People of the Book

I've seen several iterations of this online, and each time it makes me annoyed. Someone posts some wildly inaccurate meme about a biblical story. For example, a post incredulously asking how Adam and Eve are the common ancestors of all people if they only had 2 sons. Even a cursory reading of the source material demonstrates that this “smoking gun” simply gets the points incorrect and that the Bible clearly notes that besides Cain and Abel they had “other sons and daughters” (Genesis 5:4). I mean the birth of Seth is in the same chapter as Cain and Abel (Genesis 4) and shows shows the “2 sons” claim is wrong right off the bat. And, this sort of fast and loose criticism of the Bible is not relegated to social media. Years ago, I stopped listening to NPR’s Science Friday after an episode where host Ira Flatow had a “debate” about Intelligent Design where the evolution expert confidently asserted the ridiculousness of Creation including the act of Adam putting two of each animal on the Ark. Obviously, no one says everyone on earth has to subscribe to every belief system, but at the very least, get the basic facts of your disagreement correct. But the part that is most irritating isn't the blatant ignorance of those casting out these erroneous points, it's that the Christians around them allow them to go unchecked.

In the case of the Science Friday episode, while the person opposing Intelligent Design was some sort of scientist by profession (so many years later, I can't recall which field), the guest brought on to engage him was a generic Christian who—as far as could be told by her introduction—had no scientific background whatsoever. The entire setup was appalling on several levels. And while I definitely found the uneven matchup to be farcical for a show on science, I couldn't help but have a bit of my irritation directed at the Christian guest as well. After all, some of the things being said were things your average Sabbath School (or Sunday School) teacher should have been able to refute. Yet they were glossed over uncorrected. Likewise, these social media comments opposing the Bible are often flooded with responses by Christians who defend the Word with such statements like, “well you just can't understand if you don't have faith”. Hmmm. How about, “your foundational premise is off, read the Bible before commenting about it”. Now I'm definitely not advocating that believers should start arguing with folks each and every time they come across one of these postings. However, if you insist on wading into the fray, you ought to dispute the original false statement. But I'm embarrassed to note that even on my friends’ timelines, I've seen them engage in protracted and heated exchanges with nonbelievers where no attempt has been made to disabuse them of the things they thinkthe Bible says.

Why does this happen? It’s not that these believers are simply ignoring the content to avoid argument. Obviously, they are willing to participate in the dialogue. The only logical conclusion is that these Christians themselves are ignorant to what the Word says! It's a sad commentary on the state of Biblical literacy among Christians. This is a ubiquitous problem throughout Christendom: while Adventists used to boast about being “People of the Book”, the ignorance is observable in our denomination as well. I recall starting a new church assignment and asking for youth and young adult volunteers to help with VBS. There were several willing helpers, for which I was grateful. But I saw that many of the volunteers often knew just as much or less about the Biblical topics as the children did!

Pastors and bible workers do members a disservice when we provide fill in the blank Bible Study guides as the extent of baptismal preparation and evangelism. And we shouldn't use quarterlies with “here's the answer to the question right in this sentence” and call that discipleship. When parents send students to our academies and colleges and become incensed that their children are challenged to use critical thinking, we fail on two fronts: 1- by having set up the expectation that our institutions’ primary goal is indoctrination and 2- when we acquiesce to their demands and reprimand instructors or water down curriculum. Sadly, our young people often learn the broad strokes of Bible stories as presented on felt boards and never graduate to more detailed, refined, or nuanced understandings of the Bible. This is not to say that everyone ought to be a Hebrew and Greek scholar, but knowing that all of the animals weren't taken to the Ark two by two is a low bar to strive for.

And as much as I can criticize our churches and church schools, there also exists a level of individual responsibility. In the vast majority of the world, it's relatively easy to get a physical copy of the Bible and/or access to a Bible app or online version. There's little excuse for people not to read it for themselves. There may be times where, like the Ethiopian court official (Acts 8), it becomes necessary for someone to help explain finer points to aid in understanding. But not understanding some of the theological details doesn't preclude one from studying the salient and simple concepts.

With half of the year behind us, many folks have long forgotten their New Year's resolutions (if they made any). If you recognize the fact that you likely need a boost in your Bible knowledge, why not take advantage of this opportunity to make a “Half Year resolution”? Start a Bible reading plan that will carry you through the next 6 months. Join or form a small group or class to supplement your Sabbath School class. Get a reading buddy or book club friend and focus on a book of the Bible. Because if we want to claim that we're “People of the Book”, we have to first open the Book. And the next time God gives you a chance to have a meaningful conversation about the Word with someone who is confused about the Bible, you can share something more substantive than, “just have faith”.

Courtney Ray is an ordained pastor in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

If you respond to this article, please:

Make sure your comments are germane to the topic; be concise in your reply; demonstrate respect for people and ideas whether you agree or disagree with them; and limit yourself to one comment per article, unless the author of the article directly engages you in further conversation. Comments that meet these criteria are welcome on the Spectrum Website. Comments that fail to meet these criteria will be removed.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8094
2 Likes

In Adventist worship services, the “Scripture Reading” is usually one or two verses at most–the excuse used to justify this is that we can read scripture for ourselves, privately.

