by Andrew Hanson

 

By Andy Hanson, January 15, 2014

 

The 28 Fundamental Beliefs are a core set of theological, bibliological, soteriological, ecclesiological and eschatological beliefs held by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Traditionally, Adventists have been opposed to the formulation of creeds. It is claimed that the 28 Fundamentals are descriptors not prescriptors; that is, they describe the official position of the church but are not a criteria for membership. The beliefs were originally known as the 27 Fundamentals and were adopted by the church's General Conference in 1980, with an additional belief (number 11) being added in 2005. The Adventist baptismal vow complements them (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/28_Fundamental_Beliefs_(Adventist)).

 

"We have not written this book to serve as a creed, a statement of beliefs set in theological concrete.” Editors, Seventh-day Adventists Believe, A Biblical Exposition of 27 Fundamental Doctrines, Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1988

 

Fundamental Belief Number 25

The second coming of Christ is the blessed hope of the church, the grand climax of the gospel. The Savior’s coming will be literal, personal, visible, and worldwide. When He returns, the righteous dead will be resurrected, and together with the righteous living will be glorified and taken to heaven, but the unrighteous will die. The almost complete fulfillment of most lines of prophecy, together with the present condition of the world, indicates that Christ’s coming is imminent. The time of that event has not been revealed, and we are therefore exhorted to be ready at all times. (boldface mine)

 

Now that the preceding information is on the record, I ask the reader to consider the word “imminent” found in Fundamental Belief Number 25. I grew up scared, and the culprit was that adjective or one of its synonyms. Church and school reinforced the “fact” that “Jesus’ was coming soon,” along with “We know not the hour” and “truths” echoed in words similar to those found in FBN25: “the unrighteous will die.” It was small comfort to know that my death in the Lake of Fire would be only briefly painful if I just had a few sins unconfessed before the event. (I was assured that the devil and his angels wouldn’t be so “lucky.”)

 

The word, “imminent,” or one of its synonyms, even uncoupled from Advent references, still carries some scary emotional vibes.[1] Perhaps that’s why professional evangelists, preachers, teachers, and church administrators (You know who you are!) use it so frequently.[2]

 

While I freely admit using the word “imminent” has impact, it is also true that its overuse in the context of religious belief can be counterproductive. In the Adventist Review of November 28, 2013, David Trim, Director of the Office of Archives presented the findings of a Landmark Survey of In-depth Beliefs, in which some interesting statistics emerged. “When the [Adventists poled] were asked if they expect the world to end within the next 20 years, just 22 percent of respondents strongly agreed, and 45 percent strongly disagreed.” Mark A. Keller, in his editorial, “Giving Thanks,” in the November 28, 2013 Adventist Review, begins with these words: “Today won’t happen again for another 77,000 years, should time last that long.”

 

Not only does overuse of this word desensitize believers, it calls into question all the Fundamental Beliefs. “Seventh-day” is just the adjective modifying the noun “Adventist.” Consequently, it is my hope that the duly authorized committee tasked with editing the “28 descriptors” will change the words, “Christ’s coming is imminent,” to “Christ will come.”

 

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[1] “Something that is imminent is just about to happen: if you light a firecracker and then stick it down your pants, a very bad situation is imminent."

 

Imminent is from Latin imminere "to overhang," and to say that something is imminent is to say that it is hanging over you and about to fall, in a metaphorical way. If you take your mom’s car and drive it into the mailbox, getting grounded is imminent. You don’t want that hanging over your head!” (https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/imminent

 

Imminent adjective: nearcomingcloseapproachingthreateninggatheringon the wayin the airforthcoming, loomingmenacingbrewingimpendingat handupcomingon the cards, on the horizon, in the pipeline, nigh (archaic)in the offing, fast-approaching, just round the corner, near-at-hand. They warned that an attack is imminent. (Collins Thesaurus of the English Language)

 

[2] “Jesus is coming soon!! Soon we will see in the eastern sky a small, dark cloud about half the size of a man’s fist. It will get larger and larger and brighter and brighter. All of heaven will pour out for this climax of earth’s history.” (Ted Wilson’s Milestone Address to the General Conference)