Inhouse Problems with the Investigative Judgment
The Investigative (pre-Advent) Judgement has been a thorn in the side of the Seventh-day Adventist Church since the doctrine was formulated. Over the past one-hundred years many courageous leaders within the SDA Church have raised their voices against the flaws and errors in this doctrine, but all were rebuffed for their efforts. Some of them left the Church of their own accord and others were sacked for daring to question the Church’s ‘unique contribution’ to Christianity.
While the SDA Church has not been able to admit openly that there are apparent flaws in the doctrine of the Investigative Judgement, behind the scenes it has endeavoured to reconcile the problems inherent in this teaching. In 1958 a questionnaire on Daniel 8:14 was sent to twenty-seven top Seventh-day Adventist scholars in language and exegesis to ask them if there was any relationship between the cleansing of Daniel 8:14 and the Day of Atonement cleansing of Leviticus 16. All twenty-seven replied that it was impossible to make a linguistic connection between Daniel 8:14 and Leviticus 16—a connection that is vital to the doctrine of the Investigative Judgement.
On the basis of this questionnaire, F D Nichol asked the General Conference President, Elder Figuhr, for a committee to study these and other problems. At considerable expense, the General Conference funded this committee—the Committee on Problems in the Book of Daniel—which was chaired by H. W. Lowe. Over the five years of its existence this committee studied forty-five submissions, but was unable to reach a consensus. It was finally disbanded without presenting a single report on its findings or leaving any Minutes from its meetings.
One has to ask, if the Investigative Judgement is a doctrine especially for God’s people today, why was this General Conference funded committee not able to agree on the authenticity of this teaching. And if SDA scholars have problems with this article of belief, what faith can the lay people have in it?
According to Raymond Cottrell, ‘In 1967 or 68, Elder Mervyn Thurber, Book Editor of the Review and Herald, came to Andrews Seminary expressly to find a faculty member to write a book on the Sanctuary. He could find none willing. He insisted the Church needed a book on this fundamental doctrine—Andreason’s book was hopelessly obsolete. Finally, it was decided that the book should be a joint effort by all the faculty, with chapters contributed by all the seminary’s academic departments. Dr. Dederan was appointed co-ordinator for the effort, but at the first meeting of the possible contributors the whole project collapsed because it was agreed the traditional Adventist position on the subject could not be demonstrated from the Bible.’1
The October, 1980 Ministry magazine—printed after the Glacier View meetings—makes this statement: ‘It is essential that the world understand this great truth and there is no other people to whom the world can look for the unfolding of this magnificent heavenly mystery except Seventh-day Adventists! The doctrine of the Investigative Judgement constitutes Adventism’s unique contribution to the theological world’ (p. 64).
Why, then, in the twenty-five years since this statement was penned, has no Adventist Scholar ever written on the Investigative Judgement in non-Adventist journals or magazines? If this doctrine is so important as to be a raison d’etre for the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and if it is as scripturally sound as the Church’s authorities claim, why are committed Seventh-day Adventist Scholars so reticent to share this ‘truth’ with other Scholars outside the fold? The fact is, SDA theologians have never written articles on the Investigative Judgement for non-Adventist journals, because they know, full well, that this teaching would not stand up to the close scrutiny of non-SDA Scholars.
So, what of the future of the Investigative Judgement in the Seventh-day Adventist Church? Four years back, Dr. Fritz Guy wrote, ‘Ironically, although Desmond Ford was dismissed from the Adventist ministry in 1980 because of his disagreement with traditional Adventist views about the Cleansing of the Sanctuary, subsequent Adventist thinking in North America seemed to have moved closer to his position and further away from those who dismissed him.’2
On the other hand, Jan Paulsen, the current General Conference President of the SDA Church, disputes Guy’s claim. In a supplement to the Adventist Review, entitled The Theological Landscape, he wrote, ‘Some are suggesting that since the 1980 (Glacier View) meetings, the very teachings that the Church affirmed that year at those meetings have been abandoned and that the Church has essentially moved to accept the very positions it rejected then. Such a claim is a distortion of reality and nothing could be further from the truth. The historic Sanctuary message, based on Scripture and supported by the writings of Ellen White, continues to be held to unequivocally … let no one think that there has been a change of position in regard to this.’3
Contrary to Paulsen’s protestations, however, interviews with SDA Pastors and Scholars, and articles in the Winter 2005 issue of Spectrum, indicate that he is either not aware of the thinking of his workers, or he is denying reality for the sake of both tradition and the fundamentalists in the Church. We conclude that if the Administrators of the SDA Church are determined to put more value on this traditional belief, than on the interpretation of Daniel 8:13-14 as understood by the majority of biblical Scholars, both inside and outside the denomination, then the SDA Church will continue to remain exposed to the valid accusation that it is fudging the glorious Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, because it considers an erroneous tradition to be more important than truth. And that would be a tragedy for a denomination which can truly be proud of its record in most other areas.
If the SDA Church ceased teaching the Investigative Judgement to its members, we at Good News Unlimited would also cease opposing it. But, in spite of the dubious theology and questionable history behind the Investigative Judgement belief, the denomination still insists on broadcasting this belief in books, Sabbath School Study Guides, and special inserts in its magazines. We, therefore, feel obliged to issue a warning against this false teaching which deceives people into thinking that they are God’s special people—when they aren’t.
- Verbatim from a tape recording.
- Thinking Theologically, Andrews University Press (1999), p 90f.n.
- October 12, 2002, p.20.