Why I Dislike Adventism

Hey now! Before you Adventists out there consign me to the fiery flames let me explain. When say “dislike Adventism” I am talking mostly about culture, not doctrine. Although Adventism has the truth (in my belief) on many doctrinal matters, the Adventist culture leads people to do things that I think harm the denomination. I’ll go into a few of those here. Of course, this post should be read in the context of my last month's column.

  1. We “know” we’re right. You can’t debate or question things with some Adventists. We just know that we have “the truth.” Some of us can be overbearing and kind of arrogant behind that (and by kind of I mean really).

  2. We overdo it with some doctrines. Now, I believe in all the doctrines of the Adventist Church, but I don’t believe we need to make everything in the Bible be about certain doctrines. The best examples of this are the Sabbath, the Sanctuary, and the Judgment. I once took a class at the seminary on the Sabbath. In the professor's note he listed several verses which supposedly supported the Sabbath. He would have a note about a text, and then would say something like “This verse supports x, y, and z proposition…. Including the Sabbath.” A friend of mine and I went and looked at the contexts of these texts. Very rarely did any of them have anything to do with the Sabbath. “Including the Sabbath!” became our war cry whenever someone tried to randomly connect one thing to something else. Is everything about the sanctuary? Is everything about the Sabbath? Is everything about the Judgment? No, not really. These ideas are amply supported with the verses that directly apply. God doesn’t need our help.

  3. We don’t really believe in present truth, at least in practice. Just try to bring a new way of thinking to some Adventists. They’ll send you to Hell, even if you have a biblical basis for your belief. Now they might listen to you if you back it with some Ellen G. White (EGW) quotes, which leads me to my next point ….

  4. We overemphasize the ministry of Ellen White. For those who are unfamiliar, Ellen White is a woman who lived in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s and was instrumental in founding the church. Her writings are largely considered to be inspired and prophetic. Those writings are supposed to be secondary and complimentary to the Bible itself, but you wouldn’t know it to talk to some Adventists. A brief anecdote: When I was a teenager (probably not older than 15) I was outside my church listening to a conversation between two men. They were discussing the question of which was more important, EGW’s writing or the Bible. I couldn’t understand why the discussion was even happening, but they went back and forth for almost 30 minutes. The person who was advocating for the Bible finally asked the ultimate question. If you could only take one thing to a desert island, the Bible or EGW’s writings, which would you take? The man who was arguing for EGW’s writings eventually said the Bible, but only reluctantly and after much internal wrestling. I decided at that point that if this is what EGW’s writings could do to a person, I wanted nothing to do with them. I didn’t read anything from EGW again until I was 23. I now consider her to be an inspired writer who increases my understanding of the Bible, but I also try to keep her in her proper place.

  5. Sometimes we get out of balance. One of the potential pitfalls of keeping so many things in tension is that people will get out of balance. Focus more on faith than works or vice versa. Focus more of law than grace or vice versa. I kind of understand this one, keeping a concept in balance in Christianity is hard.

Alright, so that’s it. I’ve told you what I like and what I don’t like. I could have written more about each. When I look at the church as a whole, I am always struck by the need to balance likes and dislikes. I don’t know any Christian believer who likes everything about their faith tradition. Yet many of us stay within those traditions – and not just for cynical reasons like not knowing anything else or just the need for some sort central belief system. I believe we stay because we genuinely believe in the elements of faith and want our church to be the best possible place that it can be for all those who seek to draw closer to Christ.

Jason Hines is a former attorney with a doctorate in Religion, Politics, and Society from the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University. He is also an assistant professor at Adventist University of Health Sciences. He blogs about religious liberty and other issues at www.TheHinesight.Blogspot.com.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7852

Thanks for your perspective, Jason. Unfortunately, the defects common to all of humanity are evident within the Adventist community.

The title of this piece is a bit misleading (and perhaps incendiary) though, as there is a clear distinction between “not liking Adventism” and “not liking things about Adventist culture”.
You have made it clear within the text that you do indeed “like Adventism”.

