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Home >> SDA Organization >> John Ankerberg Show - Dr. William Johnsson and Dr. Walter Martin
Text of Program 1 - Seventh-day Adventism

Ankerberg (0:16) Welcome. We're glad that you joined us tonight. Tonight our guests are Dr. William Johnsson, the editor of the Adventist Review, the official organ of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination, and Dr. Walter Martin, who is well known for many of his writings on the cults as well as contemporary religious philosophy today in our country.

Gentlemen, we're glad that you're here, and I thought that on the topic of Seventh-day Adventism, Dr. Johnsson, the man that is sitting next to you, in your book that you put out in 1957, Questions on Doctrine, that was the official statement of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination to non-Adventists, to the world in a sense. There was a compliment to the guy that is sitting next to you, namely that you appreciated the fact that when he, with other scholars from other non-Adventist churches came to you and asked questions, you appreciated the fact that he came to you directly, he came to the denomination and did research, and Walter, I would like for you to go back as we start. How did you get into going to the denomination, what was that process, and what happened?

Martin (1:30): Well, I was doing research on the various cults of the time, and I had written a book, "The Rise of the Cults", and I received a letter from Leroy Froom, top Seventh-day Adventist scholar and historian, the man who wrote "The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers", and other books, and he took issue with me over the classification of Seventh-day Adventism as a cult. I contacted him back again, and said I was sorry that he took issue, but that I had quite a bit of information which indicated to me that they were. He said,"Well, it isn't accurate."

So I went to Dr. Barnhouse, who was editor of Eternity Magazine. I worked for Eternity at the time and I said, "This is a very responsible man, and I think we ought to investigate this." Dr. Barnhouse said, "Why don't you go down to Washington and talk with them, but I know that they are a cult because I grew up in Mountain View, California, and I met with them all the time out there, and they were always giving me the 'Mark of the Beast' and everything else", he said. "You're wasting your time." He said, "Don't bother."

Ankerberg (2:35): You went down to Washington?

Martin (2:37): Oh, yeah. I went down there, and I met with Roy Allen Anderson, who was the editor of the Ministry Magazine at the time, and they had all the Seventh-day Adventist ministers and missionaries throughout the world. And then I met with W. E. Reed, who was a special consultant to the General Conference, Leroy Froom, and T. E. Unruh, who had gotten the whole thing started by discussing with us also in Pennsylvania, where we were headquartered, some of the things about Adventism.

Ankerberg (3:03): Tell us what your conclusion was.

Martin (3:04): I came out with a conclusion in 1956, and Eternity Magazine came out with the conclusion, that Seventh-day Adventists, who acknowledged the things that their denomination were telling us, had to be regenerated Christians and Evangelicals, and could not be classified as a cult. However, there were Adventists that were on the other side of the fence, and we recognized them too. We spent the time down there going over their literature which was a morass of contradictions, and materials that could be juxtaposed back and forth, either cultic or non-cultic, depending upon who wrote it. We had to go through that with a whole group of scholars, and men from their publishing houses, and theologians, to sift through all of the materials. The result of it, I propounded a series of questions to them. The series was later put into the book which you mentioned before, 'Questions on Doctrines'. It was the first time that a non-Adventist scholar, and expert on the cults, had gone to the Adventists, sat down with them, discussed their theology openly, frankly, and freely. I believe to this day that the men I dealt with on the committee, and Reuben Fighur, and the theologians who worked with us, were thoroughly honest men.

Johnsson (4:30): I was at theological college when Walter was dialoging with our leaders, and in fact we studied 'Questions on Doctrine'. I was -- 1957 was my first year in school down in Avondale, Australia. We went through that book very carefully. It was applauded by the teachers there, and then later I became a teacher. I taught for 20 years in the Adventist school system, lastly in the seminary for 5 years where I was Associate Dean also. And that book has been highly regarded. In terms of the controversy, John, there was some disagreement when it came out.

Ankerberg (5:06): Why?

Johnsson (5:07): Well. Remember, I'm just telling you what I've been told. I wasn't around here in the states. One man in particular, M. L. Andreason, was not invited to be part of the dialog. He took strong exception to some of the things in there. I think the two that I have heard mentioned over and over have been the nature of Christ, the human nature of Christ, and then some statements relative to the atonement - the use of that word "atonement". He became quite irrate, I would say, and he sent out literature opposing the book, and some people agreed with him. He got a certain following. However, by and large, I don't think that was a large following. Now that's my assessment. In terms of the denomination's stand on the book, we have not repudiated Questions on Doctrine. The book went through eight printings, 150,000 copies. Now, that's a lot of copies. It is still used in college classes. Some people feel it ought to be reprinted. We can get into that. There was another theological volume, a Seventh-day Adventist Biblical theology in process, and we can discuss that. I think that is a major reasone why we are not reprinting Questions on Doctrine. But categorically I can tell you, the leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church has not repudiated Questions on Doctrine.

