07 Mar


Without hope, nothing makes sense.
– Archbishop Józef Życiński

Who would’ve known that the writer and satirist we enjoyed listening to every week would be sitting in my office. It was the devices of a colleague who knew him well and wanted him to get to know me.

One day, Teresa, a designer I worked with asked if Marcin, a famous humorist and writer, could quiz me about my religious beliefs. I was ready to meet him. “So, who are Adventists,” he asked? “I am a Christian,” he offered his own disclosure. “Are you one, too? How different is your tribe from mine?” he further asked. “Is [it] not enough to be a Christian?”

Many years later, when talking with a prominent church leader, I was corrected. He addressed me, “Ray, you are an Adventist Christian, not the other way around.”

Going back to my visitor, we sat for a couple of hours and talked about who Seventh-day Adventists are and why our Bible is shorter than his (Apocrypha). I wanted to let him know that we also have a sense of humor, perhaps not as sharp as his own and definitely not as popular as his radio comedy. This first encounter resulted in a long friendship between our families.

A year later, he brought me his newest book. He said that it would put a smile on my face. The book’s narrative included an encounter between primitive Amazon tribes. One had a familiar name—Adventists. A thought crossed my mind: was Marcin hinting at our own sweet isolation—down deep in a human jungle where tribes don’t get along?

My guest’s sense of humor clashed with my own sense of the world. I then probed into my own understanding of varieties of worldviews versus a need to define my own worldview for an outcome that can bring us close to one another.

So, what is my worldview, I pondered.

I was baptized at 15. Walking into a baptismal pool, the minister whispered to me, “Don’t be afraid. I am doing this for the first time, too. We shall overcome!” he smiled. We did.

Being a theologian, Prof. Konstanty Bulli explained to me that his biblical studies offered him an understanding of the “end of time,” which gives Adventists a conviction that though there will be an end to the affairs of this world and the end to all evil, we have nothing to worry about through Jesus Christ. We shall overcome. We are Adventists, and we are even called by that name. We are a people with conviction, driven by hope in the victorious end when Jesus returns, as promised.

I often ask myself, “Is my worldview, driven by the victorious conclusion informed by what Jesus foretold and through his pain, achieved?”

In conclusion, my worldview is not simply a statement, but an action to believe in, a mindset, an outlook for life, expressed through my spirituality. That’s what I observed in my parental home and in the stories of the elders. Everything was driven by hope.

I shall overcome. Full stop.

Rajmund Dabrowski is editor of Mountain Views. Email him at: [email protected]

07 Mar


Although I was born in the United States, my story actually begins across the Pacific Ocean. My father was born and raised in Shanghai, China, brought up by godly parents in a regime hostile to their faith. As a young man, he fled Mao’s China to seek refuge and an education in the United States.

My mother hailed from Manila in the Philippines. The child of a minister, after graduating from college, she left a humble life to go to America in search of work and opportunity. These two strangers would eventually meet in the strange foreign city of Portland, Oregon.

They eventually married and, together, built a life in pursuit of the American dream. My brother and I are literally products of that dream.

The stories of my parents are similar to those of millions of others seeking hope, refuge, and opportunity in the United States of America.

In 2023, an unprecedented 10 million immigration cases were processed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. This includes benefits for employment-based visas, family-based visas, students, tourists, asylum seekers, the list goes on. All of these applicants are people pursuing what my parents sought nearly 60 years ago.

Interestingly, of these cases, 975,800 of them were applications for naturalization to United States citizenship, with all 195 countries in the world represented. These applicants not only sought a better life, but they also now want to call themselves Americans!

Being the son of immigrants and a practitioner in federal immigration law has given me a deeply personal perspective on the meaning of citizenship. There is nothing more moving than attending a naturalization ceremony. It is the formal commemoration—and transformation—of an individual not from the United States becoming a citizen of the United States.

I’ve attended dozens of these ceremonies with clients, and there is a fundamental rule among attorneys: never let your clients see you cry … unless they are becoming a U.S. citizen.

The ceremonies are wonderfully grand yet very simple. An Honor Guard presenting the colors. We recite the Pledge of Allegiance. We sing the National Anthem. There is a roll call of nations where the candidates for citizenship stand when their respective country is called.

In a room full of countless ethnicities and countries, there are no enemies. Cultures and people normally at war shake hands, laugh, and hug in friendship. Partisan differences dissolve. No one is a Republican or Democrat. The one thing they have in common is in a single moment, they will become United States citizens together.

This moment requires the statement of 140 words and takes about one minute. The candidates stand, raise their right hand, and recite the Oath of Allegiance to the United States:

“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”

The Bible makes specific reference to our heavenly citizenship. Philippians 3:20 states, Our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. And Ephesians 2:19 declares, Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens … in the kingdom of God.

As an attorney, I became curious about the application criteria for becoming a citizen of the kingdom of Heaven. In conducting my legal research, I discovered that the criterion for heavenly citizenship is virtually identical to that for American citizenship—birth, naturalization, and by decree.

Citizenship by Birth

The first basis for a claim to United States citizenship is by birth: by birth to American citizen parents or by birth on American soil.

