:
When Eternity lost one-fourth of its subscribers in protest, and the
sale of Martin's books plummeted, Barnhouse asked anxiously, "Are you
sure of your positions?" On Martin's affirmative answer, Barnhouse
said, "Then we will go ahead." Within a year the Eternity
subscriptions were higher than before, and there was again a good market
for Martin's books.
Meanwhile, the General Conference of Seventh day Adventists was taking
a direct hand in planning the book taking shape from the questions and
answers. In September 1956 the General Conference Officers appointed a
small editorial committee.* On January 23, 1957, the Review and Herald
Publishing Association was invited to manufacture the book "as
compiled by a committee appointed by the General Conference,"
accepting the manuscript in its completed form.
*Members of the editorial committee: A. V. Olson (chairman), W. E.
Read, M. Thurber (book editor of the Review and Herald Publishing
Association), W. G. C. Murdoch, R. Hammill, L. E. Froom, and R. A.
ETERNITY magazine, which carried both Barnhouse's and Martin's articles
acknowledging Adventists as Christians, lost nearly one-fourth of its
subscriptions as a result. The loss was temporary though, for within a
year circulation was higher than ever. credit: Eternity Magazine
And on January 30 the executive committee of the publishing house
accepted the manuscript for publication on a "text basis." The
General Conference officers approved the title, Seventh-day Adventists
Answer Questions on Doctrine, and also the short title, Questions on
Doctrine. The officers also approved the exact wording of the introduction
as it later appeared in the book over the signature of the editorial
committee. Here it was made clear that the book was the work of a
representative selection of participants, not of an individual, nor even
of the committee, and that those preparing the answers made no claim to
having provided the final word on Christian doctrine.
In September the officers recorded a series of actions having to do
with publicity and distribution. Union conference papers and Adventist
magazines would be asked to run advertisements. Non-Adventist periodicals
would be invited to run ads and to publish book reviews. A suitable
four page folder was to be printed for distribution to non-Adventist
clergymen. High-ranking religious leaders in North America were to receive
complimentary copies. Churches were to be invited to put copies in their
libraries and to present complimentary copies to Protestant ministers in
the community. Book and Bible houses were to stock Questions on Doctrine.
Questions on Doctrine was published late in 1957. It was designed to
begin with the "Statement of Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day
Adventists," first published in 1931, later given General Conference
approval, and regularly included in church manuals and yearbooks of the
denomination. This was to make clear to Adventists and non-Adventists
alike, that in presenting an amplified statement on doctrine the General
Conference was not setting forth a new theology, but was clarifying and
amplifying the doctrines most generally believed by contemporary
Seventh-day Adventists. Included in appendices was an extensive
compilation from the writings of Ellen G. White, covering such subjects as
the Deity and eternal preexistence of Christ and His place in the Trinity;
His divine-human nature in the incarnation; His completed sacrificial
atonement on the cross; and His priestly ministry in the heavenly
sanctuary. These were the areas which had been found to be most frequently
misunderstood and misquoted. This compilation was later included in Volume
7-A of the Seventh-day Adventists Commentary series. Many of these same
quotations appeared in the Ministry magazine, between May 1956, and March
1957, under the title, "Counsels from the Spirit of Prophecy."
The editor of Ministry, R. A. Anderson, made sure during the months
preceding the publication of Questions and Doctrine, that the Adventist
clergy was fully informed of what to expect. He described the conferences
with the Evangelicals and the removal of century-old misunderstandings. He
explained the procedure for getting a doctrinal consensus from world
leaders in the church. The unity of belief so demonstrated he attributed
to the influence of the writings of Ellen G. White. There were also
articles during this period from W. E. Read on the nature of Christ and
from L. E. Froom on the atonement.
It came as a surprise to the planners, after the demonstration of a
solid consensus from world leaders in the church and the preview in
Ministry of what was to come, that Questions on Doctrine should be
subjected to attack from Adventist sources. The critics seemed to be
saying the same things, suggesting a common source. This was not hard to
find. M.L. Andreason, a respected retired Adventist theologian, author and
Bible teacher, had widely circulated eleven mimeographed documents and six
printed leaflets addressed to the churches. In these the writer accused
the compilers of Questions on Doctrine of attempting to change traditional
doctrines, and he accused the officers of the General Conference of
planning to revise the writings of Ellen White to conform.
