Online Text for 'Seeking A Sanctuary'

Discussion/Chapter Outlines

Video of Forum Discussion

First Meeting - Friday, February 01, 2008
Part I (20 min)
Part II (30 min)

Second Meeting - Friday, February 15, 2008
Full Video

Who Are Seventh-day Adventists?

Pres. Jan Paulsen on Bloomberg TV

26 January 2008

Discussion One: "What Is An Adventist?"

February 01, 2008 Discussion Questions

Some questions to ponder:
  • What does is mean to be a Seventh-day Adventist?
  • On what basis do you (or do you not) consider yourself a Seventh-day Adventist?
  • What is Truth to Adventists and how is it ascertianed?
  • Can the meaning of the Bible be acurately and adequately grasped through reason, and will Spirit-led believers consistently arrive at the same conclusions?

9 comments:

Raymond D. Thompson, Jr. said...

It strikes me as an interesting and important question to ask ourselves, "what is an Adventist." Especially at this juncture in our lives as college-aged students forming our worldview and standard of personal ethics.

For those of us in Adventist universities, such as Southern, we have come from Adventist families and have a sense of Adventism not only from a religious context, but also, more importantly from a cultural context.

Our Adventism is just as - and in some cases even more so - a defining aspect of our heritage as is the religious aspect of Adventist theology. I would further pose the question of considering the cultural aspects of Adventism and how our church members are affected by these cultural elements.

Anonymous said...

Dear Friends,

I am compelled by the Holy Spirit to write you regarding Friday’s forum discussion. I must first introduce myself because I was a visitor to your forum, and the majority of you do not know me. The Lord has greatly blessed me. I am a born-again Seventh-day Adventist, who by faith is daily living in a saved relationship with our Lord. And I am imminently looking for “a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” I am married to a Godly woman, Cheryl, and am blessed to have a daughter who is a senior at Southern, of which I am an alumnus. I have eight years of post-graduate education and training, with four of those years spent in one of our nation’s most sought-after and prestigious programs in my specialty. I am the president of a multimillion-dollar-a-year physician group, and I frequently make stressful, critical, life-and-death decisions that must be accomplished without error. I rub shoulders with Adventists, non-Adventist Christians and ungodly people on a daily basis, and through these interactions and multiple mission trips, I have known the joy of being a co-laborer with God. Such joy has been the result of experiences like receiving the gift of tongues, hearing God’s voice audibly directing my study of His Word and seeing many people accept Jesus through baptism into the faith of God’s last-day remnant church. Because of these blessings, and my experiencing the love of God, I have a profound love for the youth and young adults of our church and a burden that they, too, may bask in God’s love, joy and truth. I desire to affirm, mentor and listen to the youth of the church and look forward to the fulfillment of Joel chapter 2.

That said, God has led me to an understanding of His awesomeness and His love for us, and I therefore have a very simple but deep faith. I believe the Bible is fully inspired, absolutely trustworthy, solely authoritative and thoroughly consistent in all of its parts (2 Tim. 3:16-17, John 17:17, Ps. 33:4; 119: 103-105). I also believe that both the ministry and writings of Ellen G. White are inspired gifts given to God’s last day people as a message of love. These writings are the “lesser light pointing to the Greater Light,” but light indeed (1 John 1:5) and, therefore, credible, consistent with Holy Scripture, authoritative and meaningful for all of God’s children living at the end of time. I also hold that God is the only source of truth, and He is fully worthy of our trust, worship, adoration, love and complete surrender.

I would like to reference Friday’s discussion on “authority and truth.” The inerrancy vs. infallibleness of the Holy Scriptures was discussed, along with the authority of Mrs. White’s writings and the role of “reason.” Satan has done a marvelous job of weaving “postmodern ideology” into humankind’s thinking (even within the church), but I would submit that such a thing as authoritative truth exists. “All Truth is revealed by God to declare His character and thus, His desire to redeem us and recreate His image in us.” In so doing, God has been faithful and trustworthy to protect and guard that Truth within His Word. If we are willing to accept the Bible as errant or wanting, and we are left to decipher truth from error through reason (2 Peter 1:20-2:3), then what (or whom, rather) are we going to trust to guide us and our reasoning abilities? The Holy Spirit? But how can we trust Him to reveal truth and guide us if He was unable and incompetent to lead and move the authors of the Bible to write without error or to preserve His Word? If we are willing to accept that God lovingly gave us the “gift of prophecy” (Rev. 12:17; 19:10, Eph. 4:11-13, 1 Cor. 12:28-31, Num. 12:1-9) and that this gift is now, in 2008, somehow not legitimate or applicable to our lives (or that He has not provided this gift at all as He promised His last day church), then in what (or whom) are we going to place our trust as a covenant-maker? God? But how can we trust Him to give us gifts and fulfill promises with legitimacy and permanency, if He has been unfaithful in the past?