Anyone born to a parent who is an American citizen has a claim to United States citizenship, regardless of where the birth happens in the world. Similarly, anyone born on within the United States has an automatic claim to citizenship, regardless of the parents’ country of origin or nationality.

Today, public debate continues about whether the doctrine of birthright citizenship (i.e., simply being born on American soil) should be maintained or revoked. Many claim the doctrine encourages individuals to enter the United States for the express purpose of giving birth inside the United States and, therefore, have children with inherent citizenship. Unfortunately, our national polarized political discourse will not let this settled legal doctrine rest.

Scripture has a similar birth requirement for heavenly citizenship. In 1 John 3:1, we are declared God’s children: See what great love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

Further, in John 3 is the famous story of Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a legal scholar in his own right. In the dark of night, Nicodemus approaches Jesus and, essentially, asks Him about the criteria for heavenly citizenship. Jesus replies, No one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again (John 3:3). Jesus then elaborates for Nicodemus that admission to the kingdom of God requires birth not of earthly flesh but of spirit.

Citizenship by Naturalization

As anyone who has applied for naturalization knows, it is a multi-step process. The applicant must first complete a 20-page form and then take the well-known citizenship test. The exam includes a series of questions to gauge English language proficiency and knowledge of American civics. Some questions include: Who is the “father of our country”? What are the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution called? What are the three branches of government? Name one U.S. territory.

In the Bible, we can find a heavenly citizenship naturalization exam administered in John 21. There, after a fruitless night fishing on the Sea of Galilee, Peter tells a stranger on the shore that there is no fish. The stranger instructs Peter to toss his net on the other side of the boat, which yields an abundance of fish. Peter realizes the stranger is Jesus, and he jumps overboard to reunite with his Master after he had denied Him thrice.

After a beach-front breakfast, Jesus then gives Peter a citizenship test of three questions—and it’s the same question: “Do you love me?” Peter answers affirmatively each time, becoming more emphatic with each question, and his heavenly citizenship is restored.

Every day, I believe God administers the same examination to affirm our heavenly citizenship. The same question is asked of us not verbally but in our daily circumstances, encounters, interactions, and conversations. Our actions and responses to these life episodes are our answers to God’s question, “Do you love me?”

Citizenship by Decree

Unknown to many, an Act of Congress can confer American citizenship. This has been done mainly for honorary recognition, most famously bestowed upon Winston Churchill and Mother Teresa. In this method, the individual simply the beneficiary of an act by the United States government; no need to complete an application, pass an exam, or take an oath. Congress simply decrees it.

In Ephesians 2:8-9, we find the decree for citizenship to the kingdom of Heaven: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.

Like the 975,500 applicants for naturalization in 2023, we also seek a better life, the “heavenly dream.” As children of God—by birth, by naturalization, and by grace—may we represent and honor the significance of the meaning of being a citizen of the kingdom of Heaven. Here-in is our best worldview. May we always remember the solemn privilege of holding a passport attesting to our citizenship of our true home country above.

Andre M. Wang, Esq., serves as general counsel and PARL director for the North Pacific Union Conference. He writes from Portland, Oregon. Email him at: [email protected]

07 Mar


First Advent

Does human nature ever change? Cultures certainly do. Culture is based upon region, necessity, beliefs, and creativity. But human nature is more about design. A product of both nature and nurture. Yet, after the garden, weeds grow naturally, and flowers take careful, Spiritual work. And so, while cultures may shift and change dramatically over time, the nature of human behavior remains essentially, cliché. As Solomon said, What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9, CSB).

And so, in the vein of, nothing new, I have come to realize, typologically, the social issues before the first Advent, are nearly a mirror image of the second. For example, in the days of John the Baptist:

  • God’s people were living under a pagan government. And the “civilized” metropolis of Rome, viewed Jerusalem as a rural backwater, a place of uneducated religious zealots.
  • And, be it Rome or Jerusalem, rulers felt entitled to remain in power through corruption, indifferent to the poor who were scraping by under over-taxation, slavery, and injustice.

Under this social unrest, Judah’s leadership split into two extremes.

There was the Levite class of political rulers, the Sadducees, who had extremely liberal views. They scarcely believed the teachings of scripture, having become more interested in Greek philosophers than in the Word of God. They rejected the idea that the Creator could raise them from the dead. They didn’t even accept many of the miracles in Scripture as literal. Nor did they believe in the angels, the devil, or the Spirit. Hence, why their leader, Caiaphas, was more interested in justice for his nation, than in a “Spiritual” kingdom.

The second class of religious leaders were the Pharisees. They were non-Levite Rabbis who held extremely conservative views. Over time, their sect had become more devoted to obedience to the letter of the Word, than to the God of the Word. They were committed to earning their way into heaven through their scruples, elevating the traditions and beliefs of extra-biblical teachers in the Talmud to a place of equal authority with Scripture.

As a result, rebellion was fomenting in a desire to take their nation back for God or for glory. A longing for national greatness, like in the prosperous days of Solomon, or the Maccabees.

