Drop the Mic: Reincarnating the Adventist Faith Part 3

@ray: I feel like terms are getting in the way in our understanding each other. I have a hunch we don’t disagree as much as it appears. I haven’t worried about my salvation in many years thanks to my awakening to the love and grace of God. So the “works” that I speak of now are not intended to lead us back into bondage to law but towards servanthood for our fellow humans. I’m attempting to restructure our Adventist values in the context of loving others as Christ loved us. What I’m hearing you say is that the doctrinal presuppositions and dysfunctions of legalistic Adventism are too deeply ingrained to try to redefine terms and meaning. And that very well may be the case. Maybe the entire structure has to be demolished before an authentic spirit-led life rooted in the completed salvific work of Jesus can flourish.

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Thanks for taking the time and making the effort to converse with some of us commenters. It’s great that you are willing to engage us in this way.
I don’t know if I can add much to what Ray has said but I think it’s crucial to see how different from anything else the New Covenant really is. It’s so alien to the way of the world that it’s hard to even comprehend (let alone understand).
The early disciples/apostles got it and have tried to tell us:
Paul said, ‘I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me;’ (Gal 2:20) and he called it a mystery hidden from past ages but has now been manifested to God’s saints (us) which is ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory’. What an amazing thought! Much as He did with Mary, the Holy Spirit begets or implants His seed within each believer. Jesus told Nicodemus you must be begotten from above (John 3:3). Paul said that he had begotten believers by sharing the gospel (1Cor 4:15). He called himself a kind of father to them because of it. Peter explained to believers that ‘…you have been begotten again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is through the living and enduring word of God.’ (1Peter 1:23). On some mysterious, spiritual level, it really is a living word! John understood this as well because he wrote that even though there is still some sin remaining in our lives and God will forgive us (1John 1:7-10), the divine, begotten seed growing within us cannot sin (1John 3:9). Paul says we are a new creation (Gal 6:15; Rom 6:4; 2Cor 5:17).
We will no longer sin because this Christ within will have become our very nature. We will be in unity with the Father as Christ promised. Somehow Christ’s sacrifice made this possible. The old Adamic man will finally be left behind (dead).
Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us now but will be our nature in the kingdom. All God is doing now, in this age, is recognizing it in advance.
This is the essence of Christianity and maybe I wasn’t ready for it but it wasn’t brought home to me when I was an Adventist. What I got was that God would help me obey (somehow tame the old Adamic man) to be saved. It would be a continuous struggle but I could, with the Holy Spirit’s help, reach the required level of sanctification. This is not the New Covenant. The NC is an unconditional promise of God that He will put His law in our hearts (the very nature of this seed of Christ maturing within I think). In my initial comment I said that Adventism needs to recognize this true gospel. I didn’t want to say that I don’t see any real hope of this happening. Your observation that doctrines in Adventism are deeply ingrained is true. Adding to the difficulty is that one is discouraged from questioning the 19th century prophet, Mrs. White, and so new light or progressive revelation is stifled. To me, the only hope for Adventism would be if Mrs. White had an appreciation of the New Covenant similar to that of the NT writers. I was never a student of Mrs. White so I honestly don’t know if she did. A comment on another thread about Ellen White referenced an article of hers stating that we are to try our best to obey and then God will make up the difference (a sort of mixture of the old & new covenants). I checked it out and found it to be an article about faith and works which to me was very works oriented. In it she says that ‘everything regarding our salvation depends upon on our own course of action.’ I would like to be corrected if I’m wrong but I don’t think she gets it and I don’t think Adventism will ever abandon her authority.

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I agree that Ellen White didn’t have an understanding of the New Covenant. Definitely was Christ + Works. I think she was slowly growing out of that, but didn’t get there.

