The "Sanctuary Doctrine"—Asset or liability
By Raymond F. Cottrell, D.Div. (1912-2003)
Note: This was first delivered to the second JIF symposium in 02-04 November 2001 and again publicly on 09 February 2002 at the Assoc. of Adventist Forums meeting in San Diego, CA. This is part 2 or a two-part article.
9. Flaws in the Sanctuary Doctrine
There can be no question as to the sincerity, diligence, and integrity of those who formulated the traditional Adventist interpretation of Daniel 8:14. It is equally obvious that they were following the flawed principles of the prooftext method: (1) In four major instances they adopted translation errors where the KJV misrepresents the Hebrew text. (2) They completely ignored the literary context in which Daniel 8:14 occurs. (3) They likewise ignored the historical context specified by the first six chapters and chapter 9:1-19 of the book, within which its several prophetic pericopes were given and to which they specifically applied. (4) They did not take into account the salvation history perspective specified by the book (and the entire Old Testament),126 within which Daniel 8:14 occurs and to which Daniel specifically applies it. As set forth in the preceding section of this paper, sola Scriptura and the historical method both require that these factors be taken into account.
Today, anyone who makes exegetical blunders such as these is automatically dismissed as an unreliable Bible student. Had the pioneers of our message been following the principles of the historical method they would never have come to the conclusions they did---and never experienced the bitter disappointment on October 22, 1844. Let us emulate their sincerity, earnestness, and devotion to the Word of God, and be true to the best we know today, as they were in their time!
In comparison with the exegetical requirements set forth in the two preceding sections (7 and 8 above), the traditional interpretation of Daniel 8:14 ignores ...
... the historical context provided by chapters 1 to 6 and 9:4-19, within which Inspiration placed it---the point in history when the seventy years of exile foretold by Jeremiah came to a close and the restoration era was about to begin.
... the salvation history perspective of Daniel's time, and of the entire Bible.35, 131.... the Hebrew text of Daniel 8:14 and 9:25-26 at four major points, identified in section 8 above.103
... the immediate context of 8:14 in chapter 8 itself, which explicitly identifies (1) the sanctuary mentioned in verse 14 as that located by verses 9 to 11 in "the beautiful land," Judea; (2) its desolation of the sanctuary as that caused by the little horn in verses 11 to 13, and (3) when that desolation would take place, at the close of the (Hellenistic) Greek era, in verses 21 to 23. Accordingly, reference by analogy to the heavenly sanctuary of the Book of Hebrews is irrelevant.
... the fact that 9:24-26 has the sanctuary restored and in full operation during the very time that 8:13-14 has it desolate and out of operation. This contradiction, inherent in and essential to the traditional interpretation of Daniel 8:14 which requires that the seventy weeks of years be considered the first segment of the 2,300 "days," renders it an exegetical oxymoron.
The day-for-a-year idea applied to Bible prophecy appears first in the ninth century Karaite Jewish scholar Nahawendi's attempt to relate the fulfillment of Daniel's prophecies to events of his day. Modern reliance on the day-for-a-year "principle" in the interpretation of Bible prophecy originated with (1) the mistaken KJV rendition of the Hebrew erev boquer ("evenings mornings") in Daniel 8:14 as "days," when as a matter of fact erev boquer is verse 14's contextual equivalent of "regular burnt offering" in the question of verse 13, to which verse 14 is the inspired answer, and with (2) the endeavor to correlate these supposed "days" with the "seventy weeks" of Daniel 9:24. The expression "seventy weeks" is simply use of the jubilee system of expressing 490 years as 49 jubilees, each of its ten "jubilees" consisting of 49 literal years. There is absolutely no Bible basis whatever for citing Daniel 9 as evidence for the day-for-a-year idea.
It should be noted that the "days" of Numbers 14:34 during which representatives of the twelve tribes had spied out the land of Canaan were not prophetic of the years God sentenced the Israelites to wander in the desert. Those years were, rather, judicial, sentencing the unbelieving wanderers for their lack of faith in God's promise to give them the land of Canaan. The 390 "days" of Ezekiel 4:6 during which God directed the prophet to lie on one side and then the other, represented that many past years of apostasy. Those "days" were in no sense prophetic of the past years of apostasy.
Under the caption "Christ's Ministry in the Heavenly Sanctuary" article 23 of Fundamental Beliefs reads as follows, with a distinction between that which accurately reflects Scripture and is biblically relevant in bold face, and the sanctuary doctrine's flawed interpretation of Bible passages in ordinary type:
There is a sanctuary in heaven, the true tabernacle which the Lord set up and not man. In it Christ ministers in our behalf, making available to believers the benefits of His atoning sacrifice offered once for all on the cross. He was inaugurated as our great High Priest and began His intercessory ministry at the time of His ascension. In 1844, at the end of the prophetic period of 2300 days, He entered the second and last phase of His atoning ministry. It is a work of investigative judgment which is part of the ultimate disposition of all sin, typified by the cleansing of the ancient sanctuary on the Day of Atonement. In that typical service the sanctuary was cleansed with the blood of animal sacrifices, but the heavenly things are purified with the perfect sacrifice of the blood of Jesus. The investigative judgment reveals to heavenly intelligences who among the dead are asleep in Christ and therefore, in Him, are deemed worthy to have part in the first resurrection. It also makes manifest who, among the living, are abiding in Christ, keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, and in Him therefore, are ready for translation into His everlasting kingdom. This judgment vindicates God in saving those who believe in Jesus. It declares that those who have remained loyal to God shall receive the kingdom. The completion of this ministry of Christ will mark the close of human probation before the second Advent.
