Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Monday, November 30, 2009

Brooks wants his church back

There are some in the Adventist Church who have noted that they wish every Adventist could hear the sermon by C. D. Brooks entitled “I want my church back”. So I will examine some of the statements from that sermon and see where they take us, taken from the text published on Adventist Affirm.

1. We are now facing an unusual time in which those on the inside of our church are questioning our distinctive teachings and doctrines more than those who despise us. Many of us are walking away from the mandate that God gave to us.

You will note that at the beginning of the printed edition of the sermon a theme that will run through the sermon. God has given the Adventist church a mandate…a message, a set of distinctive teachings and doctrines.

That is a powerful argument if it is true. Can we demonstrate that God actually gave the Adventist church a mandate of doctrines? The answer of course is no, we cannot demonstrate that, we can only believe that. Is that belief correct however? If it is correct then there is no point in questioning our distinctive teachings. That is the presupposition that the sermon author and most traditional Adventists begin with. Presuppositions can be dangerous however, what is the basis for the presupposition, that is an important questions and frankly it has to be dealt with as it is never safe to simply have faith in ones presuppositions. The Bible asks us to have faith in God, not our presuppositions or even our interpretations of the Bible. Faith in God is very different than faith in our message, our doctrines or our belief that we have the “truth”.

2. My dear fellow workers, I want to tell you today, that one of the powerful keys to success and power in our churches and our pulpits and in our evangelism is resolute faithfulness to the word of God, and to the message God has given to us to preach!

As is frequently the case with Preachers they act as if the “word of God” carries no elements of interpretation, either culturally, historically or symbolically. They exhort the need to be faithful to the word of God by which they usually mean the Bible (though some Adventists would include Ellen G. White in the word of God category). Yet we know very well that they have no intention of remaining faithful to the instructions of the Bible. The Bible says that Sabbath breakers, and rebellious children and adulterers should be executed. It tells us to not mix seeds in our fields, to not wear garments out of different kinds of cloth, to wear fringes etc. Are those things part of the message God has given us to preach? If not why not, if not how do this proponents of the “word of God” determine what is the message God has given us to preach? It appears he is back to his presupposition again.

3. We must preach our message. All of it! There are forces that seem to be dismantling what was so laboriously put together under the indispensable aid of the Holy Ghost. There is a picture of erudition which we carelessly call scholarship, but which is more scholasticism. Ellen White says its as certain that we have the truth as that God lives. She spoke of a platform of truth. She knew that we’d always be gathering sources and resources, but she said, "Don’t get off the platform." The Holy Spirit is not one to foster confusion, and He does not divide the saints. He may bring separation from the mixed multitude, but not from the saints.

I think within the first few paragraphs we can see where he is going. Ellen White is our message, we have no need for scholarship we have Ellen White. Whatever Ellen White said is the truth that we have, Ellen White acts as the Holy Spirit to us, we as the church should be drawn together by teaching the things that Ellen White revealed. Whether they agree with the Bible or whether they make sense or whether they were based upon the beliefs of her day is unimportant because Ellen White was the agent of the Holy Spirit, clearly he is part of the Ellen White is the word of God crowd. At this point let us define scholasticism. Since I am not a Preacher I can actually help people learn rather than pretend I am simply telling them what God wants. The Wikipedia defines:

Scholasticism is derived from the Latin word scholasticus (Greek: σχολαστικός)[1], which means "that [which] belongs to the school," and was a method of learning taught by the academics (scholastics, school people, or schoolmen) of medieval universities circa 1100–1500. Scholasticism originally began as an attempt to reconcile ancient classical philosophy with medieval Christian theology. Scholasticism was not a philosophy or theology in itself, but rather a tool or method for learning that places emphasis on dialectical reasoning. The primary purpose of scholasticism was to find the answer to questions and resolve contradictions. Scholasticism is most well-known for its application in medieval theology, but was eventually applied to many other fields of study.”

In effect Brooks is telling us don’t question, don’t try to solve contradictions, don’t be involved in the dialog of different ideas. We have the correct ideas from Ellen White, who, because he believes she was simply giving us what the Holy Spirit said all we have to do, is do what she said, believe what she says to believe.

