But in making this or any other assessment about the denomination, any reviewer is confronted by the difficult of 'finding' Adventist theology.
Malcolm Bull and Keith Lockhart
Seeking a Sanctuary: Seventh-Day Adventism and the American Dream
From the outset of my time with Seventh-Day Adventists, I have been wondering when I would confront some of the doctrines which I find strange or silly. I have noted a few of those in previous posts, such as the belief in the six-thousand year-old earth that fundamentalists find in the literal interpretation of the Bible. Adventists also believe and hope fervently for the imminent return of Jesus Christ, whose coming will initiate a sequence of apocalyptic events that lead to the end of the world.
Last Wednesday, after a prayer meeting held in the sanctuary, I stuck around for a while and talked to one of the prayer service leaders. I have been hanging around the church enough now that I have made a few friends, and so our conversation ranged back and forth between personal and theological matters.
As I was getting ready to leave, I told him how impressed I have been with the warm and welcoming nature of the church, and with some of the specific practices I have witnessed during the prayer service.
“In the end,” I said, “if we were to sit down and talk about some of the specific things you guys believe in, I'm sure we would have some disagreements, but mostly I've really learned a lot here.”
“You're Catholic, right?” he said to me.
“Do you believe in everything that the Catholic church says?”
I laughed. I'm not a very doctrinal Catholic.
“Of course not.”
“Same thing here. People in here believe in all kinds of different things. What's important is that you believe. You gotta have faith.”
Afterward it occurred to me how much I judge believers in other religious based on their official doctrines. Adventists, Mormons, Orthodox Jews, Muslims—all of these religions espouse theological doctrines or political views that I find strange, silly, or off-putting for one reason or another. And so whenever I think about or meet someone who belongs to one of those religious traditions, I immediately put them into the box of that religion's official doctrines.
And yet, of course, I wouldn't want anyone to put me in the box of the Catholic Church's official doctrines. It seems silly that I would have to spend all this time and energy on my spiritual quest to learn the very simple lesson that other people are just like me—that I shouldn't assume the next Mormon or Muslim I meet follows the doctrinal party line on all religious matters, and that in fact we may have more in common, in terms of our beliefs, than I might have ever guessed.
Of course all of this raises a larger question: why do people, myself included, join or remain in religious traditions with which they might have fundamental disagreements?
Good question, but too large for this blog. I will save my thoughts on this for the book project—but, in the meantime, would welcome your thoughts and comments below.