From a Voracious to a Wise Depressive Narcissism - On European Adventism


(Spectrumbot) #1

With the idiosyncratic and classical protestant European theme of “Ecclesia reformata semper reformanda”, the 2015 ETTC (European Theology Teachers Convention) took place March 25-29 at Newbold College, England. What does the word “reform” mean today? This is easier to proclaim than to understand and implement, which is often the reason self-proclaimed “reforming” movements have paradoxically behaved as reactionary and nostalgic. European Adventism should remember and learn this from its own past history. The difficulty in understanding what a “reform” means is tied to the fact that the process of change, alluded to by that word, can't be separated from what the other accompanying words imply, in the previously quoted Latin formula. What does “Ecclesia”, “Semper”, “Reformanda” and the correlated word “biblical” mean? More particularly, what “Europe” itself means today requires something more than a pious and well-intentioned desire. European Adventism probably is more European than Adventist and, as such, it shares its fundamental phenotypic and genotypic cultural traits and historical destiny. And rather than an Adventist understanding of Europe, we have a European understanding of Adventism. It couldn't be otherwise. This is not necessarily negative as the majority of Adventists might believe. To me, a Peruvian Adventist, it appears instead as a blessing, provided that such a blessing also be considered and understood within its limits, ambivalence and paradoxes.

The complex relationship between Adventism and Europe, viewed from within Europe, is not extrinsic to what Adventism is in essence. The same dilemma is lived, even if often not understood, in all the other continents, and it is central also to the very core of Adventist identity and mission. What Adventism is, is never culturally neutral. It is always incarnated in specific geographic and cultural forms. But, as much as the strength of Adventism resides in this inculturation, Adventism should also be able to detach itself from limited geographical or cultural forms. Not with the naïve intention to soar above as a free and ethereal a-cultural reality, but rather to adapt, adopt and create new cultural forms of expression more consonant with its own historical context. This is probably what “to reform” most deeply means. Not to change (reform) the church for its own sake or in relation only to its founding principles, but to rework these same principles in relation to its new external context. And even have the courage to change that context itself, or at least try to maintain it while facing new questions and challenges. Adventism justifiably has identified itself with “modern” North-American and European cultural paradigms. But does Adventism today need to keep identifying itself so massively – and to remain irreversibly so much attached – to liturgical, administrative, theological, psychological, missiological and catechetical forms of this problematic “modern” paradigm in Europe or elsewhere?

The ETTC meetings and presentations wisely addressed this issue from an internal church perspective. What is the task and responsibility of the theologians in this process of “aggiornamento” (updating) within the church? The organizing team proposed Ellen White's challenging motto as leitmotiv for the convention: "We have many lessons to learn, and many, many to unlearn" (Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, 26/07/1892). What do we have to learn and unlearn in the fields of Biblical Studies, Systematics, and Practical Theology? What should be the leading methodological principles at work in this on-going and never-ending process? Revival and reformation cannot be a mere repetition of the past.

First, from a Biblical Studies perspective: Bernhard Ostreich (Friedensau, “The Role of the Sabbath in Adventist Eschatology according to Hebrews 4”, among other biblical presentations), convincingly argued that the traditional Adventist interpretation of this text has been doctrinally correct but exegetical deforming because the final result transformed the Sabbath from an “experience of rest” to an “experience of test”. The Sabbath, understood just as test of theological orthodoxy, misses the main religious and existentially positive impact of that passage.

Second, in the Systematic Theology sections: Gunnar Pedersen (Newbold, “Towards a canonically based systematic theology”) and Rolf Pohler (Friedensau, “Fundamental Beliefs: Curse or Blessing”, among others), argued in favor of a less mechanical and pragmatic approach, and for a more self-aware, balanced and healthy understanding of what a Biblical Theology and a Church System of Doctrines means. A biblical-theological “Credo” must be, on one side Comprehensive, Systemic and Pluralistic (biblical theology as Canon, Pedersen) and on the other side Provisional, Generic and Partial (Doctrines as Testimonies, Pohler). Just the opposite of what Adventism is actually doing. The misreading of the natural and legitimate cultural and religious heterogeneity of our world-church today is pushing official and institutional Adventism to use, and even to manipulate, Biblical Theology and Doctrinal Statements to impose a forced and fake unity based on a rigid, homogeneous and pretended-exhaustive Theological Statements.

