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Fresh Perspective for Re-Inventing Adventism

Ernest J. Bursey has written the best short essay on the Sermon on the Mount that you will ever read.

Okay, I’m out on a limb now. I dare you to saw it off.

The link that follows my few words takes you to “The Adventist Community as the Light of the World: Claiming the Whole of Matthew’s Vision,” from the current issue of Spectrum. It sums up a life-long rumination, and this week when I re-read the essay—closely this time—I was stunned. Here I saw how Jesus begins (!) with assurance of salvation, and moves from there to a vision for revolutionary community that makes the pronouncements of, say, the three U. S. presidential candidates look like musings from the Kiwanis Club.

I also saw how the sermon relates to the key themes of “repentance” and “evangelism.” Of course, not many postmoderns get excited about repentance and evangelism, but that’s why we should not get too excited about postmoderns. They are often breezy and pedestrian, like those “new atheism” gurus whose books have lately billowed out of bookstores like bats at sunset. Everyone wants change for the better, but without self-truthfulness, and without Good News presented in a persuasive, non-violent way, the only certainty is change for the worse.

The essay also showed me how Jesus, in his call for perfection, never had in mind the obsessive introspection of those Adventists who are preoccupied with getting “sinless” rather than with actually being Christian. Jesus had in mind an ideal for the witnessing community. The ideal was a vision for a world-changing people; it was not a reason for individuals to worry themselves into that strange cocktail of self-loathing and self-deception that goes along with “perfectionism.”

Inside Adventism, the resources for Christian deficiency are everywhere. But so are the resources for Christian excellence. And this essay is such a resource. For insight and inspiration, it is a thing of beauty. As fresh perspective for re-inventing Adventism, it is as indispensable as bread.

The best short essay on the Sermon on the Mount that you’ll ever read? I’ve read more than a little on the subject, but less than the author, and less than lots of others. So go ahead. Saw off the limb I’m sitting on. I’d rather be wrong than miss out on a crucial conversation. And if all this enthusiasm goes over the top, and is an embarrassment to Ernie Bursey, I beg forgiveness.

Charles Scriven chairs the Adventist Forum board of directors.

Click here to view Ernie Bursey’s article, republished from the most recent issue of Spectrum magazine. (Requires Adobe Acrobat to view.) For a limited time only, click here to view the entire issue online and see what subscribers enjoy each quarter.

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