AT Editor Answers Questions about Adventist Faith for Rachel Held Evans
by AT News Team
Rachel Held Evans is a Christian author published by Zondervan, interviewed on NPR and the BBC, with speaking appointments recently at Fuller Seminary, Calvin College, Baylor University and Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids. She recently invited an Adventist to be part of her interview series “Ask a ….” She asked Adventist Today editor J. David Newman, senior pastor of New Hope Church near Baltimore, to answer questions submitted by the general public on her popular web site.
When Pastor Newman was announced, a total of 158 suggestions came in. Evans selected ten of these for him to respond to, some because they were asked so often and others because of her personal interests. Pastor Newman wrote answers to these ten questions which have been published by Evans on her web site.
Some of the questions were among the most common in any dialog with Americans outside the denomination: “Why is Sabbath keeping so important to Christian life and practice? … Do you see worship on Sunday as a sin? … Can you explain ‘soul sleep’ and the Adventist position on hell? … Do Adventists believe that the Catholic Church is (or will become) the anti-Christ? … Why vegetarianism?”
One questioner seem to admit the widespread ignorance about Adventist faith that public surveys have demonstrated. “What is the most common thing said about Seventh-day Adventists that simply isn’t true?” Others revealed a nuanced knowledge of contemporary Adventist realities. “I used to attend Adventist churches,” wrote James. “Because of this, a friend of mine, a medical student, asked me about Adventist beliefs because he was about to work at an Adventist hospital. … To what extent do Adventists take their eschatology seriously?” Paula, a seminary student who wrote a paper on Ellen White and said she is “fascinated by the fact that this important early leader was a woman,” asked, “Are women in ministry common in the Seventh-day Adventist Church? What roles are women permitted to occupy?”
“I was raised SDA and left the church in college,” wrote Becky. “Many family, friends, etc., remain SDAs, and I really wish I could still feel ‘at home’ in an SDA church. However, I accept evolution, don’t think the Bible is strictly ‘inerrant,’ and am not even remotely on board with the standard Adventist end-of-time beliefs. … Can you envision a future for the church in which people like me will ever be able to ‘come home’?”
You can read Pastor Newman’s responses at the web address given at the bottom of this news item. He quoted from a number of standard Adventist sources. Never one to miss a pastoral opportunity, he invited Becky to visit his church in Maryland and assured her that she could find a home there if she wished.
Over the past year, Evans has published a similar exchange with her readers and “an atheist, a pagan, a nun, a Mormon, a Mennonite, a Calvinist, an evolutionary creationist, a humanitarian, an environmentalist, a gay Christian, a Unitarian Universalist, an Orthodox Christian, a Pentecostal and many more.” She writes from Dayton, Tennessee, in the heart of Southern Baptist land. Her first book was entitled Evolving in Monkey Town, which reflects on growing up in the town where the Scopes Monkey Trial occurred in 1925. She describes herself as “a skeptic, a creative, and a follower of Jesus,” as well as a “happily married … lifelong Alabama Crimson Tide fan.”