Friday, May 04, 2007

Bill Cork, Swims Back Across

As some of you already know, Bill Cork (a former SDA, then Lutheran, then Catholic) announced his return to Seventh-day Adventism yesterday. The decision comes as a shock, given that his blog only began to contain a steady stream of negative polemic against the Catholic Church in the last three weeks or so (he assigns the figure to two months). In his own words:

On Sabbath, April 21 (my baby brother’s birthday), I returned to the Seventh-day Adventist faith in which I spent the first 21 years of my life through rebaptism.
I’ve been laying out theological and ecclesial issues over the past two months that were contributing factors to my loss of trust in the authority of Rome and the Catholic Magisterium. And that’s what so much of Catholic life and teaching is built on: “Trust us.” If you do, you can accept everything; if you don’t, then you must fall back on something else–the Word of God.

For those of you who need some context, I refer you to the following types of criticisms he has launched in the past few weeks (the links move back in time):

Doctrinal Issues:

1. Interpreting recent developments with regards to the doctrine of limbo as an about-face denial of Catholic tradition: 1, 2. . . etc.

2. Viewing the Religious Liberty declaration of Vatican II yet another doctrinal about-face: 1

3. Alleging that Catholicism has an instinct for "rationalization" that obscures "plain Biblical teaching and Christian faith": 1 (written just before his reversion)

4. Reconsideration of traditional claims of papal authority: 1

Institutional Issues:

5. Miscellaneous failures on the part of individual Catholic bishops or institutions: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 . . . etc.

Of course, our first reaction to so momentous a decision of faith should be prayer (whether you agree with his decision or not). Granted that he is not interested in "debate or discussion" on this move, prayer is our only option. Nevertheless, I would not be a good blogger if I did not offer some personal reflection on this sudden turn of events.

Although I had become quite unnerved by the negative tone of Bill's recent posts, I never imagined he would so suddenly leave the Catholic Church, let alone return to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Adventism would be one of the last possible destinations for my beleaguered soul, if I ever conceived of abandoning the Church. I would require several years to reconcile myself to the doctrines I once conscientiously abandoned, including: Adventism's flawed prophetic interpretation (e.g., Dan 2, Rev 13, Rev 11, Rev 17, Dan 7-8), its embrace of ceremonial laws (e.g., clean and unclean meats), its rejection of the intermediate state (in the light of Rev 6), its rejection of the eternal duration of hellfire, its pro-choice stance on abortion, its anti-historicity and anti-Catholicism, etc. My concerns are so diverse and far reaching that, quite frankly, the haste with which Cork appears to have dove into Adventism scares me. The suddenness of his decision suggests that it was not well-considered, though this is not my judgment to make. I can only hope he exhausted the entirety of Adventist theological criticism beforehand.

With regard to his first two classes of criticisms (1 and 2), I struggled with each in the past three years. After entire nights spent in careful thought and reading, I came to complete peace with the Church's recent engagement of the doctrine of limbo (refer to my last two posts on the subject: here and here), and now champion the Vatican's conclusions wholeheartedly. The questions surrounding the religious liberty question were also of great interest to me while I was still an Adventist, and there again, I found the development entirely orthodox after months of research (I briefly summarize my views in this DIES DOMINI essay.) I cannot presume that I have all the answers, and the tradition is ambivalent, but Cork's discussions of both topics give little (if any) time to defenses of the Vatican's recent theological currents. I hope he will remain open to these defenses, and reconsider his latest move.

When we approach Catholic theology, we must remember that it encompasses ideas and currents filtered through twenty centuries of evolution. This fact alone cautions us against any hasty judgments regarding the orthodoxy of its latest developments. The Bible itself is filled with seemingly contradictory ideas and standards, which evolved over a millennia, and require some reconciliation (e.g., Old v. New Testament law). The dismissive charge of "rationalization" (3) has often served as a poor substitute for gritty intellectual engagement.

Cork's own criticisms (4) of the inner workings of his local diocese, or the failings of other church leaders (in such areas as public stances towards abortion and homosexuality), may be grounded in fact; still, these are not uniquely Catholic problems, and will follow him throughout his church life. Nevertheless, he now returns to an Adventist Church that is effectively pro-choice, though he himself has criticized this fact as a pro-lifer less than two months ago. As I read it, a pro-life individual has abandoned a pro-life Church because of the inconsistent attitudes of a handful of local leaders, to join a pro-choice church as a dissenting member. It's a curious trade, and signals something deeper than a mere doctrinal shift. Perhaps (and this is only a hypothesis) he has lost faith in church authority more generally, and is thus willing to return to a church with which he actively disagrees (if only on one point).