Third, even more innovative and refreshing reflexions came from the Practical Theology group. Gabriel Monet (Collonges, “The Chaos Theory and today spirituality” and other meditations) and Bjorn Ottesen (Newbold, “How does the church respond to the challenge of individualism?”) urged the church to a shift-paradigm, encouraging the theologians to facilitate passage from a “controlling” to a “supportive” church. All this in accordance to the new post-modern ethos of the European population.

Particular mention needs to be given also to the inspiring Laurence Turner's Sabbath morning sermon “Being content with Ishmael” and to the challenging and enriching Mike Pearson's opening Keynote Address on the new emphasis Adventism needs to give to its neglected relational and emphatic attitudes that should be more person than program-centered. The convention ended Saturday evening, March 28, with the release of Newbold Press's first publication, entitled: "Journeys to Wisdom: A Festschrift in Honour of Michael Pearson." Dr. Michael Pearson has served Newbold College as a lecturer and administrator for 42 years, inspiring and enriching the life and ministry of pastors and theologians all over the world. But Michael Pearson's profile is not understandable without the human and fine theological sensibility of his life partner, Helen.

All these positive and encouraging signs emerging in the European Adventism breathed at these ETTC meetings go unquestionably in one direction: it's time to make the Adventist identity and mission more flexible and person-centered. Not people for the Church but Church for the people. Somehow that sounds familiarly evangelical. But here we need to ask a second fundamental question. One that can't be overlooked and comes not from within but from outside the Church. Is this rediscovered intra-ecclesiastical wisdom enough to correct the traditional and chronic narcissism that generally and continually haunts European Adventism? A short-sighted and purely internal understanding of what a reform implies could eventually make this narcissism even worse. A major paradox would be that internal healing of European Adventism could coincide with its greatest isolation from others. In order to avoid such a rift European Adventism urgently needs to learn to dialogue. The main goal of European Adventism can't be reducible to proposing an alternative model of church to the so stigmatized, pragmatic, American Adventism. European Adventism must think universally and not pretend to teach the world, as has happened in the past, but just to learn to interact equally with the world-church in a common, humble search.

And that starts with three dialogues.

1. Theological intra-European dialogue.

European Adventism doesn't dialogue within itself. “European Adventism” and “Adventism in Europe” are not synonyms. European Adventism is this particular Adventism, positively contaminated by the European socio-cultural ethos. But there are other co-resident Adventisms that are less or not sensitive to this socio-cultural ethos. The first task of European Adventism is to acknowledge this irrefutable fact and become a mediator between all the Adventisms present on this continent. But beyond this there is also a task for Division theological institutions such as Newbold, Collonges and Friedensau. These institutions are not dialoguing with minor and more peripheral sister theological schools in Prag, Belgrade, Zagreb, Bucharest, Valencia or Florence. European Adventists in general, and theologians in particular, are today foreigners to each other.

2. Theological dialogue with Administration.

Administration and theology in Europe go parallel ways. Sometimes they meet to exchange some politically correct words or just to stigmatize each other. Administration without theology easily becomes myopic and theology without administration easily ends as romantic exercise. The Theological Adventism School System in Europe is a big administrative problem because it has become very expensive and, unfortunately, also inefficient. Consider, the Inter-European Division (EUD). In this Division there are actually eight theological schools with a total of only 200-250 students maximum. This fact clearly represents an untenable administrative situation which the Division Education Department and the Division itself in Bern have been, until now, unable to resolve. They are, in fact, diligently making it worse. With such reduced numbers of students it is not justifiable to maintain two schools of theology (Collonges-Sous-Saleve and Friedensau). These schools received last year (2014) 3,280,855 Euros subsidy, while the other European theological schools got nothing and even contributed to support these two schools. That amount of money represents the 27.01 % of all tithes in this Division and 21.07 % of the annual Division budget. Such huge, unjustifiable subsidies don't create dynamic institutions but rather apathetic and self-referential ones. They are unable to create and promote a European net of theological institutions through continuous dialogue and initiatives in Rome, Milan, Madrid, Lisbon, Barcelona, Bucharest, Zurich or Vienna. They are just national (French and German) institutions improperly financed via common funds. This is a costly and bureaucratic way of being and thinking “European” – only in form but not substance. We need to propose the creation of a European Theological Initiative (Seminary) with the participation of all the Adventist European theological schools and Conferences – as the Baptist European Church (International Baptist Theological Seminary) has, for instance, recently done in moving its headquarters from Prague to Amsterdam.

