An interesting thing happened at the Sabbath School class I attend. Our regular teachers were not there so the teacher of another class led both classes. I don’t know who was from her class or who the visitors to our class were. One younger man made a comment about not taking the days of the Genesis creation account as literal. Now it was not me bringing this up, but I did point out that they were called days even before there was any way to define a day, e.g. no sun so that it is reasonable to question what day meant.
A little later after the teacher had given her view that we should be interpreting the Bible through what we know of Jesus Christ another man, I don’t recall him ever at our class before but I have seen him around the church a lot so I know he is a regular member, said in effect if you don’t believe in the literal days of creation in the Genesis story you can’t believe in the literal life, death and resurrection of Christ. I think if we had had our regular class teachers we would have examined that statement but we didn’t and most of the people there were not regular members of our class so I have no idea where they stood on interpreting the Bible. So I like everyone else let his statement stand.
What bothers me most about this is the way that such antagonism exists between people in the Adventist church. Here was someone who because he can’t conceive of any other way of interpreting the Genesis story has determined that if you don’t view the story the way he does, you can’t believe in Jesus Christ. Yes this is a common statement that I have heard fundamentalists use but it has never made sense. It is rather like saying that if you don’t see Satan as the serpent then you can’t see Jesus as the Savior. Yet it was not until near the end of the first century that Satan was compared to the serpent of old. Israel did not see the serpent as Satan, the New Testament church through at least most of it’s time did not have to see Satan as the serpent yet they were very capable of seeing Jesus Christ as the Savior. Just because someone equates something to something else does not make the equation valid.
Somehow the Traditional Seventh- day Adventist (TSDA) equates the Genesis account that was even by their estimation was written 1500 years after any of the events recorded. Written to a people coming out of slavery in a very primitive world and introducing a concept of One God instead of many gods. Requiring that it must be viewed as historically accurate as the New Testament all of which was written within 100 years of the events recorded and most of the accounts taken from witnesses. Though we don’t know who wrote most of the gospels we do know that the gospel now called Luke attributes it sources to witnesses and even the more liberal scholars will acknowledge that John’s disciples probably wrote the book of John.
There is this tremendous difference in the material that records the life of Christ and that that records the Creation of the world to which there was no witnesses. So why is it so important for the Traditionalist to demand that one particular view of the Creation must be accepted or you cannot accept the historicity of Jesus Christ?
The answer I think is found in the culture within the Adventist church, probably a similar culture is found in other fundamentalist churches but here I deal with Adventism. That culture has been to declare our beliefs to be true whether they can be shown to be true or not, whether they can be shown to be derived from the Bible or not. Because the culture inside the church makes these claims and indoctrinates them through the Lesson Study Guides and the Sermons people begin to make assumptions that call anything else a deception. In fact on the same day as the above incident the Pastor began his sermon by telling the congregation that all the other views of eschatology are deceptions. Armageddon is a deception, a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem is a deception and of course the rapture is a deception. In general unless it is from the SDA churches expectations of end times everything else is a deception. I am sure that there are people in other churches who will say that the Adventist view of eschatology is also a deception but how can one make predictions about what is to come and call other predictions about what is to come a deception. None of the groups has any evidence that the other is wrong or they are right or what is going to happen one way or the other. So to say that it is a deception is actually a deception. All these different groups are trying to interpret the Bible verses to make sense of the different Bible passages. Personally I don’t think we have any ability to predict either the end time events here on earth or what is to happen after the second coming. We have a common history of being wrong when making predictions even with all the information the Bible gives. And the modern prophets have been equally wrong.
The point here is that there is a culture that defines the church as completely right and others, outside the denomination or the denominations norms as completely wrong. This translates into a restricted view when discussion groups meet. It translates into an all or nothing view, either you agree with my traditional views or you can’t be a Christian. I can only imagine how the young man felt after the traditional Adventist asserted that the younger man could not believe in a literal Jesus Christ. Will he ever come back to our church? In some ways I think many traditional Adventists would rather he did not come back, they don’t want people in the church who according to the TSDA’s view are compromising with Satan to destroy the Adventist church. Yet I and no doubt other Progressive SDA’s welcome other Christian views into the Adventist church. We don’t have all the truth and we most definitely have wrong interpretations, why then pretend we have a corner on the truth? As a church shouldn’t we actually be trying to grow in understanding? Can we really grow if we merely assume our traditional views are all there is? We must change the culture within our Adventist churches, faith and reason must exist together if we expect to fulfill the great commission.