That is what this is really all about. Traditional Adventism has like Brooks reveals in this sermon a cultic view of Ellen White as the voice of the Holy Spirit giving us as he says: “In the writings of Ellen G. White, that inside information which God sent just to us,..” So not only is it insider information it was sent to only Adventists, not to the whole of Christianity just to Adventists. This is a type of Adventist Gnosticism, where Adventists alone have the secret knowledge (gnosis). Again he maintains a presupposition that is based upon Adventist tradition not upon real evidence.

4. Guide. Some of what they’re doing is because they don’t know any better. We’ve got to guide them concerning where they ought to go, what they ought to do, what they ought to wear, what they ought to think. And we ought to do it with the Word of God and the Spirit of Prophecy.

5. A young woman who had always been friendly came to church loaded down with jewelry. When I approached her, ready to speak, she wouldn’t even look at me. She avoided me. She couldn’t be friendly as usual. No wonder our churches are turning cold! It’s because our members remain guilt-ridden and insecure and not sure of what they really stand for. They hear about easy divorce, about moral falls even in the ministry, Sabbaths on the golf course, or on the bicycle trail, or at the beach, theater-going, attacks on Ellen G. White. What’s happening amongst us?

Notice the greater portion of his problem revolves around Ellen White, her Sabbatarian ideas, her recreation ideas her ideas about jewelry and naturally those who question Ellen White.

We need to finally come to the understanding that there is a segment of Adventism who holds a very cultic view of Ellen White, who fails to acknowledge her errors, refuse to acknowledge what the Adventist church does acknowledge about her literary borrowing and acknowledge that much of her work was in fact the teachings of her own Methodist traditions. Those traditions took on new importance because of the assumption that Ellen White was speaking for God. As such ideas which were never Biblically based, such as not wearing jewelry or what one can and cannot do on the Sabbath (Puritan ideas) became incorporated into the Adventist church as if they were really from the Bible, because there were people who applied to Ellen White the idea that her words were the words of God.

Brooks may say that he wants his church back. I say I want the Christian church back. The church based upon a reasoned view of God, a church that is willing to dialog with other ideas within the Christian community. A church that seeks to learn rather than thinks they know it all. A church not build upon the traditions of some 19th century special Adventist prophet. A church that learns how to take the good and leave the bad from other prominent Christian as well as our own prominent Adventists.

My fear is that Brooks will get his church back and it will sink into the type of cultic sectarianism that Dr. Walter Martin saved the SDA church from in the latter part of the 1950’s. After all there is no dialog with the traditional Adventists like Brooks. Those who disagree are agents of the Devil or working in concert with the devil. This by the way is a major part of the sermon, dealing with music, naturally based upon obscure presuppositions where according to Brooks the devil says: “Then let’s talk about Christian jazz and religious gospel rock. They are contradictions of terms, you see.”

I really want to say to him take his church back, but for the damage that he does to the cause of Christ with his view of God and his view of the church. It may be there is a place in the religious world for those who think that they have all the answers and that such a fictional assurance is needed by them and their followers. There are so many different types of people in the world and some probably can’t tolerate rational thought or scholarship etc. So maybe we need to save a section of Adventism for those people. But I would hate to see the whole church organization move in that direction; though today the agitation to do exactly that seems to have once again renewed itself.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Rise and Fall of Intellectual Christianity

The Rise and Fall of Intellectual Christianity

The word intellectual when not prefaced by the term “pointed headed,” reflects by definition the use of one’s intellect over emotion or experience. It is by and large in Western society the legacy of early Christianity. The Christian faith is built upon the books written by people after the time of Christ. Jesus wrote no words for us to quote or they would surely have become the Scripture to all Christians. There was no shortage of books about Jesus or about Christians in those first three centuries of the Common Era. There were many literary works with many differing views of God and Jesus Christ.

