5 Things I Love About Adventism
One thing I do often (and by often I mean very often) is challenge the Seventh-day Adventist church - particularly in the West - to… well, to do better.
Whether I am calling our local church structures to be redesigned for mission, provoking our cultural quirks and questioning their utility, or disputing unhealthy theological frameworks that exist among us the message is fundamentally the same: we have to be better.
But this week, I decided I would pause the revolutionary broadcast to share 5 things I love about Adventism. So here goes:
I love our theological trajectory. I could go on and on about this, but in short Adventism is a theological narrative that is not about Adventism and I love that. Instead, Adventism is a story about God, his heart and his love, centred and strung together in Jesus. But the best part about it is that our theological narrative is not set in stone but constantly unfolding and developing. Yes, there are those among us who would prefer a more stringent, creedal kind of Adventism but its just not in our DNA. As a result, we remain committed to scripture rather than a statement of beliefs. And that commitment, I believe, has enabled us to develop an understanding of the love of God no other theological system around can match. No, that’s not a very politically correct thing to say. But hey, I wouldn’t be an Adventist if I didn’t believe there was something eccentric about what we have to say.
I love that we are Historicists. Historicism has been challenged for forever by people outside and inside of our church. Today, there is a whole new gang of voices repeating the century old attacks (with some new developments I must concur). And that’s fine, I mean, everyone is entitled to their own thing right? But for Adventism, Historicism is an apocalyptic interpretive method that has transcendent efficacy. Now, I don’t pretend that it’s a perfect method, that we have it all figured out, or that it can’t be misused (because it can and is). But Historicism provides us with a kind of sociological significance unmatched by alternative methods. For example, Historicism gives us a narrative that manifests the injustice of religio-political empire in a way that is not immediately self evident. This gives us a foundation to diverge from the collective pursuit of utopianism and the ever trending move toward social reform via church-state legislation. Instead, Historicism calls us to a kind of theological and ideological remonstrance on the one hand, and social preparation (as opposed to reformation) on the other. This approach is rooted in our view of human empire, which even when united with God’s kingdom ultimately self destructs as Daniel and Revelation so aptly reveal. It is also rooted in the denial of a coming golden age for humanity. Instead, Adventists see a coming catastrophe that cannot be averted by political manoeuvres. Our mission is therefore, to prepare the world for this climactic zero-hour in which the only righteous Kingdom will abdicate the throne of humanities global res publica. Sadly, other common interpretive methods of Daniel and Revelation point in the opposite direction by envisioning a coming era of righteous human dominion which in turn leads to political power grabbing in the name of righteousness. This, Adventists believe, is the precursor to a manifestation of religious intolerance and injustice of apocalyptic proportions.
In addition, Historicism is the only prophetic interpretive method that unveils God in action throughout the entirety of human time. Even during the Dark Ages where it appears God took a vacation (as Morgan Freeman put it in the movie “Bruce Almighty”), Adventisms apocalyptic consciousness helps us understand his presence and movement even in the darkest pages of the church’s sordid story, including the chapters yet to unfold. It’s also cool that we are the only Historicist denomination left. Some people see that as a sign that we are the only idiots left in Christendom. I see it as a sign that we are the only anti-conformists left. Of course, at the end of the day my love for Historicism is rooted in the text and not in whether I think its neat or not, but explaining that will take more space than I allotted for this short post, so I’ll move on.
I love our global structure. Despite all the challenges created by having an intercontinental and cross-cultural institution I honestly can’t think of anything better. Now some of my more post-modern, anti-institutionalist friends find this appalling. They wonder how someone as forward thinking as me can be so fond of our global structure. After all, all those super cool non-denom churches are as neat as they are because they keep all the tithe in house. Why can’t we do the same? My answer revolves around the pragmatic idea that while cynical anti-institutionalism has some value it falls flat when it comes to the practical needs of a global mission. The fact is, Adventism has a message that must go to the entire world. If you believe that, then you need an institution to facilitate that mission. Those who reject the institution are often only interested in reaching their immediate, local region. But Adventism doesn’t have a regional message, it has a global one - for every person on earth. So the bottom line is, we need a global structure. Now of course, I applaud the voices that say the institution needs reform. It definitely does! But that doesn’t mean we should abandon it. The fact remains that if we have a global message, we need a global presence and the level of organisation needed for that sort of thing demands an institution. And because I accept the premise that we have a global message, then I embrace our global structure as a needed tool to that end.
I love our health message. Yeah, there’s always the annoying people who are like super gung-ho and fanatical and no one likes them. I get that. Even non-Christian vegan hippies have their weirdos who will chop your head off for daring to eat your sweet potato quinoa salad in a plastic container (HOW DARE YOU??). But despite this wacko-reality, the health message is one of the coolest things about Adventism. It’s rooted in the idea that human beings are holistic creatures whose spiritual, emotional and physical nature is intertwined like the rhythm, melody and harmony of a musical composition. When they flow well together, something beautiful happens both at the individual and collective level. Even other denominations have started to pick up on the value of a holistic approach to the human as opposed to the dualist approach that has governed classical theology and given birth not only to generations of Christians with little care for physical well being, but also to doctrines like eternal torment that have driven scepticism to the heights of influence it enjoys today.
I love our potentiality. Because of Adventisms theological trajectory, its apocalyptic consciousness, global structure and holistic view of man I believe its future potential is beyond anything we have yet imagined. While our beliefs exist outside our church, they do so sporadically - here, there and everywhere. But in Adventism, each of these elements coalesce to form a movement and a story unheard of in the world. And the moment that we lock into that, get excited about it and refuse to allow tradition, fundamentalism and narcissism to get in the way of it that is the moment that we will sweep the world with something grand. Our potential is overwhelmingly exciting and I pray and hope for the day it is unveiled for the world to see.
What are some things you love about Adventism? Share your thoughts below!