Second Advent

As you can probably deduce, the same issues swirling around John the Baptist, could be pulled out of modern Western headlines. Truly, there is nothing new under the sun. Now, in the days just before the Messiah comes a second time.

For all intents and purposes, God’s people have once again come under the authority of “foreign gods,” as it were, with Secularism. This anti-theistic child of the Age of Reason could fairly be described as a white-washed intellectual rebranding of paganism. A new form of religion based in the worship of the material world and human ego.

Under their plutocratic empire, the lust for power and money in global banking, corporations, and politics, has devastated not only our communities and families, but even the planet itself. And the common classes have basically become indentured servants, living under a steel fist in a velvet glove.

Just as with the Sadducees and Pharisees, the nations and their religious leaders, have become divided into two extreme polar opposites over cultural and moral issues. Each side becoming more and more entrenched in “their view” being the “only” acceptable view. The fierce sectarianism is fomenting of civil rebellion and anarchy.


And so, it should come as no surprise then, that the prominent belief surrounding the coming of the Messiah at the first Advent was that—He would “fix everything.”

They wanted freedom from the Romans. They wanted prosperity. They wanted a piece of the pie. And so it is today. Whether it be Millennialism or Zionism,

Christianity has the exact same view as the Israelites who saw Jesus feed the five thousand:

They got into their boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered, “Truly I tell you, you are looking for Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Don’t work for the food that perishes, but for the food that lasts for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you (John 6:24-27, CSB).

They went “looking for Jesus.” It sounds so spiritual, doesn’t it? I imagine Jesus taking a deep sigh, his eyes getting large: He then essentially said, “You’re not coming to Me for deliverance from sin, you’re coming to Me for deliverance from want.” And, unfortunately, not much has changed. From the tree in the garden to the mark of the beast, we are besotted by, “things that perish with the using.”

Not even John the Baptist was immune to the desire for a “fix all God.” It’s why he sent his disciples to Jesus, asking, Are you even the One? Or should we look for another (Matthew 11:3,5, CSB). I can sympathize with John, struggling with imprisonment; wondering, “Why haven’t You delivered me? I am Your most faithful follower! I’m even Your relative! How can you truly be the Messiah if you can’t even fix such a simple need?”  We all struggle with these same feelings when God doesn’t snap His genie fingers and make our lives better.

And just here is where we find the reason people have consistently rejected the Savior. Because we are all chasing after certainty. We all have bills. We all have dreams. We all have hopes for our children. And, of course, we always have those in power who want to remain in power. Because, at our core, we all long for stability, purpose, and control. These are largely legitimate needs after all. Jesus’ promises of certainty are too esoteric. We want bread. We need bread! We all want paid mortgages. We all want national stability. We all want to live our “Best Life, Now.”


All this is not to say that God is indifferent to our needs. He has always provided for His people. There are scores
of Bible stories dedicated to this reality. But what I am saying, is that when we make an idol out of seeking bread, our faith is out of order. As Jesus said, Do not consume yourselves with questions like: What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear? Outsiders make themselves frantic over such questions; they don’t realize that your heavenly Father knows exactly what you need (Matthew 6:31-32, Voice).

Even John had to learn this lesson when his disciples got back to his cell and shared how Jesus had, “healed people, and set them free through the Gospel.”

It must have been a horse pill to swallow. Jesus hadn’t come to fix the world. He came to save us from sin! I imagine John must have deeply reflected on his previous words to his disciples as his day of execution neared:

You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah, but I have been sent ahead of Him. The bridegroom is the one to whom the bride belongs; but the bridegroom’s friend, who stands by and listens, is glad when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. This is how my joy is made complete. He must become more important while I become less important (John 3:27-30, GNT).

John recognized that he was not the message; he was only the messenger.

Because the certainty the world needed wasn’t found in John the Baptist; it can be found only in Jesus. John was the best man, not the Groom. And so, he concluded, “He must increase and I must decrease.”

And so, if we as “Adventists” truly want to play a typological role like the Baptizer, as an, … urgent, thundering voice shouting in the desert—clear the way and prepare your hearts for the coming of the Lord! (John 1:23, TPT), then, just as John, we must accept that we are not the message; we are only messengers. Meaning, Advent-ism is not the groom. We are only here to point people to the hope found in our soon returning Savior! Which is, in all irony, the first angel’s message:

Then I saw another angel flying overhead, with the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation and tribe and tongue and people (Revelation 14:6, BSB).

So, let our joy become full as we stand aside, and say with John: Jesus must increase, and Adventism must decrease. Let Jesus increase in our pulpits! Let Jesus increase in our schools! Let Jesus increase in our hospitals! Let Him increase in our conferences! Let Him increase in our missions! And let the Love of God increase in our fellowship and homes! Because what the world needs isn’t another religion, what the world needs is the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, living within their reborn souls.

