Is There an SDA Way to Interpret Scripture?

Speaker: Categories: Feb 14, 1998


[57min, 48sec / 53min, 32sec]


One set of data  . . . One library of reference material  . . . Fifty-seven books, some in two-part or three-part formats, making sixty-six volumes altogether . . . Multiple authors, writing over a period of about sixteen hundred years . . . And upon researching these materials thoroughly, an ever-expanding proliferation of interpretations, hence, denominations, has developed!

How can such a phenomenon be explained? How can a single, agreed-upon set of source materials produce such a variety of interpretations and conclusions? Are the research methods faulty? Are the source materials, the data, changeable? Does each new translation or paraphrase of the source documents put at risk previously arrived at conclusions? Within a given denomination, by definition a group having consensus on biblical truths, might there also be a spectrum of beliefs, understandings, even polarization, regardingwhat the Bible says?

Dr. Bailey Gillespie notes,"All too often Adventists have been accused of [having] their own way to interpret the Bible. We are in a unique position from other Christian groups. We not only have a Bible given through tradition to the church, we have a body of literature from Ellen G. White, perceived by many as a prophet of God."

"Does she writescripture? Is her work another text used for authoritative interpretations of sacred Scripture?"he questions.

"We want to explore this question ofhow do you understand your Bible,"points out Dr. Gillespie,"and see if there is a unique[ly] Adventist way to interpret Scriptures."

Before hearing Bailey Gillespie's presentation, how would you respond to the above? If Adventists are just a part of an ongoing proliferation of denominations, is this the result of some specialized and perhaps peculiar method of research of the source data to be studied? Are there agreed-upon, standardized methods for doing such research? Do all Bible scholars, even within a given denomination, utilize the same tools for analysis?


V. Bailey Gillespie, a member of the School of Religion faculty at La Sierra University for the past twenty-six years, is a graduate of Lorna Linda University (B.A., 1964), Andrews University (M.A., 1965, and M.Div., 1966), and Claremont Graduate School (Ph.D., 1973) with major concentrations in Psychology of Religion and Religious Learning. He has served as a pastor, academy Bible teacher, and Associate Dean of the School of Dentistry at Loma Linda University before joining the religion faculty at La Sierra.

His publications include:Religious Conversion and Personal Identity: How and Why People Change;The Experience of Faith;The Dynamics of Change; andThe Little Letters: 1, 2, 3 John. He has also been published inMinistry Magazine,Journal of Adventist Education,Insight,Pacific Union Recorder, and theAdventist Review. He is co-author with Roger L. Dudley ofValuegenesis: Faith in the Balance, which he reported to the San Diego Adventist Forum in May and November, 1991. His newest publication, co-authored with Stuart Tyner and David Wood, isSummer Ministries. He is a frequent consultant on children and youth ministries issues.

From 1978-1986 he served as Administrative Director of the Excavations of Caesarea Maritima in Israel. He currently directs the School of Religion Study Tours to the Middle East, Greece, Greek Islands, and Rome each summer. He is the executive director of the John Hancock Center for Youth Ministries at LSU.

He and his wife Judy, a business woman in Riverside, have a daughter, Shannon Gillespie Quishenberry, a junior high teacher, and a son, Timothy Gillespie, youth pastor at the La Mesa SDA Church [San Diego area].

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