We must remember that Satan hates God, His Word, His gifts to men, the plan of redemption and even us. Likewise, he (Satan) was able to deceive one-third of the angels who were in the very presence of God. I would urge you to consider the simple but deep faith of a child (Matt. 18:3-4, Mark 10:14-15), and remember: A child is neither stupid nor non-thinking. God’s love is only able to work upon a humble and contrite heart (Isa. 57:15; 66:2, Ps. 51:17; 34:18, Deut. 5:29).
• A heart that, though all things are not known, still clings to the evidence, revelation and experiences it has had in the past (Deut. 4:9-10).
• A heart that believes, trusts and submits (Ps. 119:105).
• A heart that is willing to come under the hand of the Almighty and accept His ways, His thoughts and His desires (Isa. 48:10-12, Jer. 23:29, Heb, 4:12, John 17:17, Micah 6:8).
• A heart willing to accept God as He has revealed Himself through His Word, not how we have created Him to be.

The last topic discussed was on “unity.” I would simply point you to John 17 and ask each of you to listen to God speaking with God. In this passage, Son and Father discuss the criticalness of believers’ unity. It is pivotal to the plan of redemption.

I would submit four more (short) concepts for your “sanctified pondering”:

• “We are searching for You, God” may not be fundamentally or ideologically the same as “if thou seek Him with all thy heart and with all thy soul…” (Deut. 4:29).

• If our beliefs are inconsistent with, or speak contrary to the revealed character of God, we had better reconsider our position (2 Thess. 2:10-11, 1 Sam. 6:6, Prov. 1:22-25, 2 Peter 3:13-18).

• That the core fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, including the investigative judgment, the Sabbath, the state of the dead, hell, the gift of prophecy in God’s remnant church and the health reform message, all say the truth about God’s character and point back to the fact that God is love, and that He is holy, just, good, righteous, trustworthy, longsuffering, merciful, eternal, fair…(Ex. 34:6-7, Deut. 7:9, Jer. 9:24, Ps. 145:9, Rev. 4:8, Mal. 3:6, 1 John 4:7-8).

• The “new light or progressive truth” should always enhance or more greatly illuminate past truth, not tear it down or discredit it.

I would ask you to be “intellectually honest” in your pursuits and listen to two sermon series: Dwight Nelson’s “The Chosen” available at www.pmchurch.org and Samuel Pipim’s “Faithful Unto Death” available at www.americanchristianministries.org.

May God bless and prosper each of you (Num. 6:24-26, 3 John 2, Eph. 1:17-18).

In Love and Grace,
Your Brother and Friend in Christ, David Brannon, M.D.

Matt said...

Hey everyone,
This comment is in response to our friend David Brannon. I enjoyed what he wrote, and I have some questions and challenges to it, to (hopefully) enrich our dialog.

David raises the issue of "authority and truth," and I would like to propose a different approach to the issue. I myself believe, as David does, that the Bible is wholly inspired and contains only truth. However, as a thinking person, I also believe (in the spirit of academic integrity at the very least) that we must take a critical look at our own beliefs if we are to be well grounded in any belief system, and if we are to take this faith to the world.

In response to the influence of the Enlightenment and higher criticism within mainline liberal churches, conservative churches developed explicit teachings to hold itself together. These included inerrancy (or, a slight nuance, infallibility) because of verbal plenary inspiration(http://www.christiancourier.com/articles/read/are_the_scriptures_verbally_inspired_of_god), the virgin birth and divinity of Jesus, a literal bodily resurrection of Jesus, the authenticity of Jesus' miracles, the substitutionary atonement and a literal pre-millennial second coming of Jesus.

As we already know, the Seventh-day Adventist church (and I myself) these beliefs, with the exception of verbal plenary inspiration. When we explore inspiration and inerrancy, I believe that what we are really asking is, "What authority does this book have in my life?"

The fact is that the world has changed in very unexpected ways, and the church is beginning to face challenges different than those of the Enlightenment and higher criticism. We have a tendency to credit (or should I say "blame?") this on post-modernism. Whether or not that is the case, I think that we're addressing the wrong question.

