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Robert Daniel "Bob" Brinsmead (born Victoria, Australia, 9 August 1933) is a formerly controversial figure within the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the 1960s and 1970s who is known for his diverse theological journey.
During the 1960s he advocated a form of perfectionism which he described as the "[Sanctuary] Awakening" message, which was similar to the conservative wing known as "historic Adventism". During the 1970s he abandoned this position and strongly emphasized the 16th-century Protestant principle of justification by faith alone. His representation of justification by grace through faith alone was derived substantially from the writings and thinking of Martin Luther. He founded the magazine Present Truth, whose name was later changed to Verdict.
In the 1980s his theology resembled liberal Christianity, and he rejected the Adventist belief in the Sabbath. Later he rejected many orthodox Christian teachings, seeing God's interaction with mankind as not being limited to just the history of the Bible, but as an ongoing and continuous interaction with humanity towards a positive future. In the 1990s he was silent theologically, turning his attention to politics and his tropical fruit theme park. Brinsmead rejects the teachings of an apocalyptic world-destroying God, which he believes is the polar opposite to the very definitions all religions give to the Creator.
Brinsmead and church tension
There was much tension within the church surrounding Brinsmead's message and influence. Sometimes he triggered persistent emotional reactivity, and Brinsmead was also antagonistic at times. His legacy within the Seventh-day Adventist community involved substantial theological challenges. But beyond theology, there is also substantial evidence of a deep pattern of emotional reactivity among thought leaders in the church to his teaching and influence.
Richard Schwarz wrote in 1979, "Although there had been dissident groups in the church from its start, none was more troublesome to Adventist leaders than [Brinsmead's]". (This was eclipsed by the controversy and dismissal of Desmond Ford the following year.
According to Larry Pahl, "The name of Robert D. Brinsmead was once capable of evoking strong emotion and division in the Adventist circles brave and informed enough to discuss his controversial ideas." According to the Standish brothers, "In the 1980s it is difficult to believe the emotive reaction which the name Brinsmead conjured up in the minds of the majority of Seventh-day Adventists in Australia two decades earlier. To have the name Brinsmead associated with a church member was akin to being termed 'pink' in the McCarthy era in the United States" (in other words, akin to being termed pseudo-"Communist" in an era of Communist paranoia)! His influence was described as "The Brinsmead Agitation" by the Biblical Research Committee, a precursor to the Biblical Research Institute.
Claims of collusion with Brinsmead could have devastating impact, according to the testimony of Desmond Ford. According to one report, towards the close of the Glacier View meeting, "a small group of church executives" confronted Ford with ultimatums such as "Publicly denounce Robert Brinsmead as a troublemaker and heretic or hand in your credentials." Ford would not do so, since Brinsmead had converted from his perfectionist views. According to a reported view of Ford, "John Brinsmead, brother of Robert, had evidently spun Parmenter the allegation that Ford and Robert Brinsmead were in cahoots and were determined to bring the SDA church down." Apparently he accepted this "allegation without verification." Arthur Patrick described a South New Zealand minister in 1961, who integrated a man known to have a connection with Brinsmead into his church and was asked to affirm the statement, "Robert Brinsmead is of the devil," to demonstrate his loyalty. When he refused to do so, he was given 10 months leave-of-absence.
One source describes him as "intense and driven."
In 1999 Raymond Cottrell observed: "Robert Brinsmead’s repeated and mutually contradictory positions over the years, together with his dogmatic public insistence on each of them successively, is clear evidence of immaturity. One cannot help but wonder if the present one is final, or if it is—like the others—ephemeral and will be followed by others."
Brinsmead was born in 1933 in Australia, the youngest of eight children (another died in infancy) to Cedric John Brinsmead (1886–1980) and Laura Elsie Goullet (1889–1979). He grew up in the Tweed area. During his early childhood his parents were a part of the Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement, a German splinter group that broke away from the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the World War I era over military service and conscription. They rejoined the mainstream church when he was 10. According to Schwarz, this background gave him a disposition that was skeptical towards church leadership; although this assertion was removed when Floyd Greenleaf revised Schwarz' work. As a youth he ran a large family banana plantation (near the location of what would become the tropical fruit theme park), and later sugar cane and banana plantations deep in the Queensland jungle. He spent his personal time doing study and research into theology.
Avondale College (late 1950s)
Brinsmead enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts in theology at Avondale College in 1955 when he was in his mid-twenties. One of his older brothers, John, also enrolled at the college in this year. Robert developed a form of perfectionism after reading the writings of A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner (of 1888 Minneapolis General Conference Session fame). His final year was 1958.
While still a student, Brinsmead was disfellowshipped from the church in 1961 for his writings on "perfectionism", which would be his theme for the 1960s. Brinsmead wrote he "retained lay membership in the church until 1962." However he would remain closely involved with the church for another two decades. John was also disfellowshipped, and together they formed the "Sanctuary Awakening Fellowship". While it was based in the United States, it also influenced Africa and Asia.
Perfectionist era (1960s)
Brinsmead's early views were an expression of "historic Adventism". His primary opponents were Desmond Ford, for sixteen years head of the Department of Religion at Avondale College, Hans LaRondelle of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University, and Edward Heppenstall,. In the 1960s he advocated a form of perfectionism which he described as the "Sanctuary Awakening" or "Awakening" message. He claimed he was led to this position by the pre-advent judgment in Seventh-day Adventist eschatology. He also claimed it was a thoroughly evangelical concept of justification – "I taught sanctification by atonement, not by attainment."
