This article leads me to think about something that I read, and that has resonated with me for quite a while. It stated that the Adventist church, and any Christian church, for that matter, that has the tendency to come down on the side of a fundamentalist interpretation and application of the biblical text, should spend lots of time in Romans 14:1-15:7. In this section, Paul identifies hot button issues that people seem to have been fighting over as the soul of their faith, and how they were to live that faith out. There seemed to be division, factions, judgement, and condemnation, over these issues. In order to steer the church away from this climate, Paul steered the entire controversy towards the category of “disputable matters,” and away from the category of theological absolutes.
Fundamentalism, by its very nature, tends towards an absolutist view of everything. There is no grey, only black and white. There becomes an inability to distinguish between majors and minors, and often a reversal of the two (see Jesus’ rebuke of the Pharisees in Mt. 23). There is no room for freedom and a diversity of views and practice, only uniformity. And, there is an ever increasing need to enforce that uniformity, by using the sacred text, and the creeds erected around it, as a bludgeon to quell any differences of thought, and branding those who hold them as heretics. In its most extreme form, it is spiritually bankrupt, showing no regard for the value and dignity of the other. The text, and ones view of how the text should be practiced, becomes more important than mercy and justice towards human beings, something that Jesus constantly argued against.
Paul, in this passage in Romans, also addressed this tendency, and held up faith, and the regard for the well being of one another as the highest values, beyond the imposition of our wills, or absolutist views of issues we may deem crucial, but that he deemed as disputable. He further called upon the strong in faith, those who are not bound up in an over-scrupulous and fear based belief system, to bear with the scruples of the weak…again, regard for the other as the highest value. His final call was to both sides, “Therefore, accept one another, as God in Christ has already accepted you.”
This seems to be a mindset so alien to Adventism at this stage of the game. SA, and the fallout, has borne witness to this. A church with 100,000 pages of extra biblical writing on every jot and tittle of life, and that has been used almost like a talmud, an entire book of 28 fundamental doctrines, that is the most detailed creed one can imagine, and an increasing predilection towards exercising topdown power through its organizational structure to ensure that creed, and even matters beyond it, are followed, already has a traditional culture in place that is quite resistant to the vision that Paul laid out in these chapters, of true Christian freedom, and community.
Revival and reformation? Begin looking here.