Ecclesiastes 1:9 tells us there’s nothing new under the sun. And certainly, we have all witnessed cyclical debates, especially within the church. Music (in some way, shape, or form), dress, food, and how to worship are among the perennial topics. The sentiment of “leaving church but not God” is not a new one, but the topic has seen a resurgence in debates, both online and in real life.
Since it’s inception as an organized religion, Christianity has resisted every effort toward individual enlightenment and currently resents all of the personal freedom brought on by humanism and modernity.
So when someone abandons their perpetual negativity and defeatist approach to life, they insist this is due to resistance of their “truth” that Jesus is the only one who can save a person or the planet and blame the backslider for his inability to overcome his resentment at having been told throughout his life that his best efforts in any endeavor have always been, and forever will be “as filthy rags”.
In other words, yes, there is resentment when a person leaves “the church” but this starts with the resentment Christians feel whenever someone finds a way to improve the circumstances of his life, and get closer to his creator, with absolutely no help from them or their purported savior.
I agree with most of what was stated in this article. I have been part of efforts to keep one from leaving and get those that have left to come back. I remember as a pastor being discouraged because I had not managed to keep one from slipping away. But then other members told me of their efforts to “save” them from defection. The congregation had done an excellent and loving job. But of course issues can drive people from a congregation. So many issues.
But I do disagree with this. As a fundamentalist Adventist I know there will be all kinds of non-Adventists in heaven. The majority will NOT be Adventists. Jesus had other flocks, and EGW noted there were plenty of God’s people outside the SDA church. I don’t know where the author got that idea. There may be a few that think hat way, but I don’t know well, any.
The Adventist church has the best doctrines. It does not always live up to them. We are human and sinful. But our doctrines point to a wonderful Savior.
Hmmm…. The sexual revolutions was supposed to bring more happiness and more sex, but fewer people are getting married, meaning less commitment. More people are living alone or in their parent basement. Men are less likely to develop a relationship with a real woman, and there is even less sex among the young! The acceptance of homosexuality has led to confusion about gender among young people who had enough trouble with identity as it was.
I don’t see this as a positive development. But I am not resentful, just sad. And this business about teaching sex education or grades 1-3 is criminal. Give them a chance to be children.
Well, I studied my way out of the Adventist story line. Not having been born into “church” culture, I accepted the whole scenario of 1844 because it was part of a package, that ended with *Just as I Am, * right into the baptismal tank. I’m grateful it did. The lifestyle promoted by the church makes sense when you’re bringing up kids; and trying to keep therm safe from all kinds of influences - up to a point.
I guess a lot of people stop there, but since I had no particular allegiance to Ellen White, I kept studying; and when I found the church to be on the wrong track in some basic areas, in my naivety I asked one of my pastors what one does when EGW doesn’t square with the Bible, he said to “pray again”. This meant that the answers to my prayers had to agree with EW. That was a long time ago and the journey has been painful because I had no desire to leave the church. So, I left the church dogma, buit didn’t leave God.
This troubles me. The church does not teach that one must accept EGW to remain an Adventist. The pioneers did not teach this, and Ellen herself did not command it. In fact, just the opposite. There are issues with her, but she has guided the church to great benefit, including the life style you have noted. Her detractors have accentuated the negative, loosing the benefit of the good that comes with accepting her.
There is disagreement here, but accepting her is not required, even now.
I know a man who does not believe in Creation, and favors allowing gays to be members. He is quite supportive of the church otherwise, and is a true gentleman and has been one of my best friends. He is even an elder. He does not hold to an infallible EGW.
He keeps his views to himself, but would like to be free to express them which he does do in more private circumstances.
In a sense, when the church will not allow “room” for those who, in good conscience and sincerity, disagree with the “church” (local, conference, union or GC), the church is leaving them. And too often, those with fundamental disagreements with the “church” suffer in silence because their fellow believers don’t want to hear their concerns and struggles. “If you don’t like it, leave!” Who then, is doing the leaving?
Been there - done that. No one has ever had a problem with me. In fact, in one church they asked me to be SS superintendent, and I told the pastor I couldn’t take that position because I didn’t agree with everything the church teaches. He said “that’s ok, we all have our private view of things.” Either they were desperate to fill the position, or the guy was ahead of his time. I did take the position - and I behaved myself. There are more important things than to be right.