Shayne Vincent Mason is pastor for the Florida Conference in Daytona Beach, Florida. He received a Master of Social Work degree from Andrews University and has many years of experience as a therapist in hospice, marriage and family, and addictions. He is the author of the book The Red Letter Psalms. Email him at: [email protected]

07 Mar


I suppose it could be argued that there really is no such thing as a clearly defined, commonly held worldview that is embraced by an overwhelming majority of our members. Maybe in the strictest sense that is true, but I find that, generally, we do have a common worldview. Likely, other articles in this issue are going to address that more directly, but there are truths that we hold dear which inevitably inform our worldview enough to bring consensus on many issues.

For example, we believe there is both good (embodied in the persons of the Godhead) and evil (embodied in Satan and his fallen angels), and that this world is the battleground between them. I can’t imagine a Seventh-day Adventist who would disagree with that statement. That universally accepted concept shapes your worldview in a way that is common among not only other Adventists, but also those outside our faith community. Our worldview is similarly shaped by our belief in creationism, our rejection of eternal torment, our knowledge that loved ones who are deceased are not watching us, being active in our lives, or aware of our movements.

Often our common worldview is such that we have nearly identical reactions to situations. Most of us, if confronted with an evolutionary concept while watching a nature documentary, immediately recoil from the assertion, if only internally. Our concern over losing salvation is not due to a fear of burning forever. We would never entertain the idea of attending a séance. The worldviews that spring from the truth we know result in nearly all Adventists having nearly identical reactions to certain situations.

But …

… it’s not entirely universal. In fact, in some cases, we can have very different reactions that spring from a common viewpoint. I’m not just talking about the fact that some manage to live up to their desired reaction more than others. Our worldview calls on us to be good stewards of our personal finances, but people with equal incomes who support the church equally and have similar expenses don’t always have similar levels of savings. That’s not a matter of different reactions to the world view, that’s a matter of different levels of commitment to our shared value of saving. No, I’m talking about totally opposite behaviors as a reaction to a commonly held worldview.

Let me illustrate: as Adventists, we all believe that the earth was God’s gift to us, and that we have a responsibility to manage it wisely. This is based on the instructions God gave to the first couple when He placed them in dominion over earth. They were to take care of it, and it was to supply for their physical needs (see Genesis 2). We also believe that very soon, at the Second Coming of Christ, the earth will be destroyed (see Revelation 6). Those two truths lead to a worldview that says we are stewards of the earth, and the earth will be destroyed anyway.

I have witnessed very different reactions among my fellow Adventists to that worldview. On the one hand, some are very conscientious environmentalists. They donate to the cause, recycle, reduce their carbon footprint, and support measures to clean up our planet and deter further damage. The opposite reaction is found among those fatalistic folks who feel that such efforts can’t stop or even delay the inevitable. They are profoundly disinterested in what goes into landfills, they don’t adopt sections of roads, install solar panels, or save energy except as a personal economic benefit.

Most folks are not at either extreme end of the spectrum, but the majority of us pretty clearly lean one way or the other. And maybe you haven’t thought of it in terms of a reaction to your worldview of the earth as our current responsibility that faces inevitable destruction, but that is our worldview, and those reactions are both definitely found among our believers. The next time you dispose of a cardboard box in your usual fashion you probably, because I brought it to your attention, will be aware of how your choice is a reflection of your worldview.

The truth is, for all the nearly universal reactions we have to our common worldview, there is still a lot of room for people of good will to have very different reactions in certain circumstances, all still proceeding from that common worldview.

And it’s not always polar opposite choices we make. There are variations and layers and influencing factors. Since we agree that there is both good and evil, we develop a worldview that everyone is on one side or the other (fortunately our worldview there is free will, which means anyone can change sides). An extension of that worldview is the default assumption that politicians, no matter their stripe, land mostly on the same side of the line between good and evil, and I don’t need to tell you which side we assume. How does that worldview inform your choice when it comes to voting?

You might choose not to vote, and for a variety of reasons. You don’t want to be responsible for the inevitable evil that the eventual winner will perpetrate is certainly one I have heard many times. A lesser form would be that you don’t believe it makes any difference in the long run, but that too is a reaction to an Adventist worldview that the end times will unfold as God has foretold.

Or, with the same worldview, you can say that you have a responsibility to resist evil by voting for the person less likely to act in harmony with evil. My professor in graduate school referred to this as choosing the evil of two lessors and voting for his opponent. That may be the opposite of refusing to vote, but now a new layer gets added: which party? Again, Adventists of good will have different answers, and it’s not always one of the big two. Another layer is, do I vote for the party I mostly agree with, or pick the person I think will best lead us? Again, different Adventists will have different reactions, even though their very different choices all sprang from a common worldview: that there is evil in the world, and I am eligible to vote.

All of this is to say that while we can define a common worldview for ourselves, it doesn’t mean we are all going to do the same thing in every situation. And that is getting down to a core value that I pray we can all have as a common Adventist world view.


There are people who share my worldview in this church whom I would trust with my life. I like to hang out with them, I like to discuss deep issues with them, I like to wash their feet on communion Sabbath. And yet, they don’t vote like me, treat the environment like me, or other things that are more than just matters of preference. The key to being friends with people like that is for both sides to follow the standard Jesus gave us in the Sermon on the Mount, namely, to judge not.

