If Adventist teachings have any hope of being relevant to young people and society at large, we have to address the question “So What?” in a meaningful and credible way. The days when people accepted truth simply because the Bible says so are long gone. The vast majority of non-Adventists only pay attention to and accept what can make a demonstrable difference in their lives.
Postmodernism, relativism and rational thought demand nothing less.
According to biblical truth, the world was created in six days, slavery is okay, the sins of a nation can magically transferred from a priest to a goat, people can live to be hundreds of years old, the dead can be brought back to life, etc.
In other words, biblical truth can be used to claim things to be true which people alive today have not only never seen for themselves but even consider scientifically impossible…
Such people know from experience that biblical truth has been used to prove anything and everything.
Thus biblical truth means nothing.
Even postmodernism-while purportedly one of the evils scourges of our age according to biblical evangelicals- can also be considered authoritative…according to biblical truth.
For example, It is no stretch of logic nor a semantical inversion of the meaning of the words, to infer the authority of the individual from the memory verses which encourage individuals to “work out their own salvation” or Jesus’ admonition to “love yourself”,
It is not possible to love oneself, however, while simultaneously hating the fact that ohe must take responsibility for one’s god-given authority over ones life.
Well, we have arrived at the irrefutable assertion that biblical truth, while not necessarily untrue, is deprecated when it comes time for any person born less than 2,000 years ago to decide where to go in his car or when choosing any other personal course of action.
So it’s convenient, when looking back through history, to label time BC, AD; and factor down human thought patterns further to modernism, postmodern, relativism etc. It’s convenient for the intellectual crowd who live their lives in academia. For those who draw a trajectory to success in any other field, these words mean nothing, and they are left out of any meaningful discussion.
If the Bible, historically as limited as it may be, is considered “the Word of God” given to all mankind (“person kind” for the current woke), then it can’t be culture specific. To assign time-specific narratives, other than what was historical at the time of writing, is a huge fallacy. It takes less than a hundred years to invalidate the meaning, making the whole scenario out of date and meaningless. Of course, the predictions get away with it by using words like “soon” and symbols that could mean anything we want to assign to them.
The only thing we humans have in common through the ages, are the innate built-in needs of food, shelter, procreation. The needs can be expanded culturally, to include all sorts of things, including three houses and a yacht, as can the rest of it. But there is also a built-in sense of wonder, curiosity, joy, grief. These can be culturally influenced, but the ability to “feel” is common to all (most). As C.S. Lewis says, all cultures have a sense of fairness and justice built in to the psyche. It’s these commonalities that need be touched by the Gospel; and they are. You might say, the commandments that deal with the outward display of obedience, have been broadened and internalized by the life and teachings of Jesus. To accurately understand, how His life is bequeathed to us, all we need to do is internalize His “Sermon on the Mount,” which does fulfill the commandments that only lists the external display. To reach any generation, this one included, the message has to be the Gospel that reaches our commonalities. But, we can’t teach what we, ourselves, don’t know.
The expression of love is important in a social context. But the church very limited as to how far the “unconditional love” can go when it comes to women clergy and some sexual issues.
Many churches have customs that make no sense to young people, such the prohibition on drums for Sabbath music. To keep the Sabbath day holy is a foreign concept when nearly all of our youth who are on their tables and phones all day. Even during church service most are on their phones, with little interest in the sermon because it is not relevant to them.
All churches and their doctrines must submit to the “common good” and the papacy. The Catholic church has the “good” news that is relevant to this society and to its young people. Sunday must be kept. Adventist must keep Sunday if they would be relevant to society and the world. Climate change and public health demand that all religions, Adventist, Baptist, Jews, Muslims, Mormons, all submit to the “holy” See. Adventist are already surrendering the 4th commandment to the demands of society, work, and public health. This must continue so that the world receives the modern illumination without interference.
Many Adventist leaders tell us that our primary mission as Seventh-day Adventists is to “preach the 3 Angel’s Messages.” I strongly disagree! Our most important mission is to live the 3 Angel’s Messages.
I can’t say Amen loud enough…As a younger person, I sat through numerous evangelical series with the horrible pictures of beasts projected on a screen and the constant whine of proof texts flowing out of the preachers mouth, emphatically presenting how we are right and every other religion has gotten it wrong. But after the series is over, we throw a few coins in the coffers of ADRA and think we have done our part to help the less fortunate. I remember going door to door caroling and pleading with people who had been disturbed from their dinner or a TV program, to have to dig into their pocked to stick money in our little can in order to make us “go away”. Then, only to learn that much of that money for the needy went into our church budget, it was shocking.