The first part of the preceding statement accurately reflects the description of Christ's ministry on our behalf since His return to heaven nearly two thousand years ago. The last part has no basis whatever in Scripture. To be in harmony with the sola Scriptura principle it should be deleted from the Fundamental Beliefs resume of Adventist beliefs and replaced by an amplification of Christ's ministry as set forth in the Book of Hebrews.
The ephemeral umbilical cord is essential to life prior to birth, but totally irrelevant thereafter. May it be that the traditional sanctuary doctrine was a sort of spiritual umbilical cord God permitted as a means of reviving advent expectancy, but should be discarded once it had served its purpose? "The Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour," "the night is far gone, the day is near," "let us put on the armor of light." "What sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness" while "waiting for and hastening the day of God."?127 May it be that God overlooked this defect in their understanding of Daniel 8:14 and honored their sincerity, in view of the fact that the traumatic experience of October 22, 1844 had the effect of reviving the state of advent expectancy Jesus long ago commended to His followers: "Keep awake, therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming."128
The basic cause of the bitter disappointment was unawareness of the fact that, when given, Daniel's preview of the future applied specifically to the Jewish captives in Babylon anticipating return to their homeland, and to His plans for them culminating in the establishment of His eternal reign of righteousness in the long ago. This becomes obvious when the historical circumstances of Daniel's time and its perspective of salvation history---all explicit in the book itself---are taken into consideration. The presupposition that Daniel 8:14, when given, anticipated events of our time was the basic cause of the 1844 error and the resulting disappointment. Continued disappointment will be inevitable until this error is recognized and corrected, and the historicist principle on which it is based, is abandoned.
10. The Sanctuary Doctrine and Sola Scriptura
The traditional Adventist sanctuary doctrine is based on the historicist principle, or method, of prophetic interpretation. Consequently, those who follow that method automatically find the doctrine flawless. On the other hand, those who follow the historical principle, or method, find it bristling with flaws. As a result, differences of opinion with respect to the sanctuary doctrine can be resolved only by objectively testing the presuppositions and methodology on which it is based, by the sola Scriptura principle. The two methods are as mutually exclusive and irreconcilable as day and night, and a choice between them is decisive for the study of Bible prophecy.
Historicism is based on the untested pre-concept that the modern reader's perspective of salvation history is inherent in Bible prophecy and therefore in full harmony with the sola Scriptura principle. According to the historicist principle the modern reader of the Bible is to understand its statements with respect to the end time of human history and associated events, in terms of our modern perspective of salvation history, with an uninterrupted, continuous fulfillment of Bible prophecy throughout the two thousand years since Bible times. The sanctuary doctrine and its advocates have always taken this principle for granted and never tested its presumed validity objectively, that is, by the Bible itself. This was true at Glacier View in August 1980. It is equally true of the subsequent GC-appointed Daniel and Revelation Committee and its seven-volume official report, which presupposes the inherent validity of historicism but never attempts to test or defend it objectively by the sola Scriptura principle.
On the other hand, the historical principle begins with objective attention to prophetic statements of the Bible in terms of their import as determined by the historical circumstances and salvation history perspective within which they were given and to which they were intended to apply. This principle is not adopted as a subjective pre-concept, but on the objective basis of plain sola Scriptura evidence, as illustrated in Sections 7 and 8 above with respect to Daniel's own explicit historical and salvation history perspective. Both are inherent in the Book of Daniel and obvious when read objectively.
Section 8 above examines the historical sections of the Book of Daniel and Daniel's own perspective of salvation history with the objective of determining the historical circumstances and salvation history perspective as a basis for understanding the import of its prophetic sections. Daniel's salvation history perspective is identical with that of the Old Testament as a whole, as my article "The Role of Israel in Old Testament Prophecy"129 in volume 4 of the SDA Bible Commentary demonstrates. Chapter 4 of my 725-page unpublished book manuscript The Eschatology of Daniel, "The Old Testament Perspective of Salvation History," provides replete Bible evidence for the conclusion that it anticipates the climax of human history at the close of Old Testament times, or soon thereafter.
Jesus and the New Testament writers unanimously reiterate this Old Testament perspective of salvation history and anticipate His promised return at the climax of New Testament times. In 36 pages chapter 12 of The Eschatology of Daniel, "The New Testament Perspective of Salvation History," covers this aspect of the subject in considerable detail.
In summary, at the beginning of His public ministry Jesus announced as the theme of His mission: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near, repent and believe in the good news." What was fulfilled? The time prophecies of Daniel, alone in the Old Testament, identify the "time" to which Jesus here refers. Thus, on no less than the authority of Jesus Himself, fulfillment of the "time" specified by Daniel was near when Jesus appeared in fulfillment of Old Testament anticipation of His coming. During the course of His sermon in the synagogue at Nazareth He declared concerning the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 61:1-3: "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
During the course of Jesus' response to the disciples' inquiry concerning the destruction of the Temple, to which He had just referred, the "sign" of His promised return and "the end of the age" was, "When you see the desolating sacrilege standing in the holy place spoken of by the prophet Daniel ... know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things, [specifically including His coming in the clouds of heaven to gather His elect] have taken place."130
That Jesus specifically intended His remarks concerning the prophecy of Daniel being fulfilled in His disciples' own generation is evident from (1) His use of the pronouns "you" and is His disciples' generation is evident from His repeated "your" twelve times throughout His discourse, and (2) their repeated use of such expressions as "the end of the times," "the coming of the Lord is at hand," "it is the last hour," "these last days," "the time is near," He is "coming soon," "the time has grown very short," "the end of the ages has come," "these last days," and "yet a little while," nearly forty times when referring to Jesus' anticipated return.131 John the revelator specifically says that everything in the Book of Revelation "must soon take place," and Jesus assures him four times "I am coming soon," and the last of which, "surely I am coming soon."132
There is not the slightest suggestion or hint anywhere in either the Old or the New Testaments that Jesus' return would be postponed more or less indefinitely beyond Bible times. The Bible evidence is all explicitly to the contrary. The Bible itself knows nothing whatever about the historicist interpretation of its prophecies, a concept that is gratuitously imposed upon them. If Gabriel and Daniel were here today they would inevitably render the verdict of sola Scriptura against historicism and in favor of a historical understanding of Bible prophecy, including that of the Book of Daniel, and insist on the Bible's own historical and salvation history perspectives!
