One Sabbath school teacher stated that: “We use Ellen G. White too much almost deifying her!” One might also hear: Or “Adventists must overcome their legalism!” I think it interesting that we accept these assumptions without critically looking at them. Such sentiments are often never challenged.
Some assume that one could go into your average Adventist church and get talked about for bringing cheese or meat to the pot-luck. It is assumed that you can go to your average Adventist church and hear people quote Ellen White more than the Bible. It is assumed that the average Adventist church consists of people with a notepad seeking to write down all the things that you have done wrong. But are these assumptions true?
Pot Lucks and Cheese
I find such statements interesting for a couple of reasons…First, I find that the seeker sensitive services do not necessarily end up with a more “loving” expereince. See my post on another blog. But also, I have attended many potlucks and have often seen cheese in them. Sometimes I see meat…But I have never seen anyone castigated for bringing cheese or meat. I have even seen a church related function have unclean meat in it….(but it was something that the pastor was not aware of and attempted to correct) I will acknowledge that my experiences are limited to my own case, I have not visited every church etc…But I can’t help but wonder what if the assumed problem is really not the problem?
Legalism or Lawlessness?
What if our basic assumptions are wrong? What if lawlessness is at least as big a problem as legalism in the church today? What if it is not that we use Ellen White too much, but hardly at all? What if instead of “worshipping her” as we are charged with we ignore her?
I doubt you will go to many churches tomorrow and hear Ellen White quoted more than the Bible. In fact you might hear Billy Graham or Martin Luther quoted more than Ellen White. I think it interesting that some think that Ellen White is deified in the church while at the same time we hear her less. Is the prophet disappearing or have I just attended the few churches that seem to downplay her?
What do you think?
Eugene Lowry writes in The Homiletical Plot that when one of our problems is placed next to the Gospel a sermon emerges. Thus we can approach this in two ways. We can either approach it from the problem and see what aspects of the Gospel address this problem, or we can approach it from the Gospel and ask what questions does this particular Aspect of the Gospel address.
Lowry demonstrates this by looking at the Trinity. He states that if one wishes to preach on the trinity one can ask, “What problem or bind does the Trinity get us out of?” Likewise we can take a particular problem and then ask how does the Trinity address this issue? It is interesting to see some theologians taking issues like racism or ecology and then asking how the Godhead addresses such issues. Sally McFague structures her ecology theology on the trinity. Nancy Eisland takes disability as her problem and then asks the question what does Jesus have to say to that problem.
Our Job is to relate the Gospel to the People
As preachers are job is to relate the Gospel to the people. Like every other kind of preacher there are resources unique to us for this undertaking. So I would ask, can we take a problem like Ecology and Address it with the tools that we have for understanding the Gospel? How does the health message relate to ecology? Does it? How about Racism? does the vision of equality in the Sabbath help us address this perinial problem even among our own ranks? (I have written a seminary paper on this, if you want it email me). While these are all academic problems, we could also ask more practical problems like what does Adventism have to say to the one in your congregation that has just lost a loved one? What does Advnetism have to say to one in your congregation that is struggling with Addiction? And finally what does Adventism have to say to systemic structures of evil in the world? Do we only deal with individuals?
What Problems do our Doctrines Address?
But also looking at it from the other side, what problems do our doctrines really address? For example, one might conclude that the Sanctuary message is solely about calculating the 2300 days to prove that we really weren’t wrong on the date 1844. That was truly a question 150 years ago, but does the doctrine have anything to say to us today? I think it does, but remember Lowry pushing us to ask the question what problem is truly address by that doctrine? What bind does it get us out of?
These questions are part of the reason that I began this weblog. I want to begin asking questions of Adventism that we normally do not ask. I also wish to give Adventism a chance to answer…
The Adventist News Network quotes Dr. Paul Peterson (Link No Longer Available) as saying, “We preach a message that is distinct, but if it is not relevant it will not be perceived as part of my personal identity, which means when I am faced with a crisis it won’t help me…”? At a Bible Conference that explored Adventist Identity.
Later, Peterson?emphasizes that while the truth does not change, the environment changes and thus we need to explore what this unchageable truth means in this changing culture.
Dr. Niels-Eric Andreasen, president of Andrews University, presents the following definition of an Adventist as “a Christian who waits for Jesus to come”
Such a definition seems to be too simple to be of any value, but the struggle to come up with a simple definition of what it means to be an Adventist in todays world would help the Preacher immensely as the preacher seeks to make the Gospel as understood by Adventists relevant.