In the high task of editing for the advent movement, it is essential for us, as literary craftsmen, to get back of specific rules and applications to the underlying principles that govern in the formulation of all effective editorial rules. Definite ideals are, of course, requisite to all intelligent endeavor, and clearly defined principles must control our approaches and dictate our positions. Only as we have a grasp of such basic principles can our best, most intelligent, and safest work be done. In this way only can future contingencies be satisfactorily met in our allotted work—the new and unforeseen as well as the old and customary.
Ours is preeminently a world movement. As such it cannot, to the degree that God designs, prosper in compartments, each section being sufficient unto itself. There must be an organic oneness of program that is all-embracing. There must be clearly recognized, integrating ntegrating principles. Increasing emergencies are bound to arise. Isolation and restriction will, we know, add to the present complexity, so that not only will our work grow more difficult and delicate, especially in the overseas divisions, but we may soon have to make many of our decisions largely alone, without the desirable counsel of the General Conference, or of sister divisions.
A clear grasp of the basic ideals underlying all written presentation is consequently imperative in order to preserve our essential world unity of purpose, and to safeguard our cause in all lands, under adverse conditions. Only thus can we escape compromise of principle and consequent failure in our task. And only thus can we at the same time avoid needless irritation of other governments, which would inevitably bring perplexity, restriction, and even persecution upon our brethren in other lands.
With such governing principles clearly and constantly in mind, a loftier concept of our task is inevitable. A fuller understanding of our solemn responsibility and a higher level in the excellence and efficacy of the literature under our control will result than is possible through any other attitude or avenue of approach. As an aid to this end, attention may first be directed to three fundamental postulates.
1. A clear and adequate concept of the exalted nature of truth, and therefore of its high demands, is the primary requisite to all acceptable editorial endeavor. This takes for granted, of course, adequate technical training and natural fitness. The sovereignty and sacredness of truth must be uppermost in our minds, continually spurring and guiding in all our endeavors. Its inviolability must be constantly before us, deterring from any carelessness or betrayal through unworthy form or content, inaccuracy of utterance, bias, distortion, or inadequacy of presentation. This is foundational to all other considerations in the formulation of comprehensive guiding principles for the enunciation of truth.
2. A clear and broad conception of the solemn obligations devolving upon the advent movement as the divinely appointed custodian of truth in its final and fullest form in the last epoch of the age-old conflict between truth and error, is the second requisite. Ours is the unique and unparalleled task of a commissioned exposition, propagation, and defense of truth in a generation with the greatest literacy and the greatest missionary activity in history, paralleled by an unprecedented spiritual declension—with Protestantism, as well as Catholicism, in apostasy, and with pagan, infidelic, and atheistic movements in the ascendant as never before. This forms the setting for our exacting labor, and must ever be borne in mind in order to make the ideal presentation to the world.
3. A clear recognition and acceptance of our vital relationship to the denomination as the appointed editor guardians of its printed utterances, is the third requisite. It is commonly conceded that the literature, more than the oral utterances of a movement, forms the criterion by which it is judged and evaluated. Extemporaneous utterance can be explained or denied, but the printed declaration stands as an indelible record. It therefore follows that editorial responsibility for the periodical and book literature of this movement is one of the most delicate, critical, and weighty that can be placed upon any worker in our ranks. To be an editor in God's remnant church is consequently about the greatest privilege and the most sobering responsibility that can come to any exponent of this cause. This accountability should be ever before us, serving both as a spur and as a sobering deterrent, constituting a radiant challenge and a guiding star.
And unswerving loyalty to the great fundamentals of our faith should be foundational for editorial appointment in this movement.
It is but axiomatic that the denominational editor is justly held accountable for what appears in his paper. And his paper is in turn properly held accountable for rightly representing the denominational position. Therefore, the wise editor will avoid—particularly in missionary journals, and in those for the laity—moot questions or speculations upon which there is a divided opinion, remembering that we are not obligated to discuss everything in our journals, or to answer every query and challenge. He will seek to understand clearly the major issues, the forces, the goal, and the outcome of the advent witness to the world, and to gauge every attitude and utterance accordingly.
In the performance of our professional duties, we, as editors, have a twofold obligation.
This embraces, first, the postive side.—
We are commissioned to present the full, positive, unadulterated truth. No taint of Modernism is to find entry into our utterances.
We are to call out and build up a people prepared to meet God, organized into and preserved as a distinctive church movement.
There must, therefore, be undeviating fidelity to truth. We are not to compromise. The popularity of a piece of literature is not necessarily an evidence of its efficacy, or of divine approval. More likely, such would indicate that it has been trimmed or modified to the place where the offense of truth has been removed. When faithfully given, our message is bound to be unpopular with other churches, for it stands as a rebuke to their departure from truth. It separates, and calls for separation. Because of this, it often causes anger among those who reject it.