We need to get our heads around the idea that not every deeply held belief that I have, though it is informed by scripture and in harmony with my very Adventist world view, is a salvation issue that is going to condemn my fellow Adventists who conclude differently. I have to walk my path, keeping my eyes on Jesus, and letting Him be the judge.

I should be able to talk about those things with the people who disagree with me and still be friends, not lose my temper, and not condemn. I may not be able to see how their idea is in harmony with God’s ideal, but I need to be humble enough to believe that I don’t see it from God’s perspective. Maybe I’m right and that person is lost, and maybe I do have a responsibility to speak up for what I believe to be right. But there is a big difference between “I don’t agree with you, the Bible seems very clear on this” and “You are going to miss heaven if you don’t do as I do.”

And by the way, tolerance is not just for those who share my worldview but not all my practices. An Arab tradition (remember, Abraham was their father also) talks about a traveler whom the patriarch invited into his tent for a meal. When he did not give thanks to God for his meal, Abraham remonstrated with him about it. When the man indicated he was a worshiper of the sun, Abraham drove him away hungry.

That night God spoke to him in a dream and asked why he treated the man so poorly. “You heard him, Lord; how can I put up with such a man in my tent?”

The Lord replied, “I know all about him. I have put up with him in My world for forty years. Could you not tolerate him for one night?”

As I said, it’s a tradition, not a Bible story, so it’s not likely true. But there is truth in it, namely, that God is very tolerant of a lot of truly evil people. He is longsuffering, hoping that they will exercise their free will and come to His side. Driving away those who don’t practice things like we think they should is no way to bring them to repentance.

My Adventist worldview is something I cherish. It influences the choices I make, just as that same worldview influences you. If we can be tolerant of those within our worldview that make different choices, it’s good practice for reaching out to those who have different worldviews. May God grant us all tolerance of each other.

Douglas Inglish is the RMC vice president for administration. Email him at: [email protected]

07 Mar


When first asked the question: “How do you define the Adventist Worldview?”, I completely misunderstood the question. It was sort of like a goldfish being asked: “How do you define the bowl in which you swim?” I missed the point. Lesson learned.

It helped to expand the question a bit with more detail. How do those of us who were raised within the Seventh-day Adventist Church approach life—and how may we influence culture by who we are—physically, through values, philosophy, attitudes, ethics, our understanding of the “end of time,” and whether life and the world makes sense?

How I understand the question now comes down to examining the specifically Seventh-day Adventist milieu in which we operate. When we understand this, we can translate it into language that our world at large can hear, and we can spread the message in a way that will be much less mysterious to the world at large.

With that clarification, my mind immediately turned to our understanding of the Great Controversy. The Great Controversy, in fact, is our uniquely-Adventist theodicy, which our church developed through the early Advent movement, and most importantly through Ellen G. White and her writings.

Our theodicy posits that God allowed sin to take root in our world so that the Universe at large is able to see the true danger that flows from complete rebellion against God’s plan for healthy and fruitful living. As I see it, this is the way in which we as Adventists make sense of the chaos and complexity of our world. This means, as I see it, the way we live our whole lives, seek God’s will, and interact with the larger world around us all flow from our understanding of the Great Controversy. We use our Adventist theodicy to shape how we live our lives both as Christians and as humans.

But what is a theodicy?

Throughout history, humans who are monotheists have grappled with the question: “why does a perfectly good, almighty, and all-knowing God permit evil?” The traditional term for this struggle is theodicy.1  The article from Encyclopedia Brittanica has a lot of very interesting information.

In traditional Western Christian thought, there are essentially two main schools of theodicy: Augustinian and Irenaean. My quick and severely simplified summary of the Brittanica article cited above is that Augustinian theodicy posits generally that evil is a direct result of the sin of Adam and Eve, and we live in a world rendered evil through that Fall and must negotiate this set of obstacles to get us back to God. By contrast, Irenaean theodicy posits that God has placed us in this complex world in part so that we can grow into the creatures God always intended us to be, and the evils we confront are challenges that assist us in growing closer to God. (The Britannica article cited in Footnote 1 presents a more detailed version of the overall history of theodicy in Christianity.)

Our Great Controversy theodicy leads us to see spiritual, mental, and physical health as all being a part of God’s holistic plan for us as His creations. This holistic theodicy influences virtually all of the ways our Seventh-day Adventist Christianity influences the rest of the world. The rest of this article meditates on two specific examples of how the Great Controversy worldview shapes how we interact with ourselves and with the larger world.

First, I meditate on how our holistic understanding of the Great Controversy has subsequently developed into a distinctly Adventist way to synthesize spiritual and physical health—the synthesis that we as Adventists call the “Health Message.” In my general interactions with those outside the Seventh-day Adventist Church, our commitment to holistic, healthy living is one of the primary ways the larger world understands us as Seventh-day Adventists.

