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Making Idols of Our Beliefs

This week’s Adult Bible Study Guide focused on several popular aspects of The Great Controversy. There was a warning in Monday’s lesson about false teachers and “savage wolves” within the church as well as a note to be aware of idols “introduced into Christian worship.” The final question of the lesson asked “what kind of compromises do we see entering the church today?”

This is a fair question that invites readers to think further. Is it possible to make idols of our church leaders, agendas, policies, and fundamental beliefs? For a church founded on the belief of “no other creed but the Bible and the Bible alone,” we are seeing more attempts to place control on people’s consciences. Churches are increasing the creation of checks and balances for members, making church policies akin to sacred creeds. Seminary professor S. Joseph Kidder and pastor Katelyn Campbell Weakley co-authored a historical account of creeds versus fundamental beliefs within the Adventist church. In their article, they map out the unique history of the Adventist church rejecting creeds, but instead, adopting statements of belief. Kidder and Weakley give an extensive timeline on how the Adventist church evolved in regards to creeds and statements, noting that throughout history, the Adventist church rejected taking on creeds.

They write,“The founders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church understood creeds to be rigid and authoritative documents that required the full assent of the believer, without recourse to further study and reflect. This caused much pain for them since they had been disfellowshipped from their previous churches on the basis of creeds. On the other hand, they emphasized that statements of belief should not be used as binding authority on the conscience of the believer.”

There is a push in some circles for the church to gravitate toward the language of a creed rather than the fundamental beliefs, which is troubling and historically anti-Adventist. Perhaps it is possible for elements of idolatry to creep into the remnant church.

In Tuesday’s reading, the focus was on the importance of understanding Bible truth. A quote I found interesting stated that we must “fight against any and all” who may bring doubts about the Bible. But, don’t we all experience doubt every now and then? Doubt is just a question that hasn’t been answered yet. When we neglect our doubts and run away in fear, we give them power over us and we end up living a pretend faith journey rather than learning from the questions they raise. Understand that God is big enough for our doubts. When we learn to shine a light and see them for the simple questions they are, there is an invitation for us to grow in faith. If we try to subdue our fears and questions, or attempt to fake it until we make it, the result will lead to stagnant faith. 

Postdoctoral scholar Aja Smith wrote about how doubt and spirituality can intertwine. She notes that doubt is a necessary element that humans must go through if we are to experience something new. So, When we step away from the shame of questioning, we open ourselves to experiencing God on a deeper level. Ignoring our fear and shame actually places them on a pedestal higher than God. 

Author John I. Carney writes: Alfred Lord Tennyson once said, “There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds.” When author Madeleine L’Engle was asked, “Do you believe in God without any doubts?” she replied, “I believe in God with all my doubts.”

As we continue discussing The Great Controversy, let’s open our eyes to the religious idolatry of policy-making, coerced allegiance, and man-made creeds. May we see our doubts as regular questions, knowing God is big enough for them. 

Image Credit: Adventist Media Exchange

About the author

Krystalynn Westbrook-Martin is the former vice principal for spiritual life at Auburn Adventist Academy. She has served as a minister, teacher, and administrator in the Seventh-day Adventist Church for over two decades. She is currently completing a PhD in Transformative Social Change, with an emphasis in Peace and Justice Studies. More from Krystalynn Westbrook-Martin.
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