Toward a Latin-American Adventist Theology Part 1: The Praise of Gullibility

Latin-America is a complex, heterogeneous continent, as is Latin-American Adventism itself. Yet, in this diversity, there are many shared cultural, historical, linguistic and religious commonalities. One is, according to Mexican cultural analyst and literature Nobel Prize Octavio Paz (1914-1998), a perennial “identity crisis,” nourished and entertained by the uncertainty of not knowing what we exactly are. Are we peculiarly Amerindians or simply indigenous? Visionary immigrants or common colonists? Hopeless mongrels or creative hybrids? Argentineans as much as Bolivians, Mexicans as much as Chileans, express this common “identity crisis” in contradictory and paradoxical ways—sometimes by removal or sublimation, sometimes by exacerbation or radicalization. And Adventism itself has also become a way of coming to terms with this “crisis”—a kind of antidote and cure. But, as often happens, the best therapeutic strategies can produce collateral effects that, in the long term, paradoxically might radicalize and worsen the original problems they intended to cure. Is today’s Latin-American Adventism an aggravated form of this perennial “identity crisis,” a way of escaping from it, or is it a propulsive and experimental space where a new cultural and religious identity is being shaped for a better future? The answer is not yet clear, notwithstanding the good intentions, the numberless annual baptisms, and the transversal and diffuse institutional reinforcement. Because all this, though necessary and important, expresses mainly “growth”—a quantitative concept—but not necessarily religious and cultural “development,” which is a qualitative category.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

From my vantage point, this is a remarkable essay which would only be the beginning of a long and fruitful dialogue about where the entire Christian church, including Adventism everywhere, sees itself “going” into the future. One question I have is: Given that this so embedded in cultural dynamics peculiar to a specific history and region, to what extent can it be embraced by very different cultures?


I fully agree, Jim, and Hanz Gutierrez is indeed a remarkable scholar and writer within Adventism.

What he offers in this essay, as I see it, is a radical critique of a propositional theology based on the Enlightenment ideal of “pure reason alone”. And this protestant brand of theology is what Graham Ward calls the “very process of turning objects into idols.” The result of which is to turn religious truth into theological fetishism itself. This type of faith is a displacement of faith into the totally (and totalizing) knowable in a strict rational sense of immanence, which is at its core a ‘pure’ flash of cognitive sensation and positive facts.

The challenge for protestant religion, Adventism included, is to break this immanent curse of reducing everything to rational graspable categories. Theology and practical faith needs to recognize the apophatic aspects of religion; that which is beyond cognition. While we believe that the Bible contains a revelation of God, we must at the same time admit that God is also beyond the Bible - the different Other - and to reduce God to mere demonstrable results of ‘correct methods’ of biblical exegesis, is to shut off the infinite openness to and religious sensibility of God as radical indeterminacy, about whom none of us can claim exclusive possession.

I believe that the “gullibility” that Hanz speaks about, is present in our own (Western) cultural heritage: the Greek Neoplatonic philosophers’ (200-500 AD) confrontation with the ‘ineffable’, the heritage of Augustinian theology, the hermeneutic turn in Western philosophy (Gadamer, and the apophatic discourses of certain versions of postmodern theology.

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So true, understanding must precede belief. North America is no exception. neither fear nor Favor are substitute for understanding.

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This statement really gets to the heart of the matter. Neither of these things should, or can be, part of a sustainable, healthy faith.