Does Adventism Inspire Young Adventists? Trisha Famisaran

On Saturday afternoon, March 12, the Loma Linda University School of Religion Humanities Program hosted an afternoon conversation titled "Does Adventism Inspire Young Adventists?" The event featured a panel of six thirty-somethings with varying ties to Adventist academia: Alexander Carpenter, former professor at Pacific Union College; Eric Carter, assistant professor at Loma Linda University; Janice De-Whyte, assistant professor at LLU; Trisha Famisaran, PhD candidate and former director of La Sierra University's Women's Resource Center; Yi Shen Ma, PhD candidate and Development Director for the Adventist Peace Fellowship; and Zane Yi, associate professor at LLU. The discussion featured papers from each of the panelists, followed by moderated cross-talk, and Q & A with audience members.

We present two of the presenters' papers in this edition of the Spectrum Roundtable, focusing on the question, "Does Adventism Inspire Young Adventists?"

The Promise of Adventism

As other panelists have already noted, it is important to resist confining the identity and meaning of Adventism to a narrow set of beliefs. There is much to be gained by broadening our understanding of the multiple purposes and functions of the church. To do so, we should consider the different dimensions of religion. As we talk about the promise of Adventism, are we attending to the question of religion as a phenomenon, the institutions operating under the umbrella of the church, or the denomination’s theologies and practices? While we cannot entirely separate these elements, because they inform each other, it is important to talk about them as distinct dynamics or processes. Individuals are attached in varying degrees to the practices, beliefs, institutions, church identity, and social connections. For this reason, we ought not to minimize how meaningful it can be for a person to continue interacting with the church even after moving beyond it intellectually or theologically. Moving beyond the church in some ways does not mean the person has moved on or should move on in all ways.

Our central question is whether Adventism still inspires young people. It has promise insofar as it allows people to sit with doubt and insofar as it resists the illusion of homogeneity, in other words, to resist the impulse to have the body of church members conform to a narrow Adventist identity—to uniformity. Of course, a response to this appeal to inclusion and diversity would rightly be, "What, then, is the tie that binds?"

I would urge that there is not one formula that determines what constitutes an Adventist person or Adventist thought and theology. Is it conceivable for a person to remain a Seventh-day Adventist if she has settled her doubts and landed well outside the theological bounds of the church? The boundary lines aren’t absolute and depend on the priorities of those drawing the line. What if she is beyond or over theism? Is that a cause to forego drawing a line and build a wall instead? If so, the church will discover that many who deeply care about their religious home are suddenly on the wrong side of the wall. This is a painful place to be as the adoption of new ideas and beliefs is not in itself turning against the church. I frequently hear the language of a person having lost her faith but rarely hear the same shift described as a gain or a turn prompted by malevolence. I am not speaking of those who break ties with the church after years of hurt and frustration. This is a different kind of shift. I am speaking of those whose ideas shift because they value and practice critical thinking and have a wide view of the world.

I think doubt, even disbelief, is prevalent within the body of the church, albeit primarily in an asymptomatic state. There are significant reasons why the actual extent of it is not obvious. Disclosing one’s epistemic condition of doubt opens her to being viewed with suspicion, in the least, or, at most, being ostracized by friends and family. Of course, there are also professional and financial risks when the Seventh-day Adventist church and its numerous educational and medical institutions are the place of employment for the person on the margins. The threat of losing employment due to “going public” about one’s doubt or disbelief is more or less actual depending on the capacity in which the person is employed within a church institution. But I do not think we should underestimate how much this dynamic affects the ability of church members to grapple with the various ideas they have and seek a sounding board to sort through them.

Many doubters, agnostics, and post-theists, however, need the church in order to continue ministering and being ministered to. This idea is probably counterintuitive upon first glance. However, when there is an openness to these conversations instead of immediate judgment, it minimizes the number of people whose doubts and questions morph into guilt and those who walk away never resolving their difficult breakup with the church. This is because the church is more than a set of fundamental beliefs. Religions remain and will always be with us as a response to the human condition—to existential angst and the question of meaning.

