WM-249 The Most Influential Non-Adventist In the History of Our Denomination -
Walter Martin And the Seventh day Adventist Church
THE MOST INFLUENTIAL NON-ADVENTIST IN THE HISTORY OF OUR CHURCH-Walter R. Martin died the other day. He had a more powerful influence on changing Seventh-day Adventist doctrines than any other non-Adventist in our denominational history. Here is a brief review of what he did, and how he died, - and possibly why he died when he did.
And we will conclude this with a brief review of his persuasive power back in the 1950s.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN- Donald Grey Barnhouse was a leading Evangelical speaker and writer in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Pastor of the Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, he was a popular radio speaker, author of several books, and founder and senior editor of Eternity Magazine. Walter Martin had come to his attention while still a graduate student in the history of American religion at New York University. A dynamo of energy, by 1955, Martin had already written several books on American cults.
That spring, as consulting editor on the Eternity staff, and director of cult apologetics for Zondervan Publishing Company, Martin, a Southern Baptist, came to Washington D.C. and stopped in at General Conference headquarters. He told them that he was about to write his next book on Seventh-day Adventists- and asked whether they might have anything to give him in the way of source materials.
He was half expecting them to kick him out the door, but instead he was ushered into the office of L.E. Froom, our leading General Conference researcher at that time. Froom asked that two other General Conference workers be present: Roy Allen Anderson, Secretary of the General Conference Ministerial Association, and W.E. Read, a second General Conference researcher. Anderson, working with Froom, immediately took control of the Adventist side of the situation. Anderson prided himself on being able to warmly win the friendship of everyone he met, and Anderson held the key to the whole building. Whatever project Anderson wanted to begin, Reuben R. Fighur, the General Conference president, gave him his full backing.
Anderson called in W.E. Read and L.E. Froom, the two researchers at the General Conference,- and invited Walter Martin to a very friendly visit.
Martin had brought with him George E. Cannon (a professor of Greek and theology at Nyack Missionary College in Nyack, New York) with him. Affable, but always quick-thinking and hard-driving, Martin said he thought it would be well if they might have several more such meetings together. (Barnhouse attended a few of those later sessions.)
MARTIN PRESENTS HIS QUESTIONS-Martin presented these leaders with a list of what he considered to be questionable doctrines, and asked for written replies. Our men saw here a grand opportunity to evangelize the other churches) All they had to do was to word their replies in such a manner as would be agreeable to Martin, and he would then write his book and declare Seventh-day Adventists to be "fellow Evangelicals." It was a glorious opportunity,- or so thought Anderson and Froom, who led out in preparing all those "answers to questions on doctrine."
On one point, they were on solid ground: Martin had found Arianism (the teaching that Christ was a created being) in some of our 19th century writers, and they assured him that this was definitely not a teaching of our church. But Martin had other concerns: He told them that Adventist could not be regarded as "Evangelical" if they believed that there was any atonement (salvational work) after Calvary (thus negating the ministry in the heavenly Sanctuary), if they believed that obedience to the law of God was in any way necessary for salvation, or even that it was necessary for Christ while on earth to keep the commandments of God for if He had to, then we would have to; since He is our pattern.
Froom wrote up the initial set of replies to Walter Martin's initial set of questions. Twenty pages in length, they were handed to Martin at the next meeting, and he stayed up till 2 A.M. that night going over them. Those of you who have read in Leroy Edwin Froom's books (Movement of Destiny is a good example) will know that Froom was an expert at marshalling words to say what he wanted them to say. As Elder Ralph Larson so ably pointed out in Documentary Fraud [FF-261, Froom could even take bits and pieces from a collection of Spirit of Prophecy quotations-and make them say exactly the opposite of what they originally said) He was a master at subtle verbal restatement.
The next day's session with Martin was momentous. At that meeting, Martin announced that, from the replies, he had been mistaken as to his understanding of several of our teachings, but that there were others that he still had questions about. Our leaders saw that if they worded their replies carefully enough they might succeed in being accepted as fellow Evangelicals by the mainline Protestant churches of America!
TYING THE KNOT- Recognizing that it would do little good if these Adventist leaders only gave HIM such double-tongued doctrinal replies, he proposed something that was to transform the situation from some private conference compromises into a denomination-wide doctrinal changeover. Martin asked for this (and remember, when Martin asked for anything, there was always the veiled threat in the background that if it were not acceded to, he would write that terrible book about us.):
Walter R. Martin suggested that he present our leaders with a lengthy set of questions, and that our leaders should write a lengthy set of replies that would be agreeable to the modern Ecumenicals. Then the Adventists should PUBLISH those questions and their replies in a BOOK that would go to all the Adventists, and also be sent to Protestant libraries throughout the world. Martin's concern was obviously to CEMENT in those replies into DOCTRINAL FACT, thus roping all the Adventist believers into these new positions.
