I had a friend recently ask why I remain a Seventh-day Adventist. He’s not a member of our church and knows there are a few issues that frustrate me (as any organization is bound to have), so he was puzzled by my allegiance to the denomination. Without hesitation I quickly replied: it’s because I’m in love with Adventist theology and the Jesus that theology reveals.
Of course, I’m not naive to think there aren’t psychological and cultural factors at play. After all, this is the only religious community I’ve ever belonged to, and there’s a certain familiarity that brings a deep sense of comfort and security.
Yet even accounting for that, the one thing that consciously keeps me in this church is the beautiful and rich theological paradigm we’ve come to understand.
It’s not simply that it makes sense to me in some objective way, like an algebraic formula that I’ve calculated and been convinced of intellectually. I’m not committed to Adventist theology solely because of a sort of Enlightenment-defined absolute certainty. As I said, I’m in love with Adventist theology, not simply cognitively convinced of it—which is an important nuance. It speaks to my heart as well as my head. It makes sense to me emotionally, relationally, socially.
We’re sitting on a gold mine, yet burying it seemingly beyond reach through our preoccupation with secondary and inconsequential matters.
That is, it does all these things when properly understood and presented—all within the framework of God’s love, set against the backdrop of the grand story of a cosmic conflict.
The way we’ve come to understand God’s character through this lens, pointing to His humility and willingness to patiently demonstrate His goodness for the eternal well-being and security of the universe; how this clarifies and expands our understanding of the significance and meaning of the cross; the gift of the Sabbath; the refusal of God to torment people eternally—all these snapshots, among others, create a beautiful mosaic of theological goodness and delight that enrapture my heart, mind, and soul (while recognizing there’s ever more to discover).
And yet it’s precisely because I am so in love with Adventist theology, properly understood, that I find myself so incredibly jealous for it, leading to an increasing impatience when people make Adventism about anything and everything else. We’re sitting on a gold mine, yet burying it seemingly beyond reach through our preoccupation with secondary and inconsequential matters, clinging to our rituals, cultural traditions, and conspiracies, and fighting over nonessentials.
It’s also deeply frustrating and saddening that we fail to live up to our beautiful theology. I very much include myself in this. Theoretically, such a beautiful paradigm should make us the most beautiful people on the planet. And yet so often we’re anything but—likely because we’ve made Adventism about so much other than that beautiful theology.
So here’s my humble appeal to rediscover, or perhaps discover for the first time, what truly lies at the heart of Adventist theology. Don’t just become convinced of it; fall in love with it. And, more important, fall in love with the Jesus it reveals.
Shawn Brace is a pastor and author in Bangor, Maine, whose book There’s More to Jesus (Signs Publishing) further expounds upon a Jesus-centered understanding of Adventism. He is also a DPhil student at the University of Oxford, researching nineteenth-century American Christianity.