One concrete example (as we have developed it within our Great Controversy theodicy) of how the holistic synthesis of spiritual and physical health has affected our larger world is a small mountain named “Mount Sanitas” near Boulder, Colorado. Today, many Boulderites think this was a Spanish name. In reality, however, it was named by English speaking individuals, and it referred specifically to the Boulder Sanitarium founded in 1879 at the mountain’s base. The Sanitarium opened a couple years after the University of Colorado also opened in Boulder. The Sanitarium opened in Boulder because Mrs. White and John Harvey Kellogg agreed that holistic Great Controversy theodicy called for health institutions like the Sanitarium.

In many ways, the Boulder Sanitarium was one of the first institutions which helped shape the character of Boulder as a fitness and health obsessed location. What started with the Sanitarium has continued up to the present day, even if the present proponents of fitness in Boulder don’t always know where the stream of health awareness started. In summary, our Great Controversy worldview and its holistic view of spiritual, mental, and physical health was one of the influences that shaped Boulder’s historic and continuing reputation for integrating physical and spiritual health.

Second, I turn to how our holistic Great Controversy theodicy helped re-awaken in me individually the importance of the Sabbath as a sign of living in harmony with God’s principles of spiritual, mental, and physical health. When I was younger, I used to view the Fourth Commandment as something of a buzzkill.

Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. For six days you shall labour and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son, or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore, the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it (Exodus 20:8-11).2

In the Seventh-day Adventist Great Controversy theodicy, the view defying this commandment a quintessential mark of rebellion against God in our world. As a teenager, part of me resented having to show my loyalty by worshiping on Sabbath. I didn’t necessarily see the point.

When I went to law school, however, I began to see the real blessings inherent in both the Great Controversy worldview and Sabbath keeping. When in law school, I intentionally followed the Fourth Commandment, I found that rest on the Sabbath not only kept me in harmony with God’s will, but also refreshed and renewed me for my following week. It wasn’t simply following a commandment—it was also blessing me with the time needed to renew and refresh my mind and heart for a new week. It wasn’t just a negative to be done to avoid wrath; rather it was a net positive to help me grow in mind and body, and in favor with God and humans. The Sabbath enhanced my own holistic health.

In summary, keeping the Sabbath actually made me a better and more rounded human being, and this gave me new appreciation for following our Seventh-day Adventist Great Controversy worldview. From my own experience, therefore, the holistic theodicy found in the Great Controversy worldview reinforces the idea of what true holistic health entails.

In summary, both of these examples are (in a sense) ruthlessly practical examples about how the Seventh-day Adventist Christian Great Controversy theodicy allows all of us to have an impact on our society. Because the idea of the Great Controversy helps inform the way we live and interact with our neighbors, we can show a better way of living as daughters and sons of God. We can exhibit a synthesis of spiritual, mental, and physical health in a way so that people outside the Seventh-day Adventist bubble are able to see practical examples of Christians living holistic health lives.

Leading lives where, in God’s power, we are creating a holistic synthesis of spiritual, mental, and physical health, gives us an incredibly powerful tool that we can share with our hurried unbalanced world. We are translating our Great Controversy theodicy worldview into something that attracts others to join us in holistic living in harmony with God’s plan.

Shawn P. Nowlan, Esq., is an attorney currently working for the federal government in Denver, Colorado. He is a member of the Boulder Adventist Church. Email him at: [email protected]


Sherry, Patrick. (Accessed 6 February 2024.). “Theodicy”. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/theodicy-theology

2  New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

07 Mar


As a general rule—and as something of a language purist, as should be part of the job description for a book editor and proof-reader—I am not a fan of excessive verbification. But, as a writer and someone who enjoys working with words, I can appreciate the opportunities that creatively adapting language can offer. When we make a word that has only previously been used as a noun into a verb—for example, instead of “having an impact,” something might “impact” us—we cause language purists to shudder, but we also have a new way of talking and thinking about how an idea is put into action and affects us and others.

An unusual example of this recently caught my attention in a new translation of the New Testament. I began reading it after hearing scholar Scot McKnight talking about his work on the project, describing the literal-but-sometimes awkward and intentionally alternative nature of his translation choices as a way to help us read the text afresh and to ask new questions of it.1 That seemed a worthwhile way of approaching well-loved and well-known Bible passages—and I have enjoyed beginning to re-read the gospels with some interesting variations of language and expressions.

So far, the verse that has most sparked my imagination and my thinking about faith is Matthew 11:5. It is the list of evidence Jesus gave to the disciple of John the Baptist—or “Yōannēs the Dipper” as McKnight labels him—in response to John questioning whether Jesus was actually the Messiah, as John had previously proclaimed. Jesus’ reply and explanation included various kinds of healing, helping and making whole, and the usual form of the final phrase is expressed as something like “… and the Good News is being preached to the poor.” 2

The alternative translation that has prompted my reflections goes like this: “The beggars are gospeled.” 3 Suddenly we have an invitation to engage the gospel as a transformative act or actions and a calling to enact it in our time and place, in the name of Jesus.

We often hear people talking about a biblical or Christian worldview(s). Often this is employed to argue a particular position, rather than acknowledging the variety of perspectives that we can find even within the biblical text itself. The assumption is that this is a lens through which we are to see and experience our lives and the world around us, and that this should shape our approach to various personal, social, and political issues. But the language of worldview sometimes seems weak in comparison to the realities, claims, and calling of the Christian story.