If our lives are not centered on the concerns for the needy, the unwed mothers, the addicted, the suicidal teenager, the unemployed and under employed, the racism, sexism, homophobic discrimination with in our society and our church, and yes, even how we treat our environment, then all the preaching of the 3 angles message is a total waste of time. It has to be reflected in our lives, our politics and our wallets. Otherwise we will find ourselves surrounded by goats.
Great article. Thanks for posting. I have often thought the same myself. Adventism remains relevant, but the community tends to insist on presenting itself in the most irrelevant ways possible. Relevance is not about changing what we believe, but about being able to apply those beliefs in a way that is meaningful and effective in diverse circumstances and situations. Continuing to demand that people act and respond to us in ways that were relevant in decades or centuries past reveals a lack of vision and understanding, not “faith.”
I wish our leadership could grasp these basic principles and head back to the drawing board to create a new vision of Adventism for a(nother) new century.
Have we read the 3 Angels’ messages since our junior SS class? What part of any of the 3 angels’ message should we be living. Despite what EGW said , that the 3 Angels Messages are the Gospel, show me the “good news” Christ proclaimed in His life and teachings played out within the 3 angels’ message. Jesus told us to take the gospel to all people, not the 3 Angels’ message.
I agree with adopting/revising statements of values, but most of these say nothing to me. Transparent relationships/millennium? What kind of churchy geek-speak is this? New beginnings/resilience because of baptism by immersion? So, X amount of gallons of water purify you more than Y ounces of water?? Who are you kidding? You can’t live a balanced life while taking a day of rest which isn’t Saturday, because we all KNOW that accurate records and calendars have been kept for a literal 6,000 years…The 3 angels messages of Rev 14? What about all the other angels’ messages in Rev 14? Leaving them out because EGW says so? And because she said Babylon is False Religion, i.e. catholicism and apostate protestantism (rather than systemic greed and hatred)? The ‘bible’ (this just means ‘book’) is the ‘word of God’? Does this mean all the included Hebrew scriptures plus the gospels plus the letters? Nothing else? All are helpful, but are they deliberate and factual everywhere every time?
So little of this is truly about the Good News of Jesus: I love you, and have reconciled you to God, so live joyfully starting now.
I just don’t think you’ve been nearly sarcastic enough.
My questions are:
What if our creator doesn’t really care if we believe that Jesus loves us?
What if Jesus is really dead?
What if he never existed?
Or, if he really was real, what if he wasn’t speaking of himself when he said “I am the way?”
What if he was referring to THE CONSCIOUS OF ALL CREATION when he talked about his “self”?
What if he told his disciples to follow his example and NOT try to express his gospel in writing?
What if he knew all the humor and lightness of his message would necessarily be lost in the translation from an oral, personal interaction to a binary system of black and white letters in a page?
What if there is absolutely no chance of a second coming because Jesus’ divine spirit did not and could never leave?
What if THAT is the really good news about god?
That the The Holy Spirit loves us as much as he, she or it revels in the fact that we have now evolved to the point where we can be consciously aware of its existence just as certainly as we experience our own?
What if, rather despising humanity for supposedly be-spoiling the cosmos with our sinful ways, the creator of the universe really is willing to overlook all of our shortcomings because he has a few of his own?
What if our maker really is the Holy Spirit which condenses, coalesces and/or somehow crystallizes into the seemingly solid form we refer to as “matter”?
What if that “spirit” is the most essential part of the cosmos and thus, just as Jesus was trying to point out, we and our creator are one?
What if Paul’s experience on his way to Damascus was with that cosmic “Christ”?
What if that squishy-ness is the wish-washy “solidarity” of Peter and upon which Jesus wanted to start his church which was meant to be anything other than a new religion?
What if John’s revelations were just bad dreams due to a bad piece of fish or a bump on the head?
Or what if The Revelator was being cryptic and without revealing much of anything, or was just speaking in code to the literal churches he mentions by name?
What if his messages have nothing to do with people living two thousand years after he died?
Where does the “wrong” answer to any of the above leave The Babbling On of some 35,000 wildly divergent cults all claiming that theirs is the correct interpretation of a book that everyone admits god-despite his presupposed omnipotence-refused to write by and for himself?
To their beliefs, opinions, rituals and claims of being “god’s middle men”, I ask sarcastically, “So what?”
Hmm… EGW wrote about that more than a century ago. In Ministry of Healing she said that
“Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Savior mingled with people as one who desired their good. He showed sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He invited them, “Follow Me.””