3. Theological and Multicultural extra-European dialogue.

European Adventism doesn't represent a mainline Adventism. It's a minority Adventism and I postulate that it will never become the majority perspective in the world Adventist family. Actually European Adventism represents a real treasure that the world church should preserve with care and promote with trust and vision for the benefit and theological balance of Adventism in general.

But European Adventism needs to learn to see beyond its borders and its own navel to embrace the global church problems as its own – not in order to dictate what needs to be done, but to interact and dialogue in a communal exercise of continuous sharing. There is no victory in giving up a voracious narcissism, typical of the 19th and 20th secular and religious Europe, to adopt a depressive wise post-modern one, typical of 21th century conformist Europe. European Adventism needs to overcome the temptation to be Eurocentric and narcissistically entrapped in itself. For this reason it appears to me that the main challenge of European Adventism today is not safe keeping the various idiosyncratic traits of its unique profile, but rather to work them out in dialogue with other theological projects and profiles worldwide.

Hanz Gutierrez is a Peruvian theologian, philosopher and physician. Currently he is Chair of the Systematic Theology Department at the Italian Adventist Theological Faculty of “Villa Aurora” and director of the CECSUR (Cultural Center for Human and Religious Sciences) in Florence, Italy


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6746

(Andreas Bochmann) #2

I would like to thank Hanz for his (as usual) thought provoking summary of the ETTC.

In his evaluation of the experience I am not sure the perceived pessimism needs to be shared in all points.

Hanz is right that there is plenty of room of improvement. However, I would also maintain that there have been many attempts of bridge building and fruitful dialogue (one being the ETTC, a biannual event, I believe). The issue of dialogue between theologians probably isn’t all that much about theology (the theologians quite happily formed a Society of Adventist Theologians in Europe at the ETTC discussed), but rather one of competitiveness (i.e. threats to institutional survival) and perhaps, I would concede to some extent to Hanz’s wording: narcissism. This however, is not an issue of European Adventism, but human nature.
The very example of publishing figures of financial support in a rather one sided manner (without giving any historic background and perspective) is proof to the thesis that this is not about theology as such.

At least for Germany I would suggest there is good dialogue between theology at Friedensau and administration (with the clear exception of one conference, which for all practical purposes refuses dialogue with any other Adventist institution in Germany - but that’s a different story. I wouldn’t dare speak for other countries, but have a hunch that there are differences - but not all is “gloomy”.

Indeed, what Hanz describes as “European Adventism” probably will remain just that.; hopefully “salt in the soup” and not just the odd minority nobody needs to take attention of. Rather than narcissism or Euro-centricity it might be a lack of self-awareness as to the contribution “European Adventism” has to make to the world church that should bother European Adventism.


(Thomas J Zwemer) #3

Adventism is a closed system. The educated mind is not. there is the rub. Adventism prompts education to its own hurt. European Adventism is about as stable as the Euro.Hans uses the Sabbath as one example of a closed system confronting an open mind. Can we come together in unity that Christ is Lord not pharaoh?
we have been making bricks far to long A Sabbath rest awaits us… Tom Z


(Rheticus) #4

This article reminds me of why I consider myself a disorganized Christian.

I had to read it three times before suspecting that I might actually agree with Hanz points, although I am still not sure I understand what he is saying.

He does, however, demonstrate the fundamental law of academia

There are disciplines that use big words for simple concepts, and disciplines that use little words for big concepts

It appears to me that this branch of academia has succeeded in encrypting their speech so that no outsider can judge whether they are very relevant or completely content free.


