In order to highlight the great feedback we often receive as comments to the articles on the Spectrum Website, the editorial team has introduced the Friday feature, The Best of the Comments. Spectrum editors select comments that exemplify respectful discourse and that further the conversations that begin with Spectrum's articles and news stories. Here are eight noteworthy comments from this week's stories, with links to the articles under which the comments appeared. -Editors
In response to "I Thought About Leaving the Adventist Church," by Sarah Ventura:
Comment by efcee: There is no virtue to either staying with or leaving the SDA denomination. The only virtue is to follow wherever the Spirit of God leads. One can't spend too much time in any denomination without coming to the conclusion that no two people accept an entire statement of beliefs in the same manner. That is, unless the doctrinal statement is mercifully brief. If you were to poll all Adventist pastors on their personal harmony with SDA 28 fundamental beliefs, you will not find harmony among them, so why look for it among the general membership? When I look around for a church to join, I look for one that has an understanding of scripture that most closely harmonizes with the teachings of Jesus as I understand them. What else could I possibly do? I know I will never find a church that harmonizes completely with my understanding of scripture, so I choose the one that comes closest to the mark. I also have a second choice in case I ever find the current choice to become too offensive to the reputation of God. I certainly don't recommend that anyone join or remain in a church where they have strong disagreements with the truly fundamental doctrines - that wouldn't make much sense. Theologian Herman Hoeh once wrote, "You can't JOIN the true Church; ONLY GOD CAN PUT YOU INTO IT BY HIS SPIRIT." The fact that the SDA church continues to update its statement of fundamental beliefs is proof positive that our understanding of correct doctrine changes through time. Our need to vote on those updates is proof positive that we do not all agree on how those beliefs should be expressed. Some day I'd like to meet a person who has found a church with a completely flawless set of doctrines. I'd like to join it. But I'm afraid that my membership in that church would give me no additional virtues or claims to Christ's righteousness than I already possess.
Comment by James Christianson: As I read all of the critical comments to this article I understand why our church is not growing in North America. Christianity and yes, even Adventism is a journey and each person is at a different level of maturity and understanding with their creator...how can we not see that? Last year I brought a friend to church, after they had been coming on a regular basis for 2-3 months someone in our leadership asked me in a very curt way, "so are they coming here to be Adventist or are they just coming to come?" I was floored. Just a couple months into this journey and people in our church wanted them to be Adventists or to not come at all, as if following a set of 28 rules exactly how they are written is really all that is necessary to have a relationship with Christ. People, the work of the Holy Spirit is not our job and we need to give people the space to grow in their understanding, to grow in Christ. I applaud Sarah for asking difficult questions and for wrestling with what she believes (far too many are too afraid to do this and like the Jews in Jesus' time, . She will stay and hopefully the conversations continue and her understanding will grow with the help of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said in Matt 23:27 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. 28 Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness." Sarah, your heart is open to God, keep seeking Christ, he will not fail you.
Comment by Second Opinion: I want to be supportive of this young author. She has sincere conflicts with some of the denomination's positions on social issues, and she would not be alone! However, the premise that "I get to decide what Adventism is" may be a bit of a misnomer. From a sociological standpoint, we know that "Sheila-ism" (as Robert Bellah first called it in Habits of the Heart) has been around for quite awhile. "Designer religion" is part and parcel of the autonomous nature of contemporary religious experience. Yet, even if you agree with the idea that "I get to decide," you still have to acknowledge that you may be in danger of overlooking what so many others have "decided" before you. Sure, you can "undecide" some of what has been agreed upon by others, but you will always be indebted to (or perhaps limited by) a tradition that, at best, you must navigate. It may be more accurate to say that we all stand, one way or another, on the Adventist scaffold. We get to work on the building, renovating here and there or bringing things up to code, but we stand on a framework of belief and meaning erected by others.
In response to "Adventists in the Spotlight," be Loren Seibold
Comment by Herold Weiss: It is a sad truth that the Adventist church at one time did wish to escape being classified as a cult or as a fundamentalist, but it has become a fundamentalist denomination. In the late fifties and early sixties when the famous dialogue with the evangelicals was taking place those involved in the dialogue did try to have the church seen as evangelical, but not fundamentalist. The sticky point was belief in verbal inspiration and Bible infallibility. Because the adventists would not agree to these doctrines the dialogue with the evangelicals broke down. At the time I was a visiting faculty as a Sabbatical replacement at Emmanuel Missionary College and Dr. Edwin Thiele was my chairperson. He would get quite excited when the details of the dialogue with the evangelicals was discussed and some were pushing for verbal inspiration. He had demonstrated that there was error in the Bible and his demonstration was in a textbook being used in Seminaries around the world. It is a sad thing to see that the number one Fundamental Belief states that the Bible is the "written" word of God and that it is infallible.
