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The Ground Beneath Cliff’s Feet

At Adventist Today, Cliff Goldstein writes:

It was one of the hardest things in the world for me to become an SDA. I had to totally revamp my entire view of reality at the most fundamental level possible. I pretty much had to admit that the intellectual and cultural foundations of my first 23 years of existence were, well, flat-out wrong.

. . .

I mean, here are the options, folks, pretty much. That’s why, as I said, however hard it was for me to become an SDA, now that I’m here, now that I see just how distinct and clear our message is from the rest of the Christian world, it makes me more convinced than ever that this is “present truth,” and that God has raised up this church for our time.

Hence, I’d suggest that critics, particularly those within, who know all these things but pay them little heed–I suggest that they take off their shoes because they are, indeed, on holy ground.

It’s really interesting how much Cliff mashes up his biography and theology. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, we all do. But there does lurk a not-so-skin-deep lack of self-awareness in this recurring apol(ego)tic rhetoric:

“however hard it was for me to become an SDA”

I suggest that they take off their shoes”

I‘d suggest. . .I suggest. . .here are the options, folks, pretty much”

Oh really? I like how God suggests that there are always more (1 Kings 19).

Perhaps, for some, Adventism is valuable not for what they leave below, but for what they find ahead – in the bush.

There’s not a single person in the world who approaches Truth, much less religion, the exact same way. Psychologically, Cliff gave up a lot, sure. But more than my grandmother who raised children while bringing her non-Adventist husband to church on Sabbath for over 50 years? What about my Eastern European great grandfather who was publicly slapped for refusing to carrying a gun in WWI due to his Adventist convictions. Or the millions of others – silent in Africa, India, South America – who have given up more than anyone reading this.

So Cliff read Kurt Gödel and had a destabilizing idea. Dozens of Adventists have too. They don’t point out the holy ground in front of all our noses. Why? Because some of them are working to embody the principles behind the shoe-removing tradition: one’s humility in the presence of the Divine.

That’s the sort of “present” truth we all seek. As someone who cares about the future of Adventism, I want a community that works to keep our fingers from getting in the way of the small still (powerful) voice or Pascalian bushfire faith. I understand that it was intellectually hard for some to join, but it won’t mean more by making it hard for the rest of us to stay.

If I remember the story right from my Your Story Hour tapes, somehow God got the message across sans anyone in the camp. And Moses didn’t return to his people and tell them how hard it was to give up the shoes beneath his feet.

Yes, Moses had to strip away that which separated him from solid epistemological ground, but it was just a step toward much greater liberating acts for others.

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