A formal denial of these charges was prepared by A. V. Olson, a General
Conference vice president, and chairman of the Board of Trustees of the
Ellen G. White Estate. This reply, dated September 6, 1960, was sent at
the request of the General Conference officers to officers of the overseas
divisions of the church and to all union conference officers and local
conference presidents in the North American Division. The incident was
soon closed, and the author of the criticism made his peace with the
church to which he had formerly given distinguished service.
The Zondervan Publishing House had originally scheduled publication of
Walter Martin's The Truth About Seventh-day Adventism for January 1957, as
part of the series on cult apologetics. There were delays, but so long as
there was a possibility of his book coming out first he was supplied with
page proofs of the Adventist book, so he would have reliable references.
Martin had promised that in describing the teachings of contemporary
Seventh-day Adventists he would only use statements from the book to be
published with the approval of the General Conference. As late as October
1959, R. A. Anderson and W. E. Read, with H. W. Lowe, chairman of the
Biblical Study and Research Group of the General Conference, were going
over Martin's gallies, preparatory to writing a statement to be included
in the book. The Truth About Seventh-day Adventism was, and is, a notable
book. In the "Foreword" Barnhouse stated:
Since leaders of Adventism agree that this book fairly represents their
theological position, this work is a milestone in Christian apologetics;
for, during this study, brethren talked and prayed together, assessed each
other's position and agreed to disagree while still obeying the Lord's
command to love one another.
In the author's "Preface" Martin reminded both Adventists and
non-Adventists that still to be healed were wounds caused by ignorance,
prejudice, and an unforgiving spirit, of which Adventists as well as
non-Adventists were guilty. But, he wrote, the place of healing is at the
cross. Meeting there, we find strength and grace to keep the "lost
commandment," that we love one another.
The Adventist statement, over the name of H. W. Lowe, as it appeared in
Martin's book, asked that members of the Adventist church, when reading
the last chapter of the book, in which Martin described his points of
disagreement with Adventism, would remember the fair and accurate
statement of Adventist teachings set forth in the earlier portions of the
book. Lowe also expressed the gratitude and respect the Adventist
leadership felt toward Martin for his correct recording of their beliefs
and for his attitude of Christian brotherhood.
In retrospect, the publication of The Truth About Seventh-day Adventism
and Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine, improved
relations between Evangelicals and Seventh-day Adventists. Martin's book
did not convince all Adventist isolationists that its author and Barnhouse
spoke for the Evangelicals, or that fraternal relations were desirable or
safe. And the publication of Questions on Doctrine did not convince all
Evangelicals that Adventists were not heretics in Christian robes.
Isolated attacks on Adventism continued. And Martin's book could not be
bought in Adventist book stores.
Paul. Hopkins, the executive secretary of the (Barnhouse) Evangelical
Foundation, struck a hopeful note in a letter to me, dated May 6, 1960:
Quite honestly, I can see that what you began with us is still only the
beginning and I recognize that you are going to have the same problems
within your group that we have in ours. There is much land still to be
possessed before the members of the Body of Christ can recognize one
another as we should. In the meantime, let us continue to work and pray
that the day may come sooner than we might normally expect.
SELECTED SOURCES BOOKS:
Froom. LeRoy Edwin. Movement of Destiny. Washington. Review and Herald
Publishing Association, 1961.
Martin. Walter R. The Truth About Seventh-day Adventists. Grand Rapids.
Zondervan Publishing House, 1960.
Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine. Washington. Review
and Herald Publishing Association. 1957.
Eternity. June 1950. September 1956 - January 1957.
Ministry. May. September, December. 1956, January. March, April. 1957,
Sunday School Times. December 1. 1956 - January 12. 1957. The King's
Business. April - June. 1957. Time. December 31, 1956.
Mrs. Margaret Barnhouse. September 24, 1976.
Roy A. Anderson. December. 1976. January. 1977 (numerous).
Roy A. Anderson. to: LeRoy E. Froom. Oct. 1956.
Donald G. Barnhouse. to: T. E. Unruh, Dec. 1949.
LeRoy E. Froom, to: R. A. Anderson. Aug. 1956: Walter R. Martin
Jan. 1956: T. E. Unruh, Aug. Nov. and Dec. 1955, May 1960.
Paul Hopkins. to T. F:. Unruh. May 1960.
T. E. Unruh. to: Donald G. Barnhouse. Nov. 1949: LeRoy E. Froom and W.
E. Read. July 1955
"The Seventh-day Adventist Evangelical Conferences of
1955-1956," by T. E. Unruh, in "Adventist Heritage," Fourth
Quarter, 1977, pages 35-46.