(Balancedbutpassionate Adventist) #5

I think if I’m honest there was a lot to take in from this report. Perhaps I could address just a few general issues about the role of the Adventist college in Europe.

It seems to me that the Adventist academic community in Europe has lost confidence in the Mission and message of Adventism. It is as if "Post-Modernism has won the day, and that albatross now affects all we are, and all we do.

I never get the impression that the European Adventist theology teacher is particularly enamoured with what we shall describe as ‘proclamative Adventism’, and is in fact seriously embarrassed about it.

While it is true that "Fundamentalist Adventism’ leaves much to be desired, I wonder if as far as some of our European Teachers are concerned, the pendulum has swung too far the other way. As is a trait of many in the Christian community, the powerful magnet of ‘polarisation’ draws us to an extreme where we feel safe and comfortable against the onslaught of challenges from the other side. Creating an enthusiasm and conviction about a balanced Adventist identity and mission, should I trust be of the greatest concern to the theology lecturer.

I long to meet a student currently graduating from Newbold, Collonges, or Friedensau who is passionate about what it means to be an Adventist, particularly if he or she is about to enter employment as a minister. Chatting recently with one graduate, he declared that during his studies at one of the above institutions, the question had never ever been raised in the classroom, “What does it mean to be a Seventh-day Adventist minister”.

It cannot be easy to be a European Adventist theological teacher. He / she is a sincere, good, honest and gifted person. While they continue the quest for academic excellence (with the hope that they will be seen as credible by the wider academic community), the church member in the Sabbath School is on a quest to make his faith ever more black and white (more than encouraged at present by the leadership of the General Conference).

The need for the theology teacher in Europe is greater than ever ‘in times like these’. He / she Is needed by the church not only in Europe, but also the global church. They are desperately needed to help the church keep theological balance against the ‘literalist’ and ‘innerrant’ wing of the church.

But the voice of the teacher will never be heard nor recognised by the member if they express a collective ‘body language’ that seems to be embarrassed about Adventism, or a belief that Adventism in Europe is over, and the only role left in the European classroom is to apologise for it.

I think I read above an idea for one European Adventist Seminary. Interesting…


(Rheticus) #6

There is a lot about SdA’ism that is embarrassing, and it is not surprising that teachers at this level know it.

The real issue facing contemporary SdA’ism is literally what is worth keeping, what is rubbish, and what needs to be added.

The concept that Jesus is going to return any day now because there was darkness caused by fog and forest fires in a 30mile x 30mile area of New England 200 years ago is ludicrous. It is embarrassing. It should be quietly abandoned. SdA evangelists should be told not to use it. Ministers should be telling their congregations that is particular point was wrong.

The concept that Jesus is going to return any day now because of a misunderstanding of a KJV Bible’s incorrect translation of Dan 8 by a layman should equally be discarded.

On the other hand, the concept that the dead are dead until the second coming, that health is an important part of religion, and that compelling people to worship in one way or another is the mark of the beast are worth keeping.

At the end of the day, the most important thing worth keeping is that power flows from the individual to the congregation to the conference to the union, that the GC are servants not masters, and that the search for truth is more important than having it.


(efcee) #7

Is it narcissistic for us to focus so intently on our narcissism? :confused:


#8

Hanz identifies dialogue with

European Academia, European Administration and Trans-national / cultural theatres.

The argument would be more compelling if the dialogues were tailored for regular members, active church leaders and the general public in a language that is comprehensible on issues that actually matter to real people.

I am afraid that too much Academia has withdrawn into an inert bubble. Too often publication ends up specialist journals, and never get into formats that hit the ground.

To be even handed - the demand for innovative perceptions from the rank and file is drowned by celebrity populism, and sensationalist fear theology.


(Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:13) #9

Victor, can you give us examples of those afflicting European Adventism?


#10

Being quite familiar with the strategic/administrative issues involving European Adventist Education, I find some aspects of this article to be seriously misleading (to be kind).

