Skip to content

The Dissonance between Institutional Beliefs and the Love of Christ


There are two paths for believers: “We have the truth, and we must firmly hold on to institutional positions so that they will not be removed,” or “We open ourselves to the transcendence of a new light in Christ, if we want to grow spiritually."

A cognitive dissonance resonates in the mental computer of many Christians when themes or concepts are introduced such as the love of Jesus, universal salvation, the revelation of the true character of God, the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible, the concept of the remnant, the expiration of the Old Covenant, and the revelation of the apocalypse by Jesus, among others.

It is as if a "chip" was activated in the mental computer of the brothers and sisters that has inside of it the doctrines of the church, the Sunday Bible school or Sabbath school lesson (in the case of Adventists), what the teachers taught in the academies, Sunday or Saturday sermons, and the theological interpretations of the Bible from the prophets.

Once that chip is turned on, a "program" is automatically triggered that consists of reaffirming a series of beliefs, judgments, habits, values, ​​and religious identity. A pattern of behavior is also unleashed that translates into the moral obligation to debate what is understood to be a false belief in accordance with the religious doctrines and beliefs of the church.

That has been my personal experience, at least. When I try to present different perspectives to other people, the result is always the same: a bitter argument ensues. It is as if a defensive mental system was activated.

The revelation of the truth in the Bible is progressive, and the Holy Spirit is the one who leads us to all truth and to new truths. However, the Spirit is often rejected by religions, and many times when a new vision is presented, a resistance pattern appears that does not allow us to be flexible in the face of a new concept. The resistance rejects discussion.

Institutional religions, and ours (Adventism), are no exception. Little by little, they have been reproducing the behavior of the religious from the time of Jesus, rejecting any new light or truth that calls into question the paradigms and preconceptions established for centuries. The spiritual growth that involves thinking for oneself, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, has been replaced with an attitude of not questioning, converting the beliefs and doctrines of religion into an immutable belief system.

What Is the Conflict?

We have installed and allowed a "mental program" that tells you and reminds you who you are, how you should feel, and what you must think. It prompts you to act and speak according to your institutional religious beliefs and doctrines.

This seems to us to be the truth and our reality. Therefore, it is not considered for a moment that the institutional doctrines could be otherwise or could be wrong. The same thing happened with the religious in the time of Jesus, with the aggravating circumstance that they attributed to Jesus unhealthy intentions, purposes, and motivations.

 Similar behavior is happening toward those who are bringing a new light or rediscovering Christianity and the discipleship of Jesus. Social networks are full of people, and even pastors, who react with hostility toward those who present different perspectives regarding beliefs, doctrines, and preconceptions that have been uncritically accepted and that are the pillars on which religious identity has been built. Cognitive dissonance produces in them the need to protect themselves and the congregation. The conflict arises because, in their zeal to defend and impose the beliefs and values ​​of their religion, they judge and criticize those who think differently, accusing them of being diabolical, satanic, or spiritualists.

That behavior shows how far their hearts, minds, and thoughts are from Jesus. They move away from the ways of Jesus, particularly love of thy neighbor. Intellectually, they become Pharisees or image bearers of an anti-Christ.

However, Jesus is waiting for you to enlighten your mind, as he did in his discipleship, from the beliefs of the Old Covenant and to offer you a new interpretation, a new gospel, a change of mentality that will set you free in Christ. He is waiting for you to open yourself to a new vision of life in Christ.

“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me,  yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:39–40 NIV).

Jesus offers to awaken your conscience and give a change of perception—a change in the way of thinking, interpreting, and feeling the gospel that will lead you to lift up Christ and live in perfect harmony with your neighbor.

When Institutional Theology Becomes a Stumbling Block

I am certainly conveying the message that we need to review our religious beliefs and the institutional theology that we have believed in, accepted, and developed for centuries.

I propose that you open your heart and mind to lift up Jesus and put aside the emphasis on condemnation, the law, institutional doctrines, and religious identity. Even turn away from speaking and interpreting God and Jesus through the filter of the prophets. God in the 21st century speaks to us through Jesus, through his discipleship. He is the gospel. He is the new covenant.

We can look at other people with the heart and love of Christ instead of looking with institutional religious ideas.

Which will you choose?


Edison García-Creitoff taught ethics and communications for 15 years at private universities in Puerto Rico. He is a social worker, conflict mediator, lawyer (JD), and lay chaplain. He has been an elder, director of missionary work, director of home and family, deacon, and Sabbath school teacher in the Adventist Church in Puerto Rico. Email him at

Photo by Mollie Sivaram on Unsplash.

We invite you to join our community through conversation by commenting below. We ask that you engage in courteous and respectful discourse. You can view our full commenting policy by clicking here.

Subscribe to our newsletter
Spectrum Newsletter: The latest Adventist news at your fingertips.
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.