Adventist Creationism in the 21st Century: Fundamentalist or Constructive?

Speaker: Categories: May 10, 2003

 

[57min, 34sec / 48min, 22sec]

ABOUT THE TOPIC:

Readers ofAdventist Today,Spectrumand theAdventist Reviewwill already know that, beginning in August, 2002, with a six-day conference in Odgen, Utah, the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (SDA) initiated an unprecedented, multi-year, denomination-wide dialogue involving hundreds of SDA scientists, theologians and church administrators on SDA understandings of the Creation narratives in Genesis. Two other sessions are being planned for 2003 and 2004. The 2003 session for the North American Division is scheduled for this August at Glacier View, Colorado. It is already being called Glacier View II, recalling the earlier Glacier View conference that attempted to deal with the Ford controversy involving traditional SDA teachings on the Heavenly Sanctuary and Investigative Judgment.

The 2002 conference in Ogden documented significant disagreements among SDA scholars about the appropriate interpretative or hermeneutical framework to use when considering the Genesis Creation narratives. . Discussions at the Ogden conference also highlighted the lack of consensus about the appropriate role that scientific data should play in evaluating currently conventional SDA understandings of earth and early human history.

That significant diversity of views exists among those employed to teach science and theology in denominational colleges and universities was explicitly admitted in the official report of the organizing committee published in theAdventist Reviewfollowing the Ogden session. This report, in part, stated that the conference attendees"recognized the seriousness and breadth of differences concerning questions of origin that are present in the Seventh-clay Adventist community."

SDA views that are currently represented as normative in officially-sanctioned denominational literature on creationism continue to reflect, to a significant degree, the fundamentalist-oriented ethos of conventional SDA apologetics. Traditional SDA Creationism teaches"Young Life Creationism"(YLC). This is the view that the creation of life forms on earth took place in six contiguous, literal 24-hour days in the recent past. The"recent past"is measured in units of thousands of years. The SDA YLC teaching also insists that there has occurred an even more recent catastrophic, world-wide flood. According to Protestant fundamentalist and traditional SDA understandings, this alleged event is held responsible for the deposition of all, much, or most of the fossil-bearing layers of the geologic column. The component of fundamentalism that most directly conditions traditional SDA Creationism is a belief in essential biblical inerrancy, the view that there is a lack of major factual errors in the biblical text. Dr. Taylor will discuss the historical roots and implications of this view in the SDA Church.

While there are a number of relevant theological and scientific issues that might be considered, the presentation will specifically consider the following:

(1) Is there a single understanding of how the first chapters ofGenesisare to be interpreted and understood which should be considered normative for the entire SDA faith community?

(2) How shall the church, as a corporate body, in its publications and in its public pronouncements, deal with the reality that there are major differences of opinion among scientifically and theologically educated SDAs in the first world SDA Church about how the early chapters ofGenesisare to be understood? and, (3) How much pluralism on this topic will the leadership of the SDA Church be able publicly to accommodate as appropriate within the entire SDA community of faith?

In his presentation Dr. Taylor will focus on and explore several aspects of the questions surrounding"Young life Creationism"(YLC) as expounded in contemporary traditional SDA Creationism. He will consider why, from a scientific perspective, this position is considered to be untenable by all but a handful of scientists. Dr. Taylor states"others much more competent than I have already demonstrated, to my satisfaction, that the YLC position is also not biblically and theologically compelling but, since I lack any professional expertise in theology, I will not consider this aspect of the topic except as it impinges on the views of those currently supporting the traditional SDA version of the YLC position. Finally, Dr. Taylor will suggest that the current dialogue on biblical creationism among SDA scholars might have the potential to serve as a model for and case study of how the maturing SDA church, under intelligent and pragmatic leadership, might deal with difficult and controversial theological and other issues of church polity in a constructive and positive manner. This would be in significant contrast to how several previous controversial theological and political issues in the SDA church, e.g., disputes over the Heavenly Sanctuary doctrine, have been approached and handled by prior SDA church administrations and administrators.

ABOUT THE SPEAKER

Ervin Taylor is currently Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Riverside (UCR) and Research Associate at the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

A third generation SDA, he was born in Los Angeles, California, attended Lynwood Academy and Pacific Union College, graduating with his B.A. from PUC in 1960. He received his Ph.D. in anthropology with an emphasis in archaeology at UCLA in 1970 in the Isotope Laboratory of the late Willard F. Libby, 1960 Nobel laureate in chemistry for the discovery of the radiocarbon method. Following the receipt of his A Ph.D., he held a NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Department of Chemistry at UCLA.

Upon appointment to the faculty of the University of California, Riverside, Dr. Taylor established the UCR Radiocarbon Laboratory in the Department of Anthropology and Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics. For three decades research initiated by him and carried out in his laboratory by students, colleagues, and collaborators has focused on examining various aspects of the application of dating and analytical techniques in archaeology with particular emphasis on radiocarbon and, in collaboration with P. Edgar Hare, amino acid racemization dating. He has•. published over 100 journal articles, chapters, and reviews in a wide range of scholarly journals includingNature,Science,American Antiquity,American Scientist,Antiquity,Historic Archaeology,World Archaeology, andRadiocarbon. He is the author ofRadiocarbon Dating: An Archaeological Perspective(Academic Press, 1987), a co-editor ofRadiocarbon After Four Decades: An Interdisciplinary Perspective(Springer-Verlag, 1992),Chronologies in New World Archaeology(Academic Press, 1978), andChronometric Dating in Archaeology(Plenum Press, 1997).

Dr. Taylor has served not only as the Director of the UCR Radiocarbon Laboratory but as the Chairman of the UCR Department of Anthropology and Director of the UCR Archaeological Research Unit. Anticipating his upcoming full or part-time retirement from teaching at UCR to devote sufficient time to spoil his grandchildren and to finish a long delayed book, he is now in the process of transferring components of his laboratory to the Keck Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Laboratory in the Department of Earth Systems Science at the University of California, Irvine, and the Molecular Genetics Laboratory in the Department of anthropology at the University of California, Davis.

He lives in Loma Linda, California with his wife of 44 years who is an R.N. at Loma Linda currently involved in coordinating clinical research projects in dermatology. Dr. Taylor has two grown children and four grandchildren, one of whom is 8 years old but believes she is 16. He is a member of the Loma Linda University SDA Church and serves as the Executive Editor ofAdventist Todayand Vice Chair of the Board of the Adventist Today Foundation.

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