  1. The Adventist educational system, particularly in the EUD, is financially untenable. Of course it is. But said by Hanz this sounds surreal, as the invitation to centralise education at continental level. The reason is simple, and Villa Aurora is a perfect case study to explain why. Until the year 2000 Villa Aurora, like other regional institutions such as Sagunto, were only Junior Colleges. They basically included a high school and a two or three year undergraduate theology course. After this stage students were sent to Collonges, where they could attend the equivalent of an Mdiv (this is also the way Andrews works for the NAD). In 2000 Villa Aurora decided - for purely financial reasons - to stop sending ‘its’ students to the Division level college, Collonges, and to require them to finish their studies in Villa Aurora, thus in fact duplicating the Mdiv offered by Collonges. Nevermind if by this decision they took away from students the possibility to know Adventism beyond the small circle of the Italian Union (which counted only 6,000 members): the Italian Union needed to have its own university. Nevermind even the cost for their Union, if we want to speak about wasting money! Nevermind the fact that Villa Aurora didn’t even have a sufficiently trained faculty and had to ask pastors with a bare Mdiv to routinely come and teach at MA level. The result is that the Italian Union cannot employ enough pastoral candidates to make Villa Aurora self-supporting, and the college is perennially on the edge of a financial disaster. They have (to be optimistic) 30 students in total for an undergraduate degree plus two masters. True, they don’t cost a penny to the Division, but they cost a LOT of money to a very small Union, which is financially in really bad shape! Plus, they have cannibalised an educational system that was designed to provide both a culturally specific training (at local, undergraduate level) and an international breadth of vision and relationships (at Mdiv level, in Division colleges, where faculty and students coming from different countries could meet). While in the past an Italian pastor had connections with colleagues in Portugal, Spain, France and Switzerland and an understanding of European Adventism (the one Hanz wants to boost… yeah), now they only know the small reality of Italian Adventism, and rarely have exchanges or know anything about what goes on beyond their border. And now Hanz suggests centralising and laments the fact that Collonges or Friedensau have fewer students than in the past (still more than Villa Aurora) and struggle financially? That’s thanks to institutions like the one he works for, thanks to Sagunto (which is in a similar situation), or other junior colleges which similarly decided to become ‘independent’ and have their own Mdiv. What would happen at financial level if all Adventist colleges in the NAD decided to duplicate what Andrews does and open their own Mdiv for just a handful of students? To be coherent Hanz should apologise for the past and suggest to close Villa Aurora and all the other Union institutions and re-centralise. That would make a lot of sense, but I’m not sure he would be ready to do it. As the rest of the Union colleges which have gone in a similar direction and tried ventures in the last twenty years.
  2. Lack of dialogue within European Adventism. Interestingly, Hanz seems to have a greater interest in exchanges with US institutions than with European ones. A list of guest professors recently invited to teach intensives at Villa Aurora would quickly reveal that they almost exclusively come from the USA, with which he is keen to actively entertain connections (for personal reasons?). It is very rare for Villa Aurora to invite anyone from a European Division college. It is frankly embarrassing to invite professors from an institution you have rejected and damaged financially, and you keep criticising. So maybe if Hanz wants dialogue, he should start from having a different attitude and inviting European colleagues from Division institutions to Villa Aurora (it would be cheaper than spending money to fly over US professors). Or would that be to recognise that Division colleges still have a value, and can provide good service? Can an institution like Villa Aurora start by providing a good example other than pointing the finger against Division colleges to justify its own existence and support the narrative that they are a useless waste of money? The reality is that smaller institutions like Villa Aurora often have small faculties which struggle to meet the bare academic requirements (having a doctoral degree) to teach in Division institutions. They are so busy to cover all sorts of needs that they do not have time to build an academic profile. As a consequence, few have the academic qualifications to be invited. Hanz would be among the few who would have some profile, but his expertise would still need to coincide with the sister institutions’ teaching needs, which are often already covered by people having similar profiles. You are invited if you have a particular, recognised expertise, not if you can offer something that internal staff can reliably do by itself. Meetings like the one held in Newbold, which takes place periodically, are key to make expertise and ideas emerge and build dialogue. Maybe it is not enough, but they are still very important for a small reality like Europe.