He, in turn, would publish his book exonerating Seventh-day Adventists as a great people that were fully Christian and fully orthodox- and definitely not a cult.
All this began in the spring of 1955, and those meetings continued on for many months until partway through 1956. In order to forestall a world-wide Adventist uprising against this strange new doctrinal book, at one of the meetings Martin asked that the questions and replies be sent, prior to publication, to a large number of Adventist leaders throughout the world field. Anderson and Froom sent the paperwork to 250 world leaders of Adventism, thus implicating them so that they would not dare to later raise a hue and cry against the book later.
But there was one man that Froom and Anderson privately agreed among themselves - should not receive a copy of those book chapters. That man was Elder M.L. Andreasen. Andreason stood head and shoulders above any other theologian in the denomination. Back in the late 1930s, he it was who had been selected by the General Conference to teach the first experimental class at, what was to become, the "Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary." In the 1940s he had written book after book on the Sanctuary Message, and he knew it better than any other man alive. Froom and Anderson knew that this solid Adventist, who stood solidly for the Spirit of Prophecy, was not going to accept the new light that the atonement had been finished in A.D. 31.
(Although a student at the Adventist Seminary next door to the General Conference building from June 1955 through June 1958, the writer did night janitor work in the General Conference building during the time that Froom was sending out those papers, one chapter at a time, to those 250 men. He saw the stacks of papers in Froom's office.)
This entire story is discussed in far greater detail in our 120-page tractbook, The Evangelical Conferences. And much, much more is included as well: reprints of key magazine articles in Eternity magazine, Ministry magazine, excerpts from our resultant doctrinal book, Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine, and Walter Martin's book, The Truth About Seventh-day Adventism.
THE BOMBSHELL ARTICLE-The bombshell came with the Donald Barnhouse's first article on the conferences in his Eternity magazine. Published in September 1956, it was the very FIRST indication to anyone- other than leading Adventist workers and some of us Seminary students- that there had been any doctrinal conferences at all !
Barnhouse, in that same issue, himself called it a "bombshell article." And it was. But still our leaders hesitated to say anything in the pages of Ministry magazine. Anderson and Froom began traveling throughout the world field, meeting with our workers in an attempt to win them over. Finally, in December 1956, the first clear-cut announcement of the Evangelical Conferences appeared in Ministry magazine. It was followed by two more (March 1958 and April 1960). All this you will find in our tractbook, The Evangelical Conferences. The December 1956 announcement (entitled, "Changing Attitudes Toward Adventism,') was accompanied by an article by L.E. Froom entitled, The Atonement the Heart of Our Message. "In it he emphasizes the point brought out in the forthcoming book, Questions on Doctrine, that the atonement occurred at Calvary and not afterward.
BRINGING THE REVIEW INTO IT - On January 23,1957, the General Conference issued a directive that the Review & Herald Publishing Association, just across the alleyway, was to print a new book for the General Conference Ministerial Association. As for authorship, it was to say "compiled by a committee appointed by the General Conference." No one had the nerve to put their name on it, although it was Froom that did most of the writing, with additional research by W. E. Read, and some supplementary material by R.A. Anderson (A.V. Olson and Richard Hammill were also on the Review editorial committee, with the above-named as "editorial consultants;" but none of these names appeared anywhere in the book or in advertisements for it.)
One who knew told this writer that it was in the offices of the Review- and not out in the field in the offices of those 250 men- that some of Froom's statements about "atonement" were changed to "atoning sacrifice" ("The atoning sacrifice was finished on the cross," etc.) Looking back at it now, we can see that by teaching error on one page and truth on the next, so much confusion ensued that people could say, "Well, it does teach truth, so it must be okay." We have had the same problem with the recent May 1988 doctrinal book which recently took the place of Questions on Doctrine. Truth is mingled with error in one paragraph, in the next paragraph we find truth, and in the next error. So people say, "Well, we have found truth there, so what are you complaining about?"
ELDER ANDREASEN DEFENDS TO THE END - Elder M.L. Andreasen, the acknowledged expert on our Sanctuary Doctrine in the 1940s, led the attack against the book, Questions on Doctrine, when it was published late in 1957. But it cost Andreasen his life. Kicked out of the ministry, and with his denominational retirement withdrawn, he finally had to apply to a local California State Welfare Office in Southern California for money for himself and his wife to live on. Officials there inquired into his case and learning that the denomination had illegally stopped paying him the denominational sustentation he had worked for during his lifetime, they telephoned our leaders and said that they were glad to pay Andreasen's welfare bills, but they would also be instituting legal proceedings against the General Conference to recover them. Immediately Andreasen's sustentation payments were again sent to him from Takoma Park.
