Chuck Scriven at CZSS: “Shall We Break in Two?”

Saturday, December 10, 2022 - 9:30am

(9:30 a.m. PST)

Choir Zoom Sabbath School at Pacific Union College

On December 10, Chuck Scriven will present “Shall We Break in Two.” He writes about the topic:

When Nancy invited me to teach this coming Sabbath, she had just considered an essay of mine titled “Can Adventist ‘Progressives’ Overcome a Fatal Tendency?” Would I share my thoughts with the class in December? 

Yes, and I am very pleased about soon being in your company again.

In that essay, I worried that the “progressive” Adventist agenda too often comes down to “anti-fundamentalism.” Such a concern is well justified but cannot generate, I said, a “movement-making mission.” The context was the appearance of Gilbert Valentine’s Ostriches and Canaries: Coping with Change in Adventism 1966-1979; for any Adventist of a certain age, this book is a truly riveting read. But I argued that in largely overlooking efforts during this period to rethink, or reconstruct, Adventism, the book, invaluable as it is, perpetuates excessive focus on deconstruction. Although this effort is necessary, obsession with deconstruction risks the conclusion that Adventism is permanently irrelevant. Renewing the vision—changing it for the better—is also crucial, and efforts to that end have been (not least during the period Valentine explores) attempted. These efforts, I suggested, must continue, must become central to progressive identity.

 On Sabbath, I will summarize the essay, attending, as we cannot do too often, to John 16:12–15. But the Christmas season is upon us, and for the coming weekend, one of the assigned lectionary readings (besides expected Christmas passages from the Gospels) is James 5:7–10. That in mind, I will also turn our attention to James 5, and in particular to this from verse 9: “Beloved, do not grumble against one another.”

 Why? In thinking about the Adventist future, the contrast between “progressive” and “fundamentalist” comes up again and again. And by invoking this contrast, we are very often—I mean to include myself—grumbling against others. The question my essay raised concerned new vision, and what I took to be its necessity for sustaining a movement. For part of our discussion on Sabbath, I will ask also how a community mired in difficult reassessment can generate sufficient generosity and forgiveness to maintain basic unity? How can honesty and truthfulness rise above destructive grumbling about one another?

Dr. Charles Scriven has served the church as an editor (Insight magazine; briefly, Spectrum), theologian (Walla Walla College; “popular” and “scholarly” essays; books like The Transformation of Culture; The Promise of Peace), pastor (Athena, OR, and Sligo Adventist Churches), and educational administrator (Columbia Union College, now Washington Adventist University; Kettering College).

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