I’m not sure just how we can call ourselves “People of the Book” when in our public worship we pretty much ignore it. Too often, we don’t talk much about Jesus, either. Just last Sabbath I attended an Adventist service in which it seemed to me that most of the talk was about “us” and “the church” and “our responsibilities.” The “Scripture Reading” was one verse, hardly enough to get anyone’s attention.

The custom of reading scripture aloud in worship is an ancient one (see Luke 4)–and it is sometimes argued that in those days it was more important than it is now, because most people were illiterate; if they were to hear the scriptures, someone had to read to them. But hearing the Word read aloud is a special and invigorating experience, which is not duplicated by private, silent reading. If we want to be “People of the Book” we could start by including more scripture reading in our public worship.

11 Likes

Mr D –
Hearing the Word goes through different pathways than just looking at words silently.
Hearing also allows one to “vision” the events of sayings heard.
On a number of occasions I have received new insight on a familiar set of verses when I heard it spoken, and not just read.
There are a number of Denominations who follow a yearly Lectionary to be read in church on a weekly basis. Old Testament, Psalm, New Testament, Gospel. After 52 Sabbaths one would hear a lot of Scripture.

One neat daily devotional is Forward Day By Day. Has a short comment. In addition it encourages one to read the Psalm, Old Testament, New Testament, Gospel every day with appropriate texts provided.
It follows the Liturgical Year.

Yes, I have been in SDA churches whose tradition is one or two verse “Scripture Reading”. And quite often does not mirror the Sermon.
Some of the Best Sermons I have heard have been 15 to 20 minutes in length [not SDA].
For some reason SDA pastors believe sermons are required to be close to 45 minutes.

6 Likes

In your opening paragraph you say, “the act of Adam putting two of each animal on the Ark.” Adam did not put any animals on the ark. Noah did. Not sure if that was the evolution expert or you who made the error. However, in a column about biblical accuracy, that error matters.

“The findings of the Barna Research Study of June 2001 should concern us (SDA). In comparing seven religious practices of 12 major denominations, the Barna Study concluded that Seventh-day Adventists ranked number seven in the frequency of Bible reading, and only number twelve in prayer practices. The Barna study correlates with a survey (3,646 surveys returned) by the Institute of Church Ministry at the Seventh-day Adventist theological seminary at Andrews University reveals that only 51% of the Seventh-day Adventist administrators, pastors, and lay people who responded have any form of daily devotions and family worship. These studies indicate that Seventh-day Adventists in some places are no longer the “People of the Book.”

http://www.adventistchurchconnect.com/churchnewstext.php?id=1836

In 3 different SDA churches , as guest speaker, I presented an exposition of the letter of Jude. I asked that all 25 verses be the scripture reading.
One SUNday, I visited 5 churches: Catholic, Pentecostal, Baptist, Presbyterian, mega non-denom.
In almost all cases more scripture is read using the missal in Catholic churches than in most SDA churches.

Too much apathy & fear in SDA churches. Try asking who/how many even read the 166 verses of 1 & 2 Peter last quarter for Sabbath school. It is a challenge to get the SS superintendents or teachers to even read the verses for their weekly segment
Most will not even read the149 verses of Galatians…if they even attend Sabbath school!

Some surveys (check Google) reveal that 75%-90% of churchgoers have never read the whole bible. (about 31,000 verses)

An incoming SDA pastor asked his congregation how many of his 200 members had read the whole bible…answer-6
The new testament is just under 1/4 of the bible and most have never even read that.

SDA pastors , for the most part , do not encourage bible reading because of the type of homiletics they are stuck in. They present cut & paste NON FAT DRY MILK TYPICAL TOPICAL SERMONS. after 1 to 3 verses have been read for the scripture reading.

It is going to stay that way because almost all SDA ministerial directors are inept and don’t really care about the quality of sermons presented unless it is so different that the tithe income is significantly decreased.

And most SDA members don’t care because it makes little difference what a religious shallow pep talk/chew out lecture does in 30-45 minutes compared to the balance of their 7000 weekly waking minutes filled with worldly, carnal junk.

BIBLE-----“That which was to the carnal mind a desolate wilderness, to the spiritual mind becomes a land of living streams. That which to the unrenewed heart appeared a barren waste, to the converted soul becomes the garden of God, covered with fragrant buds and blooming flowers.” FCE 182

I never invite any “Christian” associates to an SDA worship service. Too disappointing & embarrassing.

Want to really have a wake up call? Ask as many SDA pastors, as you can, to write on a 3X5 card their concept of “gospel”. “grace” & salvation & then compare the results & even dare to read the responses in church!!

3 Likes

We have become institutionalised robots following a prescribed script sanctified by time and those Anventist saints whom we have beatified and pedestalised. Rote. Rust. Rot.

