Theology of Salvation Is Topic
at Andrews University Symposium
Arminianism and Adventism are discussed by scholars
BY SMANTHA SNIVELY, student news writer, Office of Integrated Marketing and Communications, Andrews University
The origins and implications of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s doctrine of salvation were a key focus of a recent Arminianism and Adventism symposium held at Andrews University October 14–16. Meetings were held at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary on the university’s campus.
Theologians from all over the world converged at Andrews to trace the development of Protestant soteriological theology (the theology of salvation), recognize the 400th anniversary of the Remonstrance of 1610, and present papers. The symposium was particu-larly important, according to Gary Land, retired professor and plenary speaker, because “it attempts to place Adventism within a theological context. Although there have been exceptions, Adventist scholars have tended to examine their denomination in isolation from the larger Christian community. A conference such as this helps us explore those connections between our specific religious traditions and the wider church of which it is a part.”
ARMINIAN (AND CALVINIST) REENACTORS: Andrews University faculty in costume portrayed major theologians at the recent Arminanism symposium. Stan Patterson, associate professor and chair of Christian ministry, portrayed Jacobus Arminius; John Calvin was portrayed by Skip Bell, professor of Christian ministry and director of the D.Min. program; Walt Williams, associate professor of Christian ministry, dressed as Martin Luther; Peter van Bemmelen, professor emeritus, appeared as John Wesley; and JoAnn Davidson, professor of theology, portrayed Ellen G. White. [Photo: Darren Heslop/A.U.]
The symposium began with a selection of Renaissance-era music, performed by a sextet dressed in period costumes. During the opening reception Andrews University faculty in costumes portraying major theologians mingled in the crowd. The symposium began with opening remarks and a presentation of the underlying rationale. Stan Patterson, associate professor and chair of Christian ministry, portrayed Jacobus Arminius; John Calvin was portrayed by Skip Bell, professor of Christian ministry and director of the D.Min. program; Walt Williams, associate professor of Christian ministry, dressed as Martin Luther; Peter van Bemmelen, professor emeritus, appeared as John Wesley; and JoAnn Davidson, professor of theology, portrayed Ellen G. White.
Denis Fortin, dean and professor of theology at the Theological Seminary, welcomed participants to the weekend, and the presentation of papers began. Fortin presented his paper, “The Place of Seventh-day Adventism in the Calvinist-Arminian Debate: Historical and Theological Perspectives on the Remonstrance.” Fortin traced the history of Arminianism and outlined its basic beliefs. Arminianism is at its core a rejection of the Calvinist doctrine of predestination. In 1610 a group of Dutch theologians published a statement known as the Remonstrance, in which they denounced the teachings of Arminius as heretical. Following the Remonstrance, those dissatisfied with the Calvinist theory of predestination came to rally around the teachings of Jacob Arminius and became known as Arminians. Early Seventh-day Adventism grew out of the context of eighteenth-century Methodism, which championed Arminian thought.
Fortin identified five elements of Arminius’ position that resonate with Adventism, as outlined by Gary Land. “First, both Arminians and Adventists believe that the individual needs to believe in Christ in order to be saved. Second, Arminius found repugnant the idea that God would predestine some people to eternal damnation before they came into existence. Third, human beings have freedom of the will. Fourth, God’s creation is good, something that is incompatible with the Calvinistic understanding that nearly everyone is predestined to damnation. Finally, sin is cause of damnation, a fact that again does not fit with Calvinistic supra-lapsarianism.”
Thirty-one speakers presented papers at the conference in a variety of breakout sessions and discussions. The nine plenary speakers were: Denis Fortin, dean of the Theological Seminary; Hans K. LaRondelle, professor emeritus; George Knight, professor emeritus; Roger Olson, professor of theology at the George W. Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University; Barry Callen, professor emeritus of Christian studies at Anderson University; Keith Stanglin, assistant professor of historical the-
ology at Harding University; Woodrow Whidden, professor at the Theological Seminary of the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies; Gary Land, professor emeritus and assistant dean of graduate programs for the College of Arts and Sciences; and Angel Manuel Rodríguez, director of the Biblical Research Institute.
The plenary speakers presented papers on topics ranging from LaRondelle’s “Seventh-day Adventist Perspectives on Predestination” to Whidden’s “Investigative Judgment and Assurance of Salvation” and Keith Stanglin’s “Assurance of Salvation: An Arminian Account.” Additional papers presented focused upon themes and history interacting with Arminianism, such as Jacques Doukhan’s “Fate or Destiny: The Issue of Predestination and Free Will in Hebrew and Jewish Thought.”
Gary Land closed the symposium with his reflections, which reviewed the basic thoughts and ideas presented in each of the plenary papers. “Whatever our theological positions, they are part of conversations and debates that have long predated us,” said Land. “It behooves us to know that history and have it inform our participation in contemporary theological discussion both within our church and with those of other Christian traditions.”