How Did We Become Enemies?

In recent years, there has been an increased use of “threat” language in Adventist circles. This seems to be in response to what are regarded as ungodly and worldly teachings permeating our faith community. Of course, the list of threats is not only subjective but often contentious. Out of this we are deeply divided and visibly polarized on various theological issues. Many of the questions that confront Adventism today go to the core of our identity. They touch on familiar topics, such as church governance, biblical interpretation, the role of Ellen White’s writings, apocalypticism, gender equality, and the inclusion of sexual minorities. One thing positive is that we all love the Bible, even though we disagree on how we interpret it. Even in conservative contexts, it is Adventists who are increasingly and openly critical of Adventism! But, as people who inherited an argumentative approach to interpreting Scripture, we prefer certainty over ambiguity, which makes it difficult to confess that we have no answer. In a world that is changing in unprecedented ways, we find it safer to be suspicious of what we don’t understand or dismissive about anything new. Tradition has become our hiding place; in defending it we find it easier to blame contemporary culture (often labelled as worldliness) for decreased religious interest or our failure to be effective in mission. 

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

You are always on point! Thanks!!


Brilliant! Spot on, and timely.


One of the main things that caused me to leave not only Adventism but Christianity was realizing that many of the issues Admiral highlights here have their roots at the absolute core of historical Christianity. The very success of Christianity can be linked to an ideology centered around exclusivity, homogeneity, and totalism, as James Rives argues in the paper highlighted at the link below. Modern values like diversity, tolerance, and empathy are in many ways directly opposed to the core historical values of Christianity. Diversity of opinion and thought was not valued, it was literally demonic for Christians. Folks like Ted Wilson are carrying on this tradition more or less directly with calls for church “unity” and the systematic othering and marginalization of out groups or heretics. This is not an Adventist problem, this is a Christian problem, and it goes right back to the beginning.

Paper Review Discussion: James Rives, Christian Expansion and Christian Ideology (NT Review Podcast, Ep. 40) - YouTube

Link to the Paper: (PDF) Christian Expansion and Christian Ideology | James Rives -


Another value that Christianity finds repugnant is self-reliance.

In theory Christians theology must pay lip service to the biblical concept of “working out one’s own salvation” but in practice this principle is rarely, if ever mentioned and is very low, if not last, in a list of purported worthwhile attributes.

In ancient times, humans were taught to heed their inner daemon and as recommended by Jungian psychology:

Christianity stands this inner guidance system on its head, drops the “e” and calls it a “demon” which is never to be trusted, leaving it adherents nowhere to turn but to scriptures of unknown origin and the interpretation of same by the clerical class whose primary interest is protection of the institution as well as what Mel Brooks referred to as their “phoney-baloney jobs”.


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Nothing makes people hate other people like religion. Even within Christianity, we all seem to hate each other. Don’t get me wrong, I am a believer, a Catholic now but was an Adventist for many years (ah, the irony!). A religion that believes in a loving God has the hardest time not hating others who do not see god the same way as they do. God gave us freedom of choice, but once you have the “truth”, then you are in trouble. I have said many times that the best argument against Christianity are Christians. Instead of living the message of the Great Unifier, they seem to easily embrace the Great Scatterer. Can we have strong believes and still tolerate others? or must we burn them at the stake (and once it was for real) for daring to not believe the same way we do? Dogma is the enemy of Truth. God, we will one day all find, truly does “not sweat” or petty theological wars. Love the Lord and Thy Neighbor, that was pretty simple once. Or maybe never was.



Aren’t you guys mixing up the Christian experience with the “religion” - more specifically, denominationalism - “my dad is bigger than your dad”. By Christian experience, I mean precepts of the ideology, to put a popular label on it. As you say, “God, we will one day all find, truly does “not sweat” petty theological wars. Love the Lord and Thy Neighbor, that was pretty simple once.” And still is.

People are fearful creatures, looking for security in numbers - that’s all.