As for myself, I am agnostic about belief in God, which emerges from my views on language and the limits of knowledge. I consider myself post-theist to the traditional concept of God. This is an entirely different way of thinking about value and of what the meaning of life is. I am comfortable with the idea that this one life is the full measure of my existence in the universe. I am certainly not an empty nihilist even if, like Camus, I occasionally find myself judging the situation as absurd. The moments of satisfaction, happiness, peace, and love are full of meaning, even though intermittent when interrupted by anxiety. Religion is one response to the situation and will continue to carry humans up and onward for the foreseeable future, just as it has for millennia.

I have an enormous amount of sympathy and understanding for the religious life. There is much to be gained from keeping one foot inside of the community, and I still have much to give back. I think it is entirely possible to separate the question of the promise of the Adventist community from the promise of Adventist theology, and then admit that the two exist in a dialectical relationship. I am a happier and healthier person because I do not live a double life, which is what it felt like when I kept my ideas on the inside and attempted to be a “good” Adventist on the outside. If a person cannot be intellectually honest without seeking a divorce from the church, then the promise of Adventism is in serious trouble.

Trisha Famisaran is a PhD candidate in Religion/Philosophy at Claremont Graduate University.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7387
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I hardly know where to start. I can now see why La Sierra has so many problems (e.g., the scandal over teaching evolution as fact). How can an agnostic be part of the staff at an Adventist school? And why should she be given credibility at an event such as this.

I’m tired of the term “Adventism.” “Adventism” doesn’t inspire me, but the truth does, the message does, present truth does. And it inspires many young people, as is evidenced by the popularity of GYC. I know some of these young people personally. They don’t want the nonsense that is so often foisted on our youth by youth leaders, who seem to think that presenting programs which resemble as closely as possible what the secular world has to offer, will keep them in the church.

When my kids became teenagers, they usually stayed with us in the big tent at Campmeeting. But one year they decided to check out the youth tent. They came back disappointed. It was mostly rock music and very little of substance. They never went back. They are not alone. Even now, at college, my daughter sometimes leaves the vespers program because the music is not always sacred and uplifting.

I seriously question how an agnostic could “minister” in a church setting. They certainly need someone to minister to them, but should not be in a position where they can plant their own seeds of doubt in the minds of young people.

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I think one of the reasons WHY we cannot appreciate what Trisha has discussed in her piece is that we as SDAs are not acquainted with difficult discussions in Theological matters.
No one in my lifetime in an SDA church has discussed readings from such persons as Teilhard de Chardin and Meister Eckhart and other great philosophers and observers.
And so we have maintained a very narrow and limited view of our religion. When Big questions are presented by seekers of God looking in the scriptures, we are befuddled because our religion has a proof text for every question that is supposed to be asked.
It is difficult for us SDAs to think outside the box that our " 27 SDA believe" book came in.

I think it is possible to be both Seventh day Adventist AND beyond Seventh day Adventist. To have Bigger Views of God, and God’s relationship to the Universe, to Humanity, to Earth, and yet still have Seventh day Adventism within that scope of View. I think this may be part of the problem with persons like Trisha. They are seeking more of God. And statements such as hers and others appear to be non-SDA, but that is because by OUR Training, we have forced God to live only in a box of our Denomination’s Creation.
God needs to be allowed to create His [Their] own box of goodies for us to contemplate.

I would hope that in places of higher learning, such as Loma Linda and LaSierra that BIG QUESTIONS are allowed to be brought to the class rooms. That persons such as Teilhard and Meister would be allowed to speak, and create dialogue with seekers.

3/26Edit — “Taste” and “Test” are both words in the Scriptures that are used to entice “Doubters”.
When God created the Earth They placed many things to Taste and Test in the physical world. In Their written Word, God has placed many things to Taste and Test.
Sometimes, there is a convergence of the Two. And THESE need to be Tasted and Tested.

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I would ask anyone to produce scripture/s that have “doubt” as a prerequisite to greater faith. It just doesn’t make sense. You know I must say, the plethora of ideas and “high theological concepts” that have invaded our church, through our universities, are the very reason why we are so divided today. Understanding the Word of God does not need such complex approaches. The Word of God is not written to be kicked around academic circles; rather it is written for our salvation. Yet, we glory in making it complex, so that scholars/professors can become highly acclaimed for their theological prowess. In the end, many have only served to confuse; instead of making clear. The Bible has been written so that the man/woman who can barely read will come to understand the word of God, just as the PHD. What we don’t seem to realize is that 95% of our membership will never engage in “higher learning” as to the Word of God; but must either come to know Jesus and His Word for themselves or must rely upon “Academia” to tell them what to believe. There’s only one teacher that matters; the Holy Spirit. He will never teach us all to believe different things. He will lead us and guide us into all truth. In the end, if we have listened to Him, we will experience “One Lord, One Faith, and One Baptism”. One teacher can never endorse a variety of beliefs on one subject/doctrine unless he is double-minded; a mindset condemned in scripture.

The thrust of this article represents a fulfillment of II Timothy 4:2-4:

4:2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
4:4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

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One of the reasons that the Holy Bible is so difficult to understand is some of the writers themselves were dealing with matters about which they had little or no true understanding.They attempted to deal with matters waay above their pay-scale, so to speak. They therefore often described events in their interactions with Elohim n ways suggesting" supernaturalism". Some moderns who are conflicted about this term, yet don’t feel they have enough information to out rightly reject this nomenclature, have described themselves as agnostics. That’s ok for them. I believe in God, well let us say Yahweh,and I believe the Elohim were human and not supernatural. Genesis 1:26 settles that part of the question. Yahweh had a son with a Jewish teenager and the boy flourished and became a mighty teacher and preacher. This successful crossbreeding proves the validity of Gen. 1:26. Yahweh is powerful but not the creator/originator of the entire cosmos . If he were he would not have had time tgo lead trekkers (at a walking pace) through desert land as traditionally reported.

Well written. Insightful. But woefully incomplete. The reference is still focusing on “who is in” and “who is out” and confuses spiritually with church affiliation and identity. One has to simply look at research data from PEW Research Center study (see Millennials less religious than older americans but just as spiritual) to see that there is a difference between spirituality and religiosity. However, for spiritually to be expressed through a religious community, the lens needs to more sharply focus on relevancy. The data of the Barna SDA Millenial Study slams home the point that the SDA church struggles even more than other christian churches in being relevant to the younger generations. Look, this same battle is playing out in the politics of this nation.

As Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard said in her endorsement of Bernie Sanders (see here) she makes the statement that "The American people are not looking to settle for inches. They are looking for real change." Now if you go over to the dark side of politics and the evil extremism represented in the GOP party (at this moment in time) you will find the a similar yearning for big change and not incremental change. (Hang with me editors… don’t censor me yet) The polarization of our american society at the extremes is one party, with fully engaged Gen Xers and Millennials, seeking a county of tolerance and equity that makes forward progress spiritually, socially and economically. At the other end are those who want to hunker down in their bunkers with their guns, build walls, and eradicate anyone different than us.

That same power struggle exists within the microcosm of the SDA church. The entrenched powers continue to deny equity among our church members, tighten the screws of the 28 fundamentals to ensure crystal clarity of the regressive and intolerant language. And you have a movement within the church that wants to become relevant and equitable and tolerant. For those wanting change, it won’t be measured in inches any more, More than 20 yrs of fighting and still no women’s ordination make the next generation less tolerant of inches. Those seeking change, rather than acquiescing to entrenchment (hunkering down in our ark or bunker until the Lord comes), are turning in their ministerial credentials to create equity… they are creating different ministries… they are trying to hold on to those uninspired young adventists.

…there is a storm brewing on the horizon. It could be the Lord getting to return or, equal chances, it could be just a storm as deadly as the civil war, Nazi Germany, or other epochs that were “calls to action” rather than signs of an imminent return of Christ. In the past storms, we chose to close the Ark Doors when God was calling us to something else. In the words of a wise old female radical,

“The world needs today what it needed nineteen hundred years ago–a revelation of Christ.” MH p143.

