Clifford Goldstein is not only the editor of our word-wide Sabbath School quarterly, but is also a well-known (and gifted) Adventist author and one of the regular columnists of the Adventist Review. Faithful readers of this journal (and its digital by-products) will know that Clifford (“Cliff” for those, like me, who know him well personally) has a sharp pen and will also know that there are two topics in particular that he keeps coming back to. One is his concern that various forms of theistic evolution are invading the church. He sees this as a threat that leads many church members to abandoning, or at least diluting, the “fundamental belief” in a recent, literal creation in six days. Often his way of dealing with those who deviate from the traditional Adventist creation viewpoint is far from subtle. In fact, he believes (and proclaims) that those who no longer accept the concept of a literal creation, as pictured in the Genesis account, must show their integrity and consider giving up their Adventist church membership.
Goldstein’s second major concern is that there is an increasing number of voices within contemporary Adventism that attack traditional Adventist eschatology. In his June 17 Review article, entitled “The Same Old Whine (of Babylon)”, he complains that no longer are the Adventist end-time concepts only attacked by our enemies on the outside, but also by enemies from within. He does not mince words. I quote: “It’s the same old whine (of Babylon), only coming from among us: Rome is no longer an important player; Sunday persecution will never arise; our end-time scenario is from Ellen White, not the Bible; and we must stop scaring people.”
Reading this article, I wondered what (or who?) had ignited Goldstein’s ire. I could not help but asking myself whether I am perhaps included among “the enemies from within”. I know that Clifford reads at least some of what I write and has more than once been very critical about it. And, lately, some of my weekly blogs about aspects of end time events may have upset him. Or are perhaps the authors of recent articles in the Adventist Today journal (and on the AT website) among those “enemies from within?” Or, could it be that a recent lecture by Jon Paulien, about coming Sunday laws and Ellen White’s perspective on the Great Controversy, are particularly worrisome to him?
It is my suspicion that this recent contribution of Jon Paulien to the discussion of the traditional Adventist end-time scenario may well have been the direct reason for Goldstein’s article. After all, Paulien is a widely recognized specialist on eschatology, with a long and esteemed career in the Adventist academic world. He wrote several books about end-time matters. They were in many ways thought-provoking, but not controversial. It probably surprised Goldstein (as it surprised me) that in this recent lecture Paulien told his audience he does not believe the traditional end-time scenario will necessarily play out in the way Adventists have proclaimed. There may not be a future worldwide Sunday law with fateful consequences for those who want to worship on a different day. And the end-time scenario that looked very credible to believers in the late nineteenth century has lost much of its credibility. Those who are curious what Paulien actually said, may to Youtube: ttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ZdPmZ3KNVc.
I listened to Paulien’s presentation with great interest. Paulien gave solid arguments for his views, and they largely coincide with conclusions I have also come to. I am not worried by what he said, but see it rather as a hopeful sign that perhaps the time is coming that we can have frank discussions about eschatology, without condemning one another and considering those who differ from what we think as “enemies from within”. In 2011, I gave a presentation during a conference of European Adventist theology teachers at Cernica in Rumania. I recently adapted it for an article in the journal SPES CHRISTIANA (of which I now happen to be the editor). It was entitled: “Is the Adventist Hermeneutical Approach to Daniel and Revelation Changing?” (vol. 31, no. 2, pp. 5-24). My tentative conclusion was that there are some signs that this is indeed the case. And Paulien’s lecture seems to confirm this. Goldstein may be worried about it, but it gives me hope that we can begin to update our end-time beliefs and ensure their relevancy and credibility for a future generation.