Adventism is a unique collection of beliefs and practices--many of which fit well with those who have grown up aware of our postmodern condition. If we are willing to view Adventism with postmodern eyes, we could see a way to transform our world along the pattern of Jesus.
Modernism To understand "Postmoderns," you need to first understand “Moderns”. Most of those who will read this article are moderns. Moderns value intellect, they value science, they value logic. They believe what is logical and reject things that are not logical. Moderns see life as being a series of choices each individual needs to make. One can choose to believe in God or not believe in God. One chooses to believe in Scripture or reject it. In most cases the choices are clear and a person of integrity will clearly see the right one. One cannot, for instance, be a Buddhist and a Christian. A modern feels that anyone who does not see the world as he does, or who has made choices that are different than the choices he would have made, is either stupid or ignorant. They are to be pitied. Most of the arguments that respond to articles here at Spectrum are moderns against moderns.
Postmodernism Postmoderns are, in almost every respect, complete opposites to moderns. Postmoderns believe there are very few, if any, absolutes. A postmodern is perfectly comfortable with believing in God and believing in Darwinistic Atheism. Postmoderns are fine with others having a completely different life view or even no life view at all. They have a sense that all belief systems have equal value, that no one belief system is superior to another. Postmoderns are only judgmental about one thing and that is judgmentalism. For this reason, most postmoderns view Christians with revulsion, or at least suspicion. They see Christians and Christianity as being nothing more than a group of people who hate those who are not just like themselves. Postmoderns would not see anything wrong with someone claiming to be a Catholic-Jew or even a Seventh-day Adventist-Jew.
Adventism and Postmodernism Adventism has three unique doctrines, plus one important philosophical position, that are uniquely suited to postmoderns. Sabbath When I am asked about my religious beliefs, I always start with the Sabbath. I describe how it was the greatest single gift that God gave after he created the earth. It is a little one-day-a-week vacation. It is a day to go to church, hang out with friends and perform acts of charity. It is a way to say “no” to work, “no” to shopping, “no” to television, “not today” to worry. By the time I have finished telling someone about the gift of the Sabbath, the typical response is, “That sounds really nice. I am not sure I could do that, but I am envious.” I don’t think I have ever been accused of being a legalist or weird for keeping the Sabbath. Postmoderns have the same problem with being overwhelmed. They are less likely than moderns to think that attending church on Saturday is any weirder than going to church on Sunday. The idea of having one whole day a week set aside to hang out with friends and to make the world a better place has a unique appeal.
State of the Dead Postmoderns have no real belief in a Judeo–Christian God. Many do have a sense that some kind of higher power exists. As they look at the predominant Christian beliefs, they crash into the traditional view of hell, which says that anyone who is not saved has a soul which survives in hell, tortured by God for eternity. They then reasonably ask how can you call a God who tortures souls for eternity loving? They have mostly been taught, and believe, that when life is over it is over. A God who does not torture his enemies but allows them to go quietly to sleep is eminently lovable.
Investigative Judgment In thinking about the judgment there are two views: The traditional Christian church says that I will have to stand before God and he will review all the things I have done or not done. Of course when this happens my sins will be as the sand of the seas and the meritorious acts scanty. While I know that, ultimately, I will get to point to the righteousness of Jesus, I will have to face these horrible moments of humiliation as my life is reviewed by God. The Adventist understanding of the judgment (investigative judgment) teaches this will happen in heaven while I am still on earth (alive or dead, depending on where my life is relative to the second coming) and that when my name comes up, I will not have to be there to face my inadequate record. God will look at the record and Jesus will present the defense. If I have said yes to Jesus, then all I will ever have to hear is, “Well done, my good and faithful servant!”. The God of the postmodern mind has to been one that is gentle loving and redeeming. A God who does not willfully and needlessly inflict pain. A God who wants us to have happiness not pain.
The Health Message In recent years, Christian churches outside of Adventism have increased their focus on how to apply Biblical principals to make marriages, jobs and relationships work better. This is a change from traditional emphasis on what happens after you get to heaven. Adventism adds to all of this the idea that God wants us to have healthy physical bodies here on earth. We uniquely view God as being holistic. This fits nicely into the postmodern view.
The Dangers Adventism has two attributes, neither truly theological, that will make it extremely difficult for us to take advantage of this opportunity.
The Need to Prove We Are Right Throughout the history of Adventism we have “converted” people by proving that our understanding of Scripture is more accurate than that of other churches. If you go into any Adventist bookstore anywhere, you will find sets of Bible Studies in dozens of flavors, but at the end of they day, they are almost all designed to prove from Scripture that we are more right than everyone else. This will mean nothing to postmoderns. Worse, it will make them run screaming from Adventism. They really want to know just two things: How does your belief system make you and your family’s life better? How does it make the lives of others better?
Believing That Truth Will Save Us Truth will not save a single person. At first this may seem like heresy, but it is sound Scriptural theology. We are saved because of our relationship with Jesus Christ. We have to be focused on teaching postmoderns how to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Postmoderns value relationships above all else. Adventists get nervous about relationships. We tend to be very private. We can be superficially friendly but we are very reluctant to be intimate with each other. Unless we are willing to model open, vulnerable relationships, to openly share our lives with those who see the world very differently, this great opportunity will pass us by.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/2783