The historicist principle by which Adventists have consistently understood and interpreted Bible prophecy has, ever since the beginning, imposed our uninspired modern perspective of salvation history on it, and thereby been in unwitting violation of the sola Scriptura principle. In contrast, the historical principle honors the Bible's own perspective of salvation history, within which its prophetic messages were given and to which they were intended to apply. It thereby consistently honors the sola Scriptura principle. Let us not soon forget that the historicist interpretation of Bible prophecy has ever been and continues to be responsible for the loss of many otherwise dedicated leaders and the defection of uncounted hundreds of otherwise faithful Seventh-day Adventists. It has, in addition, diverted considerable time, attention, and substantial resources of the church from its mission to the world.
Surely it is high time for responsible church leaders to awake to the situation and do something about it. The obscurantist 1600-page, 5-volume Daniel and Revelation Committee report on Daniel accepts and consistently applies the historicist principle to Bible prophecy---officially for the church. Do we want the twenty-first century to witness the fulfillment of Christ's promise to return, or do we prefer to repeat our pathetic historicist past complacently and indefinitely into the future, and thereby alienate the respect and confidence of biblically literate Adventists and non-Adventists?
11. Obscurantism and the Sanctuary Doctrine
Webster defines obscurantism as "depreciation of or positive opposition to enlightenment or the spread of knowledge, esp. a policy ... of deliberately making something obscure or withholding knowledge from the general public." Here, the word "obscurantism" is used in the specific sense of making presumably authoritative decisions and/or statements with respect to the sanctuary doctrine on the basis of untested, preconceived opinions and/or without first weighing all of the available evidence on the basis of sound, recognized principles of exegesis and basing conclusions exclusively on the weight of all the evidence.
Obscurantism has characterized the official response of the church to every question raised with respect to the traditional interpretation of Daniel 8:14, the sanctuary doctrine, and the investigative judgment. In at least most instances this obscurantism has been inadvertent and not intentional, but its effect has been the same as if it had been intentional. It is high time for the church to be done with the traditional clichés with which it has heretofore responded to questions regarding the sanctuary doctrine. It is time to face up to and to deal fairly and objectively with all of the evidence.
A Window of Hope and Opportunity at Mid-Century
Elder R. R. Figuhr's twelve years as president of the General Conference at mid-century (1954-1966) provided the church with an era of wise leadership and openness in which administrators and trained Bible scholars worked together harmoniously and effectively in resolving biblical and doctrinal questions. Over the preceding fifteen years the church had developed a community of trained, responsible Bible scholars whose professional expertise Elder Figuhr respected and trusted, and who, in turn, respected and appreciated his wise leadership. An open, happy, and rewarding working relationship developed between them that was good for the church.
Another important aspect of that mid-century era of good will and cooperation was the spirit of consensus and harmony among the Bible scholars of the church in which the sometimes bitter doctrinal factionalism133 of the earlier decades of the century had disappeared. For this two factors were responsible, the first being the Bible Research Fellowship, pioneer professional organization of Bible Scholars, and second, the SDA Bible Commentary.
At their 1940 meeting in Takoma Park the North American college Bible teachers authorized the formation of a professional organization in which they could work together on matters of exegesis and doctrine, share the results of their study with one another, and benefit from one another's constructive criticism.134 This organization became a reality three years later---1943---in the Bible Research Fellowship (BRF),134 of which Dr. L. L. Caviness was chairperson and I secretary throughout its brief lifetime of approximately ten years. We were teaching together in the religion department at Pacific Union College.
Eventually, BRF membership rose to 250 and, with one exception, included all college level Bible Teachers around the world. Many others, including seventeen General Conference persons, were dues-paying members. During those ten years more than 90 formal papers were considered and shared with members.135 At the Bible teachers' 1950 meeting at Pacific Union College, responses to a questionnaire found complete agreement with respect to every major, divisive exegetical and doctrinal issue over the preceding fifty years!136 At that 1950 meeting BRF made a report of its operations, a formal vote of appreciation for BRF was taken, and all joined in singing the Doxology.
In 1951, on behalf of BRF, I proposed to the General Conference that it establish a permanent committee to replace BRF.137 The 1952 Autumn (now Annual) Council accepted my proposal and established the Biblical Research Committee (BRC) of the General Conference. Thereupon Dr. Caviness, present as a delegate, formally handed over BRF operations to BRC. Simultaneously transferring from Pacific Union College to the Review and Herald Publishing Association to edit the Bible Commentary, I was appointed a charter member of BRC. After several years, for a still higher level of continuity and effective service to the church, I proposed that the committee become an institute.138 This was voted in 1975, whereupon BRC became the Biblical Research Institute (BRI), which it remains today (2002).
The second unifying factor was production of the seven-volume SDA Bible Commentary (1952-1957),139 in which a team of approximately fifty writers and editors participated.139 Prior to publication each volume was read and criticized by ten church leaders around the world, who were paid for their criticisms.140 Some critical sections were read and criticized by 125 such readers. All criticisms were carefully evaluated, and where considered appropriate, accepted.
