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Home >> SDA Organization >> John Ankerberg Show - Dr. William Johnsson and Dr. Walter Martin
Text of Program 5 - Seventh-day Adventism

John (0:14) Welcome. What an enthusiastic crowd we've got here in the studio! I'll tell you what. We're glad that they're here, and we're glad that you've joined us tonight. We're talking about Seventh-day Adventism, and my guests are Dr. William Johnsson, the editor of the Adventist Review, the official organ, magazine of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination, as well as Dr. Walter Martin.

And gentlemen, I'm coming to you this week to ask a question, namely, "In 1957 when the denomination came out with the book, Questions on Doctrine, replying to many of the questions of Walter Martin, Harold Lindsell, and other evangelicals outside of Adventism, asked the denomination, when they were answered, if some of those things have changed now, what would have to change for Walter Martin to take the heat the other way? He took the heat in the sense that he said Seventh-day Adventism was not a cult. There was enough Christian doctrine there on the main points that they were not a cult. What would have to change, Walter, for you to call them a cult?"

And we might go on to the next step, "Do you think it's heading in that direction?"

Walter (1:37): I think that from the material we're now seeing come out, from the changes which are taking place in terms of the ministers, workers, and people, I dispute Brother Johnsson's claim of just a few. I'm familiar with over 200 now, and I think I can go back and dig up an awful lot more from our files that were forcibly ejected from the denomination for holding Questions on Doctrine and quoting it when they were brought up to discuss it. I think that they are moving, because of their view of Mrs. White, which is not changing, or not changed, or never changed. I shudder to think of that because I believe the men I dealt with were honest men.

But I think what's happening is that there are people, as I've quoted while I've been on this show, numerous sources where men have specifically stated that she is the interpreter of authority. You involve yourself in circular reasoning because it the Bible is supposed to be the judge of everything, and there is someone who judges the Bible, or interprets the Bible for you that is the final court of appeal for you, to quote Mr. Delafield of the Ellen White Estate and others, then you're in a circle. There's no way to ascertain truth. There's no way to break out of that circle.

I think if they persist in that direction, the great fear that I have is that the evangelicals and even some fundamentalists who in the early 1950's considered the Adventists a non-Christian cult, and wrote them off in effect, as far as fellowship goes or anything else is concerned and had a lot of "bad blood" as a result of it, that they will begin to re-evaluate and say, "You know? This stuff that we're seeing now indicates that there really never was any change, and that they have not told you (Walter Martin) the truth, and that they didn't tell Barnhouse the truth, and that you were misled, and you've got to set the record straight."

Now, what I think the Adventists fail to recognize is that since, using their own statistics, since the year 1955, when they reached their first million, they have grown from 1955 to 1984, 3 million more than that. They could never have achieved this without the fellowship, open door, open hand, and cooperation of large segments of the evangelical world, and I have been told that by top Adventists who thank God that Questions on Doctrine was published, and that there was an open hand to Adventists at that time as many of them brothers and sisters in Christ.

And I fear that what is going to happen is that the work of Godly men such as L. E. Froom, R. R. Figuhr, Toby Unruh, W. E. Reed, and Roy Allen Anderson, and all the effort done by Adventist leaders who love the Lord and worked very hard to see that this was a representative view of their denomination, is now being jeopardized by a group of people who apparently are very high-placed with great power and authority, and do influence their denomination, so much so that there is no way to control the publishing houses in terms of what they print.

We've been sitting here with our brother (Dr. William Johnsson), and we have seen him quote a publication, and me quote a publication, and they both came from Seventh-day Adventist Publishing houses.

We have seen that there are people out there talking at high levels of Adventism, even in the Sabbath Quarterly, things themselves which are the antithesis of Questions on Doctrine.

I fear that if they continue to progress at this rate, that the classification of a cult can't possibly miss being re-applied to Seventh-day Adventism because once you have an interpreter of Scripture, a final court of appeal that tells you what Scripture means -- as soon as you judge Scripture by that, as soon as you have someone who has made doctrinal errors in the past, even on the deity of Christ and the doctrine of the atonement and other things, and that person is raised to that position or authority, you have polarization around that person, and I could give you twenty quotations right now from high Adventist sources and publications all stating these tremendously overblown views of Ellen White, views I might add, that she herself in certain sections repudiated.