As a Catholic, however (my faith perspective), I recognize that he embraced heresy, and is thereby in spiritual peril. Indeed:

"All who... observe... the sabbath and other legal prescriptions [are] strangers to the faith of Christ and unable to share in eternal salvation, unless they recoil at some time from these errors...[they] cannot possibly be observed without loss of eternal salvation." (Council of Florence)
And again,

"It is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff" (Unam Sanctam).

Consequently, I find the rapidity with which he returned to Adventism all the more distressing; the decision is too consequential.

I welcome the other bloggers to share their thoughts on this subject as well, especially our Adventist readers and contributors. I enjoy the diversity of our blog, and expect an interesting discussion to follow. However, I would ask that the Catholics on this blog avoid attempts to excuse away his decision, as is so often done when one fails to recognize the intellectual basis for another person's conversion.


Anonymous said...

Especially from his latest post - on his son - seems like his family life was really stressed. Just saying.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

I'm shocked to find that Adventism is pro-choice. Bill's postings on abortion have always been uniformly pro-life.

I think you have a fair point on the problem of departing from Catholicism. I am a divorced cradle Catholic. I always contemplated that I would leave the church because of my divorce, but a few years ago I came to realize that I really believed that the Catholic church had been founded by Christ and that any departure from the church would have violated my conscience.

Stephen Korsman said...

My first point is to say that we should be careful about the diagnosis of formal heresy. Yes, he knows what Catholic teaching is, to an extent ... but not completely. His posts indicate, to me anyway, that something is lacking. Or perhaps has been lost. If he is sincere in his reversion, then he should rather be diagnosed with an acute onset of invincible ignorance. And judging from his posts, over-intellectualisation can cause just that. When hope fades, due to issues that cause doubt, spending time thinking about them can amplify their severity, and all sorts of erroneous conclusions can result.

I think he has thought it through well, and knows what he is doing. What he doesn't know is that he has lost faith. He appears to think he has grown in faith.

The move from pro-life to pro-choice - he's changed nothing, really. He's gone from one system he has problems with to another system he has problems with. He might be willing to look past Adventism's failings, but appears to be unwilling to do the same for Catholicism.

I don't think that is intellectualisation. I think that's ignoring the obvious.

To me, that indicates he was looking for home. Doubt, loss of hope, spiritual weariness from the negative things he's experienced - he can't call the institution home, and in rejecting the structure, he's ended up rejecting the Church behind that structure.

How he has solved issues he was convinced of before, such as the state of the dead, the Eucharist, etc., I can only wonder about.

I've got little doubt that he did a lot of praying. But if you pray for an answer, and want the answer to tell you that Adventism, where is family is, is home, that's the answer you get. It's psychology, not God's leading.

I don't think that one can separate the excuses and having a firm (yet error-riddled) intellectual basis for such a decision. Intellect goes wrong. When I think about clinical issues, viruses, diagnostics, my intellect works fine. But there are areas where I need a psychological defence, and for several years that failed me - the logic I put out turned my environment into a mess that took a psychologist and years of antidepressants to put right. When my intellect starts to work, I can usually see that it's going irrational, and force it right again. (One example: I spent the day catastrophising about all the ex-SDA Catholics seeing what he did and deciding to follow suit. It took reading several blogs and many comments to realise that out there in the real world, people considered him to be just another misled ex-Catholic led astray. Usually I don't react that way to theological issues ... but this overlaps with others.)

So an intellectual basis doesn't mean a rational or logical basis. I think it's clear that his sincere attempts to solve what he saw as significant problems resulted in a distorted view of the Church, and combined with a longing for a home away from the burdens of diocesan bureacracy, blinded him to the truth.

I believe he has a firm intellectual basis for his decision. And I submit that as his excuse.

I asked a nun friend about this, as she was a convert from Mormonism. She had this to say:

"Conversion is a grace from Almighty God. If a person is true to that grace, he will persevere. If he waffles or is not true to the grace given him or is only "converted" by head knowledge, then anything can happen."

I can't say what his conversion to Catholicism entailed. All we can do is pray that he did NOT exhaust the entirety of Adventist theological criticism beforehand, and that in time, he realises where his true home is, and maybe convert to Catholicism for the first time.

This is an issue that bothers me a lot. I've watched friends leave the Church unable to see that their reasoning is as bad as mine can be at times.

Tito said...


I concur.

In Him,


Hugo said...

Great points have been made by everyone so far.

Steve, your right to avoid applying the term "formal heresy"; I have followed suit, and tempered my post in other respects, given the fact this is also an Adventist blog (oops). However, I don't believe "incvincible ignorance" can applied either (I tend to imagine animists isolated in Africa).

I still believe as a Catholic, however, that his situation could not be graver. My interpretation of the Church's tradition is that we are to assume the worst, and desperately pray for his reconciliation, rather than try to mentally reduce the gravity of his act. He has done more than entertained positive doubt; he has abandoned the unity of the Church. (This blog encourages Catholics to be fully Catholic, and Adventists to be fully Adventist.)

