I remember looking at a TV show a while ago where a soldier thought that WWII was still going on long after the final defeat of Germany. The warrior was in a cave with his last orders from command and never received notice that the war was over. Sometimes in our churches it seems that many are just like that warrior. I hear people fighting “those who emphasize jewelry, makeup, and movies” going on in some contexts. They wonder why Adventists spend so much time teaching and emphasizing the doctrines. They wonder why your average Adventist can cite 1844 but can’t tell you about the Jesus they love. People of this mindset seem to assume that we are living in an era where doctrinal understanding flourishes while love and knowledge of Jesus languishes.
On the other side are those who see that the doctrines are totally ignored in today’s Adventism. They find it ridiculous to argue that Adventists overemphasize lifestyle issues and wonder where are these Adventists who can derive 1844 from the Bible. They believe it is high time we stop leaving the doctrines aside. they argue that yes we need Jesus, but Jesus calls us to doctrinal integrity.
I agree that it is ridiculous to argue that your average Adventist knows 1844 or can defend the State of the Dead or even the Sabbath. I doubt many modern Adventists could defend 1844 from the writings of Ellen G. White let alone the Bible-alone standard that we are called to use. Certainly there are groups out there that emphasize these doctrines. Probably there are some who do it to the detriment of a Jesus emphasis, but to spend your time fighting a battle against the Ellen White Worshipers is to fight a very limited fight. Come on, who worships Ellen White?
However the other side, a smaller but more vocal group, in its emphasis of the doctrines. Also miss a key point. We need more than just a regurgitation of doctrinal facts. It takes more than just proving your point, relevance must be a part of any theological discussion. Tell me why I care if the doctrines are true in your presentation.
Along those lines, I think that the Sanctuary message has marvelous keys for connection. Its “story-like” presentation of the gospel appeals to the narrative angle.
In addition, today there is a call towards spirituality and prayer. What is better suited for that discussion than the Sanctuary where every sacrifice was a prayer. We cannot simply continue to use the “brute force method” of relevance and assume that we will win the day. The day where you simply attempt to prove you are right and therefore you win is over.
So where do we go from here? We need to get past the “1844 is true…no it ain’t” arguments that have characterized a lot of theological discussion since the 1980s. No one is listening to that anymore. Folks wonder “what is 1844?” We also need to get past the “theater…no theater” arguments because it is irrelevant as well. We need to start over. If you want to teach modesty, teach it, but don’t teach rules that condemn one form of jewelry and not another one. If you want to teach health, teach it, but don’t teach rules that allow obese people talk about their vegetarianism as if it is some kind of virtue. If you want to teach love and grace, stop acting as if everyone else is teaching doctrine.
In short, the old fight is over, and no one won. Lets come together on the platform of truth and attempt to understand what vision our doctrines give us to understand Jesus, His love, and His work in us and for us and the entire world.