In the second century Marcion edited and presented his own view of what the Christian canon should be well before the proto orthodox (those who were the first to hold to what would become orthodox Christianity and then compiled a more standardized Christian belief) decided that a canon was a good idea. Marcion’s canon included several books by Paul and an edited version of something very similar to Luke’s Gospel minus the first few chapters. Marcion was a member of the Gnostic form of Christianity. As such the God of Jesus Christ and the God of the Old Testament were two different Gods and as with many Gnostic’s Jesus was not man or God/man He was a spirit, a phantom who only appeared to be a man. We know about Marcion because of what the Early Church Fathers wrote about him, we have none of his writings but we have a good number of other Gnostic writings many found in Nag Hammadi in 1945. Examples of Gnostic writing include the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Truth. Those being the most readable but by no means cover all the Gnostic or other works from the early centuries of Christianity. Recently the news has told us about the new find called The Gospel of Judas. The debates in the first 400 years of the early church dealt with what today some call the “Lost Gospels”. It was from the Early Church Father’s writings until the find at Nag Hammadi that the Gnostic views were known. It was up to the Early Church Fathers to deal with those works and we can still read of their intellectual arguments.

The Early Church Fathers and even the Gnostic Christians were intellectuals. They used literary works to argue their position against the Gnostics and we have even seen Gnostic literary work that argues against the proto orthodox form of Christianity. The very literature we have today can often be traced back to these intellectual debates in early Christianity. Even the very simply logical idea of context of written material was decided by Christian argumentation. What is common sense to us today was part of the battle ground of the intellectual processes of our early Christian fathers. Today we would likely laugh at many of the arguments that some of the Early Church Fathers used. Yet the encapsulation of the Christian Canon was based upon years of Christian debate; arguments, rebuttals and appeals to reason. However these Christians show us intellectual debate does not remove God from the process. God must act upon the human mind; it is the point of contact between the transcendent God and the physical man; the nexus between the spirit of man and the Spirit of God.

Intellectual Christianity takes work and as time passed it became easier to merely follow religious institutions. Man by his nature is often lazy and seeks the path of least resistance. Not all men of course, for the Christian church could never have been founded by lazy men and women. As orthodox Christianity grew and spread so did the power of the church. With time intellectual Christianity diminished. The Protestant Reformation gave renewed hope to Christianity as the intellectual Christians began to question what tradition had done to the orthodox Christian religion. The Bible as the accepted standard, again took center stage and intellectual Christians championed new ways of understanding the messages that God had inspired. The mind, perhaps God’s greatest handiwork was used by God through the agency of intellectual Christians to rehabilitate the Christian church from the damage done by tradition. When emotion and experience based upon tradition were opposed by the God enabled intellectuals, the church changed.

Protestants today are in need of intellectual Christianity as much as any other time in history. The intellectual activity of our predecessors does not automatically flow to us. Their wisdom and their folly are there to be seen and learned from by those willing to process the information. Protestant heritage includes great minds; men and women of great accomplishments. But to use our intellectual faculties we have to make decisions that likely will lead us away from traditions which were not well founded. Not all emotion, experience or tradition is contrary to intellectual process. But it is the intellectual process that evaluates emotion, experience and tradition deciding what to keep and what to discard. History is less a guide and more a milepost; a sign to the ever vigilant and a message to those who desire understanding.

As the Adventist church stands at a point where it must decide to cling to tradition or accept intellectual Christian challenges, so also must other Protestant churches. The term Evangelical at one time meant the idea of a church spreading the good news of God found in the four gospels. Today the term has come to mean the same as fundamentalist. Evangelical now means people who hold to the Bible as inerrant, infallible and holding to a strictly vicarious atonement, scientifically and socially out of step with reasonable people. While a Christian may not worry too much about what the world says of them (realizing that as Jesus said the world would reject His followers as it rejected Him). Still there may be some truth to those who now use the word Evangelical as derogatory.

The intellectual Christians that built up the church are becoming less and less visible. Today many of the large Protestant churches have abandoned the long held Protestant church practice of Sunday school. Many churches offer little opportunities for adults to interact with one another in the discussion of religious topics. Cell groups, the popular innovation of the last 20 years are sometimes so authoritarian that questioning a leader is not even allowed. Singing and Sermons have become the main form of religious instruction in today’s Protestant churches with the exception of Televangelists. Divergent views and questions have no place in today’s modern Christian churches. While Adventist churches have not abandoned the Sabbath school program it may be so poorly attended or conducted that it often becomes hard to find a Sabbath school that one feels comfortable presenting a differing view or posing serious questions.