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I think if you read the paper I included you’ll find that the author contrasts early Christianity with the many other forms of religious practice in the period. Those three areas of ideology I mentioned are all explicit differentiators from what eventually become known as “pagan” religion. I think that in many ways Judaism and then Christianity established and entrenched these totalizing ideas so completely that Western thought now has a hard time even separating totalizing and exclusionary religion from religion, period. In a real sense, the kind of “denominationalism” you are describing is a direct product of Christian tribalism. That’s hardly the only way to practice religion, or to live.

In short I’m contrasting religious “practice” where the adherents of “Christianity”, which is an established institution, - to what the followers of Jesus were before they were institutionalized. Jesus did not establish Christianity. Even Acts wasn’t written until long after Jesus left the scene (60 something AD). It was further institutionalized with Constantine and the rest is history, as they say. All religion is basically the same - a way to gather followers; and various ways of keeping them following. We can do Christ without Christianity. If you like community, then join a group.

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Define “hate.” Jesus defines it as murder or wanting someone’s death. (Compared to “love” as wanting the best for all people.) If we would stop throwing the term around like garbage, maybe we would find less “hate.”

I think “hate” is too strong a word for those who don’t think as we do in religion, politics or whatever. I am unaware of, after spending 20 years in denominational work, of anyone actually hating another religion or its members (unless they are on the fringes with bigger problems). Perhaps we need to stop labeling persons without really knowing them other than their associations.

I recognize this was not the case all through history, or we would not have had slavery and other heinous practices including the killing of dissenters.

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Another insightful article by this author that rings true on so many levels. Of course, groupthink has long been a curse of humanity. It seems to be getting worse when we thought tolerance would be increasing. In this church groupthink has become political and is generally influenced by cultures and traditions. Groupthink will be the enemy of freedom in the future.
I would suggest that making friends and getting to know others on a personal level is the best way to overcome differences. We need to see issues from their viewpoint and discuss ideas held in common before logically and gently attempting to persuade on a vital issue. People and church leaders will always disappoint us–expect it.

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It is rather naive to believe that there can be unity amongst members when there is diversity of beliefs on the fundamental beliefs of our faith. The Bible asks the question, “How can two walk unless they agree?”

If two friends are travelling to destination B and to get there, after coming to a crossroad, they must take highway D, no other will do. If after reading the map friend #1 concludes that Highway D is the one to choose and friend #2 concludes that Highway A is the correct way. At this point, it is only logical that the two will have to separate. They can continue to love each other but they cannot continue travelling together. As a matter of fact, friend #1 will have to warn others not to follow friend #2 if they too want to get to destination B.

But, in your example, you a human, is setting the parameters. Thankfully Christ says, just follow me and when the time is right, we reach the destination. Only humans seem to be the ones setting up exclusions to eternal life…as if they were in charge! :wink:


Those travelling to heaven are doing so on either the Broad Road or the Narrow Road. However, as Jesus noted, only the Narrow Road leads to eternal life. Jesus determines the road and we have to follow Him as He leads the way. The Broad Road will not do, no matter how sincere the travellers are, or how much they claim they love Jesus. As a matter if fact, He is calling His children travelling on the Broad Road to get off and get on the Narrow Road if they do not want to perish and miss out on eternal life.

Are you quoting the Bible or EGW?? Sounds more like the exclusion propaganda by ultra conservative side of SDA church, I prefer the words attributed to Christ, ‘I came not to condemn but to save, believe in me and be saved’!

The problem is we are all blind and cannot see which road is broad and which is narrow. We are lucky to see any road at all. The directions are not clear and open to interpretation. Best to make your own way there, by whatever means you can.


I suspect that just as all earthly roads lead to Rome, all spiritual roads lead to heaven.

As Paul Simon put it, “I have reason to believe that all will be received in Graceland.”



It is true that we are all born to some extent spiritually blind. However, God has given us all a measure of faith; a brain; His word, lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path; Jesus, the light of the world and the word in flesh; His prophet; and the Holy Spirit. All these sources are to open our eyes so that we can see and comprehend our way out of this world. We can choose to remain in darkness or refuse to follow the light. Jesus said that the condemnation that we have brought upon ourselves is that we love darkness more than the Light that has come into the world.

Mathew 7:13 and 14, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”

The picture you paint is the one by EGW of people climbing a narrow path and falling off of it…I reckon we have two different views of God. (text splatter doesn’t convince me) :wink: