In her book Education (p. 17), Ellen White says:

It is the work of true education to develop this power, to train the youth to be thinkers, and not mere reflectors of other men’s thought. 

She also makes the statment, in Counsels to Parents, Teachers and Students (p.71):

Teach your children to reason from cause to effect.

There is a strain of belief in Adventism that seems to relish the most horrendous developments, whether in nature, law, or human society. When confronted with unspeakable horror or imminent disaster, their eyes light up and they say, “See, the end is upon us!”

There is another strain that bemoans these events, but greets them with resignation: “Well, we knew this sort of thing would happen as we near the end.”

Both of these are on display after the GC vote on Women’s Ordination.

So, how do we move forward together, after such a divisive and bitter clash? Some doubt it’s possible. I have seen otherwise sober and calm individuals insisting that the vote over women’s ordination has initiated “the shaking.” Maybe. But I have grave doubts.

This isn’t limited to Adventists. When I served as lobbyist for the homeschoolers in my state, I met this mindset in many: “Well, there’s no point. We know things will get worse and worse until the end.”

To which I replied, “Maybe so, but it does not have to happen on my watch.” Much to their surprise–and to the chagrin of some as well–I was instrumental in passing landmark legislation legalizing home education for the first time in 90 years. Much like abortion is today, homeschooling was an issue at the time: one side feeling morally aggrieved about the right to raise their children their way, and the other certain that without professional teachers, children would be deprived or even abused. When I began my work, the legislature was about 80%-20% opposed. In two years, we turned this into votes of 45-3 in the state Senate, and 84-16 in the House in favor. The same tools can be employed in this situation.

As far as the shaking, it will come when God decides; but make no mistake, the shaking is not a good thing. We should not welcome it any more than we should welcome persecution. In the fullness of time, these will come, but because we are doing what we are supposed to be doing reaching the world for Christ; not because of church politics.

Many feel, after this vote, and after 40 years of debating the issue, that reuniting is not possible. The gloating and self-righteousness, on one side, are only matched by the despair–and more than a hint of self-righteousness–on the other. Of course, there are those on either side who do not match this description. But to deny that the temptation is there is folly. Even for people like, well, like me, dear reader, and like you. We all are tempted to believe that, if only everyone acted or believed as we do, everything would be just fine. We’re the good guys.

Well, there are none righteous. No, not one. So how do we, broken as we all are, move forward when we have such a deep disagreement? This is more relevant than some might think. After all, if we cannot understand and/or persuade those with whom we share so many beliefs, what makes us think we can reach others who are so different? Hoping to just leave our “unconverted” or “unenlightened” brothers and sisters in the church behind, and just go and convert the rest of the world, is not likely to be successful under the circumstances.

Many on the prevailing side of the vote are speaking darkly of “rebellion” and urging us to accept the vote as God’s will and move on. Those on the other side of the vote often encourage one another to continue the fight. I would repeat again, to all, that doing for the next five years what we’ve already been doing for the last 40 is not likely to succeed for either side.

When you attack someone’s strong belief head-on, the human tendency is to defend it. Even if it is not deeply held, we tend to dig in and hold on first. We are not likely to examine the belief carefully when we’re busy justifying it. For what it’s worth, this is the same whether we’re talking about the Sabbath to Sunday-keepers, or about WO to–practically anyone. The frontal assault technique had been tried for years by those who preceded me as lobbyist for homeschoolers, which resulted only in more deeply entrenching both sides.

Why is it that the most rigorous logical arguments fail to persuade us? It’s because most of the time, these strongly held beliefs are at the end of a line of reasoning. But most of the time, this reasoning comes after the fact. That is, we have an emotional reaction/attachment to a belief, and when it is questioned, we seek evidence to support it. That’s true of most of us, and it was definitely true of the legislators I needed to convince.

I was faced then with the same problem that faces everyone in the church now. If we have two deeply divided factions, both of whom have heard and rejected the rationale of the other side, how do we bridge that gap? When we understand that, we will understand the even more important means of bridging the gap between the Advent message and those who would be willing to embrace it, if only we present it in a way that they can do so.

The next few blogs will address that very issue.