The following article is cross posted on the Features section of Atoday.com
Why I am a Progressive Seventh-day Adventist; Am I a Dreamer or just a FoolSeveral years ago I wrote an article for Adventist Today on the differences between Traditional Seventh-day Adventists (TSDA’s) and Progressive Seventh-day Adventists (PSDA’s). The question that is still often asked of me is why, if I don’t agree with the TSDA’s views, I am still an SDA. That question is not restricted to being asked by the TSDA’s; it is asked by former Adventists and even other PSDA’s. To most it appears that the default position of Adventism is the TSDA viewpoint. Frankly I ask myself the question far too often.
When you look at the things the TSDA’s believe it is easy to see that there are significant areas of disagreement. My description of a PSDA was:
--A differing view of what the Investigative Judgment is or acknowledgment that the Investigative Judgment is not Biblical. (And as such a differing view of Christ Activities from His ascension to His Second Coming.)
--An inclusion of other Christians into the category termed the "Remnant".
--A less rigid understanding of the role of Ellen G. White, ranging from acknowledging that she was not always correct in her teaching and understanding to the denial of Prophet status.
--The Seventh day Sabbath is for our benefit, true Christians can and do worship on Sunday and it is not now, or latter, to become the Mark of the Beast, or the Seventh day Sabbath to be the Seal of God.
Those things are but a small part of my differences with TSDA’s but then many of my concerns would be differences with many other Christian denominations. I would have a problem with the literalism of the Genesis stories of Creation and the Flood, huge problems with the ideas of inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible and major disagreements with the Penal/Substitution theory of Atonement. Right there I have disagreed with two points of the five points that made up Fundamentalism at the beginning of the 1900’s. Between 1910 and 1915 The Fundamentals  were published as a twelve tract publication, there appears to be some wording differences between sources but the fundamentals amount to these: 1. Literal inerrancy of the autographs (the original manuscripts of each scriptural book). 2. Christ's virgin birth, the deity of Christ. 3. Substitutionary Atonement (Also known as: Vicarious Atonement, Penal Atonement). 4. The bodily resurrection of Christ. 5.The bodily return of Christ and alternatively in some lists the authenticity of Christ's miracles. With such a powerful document refuting modernism and higher criticism it is little wonder that the Adventist church plunged into fundamentalism from the early part of the twentieth century. Yet Adventism today does not teach the inerrancy of Scripture or the idea of verbal inspiration. Even though if you look at the beliefs of many Churches in your community you will often find this idea included in the churches belief statements. The Adventist church also rejects the idea of eternal torment of the wicked in Hell. You can see that just with these two issues Adventism has some real advantages.
Unlike many denominations the Adventist church has had to deal with the idea of inspiration in ways that most Christians don’t have to consider. Adventists grew up with the idea of Ellen White as a prophet. What does it mean to have a nineteenth century prophet, how does inspiration work? Ellen White is someone who borrowed a good deal of information and said it was from God. Someone who thought the coming of Christ was mere months away, who at one time believed the door of salvation was shut. She predicted that some people present at an 1856 conference would be translated, some would go through the seven last plagues and some would just die. The myth of the all powerful and all knowing prophet was dashed along with the idea of verbal inspiration. Now whether she was or was not a prophet is still debated but what it did to Adventism was to open our minds to ways that God could work rather than merely holding to the fundamentalist tradition.
As a Progressive SDA I am the byproduct of all that information and experience, the questions raised and the methods employed to arrive at answers. What I have found is that the answers don’t always work and there is a whole range of opinions on a whole range of subjects. My Adventist heritage taught me I don’t have to accept what someone says Christianity is. I can examine and study and come to my own conclusions. In fact that heritage makes it incumbent on me to try and search harder for what works and what the truth really is. The Adventist church even has remained active in the exchange of ideas in
However as a Progressive SDA I am on a tightrope that is rapidly vibrating as the Traditional Adventists shake the rope with claims that are to my mind truly destructive. Such things as Last Generation Perfection with it suggestion that Jesus laid aside His divinity to live as a man with the same tendencies to sin as we have so that He showed us what we must do in the last generation: live a perfect life without sin. That touches on so many issues: Legalism, the nature of Jesus Christ, the reason for God incarnate, the nature of God, the idea of the trinity – which many traditional SDA’s try to redefine closer to tri-theism with the One meaning the three are united in purpose rather then in substance.
So the balance on the tightrope is constantly being challenged. Does Adventism offer enough reasons to stay? Are there other churches, which even though they have what I consider incorrect and illogical doctrines, that have less repugnant doctrines then what Traditional Adventism puts forth? The Adventist church leadership allows the semi-Arian view of Jesus Christ, the doctrine of Last Generation Perfection and other ideas because they don’t want to rock the theological boat in which many members reside. That tolerance could be said to exist for the Progressive Adventists also to some degree. Diversity has advantages as well as disadvantages.
The hope of Progressive Adventists is to take what we have learned and create a better church, first at the local level and working up. The problem is that we have no organization, no established presence in our local churches. Many of our local churches have Progressive Adventist led
If we don’t do something soon we will be hanging by our fingertips on the tightrope and in that uncomfortable position we will not remain Adventist long. We either must make our stand away from the tightrope or jump off. I suggest we make the stand at the local church level by starting
To this end I have created a website http://progsda.blogspot.com to begin the creation of a Progressive Adventist Network. If you facilitate or are a member of a
Class or would like to connect with other Progressive Adventist email firstname.lastname@example.org Progressive Sabbath School
“A Fundamentalist is a born-again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ who--
1. Maintains an immovable allegiance to the inerrant, infallible, and verbally inspired Bible.
2. Believes that whatever the Bible says is so.
3. Judges all things by the Bible and is judged only by the Bible.
4. Affirms the foundational truths of the historic Christian Faith: The doctrine of the Trinity; the incarnation, virgin birth, substitutionary atonement, bodily resurrection and glorious ascension, and Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ; the new birth through regeneration by the Holy Spirit; the resurrection of the saints to life eternal; the resurrection of the ungodly to final judgment and eternal death; the fellowship of the saints, who are the body of Christ.
5. Practices fidelity to that Faith and endeavors to preach it to every creature.
6. Exposes and separates from all ecclesiastical denial of that Faith, compromise with error, and apostasy from the Truth.
7. Earnestly contends for the Faith once delivered.”