John (6:48): Ok. Let's come to Bill, because Bill, I feel that you don't want that to happen, and as I hear you, in a sense as I have already said in some of the other programs, for some of the views that you have said because of a -- well let's name it -- your view in the case of the 1844 Investigative Judgment, from what I see of Ellen G. White, from the encyclopedia and from the book Great Controversy, differs with what she stated there.

You're saying that you as the editor of the organ of the denomination, you can say that. You have no fear. I fear for you. Let me come from this perspective. If you're listening to Walter, and he's starting to get scared now, I'm starting to get scared, how can you -- what do you think folks inside of Adventism can do, should do, to alleviate, to disperse these fears?

William (7:36): John, first of all I have to say that I don't read the situation just the same as you do, and the same as Walter does. I'm not afraid. And furthermore I would rather be true to my own conscience. That's more important than any job to me.

John (7:49): That's true.

William (7:50): But you have to take into account that my views have been on record for years. I've written 6 books, probably 300 articles, and they knew what they were getting when they asked me to be editor of the church paper. Now that surely says something. It's not as if I've changed my views, for tonight's audience, and my views are held quite widely.

John (8:10): That's why I love you. That's why I really enjoy your fellowship. But what I have to say is that two years ago I sat with a guy that was also from Australia, who was also one of the top denominational writers. He wrote for the denomination, he wrote some of your main articles, and he said the same thing, and he is no longer part of the teaching crowd.

William (8:31): What he would say about 1844 and the judgment is not the same as what I would say.

John (8:36): But both of you are different than Ellen G. White.

William (8:40): Again I would say, "Look at the total context of Ellen White's statements about the judgment." I read one. I could read many more. Over and over she comes back to the words, "Repentance, "Faith", "Jesus is our only hope in the judgment."

Now there are some statements where she holds up the sort of a goal of sanctification, of growing more and more like Jesus. Some of those, if read alone, can come across in a perfectionistic mode. But you have to look at the total scope. I don't think I am out of harmony with the overall thrust. You can see a variety.

John (9:12): I'm hoping that's true. I am hoping that you are the true representative of the leadership at the top, and what I'm saying is when you have a fellow like Dr. Martin that has already stuck his neck out, when some of the evangelicals went the other direction, he said "We need to continue fellowship. These folks are our Christian brothers."

I hear him saying that he wants to continue doing that, but he not having some of these things answered. And secondly, when he has gone to the top, he has not gotten the courtesy that he did in 1957.

William (9:47): Let me just say a word about our relationship to the evangelicals, John. I think we fit there better than anywhere else.

Now if you take George Gallop, Jr.'s characteristics of evangelicals -- born again, centrality of Jesus, authority of the Word, and witnessing evangelism. All of those apply right down the line. I think we fit among the evangelicals.

But we also have our own distinctives. And frankly, I am not really interested in taking a position that would say, "Alright. In order to fit absolutely with the evangelicals, forget about the distinctives." I think the distinctives of Adventism have something to say to the world, and to the evangelicals. I think evangelicals will be the looser.

And also if you consider that we are no longer part of the pail ...

John (10:35): But if we are all part of the same family, as I read Scripture here, let's just quote Scripture at this point.

If you and I are brothers, and you and I have disagreements on other things that we would say are not the essentials, although it gets real close to them -- on those things we've got to have some dialog. We've got to have some discussion. And we've got to make the Bible central.

At that point it seems that when we bring up some of those discussions, and we put it down on the Biblical floor that the people inside of Adventism that we have been doing that with, that we have appreciated their fellowship -- those people on a practical level will disappear.

Walter (11:12): Bill. I think we should take into consideration another thing that has been neglected.

If Adventists are recognized as members of the body of Christ then, as they explained it in Questions on Doctrine, their remnant church idea is not to make them independent of the body of Christ but it is something that they understand uniquely for themselves.