The good news for Adventists who want less of Ellen White’s authority, is that she is followed less than ever before. And more and more leaders honor her story and journey but don’t necessarily feel compelled to give her writings the mantle of inerrancy. Now I realize that depending where you live, and certainly in many parts of the world, she is still very strongly used. But I can tell you from my 17+ years in ministry in the South and in the West, she has not had a loud, hammer-to-the-head voice in most of the churches I’ve pastored. Each congregation and each conference is different, but I think, at least in larger urban areas and around Adventist “meccas,” there is enough congregational variety where new covenant-type congregations exist.

I would like our church to be able to make peace with EGW’s story and honor her spiritual journey and her genuine contributions to the denomination while not feeling tied to her as an inerrant prophet. But again, like what you and Ray have been saying, maybe that’s asking for more than is possible. New wine in old wineskins and the like…

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It’s not only EGW, it’s other doctrines like the investigative judgment. (Adventism has some things right such as respect for the law of God.) The NT says the IJ will be an examination based on our works. Because Adventism assumes our salvation is the issue, it inevitably follows that our works must be salvific. Hence we’re back to Christ + works.
I don’t know how that can change. The only way it did for me was self study resulting from life experiences. I have such a radically different understanding of God’s plan of salvation for humanity now. I try through comments to get people to think about things in a new way. I would think people would want to have a possible answer to what I call the Adventist dilemma of faith vs. works. They have argued back and forth about it on this site for years. I think it’s difficult for people to critically examine what they have believed all their lives and even more so for leadership with their vested interest in the status quo. Frankly, it will take a move by the Holy Spirit (which is certainly possible if God so desires).


Hi Todd…

Thanks for taking the time to interact with all of us! I think the emphasis on praxis that you value is actually right there in the major Pauline letters. He wrote to address on the ground issues that were affecting the life of congregations, not abstract theological treatises, as his letters have often been treated.

With that said, I think the stress that many place on the individual experience of the Old and New Covenants, while present in Paul’s writings, are not the central issue. Paul seemed more concerned with how the gospel of Jesus was to bring people together, how the one God of Israel was equally the God of Jews and Gentiles… just as they were. The miracle of the New Covenant community was that former enemies were now sitting at the same table, with the walls of division now broken down. The former distinctions of race, religion, class and gender no longer made any difference because Christ and his Spirit did not recognize such distinctions, and their identity markers, as determining belonging to the people of God. Paul, in letters such as Romans and Galatians, fought against any effort to rebuild those walls, and divide the community along those former lines.

This is where I think that Adventism, and its entire reason for being, is fundamentally flawed. Our central focus on law/Sabbath/food laws, creates an exclusivity, and divides us from other Christians and Christian groups, over the very issues that Paul categorized as non essential matters… matters that should not divide. Link them together with an eschatology that says that the Sabbath will be the final issue that divides God’s true people from all others, and you have a sectarian mind set and group that is totally at odds not only with the theology of Paul’s gospel and the New Covenant, but with the practical implications of it as well, especially on the level of creating healthy Christian community.

While I agree with the necessity of action rather than more dogma, the reality is that ideas do matter, and that they inform and shape our actions. In light of the implications of the gospel and the New Covenant as seen in Paul’s letters, I think that a fundamental reimagining of Adventism would be needed in order for a climate change to occur… a change that would provide a truly healthy and inclusive Christian praxis to take root and be lived out on a broader scale than isolated individual action.




@frank_merendino: I couldn’t say it any better than that. This is the secret of following Christ’s lead into loving others: you discover that there is no reason for any of us to be separated from each other. Christ’s kingdom mission is to build the beloved community among all people on earth, right here, right now.

See, we can continue to interact with the doctrines and values of Christianity and Adventism in a way that identifies us as the superior people, the correct people, the better way, the holier-than-thou, the perfect generation. Or we can interact with these same doctrines in a way that opens us to growing the loving community. I am looking at the doctrines of my Adventist faith and, instead of seeing them as the means by which we exclude people, I’m now seeing within them the call to include as many as possible through loving them as Christ loves me. If these articles are encouraging anyone to reinforce Adventist’s superiority over others, than I have failed in the purpose of this writing.

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