What My Junior Sabbath School Teacher Taught Me About Skepticism

I grew up in a suburb of Detroit. My father was raised Adventist, my mother was Methodist, just barely. Until I was about five we attended a Methodist church, memorable to me now for our Sunday School teacher's handing each kid a stick of candy at the end of class. After that we started attending a fairly large Adventist church, fifteen minutes' drive up the freeway, and continued there throughout my childhood and adolescence. I never got around, as an adult, to asking my parents what prompted the change. I wish I had. My mother resisted being baptized until I was late in my teens but, as she moved into old age, she became much more Adventist-centric and doctrinally-convinced than I remember her being as I grew up.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://spectrummagazine.org/views/2023/what-my-junior-sabbath-school-teacher-taught-me-about-skepticism
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Many similarities in our journey with SDAism. Had a HS/Academy friend who later in life called be a ‘skeptic’, took no offense!!

DITTO to all of it, including Friday night football games (played the trumpet in the HS band). The memory verses in SS class were the worst. I didn’t know Moses from Abraham, never mind the rest. Initially, it was a social “thing”, plus the Sabbath. I was convinced about that - the rest was just an add-on. Never did I get the hang of quoting EW in every discussion. What amazes me the most, I never zeroed in on the meaning of Christ and the cross until much later - and on my own. Even after four years of that concentrated SDA “culture” in college, did I get the meaning of the cross. Only after kicking the books, class notes, and all the commentaries to the curb, and actually studying the Bible, did I begin to get it.

I do need to give credit to Dr. Ottilie Stafford for opening up the world of literature, and introducing me to C.S.Lewis - the beginning of an awakening of sorts.

Thanks for the article.


My first “crises of faith” also came during an “early teen” SS Class.

Having been born and raised by relatively strict, EGW believing parents, with similar Adventist grandparents on both my mom and dad’s side, I was of course accustomed to being told that ours was god’s true, remnant church.

But that day a thought hit me and I blurted out the question without any conscious editing.

“What did you say?” the teacher asked.

“Well, I just realized that if I were in a Lutheran church, the teacher there would probably be telling me the same thing that you’re saying, right? That theirs was god favorite denomination?”

The teacher wasn’t prepared for this question anymore than I was to argue the point so I just remained silent when she said, sounding as if she wanted to reassure herself as much as she wanted to rebuke me, “Our church is god’s true remnant church.”

It took another decade, or so, to complete the thought process and renounce my baptism but my skepticism has been rewarded with over 40 years of SDA-angst free life.


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Yet here we are!

It’s hard to let go of the culture that binds. I think I’m over the disappointments. I like Adventists, even love a few of them. It’s mostly about the strident refusal to grow as a denomination. Growth means change.

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I was a bit more set deeply into concrete SDA culture. Weekly Sabbath School & Church followed by the Classic indoctrination of SDA Church School.

Sadly, it wasn’t until my early to middle 60’s that I realized my lifelong struggles to improve myself was simply in a close relationship with my Savior Jesus Christ. Daily inviting Him into my heart to teach me His Will, did I begin to see things I had never appreciated before. As His presence lingered, He began to cleanse me of my despicableness.
Slowly His fruits began to grow in a more tolerant way to see the love of Gods beauty in others. I learned by allowing Him entrance into my heart, I could claim this promise: “I am confident of this: that He who began a good work in you, will complete until the day of Christ Jesus” Phil 1:6.


Wartime 1940 - 48. we lived in a “castle”, secluded from the “world” - primarily because of the NAZI and “Wehrmacht” and GESTAPO. A little congregation, Sabbath service in the house, nooo childrens class -so I had to sit there, keep quiet - and listen to the Bible study and the sermon of the grown ups. . Very impressing.

Oh yes, I had my Picture Bible (Schonrr v. Carolsfeld) - - and as soon as I could read I also “studied” the adults lessons. Oh yes, as an erly teen I told the minister in class to read the text again and then the other texts in “contextualisation” - if he still sticks to his exegesis ?? - Since then I ws a fresh kid - -
But in 1946 they began to give us kids the opportunity to join the all - Vienna “Sunday school” - wha an expeience ! There two women, a ministers wife and her daughter - she just twenty - with compassion worked for an d with us trough the Bible stories. With a sandbox and a series of plaster figures about
6 or 8 inches big - we once saw Moses and the other time Peter and then Abraham in them . And we colored the sand with blue ink to make the Genezareth Lake - - - but it was the personality of those two women who gave those impressions of the Gospel a real life - - an experience, a guide for our yers to come - - -

(other “aunts” were just horrible , forget them !!! )


For me, it was Dr. Londis pointing us to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John for the full Jesus story. A year before that, in academy, I learned that reading “The Bible Story” series was not the same as reading the Bible. The bookstore had several C. S. Lewis books (“Mere Christianity”) was one, which I bought to read while skipping some Friday night services. When Dr. Stafford played the organ on some Friday nights when I just had to get out of the dorm, my life was enriched in a different way and my extreme self-consciousness was lifted for a while.


For all my childhood, if the church was open, we were there. The first (only) experience back then with the wider world of Jesus-followers came in our teen youth group. Our leader was a guitar-playing public school teacher who was involved with Young Life at his school. He invited any of us who wanted to, to join a Bible Study weekend at their family’s cabin with a group of Young Life kids. I begged and pleaded and cried to be able to go and was allowed (after some terse phone calls by my parents with the other adult chaperones). Only one other teen from our church came, and it was a REVELATION that public school kids read their Bibles and loved Jesus. Okay, maybe that was the first step to the exit, but I’m a slow learner and it took a few decades ; > ))

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