When I read the gospels, I don't really want to know why Jesus' genealogies in Matthew and Luke don't agree, or whether or not Jesus healed one or two demon possessed men. What I want to know is whether or not this Jesus really was the man and the God that he and his followers said that he was, and whether or not he can change my life.

I strongly believe that we should search Scripture, and dare I say history and extra-biblical writing, in order to understand how it is that God communicates with us, and how we should respond to Him. We must be educated, and be critical. A Christian who cannot think is not a very useful Christian, regardless of how much emotion or experience he or she may have. Yes, we should approach God will child like faith, but let us also be responsible adults who are able to be engaged with the world around us.

As Adventists, I think it is wise and necessary to get beyond the questions and challenges of the Enlightenment and modernity and begin to explore how to be Seventh-day Adventist Christians within a world that is becoming increasingly post-modern. We need to understand post-modernism, and not just criticize it blindly because of its denial of the absolute. I think, if we are honest and sincere, we will find that post-modernism has challenged modernism in ways that the church should have. Perhaps God in his providence has allowed post-modernism to remind arrogant modernism that humanity is fallen. Who knows?

At the end of the day, as Christians we must recognize that neither modernity nor post-modernity is Lord. Only Jesus is Lord, and we are left with the task of working out how to serve him here and now, within our Adventist tradition.

Let's keep asking questions. I have this suspicion that God enjoys them ;-)

My apologies for the length and absence of biblical citations. I trust we're all equipped well enough to test one another.

Matt Burdette

Matt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
britni said...

Matt,

Thank you for your comments; I’d like to address a few of them. The first is in regards to your supposition that we are truly asking, “What authority does this book have in my life?” If one believes the Bible to be wholly truth, then it would naturally and logically follow that he would believe its position that Christ was (and is) who He claimed to be and that He is able to change lives. The Bible clearly states both positions as truth, and to question such ideologies is fundamentally to then question the veracity of the Bible itself. Perhaps our questions should be: How has He changed my life in the past? How is He working in my life now? Not in an effort to question His authority, but as a means to understand His powerful grace and ability—as a catalyst for gratitude and worship. Before I leave this topic, let me remind us that there are only two options: the Bible either is the authority in our lives, or it is not. It is a true-or-false question; “all the above” is not an option.

You said, “A Christian who cannot think is not a very useful Christian, regardless of how much emotion or experience he or she may have.” First, I don’t believe Dr. Brannon meant to imply that we should be Christ-serving automatons. We were created as intellectual beings (though this continues to degenerate), and I believe God desires us to be so. That said, however, not everyone is a critical thinker and to relegate “simple-minded” Christians as “useless” is not only severe, but also incorrect. It is my understanding that Jesus’ closest friends (the twelve disciples) were anything but highly intelligent. In fact, their profession prior to Christ’s admonition to “be fishers of men” was due to their rejection by a Jewish rabbi to fill a role as his protégé. By all accounts, they were not members of the Jewish elite. I dare say it is sometimes the most humble, sincere and “useless” (by the world’s standards) individuals that make the best disciples of our Lord. (Perhaps this is because their own self-assurance and intellectual pride is not a pebble over which they stumble.) I would also submit that just as emotion can sometimes cloud logical reasoning, the relationship is reversible. Reason, critical thinking, is often overrated. Our brains function on approximately 10% of their intended potential. To hold such a fallible ability to so a high an authoritative position can be dangerous. That some concepts, explanations and ideology created by the God of the universe will escape our cognitive abilities is inevitable. Relatively speaking, we are dumb—that is, compared to heavenly and other created beings—and to entrust ourselves to figure everything out is an arrogant position to take. To understand Scripture and our beliefs is a healthy desire, but I believe that it is only half the picture. Emotion—a love for our Savior, an unexplainable realization of His sacrifice, His love, His truth and His working is our lives—cannot be explained by logic, but is not invalidated because of it.

Finally, I do not believe it possible that postmodernism is God’s reminder to humanity that we are fallen. Prevalent ideology in society encourages staunch individualism, independence, infallibility on the part of the individual and an overly astute awareness of what is and is not “politically correct.” We (generally speaking) are people too proud to admit wrong but devoutly sensitive to stepping on others’ toes; therefore, what I believe is right, and what you believe is right. This does not seem to point out human weakness; conversely, it seems to deny it. As Christians—believers in an absolute truth (or at least we should be)—we must recognize the necessity of tact, sensitivity and politeness, but this does not excuse us from the responsibility to sometimes say, “I’m sorry, but you’re wrong.” Jesus pointedly spoke out against the religious leaders and non-believers of His day. It is pertinent to note His manner in doing so—always with love—but this does not discredit the fact that He didn’t idly allow lies (error) to pass as truth.

