Edward Zinke, a Bible scholar and philanthropist, doesn’t just talk about the importance of Seventh-day Adventist education.
He also puts his money where his mouth is — quite literally.
Zinke assists with workshops at Adventist universities, partners with publishing projects, and invites professors to retreats as part of an effort to emphasize the importance of a biblical foundation for Adventist education.
He said his aim is to help Adventist educators understand that theology often has been based on philosophy such as that of Plato in fourth-century BC Greece, when in fact it and all academic disciplines should be based on the Bible.
“It’s my burden to be able to share with our educators how that has happened, what the results have been, and what is the biblical and Ellen White perspective for education,” Zinke said in an interview on the sidelines of the recent annual ASI convention in Phoenix, Arizona.
Zinke, a senior advisor for the Adventist Review who served for 14 years as an associate director of the Adventist world church’s Biblical Research Institute, has put his words into action. This especially has been the case since 2008 when he and his wife, Ann, who assists in his efforts, sold their company Ann’s House of Nuts, which they built into the largest manufacturer and marketer of trail mixes in North America.
This year, he has worked with teachers at the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies in the Philippines and at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University (Michigan), Oakwood University (Alabama), Southern Adventist University (Tennessee), and Spencerville Adventist Academy (Maryland) in the United States. Previously, he has networked with church leaders and educators in Brazil, Ghana, India, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Russia, Rwanda, South Africa, and Tanzania. Over the next four years, he hopes to visit each of the Adventist Church’s 13 world divisions under the auspices of the Adventist world church’s Faith and Science Council.
At Southern Adventist University, Zinke and the university are developing a project to publish academic papers on biblical foundations. They will select 14 proposals for papers that will be written, critiqued, rewritten, and then presented by university educators at a weeklong retreat near Cancun, Mexico. Later the papers will be submitted for publication.
The university and Zinke have already partnered on several spiritual retreats near Cancun.
“The trips to Mexico have been wonderfully spiritual retreats where colleagues shared papers emphasizing the biblical foundations and how they connect the Bible to their academic content throughout the semester,” said Cynthia Gettys, director of Southern Adventist University’s Center for Teaching Excellence and Biblical Foundations of Faith and Learning.
“The opportunity to attend the workshops, write and present papers, and dialogue with the team is an opportunity of a lifetime,” she said.
Jiří Moskala, dean of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, said Zinke’s presentations at a seminary-organized symposium on hermeneutics near Cancun in May were “well organized, informative, and stirred excellent discussions.”
“Faculty valued his expertise in this area and respected him as their colleague,” he said. “They expressed their gratitude and appreciation for his personal engagement and generous care for biblical-theological balanced approach to difficult questions and problems.”
Mark Noble, board chair of Spencerville Adventist Academy, spoke in similarly glowing terms about his school’s collaboration with Zinke, saying his presentations clearly defined “the importance of a biblical worldview and how it keeps us firmly rooted in Scripture alone as our authority.”
“This is of utmost importance for our teachers, who are asked to point students toward Christ on a daily basis,” Noble said. “These students have many varying and strongly held world views. Understanding this and the foundation of these world views enables us to better fulfill our mission.”
Zinke — who summarized a seven-part PowerPoint presentation in a 90-minute telephone conversation with an Adventist Review reporter last week — said teachers and especially theologians could mistakenly use philosophical methods to interpret Scripture and thereby turn the Bible into a philosophical document rather than the Word of God that must be accepted on its own terms.
“I used to think that my task as a theologian was to prove that the Bible was God’s Word based on reasoning from human disciplines rather than on the power of the Bible, which is itself under the power of the Holy Spirit,” Zinke said.
He said the formula used by thought leaders up until the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century was a combination of the Bible and philosophy; the Bible and reason; the Bible and church history; the Bible and the pope; or the Bible and church councils.
“The Reformation responded with, ‘The Bible alone as the foundation,’” he said.
But centuries of human thought were not easily changed, and non-biblical foundations for education have expanded to a post-modern worldview today, he said.
“We didn’t come from animals. We come from the hand of God,” he said. “So we don’t study animals to decide how to live. We are led by God’s Word rather than by human analysis of culture, society or the animal kingdom.”
Zinke said his focus on biblical foundations does not suggest that people should ignore reason, the senses, or any other aspect of human ability. Instead, he said, people should remember that the Bible is the basis on which everything else is understood.
“That doesn’t mean that there aren’t things in psychology, for example, that could be useful,” he said. “We just have to put psychology through the filter of Scripture instead of putting Scripture through the filter of psychology.”
Zinke underscored that this was especially important for Seventh-day Adventist teachers to understand and remember. Otherwise, he said, the Adventist Church could “become just like another social group instead of a dynamic evangelistic force in the world.”
“Instead of teaching our students to be humanistic and critical thinkers, we must teach them to be biblical thinkers,” he said.
He said he hoped teachers would be able to teach their students the difference between a biblical worldview and a philosophical worldview.
“I would hope that teachers would recognize the importance of interpreting Scripture from Scripture itself instead of from contemporary philosophical systems,” he said. “It is by the power of God in our lives through the Holy Spirit that it is possible for us to be renewed, instead of us pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps.”
His message appears to have hit home at the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies, which offers exclusively graduate education.
“His presentations were thought-provoking and lifted the minds to consider theological perspectives both in history as well as contemporary thought that have significant implications to Adventist beliefs and Adventist education,” said Stephen Guptill, president of the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies.
His sentiments were echoed by Gettys at Southern Adventist University.
“Ed and Ann Zinke along with their entire family are dedicated laity committed to making an eternal difference for university faculty as well as students,” she said.
“They continue to remind current church members of the historical journey of culture and encourage us to retain our Christian biblical worldview, regardless of the emphasis of philosophy, or current events or culture,” she said. “They continue to call us to stand firm, though the heavens appear to fall, and financially provide opportunities for professors to gather, study, and continue to lead the march in Adventist higher education for living lives and academic teaching based on ‘Sola Scriptura’ — the Bible alone.”