And you're right, the longer I stare at what litle data I have, the more this seems an emotionally-inspired decision than an intellectual one. Of course, I don;t mean to suggest that the intellectual aspect was lacking (not at all), but as I said, I could not return to Adventism without a longer time to review and confirm Adventist doctrine.]

To be honest, I find this situation fascinating on a more personal level. I am experiencing many of the same reactions my Adventist friends must have had when I first approached Catholicism. This is why I find this post as a real point of engagement between our Adventist and Catholic readers (I'm still waiting to hear from the former group).

Stephen Korsman said...

I think, and AFAIK officially, invincible ignorance doesn't apply only to animists in my country, but could, to make up an extreme example, a Jewish professor of Church history at a Catholic university, who, for whatever reason, simply cannot (note: not will not) come to terms with the truth of Catholicism.

Side issue: How would you define Adventists being truly Adventist? Apart from looking to the second coming of Christ? To what extent is that incompatible with Catholicism? (I won't ask if it includes the occasional billboard advertising a book on the pope, but I will suggest a blog post on what it does mean, or a referral to something you've aleady done.)

Brandon said...

I can only speculate, however, from Mr. Cork's last few posts it appears that he became disillusioned with the process of doctrinal development, which is still occurring in the Catholic Church. What strikes me as odd is that that same development is still very much present in the Adventist Church, and is even more pronounced now, than ever, with the rise of the progressive movement in the Adventist Church. I do believe that in some limited cases, one can come closer to God through a non-Catholic religion, and I hope and pray that this is the case with Mr. Cork. I wish him the best and hope to hear more from him regarding his journey in the future.

Jared Olar said...

Unless I see some good evidence that Bill Cork is, say, suffering from mental illness or physical cognitive deterioration, or is under sustained demonic influence or attack or even is possessed, I would find it a real stretch to say that Bill could be classed as invincibly ignorant. I'm not sure he's even vincibly ignorant, but if it's ignorance that is the problem, it's most unlikely that it's invincible.

For reference, here are the old Catholic Encyclopedia's definitions of invincible and vincible ignorance:

"So far as fixing human responsibility, the most important division of ignorance is that designated by the terms invincible and vincible. Ignorance is said to be invincible when a person is unable to rid himself of it notwithstanding the employment of moral diligence, that is, such as under the circumstances is, morally speaking, possible and obligatory. This manifestly includes the states of inadvertence, forgetfulness, etc. Such ignorance is obviously involuntary and therefore not imputable. On the other hand, ignorance is termed vincible if it can be dispelled by the use of 'moral diligence'. This certainly does not mean all possible effort; otherwise, as Ballerini naively says, we should have to have recourse to the pope in every instance. We may say, however, that the diligence requisite must be commensurate with the importance of the affair in hand, and with the capacity of the agent, in a word such as a really sensible and prudent person would use under the circumstances. Furthermore, it must be remembered that the obligation mentioned above is to be interpreted strictly and exclusively as the duty incumbent on a man to do something, the precise object of which is the acquisition of the needed knowledge. In other words the mere fact that one is bound by some extrinsic title to do something the performance of which would have actually, though not necessarily, given the required information, is negligible. When ignorance is deliberately aimed at and fostered, it is said to be affected, not because it is pretended, but rather because it is sought for by the agent so that he may not have to relinquish his purpose. Ignorance which practically no effort is made to dispel is termed crass or supine."

But of course these matters are, in the end, in the province of God's judgment and not our own, and we can only hope that, if Bill never repents, there can be some mitigating factor rendering him invincibly ignorant, despite his years of study and his former assent and submission to the Church's magisterium.

Stephen Korsman said...

Invincible ignorance is a problematic thing. Since it deals with what goes on in the person's mind/intellect, I think it needs to be defined from a psychological point of view ... amongst others.

As I see things, there are 3 ways someone can change their beliefs from Catholic to something else:

1. Convenience, of whatever sort. The person knows Catholic faith to be true, but life is better without X, where X is some moral, theological, or practical teaching. Such a person is a formal heretic, by definition, and faces serious problems. Although the Catholic Encyclopedia seems to consider deliberate ignorance in the category of vincible ignorance, I'd rather classify it as formal heresy - knowing the truth and knowing that there is truth avialable, but choosing against, is no different - it is not ignorance, it's awareness and rejection of the truth, whether the truth has been obtained and discarded or rejected before it is obtained.

2. Invincible ignorance. Due to whatever reason, the person is unable to assent to the truth. That could be due to being an animist in Africa, or it could be due to severe indoctrination that prevents open-minded consideration of the truth, and this latter bit can occur to both Catholics and non-Catholics, leading them to fail to recognise truth as truth.

3. Vincible ignorance. This is the tough one. I'd argue that vincible ignorance is really invincible ignorance that is being broken down by grace.

