Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, November 01, 2008

A View Beyond the Cave

The title of this blog is taken from the CD A View Beyond the Cave by “Bernard”. It is apt for the subject today.

What is the culture of the present Adventist church? By culture I mean what is the atmosphere in your home town church. Does the church respect the larger ideals of critical thinking or reasoned presentations of why one believes what they believe? Or is the view from the cave all that they see? Is the atmosphere restricted by their location in time and tradition to one direction and that direction is the accepted doctrine? Thoughts peripherally restricted to a past century’s doctrine.

What is the future of those who view life from a cave, certainly they won’t want to leave the cave it represents their safety, the surety that they are right and the world is only what is seen from the cave. No need to go out there and really explore we have the view from the cave, no need to ask questions the answers must be whatever we can find in the cave.

Teach your children well was the advice from the old song by Crosby Stills Nash and Young, but what do you teach them? Do we teach them only what we think we know? That was the method of the Middle Ages, a time when they knew that the earth was the center of the universe and they knew that they should not suffer a witch to live and if the witch did not drown when submerged then that was evidence enough to kill her (the test preformed usually after torture of course). Does that sound like your church in the enlightened 21st century?

Of course such things would be an outrage today and no one would likely say that their church was so unreasonable. The witch trials are over today the Adventist church has moved on. Today in the Adventist church the test is over orthodoxy, not Christian orthodoxy because, well Adventists are not orthodox, we don’t believe in eternal torment in hell and we have a prophet that no other denomination except Adventist offshoots and Unitarians accept. So Adventism has developed its own orthodoxy. Today it known as Traditional Adventism. Why is traditional Adventism the orthodox position? Just as in general Christian orthodoxy it is the people who are in control that call the shots. Orthodoxy became orthodoxy by the power of the Roman Catholic Church when confrontations arose the church split. Early on it was the great schism that separated the Eastern and Western Roman Catholic Church and then the Reformation which separated the Protestant Church from the Roman Catholic Church. Orthodoxy then becomes whatever the people in power want it to be and orthodoxy changes depending upon which group you form an alliance with. What is orthodox to a Greek Orthodox Church is heterodox to the Roman Catholic Church and the Baptist church. What is orthodox to the Baptist is heterodox to the Roman Catholic and the Adventist.

Of course they all think they are right and the other wrong and they teach their children that they are right and the others must be wrong, if the others were right then they would believe as the leaders of their church do. So the question is, have they taught their children well? If the goal was to keep them in a particular doctrinal cave then yes they were taught well. If the goal was to make them thinking Christians then they really were not taught well.

That is the difference between Progressive Adventists and Traditional Adventists. The progressive Adventists ask the questions wrestle with the differences and teach their children that, is what thinking Christians do. That it is the relationship with God that counts not clinging to provincial doctrines just because certain people call them orthodoxy or that is what their peculiar prophetic figure believed.

What is the culture of your home church? Are your members dominated by some who are afraid of different beliefs and interpretations, ideas not the same as their traditions or is your church open to dialog on the issues, willing to let their children hear other arguments about origin and meaning and understanding religious and spiritual issues?

You have a sacred trust to teach your children well. But what is your goal in teaching them? That question will ultimately decide the culture of your church, not just of your children but of the adults in future generations and ultimately possibly the survival of your religion. But then again if the purpose of your religion is to simply self sustain then it is not likely to survive and probably should not.

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