I guess it is taking very long for us to listen.
Well, one doesn’t prevent the other. But I see your point, which is correct.
I don’t know where you’ve seen Adventism characterized that way.
I don’t know what your experience as a pastor has been but I can tell you that pastors have oftentimes difficulties having the “individuals in the pew” involved in any church activity.
By whom? The leaders of the church? The church members?
Really? Is this the official position of the church now?
Like I said above, a lot of pastors would like the church members to be enrolled in the church but it seems that many simply are content to be just “graduates”.
There, you put your finger on something that is really problematic. It seems that many conferences are oftentimes unduly interested in baptism and that pastors are judged according to the number of people they can bring into the church.
“6 I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.
7 So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.
8 Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.” (1 Cor 3:6-8)
A pastor may plant but not see the result of his work whereas another pastor may benefit from the work of a previous one. Who is better, the one that planted or the one who got the baptisms because of the planting? According to Paul, no one. But it seems that for some conference leaders the one getting the baptisms is better whereas the one who did the planting (but not the baptisms) will be considered as not being good in his ministry. According to this criterion, even Jesus would have been considered bad at his job (He didn’t baptize, most of His disciples left Him, He was not politically correct, etc).
I don’t know about the “ever-increasing hierarchical control” you are talking about but I think that one of the duties of the leaders is indeed to ensure that the Christian doctrines (the information) are not compromised or distorted. This is what the apostles did (among other things), after all, right?
Of course, as a Christian, you don’t want to neglect the greatest commandment (which is spoken of in the Old Testament). But it is interesting to notice that John the Baptist’s ministry was about repentance as he said:
“Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Mat 3:2)
Did we see, then, people saying to him: “Hey, John! What about the great commandment? You should be speaking about this instead!”?
In the same way, when Jesus started His ministry, His message was:
“Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Mat 4:17; Mark 1:15)
All of this to say that, while we are supposed to uphold the great commandment, we don’t want to forget the specific message that the people of God has at a particular moment. And the message is not just about love, it is also about the kingdom of God which is at hand; it is about the return of the Lord; it is about the judgment to come.
The challenge we face nowadays is how to keep everything in perspective as we may face the temptation to focus on one thing and forget the rest (as it is about love but also the law of God AND the return of Jesus AND the judgment… Oh, and it’s about action also not just speech).
While Adventists count days and years (2300 of them), God’s kingdom is as near as our last breath, according to the theology that places us either in heaven or hell; as well as the Adventist one waiting for the resurrection. Hooking up with “Jesus’ divine, spiritual realm” isn’t about beating the clock, but a decision that brings about the new birth “instantaneously and at any point on the planet”.
“So what” describes much of Adventism’s raison d’etre. The NT, specifically Paul’s letters, shows that diet and holy day observance were to be regarded as ancillary matters, let each person be convinced in their own mind. They weren’t central to what his churches were to be about in the world. Adventism has taken issues that have been on the fringe of what Christian faith is truly about, and made them into central issues. They simply are not. This ensures that “so what” is in the DNA.
Add to this a super emphasis on assent to propositional truths/doctrines as being the identifier of whose in or out, try 28 fundamentals as a creed, and there’s more “so what” woven into the very fiber of the denomination. This is in common with much of modern Protestantism, but not with the NT itself. The NT doctrine/apostolic teaching was about a way of life and being in the world. It was teaching how the rule of God through Jesus was to be demonstrated through a fellowship of diverse people learning to live their common faith and hope in true burden bearing and caring love for one another…a truly new creation in this present world. The gospel lived practically in real life.
It wasn’t about time of the end timelines, solving apocalyptic puzzles, and some sort of special eschatological knowledge that one needed to possess to escape the world. It wasn’t about worrying about individual perfection, or the difference between imputed and imparted righteousness in order to make it to heaven. It was about demonstrating the love and faithfulness of Christ in the world. The true sign of the people of God.
That type of love that touches others and makes a difference in their lives can’t be argued with, and is never irrelevant.
If we don’t know how to live a fulfilling and satisfying life here on earth now, why would we want heaven… Would we know what to do with an everlasting life without trying to beat the clock of prophesy. Jesus came to give life, “more abundant” - begun here and to be continued.
When I was a kid, one of the songs we would sing in church was “Give me that Old Time Religion.” The problem with the song is religion is always changing with time. What was good for the Prophet Daniel was different from what was good for Paul and Silas. And what was good for my mother and father then is different from what is good for us today.