But during the late 1960's that brief mid-century era of openness, good will, progress, and cooperation between administrators and Bible scholars began imperceptibly to erode into the closed-minded, polarized, obscurantist, and theological witch-hunting that continues to the present time (2002). In order to understand this subtle change in the Adventist climate over the past thirty years, let us note first, the three architects of obscurantism primarily responsible for it. All three were southern Bible belt fundamentalists. We will also note several specific evidences of obscurantism.
Architects of Obscurantism
The role of this part of Section 11 on obscurantism in the church over the past 33 years is to explain how the present climate of obscurantism surreptitiously invaded and captured the church. Only a person who served the church through the preceding era of openness and mutual respect between administrators and Bible scholars at the General Conference level is in a position to appreciate the profound change that revolutionized Adventist theology, Biblical hermeneutics, and approach to doctrine during the decade of obscurantism (1969-1980).
The three principal architects of obscurantism introduced briefly below were all obviously sincere, dedicated individuals who conscientiously believed that their ultimate objective, or "end," justified whatever means they might employ to achieve that objective. For instance, they were never willing to enter into open, responsible dialog with those who did not share their perspective, but two of the three always, consistently put daggers in the backs of those whom they suspected of not sharing their point of view. In personal conversation the president of the General Conference admitted this to me.
On the contrary, it was my privilege to converse personally with each of the "architects of obscurantism" named below, by which I came to understand their objectives and methods first hand. Realizing, eventually, that the last two of the three were simply implementing Elder Pierson's policy and objectives, I spent many hours at various times in conversation with him, the last being two or three hours on the chartered Pan-American flight returning from the General Conference Session in Vienna, in 1975.
These conversations were always positive, "friend of the court" in tone in which I dealt with principles and never mentioned anyone's name. In one of those conversations Elder Pierson cryptically told me that one of the other two "architects" was disseminating (among GC personnel) inaccurate accusatory comments with respect to loyal Adventist scholars whom he considered theological renegades. In our correspondence following Elder Pierson's retirement in 1979 we both expressed appreciation for each other's friendship. In his last letter a short time before his death he wrote: "Through the years that we served together in Washington I always considered you as a friend. Though there may have been areas of differing opinions I had a warm feeling for you personally." In my last letter to him I expressed the same sentiment.
Robert H. Pierson was a gracious person, a dedicated Adventist, a gentleman in every way, but also a person with clear objectives and resolute determination to achieve them. A major objective of his administration as president of the General Conference was to replace the administrator / Bible scholar partnership that had developed during Elder Figuhr's administration with strict administrative control of the theological and doctrinal processes of the church.
During his thirteen years as president of the General Conference (1966-1979) Elder Pierson completely reversed the policy of his predecessor, R. R. Figuhr, with respect to biblical studies, doctrine, and cooperation with its community of Bible scholars. His very sincere but resolute aim was to restore the situation that had prevailed when he graduated from Southern Junior College in 1933 and left North America three years later for distinguished overseas service in India, the Caribbean, and South Africa, where he served with distinction until he was elected GC president thirty years later. For all practical purposes, in 1936 church administrators had been in exclusive control of theology and doctrine for the church. At that time there were no trained Adventist Bible scholars. Anyone who attended an "outside" university for training in such subjects as biblical languages, archeology, ancient history, and chronology was automatically considered persona non grata by every Adventist college board.141
Accordingly, Pierson distrusted the entire Adventist community of Bible scholars and set out to exclude them from meaningful participation in the Biblical and doctrinal deliberations of the church. In private conversation and in GC committees he repeatedly stated it to be his policy that administrators alone---and not in counsel with Bible scholars---should decide exegetical questions for the church. His first step toward implementing this policy took place at the Spring Meeting of the GC in 1969, which eliminated the Bible scholars of the church, en masse, from the Biblical Research Committee142-a policy that was never implemented, however, due to vigorous protests from the Theological Seminary faculty. Undaunted, however, later that year he achieved his objective by adding numerous administrators and other non-scholars to BRC, and appointing a vice president of the GC to supervise the Biblical Research Committee (now Institute) and the GC office of biblical studies (BRI).143
Also in the spring of 1969, Pierson invited a teacher at his alma mater, Southern Adventist College (now University), to chair BRC---Gordon M. Hyde---whose training was in communication---and who shared Pierson's Southern Bible belt fundamentalist theological perspective. Hyde protested that he was not trained in theology, but Pierson explained that he was to function as an administrator and not as a Bible scholar.144 With this understanding Hyde accepted the invitation, and when, during his first years at the GC he was expected to reply to a theological question, he parried the question with the explanation that he was not a theologian.
Upon occasion Hyde could be devious and underhandedly maneuver to achieve his objectives. For instance, at the week-long GC-appointed Charistmatic Committee at Camp Cumby-Gay in Georgia, Hyde announced that every speaker was to confine his remarks to thirty minutes. But he gave Hasel two full hours for his presentation. Upon another occasion he invited Hasel to a sensitive subcommittee hearing to which the Bible Research Committee had explicitly not appointed him, and provided him with copies of papers to be presented to that subcommittee which were to be shared with the appointed members of the committee only. Members of the subcommittee objected to this faux pas on Hyde's part, and as a result the subcommittee never met.145
When, toward the close of my forty-seven years of service to the church Hyde repeatedly refused requests for a face-to-face reconciliation, I wrote him a nine-page letter "looking for reconciliation" in which I mentioned the problems that had arisen between us and made a final appeal for an opportunity to restore the friendly relationship we had enjoyed when he first came to the GC. But he never replied and was intransigent against ever meeting.
