Perhaps I’m the only one feeling this way. If so, perhaps comments to this blog will make it clear.
More and more I’m feeling deserted in the SDA church. I mean, I know our numbers are increasing. The church that I belonged to as a child barely had more than 1 million members worldwide. These days I’m hearing estimates as high as 30 million– and no doubt it will soon be more.
But it seems there are fewer and fewer Adventists I can relate to. On the one hand, there are the group I will call the Traditionalists. Like all labels, it is not 100% accurate concerning any single person, but quite descriptive of the group.
These people generally believe in the verbal inspiration of Ellen White, the King James Bible (only), and whatever else they believe to belong to the Faith of the Pioneers. As I’ve indicated in earlier blogs, their notion of what the church “has always been” usually goes back to some time in their own youth or childhood, and often bears little or no resemblance to actual church history.
I sympathize with these people. I was one of these people. But for a number of reasons, I am no longer.
My understanding of inspiration is quite different than theirs, and reading Adventist history has persuaded me that we are a movement, that we have continued to grow and learn, and that we shall continue to through all eternity.That’s what I believe, and hope: Heaven will be boring if there’s nothing left to learn.
Many of the Traditionalists find change threatening–as we all do– and don’t want to let go of anything.
On the other side of the continuum I see the a group who focus not on Tradition, but on Compassion.
Many in the Compassion group, finding the inevitable legalism of Traditionalists unacceptable, have become the mirror image. Whatever is traditional is suspect, at best, evil at worst.
Instead of verbal inspiration, maybe it’s just fallible humans struggling to express their spiritual enlightenment. Instead of seeing sin in fellow church members who compromise standards, we see sin in church members who mention standards of any kind. The problem with the world isn’t sin, it’s a lack of understanding. If Traditionalists were Republicans, Compassionates are Democrats. Traditionalists insist on marriage being one man/one woman; Compassionates support ‘marriage equality.’
One group insists the world was created in six literal days six thousand years ago. The other group thinks the whole account is metaphorical, that creation was a process lasting millions of years.
Both of these groups are growing rapidly, though for different reasons, and both of them are highly vocal.
My problem is I don’t align very well with either side. On issue after issue I find myself–somewhere else. In most–not all, but most– cases, the issues which energize each side of the debate leave me cold.Both positions seem at some points irrational and reductionist.
To complicate matters further, both sides tend to see anyone who does not share all of their positions exactly, as being on the other side. It’s “He who is not for us, 100% all the way, is against us.”
In future posts, I hope to take up many of these questions. I also welcome questions from readers. I’m willing to explain how I see things–if it’s wanted.What I don’t want to do is add more gasoline to the Molotov cocktail- throwing of both extremes.
I believe there must be others who feel as I do, but are frankly intimidated into silence by both the Traditionalist Pharisees and the Compassion Pharisees. If that’s true, perhaps we can share and grow together.
Any way, that’s why I’m an increasingly lonely SDA.