In closing (and I apologize that it has taken me so long to reach this point), our call to “be responsible adults who are able to be engaged with the world around us” should not grant us permission to engage in the world’s beliefs. We are not “left with the task of working out how to serve Him here and now…,” for if we are left to work it out, we will surely fail. We are not left to figure out. We are left to follow.

Britni Brannon

Anonymous said...

Good Morning,

I promise to be short. If Matt has misunderstood my comments, I am concerned that many more of you did also. My openness, and vulnerability (in sharing such personal facts of which I rarely, if ever, speak of), in the introduction of my comment was to lay a foundation for you to appreciate that a highly educated, critically thinking, successful individual is not mutually exclusive from being a “child” of God.

Simple, deep faith and a humble, contrite heart are not equivalent to emotion. In fact, they fly in the face of emotion and call for significant, life-altering thinking and decision-making. The joy is a result of, not the foundation of faith, obedience and the decision to follow (John 15:10-11). To arrive at the conclusion that one’s beliefs are in harmony with the revealed character of God requires profound self-inspection and long, thorough Bible study. A casual, thoughtless reading will never do.

My comments and thoughts were not asking us to be mindless, but actually to stimulate us to be more critical thinkers along different lines of thought. As Britni has rightly noted, are we sure we are asking the right questions with the suppositions and beliefs we profess to hold.

In Love and Grace,
Your Brother and Friend in Christ, David Brannon, M.D.

Karla Helm said...

How exciting it is to see a new Adventist Forum start up at SAU! Congratulations to those responsible in creating a place where thought provoking dialogue can take place and diversity of opinions can freely be expressed. An open exchange of ideas, forcing you to explore your beliefs, will consequentially lead to a healthy spiritual life, and the cementing of ones faith.
As Christians, our example for study is found in the book of Acts, where Paul called the Bereans ‘noble-minded’ because they examined the scriptures daily with great eagerness to make sure that what they were hearing from him was correct. That is what we must do with all of our beliefs, new or old.
God created us with the ability to reason and make choices. While it is quite possible for humans to error, it is a safer position to use our God given intellect and prayerfully study issues for ourselves under the guidance of the Holy Spirit than to blindly accept what someone else tells us is truth, even though that someone may be our mother, father or church. I think that most SDA’s would quickly admit that to question denominational beliefs is fine if it is one other than our own. Truth is never afraid of being questioned or held up to the light. It is only human tradition or systems of belief that lack biblical authority that are afraid of people who question i.e. Judaism at the time of Christ, Catholicism during the Reformation or cults.

Ellen White herself gave the following advice: "There's no excuse for anyone taking the position that there is no more truth to be revealed and that all our expositions of Scripture are without an error. The facts of certain doctrines have been held as truth for years is not a proof that our ideas are infallible. Age will not make error into truth, and truth can afford to be fair. If the pillars of our faith will not stand investigation, it's time we knew it." Counsels to Writers and Editors page 35
And on page 37 she wrote: "We have many lessons to learn and many, many to unlearn. God and heaven alone are infallible. Those who think they'll never have to give up a cherished view, never have occasion to change an opinion will be disappointed."
I am reminded of a favorite quote: “Who never doubted, never half believed. Where doubt is, there truth is - it is her shadow.” (Ambrose Bierce) Our faith as SDA Christians must be examined in newness by each successive generation or they can never ‘own’ their belief system. Their beliefs would be those of their forefathers only. I would like to take the liberty of quoting the philosopher/theologian John Stearns who says “God has no grandchildren, only children.” I agree with David Brannon that truth is progressive; however, Christ and His Word are my only foundation. I believe the direction that the forum took on Friday was a discussion of Seventh-day Adventism’s foundation as found in Christ and the scriptures in 2008.

Christ declared himself to be ultimate Truth in John 14:6 when He said, “I am the way, and the truth and the light…” therefore; by diligently searching for spiritual truth, we will in the end, truly be seeking Him. That is why we can confidently say that truth will always stand up to any investigation and will only become better understood with open and fearless study. It is my prayer that this forum will aid those participating into being all the more sure of Who they believe in.

Karla Helm

Anonymous said...

What does it mean to be an Adventist these days? You can read the doctrines, or just look at their practices:

http://adventistsnotcult.blogspot.com/2008/01/adventists-get-new-light.html

It interesting, at any rate!

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