And such action needs to start within the ark so we are prepared to kick the doors open and welcome in those continuing to be disenfranchised by economic, social and political oppression… our young people included… May we all find our way to inspire our young people with these words. And if we can’t take the word of a radical liberal like Ellen White, let us at least remember the word of that other liberal who said, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more,” and elsewhere the community born where:

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe[e] came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Our young people are waiting.

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I agree with the thought that adventism does not necessarily inspire, but truth. That is the reason I became an adventist at 17 and remain an adventist as a young adult. However, comparing truth to the “popularity” of GYC or to worship preference does not seem fair. Because a group of people worship in a specific way does not make it truth, it just makes it a way of worship, not shared by everybody here, and certainly not shared by the whole world. The standard of Christian truth is found in the Bible through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Present truth means what we know now, and it is different than what we knew before, and what we will know in the future (ex. in heaven). So, I believe that having one way of seeing things and discarding everything else that does not fit with our worldview is dangerous, and leaves us somewhat clueless. If that were the way, then we would have never accepted the message of justification by faith. Yes, it is scary to have a person that does not share our main beliefs to address the young people, but that is what happen in public school all the time, and many strong adventist young people are in the public system worldwide. I believe that “The truth can lose nothing by close investigation” (EGW), and helping youth and young adults to think through different ideas, rather than sheltering them, will build stronger youth, stronger christians and a stronger church that will be able to face the world not in fear of what may come their way, but ready to face it.

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Denominationalism is a curse. Christainity is a blessing. The 28 were conceived to out people not to convert people to Christsinity. Years ago my father supervising the building of the North Side Church in Chicago was asked by the conference president to pick up F. D. Nichols at the Briadview Academy and take him to Hinsdale church for an evening seminar. dad had to dive across town to his apartment in Brookfield shower, dress and drive to the academy. When he got there Nichols was pacing and fuming. As he got into the car he said, “You are late!” dad said, your watch is fast, The response was ugh. it was a very quiet ride. Nichols found othe transportation back to the academy. Sabbath keeping does that to a lot of people. Southern Tidings publishes Sunday times in the major cities of the Union. Augusta is three minutes sooner than Atlanta. One can go through a car wash in less time. In pine pollen season that is important. Tom Z

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“I would ask anyone to produce scripture/s that have “doubt” as a prerequisite to greater faith.”

There are many biblical experiences where “doubt” was a precursor for greater faith because it is a part of the human psyche. But here is a great text:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Romans 12:2

Obviously God would not have said to “test” if there had been no human “doubt” and this state was not condemned in the text. We were created by our Creator to “test” and see that He is good…to bring us to Him that we might see greater and better things.

The Holy Spirit guides us all into our own individual spiritual pathways and we arrive at different places throughout our lifetime. It would be impossible for us all to have exactly the same “truth” at the same time (unless you are referring to doctrine not spirituality). The author of the article has her own brand of “truth” and is honest in where she is and what she believes in…for now. She is saying that there needs to be allowance for varying thoughts and beliefs within Adventism or else there is confliction/separation.

Adventism either needs to move forward or the internal strain will lead it to self-combust. But one thing is for sure…Adventism can never remain the same.

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[quote]People don’t need an explanation when I share that I’m still a committed Christian despite the fact that I served on a church staff for 40 years. The sad reality is that the church, as a representation of Christianity is no living up to that role.
It’s become a haven for people who have no power anywhere else to hold a power position and a place for blaming, criticizing, and excluding.
It’s a place that keeps members by guilt. It’s a place that talks about stewardship and doesn’t model it. It’s a place that condemns those who arts different. It’s a haven for incompetent leaders.
Pastors learn theology and assume leadership without trading. They ignore conflict and dysfunction until the crisis is unavoidable and maybe let it persist unlit nobody is left.
We are feeding recruits into atheism and spiritualism and give reasons for outsiders to label the culture as one of hypocrites.
Millennials are not seeing the church as relevant and only for the nearly dead.
Clergy hang on as security of income and can’t fight a system filled with bureaucracy and apathy that doesn’t give much incentive to change. There’s a remarkable vacuum of leadership.
Why don’t we just bury the church this Good Friday with Jesus? - Alan Dohrman. christ-has-died-and-so-has-the-church[1][/quote]

Practice the Presence of God.