Thank you, Courtney Ray, for a timely, important, and beautifully expressed analysis of our assumptions about what “church” means and our relationships with its meanings and what it means to be a part of church. Very well done!
James, right? No, the church is not leaving them, They have changed their minds. The church is a volunteer organization of likeminded folk that have joined for mutual support and endeavors. If you no longer agree with the group and their thinking, what is the point? Or what does membership mean? Eventually, as more and more “grow”, to disagree, membership becomes meaningless, and the group stands for nothing. You got 5 likes, though Amazing.
The leadership knows the heterodox views of my friend. We all know how he feels. I have argued with him more about assurance and heaven than evolution or homosexuality. Actually we have not argued at all about those things. We love him and he knows it and he also knows there is no where else for him to go where he would find that love. And he loves us, BTW.
When I was at the seminary, I read the letters EGW had sent to Kellogg during the 1890s. They were motherly and full of kind advice. She also told him to keep his pantheistic views to himself. But of course he didn’t She still did not go after him, and had little to do with his disfellowship, though she did advise the church leaders to meet the crisis head on.
My! What a Christlike attitude! Jesus was right, while in heaven, but even though he was, he came to be with us who were quite wrong. There are more important things than being right.
Hmmmm. Quite the response. Oh, I don’t know, I have learned to like you, actually, and saw your little bubble below some comments, but no post. Just wondering what you were thinking.
I have noted that your responses to me are more on the order of “you are not acting like a Christina should”, rather than comments on content. I do not agree with many of the things you have posted, but so? Not a character judgement.
“Like-minded people”–what an innocuous phrase, Alan. In our own denominational history, that collection of believers did not exist as fully as you imply. EGW was a “legalist” until she heard Waggoner and Jones in 1888, but a much more balanced one than many other leaders. When D. M. Canright questioned the general belief that she was “verbally inspired” he was forced to leave. When A. G. Daniell’s suggested the belief in the Ellen White’ authority needed to be revised in 1919 (along with others), he was sacked at the next GC session. What about our racism for soooo long? Our demeaning of women? When will we ever learn? As the 60’s folk song intoned.
Baptismal candidates are commonly required to accept the Fundamental Beliefs.
Fundamental belief #18 The Gift of Prophecy
The Scriptures testify that one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is prophecy. This gift is an identifying mark of the remnant church and we believe it was manifested in the ministry of Ellen G. White. Her writings speak with prophetic authority and provide comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction to the church.
Courtney, I appreciate your article. Not sure how to reconcile it all.
I’m active in my local SDA church. But, in general I disagree with the denominational leadership and grapple if I should continue my association because it means I’m giving support to a system that I believe is discriminatory and often non-Christian. Additionally, I feel like I don’t particularly belong and don’t particularly want to belong. So perhaps my staying is hypocritical and I wonder if that is also non-Christian? I don’t want to stay because of guilt. But I don’t find the church to reflect my own sense of spirituality.
At the end of your article you suggest that even if someone has left the church it doesn’t mean they’ve left his. And, I wonder if even that is too limiting. A family member who was a committed SDA for several decades left the church. She did so because she felt that it was legalist and that the people involved were lying about their commitment to following that legalism. She has found a different faith, but it’s universal and not especially Christian. Did she leave His church? All I can say is she’s been a practicing member of that faith for longer than she was an SDA and she’s been much happier in her spiritual walk than she ever was an Adventist. Do we say that the Buddhist that is searching for truth in error? Or perhaps it’s a matter of our limiting one’s comprehension of the Divine? I cannot say.
While it seems reasonable to say that we cannot, by definition, speak to, for or about the ineffable, nor, due to the limitations of language, put into words that which is absolute, we can know The Divine and be sure that he, she or it, has the capacity to exist wherever consciousness exists.
In which case, the notion of leaving god when one leaves church is as silly as thinking that one can literally “lose his mind”, or exist apart from his senses.
To paraphrase Buckaroo Bonzai, “No matter where you go, there you [and god] are,” so it seems axiomatic that if there are any limitations on where our creator can go, or what he, she or it can do, those limitations have most likely been preconceived and created by us, his, her or it’s creatures.