In Questions on Doctrine they said Mrs. White spoke authoritatively to the Adventist Church. It was for them, inspired counsel from the Lord, but 1 Corinthians, chapter 14, since Bill quoted 1 Corinthians 12 before, 1 Corinthians, chapter 14, follows that, and it says that the prophet who exercises the spiritual gift is to be tested. And how do you test that prophet. You have to test that prophet by the authority of God. And when you find that Mrs. White is inconsistent with the Word of God, when you prove it from the Greek and from the Hebrew, when you give good solid exegetical arguments, and in love as a lifelong member of a denomination you take a stand saying, "This is wrong. This is what Scripture says", then the Spirit of Prophecy is invoked against you, and you're down the tubes. That's what I'm protesting against.

If we are members of the body of Christ, then we have to have concern for each other. We have to love each other, and care for each other. I don't find the current leadership of the Adventist denomination caring for, or having love for, the people that it summarily dismissed. I find some of the best people disappearing for doing nothing more than quoting Questions on Doctrine.

I really couldn't care less about the opinion of the editor of the Review and Herald. That's one man's opinion, by his own statement.

I want to know all about these hundreds of people who come up with the same material, and the same arguments, and the same facts, and quote Questions on Doctrine, and they're gone! I want to know. Is that showing them love? Is that showing compassion? I don't think so.

John (13:23): Ok. We're going to take a break, and then we've go a lot of people in our audience that have lot's of questions, and we'll get to that as soon as we come right back. Stick with us.

John (13:32): Bill, are we in the same spot that we were in 1957 before Questions on Doctrine came out?

William (13:36): No. We are not in the same spot. I have to tell you that I think you two men read the Church differently from the way that I read it.

John (13:42): I guess what I'm saying is that I hear you saying that, and I need help. And I guess Walter needs help. How can you help us?

Walter (13:47): Yes. We'd like to know where we're reading it wrong.

William (13:50): I would say, go to our statement of beliefs. Look at the way we are working as we are wrestling with doctrinal problems - the publications that are coming out of the top level committees of the church.

John (14:04): Bill, I want to come back to you in all love, and simply say that I've done that, and I've heard Walter say that, and then I pick out some of the top leadership. We are not taking people that are nobodies. We are taking the leadership of the Church up there - Ellen G. White Estate, some of the people that are presidents of the conferences, I mean right straight across the board. And these people are making the statements that we object to.

William (14:24): I think Walter told you that the reply to his letter by the way came from the Vice President of the General Conference. It wasn't a nobody.

Dr. Leischer who was the Director of the Biblical Research Institute. He wasn't a nobody, and he said straight out, "We have not repudiated Questions on Doctrine."

Walter(14:41): He did not answer my question quote, "Do you believe that Ellen White is the infallible interpreter of Holy Scripture for the Seventh-day Adventist denomination?"

Draw the blank. Refer to the sheet of paper that you had in your hand, but no answer. I don't know why the question wasn't answered.

William (15:00): Well, he drew attention to a statement about the relationship of Ellen White's authority to the Scriptures, and I guess he simply said, "Here is a statement that we produced."

Walter (15:16): Why not say, "Brother Walter, no." "Brother Walter, yes." "Brother Walter, yes and no. Here's the reason why, or why not."?

William (15:27): I can read you the statement, or parts of it.

"We do not believe that the writings of Ellen White are an addition to the canon of sacred Scripture. We do not believe that the writings of Ellen White function as the foundation and final authority of Christian faith in Scripture. We do not believe that the writings of Ellen White may be used as the basis of doctrine. We do not believe that the study of the writings of Ellen White may be used to replace the study of Scripture. We do not believe that Scripture can be understood only through the writings of Ellen White.

Walter(15:58 ): "We do not believe. We do not believe that Ellen White is the infallible interpreter of Scripture for the Seventh-day Adventist." Why isn't that there? Because, in fact she is. And if you cross her, you are not there.

I will guarantee you as editor of the Review, if you start writing articles using Scripture to call into question specific teachings of Mrs. White, you won't be there either.