Hyde's major project designed to promote Hasel as leading theologian of the church was the series of three North American Bible Conferences, the first of which convened at Southern Adventist College, the second at Andrews University, and the third at Pacific Union College. He assigned Hasel the theme topic, biblical hermeneutics, and featured him on every panel discussion. The senior members of the Theological Seminary faculty were bypassed altogether or assigned relatively minor roles.146
Hyde's attempt to have Hasel appointed dean of the Theological Seminary in the spring of 1974 (prior to the conferences) was aborted by the senior members of the faculty because of Hasel's interference with established Seminary procedures, his collusion with Gordon Hyde and the GC to control Seminary policy, and what the senior members of the faculty referred to as his "intolerable dogmatism."147 Hasel did, however, become dean in 1980, but was demoted seven years later for plagiarism and his attempt to separate the Seminary from Andrews University.
Without expertise in biblical studies and theology himself, Hyde selected Gerhart F. Hasel, a former colleague at Southern Adventist College who had transferred to the Seminary in 1967 and whose ultra-conservative perspective he shared, as his mentor and personal adviser in biblical-theological matters. Hyde's objective was to elevate Hasel to be the leading Adventist theologian and dean of the Theological Seminary at Andrews University, where he would be in a position to indoctrinate the next generation of Adventist Bible scholars and pastors with his obscurantist hermeneutical perspective.
During his tenure as dean, Hasel made several teachers more experienced than he feel unwelcome at the Seminary and, in effect, froze them out---Drs. Sakai Kubo, Ivan Blazen, Fritz Guy, and Larry Geraty. All four were immediately invited to serve at other Adventist institutions of higher education, three of them as college or university presidents. Hasel forthwith appointed Seminary students he had trained, and who accepted his biblical hermeneutic, to replace them. He and Gordon Hyde subsequently forced two other religion faculty members---Drs. Lorenzo Grant and Edwin Zachrison---to leave Southern Adventist College at approximately the same time as Jerry Gladson, and the president of the college resigned in protest. Hasel never approached his targets directly, in compliance with Matthew 18:15, but stuck verbal daggers in their back by denouncing them to administrators (who accepted his word without verifying it).
Over the decade1969 to 1979 this triumvirate---Pierson, Hyde, and Hasel---conspired effectively together to gain control of Adventist Biblical studies, theology, and doctrine in harmony with their fundamentalist, obscurantist perspective.148 Hasel's role was to control Adventist biblical studies and theology. Hyde's role was to devise procedures by which to implement Hasel's hermeneutical and theological perspective, Pierson's role was to protect Hasel and Hyde whatever they might attempt to do. I have set forth a documented record of thirty-one specific incidents in this conspiracy designed to implement Pierson's policy, in my forty-page paper Architects of Crisis: A Decade of Obscurantism (1969-1979).
This explains the origin of the obscurantist climate in the church over the past thirty years and its unwillingness to deal objectively with the numerous exegetical anomalies in the traditional Adventist interpretation of Daniel 8:14 with its sanctuary and investigative judgment.
Aftermath of the Decade of Obscurantism
By the close of the decade of obscurantism (1969-1979) the goal of its three architects was firmly in place. Elder Pierson, ailing, retired a year early. Replaced as director of BRI, Gordon Hyde transferred to Southern Adventist College to be dean of the School of Religion. Gerhard Hasel became dean of the Theological Seminary for seven years (1980-1987), after which the General Conference demoted him, primarily because of his attempt to separate it from Andrews University.149 That unanticipated event precipitated the founding of the Adventist Theological Society (ATS) the following year (1988), which was specifically designed to perpetuate the objectives of the decade of obscurantism in view of Hasel's loss of influence as Seminary dean.150
In view of the fact that Gordon Hyde was then dean of the school of religion at Southern College (SC; now University) and Gerhard Hasel dean of the Theological Seminary at Andrews University, between 1980 and 1987, that both had been teachers at SC prior to 1969, and that Robert Pierson was a graduate (1933) of Southern when it was a junior college, it was no accident that the Adventist Theological Society (ATS) was founded at SC in 1988 by representatives of both institutions and that SC became its first headquarters until it later moved to Andrews University. Thus ATS has a solid basis in Adventist Southern Bible belt fundamentalism, which determines its hermeneutical and theological orientation.150
Developments at the General Conference (GC) level since the decade of obscurantism (1969-1979) are likewise intimately related to these facts. Among these developments have been the following: (1) obscurantism in control at Glacier View,151 (2) obscurantism in relating to Walter Rea,152 (3) obscurantism at Consultations 1 and 2,153 (4) obscurantism in the Daniel and Revelation Committee and its 5-volume report,154 (5) obscurantism in the Methods of Bible Study report,155 (6) obscurantism at the GC Biblical Research Institute, and thus in control of GC doctrinal policy,156 (7) obscurantism in the way several dissenting faculty members at the Seminary and SAC have been treated,157 (8) obscurantism motivating the present GC (IBMTE) and NAD committees formulating a low-tolerance-level policy with respect to dissent from official doctrinal policy. The triumvirate has proved to be eminently successful!
The Nature and Raison d'Etre of Doctrinal Obscurantism
Obscurantism is unwillingness to examine either purported or demonstrated facts objectively, and to encourage or coerce others into accepting subjective presuppositions. The classic illustration of obscurantism was president of the Flat Earth Society Simon Voliva's journey around the world in 1929, when upon his return he explained to society members that his trip had proved conclusively that planet earth is flat---by going in a circle on its flat surface!