The formal heretic deliberately rejects grace. The invincibly ignorant has none to accept (not necessarily saving grace, but the grace to come to the fullness of truth.)

What of someone who leaves the faith because the Jehovah's Witnesses got to them? Looking up issues at is easy, and they could have done that, but didn't ... so they were convinced. If they didn't know where to look for answers, that's invincible ignorance. If they reached the point where looking for answers was no longer relevant in their mind, that's also invincible ignorance. A few years down the line, they come across it. And their indoctrination is not so complete as to prevent it from making sense. Suddenly their temporary invincible ignorance becomes vincible ignorance, and they can choose.

What of the Methodist down the road who, if they sat in the library for a few days, would see the light? They remain invincibly ignorant because it never occurs to them to do that. Then one day they read something and it makes them look further. Suddenly their temporary invincible ignorance becomes vincible ignorance, and they can choose.

I consider all ignorance to be invincible until grace comes along and gives it a push. Whether that push is putting the thought of visiting into their head, or connecting the Internet to the small animist village in Africa so they can visit, it takes that push to move a person from invincible to vincible ignorance.

Invincible vs vincible ignorance can be defined on two levels - the ability of the person's current circumstances to alleviate the problem (and these can change from day to day, such as forgetfulness and attentiveness), and the presence or absence of grace pulling them to the truth.

Vincible ignorance is, as I see it, a temporary stepping stone between the three true ends - acceptance of the truth, formal heresy, and a return to invincible ignorance due to whatever factors (internal and/or external to the person) that sent them into that state to begin with.

Also, invincible ignorance is not a permanent state - it's not invincible because it can't be overcome; it's invincible because it can't be overcome within the current psychological/environmental circumstances.

I'd go further and say that vincible and invincible ignorance are not two distinct entities, but rather a spectrum of ignorance. Like mania and depression are on a spectrum, with the two classic bipolar disorders simply being two points on that spectrum. The ignorance of a well-indoctrinated Jehovah's Witness is, at first, invincible, but when they're exposed to truth in a way that makes them start to wonder, they're still not at a point where they're capable of accepting what they've found - it takes time, one truth at a time. Some of their ignorance is giving way, but the rest isn't ready yet.

Finally, before I shut up, three short points: the vincible/invincible ignorance concept is, like Limbo, a theological construct to try to put words to the underlying truth; we're all invincibly ignorant of something; and I can't see how Cork's current state could be vincible ignorance if he's making a choice in the wrong direction. Grace could break that (temporary) invincibility, but for now I can only comprehend his case being invincible ignorance or formal heresy, and only God and Bill can know which. Perhaps I'm invincibly ignorant?

Jordan Potter said...

Well, as I indicated above, I'm not sure Bill's problem is ignorance, whether vincible or invincible. For someone like Bill, the problem seems to be with the will, not with the intellect. The more I learn about his life before his conversion to Catholicism, and his life as a Catholic, the more it looks to me like it's will, not knowledge or lack or knowledge.

But I'll leave it at that, as I think it's inappropriate to start suggesting or issuing judgments like that, and I've already crossed the line, I think.

The Lady Dragon said...

Isn't there a proverb about the dog returning to his own vomit? To abandon the Eucharist for a false proverb is mind boggling.

The Lady Dragon said...

Oops, I meant for a false prophet.

Anonymous said...

Good work on your blog. The non-Bill Cork postings are good too.

What really shocked me is that Bill didn't just go from RC to Adventist but from RC to Adventist associate pastor.

Janelle said...

I think that all of the intellectualization of religion is interesting. I have spent significant time with my Catholic brothers and sisters, and significant time in the Adventist faith. (I attended Andrews University, graduated from Loyola University of Chicago and Loyola University School of Law. Yet, after all the philosophy and theology, it seems that what matters is one's heart. Such a simple approach. For years Adventists have judged the Catholics, and for centuries, Catholics the protestants. Perhaps, we need to all join in praise that Bill is a child of God who has devoted his life to seeking after God, and has alwyas been willing to do the honest, uncomfortable thing in that pursuit. I admire that. May his tribe increase, without regard to denomination.

Hugo said...

And Janelle, I believe we can all agree with you there. We may embrace varying beliefs along our winding journeys, but we all share a common desire to please the Lord. That is admirable, no question.

. . . But does it erase the gravity of the situation? For us Catholics, there is only one Church, and to abandon it is to jeopardize your salvation (Council of Trent). This isn't opinion, this is the doctrine of Christ, articulated through His Church. Anyway you slice it, there are no simple solutions; although I believe good intentions go a long way before a merciful God, you know what they say about "good intentions". . .

This same tension frustrated my Adventist peers back at Southern when I converted, and I can respect that. I don't believe we can simply dismiss one side of the equation in favor of another; the two may have to be held in a very uncomfortable tension for the foreseeable future.

jashmead said...