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Why I dislike Jason Hines:

  1. He generalizes too much
  2. He stereotypes too much
  3. He thinks his liberal ideas are the epitome of moral certitude and that anyone disagreeing is a person of white privilege who should keep his mouth shut (note recent DNC forum) or is too conservative for prime time.
  4. He should learn that such articles as “Why I Dislike Adventism” are just lazy journalism.

How about an article: All that’s right with Adventism. Or what I like about EGW. Or any such more positive piece?

But of course that would be ah, er, ah, hmmm… what would that be?

[It might be that you failed to properly note his first paragraph: “this post should be read in the context of my last month’s column.” Click on the link. - Ed. ]

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Why don’t you try answering the dilemmas that he proposes instead of discrediting Jason and his ideas?

I think that I know why that it can’t be done by you or anyone else…

I look forward to your Spectrum submittal of your article on what is good about Adventism and EGW.

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The fundamental problem I see in Adventism regarding Ellen White is that biblical interpretations may be subjected to testing by her writings to determine orthodoxy, but the reverse is, in the worst case, not allowed, or in the lesser case, discouraged. Whether intentional or not, this effectively places Ellen’s writings on a higher pedestal than the Bible. Perhaps this is because there is an assumption on the part of church members that Ellen White has already passed every biblical test, even though they have not studied out the matter themselves. But it is a strange way to approach systematic theology to hold such an assumption.

This is especially interesting since she did not consider herself to be infallible. (See Letter 25, 1876) Some may wish to counter this with a claim of her infallability only when speaking or writng “ex cathedra.” But as Protestants we have historically denounced such positions. Therefore, claiming that the Bible is our only guide, and then elevating her writings above the Bible in practice, as some do, seems a departure from the very essence of Protestantism.

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@JasonHines
But each one of these disliked characteristics of “cultural” Adventism are a direct result of “doctrinaire” Adventism. It all began with the Great Deception (affectionately known as The Great Disappointment) and goes downhill from there.

Perhaps your education and experience has ‘saved’ you from assuming the attitudes of the huddled masses of Adventism. Knowing that most cannot afford to question their preferred environment, how can you support such a paradigm without culpability?

“Come out of her My people, that you be not partakers in her sins.”

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I am in business. I have several hundred clients, including a few Adventists.

My two worst clients are Adventist. They don’t comprehend business, can’t make their businesses work, operate companies that are insolvent, won’t take advice, have low levels of comprehension, owe money to others, and do nothing about wealth preservation.

It leads me to wonder whether the mindset that made them Adventists is the same mindset that causes them to fail at business.

I have a lot of other clients who are Christian. There is a notable contrast between these Christian’s and some of my Adventist clients.

I do have other Adventist clients who are good at what they do. But they would also be described by some as barely Adventist.

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Pretty much agree with you, Jason.

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I admire your work, Jason, because you refuse to be consumed by cynicism: the Movement (though right now the bureaucracy is hurtling toward institutionalism) is both flawed and wonderful, and we need to emphasize (!) both, as you tend to do.

Emphasize the flaws? Of course. We need to grow. Emphasize what’s wonderful? Of course. There’s lots to be thankful for.

Chuck

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Jason,
You are right on when your first “dislike” is that Adventists know they are right.
“We just know that we have the truth”.

This assumption, regrettably, leads to a cloak of self righteousness and a heavy dose of judgementalism. Adventists always seem to have a “chip on their shoulder” and disparage, and demean all others who do not fit into their narrow little channel of belief

Should others not align themselves with every proscription or prescription of EGW, they will be missing out on heaven, and will vehemently be told so!!.

And should you show scientific evidence that would contradict any EGW pronouncement, these devout Adventists will swear black is “White” to
defend the pathetic plagiarist!

Jason, you missed one dislike that should head the list:
The lack of transparency, and openness, the “sweep under the rug” mentality that pervades our hierarchy.
They never openly address obvious bad news,
such as the African administrator who falsified his credentials.
Or the other pastor, accused of several rapes and sexual assaults , yet defended to the bitter end by Jay Gallimore, the Michigan conférence president.

When “open sores” are bandaged over in a deliberate coverup, the church cannot flourish. This includes our “propher‘s” plagiarism.