Ankerberg (6:25): OK. Let's plunge in here. Walter, why don't you start us off with some of the questions that you have already submitted to the denomination, because you are saying that you've heard some things, and you are reassessing what you were told the first time around as well as some of the contemporary events that are happening right now. Where would you like to start?

Martin (6:44): I think that you have to begin with the background we have already, and also with the fact that the Seventh-day Adventist denomination today to whom I addressed my questions responded quite differently than the denomination in 1956.

John (7:04): How so?

Martin (7:05): In 1956 Reuben Fighur, who considered Questions on Doctrine and the dialog, he said, to be the most important single contribution of his entire tenure as President. Reuben Fighur began in his later life to deplore the fact that there was a strong movement within Seventh-day Adventism to undercut what they had worked so hard to establish in Questions on Doctrine. And so I, after a number of ex-Adventist ministers came to me, after I received literally hundreds and hundreds of letters, documents, boxes full of documents from all over the world, Australia, New Zealand, England, United States, you name it, they're stacked up that we had to go through, with people doing research on this subject, and they're all telling the same story, these ministers and people all over the world. They're saying, "We believe Questions on Doctrine. We cited Questions on Doctrine. We presented our views in the light of Questions on Doctrine, and we were disfellowshipped. We were removed from the church. I'm now painting houses, and I was a former teacher. I was doing this, and now I am doing such and such. What went wrong?"

So I thought it would be a good idea to ask the question, "What went wrong?" So I addressed three questions to Neal Wilson, who is the President of the General Conference. Mr. Wilson didn't have time to discuss it with me, and so he referred me to somebody else, who didn't apparently have the time to discuss it either, and they referred me to somebody else. By the time I did get a response, the first question -- I asked three questions.

I asked them the question that I thought was tremendously important which is, "Do you still hold to Questions on Doctrine?" And the answer was "Yes", the same as Mr. Johnsson has said. I thought, "That's strange. All these people can't be wrong, or something is wrong in the communication system."

Second question. "Do you regard the teachings, er the, interpretation of Ellen G. White of the Bible to be infallible, that is, the infallible rule of interpreting Scripture in your denomination? If, for example, an issue comes up where you are debating something, and Mrs. White speaks on it, is that the infallible voice?"

Ankerberg (9:41): "Is that the end of the debate?"

Martin (9:42): "Is that it?" That question was conspicuously left unanswered, and I was referred to other materials which was rather superficial.

And I asked a third question. I asked them about Questions on Doctrine, and why the book went out of print, and since then, I have formulated now a whole new series of questions.

Ankerberg (10:09): Alright. We're going to get to those. What I would like to ask Dr. Johnsson is, in my hand here I have just a portion of the Seventh-day Adventist workers, the former Seventh-day Adventist workers, ordained ministers, professors, men and women, that have been fired. And many of these folks have talked with me. Many have talked with Dr. Martin. The main thing that I keep hearing is that in some way they touched some of the doctrines of Ellen G. White. They disagreed from a Biblical basis, as far as they were concerned. And because of that they lost their job.

Johnsson (10:48): I've done a rather careful study of this myself. Remember, I was in seminary. I was Associate Dean. I know these young fellows. I've been in northern California where we've had a number of young fellows leave the ministry. I was in Australia in August and September of this year. In Australia the figure is 60. Six-zero total.

Ankerberg (11:08): Well, I've got a hundred that are actually documented right here to start with, and I'm sure that I can get the others for you. I'd be glad to give you this list here of a hundred.

Johnsson (11:16): Is this from the United States, or does this include the figure from Australia?

Ankerberg (11:19): These look like they are all the United States.

Johnsson (11:24): I'd be very interested to see it. On my count, the figure in the United States is around 60 to 70, and in Australia it is 60. This is an exact figure in Australia.

Ankerberg (11:33): Well, let's ...

Johnsson (11:34): You need to remember that in any year...


Unless otherwise noted, all original material on this ExposingAdventism.com website is 2007-2008 by Gilbert Jorgensen. Careful effort has been made to give credit as clearly as possible to any specific material quoted or ideas extensively adapted from any one resource. Corrections and clarifications regarding citations for any source material are welcome, and will be promptly added to any sections which are found to be inadequately documented as to source.