It seems to me that the RC church in fact teaches what Janelle proposes. Hugo correctly notes that if he were to leave the RC church that the church's teachings suggest that He has jeopardized his salvation. This view indicates that salvation does not exist outside the RC church. However, for me as an adventist, I have some sort of ignorance of RC teaching so that I can still be saved without belonging to the RC church. I can thumb my nose at the Holy Spirit's efforts to move me to become a member of the RC church, claim that God's true church is the antichrist, seek to proselytize members from God's true church and my ignorance covers me from eternal damnation. I would also note that when Bill Cork left the RC church the Catholics on this blog seems to be divided over whether this ignorance also overwhelmed Pastor Cork so that now he does not need to be a member of the RC church in order to be saved. Oh how I long for the old days when the RC church would teach unequivocally that salvation does not exist outside the church.:)

It also seems that the jews, buddist and muslims get a free pass to salvation without belonging to God's "true church".

It just seems to me that the church's teachings have created so many means of salvation that salvation seems assurred to everyone.

Hugo said...

There are two sides to this story, as the Church is all too conscious. Ultimately, salvation is a matter of God judging the heart: a capacity we as humans lack. As Catholics, we can discern the admirable qualities of Bill Cork's journey, while still recognizing the peril of his situation (underscoring the latter, given his intellectual grasp, and one time embrace, of Catholic theology). But, at best, that leaves us with an unresolved tension we'll have to endure for some time. There can be no final resolution of this situation until the last day, when all will be made manifest.

As regards the salvation of non-Catholics, the Church is very cautious beyond the simple assertion that it is possible. Catholics understand that pertinacious error and an aggressive stance against the Church factors in. The question always reduces to: how free is the will of the individual to choose such courses of action? Its not precisely a matter of knowledge or ignorance; it's a matter of freedom. Often, an aggressive posture towards Christ's beloved bride betrays a continuing rejection of the Holy Spirit, but not necessarily (since you consider it your Christian duty to denounce our "errors.") Again, its an uncomfortable tension that cannot be resolved until the last day....

or until your Confirmation/First Communion. ;)

jashmead said...

But does it erase the gravity of the situation? For us Catholics, there is only one Church, and to abandon it is to jeopardize your salvation (Council of Trent). This isn't opinion, this is the doctrine of Christ, articulated through His Church. Anyway you slice it, there are no simple solutions; although I believe good intentions go a long way before a merciful God, you know what they say about "good intentions". . .

What is the jeaporady that one faces when he or she abandons the The Roman Catholic Church?

The question always reduces to: how free is the will of the individual to choose such courses of action? Its not precisely a matter of knowledge or ignorance; it's a matter of freedom. Often, an aggressive posture towards Christ's beloved bride betrays a continuing rejection of the Holy Spirit, but not necessarily (since you consider it your Christian duty to denounce our "errors.")

What is this unknown entity, force, or condition that usurps the will and removes freedom from an individual that then permits him or her to freely reject or abandon the church without penalty or consequence?

If we remain ignorant of the penalty for rejecting Christ's true church how can the true church, at the same time, suggest that one imperils his or her salvation by abandoning the church?

jashmead said...

It seems to me from your post that you believe that a Seventh Day Adventist is most at peril for condemnation at the latter day for maintaining beliefs that are aggressive towards the RC church.

Often, an aggressive posture towards Christ's beloved bride betrays a continuing rejection of the Holy Spirit, but not necessarily (since you consider it your Christian duty to denounce our "errors.")

I am honestly confused by this statement. How can I betray the Holy Spirit by an aggressive posture to the RC church and this betrayal not equal a betrayal and rejection of Christ?

Hugo said...

Your questions were a bit difficult to interpret. I'll write a post that should help.

Bill Cork said...

Janelle, Joy mentioned you had chimed in on a blog. Took about two seconds to find this on Google. :-)

Janelle said...

There are so many Janelles, after all! :) Joy was well-named, wasn't she!

Jesus said, "By their fruits" we would know them. Not by their denominational label. And the Fruits of the Spirit are . . . On that basis, I have known some dear children of God in the Catholic Church. I have known at least one priest whose fruit was rotten, and a monk who, well, made a pass at me in law school. At that moment at least, he had unpleasant smelling fruit! I have also known Adventists whose fruit was rank. (My own grandfather, for instance, a felon). Again, Jesus (who is my authority) said that he had sheep in more than one fold. My faculty at Loyola did not teach me that the Church was inerrant and the only means of attaining salvation. In fact, they readily admitted the failures, mistakes, blunders of the Church, doctrinal and otherwise. And that God has children in all churches. Yet this blog seems to maintain something different. It appears that converts to Catholicism are more strident than other Catholics?

Hugo said...