He visited the United States throughout the 1960s, holding retreats and seminars to teach his message. The "sanctuary" element referred to the distinctive Seventh-day Adventist theological understanding of events believed to have begun in the year 1844 in a heavenly sanctuary, of which the earthly sanctuary in the Old Testament was understood to be a figure and "type". Like other "historic Adventists", Brinsmead and his colleagues were convinced that they were recovering the original core message of the founders of 19th-century Seventh-day Adventism.
The church in North America became aware of Brinsmead during the early spring of 1961, when he submitted several documents to the General Conference. Raymond Cottrell was asked to evaluate them, presenting critiques of each document about three weeks later, later writing he gave each one "careful consideration" with a desire to be completely objective[dubious ] (note: Cottrell does not agree with the investigative judgment and has criticized many Adventist doctrines). A few weeks later Robert and John came to the General Conference offices and requested a hearing, and a committee which included Cottrell met the brothers. The meeting had a "cordial atmosphere", spent mainly listening to the Brinsmeads express their views, and the groups "parted as friends."
Evangelical era (1970s)
In the early 1970s, he abandoned this position, turning to a view more in line with the Protestant Reformer Martin Luther and Luther's understanding of the New Testament gospel message of Paul the Apostle. Desmond Ford convinced him that his perfectionism was incorrect in about 1970. Adventist eschatology was relegated to the background. By late 1971 Brinsmead had reversed his ideas on the nature of Christ and perfection. He believed "righteousness by faith" is entirely justification by faith. Largely due to the impact of Desmond Ford, Robert embraced righteousness by faith in the mid-1970s, rejecting perfectionism. He began to target Present Truth at Adventists and also other Christians, with a more evangelical message, and a central focus on the Protestant principle of justification by faith alone. A survey of Present Truth throughout the 1970s indicated that he studied a wide range of 16th-century Protestant Reformation scholars, including John Calvin, Philipp Melanchthon, and Martin Chemnitz.
Change of interests (1990s)
During the 1990s Brinsmead did not write anything about theology for almost ten years. Raymond Cottrell wrote in 1999 that Brinsmead "seems to be immune to further rational dialogue", and that he "felt constrained to let him go his own way and do his own thing".
Brinsmead developed a sort of humanist emphasis. According to Larry Pahl, "Brinsmead's journey has led him back, full circle, to raw perfectionism. The new Brinsmead requires that we become 'forgiving, caring and compassionate, doing the right thing', certainly the marks of a perfect man."
Recent views (2000s)
On 7 August 2007, Robert Brinsmead's wife Valorie died at age 68.
- Present Truth Magazine
- Progressive Adventism
- Historic Adventism
- Seventh-day Adventist theology
- History of the Seventh-day Adventist Church
- Desmond Ford
- Avondale College
- Hesba Fay Brinsmead, novelist and sister-in-law
- , . Gary Land incorrectly states Brinsmead's middle name is "David"
- Schwarz, Richard W. (1979). Light Bearers to the Remnant. Boise, Idaho; Oshawa, Ontario, Canada: Pacific Press and General Conference Department of Education. pp. 456–461. ASIN B0006CZ2QO.
- Where is Robert Brinsmead? by Larry Pahl; Adventist Today 7:3 (May/June 1999)
- Russell and Colin Standish, The Gathering Storm and the Storm Burst. Hartland Publications, p.41–42
- Report: Sydney Australia Adventist Forum Remembers Glacier View Twenty-Five Years Later by Dr. Milton Hook, former president of Sydney Adventist Forum, 16 January 2006
- "The Questions on Doctrine Event: Contrasting Perceptions, Their Impact and Potential" by Arthur Patrick
- Cottrell, Raymond (May 1999). "Whither, Robert D. Brinsmead?". Adventist Today (Loma Linda, CA: Adventist Today Foundation) 7 (3). ISSN 1079-5499. Retrieved 4 November 2007.
- "Brinsmead, Robert David (1933- )" in Gary Land, Historical Dictionary of Seventh-day Adventists, p.47
- Brinsmead family tree: Descendants of Cedric John Brinsmead. Personal page of Cedric John Brinsmead. Personal page of Laura Elsie Goullet
- History of Tropical Fruit World
- Richard Schwarz, Light Bearers to the Remnant. Philip W. Dunham repeats this assertion in Blinded by the Light: The Anatomy of Apostasy with Maylan Schurch. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 2001, p38
- Schwarz and Greenleaf, Light Bearers
- "Editorial Introduction" by Robert Brinsmead. Present Truth Magazine' Volume 36
- The Shaking of Adventism
- "Righteousness by Faith" entry in Historical Dictionary of Seventh-day Adventists by Gary Land
- Sad News: Valorie Brinsmead 1939–2007 by Brinsmead, 8 August 2007
- Defense Literature Committee (precursor to the Biblical Research Institute), The History and Teaching of Robert Brinsmead (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1961)
- Biblical Research Committee (also a precursor to the Biblical Research Institute), The Brinsmead Agitation (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1969)
- Richard Schwarz, Light Bearers to the Remnant, p. 456–61
- Brinsmead, Judged by the Gospel: A Review of Adventism. Fallbrook, California: Verdict Publications, 1980. (Review, "Evangelical Essentials And Adventist Distinctives" by Richard Rice appeared in Spectrum 13:1 (September 1982), 55–57)
- Tarling, Lowell R. (1981). "The Awakening Movement". The Edges of Seventh-day Adventism: A Study of Separatist Groups Emerging from the Seventh-day Adventist Church (1844–1980). Barragga Bay, Bermagui South, NSW: Galilee Publications. pp. 186–202. ISBN 0-9593457-0-1. See also p203–21, "[The Controversy over] Righteousness by Faith in Australia 1972–1979"