Yes, Christianity is a worldview. It is a way of seeing the world around us, of understanding something particular about history and stories, and of measuring and making choices in our lives. It is a framework for thinking and believing. It is a message to be preached and proclaimed.

But Christian faith is not merely a worldview, a philosophy, or even a theology. It must never be left as a collection of ideas or even a comprehensive interpretative paradigm. It is not primarily a case to be made or an argument to be won. Christian faith only later became a collection of doctrines, and these are only useful as far as they attempt to explain and point us toward larger truths, movements, and actions.

Anchored in the historical realities of Jesus and His teaching, following Him tells a big story that connects all of us back to Him and a Way of being and living in the world.

While preachers and churches often hark back to the earliest days of the followers of Jesus as a model for the church, this seems to be something that is often skipped over. The sermons recorded in the book of Acts often sound little like much of our preaching today. The apostles’ first sermons focussed instead on the reality and significance of Jesus, particularly His death and resurrection, but also called hearers who might accept these claims made by and about Jesus to follow the Way.

Of course, Jesus used this language to describe Himself: I am the way, the truth, and the life. No-one can come to the Father except through me (John 14:6). But it seems this description also became a preferred self-identification among the early believers, describing themselves as “followers of the Way” (see Acts 18:25; 19:9; 22:4; 24:14, 22) more often than they called themselves Christians (see Acts 11:26). It was also used by those who would persecute them, with Saul (before he became Paul) carrying letters seeking the assistance of the leaders in Damascus for the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there (Acts 9:2) as he set off on his momentous journey to that city.

As such, the Way is far more than a worldview: “Practicing the Way of Jesus is less like learning quantum physics and more like learning aikido. It’s something you do with your whole body. Love isn’t an intellectual theory; it’s an embodied way of being.” 4 The Way is first Jesus Himself—as He claimed—but then also the orientation and activation of the whole substance of being and the sum of our lives, in whatever we do.

This was how Jesus summarized “the whole Code and the prophets” in response to a question about the greatest commandment—as translated by McKnight: “You will love the Lord, your God, in your whole heart and in your whole self and in your whole intelligence … . The second is comparable: You will love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:37, 39).5 With heart, body, and mind directed and active in love towards God and others, this is so much more than a worldview.

As whole-hearted, whole-selved, whole-intelligence followers of the Way, the verbified gospel begins to make sense—whatever we might think of the linguistic aberration or awkwardness. Jesus reported that, in His ministry, “the beggars are gospeled.” As those commissioned to continue His ministry in our time and place, what might “the beggars are gospeled” look like here and now? What might it mean to “gospel” our families, our communities, and our world?

The context of Jesus’ ministry and teaching does not allow this to be merely preaching or even friendly sharing. We are not trying to convince others of our worldview, so much as we are seeking to change their realities. This demands practical, wholistic, and often-radical transformation of the lives and circumstances of others, particularly working with those most in need, most marginalized, and most vulnerable.

Rather than defining, assuming, or championing a particular worldview, let’s set about verbifying our faith and activating the gospel. As we care and love, listen and serve, we are gospeling. That is a way of seeing, engaging, and understanding the world around us that not only makes the most sense and the strongest arguments for the truths we claim, but also that makes the most difference and will matter the most to those around us.

Seeking to be a Jesus purist is more important than being a language purist, so may the gospel be verbified and enacted all the more—and may the poor and all in our communities be gospeled. As Jesus did. As Jesus does.

Nathan Brown is a writer and editor at Signs Publishing in Warburton, Victoria, Australia. Nathan recently launched Thinking Faith, a collection of his articles in Mountain Viewsover the past few years, as well as being co-editor of A House on Fire: How Adventist Faith Responds to Race and Racism. Email him at: [email protected]


Vischer, Phil. (2024, January 10). “599: Paganism Returns & a New New Testament.” Holy Post. https://www.holypost.com/post/599-paganism-returns-a-new-new-testament-with-scot-mcknigh

2  Unless otherwise indicated, Bible verses are from the New Living Translation.

3  McKnight, Scot. (2024). The Second Testament. InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition (p. 14).

4  Comer, John Mark. (2024). Practicing the Way. SPCK (p. 86).

5  McKnight, Scot. (2024). The Second Testament. InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition (p. 28).

06 Mar


Sunglasses are fascinating.

We wear them for a variety of reasons. To be fashionable. To convince ourselves that we look as awesome as awesome people who wear the same sunglasses. To look tough. To shield our eyes from the sun. To shield our eyes from other people.

Or some combination thereof.

I’m not saying sunglasses are bad. I wear them at times for different reasons. But it is interesting how a hunk of plastic placed upon our face carries so much sense of value and identity.

The idea that we need something external to give us a sense of value and identity is probably worth exploring at some point.

But sunglasses actually do change the way we see things. Both in how we see ourselves and how we see the world. Ourselves in that we have altered our appearance in a way we find an improvement, and the world in that we are filtering out some of the light we would otherwise take into our eyes.

The world looks different when they are on. Tinted. Darker. Not as clear.