Janelle, I'm sorry to say that what you were taught at Loyola does not represent the teaching of the Catholic Church:

"This truth of faith does not lessen the sincere respect which the Church has for the religions of the world, but at the same time, it rules out, in a radical way, that mentality of indifferentism 'characterized by a religious relativism which leads to the belief that ‘one religion is as good as another' If it is true that the followers of other religions can receive divine grace, it is also certain that objectively speaking they are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the Church, have the fullness of the means of salvation. However, “all the children of the Church should nevertheless remember that their exalted condition results, not from their own merits, but from the grace of Christ. If they fail to respond in thought, word, and deed to that grace, not only shall they not be saved, but they shall be more severely judged" (Dominus Iesus, 22: ratified by Pope John Paul II; 2000).

Only in the Catholic Church is the fullness of salvation to be found (read the entire document for more info). Many may be saved from other religions, but only through a spiritual, implicit union with the Catholic Church.

And realize, the Church excludes the claim that revealed Catholic doctrine is flawed or has failures. Liberal faculty members at a particular Catholic university do not speak for the Church--the Vatican does. I'm sorry others suggested otherwise.

Janelle said...

I do not mean to suggest that all doctrine is truth. That is an enormous leap from the concept that Jesus taught, that he has children in more than one fold. The concept that salvation is not complicated, and that it is free to all who accept it, is not moral relativism. Both the Adventist Church and the Catholic Church have been guilty of either blatantly teaching or at least inferring that one must be a member of their church to be saved. How sad. It isn't about club membership. Those ideas lead to exclusivity, religious bigotry and a false sense of security. It's about relationship. About knowing that you are a child of the Most High God. That you will follow Him, wherever He leads you as you seek Him in prayer and study His Word. Be that Catholic or protestant. That is exactly why I admire Bill. And you, too, Hugo. I presume that you have done just that. That you have followed in a most uncomfortable way. A way not understood by your peers at Southern. (When were you there, by the way?!) You stubbornly followed where you believed He led. What a witness.

Cynthia said...

And you think Adventists are pro-choice why? I'm an Adventist and solidly pro-life. The fact that some within the denomination might/do hold pro-choice persuasions doesn't mean the whole denomination does. The denomination also doesn't tell us what to think - and I have some good friends who are pro-choice Catholics.

So please let's not pretend "holier-than-thou" over such things. I am pleased to have found this group. That said, I pray we can be wise enough to remember that it is only the one who has no sin that gets to pick up the stones.


Hugo said...


The Seventh-day Adventist Church countenances abortion in certain cases. In that sense, it is pro-choice:

"Abortions for reasons of birth control, gender selection, or convenience are not condoned by the Church. Women, at times however, may face exceptional circumstances that present serious moral or medical dilemmas, such as significant threats to the pregnant woman's life, serious jeopardy to her health, severe congenital defects carefully diagnosed in the fetus, and pregnancy resulting from rape or incest. The final decision whether to terminate the pregnancy or not should be made by the pregnant woman after appropriate consultation." (Guidelines on Abortion 4; GC website.)

This is what many of us former Adventists found unacceptable: a church that would countenance the murder of a human life by one of its members due to the manifestation of certain birth defects (a matter of convenience), or in response to rape or incest (what reason can possible be offered for taking the child's life in this case except convenience?).

Anonymous said...

The Adventist church does not support abortion as a birth control due to pre-marital sex. However, the church does not find
fault if the abortion is done due to rape. What do you do if you know that your child in the womb has a birth defect? Is the birth defect will cause your life style to be different or you yourself not able to see the child with the birth defect? By reading all your blogs, you are all selfish in ways that you all don't have that spiritual walk with God. Your language is all intellect, yet lack the biblical passages in dealing with human matters. My question to you all is, all you obeying the 10 commandments. Especially, the 4th commandment in keeping the sabbath. DO you know that the Catholics once held their sevices on Saturday, then the pope changed it to Sunday?. I guess you did not know that. Saturday is the true sabbath, NOT Sunday.

Hugo said...


In all honestly, Catholics are not impressed by calls to obey "all 10 commandments" from a church that will not consistently uphold the shortest: "thou shalt not kill." "He who offends at one point, is guilty of all" (James 2:10)--including, sabbathbreaking

How can Adventists defend the killing of an innocent human child out of grounds that amount only to economic or emotional convenience, and then discipline members who must work on the Sabbath out of economic/emotional convenience? Adventists should address the incoherence of this logic.

jashmead said...

How can the RC church maintain the position of no condoms, particularly in Africa, where aids is devastating the populations? It is disturbing to think that if two people are married, one infected by the HIV virus, and the other not infected, the RC church's position is that these two should engage in unprotected sex. I would note that there isn't one scripture to support the idea that married couples cannot use contraception. I wonder if the historical-critical methodology that you flirt with on occassion will support the notion of contraceptionless marriages?:)(no I will not let it go)

How you and others describe the SDA church as pro-choice is bizarre. If the choice is between the unborn child and the life of the mother, who already has other children, the RC church concludes that this mother must die in order for the unborn child to live??? What makes the unborn child's life more valuable than the mother's?