The reason for this situation is very likely that today’s Protestants, as well as Adventists, have accepted the idea that his or her church has “The Truth”. The truth is being preached and there is nothing anyone needs to question or challenge. To challenge and question is what the atheists and the worldly folk do, it is not what we Christians do. It is the decline and fall of the Christian intellectual as the traditional once again gains ascendancy. It is possibly a new Dark Ages at a critical time for Christianity, with the concurrent lack of viability of Christianity in Europe and Canada and the attacks of progressive secularism in America. For Christianity to survive outside of the uneducated third world intellectual Christianity must be maintained. It is something that the Adventist church must fight for; it is something our Sabbath schools must fight for. Sabbath or Sunday schools are a good indication of how well members are assimilated in a church, equally importantly however they are vital to intellectual Christians. Stimulating the thinking process and spurring continued study and application of knowledge.

The Christian church has a long history of argument. The arguments are recorded in the New Testament book of Acts and the writings of Paul. Several New Testament authors warn of the false teachers of the day. Truth and error have always existed inside the Christian Church; even the very godly can produce error and error repeated can become tradition. Christian Intellectuals may not be in agreement, they may even argue in Sabbath school and be critical of their own churches, but it is all a part of the process of thinking and applying knowledge. Christian Intellectuals believe that God will lead them into all truth, as the Bible says. However, since throughout history we have not arrived at all truth it is not likely that we will arrive at all truth today or tomorrow. We are all works in progress, and it is our faith in God manifested in Jesus Christ that maintains our unity even during the disagreements.

* This is an article from my website which I was reminded of this past week or two so I thought I would post it here.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

What did Paul mean by Die Daily

One of my frustrations is the way some people make declarative statements with great confidence that are both historically untrue as well as being Biblically untrue. For example here is how it was used today in the Sabbath School Class I attended this morning. This is taken from Larry Kirkpatrick’s article on his Great Controversy Website:

After all, in 1 Corinthians 15:31 Paul says: I die daily. Is this your experience too? Every Christian needs to die daily. Did you die to self this morning? Are you converted anew as of this morning?

Another blog says:

The desires we have are not excuses to endulge, they are simply a result of our fallen state. To follow God means to choose to deny self. Paul said "I die daily."
Victory can be won, through Christ, over all out sinful desires, whatever they may be.

This type of non contextual method of interpretation has lead many Adventists to assert that Paul when he uses the expression “I die daily”, quite apart from the context of danger as he preaches the gospel to some type of metaphysical death to self daily.

Here is the text in question first from the King James Version and then from the NIV to show that there is really no significant difference between translations.

KJV 1 Cor 15:29-32

29 Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?

30 And why stand we in jeopardy every hour?

31 I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.

32 If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.(KJV)

NIV 1 Cor 15:29-32

29 Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them?

30 And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour?

31 I die every day-- I mean that, brothers-- just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord.

32 If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die."(NIV)

Clearly Paul is referring to his life being endangered. But where do SDA’s get the idea that Paul is dying daily to self. It is from Ellen White’s misinterpretation of 1 Cor. 15:31.

Addressed to Two Young Men

Last December I was shown the dangers and temptations of youth. The two younger sons of Father O need to be converted. They need to die daily to self. Paul, the faithful apostle, had a fresh experience daily. He says: "I die daily." This is exactly the experience that these young men need. They are in danger of overlooking present duty and of neglecting the education that is essential for practical life. They regard education in books as the all-important matter to be attended to in order to make life a success. 3T.221.003 (Testimonies Vol. 3 p. 221)