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Allen Shepherd: Why is it useful to take on a person with language that is known to be destructive to dialog? You paint Jason with a brush called liberal. Why didn’t you say his thinking is not in line with yours and engage in constructive dialog? Frankly, I dislike both liberal and conservative labels. They describe nothing.

Steven Terry has commented that we make either too much or too little of the writer EGW. The difficulty is the way inspiration is seen. If a shift to how is this useful is made, then most of the difficulties are erased in a single move. I ask this question. Are all the writings in the Bible of equal utility? Inspiration is not a black and white issue. The critical issue that nearly all ignore is “how is this useful to understand these Use Cases.” If a strong appeal is made to authority, then I am fully convinced the author has little to offer. I know without question, “come, let us reason together” is very useful.

The major problem I have with the article Jason has written is that he does not challenge what is regarded as “sound doctrine.” I personally know of several doctrines voted as truth that do not stand even the most cursory inspection. I am certain that there are more that I am not aware of.

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That is right Terry. And I am thankful the Seventh Day Adventist Church does not make membership contingent on a belief in her ministry. She said that her writings were to be tested by the bible. It should never be the other way around. If we keep the proper perspective it can be an excellent supplemental blessing. If we elevate her above the bible her writings become a curse.

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The Seventh-day Adventist Church like the United States of America is toast…

Only God can save either of them from total annihilation.

But why should He? SDAs and Americans have both tolerated unreasonable processes for selecting our respective presidents.

We have only ourselves to blame.

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Thank you Jason for saying out loud what I have felt most of my reasoning life. I was born into the church and have seen and heard many things over the years both good and band not God’s.d. I have always felt that we placed too much emphasis on EGW. Growing up we were told EGW says you can’t do this or you can’t do that but no one ever told us what we could do. The negative side was emphasized more than the positive. I love my church and I do not dispute the doctrine but I do dispute the fact that “man” wants to inflect his own ideas and not Gods ideas. Your article was like a breath of fresh air. We have to change the culture of Adventism into something good and beautiful. Let’s be Christ-like in our dealings and interaction with others and not perceive them as the enemy.

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Well, Jason, a real and humble apology is in order! I missed the other article for some reason, not getting on Spectrum at the right time or I am not sure what.

But I did not see it or just looked at it briefly without registering what it was saying.

So, my had goes off to you and I take all the bad things back.

Carry on!

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Jason’s thoughts reflect many of mine - just better clarified. I have especially been concerned about #4 - the way we see EGW. I valued her writings so much that I became involved in the work of the Ellen White Estate. Nevertheless, with time I have become concerned that too much emphasis has been placed on her writings, and too much of “being Adventist” depended on her. I have chosen to remain an Adventist based on Scripture, then enhanced by EGW. I was amazed and concerned once while walking into Sligo Church a few years ago to hear a woman say, “why Ellen White is my best friend”. And my first thought was, why Ellen and not Jesus? This didn’t seem either emotionally or spiritually healthy. To me this lady seemed unbalanced. And I doubt Ellen herself would have been comfortable that someone felt closer to her than they do to the Lord. But I wondered if perhaps the church had influenced this woman to misplace her priorities.

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“We don’t really believe in present truth, at least in practice”

Present truth doesnt mean accepting any new piece of tripe that comes along that is different to what has gone before.

Present truth should only enhance old truth. New truth does not cancel out current or old truth…the truth is the truth…it is either made brighter or clearer but never cancels out…or it wasnt truth at all…

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Thanks, @JasonHines.

Which of our doctrines do you dislike, and why?

Mine are remnancy and the Investigative Judgment.

I also dislike the fact that, to become an SDA, one must make a statement about Ellen G. White. This, to me, on its face, seems to contradict the idea that the Bible is our only rule of faith.

HA

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Jason. You need to disconnect from the crowd so you don’t say “we”.

By the way…what is the main cause for this imbalance, warping?
Ted Wilson? Pastors? Sabbath school teachers?

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Some of my best friends are Adventists, some of the best Christains I know are Adventists. Yet some of the worst theology is embodied within Adventism unfortunately these false beliefs are ironclads Adventism. Which of course leaves me out. Many are trying bring the Gospel back into Adventism Tthose I say good luck. As for me,I have found the Gospel in Other venues. tZ

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