Obscurantism is the result of a subjective state of mind in which one's unproved presuppositions take precedence over the weight of objective evidence to the contrary. It usually occurs when a person presumes to evaluate matters beyond the limits of his personal training and competence. Almost without exception that was the situation with a decided majority of Seventh-day Adventist leaders with respect to doctrinal matters for nearly a century after 1844. That explains the inability of many if not most of the participants in the historic 1919 Bible conference to resolve the doctrinal issues on its agenda. Adventist administrators untrained in reliable principles of biblical exegesis have, almost without exception, nevertheless traditionally functioned as the ultimate authority on matters of doctrine.
During the mid-century era (approximately 1940 to 1969) when, for the first time, Adventist Bible scholars began to practice objective methods of Bible study and church administrators, appreciating the value of their expertise, began to accept them as genuine partners in dealing with doctrinal matters. Biblical and doctrinal obscurantism gradually disappeared. after 1969, however, as obscurantism on the part of new church administrators gave the next decade (1969-1979) the unhappy sobriquet "decade of obscurantism."
For instance, during sessions of the Biblical Research Committee (now Institute) Gerhard Hasel repeatedly stated that it was a mistake even to try to be objective. In the plenary session of the Sanctuary Review Committee at Glacier View, for instance, he demonstrated this by emphatically declaring in the plenary session Monday afternoon, August 10, 1980, "God's only intention in Daniel 8:14 was to point forward to 1844!" This statement was met by a loud chorus of amens.
Obscurantism was also evident on the part of leaders in charge of study Group 2 at Glacier View on Monday morning. Twelve of the sixteen speeches in the group that morning favored Ford's point of view, but when chairman of the group---a GC vice president---summed up the opinion of the group for its report to the plenary session that afternoon, he reported the minority of four speeches as the view of the majority---an obvious instance of obscurantism. Following one of the speeches favoring Ford, the other vice president present responded, "We could never accept that!" In the plenary session that afternoon eleven of the fifteen speeches by Bible scholars likewise favored Ford's position on the same topic, but again administration took the consensus to be negative. From beginning to end obscurantism was in charge at Glacier View.
Obscurantism characterizes the tedious printed reports of the General Conference-appointed Daniel and Revelation Committee that functioned during the 1980s. (See below). It is likewise the guiding principle of the Adventist Theological Society, legitimate heir of Gerhard Hasel's hermeneutical legacy.
Obscurantism continues to be alive and well at the General Conference level. On November 15, 2000 I sent another major paper on Daniel 8:14 to some eighty Bible scholars and administrators, including the president of the General Conference. His reply was courteous to a "T", but he referred the paper to the Biblical Research Institute (BRI) with the comment that their reply would be his also. In January 2001 he sent me a copy of the evasive BRI reply, which reported that they had already considered and settled all of the biblical anomalies in the traditional sanctuary doctrine to which my paper had called attention, which I well knew was not so. Evidently obscurantism is still in charge at BRI and the General Conference.
In what does official obscurantism with respect to the sanctuary doctrine consist? Throughout the twentieth century, inclusive of Glacier View (1980) and the subsequent Daniel and Revelation Committee Series report, the General Conference has always countered flaws in the doctrine that have been called to its attention with ever more elaborate and evasive reasons adduced in favor of it. But it has never yet paid attention to the flaws themselves!
As long ago as 1934 W. W. Prescott called attention to this problem in a letter he wrote to W. A. Spicer, president of the General Conference: "I have waited all these years for someone to make an adequate answer to Ballenger, Fletcher and others on their positions re. the sanctuary but I have not seen or heard it."160 Having been a member of the GC committees that met with Ballenger, Fletcher, and Conradi, Prescott realized that the official GC responses, both oral and published, offered presumed reasons for believing the sanctuary doctrine, but left the flaws to which the three had called attention completely unanswered! The same was true with respect to Dr. Ford at Glacier View and the subsequent Daniel and Revelation Committee report. Obscurantism still characterizes GC and BRI responses to valid questions regarding exegetical flaws in the sanctuary doctrine.
12. The Daniel and Revelation Committee
Eventually realizing that Glacier View had not settled the sanctuary issue, the General Conference appointed the Daniel and Revelation Committee (DRC) and assigned it the task of compiling what was intended to be definitive proof of the traditional interpretation of Daniel 8:14, the sanctuary, and the investigative judgment. The committee functioned during the 1980s under the auspices of the General Conference Biblical Research Institute (BRI) and published its report in seven volumes under the title Daniel and Revelation Committee Series (DRCS).
The five volumes of the DRCS series devoted to Daniel defend what is now considered the official response of the church to all questions regarding the sanctuary doctrine. Unwittingly, however, DRCS presents Adventist scholarship under the control of obscurantism. It does not address any of the contextual anomalies to which Section 8 above, "Rightly Explaining Daniel 8:14," calls attention!
One would have expected so important a committee as DRC to be composed, at least primarily, of a cross-section of the trained, experienced, known, and trusted Bible scholars of the church. It was not! They were intentionally excluded! The composition, or membership, of the committee bears the unmistakable imprint of Gerhard Hasel as the only one who could have selected its members. Why so? At the time, he was dean of the Theological Seminary, at the height of his career, and approximately half of DRC's eighteen members had been Seminary students during his fifteen years or so as a member of the Seminary faculty. They were otherwise unknown to either the General Conference or the incumbent Bible scholars in the colleges of North America. And they all shared Hasel's hermeneutical perspective, as did all but three other members of the committee!
As reflected in the DRCS report the conclusions to which the committee came with respect to the sanctuary doctrine were thus determined before the committee ever met!