John (16:24): And we don't want to see that, Bill. We would like to hear what your saying, and I guess we're saying that we respect you for saying, we love you for showing up tonight to say this because last time we had Des here, and we had Walter, and Time Magazine was coming out that very night that we did the program with an article right across the nation. We asked Neal Wilson and 14 other people to come, and to say something, so that you have come. I love you for doing that. And I fear for what you are saying because you are saying that we are not rightly judging the Church.

William (16:60): Right. Absolutely.

John (17:02): But, on the other hand, if we are then you are in jeopardy.

William (17:06): Right. Now John. A major reason that I came tonight was that I felt the Church was not fairly represented in the previous telecast.

Now, you are so gracious as to invite me a couple of years ago. I was away on vacation that week. I couldn't make it. But this time I was able to come, and I am glad to.

John (17:25): I'm glad that you are.

William (17:26): You are representing an important perspective on the Church, and Walter is reminding us of a real danger, and I appreciate that just as I appreciate the work that you did for us back in the '50s. Very much.

Walter (17:37): For the body of Christ, brother. I'm still out there trying to help the body of Christ realize that we've got to work together, and we can't work together if there are going to be people in Washington talking out both sides of their mouths to us. and that's what their doing to us. And I didn't believe it at first until I started compiling the information myself.

I have letters from conference presidents. I have letters from all over the world. Letter from the White Estate. Letters you wouldn't believe. Boxes full of them. Confidential letters that aren't supposed to be circulated, which were sent to me unsolicited, all of which I consider to be filled with duplicity, evasion, deliberate and willful attempts not to tell the public exactly what Mrs. White's role is, but to read statements such as you're reading here.

It scares me because I am concerned for my fellow Christians. If I weren't concerned I certainly wouldn't be flying half way across the United States, and sitting here under these hot lights despite John's magnetic personality. I'm concerned.

William (18:50): John. I'm concerned also, but I repeat. I think you are misreading the Church. The total perspective is quite different from what you have suggested.

John (19:02): I hope so. And I hope so for the body of Christ, as Walter was saying. And I hope so for your sake. Because actually after this night we are not Adventists you are writing. And as I have interviewed other people who have said the same thing that you are saying, and watched them disappear, my heart went out to them.

When we did this program the last time there were teachers right from the college over here that were being investigated on the very things were are talking about, 1844 and the Investigative Judgment, just preaching the gospel. And before we aired the program those fellows knew that they would not have teaching positions at the school.

And I'm saying that its not because we haven't felt this from people, and that we haven't ask. It's that we're concerned. And Walter, maybe we could.. I think we need to ask the question, or give a statement from our side of the tracks that of what we would need for reassurance that what Bill is saying, and what his life is on the line for. How we can have reassurance for the denomination when he goes back.

William (20:06): John. My life is not on the line. Now you mentioned teachers who did not believe in 1844 and the Investigative Judgment. They were out of harmony with one of the statements of faith of the Church, and they should not have been teaching and being paid by Church members. Until the Church changes its statement of faith, a man who cannot support those statements really has no job.

If I was also out of harmony, if I rejected that my conscience would say, "Bill, go out and do something else. There are plenty of other things I could do."

John (20:35) But your denominational statement said that those people that disagreed with Ellen G. White, that was not a matter for disfellowship.

William (20:43): I came back to 1844 and the Investigative Judgment.

Walter (20:48): It was her confirmation of the vision according to at least 10 or 15 statements from your own publication. It was her confirmation of it that gave it the authority that that carried it in the Church. Without her word behind it, it would have been nothing. It would have just died right there.

John (21:03): Maybe I was mistaken. I thought you said before that was not a matter for fellowship within the Church, or breaking a fellowship.

William (21:13): The Judgment. This is one of the 27 fundamentals of faith. It is a point, you see.

John (21:19): So if you disagree with that, you can be gone from the Adventist Church.

William (21:23): If you felt that you were not merely having questions about it, and searching, but that you had to repudiate it...

John (21:31): That the Scripture did not support the 1844 Investigative Judgment then you could not be an Adventist?

William (21:37): Well. You could no longer be a worker in the Church.


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.