Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Problem...Who Is Our Message For?

One of the Sabbath School teacher’s keeps asking if I mentioned him on my blog so I will begin today by mentioning something he said and hopefully showing why this series of Lessons is so important, you already know I don’t think it is important because our position is accurate or true.

Today Bruce said in response to the “skeptics” as he termed them, those who don’t believe in the book of Daniel being written by the 6th century A.D. prophet Daniel. He held up his Bible and said the reason I believe this was written in the 6th century A.D. is because God does not make mistakes, when He put together this Bible He knew what He was doing. (This is just a paraphrase of course, greatly simplified). Bruce’s position is frequently held by many Christians. It is a strong argument to them even though it presumes that God is so limited that He can’t operate beyond their particular view. For instance even if Daniel was written in the 2nd century could it not have God designed impact upon it’s readers both in ancient times as well as modern? Then there is the argument of; didn’t God have some impact upon the Jewish people when they took upon themselves the compilation of their Old Testament books in which Daniel is not placed with his supposed fellow prophets in the section entitled “the Prophets” (Nevi'im of the TANAKH) but is placed in the section known as “the Writings” (Kh'tuvim).

The problem however is far deeper then differences in opinion about dates of books or differences about what interpretation works best for explaining prophecies such as those in Daniel. The problem is, when do we claim evidence and reason versus when we claim faith. Christianity is unique in that it developed upon dual tracks of reason and faith. We reason that the early Christians had sufficient reason to step away from their Jewish traditions and become practicing Christians. That their statements actually represent the things they had seen and heard about. Thus when we hear Paul pronounce the importance of the Cross we realize that it was not just based upon their faith that Christ had been resurrected but that they are providing us evidence that Christ had been resurrected. Historical evidence is often a sketchy subject. Historians can say what people said or claimed but they can’t tell us if for instance a particular miracle occurred. Faith can accept the miracle just because it wants to believe it, reason however looks at what those who claimed the miracle say and if they are credible or not, reason looks at evidence. It is that kind of reasoning which lead to the compilation of what today we call the New Testament. Faith could have simply gathered any writing together or simply gone by one Gospel account and that would have been enough. Or faith could simply have taken any miracle or myth and believed and acted upon that belief. That is not what Christianity produced however. What history shows is Intellectual Christianity. I will place on this blog the article on the Rise and Fall of Intellectual Christianity originally made for Adventist Today which they said they would publish in the June/July edition of 06 but they did not and I just received my September/October edition so I am pretty sure they changed their minds.

So now we are back to the problem I alluded to before. Bruce’s explanation would only work upon those who already believe the way he does. It is not a reasoned argument that would work with someone who see the evidence in scholarship for the 2nd century origin of the book of Daniel. The problem then is that we express our message in a convincing way only to those who already believe our message. Hence these lessons on 1844 and the Investigative Judgment are directed only at Adventists, they do not address the other views except superficially and often incorrectly with the purpose being to try and make our version of events seem more likely. Giving us such things as Doug Bachelor’s Jesuit Plot and his associate Pastor Mike Thompson trying to insert days into the completely different Historicist view of years, instead using days and saying see how silly it can’t possibly mean days. And of course Goldstein’s strange reading of scripture in Judging the Judge and his propensity to rip Roman Catholic Catechism statements out of their context to make them seem like the Roman Catholic Church is trying to replace Christ. Sadly he did that 2 years ago and having gotten away with it, does so once again in the coming lesson in the quarterly.

If your goal is to reach only your fellow believers, or only your fellow Adventists then the argument of believe this because we believe this may be enough. If you want to reach the rest of the world then your argument has to be a reasoned faith. True you will get some to join you even if all you use is your belief in something. Near me is the Ramtha School of Enlightenment, people come from all over the world to hear the channeled words of wisdom. You don’t look for evidence and reason there.

Far too often our Sabbath Schools have degenerated into this believe us mentality rather then focusing on the why and how which is necessary to know to explain to others the reason for our faith. If the Sabbath School class is merely meant to feed us the beliefs we must have to be a part of this particular denomination then I have not really fulfilled my purpose in showing the problem inherent in this quarter’s lessons. However if Sabbath School is meant to equip Christians to go out into the world with the Gospel message, to not only feed us but to prepare us to feed a skeptical world, then we have a problem.

One thing is certain; Bruce will not ask again if I mentioned him on my blog. (Actually that is a figure of speech, in no way is it really certain he will not ask again, he has to at least read it first).

Just to show how the traditional view is much more focused upon faith in their traditional beliefs here is an excerpt from Abundent Rest Ministries Blog

So, yesterday in Sabbath School class, a relative newcomer said that he was not too excited about going over the day/year principle yet again. He couldn’t understand why we kept going over this thing again and again and again. He simply believed it because he understood it to be true from the study of the texts presented.

How many times have I wished that all members of our church had the simple faith of a child, or a new believer, such as this man! It was very simple in his mind, and in fact, he consented to belief in the day/year principle weeks ago...
Do you really think that when going over those texts the new convert ever really looked at the other views? More likely it is the ever popular here is what we believe now you believe it too and we will all get along splendidly.


Johnny said...

Thank you for this thoughtful and informed post.

My take? I say bring on the dialogue and disagreement!

Ron Corson said...

But dialog and disagreement are not wanted because disagreement shows that what the church has declared as truth is not quite as certain as they would want. This is why propaganda is always easier to produce then the discussion of reality. True in politics and true in Religion.

Johnny said...

A term I've heard more and more is "source of data".

As in, "our commitment is to Scripture and Ellen White's writings as the sources of data from which we will develop our theological understanding".

... it's one slippery slope this regressive return to cultic characteristics of notions of remnant grandeur and unequivocal truth without contemporary parallel.

It's the silence of dialogue that gets to me most of all though.

Charles Rey said...

Sounds like you need to get back to basics. If you study, pray, study with each other, and pray with each other you will have a much improved understanding of God's Word.