by Stephen Foster
From the perspective of at least this Seventh-day Adventist, the beauty of Seventh-day Adventism is that it is essentially about balance; New Testament and Old Testament, faith and works, grace and law, mercy and justice.
Now, of course, from one of these aspects or another, this is undoubtedly viewed by many as its weakness or flaw because some may claim that Adventists seek or attempt to have it both ways.
Clearly, you can’t please everyone, and balance doesn’t necessarily mean that Adventism is successful at being all things to all people. For that matter, perhaps balance doesn’t require Adventism to try to be all things to all people; though Adventists perhaps should. There goes that balance again; it’s inescapable.
While engaged in a recent discussion of the concept of fundamentalism versus pluralism which had been prompted by Monte Sahlin’s provocative piece on ‘The Problem With a Fundamentalist World View,” the thought occurred to me that another aspect of Adventist balance is that while many of us hold to many fundamentalist beliefs concerning Biblical authority, the divinity of Christ, the seventh-day Sabbath, the literal return of Jesus, among others, we nonetheless are advocates of/for societal pluralism.
Historic Adventism is fundamentalist in its Biblical approach yet pluralistic in its social approach. Though having some fundamentally non-negotiable doctrinal beliefs, ‘we’ advocate for secular and pluralistic approaches to many if not most public policy issues.
Although we have much in common with Christian fundamentalists theologically, and perhaps even more in common culturally, because of our distinctive Sabbath doctrine and historic eschatological interpretations, we perceive dangers in religious fundamentalist approaches to public policy. Consequently, we have much in common with secularists; that is, insofar as general approaches to public policy are concerned.
As a theoretical example of this balance, we support a relatively large parochial school system/network while opposing (in theory anyway) the government getting its nose under that tent.
Another example would be that although we believe the world was created by God, we would not advocate that our belief/doctrine of this be taught in public schools as science.
Arguably we are religious fundamentalists who see and fully appreciate the dangers of fundamentalism. To me, that balance is indeed admirable.
What is somewhat amusing/bemusing/intriguing/noteworthy to me personally is, again, that many Christian fundamentalists see the pragmatic value of secularist approaches to public policy in the Arab world but don’t want this in America; and that some former Adventists see the threat that religious fundamentalism poses to/for societal peace and freedom, yet ignore, if not deny, what historic Adventist eschatology interprets prophecy as predicting will occur in the U.S. Wouldn’t a balanced approach, with a consistent standard and consistently applied principles, be advisable?
In many aspects, such an approach is the beauty of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Some would argue that an even more balanced approach to any number of internal issues would be advisable for our church and its leadership; but that’s another blog.