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Does Adventism inspire young Adventists? The answer is NO. The definition of “Adventism” is shipwrecked before infant first step “winds push against my back” got aboard on second or third party rhetorical folly ship when the young steps are told, “ Do what I say; Don’t do what I miserably did to my steps”. The rhetorical folly is it inspirational? Rarely inspired, for the rhetorical folly talk about themselves of petrified never broke a chain or freed “make us do what they think” the wind of truth or in breath of doubt? Adventism built the first talking Adventist. It’s not an invention not a patent not intelligence. It’s the unlabelled young nothing so irritating as somebody of their pioneered look at Jesus out side the box starts to pay off intelligence and more sense than we have – yes, more sense than we have built on tradition a clock which tells what time it was. The YOUNG tell or ask what Time Machine picks a future to God’s breath of fresh air.

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I’ve said it before on this site:

“Doubt, often seen as a negative attitude, is an undervalued quality and resource! Faith is always in tension - a Kierkegaardian “leap of faith”, in contrast to Cartesian mathematical certainty.”

Whereas religious convictions can have powerfull effects, their (epistemic) foundations are often very fragile. To suspend our lingering doubt, we often fall prey to expressing our convictions in a fervent, absolutist vocabulary. It is also true, I believe, that ideologically driven movements, often adopt this strategy to deny, or suspend, ambiguity.

Thanks, to Trisha Famisaran for honestly sharing her experience!

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I agree with Beatriz on the idea that we should not seek to use the category of “youth” to buttress any single “truth,” rather truth should be able stand on its own. Many ideological leaders have sought to garner the support of young people and then used that energy to burnish their truth claims, citing it as evidence that “authenticity” and the “future” was with them. This idolization and ideological use of youth has been employed by dictators and churches alike, and it can do lasting damage to young people and our attempts to minister to them.

Andy Root writes, “What is problematic, is not loving young people, but the loving of the youthful spirit of young people. For in loving the youthful spirit we actually love not the young person, in his or her particularity, but what having the young person’s youthful spirit in our churches can get us . . . . Bonhoeffer was particularly sensitive to this because he saw how the National Socialists loved the spirit of the youth movement, using it for their own political gain, but had little concern for the concrete humanity of young people themselves. They wanted their passion without their humanity.” [Root, Andrew (2014). Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker: A Theological Vision for Discipleship and Life Together (pp. 121-122). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.]

Perhaps this statement needs to temper the question, “Does Adventism inspire young Adventists?” And maybe we ought to ask yet another question: “Do we need young, enthusiastic Adventists in order to be inspired by Adventism and believe it still? Or can Adventism–on its own, apart from the enthusiasm of youth–still hold up to ‘close investigation?’”

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First we’re admonished to “repent of our patriarchy and heterosexism.” And now the lurch into agnosticism.

Again Ellen White’s prediction of the “downward march to perdition,” starting with doubt as to the veracity of the Testimonies and ending with doubt as to the Holy Scriptures (5T 672), comes tragically and painfully to mind.

Those seeking to depict contemporary Adventist issues in varying shades of gray, swathed in the fog of endless complexity, find their task increasingly jeopardized by stubborn reality and the compelling logic of those hurling doubts at our faith. Like many in the pundit class who inhabit the secular political arena, too many forget the timeless wisdom of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words: “In analyzing history do not be too profound, for often the causes are quite simple.”

For decades now, as the acolytes of Spectrum and its fellow travelers have begged the church for tolerance and accommodation, insisting their voyages into the open waters of pluralism were fully benign and presumably “Christ-focused,” thoughtful observers have braved accusations of allegedly loveless “legalism” while warning of precisely where this course was tending.

