In 2011 I wrote an article entitled “The Closing of the Adventist Mind” (title borrowed from Professor Allan Bloom’s book and adapted) that Spectrum published. A few months had elapsed since the election of Ted Wilson as President of our church when I began to feel uncomfortable as I read some of the statements coming out of Washington. It seemed to me at the time that some sort of straightjacket was not so subtly being drawn tight around the psyche of the church, which I was afraid would eventually close the Adventist mind to new ideas and concepts theological and otherwise.
Eddy, you hit the nail on the head. We as a denomination cannot afford to cave in to authoritarian, fear-based uniformity. Certainly our Master didn’t–and doesn’t.
The question is How. How to protest, to learn, to create, to embrace? (Looking forward to your next post.) Whether Adventist or not, Christian or not, each of us plays an important role in resiliently living out God’s grace with defiant optimism and abiding peace and joy. #MyChurchToo
I have generally considered myself a conservative fundamentalist, but my spiritual experience has shifted considerably in recent years, particularly over the course of the last 12 months. Fundamnetalist religion in my view is toxic, be it christian, Islam, or what have you.
The SDA Church, existed from 1863-1980 WITHOUT a statement of fundamental beliefs. That is 117 years. In 1980 at the GC session in Dallas, Texas the 27 Fundamental Belief of the SDA Church were voted in. I believe Ted Wilson’s father Neil was GC Prez at the time. I was not back in the church yet, but I do remember going to church with my cousin in Watsonville, Ca. where Dale Ratzleff was the pastor at the time and him mentioning there would be no pot luck that Sabbath. He called for a day of fasting and prayer. I was hung over from a drunk I had been on in San Francisco
gay bars the night before, so I was relieved that I wouldn’t have to try and eat some food and keep it down with my stomach churning and my head throbbing. My conversion and stand for God happened a couple weeks later.
In retrospect my take is that the church probably did this in response to the “Ford” crisis. At the time I never quite knew what was going on, and I thought maybe it was bad to be SDA and own a Ford. I thought thank God I had a Chevy. Glacier View? Must be a ski resort I thought. I remember some months later when I was rebaptised, the pastor who led me to Christ told me to just stay close to Jesus and not get caught up in all the debate.
Today, I honestly think the church has become an eccesiastical debating society in the aftermath of what was done in 1980. I will probably be skinned alive, but I believe it was a mistake for the church to become fundamentalist with that vote in 1980… The church is now caught in a tight grip of fundamentalism. The reelection of Ted Wilson reflects that. He can pen all the unity stuff he wants in the Review, but I think he is sincerely wrong.
Remember the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but the fire is just as hot.
The gospel of the kingdom is being crucified on the cross of Last Generation Theology!!!
“The last rays of merciful light, the last message of mercy to given to this world is a revelation God’s character of love.” Christ Object Lesson 415.
I have become more and more convinced that we, as individual members of the church, must step up to the plate and refuse to wear the straightjacket on offer. Speak out courageously for what is right, regardless the consequences. This especially holds true for issues like women’s ordination, about which many of us feel it is a matter of conscience. We cannot silently stand by and let the church perpetuate a sexist system. We must oppose it in any way possible.
The same holds true for issues such a FB #6 and the church’s stance toward LGBT. We need resist these pressures if we ever hope to give the church relevancy in today’s world.
I’ll make a try, let’s see if my comment will “survive” the new policy I still remember a church business meeting some 20 years ago. There was a doctrinal issue on debate. One person was very active in his strange beliefs to impose them on others in that local church. The pastor was very patient and nice to him and at the same time he wanted to safeguard his parish. So he made appeals etc… And then one of brothers stood up and said something that reminds me very well on the stand presented in the article above. He said it in a naive and reassuring way: “I have locked up my heart and isolated my mind.” I had laughed then and I’m still laughing today, but believe me, for them then it was a fabulous statement. He was credited for it. Locked heart and isolated mind may be a guarantee for an absolutist leader that his flock won’t go astray, but at the same time it is a death sentence for every individual mind. If an 83-years old Michelangelo could declare that he is still learning (His famous “Ancora imparo”) then why wouldn’t a 150-years old organisation do the same?
One should not lay the blame at the foot of the President… He is merely endorsing orthodox Adventism He is not a Biblical scholar. He was called not to keep the faith but to protect a mixed bag of eschatological concoctions. in that context he is doing a right smart job. In the process he will lose a generation or more of critical thinkers. The problem is there is no denomination that is free of human dogma. We will soon be back to the house church. But the world is no different --Every man is doing what is right in his own eyes. The world and the church are both basket cases… Tom Z
Eric Fromm in his book “Psychoanalysis and Religion” maintains that everyone has a need for religion. In his book, he described two sets of believers, the “Authoritarians” presupposing “the existence of a higher power which takes control over a human being. The most crucial element in the authoritarian religious experience is the surrender to this transcending power. This surrender is often accompanied by a feeling of one’s own misery, and at the same time, a feeling of being protected. By surrendering to a transcending being, one loses one’s independence and integrity. That is why, in turn, one feels it important to resort to the the transcending being.” while the other, “Humanistic” as “religious experience has no dimension for a transcending divine being. Thus, the sense of being overwhelmed, “absolute dependence,” or obedience are unfamiliar to this type of religious experience. Humanistic religious experience can accept the concept of God or gods, but only in the sense that ideas of God or gods are no more than another way of expressing a higher part of human being.”
Theologians have rejected his premise from a theological basis but no one from the behavioral sciences have been successful in discrediting his premise. The phenomenology is commonly seen in mental health clinics, influencing attachment, bonding and interpersonal relationships.
It will be a constant struggle for any church, not just our church, with no end in sight.
Any church that doesn’t stay open to learning more light and how that light relates to the time will eventually succumb to fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is a response to modernity in which the former feels threatened because the familiar is changing. To keep from becoming fundamentalist one has to react to the times in ways that make sense and still be true to truth. Closed minds won’t do.
Last Generation Theology is taking on a new meaning. The Last Generation of Adventism may not, as some hope, be precipitated by the 2nd coming of Christ but the last generation may become manifest because Adventism has run its course. Another bankrupt cult of personality. The World Wide Church of God imploded after the death of Herbert W. Armstrong. The Adventist Church has survived the death of its prophetess for more than 100 years in practices not unlike the pre-Inca’s who brought out their mummies for an annual celebration. EGW can no longer speak but our tribal elders put words into her mouth in an attempt to convince us they can communicate with the dead. Let the dead bury the dead. We must choose to be among the living. No longer will the hopeful claim be that "I am a third, fourth or even 5th generation Adventist, but rather that I have chosen to be the last generation. Can anyone of good conscience support the present structure that would hasten the closing of the Adventist mind? The shackled prisoners building their own asylum.
Closing the Mind seems dangerously synonymous to ‘denying the Holy Spirit’.
Did not our Lord proclaim: ***“The wind blows where it desires, and you hear sound of it, but cannot tell from where it comes or where it goes. This it is with everyone born of the Spirit”***?
Is the communion teaching the Holy Spirit?
Does the communion recognize Baptism in/by the Holy Spirit?
Is the communion teaching in/by the Holy Spirit?
The Great Commission challenges us to make disciples of Christ. His relationship to the Father was of absolute submission to His Spirit. Jesus trusted God. He showed us how that looks. We can see evidence in others that they, too, have submitted to the will of God, that it "be done on earth as it is in heaven." They bear the fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 4). They are the salt that savors the whole loaf, the light (John 1:4) on the hill/candlestick which can’t be hid. These are they which witness God to the poor, restoring the broken-hearted, delivering the captives, restoring sight to the blind, liberating the bruised, declaring the time of God is now! Minds that are open to God cannot be closed by men. One cannot serve two masters.
The persistence of the SDAC is dubious!
It does not comprehend the modern>post-modern transition, especially as it occurs in Europe, North America, and Australia.
It’s missional message has been fear-based, engendering legalists, conformists, automatons. Perhaps a sheltered (spiritual) environment is essential to their (spiritual) well-being, contradicting Empire with Church (4th C.C.E.).
Drifting from Arminism to Dominionism doesn’t encourage theological confidence.
As conveyed in the Didiche and Scripture, the Way is simple and sure in essentials, in which the Body of Christ is unified by witness of the Holy Spirit. That is the only way it ever has been unified, by the Holy Spirit, which cannot serve those which determine limits for the Holy Spirit, often those which interpret scripture differently, heretics! Division is unconquerable by men. The manner of God is persuasion; coercion is of a diametrically opposed spirit.
The issue addressed in this paragraph cuts to the heart of the world of conservative and liberal ideologies, and everything in between. There is a growing body of evidence that the brains of what we call conservatives are different from those who we call liberals. Each finds comfort, even pleasure, in their ideological foundation. This is explained by the evolution of humans from small hunting-gathering bands of related people, who were leery of outsiders by necessity, to large communities of non-related peoples.
