In mid-1989, my brother Colin and I spent two hours in the office of Pastor Enoch Olivera, then Vice-President of the General Conference. Pastor Olivera, a Brazilian, was a fine Seventh-day Adventist administrator, one who loved the Lord and His truth. As he poured out his heart to us, tears ran down his cheeks. He had held his post for nine years. One by one, Pastor Olivera enumerated his heartaches. He loved the Seventh-day Adventist church, but as he saw the actions of many administrators, he was full of forebodings.
Among a number of his expressed concerns was his fear for the souls of Seventh-day Adventist young people attending Seventh-day Adventist colleges in North America. He concluded his remarks with sorrowful words. “I cannot recommend to God’s people any one of our North American Division Colleges as a safe place for them to entrust the training of their young people.”
Pastor Olivera passed to his rest three years later, but his tears are still before my eyes and his words continue to ring in my ears. As a fourth generation Seventh-day Adventist, the Seventh-day Adventist message, based on the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy, is to be found in the marrow of my bones. That map and Christ’s love are the divine driving-force of my life. To see the degeneration of our educational system, which has spanned over the past 50 years, greatly distresses me. Have our church administrators and educators lost sight of the accountability due of them as they stand before the judgement bar of God? Have they neglected to consider the eternal destiny of each young soul they teach?
It would seem to any spiritually-minded observer that the answer to each question posed above is “Yes.” How else can we explain the reckless disregard of the numerous divine counsels with which our colleges have been blessed?
Following the acceptance of the false principle of state accreditation in 1931, colleges followed a policy that has led to an escalating course of decline. Inspiration warned of such a consequence: “Those who seek the education that the world esteems so highly are gradually led further and further from the principles of truth until they become educated worldlings. At what a price have they gained their education! They have parted with the Holy Spirit of God. They have chosen to accept what the world calls knowledge in the place of the truths which God has committed to men through his ministers and prophets and apostles. And there are some who, having secured this worldly education, think that they can introduce it into our schools. But let me tell you that you must not take what the world calls the higher education and bring it into our schools and sanitariums and churches. We need to understand these things. I speak to you definitely. This must not be done.” Review and Herald, November 11, 1909.
Seventh-day Adventist education has not followed God’s counsel, but the counsel of unconsecrated men. When, in 1966, the South Pacific Division accepted state aid for its schools, it followed a course which doomed the entire system. At Carmel College, shortly after accepting “no strings attached” state aid, the accreditation committee inspected the school’s library and noted that it was “deficient” in novels. Rather than lose accreditation we introduced “good” novels to the school library, in total disregard of divine counsel. Other examples of the results of the acceptance of state aid, in the South Pacific, is that in New Zealand every Seventh-day Adventist school has joined the government school system. They have school boards consisting of a mixture of Seventh-day Adventists and those not of our faith and they follow the obligatory process of advertising senior school administration post vacancies in the secular press. Avondale College, Australia’s only Seventh-day Adventist Tertiary Educational Institution has four non-Seventh-day Adventist Board members. Students who drink alcohol, play rock music (even on Sabbath) or commit adultery, cannot be expelled because the state prohibits expulsion for such “inconsequential” matters. As a result, these breeches of Seventh-day Adventist standards are not infrequent.
Adventist-schooled Youth No Different from Worldly Youth
It comes as no surprise to learn that a recent study of Seventh-day Adventist’s aged between 19 and 24 years, undertaken as part of a Ph.D. degree by Pastor Bradley Strahan in conjunction with Pastor Berry Gane, Youth Director of the South Pacific Division, revealed that “there was no significant difference between young adults who were Adventist schooled, partly Adventist schooled or non-Adventist schooled on the measure of Christian commitment, denominational loyalty, doctrinal orthodoxy, social responsibility, self-esteem, egoidentity, or participation in at risk behaviors” South Pacific Division Record, May 2, 1998.
What were these “at-risk behaviors?” Let us summarize:
- Nearly 30 percent of participants reported experiencing some kind of abuse. (The South Pacific Division Record, July 25, 1998, has since discussed the protection of Seventh-day Adventist children and youth from abuse in the church.)
- More than half the perpetrators of abuse attended church; nearly one in five were involved in church leadership.
- Forty-four percent of the participants had engaged in premarital sex at least once, with more than one-half of these (54 percent) using no contraceptives.
- More than 40 percent of participants reported drinking in the past 12 months; more than 20 percent reported binge drinking.
The study reported that “The figures are so close to national norms they suggest that Adventists are not much different from the rest of the population.” (Ibid.)
If we are true Seventh-day Adventists then we are different! True Seventh-day Adventist education does make a profound difference!
