Viewpoint articles are designed to stimulate thought and do not necessarily reflect the position of our editorial staff or of Ministry." This statement has appeared on the title page of Viewpoint articles, which are published intermittently in Ministry. Such a declaration may appear to be a mere disclaimer, when in fact it is an honest expression of the nature of certain opinions that appear in Ministry and how they relate to what the magazine and the Seventh-day Adventist Church in fact stands for.
There are those among our readers who are uncomfortable with this feature and would like to see it discontinued. There are others who would be quite disappointed if it was discontinued. I must say that I am one who would be disappointed and who would experience a sense of loss not only for the magazine, but for the spiritual and intellectual persona of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and more specifically for Adventist ministry.
There is a very strong element present in both Christian and Adventist history that has ever championed ongoing responsible prayer and research, and has expected further and yet more lucid expressions of thought and belief to be ever coming to the surface. The way early Adventists grappled with whether or not to even have a statement of doctrinal belief and a Church Manual is clear evidence of this admirable mentality that is as much a part of Adventist tradition as is any other significant aspect of our history or tradition.
The path of purest faithfulness and discretion almost always appears to be the one that opposes any alteration in "traditionalistic" patterns of thought and belief. But that opposition is not automatically of God, any more than was the path of the leaders of the Judaism of Jesus' day.
To be specific about our Viewpoint column, let me cite a relatively recent Viewpoint article. This article, authored by premier Adventist professor and theologian, Hans LaRondelle, received significant negative reviews from a number of our readers. The article was entitled "The Application of Cosmic Signs in the Adventist Tradition" (Ministry, September 1998). In it Dr. LaRondelle wrestled with the difficult question, Can we continue to feature events from the relatively distant past as convincing signs of the imminent return of Christ? Largely because of Mrs. White's appeal in The Great Controversy, to eighteenth and nineteenth-century happenings as fulfillments of the signs of Jesus' coming, some readers were disturbed by the suggested explanations of Dr. LaRondelle. Unfortunately none of these readers offered any further constructive explanation.
Had Dr. LaRondelle in any way questioned the validity of the Seventh-day Adventist stand on the imminent second coming of Jesus, we would not have published this article. Had he questioned the accuracy and veracity of Ellen G. White's work, we would not have accepted his article for publication. The motivation and approach in his article were in fact the opposite of these things.
In his explanation he simply attempt ed to come to terms with the very legitimate questions being asked us by a number of our pastoral readers, such as: How can we go on using a sign of the second coming that occurred, for example, on May 19,1780, when we are now entering the twenty-first century? How can such an approach be credible in the eyes of the thoughtful persons we seek by God's grace to persuade that Jesus is indeed coming soon?
If we cannot allow ourselves to deal with such questions in the responsible way that a man of Dr. LaRondelle's caliber does and in a magazine such as Ministry, I believe, as do other Adventist leaders, that we are far off the spirit and essential content of Adventism and of Ellen G. White and our pioneers.
Viewpoint articles are not published in Ministry unless they constructively address an issue that will genuinely contribute to the discussion and hoped-for settlement of some difficult dilemma or controverted issue facing a significant swath of Adventist ministers. The fact that such articles are placed in the "Viewpoint" column should immediately alert the reader that they contain some controversial elements and therefore deserve careful thought, prayer and response.
Viewpoint by no means seeks to question established Adventist belief or practice, but instead seeks to clarify and improve on the way we view and present such issues. We must by all means express disagreement with Viewpoint articles, but it would be most helpful if thoughtful, pointed, yet kind responses were offered that actually contribute objectively to the issues raised in such articles. That is what Viewpoint articles are designed to elicit.
1 See Ellen G White. Counsels to Writers and Editors (Nashville. Tenn Southern Pub. Aiiil.. I946J,33-54 (and for balance. 17-32)
2 Review Gil Valentine's two-part article, "The Stop-Start Journey on the Road to a Church Manual" in the April and June 1999 issues of Ministry