Clifford Goldstein is a long-time Adventist author, who works as the editor of the Church’s Adult Bible Study Guide, based at the General Conference office, Silver Spring, Maryland, USA. He is speaking at the North New South Wales Conference camp-meeting this week. The author recently sat down with Signs Publishing book editor Nathan Brown to talk about his most recent book and his continuing work with the Sabbath school quarterly.
Tell us about Baptizing the Devil.
I had been doing a lot of reading on the philosophy of science and started to discover things about science that I never knew before. We live in an era where science reigns as the epistemological king; that is, the moment someone invokes the name science, all differing views need to be surrendered. But the dirty little secret is—and most scientists know it—that this is not the case. It’s the great myth of our age that science is the pure form of objective truth. It just ain’t so.
Was there a particular experience or spark that prompted this book?
Not one incident in particular but observing how so many Christians, including some Adventists, were buying the propaganda about evolution being true. I mean, after all, it’s science! I just wanted to show them that science isn’t is as certain, especially when speculating about events hundreds of millions of years ago, as we are led to believe. Important point: I am utterly opposed to evolution; but that doesn’t make me opposed to science. My rejection of evolution doesn’t make me anti-science any more than my objection to praying to Mary makes me anti-Christian.
How do you hope this book will educate and equip Adventist church members?
I wanted to show that we don’t have to cower in intellectual obeisance to every pronouncement science makes, especially when those pronouncements are so clearly contrary to the Word of God, as is the case of evolution.
Who would you hope to share this book with outside the church?
I wrote it not specifically for Adventists but for any Christian who takes his or her Bible seriously but is overwhelmed by the barrage of fake news that assures us we are the products of blind forces rather than beings made distinctly in the image of God. In two places, with the Sabbath and the state of the dead, where I could have promoted those things, I purposely skirted around them because I didn’t want to alienate my audience. If someone still is questioning creation, the seventh-day Sabbath isn’t going seem particularly pertinent.
In relation to your day job, why does the Adult Bible Study Guide still matter in developed countries, even as it seems to be less used?
I’m not sure that’s true. Everyone and his brother has made some apps for it and they seem to be going gangbusters. But there’s no question Sabbath school in the West has been facing a decline for a long time. Just another manifestation, I suppose, of Laodicea.
What good examples can you share of renewing Bible study in Sabbath school?
Well, I hear stories about vibrant Sabbath schools, even in places where this might not be expected. I believe that the key is the teachers. A good teacher could teach out of the phone book, and you’ll have a good class. A bad teacher, teaching out of John, will ruin it.
Why does the intellectual aspect of our faith continue to be important in the life and witness of the Church?
Because we are intellectual beings—God made us that way. And we have a very intellectual faith, in many ways. I’m constantly awed at how vast and broad and how well it all fits together. The Adventist message is amazing! But at the same time we are beings with hearts and emotions, and we can’t ignore those elements as well.