In the United States, Seventh-day Adventist Colleges have advertised a large range of gay and lesbian books advertised by the book store (La Sierra University), permitted the cardinal archbishop of Baltimore, Cardinal Kesler, Chairman of the Roman Catholic Bishop’s conference, to preach on the subject of baptism during a Thursday evening in their church (Union College, Nebraska), published specifically Roman Catholic depictions of Christ in their student identification book (Andrews University), provided free condoms for students (Walla Walla College), led out in defiance of the position of the world church by ordaining women pastors (Columbia Union College), formed a gay and lesbian society with two theology professors, a sociology professor and two deans on the committee (Walla Walla College), employed a chaplain and teacher who published a book, freely sold in Adventist book centers, which advocated that unmarried couples should engage in sexual activities, the one limitation being that both parties agree (Loma Linda University), arranged abortions for their students (Pacific Union College), accepted students full of faith in God’s message and graduated them filled with doubt (Walla Walla College), promoted interschool sporting competitions (Columbia Union College and Southwestern Adventist University), taught that Christ is not our example, that the redeemed will sin after the close of probation, that the Holy Spirit does not dwell in the heart of the individual and that the day-year principle is invalid (Southern Adventist University).
Do we need self-supporting schools? Not necessarily! We only need self-supporting schools if they teach fidelity to scriptural truth and shun worldly accreditation. Such are most assuredly required. With our denominational tertiary institutions largely given over to worldly education, it is little wonder that faithful denominational leaders have cried out. Elder Robert Pierson stated, two decades ago, that even then “there are those in the church who belittle the inspiration of the total Bible; who scorn the first eleven chapters of Genesis; who question the Spirit of Prophecy’s short chronology of the age of the earth; and who subtly, and not so subtly, attack the Spirit of Prophecy.” That Elder Pierson was focusing his remarks upon our tertiary educational system cannot be denied, for he continued in his article, “Fellow leaders, beloved brethren and sisters, don’t let it [the intrusion of the apostasy cited above] happen! I appeal to Andrews University, the seminary, to Loma Linda University. Don’t let it happen! We are not Seventh-day Anglicans, not Seventh-day Lutherans, we are Seventh-day Adventists!” Adventist Review, October 26, 1978.
This was good reason for the editor of the Adventist Review, Pastor Kenneth Wood, to write eighteen years ago: “We confess that we are alarmed by the fact that some of our colleges seem to be drifting away from the standards and objectives established for them by their founders. We are alarmed by the secular climate that prevails on some campuses. We are alarmed by the strange winds of doctrine that blows on some campuses. We are alarmed by lax moral standards that prevail on some campuses. We are alarmed by the feeble efforts put forth by some administrators and faculty members to create a spiritual climate that will prepare students for the greatest event in earth’s history, the Second Coming of Jesus.” Adventist Review, February 21, 1980.
Where are the Watchmen on the Walls?
While men like Elders Pierson and Wood sat in the General Conference office, men who were prepared to openly denounce the in-subordination of God’s people and pastors, some hope of reform was cherished in the hearts of God’s true flock. But, where do we hear such public denunciations today in an era where our colleges and universities have degenerated to a level vastly lower than that of two decades past? Any institution which works to prepare young people for the service of God seems to be the butt of attacks from the General Conference. (See Issues published by the North American Division in 1992 and spread worldwide by the General Conference administration.) The gross abominations in the denominational colleges produce paralysis of the vocal cords and of the writing-hands of the very same administrators. The Adventist Review likewise is silent on these matters.
When these colleges pervert their high and holy calling, administrators claim impotency to correct the matter. But they do hold, within their responsibility, to act-not as dictators, but as faithful shepherds standing on the walls of Zion, blowing the warning trumpet (Ezekiel 33:2–10). When a college, such as Walla Walla, rejects efforts to reform its disgraceful record, it is beholding upon church administrators to publish widely the fact that it is no longer a Seventh-day Adventist institution and warn God’s flock of the peril to the souls of their children should they seek to enter that college. The staff should be notified that no longer will they receive denominational service credit for their employment in the college and, further, the administration should be informed that no longer will the institution be a recipient of denominational subsidy.
Denominational administrators have abrogated their responsibilities as watchmen unless they protect God’s people and warn them, not in a corrective manner, but in sincere fulfillment of their duty as watchmen on the walls of Zion. It is no longer acceptable to excuse their inaction on the grounds that the college will lose its accreditation (that would prove to be a wonderful benefit to the institution in any case), or that the Labor Department would not permit dismissal of staff. These are limp excuses for failure to undertake one’s beholden duty in the cause of our Lord. The answer is to divest the denomination of unfaithful institutions which are determined to destroy the faith of the flower of our youth.
It is essential that we learn the lessons of the First Advent. Why did John the Baptist fail to enroll in the schools of the rabbis? John was the son of a priest, he was a descendant of Levi and clearly was a man of high intellect. He was a prime candidate to enter into such training. But God, in choosing John to preach the Elijah message of the First Advent, specifically forbade such a course. We need not speculate why the Elijah message was not presented by a graduate of the denominational colleges of his day. Inspiration clearly testifies to the reason: “The training of the rabbinical schools would have unfitted him [John the Baptist] for his work. God did not send him to the teachers of theology to learn how to interpret the Scriptures.” Desire of Ages, 101. So it must be today.
