It was a quiet, calm, slow Summer Sunday evening. I hopped on my bike and rode for maybe ten minutes, going to a place I often went to think and pray and hope. It was a forest trail; a long, winding, rising and falling path that welcomed the thoughtful soul. Birds chattered in the earlier hours, but most of them were snuggled into their bedded nests by now, their young ones safe in their wings. It was about eight’o’clock and were it the shivering months of winter, the sun would have been gone long ago. But instead, it stayed in the sky, content to continue its conversation with the trees a little longer before it went on to visit its other friends.
I pulled onto the path and begin walking the narrow wheels of my bike along the grassy way. It opened into an area that surrounding a small, man-made pond. In Ohio, they would call it a lake. Next to the pond was a picnic table, and I often stopped her to be particularly contemplative before going the rest of the way. Today, however, was already getting too dark for a visit to the forest, so I decided I would go home after sitting on the bench a bit.
I heard singing. Sweet, good singing, the kind that can only happen when a family sings together; their ribbons of harmony and melody twirling together into a heavenly, united sound. Yet, I did not understand the words. I sort of recognized them, though, as being German. Finally, this singing family emerged from the path and looked at me pleasantly. Me being the talkative sort that I am, I smiled warmly and began conversing with them. I asked them what they were singing, and I realized as they explained it that it was a hymn book. I assumed they were Christians of course, and I don’t know quite how I realized they were Seventh Day Advents (not to say that Seventh Day Adventists can’t be Christians of course) but maybe they told me.
At this point, I knew very little about the Adventists. I considered them to be sort of like the Mormons or the Jehovah’s False Witnesses, but having met a few myself I now wouldn’t be so harsh in my judgment. A few quick things about the Adventists: (1) they worship on Saturday and take Sabbath very seriously, and it really seems to help many of their communities, as they often live to a hundred or more. (2) Their history is rampant with people saying “Christ will come back, let’s go to this hilltop on this date and wait for Him! Then… it doesn’t happen. The Adventists learned after a while that a worldview based on unkept promises is not very convincing, so they stopped making these declarations at some point. (3) Ellen White is their false-teacher in chief, being praised as a prophetess by many, and she claimed to have visions. She also plagiarized other writers and speakers. A lot. So… that doesn’t really make her look good. To read more about White, read this.
As our conversation progressed, the debate over works versus faith came up. Is faith by works, or works a sign of faith? My stand is that works are a great evidence to faith, but they don’t give us our salvation by any means whatsoever. If they did, we’d no sooner be in Heaven than we would be bragging about how we accomplished our own cleansing and made it possible to come to Paradise by buying the ticket with our own good deeds. They of course, were not about to communicate what I have just explained, because that makes it sound wretched. Nevertheless, what they said certainly made it sound like this is what they believed.
I think that’s a commentary on every quietly-kept religious group. (I wouldn’t use the term ‘cult’ for the Adventists like I would the Mormons or other groups of the same nature, but there is a slight resemblance.) It’s hard to understand what they truly believe through all the layers of explanation they offer. Plus, as is the practice with the Mormons, many groups like these seem to keep a watch out for new valid objections to their doctrine, and strike it down with new side-skirttings that are spread through the ranks and taught to all members. Then, anyone who cares for solid doctrine has to go find another contradiction to bring up against them in conversation.
At the end of all of it, through a couple conversations later and much research, I developed my understanding of the Seventh Day Adventists: I respect them for their keeping of the Sabbath, and, while I don’t think we are held to that, I think everyone would do better practicing it. I disagree with their fantastical revelations about future events, but accept that much of that is in the past, and most Adventists don’t teach things like that today. Personally, I think that many of them are likely very true Christians, which is not something I would say about Jehovah’s False Witnesses or the Mormons. (Or, as they put on their name tags, “Latter-Day Saints.”) As long as they give glory to God for their salvation and don’t hold everyone else to their Sabbath standards, I think they may very well be our brothers and sisters in Christ. And, as outlandish as it may sound, I think we may have a few things we could pick up from their way of life.