If the RC church truly believes in the position that it advocates regarding abortion then every member of the RC church must be required to adopt at least one child.

Brandon said...

I find your comments a little lacking in depth on this issue.

First, the church has never said that those in Africa, or anywhere else for that matter, should have unprotected sex if one has a STD, life threatening or not. So to make this the question is at least intellectually dishonest.

We describe the SDA Church as pro-choice, because the SDA Church in it's own documents says that mothers should decide on their own whether to kill their children. This is the definition of pro-choice. The Catholic position is that the taking of an innocent life by a person is not a choice, it is murder. All murderers have the ability to choose their acts, this however, does not justify them.

The argument about choosing the life between the mother and child is not only antiquated in light of modern medical technology, but it is also a straw man argument. Nature chooses between the mother and the child, not the Church. After medicine has done all they can to help both the mother and child, ultimately, it is in God's hands, not ours. The question could likewise be turned around.. why would you say that the mother deserves to live and the innocent child should be killed? Do you believe that you or any other human is in a position to judge the life that God has given?

There are just as many stories about women who were told they would die if they continued with birth, and both the mother and the baby came out fine. Do you believe that mothers should kill children just in case? In that case, what is the acceptable risk before a child can be killed to protect their parent? Is it based on one doctors advice or 5, what percentage of chance of survival should be the litmus test?

fountainviewkid said...

FYI, just because the offical Adventist position sounds a little pro-choice doesn't mean all Adventists are that way. Most Adventists I know would describe themselves as pro-life. That's one thing Republican Adventists consistently use against Democrat Adventists, because being pro-life is a very popular position in the SDA church. A few of the liberal scholars are pro-choice, but the vast majority are not. They may see abortion as allowed in certain rare circumstances, but that doesn't at all classify them as pro-choice. Under that definition planned-parenthood (hell be upon them) has the same views as the SDA church, which obviously isn't true.

Hugo said...

Let's be honest: the official Adventist position does not "sound" a little pro-choice, it IS (selectively) pro-choice. Adventism believes individuals have several morally-acceptable options in select cases (i.e., rape, incest, birth defects), including abortion. You are right to say that many Adventists are consistently pro-life. Unfortunately, "Adventism" as a corporate body is not; Adventist healthcare institutions are certainly not. This isn't "a few of the liberal scholars": this is the world church, speaking through such organs as the GC Executive Committee (composed of 260 members, including division presidents, department administrators, theologians, etc.).

By contrast, Catholics believe direct abortion is inherently immoral: it is murder (unjustified killing). Catholic hospitals refuse to perform abortions. Pro-life Adventist should ask themselves: on this question, which of these denominations is truly abiding by the command of God: "thou shalt not kill?" Not surprisingly, some converts to Catholicism from Adventism made their decisions upon this very contrast..

If Bill is still pro-life, he should have asked himself why he would return to a denomination with which he disagrees on a point so critical.

Hugo said...

...and pro-life Adventists should realize the power and permanency of the pro-choice establishment in the Adventist church and healthcare. Case in point: Adventists rarely discuss their denomination's views on abortion. Most probably do not even know what the official position is. They respect the (hypocritical) status quo.

When pro-life Adventists begin organizing masse petitions, raising this issue in annual councils, and voting in constituency meetings for leaders seeking to overturn the denominational policy, I might take them seriously. Almost all Adventists, however, even those who care, do not care enough.

On the judgment day, the blood of the unborn will be on their hands.

Anonymous said...

By Andrew Buncombe in Delhi

Friday February 20 2009

A former nun's tell-all story which details illicit relationships, sexual harassment and bullying in the convent where she spent three decades is causing ructions in the Catholic Church in the south Indian state of Kerala.

In 'Amen -- an autobiography of a nun', Sister Jesme says when she became a nun she discovered priests were forcing novices to have sex with them.

There were also secret homosexual relationships among the nuns and at one point she was forced into such a relationship by another nun, who told her she preferred this kind of arrangement as it ruled out the possibility of pregnancy.

"I did not want to make this book controversial. I want to express my feelings and to explain what happened to me . . . I want people to know how I have suffered," she said last night, speaking from the town of Kozhikode. "People say that everything is OK, but I was in the convent and I want them to know what goes on. I have concerns for others."

Sister Jesme, who quit last year as the principal of a Catholic college in Thrissur, alleges senior nuns tried to have her committed to a mental institution after she spoke out.

In her book, she says that while travelling through Bangalore, she was once directed to stay with a purportedly pious priest who took her to a garden "and showed me several pairs cuddling behind trees. He also gave me a sermon on the necessity of physical love and described the illicit affairs that certain bishops and priests had". The priest took her to his home, stripped off his clothes and ordered her to do the same.