In Australia and New Zealand, I warn parents, who desire their children to be trained for service in God’s work, that Avondale College is an unfit institution to prepare their children for such a purpose. I do so, not because I have any disaffection for Avondale. It is my alma mater, from which I graduated in 1951. Nevertheless, one dare not permit such natural emotions to excuse one from his spiritual duty.
Self-Supporting Schools Answer the Call
God has clearly set forth for us the principles of an education approved of Him. Our denominational colleges in first world nations, and even many third-world countries, no longer even marginally approach these principles. Those faithful believers need schools of a new order. Today some self-supporting schools are working diligently to meet God’s standards.
Bible prophecy indicates that the two continents, which will figure most prominently into end-time events, are North America and Europe. It is time, long overdue, for the establishment of an institution with high, holy and noble ideals in Europe. The European Institute of Health and Education (EIHC) Lia-Ullared, Sweden, has been established, but with a commitment to the training of young men and women to take God’s last message to the world.
European Institute of Health and Education is providing a one-year work-study program. The board is convicted that we are at the very end of earth’s history and that it is now time to expedite the training of these young people. Filled with the Holy Spirit, we believe that these youth will go forth to complete the task in Europe and beyond.
The Board and Administration of the European Institute of Health and Education take seriously God’s counsel. “To supply the need of laborers, God desires that educational centers be established in different countries where students of promise may be educated in the practical branches of knowledge and in Bible truth. As these persons engage in labor, they will give character to the work of present truth in the new fields. They will awaken an interest among unbelievers and aid in rescuing souls from the bondage of sin. The very best teachers should be sent to the various countries where schools are to be established, to carry on the educational work.” Testimonies, vol. 6, 137.
The European Institute of Health and Education will have a small faculty, but in heeding the divine counsel cited above, it has searched the world in order to provide the highest quality of teachers for the school which will be known as the Lia Missionary Training School. Already the eight-member board is drawn from four continents—Europe, North America, Africa, and Australia—in order to provide a breadth of experience upon which to draw.
The board will not base its policies and curriculum upon those of denominational colleges. We are committed to following divine counsel and avoiding such a mistake. “I have been shown that in our educational work we are not to follow the methods that have been adopted in our older established schools. There is among us too much clinging to old customs, and because of this we are far behind where we should be in the development of the third angel’s message. Because men could not comprehend the purpose of God in the plans laid before us for the education of workers, methods have been followed in some of our schools which have retarded rather than advanced the work of God.” Counsels to Parents, Teachers and Students, 533.
The board and administration recognize that, “Without the influence of divine grace, education will prove no real advantage; the learner becomes proud, vain and bigoted.” Ibid., 94. The education provided at the new institution will point each young person to a heart relationship with Christ and personal sanctification. This, the Lord terms “Higher education.” “Higher education is an experimental knowledge of the plan of salvation, and this knowledge is secured by earnest and diligent study of the Scriptures. Such an education will renew the mind and transform the character, restoring the image of God in the soul. It will fortify the mind against the deceptive whisperings of the adversary, and enable us to understand the voice of God. It will teach the learner to become a co-worker with Jesus Christ, to dispel the moral darkness about him, and bring light and knowledge to men. It is the simplicity of true godliness— our passport from the preparatory school of earth to the higher school above.” Counsels to Parents, Teachers and Students, 11.
We can have no higher ambition for the students who are privileged to enter the portals of the Lia Missionary Training School than, “To restore in man the image of his Maker, to bring him back to the perfection in which he was created, to promote the development of body, mind, and soul, that the divine purpose in his creation might be realized—this was to be the work of redemption. This is the object of education, the great object of life.” Education, 15, 16. This, too, is the purpose of Lia Missionary College, for no young person devoid of Christian character perfection will be entrusted with the Latter Rain power so essential for the final proclamation of the Loud Cry Message.
Will Lia reach its high and holy destiny? Only by God’s guidance. That destiny is summarized in the wonderful words of inspiration, well known to us all: “Our ideas of education take too narrow and too low a range. There is need of a broader scope, a higher aim. True education means more than the pursual of a certain course of study. It means more than a preparation for the life that now is. It has to do with the whole being, and with the whole period of existence possible to man. It is the harmonious development of the physical, the mental, and the spiritual powers. It prepares the student for the joy of service in this world and for the higher joy of wider service in the world to come.” Education, 13.
Is Lia Missionary College necessary? The general state of Seventh-day Adventist education demands institutions such as Hartland and Lia and the proposed Southland Institute in Australia. May God’s flock keep these institutions in their prayers. God needs the graduates of these schools, and in the history of eternity, their work will be recorded as having faithfully prepared God’s army of youth, rightly trained, who will shoulder the unprecedented task of taking the last message of warning to the six billion inhabitants of this earth. These youth will have been taught and will have accepted the divine principle that “In the highest sense, the work of education and the work of redemption are one.” Education, 30.