Sorry for the long tirade, but I do think that the way Union colleges have balkanised and cheapened education in Europe is suicidal financially, detrimental for students and destructive for the very ‘European Adventism’ project Hanz claims to support - theoretically . The situation is grave, but no college will say ‘I give up my portion’. The pie is ridiculously small, and reading one of the key players in this waste of money and resources (of course it would be better to have one or two bigger institutions with highly qualified faculties… but institutions like Villa Aurora went in the opposite direction!) preaching on this subject is frankly surreal.


#11

Hi Hopeful

I could give specific examples, but given that I have chosen not to be anonymous I prefer not to make the point personal.

My perception is based on trends and followings of the likes of Camp Meeting circuit speakers, books sold, TV personalities and their personal following.

Sensationalism sells, which highlights the dissonant gap between the academic elite and regular church attenders.

By contrast, ask how many of the issues published in The Journal of the Adventist Theological society, or Festschrifts will hit the High Street, or the public Press. Academics will argue, that they are not so intended.

I guess I am influenced by a Professor some years ago who response to an essay I considered profound was “So bl**dy what!” - uttered with the melody of supreme English elegance.

I read elsewhere this morning that Christianity began as a relational faith. The Greeks made it a philosophy, the Romans an institution, the Europeans a culture, and now the Americans make it an Enterprise. Between these lye our conflicts.


(Adrian P) #12

Your statement appears to assume a monolithic understanding of ‘true’ Adventism, whereas in Europe there are not only many cultures and ethnicities, but many ‘Adventisms.’ This may also be true of other areas of the world of course, but the particularities of European thinking, attitudes and history promotes even greater diversity and dare I write, plurality.

So I would ask what your definition or expectations are that lie behind your use of the phrase ‘Adventist’ - especially as you have already mentioned ‘proclamative Adventism’ as an option… or is this an imperative?


(Andrew) #13

I couldn’t agree with you more.

Having read this article, I’m not convinced I am able to dissect what it is taking about. It doesn’t seem to define what European Adventism is. I’m not sure there is such a thing.

I think this chap has been given a Latin to English dictionary for his birthday. Problem is, a dictionary will only translate the words you give it, it won’t make those words mean something useful.

Keeping that all in mind, Europe is not one single homogeneous culture. Geographically, it is relatively small but with very wide differences indeed.

Then you need to add on the ethnic breakdown within the SDA church in the various regions. I suspect these will not reflect their respective host country demographics.

So I am unclear what the problems are, or if there are any from this article.

The only one I can glean is the lack of demand, ie too few students. This, in my view, is the existential question for all Adventist institution, from local churches, upwards to address with a good degree of urgency.


(Sirje) #14

Amen…!


(Balancedbutpassionate Adventist) #15

Adrian

Your point is well taken. European Adventism is pluralistic - that’s a reality, and I would not want to suggest for a moment that there be only ‘one true Adventist expression of faith’. Diversity is a dynamic of the Creator.

I also accept as reality, that when a young Adventist student enters a theological college, their Christian faith / worldview experiences a ‘defragmentation’, as they unlearn much of their understanding of Adventism to that point (due to the exposure of digging theologically deeper). This is a positive and necessary experience for them.

But I wonder if it is the case (and this is only an impression of which I am cautious to be dogmatic about), that some coming out of the college, have experienced so complete a defragmentation about Adventism, never or unable to be re-built. They are more than committed to changing the world for Christ, with a wonderful post-modern church growth strategy (community centres, cafes, and messy church etc.), but it seems without a meaningful sense that the church they belong to, and are indeed employed by, is one with a prophetic mission and message.

‘Proclamative Adventism’ I would describe as having that humble and Spirit-empowered confidence to communicate the story of Christ, with a passion, enthusiasm - relevance, and indeed urgency - required for these troubled times. It is centred on the Cross of Christ, about what He has done for us in the past, is doing for us in the present, and will do for us in the very near future. The paradigm of holding an Adventist faith without a deep and mature sense of the ‘urgent’ is something I cannot understand.

