For my final month editing the Spectrum blog I’m reflecting on the 28 fundamental beliefs. In particular I’m asking, is there more to essential Adventist identity than giving mental assent to a belief? Where’s the ethical action? Here’s number one.
The Holy Scriptures, Old and New Testaments, are the written Word of God, given by divine inspiration through holy men of God who spoke and wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. In this Word, God has committed to man the knowledge necessary for salvation. The Holy Scriptures are the infallible revelation of His will. They are the standard of character, the test of experience, the authoritative revealer of doctrines, and the trustworthy record of God’s acts in history. (2 Peter 1:20, 21; 2 Tim. 3:16, 17; Ps. 119:105; Prov. 30:5, 6; Isa. 8:20; John 17:17; 1 Thess. 2:13; Heb. 4:12.)
In reflecting on this belief I read all the support texts listed. After all, it is the fundamental belief of Holy Scripture. What caught my attention is that our doctrine of The Text is officially supported by some bizarre prooftexting—eleven verses scattered around eight different books. At first I thought it would be interesting to post the first verse that immediately follows each passage cited above. But that exercise in randomness would have distracted from the point here. As Isa 8:21 says, “They will pass through the land hard-pressed and famished, and it will turn out that when they are hungry, they will be enraged and curse their king and their God as they face upward.”
Yes, that was one of the sentences that immediately follows a supporting text for this belief. It is sola puzzling that scriptura would not have at least three verses in a row in any of the sixty-six books that would logically clarify its role and authority.
Actually, perhaps that is the power of belief in Holy Scripture.
The meeting of the divine and human is random, unpredictable, even surreal. It is an act of divine/human cooperation, which is not logical; it’s relational, even incarnational. In his The Powers That Be: Theology for a New Millenium, Walter Wink critiques several models of understanding this heaven/earth connection. He finally settles on an integral model in which the divine and human are “the inner and outer aspects of a single reality” (20).
There are some theologians who sort of passively claim we must wait first for Scripture to act on us. But this is often deployed by those holding one end of the text against some new potential threat to the status quo (see women’s ordination.) This fundamental belief feels like it was written by the half-hearted or a committee. Where’s the love of scripture? It reads like a legal policy to order, define and control. Someone who actually loves the idea of God being revealed in human words would laugh at this cobbled-together definition. As the Black Eyed Peas asked: Where is the love?
Commenting on fundamentalism in The Parallax View, Slavoj Žižek explores this question of active love:
More generally, when I am passionately in love and, after not seeing my beloved for a long time, ask her for a photo to remind me what she looks like, the true aim of this request is not to check if the properties of my beloved still fit the criteria of my love, but, on the contrary, to learn (again) what these criteria are. I am in love absolutely, and the photo a priori cannot be a disappointment—I need it just so that it will tell what I love. . . . This means that true love is performance in the sense that it changes its object—not in the sense of idealization, but in the sense of opening up a gap in it, a gap between the object’s positive properties and the agalma, the mysterious core of the beloved (355).
Love changes. We change by reading the Bible—and the Bible transforms too. Each translation, analyzed pericope, and reading changes the word. It is only the unself-aware who can talk about only a one way relationship with Holy Scripture. These Manti Te’o-esque Adventists can proclaim their object is never changes because they really don’t know what and Who they talk about. Anyone claiming a static scripture shows that they have turned the Bible into an idol and forgotten that it’s only God that is the alpha and the omega.
The Adventist is in on the revelation of God. The fundamental believer acts as the Word. “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord.
If Jesus is the Word made flesh, and the Christian is to be like Jesus, then the believer acts a part of the mystery of the Word. This is an integrative, recreative faith. The active Adventist creates a gap and breathes life into the text. The imago dei becomes performed. As a result the Word is resurrected and the active, ethical Adventist becomes more relational, even incarnational.
They are the standard of character, the test of experience, the authoritative revealer of doctrines, and the trustworthy record of God’s acts in history.
Image: Barbara Kruger, Belief+Doubt, 2012.