As set forth in the preface to volume 1 of the series, its interpretation is based on the historicist principle of prophetic interpretation, with respect to which it acknowledges that "Seventh-day Adventists stand virtually alone as exponents" today. Historicism interprets the predictive prophecy of the Bible as providing an uninterrupted continuum of fulfillment from Bible times to the present. In so doing it rejects the Bible's own, inherent, perspective of salvation history, which explicitly anticipates the climax of earth's history, Christ's promise to return, and the establishment of God's eternal, righteous dominion over all the earth at the close of Bible times.161 The DRCS reaffirmation of historicism is the crux of the issue to which this paper is addressed. It is the ultimate, "scholarly," demonstration of the perennial obscurantism that has characterized Adventism's perennial reaffirmation of the sanctuary doctrine for more than a century.
It is not the objective of this paper to review the five DRCS Daniel volumes in detail, but rather to evaluate the credibility of its historicist interpretation in terms of faithfulness to the sola Scriptura principle and to generally recognized principles of exegesis, particularly the crucial importance of context. Most of its 1600 pages are devoted to scholarly analyses of the text of Daniel that only a trained Bible scholar would be able to evaluate. Others would probably depend on their personal presuppositions with respect to the sanctuary doctrine in accepting or rejecting the conclusions to which the respective authors draw from the evidence they present.
1519 of the 1600 pages consist of articles by 18 authors. One author contributed 418 pages (28%), another 176 pages (12%), and a third 111 pages (9%), for a total of 705 pages. The other 15 authors contributed an average of 54 pages each, five of them as little as 12 pages or less.
The disorganized way in which DRCS deals with the sanctuary doctrine reflects the disorganized way in which its parent "committee" (DRC) must have operated. A committee is expected to integrate the contributions of its members into a consensus that represents the committee as a committee. A Bible translation conducted by a group of translators working together is considered to be far more accurate and reliable than one by a single individual, however qualified that individual may be. The consensus of the group tends to eliminate individual idiosyncrasies, however "scholarly" they may be. DRCS offers no such consensus or synthesis.
The eighteen DRCS authors are to be commended for their knowledge of ancient and recent literature relevant to the prophecies of Daniel, for their expertise in ancient Hebrew and cognate languages, and for their obviously diligent labors encapsulating all of this for modern readers. On the other hand, their labors were flawed because of their obviously overriding subjective use of this information in defense of an interpretation of the prophecies of Daniel that, as a matter of fact, contradicts what Daniel intended what he wrote to convey, as determined by context.158
Almost without exception the DRCS authors tacitly assume the validity of the historicist principle as their fundamental presupposition and then, reasoning in a circle, offer what they write as proof of that presupposition! At four major points they assume the accuracy of the KJV translation where it misrepresents the Hebrew text. They ignore the historical context within which Daniel locates his visions and to which he applies them, and his explicit, composite, salvation history perspective. In at least seven major instances they ignore or contradict Daniel's explicit statements in the context. And in the year of our Lord 2002 BRI, with the full approval of the GC, affirms DRCS as final and conclusive proof of the traditional understanding of Daniel 8:14, the sanctuary, and the investigative judgment! Reductio ad absurdum and the ultimate exercise in obscurantism posing as the highest level of scholarship Adventists have to offer!158
In another noteworthy anomaly, the several chapters dealing with the supposed analogies between the sanctuary of Daniel 8:14 and the sanctuaries of the books of Leviticus and Hebrews is based on the supposition that its sanctuary is the heavenly sanctuary, whereas, as noted in section 8 above, context explicitly identifies it as the sanctuary, or temple, in Jerusalem. These two analogies are valid only if the context in Daniel permits them. It does not, period! Thus the several chapters devoted to the sanctuary in Leviticus and Hebrews are irrelevant to the exegesis of Daniel 8:14!
Dr. William Shea's protracted and convoluted chiastic literary analysis of significant passages of Daniel throughout volume one of the DRCS and elsewhere, sometimes in explicit contradiction of context, may be impressive to the uninitiated but wearisome beyond measure and otherwise counterproductive. DRCS would have been vastly improved without his 418 pages of comment! Much of Dr. Gerhard Hasel's 176 pages consists of detailed analyses of non-Adventist interpretations of Daniel that are of no value or relevance to any Seventh-day Adventist studying the book of Daniel. Accordingly, some 40% of DRCS's 1519 pages of comment is really of little or no practical value with respect to clarifying the Adventist understanding of its prophetic pericopes. In many respects DRCS is a mute witness to the uncoordinated and irrelevant way in which DRC evidently functioned, yet BRI informs us that it has settled, once for all, every question about the traditional interpretation of Daniel 8:14, the sanctuary, and the investigative judgment!
Currently in progress is another General Conference project which seems destined to solidify the Pierson-Hyde-Hasel objective of transforming the Seventh-day Adventist Church from a community dedicated and open to the continued guidance of the Holy Spirit into an ever more accurate and complete "knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,"162 into the closed, obscurantist, fundamentalist church that they envisioned---the International Board for Ministerial Training and Endorsement with its sub-boards in the various divisions. This project is already proving to be divisive, and has the possibility of repeating the fate that overtook the Lutheran Church---Missouri Synod in December 1976---schism.163
13. A Permanent Remedy for Doctrinal Obscurantism.
The church urgently needs a bona fide consensus of all of its qualified Bible scholars in order to ascertain as accurately as possible all matters of biblical exegesis in harmony with the sola Scriptura principle, preliminary to the formulation of doctrinal statements in partnership with church administrators. Such a consensus can be achieved only by an organization that would provide its members with an opportunity to confer together apart from every influence or concern other than faithfulness to sola Scriptura and loyalty to the church.
