March 19, 2024

Haiti Forum Discusses Adventist Prophetic Interpretation in the 21st Century 

Third annual event connects scholars and students for learning and reflection.

Jean Carmy Felixon, and Inter-American Division News
Edgard Etienne, dean of the School of Theology at the Adventist University of Haiti in Carrefour, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, speaks on last day of the 3rd Annual Theological Forum, March 9. [Photo: Lima Daniel Lucien/UNAH]

More than 180 people participated in the 3rd Annual Theological Forum at the Adventist University of Haiti (UNAH) March 7-9. The forum brought together Seventh-day Adventist scholars, either in person or online, under the theme, “Prophecy and Eschatology in Adventism: Keys of interpretation for the 21st century.” The event sought to help Adventist leaders stay true to the lines set by the Adventist Church in matters of prophetic interpretation, organizers said. 

English and French-speaking forum participants included theology students, pastors, church members, and people from other faiths, organizers reported. They emphasized that the event allowed participants to enrich their knowledge on the topic from an exclusively Adventist perspective. 

“In this 21st century, many ‘prophets’ are emerging, especially through social media,” Edgard Etienne, dean of the School of Theology at UNAH, said. “This situation has created a certain level of confusion within the church environment.” 

UNAH president Sénéque Edmond explained that “the world is vibrating to the rhythm of various events which are interpreted from various perspectives.” He added, “Eschatology ignites reflections, and the keys to deciphering prophecies are not always at the level of the excitement they provoke. The need for a balanced, scholarly, and religious understanding of the events of end times is essential in the maze of interpretations which range from the farcical to sensational extremism,” Edmond said. 

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Sénéque Edmond, president of the Adventist University of Haiti, speaks to theology students and church members on March 9. [Photo: Lima Daniel Lucien/UNAH] 
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Theology students, leaders, and church members sing during the Saturday (Sabbath) service of the 3rd Annual Theological Forum in the campus church, March 7. [Photo: Lima Daniel Lucien/UNAH] 

Elie Henry, president of the Inter-American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (IAD) and former dean of the School of Theology at UNAH, said that “this university tradition is posed to have a definite impact on all professors, pastors, brothers and sisters, and intellectuals who like to study and delve deeper into these topics.” In his presentation, Henry called attention to the Lord’s Prayer, which he called “eschatological.” “Every time we say, ‘Your kingdom come,’ we affirm that Jesus will return.” 

The speakers were well-known Adventist scholars and leaders, including Miguel Patiño, Patrick Etoughé Anani, Christian Ekoto, Carlos Mora, Michael Oluikpe, Angel Gúzman, Aneury Vargas, and Dennis Hidalgo. In their presentations, they exposed the keys, issues, and methods of interpreting the prophetic genre in the Bible. The topic of prophecy, eschatology, and Adventism in the 21st century was presented by Andrews University professor Petr Činčala. Efrain Velázquez gave his presentation on archaeology, prophecy, eschatology, and Adventism in the 21st century, while inviting participants not to abandon their first love. Henry presented on the historical foundations of interpretation in Adventism. 

Patiño, from Montemorelos University, spoke on the interpretation and understanding of apocalyptic literature. “The chosen theme is linked to this time in which we are living,” he emphasized. Quoting Richardson David, Patiño reminded his audience that “interpreters must decide [that] their pre-understanding will be deduced from the Bible and be under the control of the Bible. They must be constantly open to modifying and expanding their ideas on the basis of Scripture.” Patino insisted on the need to let oneself be guided by the Holy Spirit and to take into account the context in which the biblical text was written in order to interpret and understand it. “We must remember that apocalyptic prophecies are Christocentric,” he said. 

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Poster for the UNAH prophecy forum. [Image: Adventist University of Haiti] 

Speaker William Michelet showed the link between the three angels’ messages and social justice, racial justice, and religious justice. Asked by a participant how the church can be apolitical and fight for social justice, Michelet said that “we can promote and act for justice in our practices, our speeches, and our relationships with others. We can influence others to practice righteousness. We can influence politics without getting involved.” 

UNAH academic vice president Watland François emphasized that the world has been in the end times since 1844. “Being in this prophetic phase of history, we have been chosen by God to warn the world before the end of times, just as John the Baptist did before the first coming of Jesus…. The mission of the church is to warn the world that Jesus is coming soon.” 

In a special sermon during the forum, Edmond presented some methods of prophetic interpretation. He emphasized that good interpretation has as its basis the unity of faith. Edmond also insisted that the church should not seek to cast out false teachers and their teachings. “God Himself reserves the right to judge false teachers,” he said. Edmond invited the church to be on guard and to grow in the unity of faith and the knowledge of Jesus. 

Several local and international participants expressed their appreciation for the organization of the forum. 

“We need more of these forums,” Nathanael Romain, second year theology student at UNAH, said. “We must strengthen in these teachings so that we all have one voice in prophetic interpretation.” 

Despite its challenging current situation, the Adventist University of Haiti’s School of Theology follows its mission of preparing students to serve the Lord in Haiti, school leaders said. The school has approximately 80 students. 

The original version of this story was posted on the Inter-American Division news site. Stevenson Joas Jean-Jacques contributed to this report.