In all certainty, all religious denominations are gnostic in the sense that all we know about God is based on human facts and information. To date God has not corrected any of our human views nor has suggested any new and enlightening views. You would imagine that He would have corrected one or two after 6,000 years. We couldn’t be THAT perfect.
In my thinking, one reason people are less willing to socialize in SDA churches is fear. In some congregations one has to be so very careful about what is said and done that it’s hard to be open enough to socialize with other members. I’ve seen plenty of exceptions, but these churches are ones that accept others where they are and know each other well enough to allow room for growth in others.
But I’ve also seen–in some of the same churches–that some people will move on to a different place in order to fulfill whatever God is calling them to do, without the criticism from those who are in the habit of finding fault.
I was 18 when I attended my first SDA church. I was a student at WSU at Pullman and at that time got involved with a Christian group on campus called the Navigators. My roommate was my mentor in the Navigators. I was a regular at the Free Evangelical Church in Pullman where many of my fellow Navigator bible study friends also attended. It was a dynamic service with lots of singing and lots of young people as well as older folks participating. The sermons were always interesting and I found them applicable to my Christian walk.
I was introduced to the sabbath and the SDA sanctuary truth by a friend and mentor in my home town. One Sabbath, an interested Navigator friend and I decided to drive to Moscow Idaho (no SDA in Pullman) and see what an SDA service was like. What a contrast to what we were used too!
There were virtually no young people and the people there seemed stoic, somber, and stuffy. I remember the profusion of artificial greenery that was arranged around the pulpit. The windows were narrow slits that let very little light in which made the sanctuary seem very dark. The bible study was conducted in the pews in the main sanctuary where every question and answer produced an echo. The topic of study that day was the 2300 day Daniel prophecy. I don’t remember the sermon but it didn’t leave an impression. After the service my friend’s reaction was, “I don’t know Dave, seems kinda different”. I never went back. I eventually accepted the SDA message though and was baptized and attended the SDA church in my home town.
One day I asked the pastor of the Church, "If the United States is the 2nd beast that makes an image to the first beast and causes all to receive the mark of the beast, why do we have the beast’s flag on the stage near the pulpit? He became very defensive and irritated by my question and said, “we have the U.S. Flag in our sanctuary so people won’t confuse us with the Jehovahs Witnesses.” I will always remember that very strange response!
I’m so intrigued that you were involved in a group in college which was interesting and fed your Christian life, yet were willing to join a denomination which did not have that kind of feeling. Were the beliefs really worth it? This question may sound ridiculous, but I mean it honestly. Because I’ve lived long enough now to know that no denomination can fill all needs, so I’m willing to go where I can be spiritually fed even if the people around me may differ from me a bit theologically.
You made me laugh at your on-target description of a typical small SDA church. I’ve been on the “decorating committee” of a couple SDA churches and can attest to the difficulty of removing any of that artificial greenery! It seems to be a favorite in many sanctuaries and lobbies. But I try to tell myself that decorations are not important and that people and their feelings about their artificial plants are more important–it’s hard sometimes.
Interesting about the flag but I do not think your pastor was totally accurate, although perhaps in that congregation the reason they had an American flag was the one he gave you, I do not know. One day I was sitting in church and wondered why we had a US flag in the front of our church when the SDA church is so adamant about separation of church and state. I asked the pastor if we could remove it, because I was the head of the decorating committee and we were overhauling the platform decorations. He said he would like to remove it, but with the strong veteran group in that particular church he did not think we should. About a year later I did take the flags down for a wedding and put them in a closet and left them there. They were put away for about six months and no one asked about them. Then there was a veteran funeral and the flags came back out and stayed out. I didn’t say anything, because I think having the flag out means a lot to some of the members and that’s more important than how the platform looks. Putting an American flag up front in a church is not something that was done until after World War II in most places and it is almost always offset with the Christian flag which is just a licensed product, with one family profiting from the sales. Use of the US flag is a practice in both Catholic and Protestant churches on a rather random basis according to my quick internet research. I personally think it’s time to put the practice aside, but many older people do not agree. And the older people have a lot to get used to these days so leaving the flags seems like the least we can do for them
Thank you Anne for your thoughtful reply. You sound like you have acquired a lot of wisdom over the years.
