For background on this post, I refer the reader to my early post.
There were many things about the Adventists that I discovered during my 10 year sojourn that I liked tremendously. Many of these things still stick with me and inform my belief and practice today-- even though I don't talk much about it all. Let me name my 7 favorite things:
- The people-- I met many people among the SDA's who were not conservative. They had read widely and were products of the fine Adventist higher education system. These folks could think for themselves. They were not afraid to challenge the old ideas just because they were tradition. Yet, they just didn't capriciously throw the old away. They found creative ways to understand the old in the light of modern scholarship and were not afraid to say that Adventists had made mistakes.
- Daring to be different-- Adventists are not afraid to challenge widely held (largely unbiblical, I might add) views concerning the state of the dead, hell, the soul, etc. They may not have always been right, but they were gutsy enough to buck the religious power brokers of the 19th century and today.
- A view of the Bible-- Some SDA's, such as Alden Thompson, have been quick to point out that an Adventist view of inspiration doesn't mean verbal, plenary instruction. God acted on humans to inspire them and made use of fallible human words.
- Going right along with this is one of my favorite thoughts from Ellen White, widely regarded by Adventists as prophetic: God and heaven alone are infallible.
- A sense of community-- It may be due to their sectarianism, but, for whatever reason, SDA's have a much clearer sense of being part of each other's lives than most Christians.
- The Sabbath-- I'm not at all sure that Adventists are right in their views concerning the Sabbath, some I am sure are wrong. But to give God 24 hours all in one connected piece without being distracted by commerce, television, eating on the run, and so on and replacing all of that with family, cultural activities, beauty, meditation, and quiet-- well, who can fault that?
- Giving-- Not just the token variety. Most mainline church members give less than 2% of their income to church. Per capita SDA giving exceeds 7% (if memory serves me correctly).
So, as you can see, there were (are) many things about the SDA Church I greatly appreciated (appreciate). Still, when push came to shove, I wasn't free of the strictures of fundamentalism as long as I remained in the Adventist Church. ____ James Alexander is an education professor at a small liberal arts college. He is also a minister.
To read the story of his abandonment of fundamentalism and why he finds it intellectually and morally bankrupt, visit his book web site: www.therecoveringfundamentalist.com.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/1323