Yard Sale Commentary

Christ, in and through Adventist teaching

Shane Anderson
Yard Sale Commentary

Many years ago my wife, Darlene, went to a yard sale held to benefit one of our Adventist high schools. The inventory at this annual event was vast, with literally thousand of items to choose from. If one wanted a new garbage can, there were 10 to choose from. Looking for a table saw with no blade, circa 1968? One could be had for just $15. And of course there were the standard (at least for American yard sales) array of archaic electronic items: monitors, CPUs, keyboards, and miscellaneous cabling.

But amid the standard yard sale detritus was (in my opinion, at least) the equivalent of buried treasure: a complete set of The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary series. By the looks of them, the various volumes had been treated well during decades of use. In fact, they were in good enough condition to command a correspondingly high price. My wife went to the cashier to ask how much the entire set would be.

“Four dollars,” came the reply.

When Darlene arrived home with her acquisitions, I couldn’t believe how cheap the commentaries had been. “Why only $4?” I asked. She explained that the cashier reasoned that the commentaries, though in good condition, were a niche item. “These books are really only appealing to Adventists,” the cashier said, “and if we charged even our regular book price, not even they would bother with them.”

I don’t want to (forgive the pun) read too much into this yard sale experience. But I can’t help wondering if the lack of desire for what for many decades was the pinnacle of Adventist scholarship isn’t also a partial commentary on the state of Adventism today.

There are voices in the church now that are urging us to be less Adventist rather than more. Some would prefer that Adventist distinctives be downplayed in an attempt to show goodwill and tolerance to those in society who see life differently than we do. Our uniqueness, they contend, is too often our weakness.

I too want more receptivity from an increasingly secular world. The church cannot afford to ignore the diverse milieus and cultural trends in ascendance today in the name of woodenly upholding orthodoxy. But when I remember that each point of distinctive doctrine that Adventism teaches is centered in Jesus Christ, the undeserving honor I feel in living and sharing our unique message is renewed. Rightly understood, Christ, in and through Adventist teaching, is still the best answer to the world’s problems.

Those yard sale commentaries (which still serve in my personal library) contain more than epic scholarship. They also contain a reminder that Adventists really do have something unique—and salvific—to say to the world today, even to the point of writing 10 strapping volumes to better explain it. A lack of appreciation for distinctly Adventist teaching may thus say more about us than it does about it. True, we must always seek to present our message in engaging, relevant ways! But not at the expense of doctrinal integrity. The tidy sum of $4 is all it took to buy those commentaries. Yet the message of Jesus that Adventism is called to embrace and to share is priceless. Let us witness accordingly, with both relevance and loyalty.

Shane Anderson

Shane Anderson is the lead pastor of Pioneer Memorial church on the campus of Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan.