Recently I was talking to a friend who said that if my intention was to teach progressive Adventist ideas in the Early Teen class instead of Jesus that he would oppose my position as a teacher there. That got me to thinking; we often note the differences between Progressive Adventism and Traditional Adventism and it appears that some don’t realize why we are Progressive Adventists.
Progressive Adventism is more then the difference in beliefs it is a difference at how we arrive at our positions. So it is not something that one can simply turn off so that they can get along with Traditional Adventists. Perhaps an example is in order, something that most every Adventist can understand. General Christianity has a conception of God which includes the need for God to torture forever and ever those who are lost. Adventists look at the same Bible verses that the mainstream Christians use and instead of eternal torment, they see the annihilation of the lost. Not only are those far different concepts they cause a fundamental difference between the conceptions of what God is like.
The difference in methods of interpretation which result in better conceptions of God is the reason why we are Progressive Adventists. It is not simply to be different from Traditional Adventists it is because we see a better way of understanding God. It makes no sense to say yes here is a better understanding of God and man but don’t use them when talking to people, only talk to them using traditional language and concepts. It would be like having a good and useful math formula that you were not allowed to use because the book used a convoluted formula that most can not remember or get to work when they use it. Now you may want to show your students the book’s formula and run through it so they know about it but you would not leave it there you would instruct them about the useful formula also. That is often how we compare and contrast Progressive Adventism with Traditional Adventism, but that comparison is not the reason for the difference.
The reason for the difference is the thought processes that go into the conclusion. We list conclusions because they are concrete differences they are easier to understand and relay then an exposition of how we got to those conclusions. Many of my articles go into the thought process that leads me to different conclusions then Traditional Adventism or mainstream Christianity but people often don’t read lengthy articles they prefer to just get down to what the difference is with their belief. If they are critical thinkers this is not a problem because they will continue to examine the information to find the “why’s” but if they don’t think critically they will just assume that the difference is just because the Progressive just want to be different.
It however is they “why’s” that are of primary importance. Why do we want to have a more accurate view of God, why have a view of God that removes arbitrary or cruel aspects from God. The why is because we want to grow in knowledge and present the most accurate view of God we can produce. The why is because if we can portray God as a friend who is for us and not against us, we fulfill our mission as Ambassadors of God. We present a religion that makes sense to people and they will be far more receptive to accept a relationship with God. When, as I posted in a previous blog we lose 90% of our youth from being believing Christians we should realize that our traditional methods of teaching about God are not connecting with even our own children. How are they going to connect with the larger outside world if we can’t even entice our own children to stay in our religion?
Progressive Adventism seeks to present other ideas which acknowledge that there are in fact different ways of understanding things. That we don’t necessarily have all the answers but we are in a search for truth and we don’t have to all agree but we do need to take the time to think. Salvation is never going to be about what we know or don’t know, it is God’s gift that gives salvation to people; whether Progressive or Traditional Adventist, Roman Catholic, Baptist or Mormon or Agnostic. God grants the salvation and He knows the hearts of men. We are merely agents of God but we can make God appear attractive or repugnant and we have a duty to present God to the best of our ability. And that does not mean setting our minds aside and only teaching or thinking the thoughts of yesterday or the interpretations of yesterday. The Bible clearly presents a growing understanding of God through out it progression. Should we not also continue to progress?