Faith, Salvation, and Adventist Identity Part 1

The Adventist Identity Crisis

The Adventist church is facing an identity crisis because its understanding of its eschatological mission has become disconnected from the contemporary social situation. Rather than engaging in the task of apologetic theology, which is to apply the Christian message or kerygma to the needs of contemporary society,[1] the Adventist church engages in what Mark Dunbar calls “identity tethering.” This is when those in power within a political order establish a symbolic connection between the behaviors practiced by a majority of their constituents and the collective identity of the order, causing the constituents to identify their interests with those of the leaders.[2] Although Dunbar describes the ways in which people tether their identities to political or economic orders, I believe that identity tethering also frequently occurs within ecclesiastical orders, including the Adventist church. Regardless of their motives, which in many cases are based on sincere religious belief, those in power within a church hierarchy are interested in preserving the established authority of the church. To maintain church members’ support, they persuade them to identify with the church hierarchy’s interests by defining Adventist identity or orthodoxy as consisting of behaviors already practiced by a substantial number of members. Identity tethering often has a conservative influence on the church because many of the behaviors that its leaders associate with Adventist identity reflect its traditional positions on various topics.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11960
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If the goal of a group of people is to remain connected to the contemporary social situation, which is always changing supposedly, then that group of people just needs to keep changing what they profess and at the same rate of change. Not too fast and not too slow. Like two cars racing down the street, if one accelerates the other needs to accelerate at the the same time. Or if one falls behind then it needs to speed up very fast to catch up with the other car before the driver looses sight of it. It’s a little bit of physics but it is not rocket science. Adventism would need to change and keep changing so that in 200, 300, or 1000 years from now, Adventism would have kept step with societies concerns, never missing a beat, and marching to the same drum.

We have said it before - “the opposite of faith is not doubt. The opposite of faith is certainty.” Jesus said it himself - Blessed are they who did not see (me) and yet believed. Jn.20:29. Strong’s Concordance overlaps “believe” and “faith” somewhat, but adds TRUST as being part of faith.

The Adventist “faith” system is a humanistic system, that runs on the surface of the religious life. As long as you grit your teeth and just “do it” or “abstain”, you’re safe - intent doesn’t figure into the obedience, so it’s based on willpower. This might seemingly work, until you run into the 10th Commandment - Thou shall not COVET.

C.S. Lewis tackles FAITH in his famous Mere Christianity. Not being a theologian, his differentiation of, what he calls “two kinds of faith,” has a less intellectual quality, but it does get the average person, not used to Kierkegaard or Tillich, to think a little more deeply on the subject.

The Adventist dilemma is - “how do you educate a population without teaching it to think and question, and blowing it all apart?”

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When I took academy biology, a new student asked the teacher how anaerobic bacteria digested their food. The instructor (who was also the principal) chewed him out for his smart-aleck question.

Responses.

  1. We never got an answer to the anaerobics nourishment puzzle.
  2. We never brought it up again.
  3. We never saw the new kid again–in any class.
  4. (True piece of history.)
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Another good question - what did T-Rex eat before the “fall”?" And a little child shall lead them".

This startling article has implications reaching much beyond merely Adventism, but the writer was kind enough to narrow his concerns to this niche. The last points in this article are particularly important to Adventists. Can’t wait for the next part!

Some quotes that struck me:

“Because people are finite, any objective relationship they have to the truth is only approximate.”
–I suppose the kind of “truth” discussed here would be the “highest” truth(s), which a concept like “God” brings to mind. The idea that “God” is a higher or more important “truth” than the cereal I’m eating for dinner is pure fanciful opinion. Perhaps more correct to call these “infinite” truths “speculations.” Certain scientific “truths” can perhaps be quite exact and don’t depend on subjectivity? We might just call these observations.

“Faith … is this paradox: that the single individual is higher than the universal, though, note well, in such a way that the movement repeats itself, so that therefore, after having been in the universal, then, as the single individual, he isolates himself as higher than the universal.”
–Many people in insane asylums have incredible faith, by this standard, more than any of us. Or psychopaths. Christians would be loathe to be compared to such people, but they sure do abuse their mental faculties and tie themselves up into all manner of knots and imagine all manner of insanities, devils, demons, doomsdays, conspiracy theories about persecution, zombies coming back from the dead, celestial virgins, talking donkeys, tongues of fire, etc. A whole dark phantasmagoric landscape that one wonders why it appeals them. I haven’t seen any of that myself, personally. I suppose that stuff might be “real” to you, subjectively, in which case I’ll be praying for your poor soul, which is already living in a personal twisted hell, woe is you.

“If this is not faith, then Abraham is lost, then faith has never existed in the world simply because it has always existed. For if the ethical—i.e. social morality—is what is highest, and nothing incommensurable remains in a person in any other way than this incommensurability being what is evil (i.e., the singularity of the individual who must be expressed in the universal), then we need no categories other than what Greek philosophy had or what can be logically derived from those categories.”
–A real possibility.

