A quinquennial council of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is usually a time to receive reports and vote on recommendations and initiatives. It is also an opportunity to reflect on the present and future of the organization. The South American Division (SAD) Executive Committee meeting this year in early November was no exception.
Among the days of discussions, votes, and nominations, there was also a time to reflect on the theological issues affecting the Adventist Church and how to address them.
In a special presentation on November 8, 2021, Latin American Adventist Theological Seminary (SALT) president Adolfo Suárez challenged members of the SAD Executive Committee to reflect on the current theological challenges the world and the Adventist Church are facing. He also suggested a way forward to increase doctrinal literacy among church members across the region.
Suárez said that a significant problem behind some theological challenges facing Christian denominations is a multi-faceted attempt to revise what the Bible teaches. “This is not mere antagonism but a whole new way of interpreting the Bible,” he said.
He listed at least 10 items that present major theological challenges for Seventh-day Adventists, including the authority of Scripture, Adventism’s unique identity, prophetic interpretation, and creation versus evolution. According to Suárez, these theological challenges are being widely spread and amplified by social media chats and discussions. These challenges, Suárez said, impact our understanding of Bible-based fundamental beliefs, including our view of the purpose of the church, the gift of prophecy, and the role of the heavenly sanctuary, among others.
What to Do about It
According to Suárez, being proactive about current challenges includes increasing doctrinal awareness and knowledge among church leaders and members. “Dear leaders, it is not enough to be aware of the criticism and challenges,” Suárez said. “We must take it one step further. We must present a strong theological education program available to every member,” he suggested.
Suárez said he believes that “lies and heresy only thrive on the basis of disinformation and doctrinal superficiality.” He thinks it would be possible, for instance, to develop a website that may offer sound theology classes to any member or interest of the Adventist Church.
As the floor opened for comments, Reinaldo Siqueira, until recently SALT director at Brazilian Adventist University (UNASP), shared what he called “a positive experience.” He said that current initiatives such as UNASP Next seek to bring short, non-academic classes to the community. It is something, he said, that allows the public to learn more and study the Bible better.
SAD Pathfinders and Adventurers director Udolcy Zukowski also shared that the department he leads is thinking about adding 28 new Pathfinders honors. “The goal is to include, as part of the weekly training program the church has for children and teenagers, resources that will address the biblical beliefs we as Seventh-day Adventists advocate,” he said.