In this shift, the psychology of humans had to change. The in-group was enlarged to incude a whole range of people who were not related but were an extended family out of the realities of settlement and agriculture. Cooperation was necessary as specialization occurred. Yet, the reality of this new way of life did not change the reality that life was still dangerous and people who were keenly aware of in-group/out-group lines were motivated to fight for their in-group. The theory goes that we still have both ends of the spectrum alive and well in our world. We continue to have these groups because it has been necessary to both enlarge our in-groups and protect the in-groups we have created.
If we are to understand each other, the language of close mindedness versus open mindedness needs to shift. Liberal people are just as close minded about certain ideas as conservative people are about other ideas. The rejection of evidence occurs everywhere in the spectrum.
These evolutionary differences are not absolute. Industrialized societies have become increasingly liberal (as we define it). Liberal thinking is marked by an extremely large in-group which accepts a variety of possibilities in explaining the world around us. Conservatives tend to accept a limited in-group and possibilities about the world around us.
Acceptance of LGBT people is an expansion of the in-group which is satisfying to those on one end of the spectrum. Rejecting LGBT people is satisfying to those at the other end of the spectrum. The same goes for Women in leadership, Evolutionary theory and a variety of other issues. I don’t believe that all things that we are satisfied by are morally neutral. Certain principles such a fairness and equality should transcend ideology and be incorporated into our world views. The question is how.
The exercise of kingly power is destructive enough when it is merely lack of self restraint, but evidently it’s a lot worse than that. I’m not aware of any commitment from Ted Wilson to support EGW’s rejection of such behavior. Our system of governance practically begs for such abuse of power.
You have made some profound statements.
Perhaps this is why many SDAs are OK with the “Shaking”. Even here on spectrum some have recommended that certain people LEAVE the SDA church and begin their own, and have felt very comfortable with that suggestion.
It also seems to address why our Evangelism is SELECTIVE. We do not have “Open Arms” to everyone.
Fear of change perhaps. SDAs have been programmed to be Fearful, fearful of “worldly” things coming into the church. Whatever “Worldly” was. So on one side of the Invitational Spectrum Evangelists, Pastors and some Members are very selective as to who are “Invited” and on the other end there are Members who are open to All of God’s children and wish to see them “Invited”.
As you suggested, where the friction comes about is that BOTH are living in the same space.
FEAR is based on Control. Giving up Control is uncomfortable because that allows things to change, it opens up for Others [new converts] to enter the Control Group. And when that happens, the way things are and have been done, may no longer be that way.
Control goes WAY BEYOND conservative and liberal ideologies.
And it affects our Evangelism. It affects our welcoming, ALL WELCOMING.
“Can a people that believes more fervently in the Virgin Birth than in evolution still be called an Enlightened nation……respect for evidence seems not to pertain anymore…”. These are the words of G. Wills, which appeared in an article called “The Day the Enlightenment Went Out” in New York Times (2004), two days after the election of George W. Bush as president.
To me, Wills’ article reflects much of the same uncomfortableness that Eddy Johnsen reflects on in his article on the cultural wars within Adventism. The same cultural division that runs right through the American nation itself and largely Europe as well, not to speak of the Global South, also runs straight through Adventism. Johnsen is right; it is a straightjacket of the “closing of the Adventist mind”. This conflict between two religious outlooks, one that embraces diversity, and one that denies it, because of its dogmatic fundamentalism and totalizing metaphysical theology, cannot be laid to rest at the cognitive level alone.
The only way out, by the end of the day, if the SDA church is to avoid becoming a world-denying sect, is for the church to embrace the epistemic fact of a plurality of perspectives. This includes the challenge it has, as a Christian tradition, to face the fact of pluralism and the immense value of the emerging sciences. Not as a Hegelian “absolute truth”, but as something that can inform and be compatible with a religious outlook.
This involves a hermeneutic self-reflection that must be undertaken from within Adventism, and an epistemic adjustment - a reconstruction of its architecture of “sacred truths” - that can convince people faced with the conditions of modern or postmodern living conditions, because no real alternatives exist. The world today has absolutely nothing to learn from a totalizing fundamentalist world view!
Change will not come from the top, but must be achieved bottom-up. It requires strong “public spheres”, like Spectrum, to uncover the pathologies of Adventism.
odorcicTihomir Odorcic “I’ll make a try, let’s see if my comment will “survive” the new policy
My hand “trembles” as I too wonder if what I will say will pass muster, I will bravely try nevertheless,
“A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it is not open.”