It was the sabbath commandment that sold me on Seventh-Day-Adventism. When I became aware of the bastardized version of the Ten Commandments I sensed that somewhere there was a rat. It was the friend and mentor in my home town who challenged me on the sabbath and beguiled me with the truth.
I had questioned the sabbath commandment prior to ever having my first bible encounter with him. I met this guy previously through my best friend but was not aware of his extensive knowledge of the scriptures. It wasn’t until I began my Christian walk at WSU that my best friend said I should come down and talk to Tom. Never met anyone like him before. He had studied for the ministry at Walla Walla College (now University) but either through lack of funds or disenchantment with the leadership, he ended up leaving.
He had started up his own business as a general contractor and home builder yet his passion always remained the bible. I never saw him without it (always kept it on the dash of his beat up truck). He had the ability to go straight to a text for support on any topic in the bible. I watched him share the bible with many people and I was always in awe. When he’d get done marking up a bible or lose it, he’d just go find another Gideon bible to mark up. He took an interest in me because of our shared love for the bible.
He had some curious sayings that I’ve adopted for myself:, “You can’t put a price tag on health” (I’m a health nut); “I’d rather be a meat eating loving Christian than a heartless vegeburger”; “I don’t want to build bricks for the Egyptians” (work for him was just a means to the end of studying the bible); and “The book of Revelation is the last frontier” (I believe it!).
To make a long story short, I decided to take a leave from WSU and study with Tom in hopes of gleaning everything I could from him. We ended up spending several years studying the bible together. He ended up getting sideswiped by the recession and moved back to his hometown of Granite Falls. I ended up going back to WSU to finish my bachelors in Mechanical Engineering. It’s been nothing short of an odyssey.
When I posed the sabbath question to my Navigator friends, nobody showed any interest whatsoever, didn’t even care! I attended a 2 day Navigator discipleship retreat in Newport Washington where several Navigator leaders led discipleship training discussion groups. I was in one group that had a leader who seemed to be spiritually discerning and knowledgable so I asked him what he thought about the sabbath.
I was literally taken back by his reply. He got visibly angry and raised his voice at me saying, “I don’t have time for people who think they’re better than everyone else” (and that was the end of that discussion!). That was the topping on the cake for me. The rats were giving off a very putrid odor!
My understanding of the sabbath has matured and deepened over the years. There was a time after Tom and I parted ways that I began to doubt the physical resting aspect of the sabbath. Back in the early 2000s I entertained the idea that the sabbath was wholly a spiritual concept that didn’t require refraining from work and buying and selling; that it was simply teaching a state of mind or belief that “Christ is our rest, therefore we are not required to rest.” I no longer hold that view and I am very confident that a blessing remains for those who refrain from working and from buying and selling.
I suspect the trail of greenery can be traced back to EGW and her emphasis on the garden of Eden. Just a theory though.
Whenever my wife opens up our house for sabbath potluck to church members, I always get a kick of reminding them before the meals prayer that “we don’t serve alcoholic beverages and for those who smoke, please do it out in the lawn” which always disarms defenses and lowers their guard. Then it becomes easier to socialize.
Very funny. That would definitely raise a few eyebrows in some communities. But it certainly says something about you that would lighten the mood and has to be appreciated.
Perhaps the greenery is an attempt to replicate the garden of Eden. I never thought of that!
Your spiritual journey is fascinating. Thank you for sharing it.
I’ve always wondered how we as Adventists differed from Jehovah’s Witnesses. It’s the US Flag. I thought it was the white shirt and ties. Boy was I wrong! LOL.
What of the bicycles?
Oh, wait, we might be confused with LDS, too…
This shows you how much I am familiar with religious denominations. LOL!
Roll in the couch…I am still wrong!
Yes, people do many times equate SDA with Jehovah Witnesses AND
Latter Day Saints.