The Lord requires us to be submissive to His will, subdued by His Spirit, and sanctified to His service. Selfishness must be put away, and we must overcome every defect in our characters as Christ overcame. In order to accomplish this work, we must die daily to self. Said Paul: "I die daily." He had a new conversion every day, took an advance step toward heaven. To gain daily victories in the divine life is the only course that God approves. The Lord is gracious, of tender pity, and plenteous in mercy. He knows our needs and weaknesses, and He will help our infirmities if we only trust in Him and believe that He will bless us and do great things for us. (Testimonies Vol. 4 page 66)

The life of the apostle Paul was a constant conflict with self. He said, "I die daily." 1 Corinthians 15:31. His will and his desires every day conflicted with duty and the will of God. Instead of following inclination, he did God's will, however crucifying to his nature. (The Ministry of Healing page 452)

The Lord would have us submissive to his will, and sanctified to his service. Selfishness must be put away, with every other defect in our characters. There must be a daily death to self. Paul had this experience. He said, "I die daily." Every day he had a new conversion; every day he took an advance step toward Heaven. We, too, must gain daily victories in the divine life, if we would enjoy the favor of God. (Signs of the Times Mar. 1887 page 3)

You will notice that this view is not at all the message in Paul, as the Expositor’s Bible Commentary says:

30-32 Another argument for the resurrection is that if it is not true, then suffering and hardship for the sake of Christ are useless. By "endangering ourselves every hour," Paul seems to be alluding to peril looming up in his ministry in Ephesus (cf. Acts 19), where he was when he wrote 1 Corinthians. He is in danger of death every day (v. 31). He seals this assertion with the oath (Greek, ne, "I mean that, brothers") that this is as true as the fact that he glories over them and over their union with Christ. Paul's reference to fighting with wild beasts in Ephesus (v. 32) may be taken literally or figuratively. But since from Acts 19 we see no evidence of such punishment and since it was questionable whether a Roman citizen would be subjected to such treatment, it is best to take the words metaphorically--the human enemies he fought with at Ephesus were like wild beasts. But, Paul says, why go through all this suffering if there is no hope of resurrection? To prove his point, he first quotes Isaiah 22:13, (possibly for the benefit of the Jewish believers at Corinth) from a context of reckless living that the Lord condemns. So without eternal hope through the resurrection, men have nothing to turn to but gratification of their appetites.

From some readily available internet commentaries:

The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible

1 Corinthians 15:30

And why stand we in jeopardy every hour?
Not only they that have suffered martyrdom for the faith of Christ, and for this article of it, have acted very injudiciously and indiscreetly; but we, also, who are on the spot, whether ministers or private Christians, must be highly blameworthy, who continually expose ourselves to dangers, and are for Christ's sake killed all the day long, are every moment liable to innumerable injuries, tortures and death; who in his senses would act such a part, if there is no resurrection of the dead? such, as they must be of all men the most miserable, so of all men the most stupid.

The 1599 Geneva Study Bible

15:30 16 And why stand we in jeopardy every hour?

(16) The sixth argument: unless there is a resurrection of the dead, why should the apostles so daily cast themselves into danger of so many deaths?