“Last Generation theologians believe there is no need to suspend the ethical—obedience to God’s law—to achieve a higher purpose or telos, because obedience to the law is the telos or aim of history.”
–Right, and they might believe that but since they can’t prove it, what’s that figure to do with others?

“No doctrine is objectively certain, because no one can prove facts about God or our duties towards him.”
–Exactly

“On this point, the Last Generation Theology commits the same act of hubris as Hegel’s philosophy, which Kierkegaard criticizes.”
–Though I guess for Kierkegaard “hubris” is allowed and natural and “good” when it comes to the individual placing himself above the universal? If he claimed that that doesn’t count as hubris then I wonder how that differs.

“The second consequence of distorting the meaning of faith is literalism.”
–When I was a child, I thought like a child, I understood as a child, I talked like a child, but when I became a man, I put away such childish things as literalism.

“Faith, if it takes its symbols literally, becomes idolatrous!”
–!!

“When faith is understood as the paradox in which the individual is higher than the universal, then no universal law can comprehend the individual’s responsibility to God.”
–This mindset could lead the church into a refreshing period of “judge not, lest ye be judged”. Truly baffling to me that we allow our leaders to be the worst swine among Adventists. It’s not just a Ted Wilson and company problem, it’s a community problem.

“If the Adventist church will move beyond the distortions of faith and their consequences, it must reject any doctrines that perpetuate these wrong assumptions. This means it must repudiate the Last Generation Theology in favor of a doctrine of sin and salvation that recognizes faith as an individual, subjective relation to God.”
–There you go. At the end of the day, we all have the power to decide what we identify with, so stop identifying with all this nonsense. At best it’s a waste of brain-space, at worst you’re creating your personal hell.

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The average person lives on ground level. We tell stories - about ourselves, about our history, about God, based on what we have been told. We can’t define concepts like faith - trust - beauty - sin - goodness - life - death - on and on…any other way. We live within those stories. When we crash up against someone else’s story that conflicts with ours we have a problem. Who we are is based on our stories we tell ourselves. Obviously the older you are, the more difficult it is to adjust to other stories we hear. That’s why when you see the “nonsense” it takes a long time to walk away - maybe never. But you can adjust and tell yourself another story - maybe better… Whatever it takes to get through the night.

I was imprecise and hasty in using the term “nonsense”, so I wanted to clarify. I don’t think things like truth, love, justice, faith, etc. are nonsense. I think dogmatism (in this case Adventist dogmatism) is dangerous, self-serving, and narrow-minded, and in that sense nonsense.

Also, everyone has a personal idea of love, justice, truth, etc. So everyone “redefines” these on a day to day basis. That’s nothing strange or new. Just like everyone has a different idea of “God”, and in fact we’re supposed to, right? Since everyone claims to want a “personal relationship” with God. Personal means specific to that person.

Another example: to Christians, Abraham being willing to murder his son is defined as “faith”, “loyalty”, etc. Well that’s their interpretation, but certainly not the only one. In fact, I wonder the extent to which they even believe these definitions, since they would be horrified if I tried to murder anyone in the name of faith. We have a duty to use critical thinking to question who told us to believe these things and why.

Those who get to define what is “truth” and what is “love” and what is “justice”, those people have the power, and we should wonder why we give them power.

I value individualism, liberty, and critical thinking; that’s probably clear from the things I say. I don’t allow anyone to tell me what I have to believe just because they said so.

So I agree with you that we can tell ourselves better stories. I tell myself stories that make my life a hundred times better, simpler, more purposeful and meaningful than anything I believed when I was Adventist, stories which are grounded in reality, not fairytales or cowardly wishful thinking. I know through personal experience that I’m finally being true to myself, so there’s really no going back.

And I still sleep great through the night.

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Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith."

Why do so many revert back to the law to be justified, because it’s easier and desire to control others stands in the flesh. Jesus becomes their stumbling block as God has no part in our own self Glory. We only truly shine when we reflect His glory. It’s my opinion that Glory, Joy, and Peace are interconnected and that when we receive these from God, it’s a blessing that can’t be masked.

Happiness is a reaction to something great. Joy is the product of someone great.

Misery loves company, and for this reason last generation false Theology is looking for company focused on extracting the blessings of God and subconsciously lower Joy and Peace. God doesn’t need us to finish anything, if He did, it would be the definition of flawed design as it would mean Jesus a perfect human couldn’t comply with God’s laws and need the help of “us” to finish. lol. So we are to translate from sinful to sinless in our decayed human state; would be very impressive as Jesus had a head start by being born sinless. This train of thinking is full of Pharisaical passengers. My hope is that we refocus on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. It’s all Him. Glory be to Him, and only Him. If we preach the Love of Christ, we are regarded as focusing/spreading warm milk. Good thing the Love of Jesus is every time of “milk” we need and every “solid” food we need. His Love is incomprehensible, searching every corner of our hearts, inviting us to place that abounds with “milk and honey”.

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