Comment by Bjork: Great piece of writing Loren. I can say that I do fall into the third group "faith doesn’t rely on these frightening prophetic narrative." The whole obsessing about the end of the world, how it will happen, and who will be at fault seems to be a very unhealthy mindset. It is fine to mull it over occasionally but to make it the supreme focus. End of the world obsession also infringes on currently living life and causes paranoia. Am also extremely amused by the obsessive following of many when it comes to conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories that have been proven wrong and flawed, time and time again. In fact some conspiracy theories are so demented, I am usually pretty certain that those telling me them have a mental health disorder to even believe them in the first place. With this said. I am married to extremely lapsed Catholic. He finds it uncomfortably annoying how SDA's spout random bits of information about the Pope and follow that up with the end of the world prophecy. He says, how would SDA's feel if the Catholic church was running around saying this same unfounded information/gossip about the Ted Wilson and Doug Batchelor along with church leaders. SDA's would shriek about persecution. Yet, we feel free to do this to the Catholics and live with our own end of the world mythologies as if they are truth and reality. Luke 6:31 covers this: " Do to others as you would have them do to you." and Mark 12:31: "The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." Eventually the world will probably end. It may be the way SDA's predict, or could happen in a far different manner then we ever thought possible. In the meantime, maybe we should stop obsessing over our possible future. Start living in the present. Hug our children, make pumpkin pie, and remember what Proverbs says: There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community. Proverbs 6:16-19 (NIV)
In Response to "Ryan Bell Disinvited by Pacific Union College," by Jared Wright
Comment by Beth: Speaking as an ex-SDA, now nonbeliever, I think it was the correct decision given the mission of the school. The concern that exposure to new and different ideas will make some students reject SDA teachings and even religion itself is a valid concern. Religious beliefs sometimes survive careful reasoning, and sometimes they don't. The reasons depend on all sorts of things, but pretending that religious beliefs automatically hold up if the person is thoughtful and prayerful about examining them is just that - pretending. It is a common belief that people do not reason their way out of either the SDA faith or religious belief in general. They instead reject God due to sin issues or psychological problems or some other personal defect. However, thoughtful, prayerful people are losing their faith in accelerating numbers right now, and it is partly because they are exposed to ideas that end up making more sense to them than their original ideas did. If the school does not want to be blamed for adding to those numbers, it is wise to limit exposure to those ideas. If the school wants to strengthen those beliefs, they are better served by bringing in someone who doubted but ultimately kept their faith, rather than someone who doubted but ultimately lost their faith due to believable reasons that the student hadn't really thought of before. Ryan is also correct to hold up the mirror and show that this is what is going on. If it makes you feel better that PUC did this, then your student is probably at the right place.
Comment by Terry L Anderson: Listening to serious people and ideas one disagrees with may be the best way to affirm one's own opinions and beliefs. It is never wrong to explore the reasons for your beliefs.
Comment by Keith Paulusse: I am not an atheist, I believe in a God as modelled by Jesus Christ, I do not believe in a supernatural intervening God. I like many of Ryan's philosophies and ideas they are not rampantly anti Christ. He truly demonstrates critical thinking and assessment skills, these test for truth and expose error. By dis-inviting Ryan from PUC Heather Knights letter clearly shows her attempt to keep students passive and apathetic, and tries to manipulate their thoughts, frightened that they will be exposed to the great challenges of the great thinkers and scientist of our time. Iam a big fan of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hopkins, Thomas Paine , and atheist David Attenborough famed BBC wild life presenter. Yet I am a greater fan of Jesus Christ because I was able to use my critical thinking and reasoning skills while being exposed to great ideas and challenges in comparing the thoughts of these great men, testing for truth to ensure my faith is not a blind faith, but a reasonable faith open to change ( present truth ) when more truth is presented and proved using scientific methods and research. To think PUC student will miss out on hearing a great mind, just because the hierarchy wants to protect and patronise intelligent student who are quite able to think and make decisions for themselves. What a sad tragedy for PUC students that their hierarchy is acting in the name of God, NOT !
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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7163