― Frank Zappa
For some, being open-minded is easy; it comes as effortlessly as breathing. For others, having an open mind can be more of a challenge, something that they have to work on and make an effort to obtain. but the effort to think openly and embrace new ideas will be worth it when you’re able to take part in the benefits that come from opening your mind. Though it can be tough to do sometimes, I’ve always found that when I open my mind, I’ve reaped a lot of rewarding benefits. There is much to be gained from opening the door to your mind and letting new ideas and beliefs come in. Here are just a few of the benefits I’ve uncovered when I’ve taken the time to view the world around me with an open mind…
Letting go of control. When you open your mind, you free yourself from having to be in complete control of your thoughts. You allow yourself to experience new ideas and thoughts and you challenge the beliefs you currently have. It can be very liberating to look at the world through an open mind.
Experiencing changes. Opening up your mind to new ideas allows you to the opportunity to change what you think and how you view the world. Now, this doesn’t mean you necessarily will change your beliefs, but you have the option to when you think with an open mind.
Making yourself vulnerable. One of the scariest (and greatest) things about seeing the world through an open mind is making yourself vulnerable. In agreeing to have an open-minded view of the world, you’re admitting you don’t know everything and that there are possibilities you may not have considered. This vulnerability can be both terrifying and exhilarating.
Making mistakes. Making mistakes doesn’t seem like it would be much of a benefit, but it truly is. When you open your mind and allow yourself to see things from others’ perspectives, you allow yourself not only to recognize potential mistakes you’ve made, but also to make new mistakes. Doesn’t sound like much fun, but it’s a great thing to fall and get back up again.
Strengthening yourself. Open-mindedness provides a platform on which you can build, piling one idea on top of another. With an open mind you can learn about new things and you can use the new ideas to build on the old ideas. Everything you experience can add up, strengthening who you are and what you believe in. It’s very hard to build on experiences without an open mind.
. You are not confined by your own beliefs, nor are you confined by the beliefs of others. For that reason, you are able to have and gain confidence as you learn more and more about the world around you. Open-mindedness helps you to learn and grow, strengthening your belief in yourself.
Being honest. There is an honesty that comes with an open mind because being open-minded means admitting that you aren’t all-knowing. It means believing that whatever truth you find might always have more to it than you realize. This understanding creates an underlying sense of honesty that permeates the character of anyone who lives with an open mind.
I often read here statements that state or imply some kind of impending disaster or degradation for Adventism because of its closed stance or fixed attitude on this or that. The writers assume that religious movements need to be transparent, truth-loving, and tender to thrive.
The number of people in the world who are willing to accept an irrational religious construct, especially during times of increasing turmoil and terrorism, is growing by hundreds of millions. Fundamentalist religions are adaptable forms of culture that thrive in such environments, as they offer a sense of certainty and security in exchange for a a small price–surrender of one’s own thought and individuality to the group and its leaders. How many people at the Dome voted to endorse the word “recent” to mean 6,000 years because the Leader said so, but against their better judgment and common sense (I’m not even talking about the scientific evidence!)? Similarly the word “soon,” as in “soon coming” now means something like "it’s your fault it hasn’t happened yet, but if you are good it will be even sooner " and the adjective “ordained” cannot be distinguished from “male”. To enter this Orwellian world, cast away the past, the future, and accept what the present mind control offers.
On that basis, I predict continuing growth and success to the SDA church, not demise or disaster.
I am currently reading It’s Really All about God: Reflections of a Muslim Atheist Jewish Christian by Samir Selmanovic. Using stories from his own life and the writings of a diverse group of authors, he makes it very clear that God is so much more than we can comprehend. It is impossible to confine God to fit into the Bible, let alone the writings of any other human being. The question is asked, “Who reads love letters in the embrace of the Beloved?”
In this life, we cannot be certain about God. Selmanovic explains this idea with a musical metaphor. “There is a wide spectrum of ways human beings idolize certainty about God. At one end of the spectrum—the less violent end—are people who are deeply concerned about the integrity of their religion, theology, practice, and tradition, so they act as the guardians of these things. They see their belief system as a symphony that needs to be reined in instead of played out, a complex but controllable piece of music that encompasses everything one can know about God. Instead of feeding their soul on the music itself, these religious conductors use a tremendous amount of energy and resources to control the orchestra of their belief and practice. Preoccupied and often exhausted by the God talk of their religion, they stop listening to the music. The Beloved wants to play and dance and kiss and caress, but they are too busy managing the orchestra and the score. All sloppiness, digression, flexibility, and challenge to the authority has to be rooted out! Every side note, every skipped beat, every unfinished movement, every unplanned sound, every new instrument, every improvised measure in one’s life or the life of one’s religious community rekindles a fear that the symphony will collapse into cacophony.”
In the section titled “The Idolatry of Religion” he goes on to say “when something other than God becomes a nonnegotiable value, an idol is established.” It seems to me that a closed mind has done exactly that.