Matthew Henry Complete Commentary
on the Whole Bible

And his next is as plain to us. IV. He argues from the absurdity of his own conduct and that of other Christians upon this supposition, 1. It would be a foolish thing for them to run so many hazards (v. 30): "Why stand we in jeopardy every hour? Why do we expose ourselves to continual peril-we Christians, especially we apostles?’’ Every one knows that it was dangerous being a Christian, and much more a preacher and an apostle, at that time. "Now,’’ says the apostle, "what fools are we to run these hazards, if we have no better hopes beyond death, if when we die we die wholly, and revive no more!’’ Note, Christianity were a foolish profession if it proposed no hopes beyond this life, at least in such hazardous times as attended the first profession of it; it required men to risk all the blessings and comforts of this life, and to face and endure all the evils of it, without any future prospects. And is this a character of his religion fit for a Christian to endure? And must he not fix this character on it if he give up his future hopes, and deny the resurrection of the dead? This argument the apostle brings home to himself: "I protest,’’ says he, "by your rejoicing in Jesus Christ, by all the comforts of Christianity, and all the peculiar succours and supports of our holy faith, that I die daily,’’ v. 31. He was in continual danger of death, and carried his life, as we say, in his hand. And why should he thus expose himself, if he had no hopes after life? To live in daily view and expectation of death, and yet have no prospect beyond it, must be very heartless and uncomfortable, and his case, upon this account, a very melancholy one. He had need be very well assured of the resurrection of the dead, or he was guilty of extreme weakness, in hazarding all that was dear to him in this world, and his life into the bargain. He had encountered very great difficulties and fierce enemies; he had fought with beasts at Ephesus (v. 32), and was in danger of being pulled to pieces by an enraged multitude, stirred up by Demetrius and the other craftsmen (Acts 19:24, etc.), though some understand this literally of Paul’s being exposed to fight with wild beasts in the amphitheatre, at a Roman show in that city. And Nicephorus tells a formal story to this purport, and of the miraculous complaisance of the lions to him when they came near him. But so remarkable a trial and circumstance of his life, methinks, would not have been passed over by Luke, and much less by himself, when he gives us so large and particular a detail of his sufferings, 2 Co. 11:24, ad fin. When he mentioned that he was five times scourged of the Jews, thrice beaten with rods, once stoned, thrice shipwrecked, it is strange that he should not have said that he was once exposed to fight with the beasts. I take it, therefore, that this fighting with beasts is a figurative expression, that the beasts intended were men of a fierce and ferine disposition, and that this refers to the passage above cited. "Now,’’ says he, "what advantage have I from such contests, if the dead rise not? Why should I die daily, expose myself daily to the danger of dying by violent hands, if the dead rise not? And if post mortem nihilif I am to perish by death, and expect nothing after it, could any thing be more weak?’’ Was Paul so senseless? Had he given the Corinthians any ground to entertain such a thought of him? If he had not been well assured that death would have been to his advantage, would he, in this stupid manner, have thrown away his life? Could any thing but the sure hopes of a better life after death have extinguished the love of life in him to this degree? "What advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? What can I propose to myself?’’

John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible

Verse 30. Why are we - The apostles. Also in danger every hour - It is plain we can expect no amends in this life. Verse 31. I protest by your rejoicing, which I have - Which love makes my own. I die daily - I am daily in the very jaws of death. Beside that I live, as it were, in a daily martyrdom.

If this subject is ever brought up to a Traditional Adventist they generally will have no answer or their answer will be something to the effect that if he was willing to die then he must have been unselfish and being unselfish means that he was daily dieing to self. Which is the classic way of reading information into the text (eisegesis) rather then letting the text speak for itself (exegesis). The funny thing is that as many times as this is explained to Adventists they often will revert to the Ellen White usage rather than the Biblical usage. The idea of dying to self is pretty hard to accept no matter how someone tries to explain it. The best thing is that Biblically there is no need to be telling people they have to die to self. If you want to tell people it is hard to follow Christ that is fine use the text about taking up your cross and following Christ.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Mat 16:24 NIV)

In that case you are not dying to self you are discipling yourself, choosing to follow Christ rather than going your own way. Or if you want to talk about killing your “old man” there is a text for that.

Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. (Rom 6:6 -7 KJV)

In any case if the point one wants to make is that following God is not simply doing as you please there are abundant legitimate texts that can be used which are contextually speaking of the subject. There is no need to rip a text out of its context to make the point. Because in fact a text taken out of context is a pretext and ultimately you are not even making a point. Unless of course you are trying to make the point to people who already believe as you do and who take things out of context as much as you do. But in all honesty what is the point of that? Sometime you are going to have to face the people who don’t believe as you do, the people who won’t accept pretexts, why not learn to speak to them properly now and speak to others in our congregations properly within the context of the scriptures now.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Adventism is not a Zero-sum game

A zero-sum game is one where one person or group wins and the other players or group of players lose. It is often wrongly assumed that our economic system known as Capitalism is a zero-sum game. A good quote on that subject is found on this site:

Capitalism means that no one is subject to arbitrary coercion by others. Because we have the option of simply refraining from signing a contract or doing a business deal if we prefer some other solution, the only way of getting rich in a free market is by giving people something they want, something they will pay for of their own free will. Both parties to a free exchange have to feel that they benefit from it; otherwise there won't be any deal. Economics, then, is not a zero-sum game. The bigger a person's income in a market economy, the more that person has done to offer people what they want. Bill Gates and Madonna earn millions, but they don't steal that money; they earn it by offering software and music that a lot of people think are worth paying for. In this sense, they are essentially our servants. Firms and individuals struggle to develop better goods and more efficient ways of providing for our needs. The alternative is for the government to take our resources and then decide which types of behavior to encourage. The only question is why the government knows what we want and what we consider important in our lives better than we ourselves do.