A few years later, faithful Elder Andreasen- who had always been strong and healthy- died of a bleeding ulcer. The battle had cost him his life. Perhaps before this is all over, more of God's people will die in the fight to defend those God-given standards and doctrines, but it is a good way to go.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE CONFERENCES - Well, we could go on and on, but the full story is to be found in that tractbook. Within its pages you will find the amazing story of the conferences that made us Evangelical. Write and obtain a copy of it. We ask 4 cents a page for the cost of printing it. The name of it is Evangelical Conferences, and the page count is 120 pages.
WALTER MARTIN AND ELLEN WHITE -Walter Martin was a quick-thinking dynamo of a man. The present writer personally heard two of the three presentations that Martin delivered to Adventist congregations during those years. Walter Martin was a powerhouse of energy, but hard work was years later to bring him physical problems, including overweight and diabetes. Ironically, when on the verge of physical collapse in the early 1980s, he went to Weimar Institute in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas in order to regain his health. While there he received health care recommended by Ellen G. White. And it helped him greatly.
How did Martin relate to Ellen White? He was always very cautious in his remarks about her, recognizing that she had had much truth and was a sincere, child of God. But this changed in 1989. More on that later in this article, when we discuss the end of Walter Martin.
HIS GAIN, OUR LOSS - Martin had gained so much more than he had expected in admissions and doctrinal back-downs from our leaders culminating in the published ones in the 1957 book, Questions on Doctrine, that, for years after the Evangelical Conferences, he refused to condemn our church as "non-Christian" or as a "cult." All in all, he gained and we lost. The effects of that loss we still live with today. It does not go away; instead it gradually keeps snowballing into additional problems with standards and doctrine.
The present writer has no doubt that, if we had not had that major sell-out to the Protestants back in the 1950s, our General Conference would not be so quick today to require our pastors to baptize with wedding rings (see our 25 page tractbook, Our Adventist Wedding Ring,), and use Roman Catholic attorneys to hail Adventists into court and sentence them to prison (see our 41page tractbook, The Trademark Lawsuits, plus additional tracts released since then.)
In our tractbook, we go into some detail on what the next two-and-a-half decades after 1957 brought as aftermath to this astounding sell-out.
A NEW DEMAND - But then, beginning with Desmond Ford's expulsion in the summer of 1980 and the quiet withdrawal from print of Questions on Doctrine, Martin began sending messages to the current generation of General Conference leaders, in which he demanded that that favorite book of his Questions on Doctrine-be put back in print and that the new theology concepts in it again be publicly-in print defended.
Our readers of many years will recall our ongoing reports at the time on this confrontation. He even held public lectures in which he warned our leaders that he would soon repudiate his earlier position that we were a Christian noncult church, if we did not put that book back in print and defend pastors that held to the views for which Desmond Ford had been sacrificed. (You will want to carefully read the text of his February 22, 1983, Napa, California lecture, reprinted in our Evangelical Conferences tractbook.) In that lecture, he issued the threat loud and clear, said he had written it to the General Conference, and that he had DEMANDED a reply from them.
In response to our revelations of this matter, faithful believers wrote urgent letters to the General Conference demanding that QD not be reprinted] After careful deliberations, General Conference letters were sent out assuring our people that QD was not going to be reprinted.
Yet we were puzzled, for Walter Martin seemed mollified and did nothing to write that threatened new book denouncing our church as a major cult.
There are times when the compromisers in our ranks are smarter than the faithful are. Everything indicates that certain General Conference leaders, fearful of losing their post-1957 standing in America as a staid, orthodox denomination - and not a cult, - told Martin in fear and trembling that they were in a corner on QD, for too many did not want it brought back into print. It seemed wiser to issue a brand new doctrinal book to take the place of QD. They assured Martin that this new book would keep in place the essential doctrinal compromises which QD had, which is why he so vigorously wanted it kept in print.
THE NEW DOCTRINAL BOOK -In May 1988, the new doctrinal book came off the presses of the Review. Entitled, Seventh-day Adventists Believe, this very-readable book had all of the same errors in it that QD had, with the exception of a clear-cut error on the Nature of Christ. After being written, the book had been subjected to many revisions by both liberal and conservative leaders, and both sides of several views could be found in its pages. (For example, not only our conservative belief on salvation is given, but also the new theology view, and even instantaneous and multiple-past and present salvation!) For an analysis of this new doctrinal book, see our 49-page tractbook, Our New Doctrinal Book.