2 Likes

I never all my life hve read the Bible in the mode “OneYear - Three Chapters the Day” (or something like that). That is not my personal way to study. But I almost know by heart the book of Job, the Song of Solomon, theh book of Hebrews (the NT texts in the original language).

Find your own way, for example rading loud ( ! ) , repeatedly, maybe in a group, together. Write the text by your handwriting and check for not leaving out onde word !

By the way : Do you have marked iBible, in use for decades ? - well then check what al we never did study in Sabbathschool. ow come ?

2 Likes

As a kid, I remember being taught that we once were called the people of the book. I grew up, honestly believing in the “people-of-the-book” concept. When asked why I did or did not do things, I answered that “because it’s in the Bible”. It took me years to find out that this is a misnomer, at least in the context of Adventism. In fact there is a long history starting in the days of Ellen White that shows that ministers in- and outside the church who challenged unbiblical doctrines were rejected or even defrocked (Long, Ballenger, Fletcher, Ford, Ratzlaff, …).
Adventist teaching loves to elaborate on ideas which are of minor significance and emphasis in Scripture - and sometimes even absent. Examples are 1844, the Sabbath in the Christian context or the emphasis on healthful living. I am disappointed that the need to save face seems of greater importance than following the book.
I am afraid that a sincere desire to be a person of the book will lead one away from Adventism, not to it.

7 Likes

Courtney,

My counsel to you (tongue in cheek) would be to be careful what you wish for. Allow me to explain:
About five years ago I decided to get serious about studying the Bible. I had been an Adventist for quite a few years, had even facilitated a SS class for several years, but had never disciplined myself to take time each day and read through the entire Bible. So, I found a program to read it in one year, got myself several versions including more literal translations (translators have biases) and took the time to study it as I read.
I was so excited about what I was finding that I couldn’t keep quiet about it at church. I ended up confusing and thus upsetting the other church members (at least partly because I had gained new understanding about some of the ‘problem’ passages that tend to be ignored in Adventism). The result is that I felt it best to leave. So, you could say becoming a ‘person of the book’ led me right out of the Adventist church.

Concerning the Bible itself, one reason God had it written is to increase our faith. ‘So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.’ (Rom 10:17).
In several ways it really is ‘the living word’. It’s central teaching, the gospel, imparts new creation life to the believer. 1Peter 1:23 says, 'for you have been begotten again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.'
Also, I have learned that almost all the stories, characters and events have prophetic significance and have been repeated through history in various guises. In a sense, they too are given new life. One commentator whom I regularly read says that we are currently working through a modern version of the OT miracle signs of Elijah/Elisha in preparation for the Lord’s coming. If you are open to something quite different, take a look:
http://www.gods-kingdom-ministries.net/daily-weblogs/2017/07-2017/update-on-coming-events/

2 Likes

And yet, sadly, the majority do not. I haven’t seen a recent statistic, but in the past, when Adventists were asked about their habits of Bible study (or lack thereof), only a minority engaged in daily Bible study. This almost guarantees ignorance about Biblical teachings, and sets one up to be deceived. Jesus said that if it were possible even the elect would be deceived. What keeps them from being deceived? They know the truth and are not fooled by the devil’s delusions. And the only way to really know the truth is to be a diligent student of the Bible.

And how many times have you heard a Christian speak of Eve “eating the apple,” never mind that the variety of fruit is never mentioned, only that it came from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

This is not unusual, because the goal is not to arrive at the facts but to make “Bible-thumping” Christians look like ignoramuses. They wouldn’t dare bring in a Christian scientist who knows the many flaws in the evolutionary model, because it could embarrass the “real” scientist.

1 Like

Although I was raised, baptized, and educated as an SDA, I have never heard of the church being labeled as such. I left the church in my 20’s because my spiritual needs were not being, And why were they not satisfied? Probably because the study of the whole Bible was not really promoted as essential to one’s spirituality. Sure, as a Pathfinder I memorized several passages such as Psalm 23, The Lord’s Prayer, etc. And in college, I took the necessary religious courses, but not of it really gave a firm spiritual foundation where I could say this is what I believe to be the truth and show it from the Bible. Sad to say there was no real connection between my faith and the Scriptures even though I was faithfully attending church and school. Happily, I left to find answers to my questions elsewhere. I am one of those people who knock on your door and offer Bible literature. Having been an SDA long ago and now practising something else, I don’t see how the church can truly call itself “People of the book”

1 Like

People of the Book OR People of the Book(s).

Why is it that when I want a proof text, some one will quote a Red Book? Same thing with Johava Witnesses. “Its in the Bible”/“That’s not the Bible”/“We all know the Prophet is with out error”/“No WE don’t”

I wish the “People of the Book” had a simple understanding of the history of the Book.
Erasmus adding the Trinity proof text.
King James wanting a Bible that holds up the Church of England and lessen the “Puritan movement”.
Catholic involvement.
Why no Adventists on the Council of Trent.

1 Like