Sure enought the ‘Kingdom of God has come - and is now’, and praise the Lord for that (a balance we should never forget). But look, the Kingdom of God is soon to be realised! Does that not still ‘shake the bones’ of the Adventist preacher before he enters the pulpit, young or old, in Europe. By the same measure, it needs to somehow also ‘shake the bones’ of the Adventist European teacher in the classroom. In fact, I don’t think the preacher will catch it, unless he sees it in the classroom. While post-modernity may suggest such a thought (the Second Coming of Christ) to be be just another meta narrative, the promptings of the Holy Spirit continue to suggest the narrative to be real and authentic.

I confess to embarassment over a ‘Proclamative Adventism’ that lacks theological depth, or for example makes its theological starting point / framework ‘The Sanctuary’ rather than ‘The Cross’. It also has a tendency to fear vigorous scholarship (or is inclined to deny the findings of scholarship), but instead holds in practise an ‘innerant view’ of scripture and Ellen White, and which in reality inclines to the ministry of the ‘closed mind’.

The good Dr. Paulsen during the heat of the La Sierra evolution / creation issue, made a very wise comment in relation to the Adventist College classroom philosophy. I can’t remember his exact words, but a paraphrase of them went something like this:

“If the teacher wants to take the student on a journey of discovery (and by implication outside of the Adventist box), that is sometimes necessary and all well and good. But, if the teacher does that, make sure that he/she brings the student back into faith fold, to ensure the student retains the faith and trust in God (and in Adventism) he had before embarking on the journey.”

Sure, quite a skill is required to do that. And that’s why the church rightly employs academics and theologians. They have a skill and giftedness most do not possess. And we should be gratful for them. There is no doubt that they ask many questions, and take students on many a journey of discovery, but in word and deed, do they continue to have a conviction regarding the prophetic element of Adventism, over and above the academic?

I’m very much looking forward to the publication of their collective thoughts from newly created NAP.


(Sirje) #16

Of course European Adventism is narcissistic - because Adventism, whether it be in Europe or Timbuktu is narcissistic. The belief that all sincere Christians will eventually join the Adventist church (in whatever form) is nothing but narcissistic. The belief that Adventism has nothing to learn from other religions is narcissistic. Not only do we need to learn to “dialogue”, but we need to learn to listen. “Dialogue” in Adventese means “find a way to get our message to others”. All in all, changing any of this, is a hopeless dream. The church is fractured because no longer can “dialogue” be controlled. A pin drops in Omaha, and it’s twittered, tweeted, or faced-booked all over the world. “The shot heard around the world” is literally heard around the world before its echo subsides.

I used to look at liturgical churches as cold and practically useless. Now, I think it’s the best way to do worship, as such. Talk about cultural influences on the church … it was 19th century culture that birthed the Adventist church; and a bunch of others.

Of course, Europe is no longer regionally homogenous. Europe has amalgamated as much as the US, if not more. The pomp and circumstance is still there in the form of ceremony; down on the street where people live, it’s another world.

It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out.


(Adrian P) #17

David, thanks for your gracious response.

As you say there is a degree of breaking down and building up, and the lecturers I had the pleasure of interacting with were always noticeably careful to meet the students where they were, so not pushing past breaking point. Returning to the fold of faith cannot just be a return to previously understood positions and value or even paradigms, but hopefully a deeper, richer understanding of the Christian experience - and I guess this is the challenge.

On the matter of methods being utilised, these may change, you refer to cafes and messy church, but I don’t think they necessarily stand apart from Adventist prophetic mission and message. They could also be understood to be contemporary reincarnations of that message. After all, camp meetings and evangelistic campaigns of 18th and 19th century American origin aren’t necessarily applicable now.


(Thomas J Zwemer) #18

Dr. Paulson came out of the European culture… he was a breath of fresh air. Tom Z


(Andreas Bochmann) #19

Norwegian Jan PaulsEn (please - not related with or to be mistaken for Kevin PaulsOn in any way) indeed graduated in missiology from the Lutheran faculty in Tübingen and was a long time teacher and principal at Newbold College. And indeed a breath of fresh air (still is, actually!)


(Thomas J Zwemer) #20

he wanted everyone that mattered to know but Ted. During the Brinsmead era, at a conference at GC headquarters some one commented that a comment by Des Ford was heterodox. the chair called a recess to look up the meaning of heterodox. Tom Z