(1) This organization would serve as an agency of, funded by, and dedicated to cooperating with the General Conference, with the specific objective of providing GC administrators with a bona fide consensus of its community of Bible scholars on all biblical and doctrinal matters. (2) It would participate with the GC in defining their working relationship. (3) It would select its name (for example, "Bible Scholars' Council on Biblical Exegesis"). (4) It would define its membership requirements, (4) select its officers and specify their terms of service, and (5) elect an executive committee and a permanent staff. (5) It would define its operating procedures, (6) set its own agenda, (7) receive and respond to requests from the GC, (8) select topics of its own for consideration, and (9) define its principles of exegesis.
(10) It would report to GC administration only, and not otherwise publicize its findings beyond scholarly circles. (11) Its reports to administration would reflect both the majority consensus and the degree of minority dissent, if any. (12) It would conduct most of its business via e-mail, but (13) hold an annual convocation which all members would be invited to attend, with their employing organizations funding travel and accomodations. (14) It would ordinarily meet in camera, but might, at its discretion, invite non-scholar observers. (15) Its formative stage might be limited to North American Bible scholars, but eventually it should include all qualified Adventist Bible scholars worldwide.
Such an organization would be of inestimable value to the church. It would help the church to be a faithful witness to the sola Scriptura principle in all aspects of its witness to the everlasting gospel, and to avoid the obscurantism and intermittent doctrinal controversy of the past century.
14. The Authenticity of Adventism
This review and analysis of the traditional Adventist interpretation of Daniel 8:14, the sanctuary, and the investigative judgment is designed to be constructive and remedial, not critical, accusatory, or punitive. I sincerely hope that it will be received in the same spirit, and that appropriate action will be taken to spare the church and its members from a repetition of the traumatic episodes of the past for which this pseudo-biblical doctrine, historicism, and obscurantism have been responsible.
For two reasons Seventh-day Adventism remains an authentic, credible witness to the everlasting gospel despite its all-to-human imperfections such as its traditional interpretation of Daniel 8:14, the sanctuary doctrine, and the investigative judgment: (1) Its unique emphasis on applying the gospel of Jesus Christ to every aspect of human personhood, mental and physical as well as spiritual and social---practical, loving concern for the well-being and happiness of all human beings, and (2) its emphatic witness to His promised, imminent return to transform this suffering little world into the permanent abode of righteousness and peace He originally designed it to enjoy
In view of the fact that Seventh-day Adventists have, historically and today, relied on the authenticity of the 1844 experience and the basic credibility of the traditional interpretation of Daniel 8:14, and in view of the above evidence that that interpretation is not tenable when tested by the sola Scriptura principle (which the church affirms but compromises in its interpretation of Daniel 8:14), the question inevitably arises, "What basis is there for concluding that Adventism is an authentic witness to the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ?" An inevitable and appropriate question indeed!
The pragmatic response to that question is the extent to which the church conforms to, and reflects, the teachings of Jesus Christ and complies with the gospel commission. Whether or not it does so uniquely is none of our business or concern. Even to be concerned with that question violates His specific instruction on record in Mark 9:38-41. Someone was casting out demons in Jesus' name and the disciples "tried to stop him, because he was not following us. But Jesus said, 'Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us.'" On another occasion Peter, pointing to John, asked Jesus "What about him?" In His reply Jesus said to Peter, "What is that to you? Follow me." It is none of our business as Seventh-day Adventists to question the credibility or integrity of others as authentic witnesses of Jesus Christ. Let us focus our attention on the credibility of our witness to the everlasting gospel---and banish any "holier than thou" questions from our minds. In Acts 10:35 Peter says, "In every nation [and religious community] anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him."
Jesus' summary of the gospel is on record in Mark 12:29-31: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength," and "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." This is the true test of us corporately as a church as well as of us individually, as members of the church. In other words, gospel principles apply to every aspect of our individual and corporate being---our love for, and the dedication of our entire individual and corporate being, to God---and in our relationship to one another and to every other human being. "As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me."159 The agape love of God is selfless concern and care for the well-being and happiness of others. That must be the ideal and practice of the church with respect to every human being everywhere, in theory but even more importantly, in practice. "In as much . . . "!
We are admitted to eternity on the basis of the kind of people we are, individually, not what we may sincerely believe about Daniel 8:14 or any other passage of Scripture. A person may conscientiously believe in the traditional interpretation of Daniel 8:14, and if everything else in his or her life is in harmony with the gospel he / she will encounter no problem at the pearly gates of eternity. And if a person sincerely believes that is not its import, but everything else in his / her life is in harmony with the gospel, he / she will encounter no problem at the pearly gates of eternity. But is we become abusive of one another in our discussion of the subject we will both arrive at the pearly gates only to find them bolted and barred against both of us.
Let our corporate attitude as a church be in moderated by this fact, but at the same time let the church, corporately, be in full harmony with the sola Scriptura principle in its delineation of, and witness to, Daniel 8:14. In terms of sola Scriptura its sanctuary witness to the gospel is grossly defective and alienates the confidence and respect of biblically literate people, Adventist and non-Adventist alike. Let us be willing to recognize and remove that obstacle to acceptance of our message to the world that Jesus will soon return.
In the years immediately following October 22, 1844 the traditional sanctuary doctrine was an important asset for stabilizing the faith of disappointed Adventists. Today it is an equally significant liability and deterrent to the faith, confidence, and salvation of biblically literate Adventists and non-Adventists alike. It was present truth following the great disappointment on October 22, 1844. It is not present truth in the year of our Lord 2002. Quod erat demonstrandum!
—Raymond F. Cottrell, February 9, 2002
Note: This paper from the Jesus Institute Forum was supplied by Dale Ratzlaff.
Most of my papers cited in the following notes are on file in the Heritage Room of the Del E. Webb Library on the campus of Loma Linda University. The Association of Adventist Forums is currently planning a website and has requested a list of all my major papers.
See Also: Cottrell on the Investigative Judgment