In this analogy Adventism is the construct we are working within. Inside the Adventist church we are able to influence others but not by coercion. In this marketplace of ideas we succeed when we offer people something that they want or need. Based upon the free exchange of our ideas and their ideas for the benefit of all involved. We don’t have to take their ideas and they don’t have to take our ideas, ideas that benefit the person will be accepted those which don’t won’t find a buyer. Adventism is dealing in the wider Christian marketplace of ideas where we struggle to develop better ideas and services then other churches, though for this article we will just deal within the Adventist church.

Before we go on however we have to look at what the alternative is. For instance in economics the main alternative to Capitalism is Socialism. Socialism being that defined as: social organization in which the means of producing and distributing goods is owned collectively or by a centralized government that often plans and controls the economy. In Adventism this would be the Adventist leadership or bureaucracy. Thus the leadership would say this is what we believe and this is what you are to believe in Adventism. Since Adventism does not have the force of government, it has no IRS to collect your tithes and offerings, no prisons to jail dissenters, the force of the Adventist socialist leadership would be in the exclusion of membership of church members. Since in Adventism we are dealing in the marketplace of ideas, we are talking about the exclusion from the Adventist marketplace of ideas. A person or group of people could be excluded but still allowed to go and sit and be preached at or they could still go and sing in corporate song services and certainly they could still give to the Adventist leadership. They would simply be restricted when it comes to the expression of their ideas.

Adventism is not a zero-sum game however, it is not a magisterium, it does not take what ideas it accepts and redistributes them as it sees fit. If a Progressive Adventist becomes a traditional Adventist or a traditional Adventist becomes a Progressive Adventist it is not a win lose situation. In fact there are many or maybe even most Adventists holding to ideas between the quintessential Traditional or Progressive Adventist perspectives. Often we would not even agree upon what each idea is that makes up a Progressive or a Traditional Adventist even among those who label themselves as Progressive or Traditional Adventist when describing their own beliefs.

Since we are not a zero-sum game the various factions should not have to worry about any defections from their camp to the other camp. After all each group could go out and recruit more new members from outside of Adventism. So we are left with this marketplace of ideas, a place where ideas that serve people the best will be most accepted. As in Capitalism we are essentially servants who need to be offering ideas and services that people want and need and are willing to expend their time and energy to become involved with. At some point those being served will want to market themselves and become servants and then besides their time and energy they may offer their money to improve the product. Capitalism is effective because it creates wealth; it is not about redistributing wealth because that is a very temporary solution and much closer to the zero-sum game idea. The church that is creating a wealth of ideas stimulates more people to do more and create more ideas and ways to serve.

Does this seem elementary? Perhaps though today fewer and fewer people believe in Capitalism, usually because they don’t know what it is or because they think that a big government who tells them what to do is a better solution. Why that would be I have no idea, perhaps it is because some people won’t do anything to help someone else unless they are forced to do it. So if government forces them to help others maybe they will actually help some more people; though since the socialism does not create wealth ultimately they defeat their purpose. So it may be inside Adventism where some feel that the Adventist leadership simply knows what is best and they will shower down their wisdom upon the local churches and make them successful and helpful. The fact still remains that innovation comes from the grassroots not from the bureaucracy. It is the innovators that create the wealth.

So how is your local church at innovation, what have they tried, what ideas are being presented. If your church is like mine than it is doing precious little innovation and ideas are routinely limited. I am sure it is more difficult in Adventism since they have the idea that they have inherited the truth…what need of new ideas or innovations then? But really how many of us really believe that?