That indicates HOW LITTLE we make ourselves known in the communities
and cities/counties where our churches are located.
But we do PRIDE ourselves that when we place a huge banner in front of
the church, announcing Revelation “Seminars”, and no one shows up, that
we have WARNED our city/county.
OR, we have massed mailed a book [given work to the postal employees] and
announce in our church papers that we have WARNED our city/county, even if
they end up in the land fill the next week.
Ah Steve, all those cultic churches… It ends up being tiring. I actually just watched a few sermons from the SD Baptist Church in Riverside, where I attended for 4 years (1990-93). Still the same (former SDA) pastor, Gabriel Bejjani.
How refreshing it was listening teachings from Scripture with no contamination from other “official sources” of doctrinal authority. And Sabbath School also, the same.
Actually I decided that this Saturday I will visit them, to get a fresh air. My membership may be still valid…
Check it out, you may like the message style (he preaches short, practical sermons):
Enjoyed his midrash on “complete joy” from both letters of John.
John 1,2,3, and his Gospel.
Looking forward to listening to several others that were listed.
I noticed the wall hanging on the rear wall – “it is finished”.
Not sure where he goes with that.
I do have a small booklet [90 pages]. Titled, “DONE - what most
religions don’t tell you about the Bible.” by a Cary Schmidt, Baptist
pastor at Emmanuel Baptist in Newington, Conn. Distr by Striving
Together Publications, Lancaster, CA.
His chapt 2 is The Only Two Religions in The World.
- The DO religions. “what you must DO to gain the approval of God
and to earn entrance into heaven.” We are separated from God and
must DO something to be restored to Him. The list of “Do’s” and
“Don’ts” varies with every religion.
- The DONE religion. The True Message of the Bible is DONE.
Everything necessary to be restored to God and have eternal life
has been DONE. That is what Jesus meant when He said, “It is
finished.” [the message on the wall hanging I saw].
I have given away quite a number of these booklets at the Methodist
church lunchroom that feeds the “homeless” at noon, Mon – Fri.
[and anyone else who shows up. There are a few who do, not homeless.]
they have a multi shelf literature rack. They have quickly disappeared, while
others sit there much longer.
I too enjoyed his “complete joy” message.
Interesting the view of the two kinds of religion that you mentioned.
I guess the “best” religion then must be one that offers both options of beliefs combined. a DONE/DO religion… (DONE but DO!) I know at least one remnant like that…
Gabe’s story is interesting. He is Lebanese. He was a SDA pastor in Lebanon. In the late 70’s he came to Loma Linda to do a Masters in Sociology. Then came the infamous GC crisis and he just could not take Neil Wilson’s dirty maneuvers and made contact with the SDBC. Soon he became assistant pastor. Some time around 1991 he became the senior pastor because the prior was old and retired.
This way he could continue pastoring a church not being in reach of the SDAl Capones’ fire… Actually, Des Ford came for a whole weekend of preaching once a year for many years. In 1990, two months after moving to the US I went to meet Des in that Church, found it very warm, and stayed there for 4 years as a member. No Al Capones there…
Yes! First it is DONE!
And BECAUSE we love God and Christ, we keep Christ’s commandments.
Actually, it is Paul who says it was Christ who led the Israelites out of Egypt,
met them at Sinai 50 days later [our Christian Pentecost – 7 weeks plus
1 day after Passover], gave the guides for Loving God with heart, soul, mind,
and guides to HOW to love our neighbors in community. [Which were quite
revolutionary compared to how communities were organized in surrounding
You know, I really like your two categories!
Whatever they are called, ‘Freemasons’, ‘Illuminati’, ‘New Age’, ‘Rosicrucians’
. . .
I’ve read speculation that some of the founders of SDA had Freemason background or were influenced by freemasonry. I don’t have any references on hand but you might find something if you google. ( I love googling)
Orion has more to do with the religion of Mithras and the institution of the Roman “Solar”(star) calendar.
There are fanatical Christians, and Adventists, who would give up food, sex, life itself in order to be “pure” . . . and die into Satan’s realm of death.