The thoughtful warnings of the striving faithful are being proved devastatingly prescient. And the plainer and more outspoken the deniers of our faith become, the more their departure from the Biblical worldview leaves nothing sacred left standing, the more the indictment of their spirituality lengthens and the more diminished their rationale for church membership becomes.

Thankfully, the words of the much-maligned yet increasingly vindicated modern prophet offer hope through it all:

“Not one cloud has fallen upon the church that God has not prepared for; not one opposing force has risen to counterwork the work of God but He has foreseen. All has taken place as He has predicted through His prophets” (2SM 108).

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How so? There will always be some who, being intellectually honest, find themselves in harmony with Adventism and there will always be others who, being intellectually honest, find themselves out of hamony with Adventism. This is not only true for Adventism, but also for any other type of community that is defined by a system of beliefs and practices. How does this fact place the “promise” of Adventism in serious trouble? I’m not seeing a relationship between those seeking a divorce from the Adventist church and the Adventist church itself being in trouble because of those divorces. We have seen this ebb and flow in the Adventist community since the very beginnings of it.

I might need a concrete definition of the “promise” of Adventism as I have never heard the phrase and I’ve never thought of Adventism offering any promises other than a Second Advent heralding an end to the confusion, chaos, and selfishness that makes hell out of life here on earth.

Let those who find themselves in harmony with Adventism have the courage to live up to that understanding and let those who find themselves out of harmony with Adventism have the courage to live up to that understanding as well. For those who find themselves “on the fence”, it seems to me that it would be the definition of a “double life” - maybe a transitional space. I can’t imagine that there would be people content to remain there, but I wish them well.

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I suppose we’re really talking about faith here - faith in a certain dogma (as it’s articulated by the SDA church). Faith can’t be manufactured at will, as though, “if we wish for it hard enough, it becomes real”. There is a difference between wishful thinking and the faith articulated by the Bible. Yet, here, too, we are given permission to be brutally honest - in the words of the Centurion: “I believe; help thou my unbelief”.

The problem with religious dogma is that we’re asked to buy the whole package, or nothing - according to those constantly questioning why the agnostic should be allowed to show up in a forum like this. I suspect this kind of mindset comes from a lack of understanding of what it means to be an “agnostic”. We do live by labels; and labels don’t do justice to all the levels of human experience they’re suppose to stand for - one size does not stand for all. However, taken at it’s most simplistic meaning, calling oneself an agnostic simply means - we don’t have all the answers. To be honest, we’re all agnostics. That’s the best we can do. Anyone who’s absolutely positive about a belief system, is trying to subdue a great deal of fear. This will prompt all kinds of voices declaring all kinds of certitude, I’m sure. That’s OK.

So, why do “the young” dare to go places the older folk don’t… There’s a host of reasons - one of the biggest is that they’re not tired yet - tired of fighting Paul’s “good fight of faith”. I wonder if anyone has ever done a study of the over 50 generation to see how they really feel - why they’re still there, in the back pews, dozing. And, what are we really talking about - doctrines, or a familiar life-style in which all our activities come automatically, by the clock and the calendar. For my generation it was, “It must be Friday, if the soup is simmering and the beans are baking”.

I have done a fair amount of reading, listening, debating; and even heard all the arguments for and against the belief in an ambiguous God; and have come to just one conclusion, the only fact that answers that question is Christ. If He did actually walk out of that cave, on what we now call Easter morning, then I’m game. All the rest is peripheral.

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Brother Kevin,

This morning, as has been the case every Resurrection Morning the past 22 years, Pastor Rich Carlson and I led out in a Sonrise service. We celebrated with a small band of Adventist believers the central belief of Christ’s Resurrection, without which our hopes are in vain.

As is also the case nearly every year, although all campus and church people are invited, no young people from the GYC movement were present. Perhaps they see no special relevance in the moment. Perhaps they are afraid that they will be seen as sun worshipers (Jesus obviously had bad timing when being resurrected). Perhaps they prefer to remain snug in their warm beds, comforted in their belief that at least they kept the Sabbath. Perhaps . . . well, no one really knows.

