Perspective: Can a Church Survive if It Gives Up Its Sectarian Identity?


(George Tichy) #163

Both, you and Ken @kennlutz should make an appointment with @elmer_cupino - FAST!!!


(Aage Rendalen) #164

What I like about Bonhoeffer is that, like Jesus, he framed issues mostly in ethical terms. Intellectually, I have problems with his epistemology. To me, it seems that he and the other neo-orthodox “Barthians” preached with a certainty that was based in the inherent appeal of the Gospel and this in the face of scholarship that should have deprived them of such clarity of message. To my knowledge, there is no indication that Bonhoeffer disagreed with Wellhausen or family friend von Harnack or the Tübingen (Protestant) “school” of theology in general (he spent a year at Tübingen himself). And yet, he would preach like a fundamentalist and not like a classic liberal.

In the context of “sect vs church,” it seems like his was an example of how an established and polished church was able to reinvigorate itself in opposition both to the flaccid theology of liberalism (properly bearing that name) and the nation’s betrayal of the ethical values of Christianity. it could be argued (I certainly would) that Bonhoeffer is the second coming of Kierkegaard, and that he represents a possible future for the Christian church, but personally, I need to feel rational ground under my feet. While I can join in and support an ethical stand rooted in metaphysical soil, I need history and the facts to bear up under any rational restatement of belief. My ethics are informed by common-sense humanism and doesn’t need a supernatural superstructure to be functional. I hope I would have had the courage to join Bonhoeffer in opposing the Third Reich, but I could not muster the cognitive dissonance required to preach like him.


(George Tichy) #165

Just imagine what his post-war works would have been if the war had ended two weeks earlier!


(Andreas Bochmann) #166

Thank you for you fascinating analysis of Bonhoeffer. Indeed, he is an enigma to both, the “liberals” as well as the “conservatives”. He doesn’t fit the typical patterns and drawers. (Which for me doesn’t make him less authentic, but more so).

My reference was to Bonhoeffer’s approach “weltlich von Gott reden”, speaking of God in an a-religious, secular manner and opposing using God as a Lückenbüßer (God of the gaps). I thought with your statement you were saying something very similar - even if from a different perspective.


(Robert Sonter) #167

Apparently a stiff tipple helped as well (or at least, didn’t do her too much harm) :smile:


(Andrew) #168

A stiff tipple, or 2…or 3…or 4…or; oh just give me the bottle!


(Elaine Nelson) #169

Maybe I should try the same?


(Aage Rendalen) #170

I like the idea of “Weltlich von Gott reden” (I haven’t read enough Bonhoeffer to have come across the term before). I remember Raoul Dederen offering as his opinion that Augustine was arguably the greatest theologian of the Christian church because he was able to speak to his contemporaries in a way that resonated with them. That is a difficult feat to repeat. As you know, Europe is full of progressive pastors and priests who are fluent in the cultural language of today, and yet there is very little of what they say that resonates. I’m reading Faust for the first time these days, and these lines came to mind:

Ja, Eure Reden, die so blinken sind,
In denen Ihr der Menscheit Snitzel kräuselt,
Sind unerquicklich wie der Nebelwind,
Der herbstlich durch die dürren Blätter säuselt!

Oh yes, your flashy speeches
whose contents has been scratched out of mankind’s literary droppings
are as devoid of life as the fog-swept wind
which sweeps through autumn’s dried-up leaves.

And although Goethe is more concerned about philosophy than theology at this point, his lines catch the despair with which today’s Christians see their words swept out to sea. Personally, I don’t see how the Christian church can rebuild in a secular society where caring governments provide material help much more efficiently than any church, where humanists often are much more sensitive to people’s emotional needs than the church (just think LGBT issues) and where metaphysics is only celebrated in ritual but not in prose.

I hadn’t heard the term “God as a Lückenbüßer”–somebody who makes it up to people for the bad luck they might have had in life–but (if that’s what he meant by the term), that’s certainly one thing I had in mind. Especially, here in the US, you see people very committed to religiosity, while being strongly opposed to the ethics of the gospel. I imagine that is because they see religion as merely a way to advance their own interests. To them, it’s all about the right opinions, not the right attitudes.


(Andrew) #171

Temptation! Could you have a few, and then write in this forum, perhaps to Kevin Paulson, so we can know what you… Really think!


(Elaine Nelson) #172

That’s something others can do. I would not hesitate to drink if I liked it but I do not care for any of it. Although at extended family gatherings there is ample wine and beer for those who like to drink with, or after meals. Odd; neither I nor my two daughters care for alcoholic beverages; son likes beer, but no indulgence.


(Allen Shepherd) #173

Well put. I have also thought he was an enigma as well. I have read Cost of Discipleship a couple of times. Very sobering and convincing. But his difficulties with the Lutheran church in Germany led him to sort of give up on organized religion altogether. His last letters seemed to me to be very dark and difficult. And yet he was willing to take the chance to kill Hitler, and gave his life for such an endeavor. I have thought, would I be willing to go so far?

I have taken comfort in the promise that we will be provided strength at the time needed.


(Rheticus) #174

I have been thinking about this article in the context of the Christians V LGBT that is racking our country at the moment.

I think the “sect v mainstream” is just a variant of this.

It seems that Christian leaders prefer to have an identifiable enemy that they can point to, a distinct wall around their camp with bogeymen outside.

With SdA’ism, it was “us v the fallen Church”. With the LDS and the JW, it was similar. With mainstream churches it was largely “Catholic v Protestant” with a little “v Jew and Muslim”. Now it is more “Christian v. Muslim”.

