Every now and again I become fascinated with what feel to me to be the elements of religious experience that are taken for granted. When these moods come, I try to get to the bottom of why religious experience (and I guess particularly of the Adventist variety) expresses itself in the way that it does. In short – I ask “Why?” a lot.
In my initial Spectrum Column I asserted that there is no Seventh-day Adventist ethic. But there are certainly Seventh-day Adventist ethicists and, more specific yet, Adventist bioethicists exist in disproportionately high numbers. This fact is surely due to our traditional emphasis on healthcare as an essential element of the ministry of Jesus Christ.
The supposed existence of reverse racism aside (a concept whose legitimacy I don't want to spend time debating in this article), it is undeniable that as a systematic concept, racism flows primarily in one direction. So preaching to a predominantly minority congregation about what they can do to facilitate improved race relations can be a tightrope. It can easily veer off into directions that may be ill-received: akin to lecturing women on what they ought to do to prevent misogyny or assault.
One of the most insightful stories from antiquity is found in Plato’s “The Apology” (20c-24e). Here Socrates, at his trial, gives an account of how he developed a reputation for wisdom. It began, he relates, when his friend Chaerephon asked the Oracle of Delphi if there was anyone wiser than Socrates – and was told that no one was.
Prior to 1990, the Supreme Court’s standard in determining whether a law violated a citizen’s free exercise of religion was intimately tied to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. An Adventist, Adele Sherbert, sued to receive unemployment benefits after she was fired from her job because she refused to work on the Sabbath. In the case that now bears her name, Sherbert v.
I have enjoyed a relatively peaceful life, at least as far as physical violence is concerned. I’ve not been in a fight since childhood. I’ve never been the victim of a violent crime, thank God, nor even threatened. (I’ve been threatened occasionally over my theology, but not with being beaten up, only with losing my salvation—though I’m reasonably hopeful that those who made the threats haven’t the authority to enforce them.)
We had just finished a discussion about the diversity section of our textbook. The conversation had been lively and respectful, but it was clear it had become slightly uncomfortable for at least a couple of folk in the class as we discussed nuances of class, race, and privilege. There were a few white participants who genuinely wanted to understand some of the distinctions that were being made in our exchanges. They had never thought about some of the subject matter content. After our hour was up there was still a lot that remained unsaid, yet it had definitely been a productive class.
There seems to be a cognitive disconnect in the Adventist Church. Maybe it exists in other churches too. I think most denominations would agree that the process of sanctification (or whatever word the denomination has for gaining knowledge of Christ and how He wants us to live) is an individual process. We don’t get saved in groups. Each of us will be judged by the Father individually, with Christ as our Advocate. But if this is true it leads to a question.