She also alleges that senior staff turned a blind eye to more experienced nuns, while novices were strongly punished.

When she resigned as a college principal, she claimed convents had become "houses of torture", saying: "The mental torture was unbearable. When I questioned the church's stand on self-financing colleges and certain other issues, they accused me of having mental problems. They have even sent me to a psychiatrist. There are many nuns undergoing ill-treatment from the order, but they are afraid of challenging it. The church is a formidable fortress." (© Independent News Service

Jerry said...

I really liked Cynthia's post about that Our Savior Jesus Christ is the only one who could pick up the stones and write in the dirt. For a lay person (like myself) it is difficult for me to get into all this theology but what matters is the persons relationship with Jesus Christ the "Law Giver" Whether we be Catholic, Baptist, Hindu or Muslim; we all must pass thru Judgement. I am so thankful and happy that My Defender is the Lord Jesus Christ. Put Christ first in your lives and He will lead. The Bible says work out your salvation with fear and trembling and that can only be done thru Bible Study and Prayer!

Anonymous said...

To Hugo and others,

I realize that this is an old post, but I cannot help that since I just found it by Google. The conversation became somewhat interesting when the subject of abortion was brought up. Someone mentioned the commandment "Thou shalt not kill", and then asked which denomination was really following it, the Adventist or Catholic. In regards to this commandment, why not compare it with a careful reading of Numbers 31:1-18? Be sure to really sincerely contemplate and consider what is written there in light of this commandment. Once you are finished, ask yourself these questions:

1. Why would the commandment, "Thou shalt not kill", not apply in this situation?
2. Is the murdering of little boys and their mothers really a part of God's will?
3. Can you really believe that sometimes the Holy Spirit moves an individual to kill another person?
4. Do you believe that the Jesus of the Gospels could ever have condoned, let alone ordered, such a thing?

Hugo Mendez said...


Thanks for the question. Obviously, it is a frighteningly complex one, and I certainly cannot hope to do it justice in this comments space. My comments will be necessarily brief.

First, the monotheistic religions of the West believe God is able to protect and execute justice in the universe. These religions are rooted in a profound human longing for ultimate justice, and an ultimate source, guardian, and executor of justice. They believe God can remove human beings from life if He so wills--to protect the innocent, to punish the unjust, to uphold morality, etc. The Giver of life can revoke life for just cause.

In the Bible, God does not kill arbitrarily or from caprice (as in too many "pagan" mythologies). Each account of God removing an individual from life suggests that the universal fabric of morality is offended by this individual, that the innocent are threatened by this individual, etc. In Num. 31, the Midianites are punished because their actions gravely offend God, and cause others to gravely offend God (especially by propagating false worship). They are also cast as a threat to Israel's spiritual and temporal, security. Num. 22 indicates that they were allied with the Moabites against the Israelites, and sought their destruction (in that chapter by supernatural means). Num 24 follows this account, and casts the seduction of the Israelites as a further attempt to deceive, and ultimately dissolve, Israel (in which the women killed in Num. 31 played a vital, willing role).

Potentially, God could use any instrument He saw fit in the pursuit of that justice: lightning, wild animals, other humans. He chose humans.

Are humans an appropriate choice? That is a question worthy of exploration, but this is divine justice. Of course, the Bible perceives the Israelite situation to have been unique: it was a theocracy: a government whose civil actions were inspired and mandated by God. No modern Christian would ever believe it appropriate to execute such an action in the modern world. The Israelite situation is unrepeatable. Modern Christians lament historical chapters in which they appropriated this template to themselves: apologizing for the crusades, the inquisitions, etc.

Now, the situation becomes more complex when we recognize that this scene occurs within a concrete human social fabric, with laws of warfare and concepts of blood vengeance not typical of our own. What was expected in combat (e.g., leaving no descendants) must be considered in that context. Our own cultural values differ; they differ to no small degree precisely because of the teachings of the Jesus of the gospels, which further enlightened human society.)

tonya said...

Would it be unrealistic to consider that Mr. Cork (and many others like him) has made his decision of faith based upon not so much faith as the freedom (excuse) to choose the wrong one?

After all, if you are pro-choice in a pro-life environment you are "going to hell". If you are pro-life in a pro-choice environment you are simply pro-life.

Are some people mistaking a clean conscience for a clean soul? Do they believe that they will be judged for simply following the wrong leader and not be held responsible for their own choices (sin)?

I think Mr. Cork might need a scapegoat for his liberalism and the Church refuses to be that for anyone. No matter what the accusations (killing mothers to save babies, etc.), the Church will stand for what is Holy and if you cannot agree she will not be your scapegoat either. If you leave, that is a wrong choice (sin) just like the reasons for leaving. On the other hand, if you leave SDAism or any other church, that is freedom.

I pray for them and for the Church.