Second, the Negative Aspect.—The declaration of truth involves the exposure of error, but always in the spirit of love. We are to be faithful in exposing perversion and departure from truth, and in calling out the honest in heart from continuing in integral union with the fallen churches of Christendom. This involves a conflict with powerful religious forces in alliance with repressive civil government. It means unavoidable conflict and struggle, and in turn calls for extraordinary tact and courage, as well as for divine wisdom.
We have a clearly defined commission and task. We are not to edit simply "another journal" or "another book," that from a journalistic, literary, typographical, artistic, or scientific point of view merits acclaim, or that fits into the world's scheme of things. We have no mission to edit a newspaper like the Christian Science Monitor, excellent as it is, or any journal that fits comfortably into the world's concepts, or that emphasizes merely ethical, humanitarian, or scientific truths.
We are to give a distinct message of reform —doctrinal, health, and educational. This reform enters every department of life, conduct, and relationship. Anything else or anything less constitutes failure in God's sight, no matter how great the human acclaim or how popular the seeming success. We are to present a gospel to mankind—the everlasting gospel, unchanged and unchangeable, as specified and applied to last-day conditions and to the challenges which confront the threefold message of Revelation 14.
We are to present a summons to men. We are to bring them—persuasively, tactfully, winsomely—to a decision for God and truth, as against all conspiring apostasy and opposing error. We are to meet the exacting demands of logic, and to satisfy the legitimate requirements of the laws of evidence. We are to be able to pass the increasing scrutiny of a scientific age. Through our missionary journals, we are to win as many as possib!e to this distinctive last-day faith. We are to help finish, through the matchless channels of God's appointment, the work committed to this people. We are to build up the church and its worker body. We are to focus every piece of writing upon these grand objectives.
Let us turn now to the stipulated subdivisions of the topic as they are assigned in the agenda: (a) accuracy, (b) dignity, (c) balanced viewpoint, and (d) up-to-date style incident to the ideal presentation. We shall take note of these in the order in which they appear in the list.
A. Accuracy.—Truth is a sacred deposit never to be loosely or triflingly handled. It is given to us in sacred trust, and accountability therefor is unto Him who is the Source of all truth and verity. Knowingly to mishandle, misstate, misapply, trample, or distort truth is a most serious matter. Because of its very nature, such a procedure is infinitely more serious than the mishandling of funds for a human organization. To continue to use a disproved or questionable argument or quotation that is contrary to fact is to be guilty of moral dishonesty in the handling of truth. The sovereignty of truth must take on a new and vivid realism for us.
The use of sources that are loose and untrustworthy in statement is to be severely censured. Fidelity to the facts of truth should characterize every recital of fact, for God is never glorified by misrepresentation or by material enlargement upon the facts. Reaction from exaggeration and distortion is decidedly unfavorable. But aside from that aspect, it is intrinsically wrong.
We editors are therefore dutybound, as custodians of our denominational mouthpieces, to check upon all citations of historical, archeological, philological, and scientific fact or assertion. If we are not equipped personally or as an editorial office to do so, we should check with competent specialists for our own protection, and also for the necessary protection of author, reader, publisher, and denomination as well. We should have a group of specialists in these various fields subject to draft upon demand. Textual verification of all quoted matter is surely such an accepted imperative as to need no discussion here.
The times demand full and accurate references for all citations. The old, loose days of general citation without giving the exact name of the book or periodical, author, page, volume, edition, or year, etc., are gone. And it is well. People today wish to check, to get the setting, and to study further. We are dutybound to meet this reasonable demand, quite apart from the high principle of the immaculate truthfulness of truth. There are faulty and unreliable editions of many old works. It is incumbent upon us to know or to find out which these are, and to see that the edition used is reliable. This is particularly true of important citations from other religious bodies or of key statements from historians, which bear upon essentials of our faith or upon prophetic interpretation. We are to be scholarly workmen. This requires time and effort, but it is one of the inescapable involvements of editorial responsibility.
Special carefulness should be exercised with all citations from the Spirit of prophecy, to see that they are not only correctly quoted and credited, but that they represent the intent—that is, to see that an excerpt is not made to violate the context or the general teaching of the gift upon the question. This question of context is most important. A seemingly strong supporting statement may be sharply modified by the context. We must be sure that the intent of the writer supports the excerpt quoted. Floating quotations and unpublished testimonies should be checked with the Ellen G. White Publications office before they are used—as such use of unpublished testimonies without authorization of the trustees is unethical.
_____________ To be concluded in December