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.
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).
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.
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 ….
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.
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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