On the first 24 pages of that tractbook, we analyzed the new book; on its last 22 pages, we gave an abundance of comparisons with the earlier book, Questions on Doctrine, -that showed to our astonishment that the new 1983 doctrinal book (Seventh-day Adventists Believe) expresses stronger affirmations of Martin-Barnhouse errors than did the earlier 1957 book (Questions on Doctrine)!
The two books were remarkably similar in several ways: (1) Both books taught all or nearly all of the errors that Walter Martin had demanded we accede to, in order to be acceptable to Evangelicals. (2) Both books were quietly written by one or two men, and then ratified by a larger committee. Both books are a mingling of truth with error, for the revisors changed several points in an attempt to bring the books in line with historic Adventism. (3) Both books were printed by the Review, and suddenly announced and released, and sent all over the world field. (4) Both were hardback editions that were sold at a far lower cost than comparable Review books were selling for at the same time. (5) Both books were secretly underwritten by General Conference tithe funds, so that tens of thousands of copies were mailed free of charge to major Protestant church and college libraries all over the world. (6) Both books satisfied Walter Martin for a time that, at his demand, doctrinal compromise was infiltrating the lives of the Adventist people.
THE ONGOING TRAGEDY -It is a tragedy that we think that our doctrinal beliefs must accord with those of modern Protestantism. What we do not realize is that their denominations were penetrated over a century ago by Jesuit agents. Ours could not be successfully penetrated until Ellen White's death. Prior to that time, she would be told key men that should be expelled from positions of leadership in our ranks. What the Evangelical Conferences accomplished was to hasten the linkage of our teachings with those of modern apostate Protestantism, with its emphasis on the sanctification of lawlessness as a constituent part of righteousness by faith and the saving grace of Christ needed by every Christian for daily living and ultimate salvation.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE NEW DOCTRINAL BOOK -For much more information on the new doctrinal book, we would recommend that you carefully read our 49-page tractbook, Our New Doctrinal Book. You will find it of interest. In addition, we would suggest that you obtain a clearer understanding of the doctrinal transformation that has been taking place during the present decade within our church: How to Expose the New Theology (How to identify it; 105 pages), Inroads of the New Theology (Its progress; 130 pages), and Our Schools Need Your Help (the primary pathway of the new theology into our church; 164 pages).
THE END, BUT NOT THE END -In the 1960s and 1970s, every major participant in the Martin-Bamhouse affair died, with the exception of Roy Allen Anderson and Walter Martin. Then Elder Anderson, retired in the Loma Linda area, passed to his rest.
As I write, I have before me the 15 page transcript of a talk given by Walter Martin in Fresno, California on March 15, 1989. Inexplicably, Martin had gone back to the attack. In this lecture, he downgraded the Spirit of Prophecy and our teachings as he had never done before.
Shortly after that, another lecture was arranged, this one to be held not far from Loma Linda. The notes were prepared, and the date was announced: Monday, June 26, 1989. A friend in Southern California told us that Martin privately disclosed that this session would be a major blast-off against Adventism.
At 6 A.M., on the morning of Monday, June 26,1989, as Dr. Walter Martin awoke from sleep at his San Juan Capistrano California home, he had a sudden heart attack and died.
IN CONCLUSION -God could have eliminated the threats of Walter Martin back in the spring of 1955, when he first stepped through the glass doors of the General Conference Building in Takoma Park. But we tried to use cunning instead, and were defeated by our enemies- in the process of joining them.
For shame, for shame! We have much to repent of. Yet we go on, headlong, year after year into deeper apostasy. Occasionally someone will arise and plead for reform, but the only response is a sleepy, "That's a troublemaker! Get him!" And then we lay back in repose.
But the Great Day of Judgment will have a different opinion of the matter than do the men of our generation. If some of solid leaders of our earlier years could rise from their graves, they would make a far greater protest than is now being heard.
Walter Martin may well have been the most the most influential non-Adventist transformer of Seventh-day Adventist beliefs in the history of our church. But he was only able to do it because he was able to eloquently penetrate within and convert two high-placed denominational workers to his side: R.A. Anderson, head of the General Conference Ministerial Association, and LE. Froom, chief General Conference doctrinal researcher.
Whatever Anderson did in any line had the automatic backing of Reuben R Fighur, General Conference president, a hard-driving man who implicitly trusted his top departmental officers to carry forward aggressively in their respective fields.
And now, the last of the key figures in the Martin/Barnhouse "Evangelical Conferences" of 1955-1956 is deceased. And we shall live with the results of that General Conference doctrinal sell-out to the end of our days.