Still, I find their continued absence passing strange. So perhaps GYC could clean its own house by placing the Resurrected Christ in the center of its worship and recommending that all acolytes attend or hold Resurrection Day services. Perhaps the GYC will take special care to send out and fully invest in women, as our Master did Resurrection Morning. Perhaps instead of pronouncing fear-drenched black-and-white warnings of compromise, GYC will actually mirror the Savior in joyfully mixing today with others (even Catholics), secure in the humble assurance that anywhere with Jesus they can safely go.

Perhaps this is happening. I’m not seeing it.

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Anyone who seriously engages contemporary religious and metaphysical thought cannot avoid wrestling with doubts about how to understand “God-talk” and theistic claims. Traditional faith does possess soft spots (evil and suffering, divine absence apparently) that few believers have the time or inclination to understand. Those who take the time are often trying to find ways to preserve traditional faith, not eviscerate it. If they are not appreciated, believers will be greatly wounded when they learn that not only can they not answer challenges to faith, they will discover they cannot even comprehend many of them!

This writer is still young and will tell you, I am sure, that she has decades more wrestling with faith issues ahead of her. We who are older know how painful, erratic and unpredictable that journey can be. Eventually, we tend to settle down on a conviction that persuades us for most of our lives. But we also come to know that those so passionate for the truth, whether they come to theism or not, will receive God’s approval because it mattered utimately to them whether or not what they believed was true!

It cannot be that God will be pleased with someone who has embraced theism as a “matter of course,” and not pleased with someone who moves away from theism honestly and sincerely after much reflection. Humility should characterize all affirmations (and disaffirmations) of faith honestly pursued. Even the Apostle Paul required an overpowering experience to “see” what he could not see in all his hunger for truth. In the end, faith and grace entering the life is in the hands of the Spirit, whose workings we should not presume to judge in individuals who think or decide differently than we do.

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Not only is it prevalent but also necessary by definition of the “body.” Just as the body grows and matures from infancy to adulthood, so does the developmental progression of belief, which is a function of brain/mental maturation, from that of an infantile belief to a universal and mature belief. Its characteristics will reveal normally where in the stage the believer is and his trajectory. For instance, when a believer believes solely on the basis of being told or believes to escape punishment then one can argue that this kind of belief is mostly infantile in nature just as a child will believe his parents without further questions. This is most obvious in mental health where children with known “wife-beaters and sexual perpetrators” fathers routinely believe their fathers as “perfect” fathers. No amount of confrontation can be enough to dislodge their beliefs except growth into adulthood and maturity. So when one proposes, such as @kevindpaulson

injustice is done to the developing believer and serves as a stumbling block, doing more harm than good and destroying the very essence of what christianity is all about.

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Since its recent founding in the Christian world the Adventist believers central focus has been to “convert” other Christians to the SdA church. This is still the main emphasis: Baptize more into the church.

People today, especially the young, are not looking for “present truth” or the meaning of long-dated prophecies with absolutely no relevance to their lives today. They are looking for what is not found in Adventism, demonstrated daily by their absence from church pews,

Just as millions of all ages, they are looking for jobs that are becoming scare in their area; how to further their education with little or no money; how to both care for their elderly parents and children or grandchildren; how to put food on the table with too small income; how to pay all the college debts that were supposed to assure good employment, not a fast food employee.

Simply listening to many of the presidential and even congressmen’s speeches, at least the majority recognize the people’s deep needs and wants that are most important. It is true: you cannot tell a person the Gospel unless you are willing to listen to his needs and giving him bread for his, and his family’s hunger.

The essential difference between early Adventism and today’s Adventism is more than several generations; it is the rapidity of entire cultural and economic changes, changes undreamed of a few short centuries ago. Preaching the same message that was once powerful is totally meaningless today. What is important is not even being addressed. The evidence is crystal clear: the great educational divide between our grandparents and our grandchildren is overlooked entirely. What energized them is dead history today.

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