Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Evolution of Adventist Christianity

Adventism keeps adapting and changing as any living entity must. Where will it be twenty years hence? Will Adventists one day be nothing more than Sabbath-keeping Methodists? Now there's nothing wrong with Methodists, especially since Adventist pioneers were Methodists themselves. Nevertheless, there has traditionally been something outstandingly different about Seventh-Day Adventists.

In addition to observing the seventh day, Saturday, as the day of holy rest and devotion, Adventists have traditionally held beliefs that most of Christendom does not possess. Some of these major beliefs are the following:
  1. The Investigative Judgement: We are all being judged according to whether we have accepted Jesus Christ as our savior and the life that results after experiencing such belief.

  2. The State of the Dead: The soul is not immortal. When we die we enter soul sleep and await the resurrection of the body at the Second Coming of Christ.

  3. The Sanctuary in Heaven: Christ entered the most holy place in the Heavenly Sanctuary (temple) and has been acting as intercessor in a heightened sense since 1844.

  4. The Seventh Day Sabbath: The fourth commandment requires that Saturday, not Sunday, be kept holy.

  5. The Spirit of Prophecy: Spirit-inspired writings did not end with the Book of Revelation. Adventists believe that the writings of Ellen G. White are inspired though are not above the Bible. The possibility of future manifestations of the prophetic gift are certainly possible, as well.
Again, Adventism is changing in different ways. For example: positive views about evolution by science professors in a few centers of higher learning though not at the official level; divorced persons are accepted as church members; in some progressive congregations gays, lesbians and transgender folk are welcomed though not necessarily accepted as members; some worship services feature Christian rock music; some congregations allow members to sport jewelry; some members attend movie theatres or see the same movies at home on their DVD players; some members don't endorse some of the distinctive doctrines mentioned above (investigative judgment, sanctuary in heaven, spirit of prophecy)

In spite of these changes in North America, Europe and Australia, Adventism continues to experience explosive growth in Brazil and the Philippines, just to name a couple, where church growth outpaces comparable groups like the Church of Latter Day Saints and Jehovah Witnesses (The Watchtower Society.) It has been suggested that in countries like Brazil and Philippines the dissemination of church publications, e.g., tracts, bible studies courses, Spirit of Prophecy books, etc., have contributed to the explosive growth in proselytes in countries in the developing world.

Like any vibrant and dynamic entity, there are developments toward or away from orthodoxy. Which strain of Adventism will triumph remains to be seen. Which would make more sense in the long run if it absorbed the other one?

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