What a sad way to motivate followers.


(Rodin) #175

David, I think you may be correct that both views were “church” in their respective denominations/faith traditions.

So…and maybe Aage or a trained sociologist can comment on this…could it be that “respectable” in another denomination doesn’t mean it is respectable in (y)our own? And thus, what is “church” somewhere else is still “sect” here? I think that is almost a certainty, isn’t it, or else we wouldn’t have denominations?


(Rodin) #176

Anne, thanks for sharing this interesting family history. It is indeed an intriguing observation! I’d be interested to know if there are other defining characteristics of your family that correlate with this church-hopping behavior. You mentioned the movement westward. Is the constant churning of religious affiliation correlated with pioneer/explorer behavior? Is it correlated with innovation, perhaps? It would also be interesting to find a family that has stayed true to the family religion for many generations. Do they perhaps have correlated behaviors that are different (opposite?) to those in your family? It would all make a fascinating study to read!


(Thomas J Zwemer) #177

The critical point of Adventism is the elevation of EGW to the level of an apostle. Her role within Adventism has grown exponentially each time
Her writings have been challenged. But it remains largely a facade as the institutional bulwark against dissolution. The One Project is the last attempt at salvage. The next generation will be congregational in the Western world. Tom Z


(Rodin) #178

Bille, I listened to “Meaning” and enjoyed it, and have marked my calendar to listen to the others as time allows.

I don’t think your last paragraph adequately answers kennlutz’s question, “What is the purpose, the meaning of SDAism?” “A deep love for God and a desire to be with Him” may justify being a Theist or even a Christian, but it doesn’t seem sufficient justification for the category of “Seventh-day Adventist”.


(Rodin) #179

I am not sure we should blame the Christians so much as the politicians. I think Christians are being exploited–“played”–by politicians who are adept at identifying and exploiting “wedge issues” to achieve their electoral goals. Christians are certainly complicit, but I think politicians are those primarily responsible.


(Anne Marbury) #180

Rodin, I would love to hear from people who have researched their own SDA background. Obviously, no one has been SDA very long so they were something before. I have tried to find where every branch became SDA (annoying all my older relatives–even though they are all SDA–this is not a topic that is normally dwelled upon in our denomination). I’m simply interested in finding if there really might have been a “type” of person who was drawn to this message. I can only say that they were all living in frontier-type locations. None lived in established older parts of the country.
I live in the east now, although no one in my family has lived here since the early 1800s. In this region Adventism did not even begin to be preached until after 1900 and later. This is bizarre to me. My family were all SDA by this point because all lived on a frontier somewhere. Of course, the frontier was many places over time and was not what we think if as the “west”.
Most people would probably find the same “church hopping” in their own families if they looked, unless their family lived in Europe or in the eastern US and did not move.
I simply find this interesting and think that the SDA church is really a frontier church.
Anyone out there who has researched this?


(k_Lutz) #181

I have not ‘researched’ this. A portion of my mom’s side of the family is out of New Hampshire, Farnsworth by name, of Washington. I believe he was instrumental in positing Sabbatarianism in Adventist belief. His daughter, Loretta, the first of his second wife, mothered my G-Ma, Gladys, along with her brother, Doris (who married EGW G-daughter through Willie), by Asa Robinson, groundbreaker of SDA missions to Africa. These are family stories, conveyed by G-Ma’s cousin Mabel Robinson Miller in “William and His Twenty-Two” and “Stories of My Grandmother” - perhaps you’ve read them as a Pathfinder in the mid 20th century.

So I must disavow your perception that the Advent message was not preached in the east until the early 20th C., though it had certainly waned as the Whites, Loughboroughs, etc. had migrated west to Michigan in the latter 19th C.

Yet, as to your premise “that the SDA church is really a frontier church” I see no substantial arguments against. Except, perhaps, that instead of being church, it is sect. And decidedly so. Even after the QOD debacle.

Trust God.


(Joe Erwin) #182

Hello Anne, this is quite interesting to me.

My great-grandparents on Mom’s side (Preston/Robinson) were adventists in Oregon by the late 1800s. They were definitely frontier people. Grandpa Preston was from upstate NY originally and Grandma Addie Robinson Preston was from Michigan. Addie had three great uncles who were early Methodist circuit-riding preachers in Oregon/California/Washington. Some were in Oregon by the 1840s–which is early times in Oregon. Those Prestons trace all the way back to the Salem witch trials (both accused and accusers). Others on Mom’s side of the family were Lutherans, Baptists (including Roger Williams), and Presbyterians.

On Dad’s side, his parents converted to adventism in Fayetteville, Arkansas, before he was born (early 1900s). Someone left a tract at their door, they read it, believed it, and converted. His mother was from early Baptist frontier preachers who moved from Virginia to Kentucky in the 1780s and established many little churches in KY and Indiana. My paternal grandfather was from Quaker, Dutch Reformed, and Baptist roots. Also, some Anglican and Congregational. Interestingly, one of his direct ancestors was William Stone, the 3rd governor of Maryland in colonial times (the 1st protestant governor). He signed the act of religious tolerance in 1649, but this resulted in an armed rebellion by the “puritan” congregationalists who were adamantly opposed to tolerance of any religion but their own. This line was also very much a frontier family. During nearly every generation they moved to new places, some establishing a monthly meeting in NC, then on to Indiana. Others establishing “low Dutch” colonies in PA and KY, etc.