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A Sanctuary for Non-Adventists Too?

Traditionally we Adventists have talked about the Sanctuary in our echo chambers of Sabbath School classes, our literature and sermons and except for the now ubiquitous Heschel quote and popular evangelical critique, most folks don’t know how the wider world of theology relates to the sanctuary.

The thoughtful blogger at The Kairotic Word writes:

One of Seventh-day Adventism’s contributions to the Christian Body in the last century and a half has been a heavy handed interest in the ancient Jewish tabernacle, the sanctuary system, and the priestly work of Christ.

Though heavy handed indeed, I think that interest has been good; most of the mainline denominations have also picked up the task of identifying the various tools and activities of the Mosaic sanctuary and reinterpreting their functions so as to understand God’s relation to us (Sample 1 | Sample 2). Christ-as-mediator appears in all the major creeds, and commentators like Matthew Henry have spoken to it in their turn for several centuries. Some churches have even used it to understand the Church’s Jewish roots and in turn orient their relationship with 21stC political Israel.

Because of some rather peculiar Adventist premises, the teaching looms a little large in denominational theology. Just a little large, bless their hearts. That said, the tabernacle emphasis I now see in most churches has value in its attempt to re-ground the Body: to remember the origins of an idea and to reconnect our current cosmology to it.

I recommend reading the whole piece, particularly since The Kairotic Word links to our recent Ivan Blazen lesson commentary while addressing Jonathan Klawans.

Furthermore, 3 Quarks Daily, ruminates on the intersection of science and religious history in connection with a God-spot experiment on atheist Richard Dawkins’ brain.

. . .when it comes to religion, history and culture trump neurology. I quickly noticed that the same neuroscientists who were experimenting on Dawkins, among other more amenable test subjects, were also enfolding American religious history into their neurotheological data. One of the neurologists involved in the Dawkins stunt suggested in an interview, for example, that Ellen G. White, nineteenth-century prophet of the Seventh-day Adventist movement, suffered a childhood head injury that affected her temporal lobes in such a way as to produce her subsequent religious visions.

That example immediately struck me as a curious incursion of history into the laboratory. To be sure, even as an outsider, I was aware that a thriving set of conversations exists on the borders of neuroscience and religion. There are the theological questions, the God-spot questions: can the places of divine-human encounter, or, at least, the places of the felt-experiences of divine-human encounter be scanned and visualized? There are the ethical questions: for example, can the lying brain be mapped, detected, and exposed? Or, can compassionate affects be imaged and reproduced—in effect, is altruism a mental skill that can be trained? There are also, of course, innumerable psychotherapeutic questions; prominent among them is whether prayer and meditation are effective allies in the healing arts and medical sciences. But, here was the prolific visionary, Ellen G. White, suddenly thrust into the speculations of a pediatric neurologist studying temporal lobe epilepsy, all because she had been hit in the face by a rock when she was nine years old. Perhaps there is, indeed, a conversation to be had not only between religion and neuroscience, but also, more specifically, between American religious history and American neuroscience.

Both of these posts make me think of books – of course Bull and Lockhart’s Seeking a Sanctuary and James’ Varieties of Religious Experience.

But let me note two key books for me in thinking about what was going on in the minds of Ellen White and the Bible writers: Abraham Maslow’s Religions, Values and Peak Experiences and Julian Jaynes’ The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (1976).

It’s really beyond my disciplinary knowledge, but I really do wish that more public Adventists would discuss consciousness in a way that would help our community reflect on how we experience the world vs. how humans experienced their world 2500 years ago. Once I began to understand the difference played by self-awareness in religious or self-less experience, the more I could go back and reread the Bible with added historical, and even psychological, appreciation.

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