October 28, 2013


Beginning less than a decade after its organization, the Seventh-day Adventist Church made a major commitment to education. Along with its commitment to publishing and health institutions, education was—and is—important to the proclamation of the everlasting gospel, the full message that God has been pleased to give us through His Word, the Bible.

A Seventh-day Adventist education was vital because it provided an environment in which students were given the opportunity to understand our world from the standpoint of God’s Word, rather than from the secular and even atheistic worldviews of education in general. Education was important because it gave Adventist students the opportunity to develop a well-balanced approach to life, including the spiritual, mental, physical, and social dimensions.

Part and parcel of the above was the opportunity to commit one’s life to the God of Scripture, and to prepare for and engage in the mission to give the world the opportunity to respond to Jesus’ offer of salvation in view of His soon coming.  It was also important because the present generation of young people was perceived as the future generation of church leaders, pastors, evangelists, medical missionaries, and educators—all working together to proclaim the three angels’ messages.

Preserving Our Legacy

Thus the church took on the awesome responsibility of developing an educational system that has become a major strength in fulfilling its sacred duty to provide Christian education to its youth and to spread the message of the soon return of Christ to the world. This required the dedication, energy, commitment, and finances of the youth, fathers and mothers, grandparents—of the entire church over many generations.

The responsibility of Adventist education was to fulfill this God-given role of providing a biblically based education for young people within the parameters of the church. It was not the task of educators to challenge in the classroom the doctrines that had been accepted by the church as biblical.  That could and should be done within the context of the larger church. While education would acquaint students with broad issues in the world, it would not advocate as truth doctrines or worldviews contrary to those accepted as biblical.

Parents took seriously their responsibility to raise their children within the safety of the supporting church family, including its educational system. Close families and churches are built in part on a shared worldview and a common goal of dedicating one’s life to a shared vision. In this case, the shared vision was the mission and message God gave us as a church.

Many educators, parents, and young people still commit themselves to this vision of the role of education in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Praise God for their intentionality, vision, and tireless efforts on behalf of students, parents, and our church!

The Christian church has always had the challenge of remaining faithful to God’s Word.

Remaining Faithful

The Christian church has always had the challenge of remaining faithful to God’s Word while being in but not of the world. So also, there is always the constant temptation, even for Seventh-day Adventists, to allow the world’s influence to compromise fidelity to God’s Word, to synthesize or even substitute contemporary worldviews for the biblical worldview.  The intellectual systems of the age are sometimes viewed as superior to the Bible, and what is accepted as truth in the Bible is measured and then accepted or rejected by the “truths” of the age. The Bible is reinterpreted with reference to unbiblical worldviews.

New concepts of the role of education are developed in harmony with new philosophies presented as “truths” of the age. For some it becomes the task of the educator to indoctrinate the student in these new “truths,” irrespective of biblical teaching or the position of our church. Allegiance is given to “the truth” without consideration to whose “truth.” Present truth is not perceived as an understanding of our place in history with reference to Bible prophecy; it is the “new truths of the age.”

With this allegiance to contemporary philosophies presented as truth rather than to the truths of the Bible, some behave as if it is no longer necessary to allow the larger church body to agree together on new understandings of the Bible. Some teachers consider it their duty to take new theories and philosophies directly to the student without the awareness of the church, parent, and sometimes, because of the subtleties, even of the student.

For example: Some may consider it appropriate because of the consensus of “science” to teach that our ancestry is to be traced through animal lineage rather than back to God in Eden. Some professors take it upon themselves (against the decisions of our church) to teach theistic evolution as truth, thinking that it is better for a student to remain at least a theist rather than take the “risk” that in teaching biblical truth some students might abandon the church when confronted with challenges to their faith. Influenced by modernism, some teach that the Bible is the result of folk literature passed down through many centuries, rather than the divinely guided Word of God transmitted through His prophets and apostles.

A Question of Loyalty

The morality of such actions is based upon allegiance to “truth” as the professor sees it, not to the church body that expects that the allegiance of educators be to the Word of God.  It is assumed that students will seldom ask challenging questions; after all, our church has asked these individuals to be our professors. And if the student questions what is taught, it can always be asserted that the student misunderstood, or that the professor was merely informing “about” this new concept. Students may hesitate to discuss what is being taught because their grades might be on the line, future admission to graduate school may be at stake, or they may fear administrative harassment.

In these ways, some rend asunder the fabric of our churches and homes. Since the end (“telling the ‘truth’ ”) justifies the means for these individuals, they deem it appropriate to use institutions built by our forebears, to accept the tithe and offerings of church members, and to accept children of unsuspecting parents, all under the guise of academic freedom and allegiance to the “truth.”

I was an executive in the food industry for several years.  Part of my job was hiring salespeople. It never occurred to me that I should hire a salesperson that was more excited about my competitors’ products than our own. Nor did I ever consider hiring a person who would, under my paycheck, devote his or her time to coaching my competitors and selling their products.

 Ninety percent of our business was private label. That meant that we were producing under trademarks that belonged to other companies, including Walmart, the largest retailer in the world, international in scope. Thus the quality and food safety of what we manufactured was extremely important. If we made a mistake, it would damage not only our own credibility but also the credibility of the entity placing trust in us.

That put the obligation on us to know our suppliers, to protect our food chain, to develop a sophisticated plant capable of producing quality, to develop the right procedures, and to hire the right people. We were constantly monitored and audited to assure that we were in compliance. Our failure at any point reflected back on our customers. That would have been disastrous for our customers and for us.

In a sense, we were like a university that promises to do a job for our church, parents, and students. Should Adventist educational institutions be any less rigorous in the delivery of Adventist education than we were in the delivery of food? After all, the eternal lives of our students are at stake!

Had we delivered something other than what was expected and promised, we would have had an issue of truth in advertising, of pretending to deliver one thing while delivering another. If we do not approach Adventist education with the same rigor, our schools may lose their purpose, and the next generation may not care. Our churches may stand as great memorials to the heroes of ages past—as cathedrals to be admired rather than active places of worship and witness.