Gerhard Pfandl, Ph.D. Associate Director Biblical Research Institute
WHAT IS BRI?
BRI stands for Biblical Research Institute. In 1943 the General Conference established the Defense Literature Committee to study and answer publications against the church. It issued replies to attacks on the church and dealt with the teachings of off-shoot groups. Then in 1952 the Committee on Biblical Study and Research was appointed to examine church manuscripts prior to publication. In 1969 the two committees were combined into one, the Biblical Research Institute Committee which today has about 40 members from around the world. It consists of theologians/Bible teachers and administrators. The Biblical Research Institute is the office which oversees the work of the Biblical Research Institute Committee.
1. WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MAIN FUNCTIONS OF THE BIBLICAL RESEARCH INSTITUTE?
The different functions of the Biblical Research Institute can be grouped under three main headings:
Research, Apologetics, and Service to the church. Among its more specific functions are the following:
A. Theological Research:
Identifying areas in which biblical research is needed in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Exploring new areas of truth and studying issues of biblical interpretations. Organizing and conducting research using institute personnel and theologians from the world field as needed.
Responding to challenges to biblical doctrines as held and understood by the church and preparing materials as needed by the church in defense of truth. Engaging in dialogue with other religious communities in order to reduce tensions, misunderstanding, and prejudice against the church.
Assisting the General Conference administration and the world field in matters of biblical interpretation, doctrines, and church trends. Providing seminars in biblical studies and theology for pastors, Bible teachers, administrators, and other interested workers, and teach intensive courses in theological seminaries around the world as requested. Organizing and conducting Bible Conferences.
2. WHAT RESOURCES DOES BRI PROVIDE FOR OUR WORLDWIDE CHURCH?
The Institute provides theological resources (books, pamphlets, newsletter, website, papers, CDs, etc.) for the administration and departments of the General Conference and the world church. It identifies areas of doctrinal and theological discussion, seeking to enhance their understanding, and builds commitment to the truths of Scripture.
3. IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT IS THE BEST WAY FOR LOCAL CHURCH LEADERS TO PROMOTE THE SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST CHURCH?
Church leaders can promote their church best by living out the Adventist faith in their community. This can include organizing the church for missionary outreach, holding various seminars (e.g., on health), making a positive contribution to the needs of the society (food bank, etc.), and by advertising the activities of the church in the community
4. CONSIDERING THE TIMES WE LIVE IN, WHAT KIND OF MESSAGES SHOULD BE EMPHASIZED FROM THE PULPIT?
rom our pulpits balanced Christ-centered sermons should be heard that are anchored in Scripture, and that include distinctive Adventist doctrines, such as the Sabbath and our understanding of end-time events, e.g., the three angel’s message. Furthermore, church members need to be instructed on God’s will for their lives.
5. IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT ARE SOME IMPORTANT QUALIFICATIONS FOR BEING EFFECTIVE CHURCH LEADERS?
Commitment to Christ and His church; knowledge of the Scriptures, acquaintance with the writings of Ellen White; good interpersonal relation skills; love people and be a team player; balanced judgment; spiritual discernment; organizational skills, e.g., the ability to train others, set goals and develop programs to fulfill the mission of the church; as well as having a clear understanding of the message and the mission of the church.
6. WHAT KIND OF THEOLOGICAL ISSUES IS OUR CHURCH FACING TODAY?
The large increase in membership in recent years, for which we praise the Lord, has also had a negative side. It has produced a theological pluralism in the church, unknown before the 1980s. Whereas prior to 1980, theological issues in the church were mainly confined to specific Adventist issues, e.g., the sanctuary truth, the Spirit of prophecy, the remnant, and the nature of Christ, the issues today concern primarily fundamental truths of Christianity – Is God omniscient? Is the Trinity biblical? Was the world created in six days or over millions of years? Did Christ die as our substitute or only as our example? Is the historicist principle of prophetic interpretation still valid? Can we still identify the Roman Catholic Church as Babylon? These are some of the issues we are facing today in addition to specific Adventist questions.
7. HOW CAN LOCAL CHURCH LEADERS HELP PASTORS OVERCOME THESE CHALLENGES TO OUR DOCTRINES?
Some of these challenges come from critical independent ministries. Local church leaders, therefore, should not support these ministries, distribute their publications, or invite their representatives to the pulpit. Furthermore, church elders should become familiar with these issues and the church’s positions on these matters so they can help the pastor protect the church members from the inroads of these teachings. An excellent help in this regard is the Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology edited by Raoul Dederen (Review and Herald, 2000) which is available in English and Spanish.
8. WHAT IS THE BIGGEST TEMPTATION IN PREACHING TODAY?
One of the greatest temptations for any preacher is to entertain the congregation. Pastors should avoid giving shallow messages, ride hobby horses, or address social and psychological concerns instead of preaching God’s Word.