And that is just with normal sunglass lenses. What if you go with darker or lighter ones? What if you go with colored ones? Everything we see is filtered through those lenses and our view of the world becomes skewed towards those lenses’ technical make up and intended purpose.

So, whether one wears them for fashion and identity purposes, or whether one wears them because of light sensitivity issues and the need to protect themselves, one is choosing to restrict their view of reality and reduce the accuracy of what they see so that they can fulfill the alternate purpose dictated by the reason they wear sunglasses.

And yet, almost everyone chooses to wear sunglasses at some point for some reason.

As I said, it’s not wrong. But it does make a great metaphor.

Because, if we are talking about worldview, how we see the world matters. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be called “world view.” Our view of the world. How we see things.

Sorry, I can’t resist one more metaphor. I may have a problem. If I’m driving down a highway with the sun at my back, the vision in front of me is pretty clear. If I’m driving directly west as the sun is dropping down, at the right time I am almost blind as I drive. There are some roads near us that I hate driving in a westerly direction as late afternoon turns into evening. I just can’t see anything. So, it is when we look into the sun. It’s just too much to take in.

Back to worldview. So much of how we see the world is dictated by very specific variables. Our age, gender identity, sexual identity, varying health issues, personality, personal needs, fears, joys, desires, frustrations, pains, traumas, social needs, physical needs, and a whole list of others I won’t keep listing because you get the point.

And even some of those variables have variables of their own.

When you start breaking down all the things that go into forming a worldview, you realize that every single worldview is a house of cards waiting to fall. This is because no one is seeing reality clearly and without bias. We simply aren’t capable of doing it. Not truly. We can try, and sometimes we can filter out a lot of the variables that distort our view, but never all of them.

Fortunately, that never applies to our religious and spiritual worldviews, right? The Adventist worldview is never distorted because of such things.

Right? Right …???

*big sigh*

Of course it does. The Adventist worldview is just as prone to bias and distortion and inaccuracy as anyone else’s. Just because our beliefs came through committee over time doesn’t change any of that. Ever sat in a committee? Ever witnessed how messy that gets as decisions are made?

No. We are not immune. We are individuals with a limited perspective on reality trying to tell everyone how reality works. When we try to state that our interpretation of the Bible is the correct one it is nothing more than a statement of our own arrogance and ignorance.

But you might say “but God makes up the difference and will bring truth to those who seek Him and His truth.”

I mean, that sounds pretty great. But, unless one believes that only Adventists have sincerely sought that, it becomes clear very quickly that things do not work that cleanly.

Do we believe that no Catholic has ever sought God and truth with every humble and sincere and loving fiber of their very being? And, at the end of the day, felt the peace of Christ come over them as Catholics to remain Catholic?

Or a Baptist? Or Pentecostal? Or Hindu? Or (insert spiritual worldview here)?

The Adventist world view has some good stuff. The concept of Present Truth, for example. When used correctly, it is a great path for seeking God and learning. It truly is. When used correctly, the idea of a great controversy has value as it speaks of the struggle between good and evil.

When used correctly.

Now for some problems. For starters, no one can really agree on a worldview. Not really. So, for Adventism, ask three Adventists what the Adventist worldview is and you likely get three different worldviews. For that matter, ask three Adventist theologians what the Adventist worldview is and you will likely run into the same problem.

It won’t matter if you ask pastors, administrators, conference presidents, or a group of General Conference presidents, former and not. You won’t get a clean answer.

Does that mean it’s wrong to form worldviews?

Of course not. One can’t help but form a worldview. The problem isn’t the forming of a worldview. The problem is forming a static worldview. Our individual and collective worldviews are so flawed, they have no choice but to be dynamic if one also desires to live with any sort of honesty and integrity at all. As we grow, individually and corporately, our worldview must change because we are endlessly learning and experiencing.

The issues in the Adventist worldview lies in that paragraph. If there is one thing that my cynicism would offer as a major piece of the unspoken, but widely practiced, Adventist worldview it would be a resistance to change and growth.

You remember that thing I mentioned earlier called Present Truth and that it’s awesome when used correctly?

We don’t usually use it correctly.

Adventists like to reinforce their worldview, not expand it, alter it, or allow it to mature and grow. I’m not saying it has never happened, but I am saying it’s exceedingly rare.

Now, to be fair to Adventism, they aren’t really any worse at this than any other group, on average. Every group, every person … everyone, struggles with this in some way at some level.

And, if you look at the history of most religious groups, almost every time one of them had enough internal momentum and push to change their worldview for the better you will find that the outcome was very similar almost every time.

They split. Or, if not an outright split, a splinter group left and formed something that reflected the altered worldview.

This isn’t a bad thing, even if most in the middle of it felt like it was. People need to and are obligated to follow whatever direction God gives them, no matter who likes it. And, if that ends in leaving a group for another, or leaving and starting your own, or a large group splitting off, or a group splitting in half, then so be it.

It isn’t just about people getting what they want. It’s about following the Spirit as it leads. If God causes you to grow, you have to honor that growth.

The problem is that not everyone gets the same leading and growth spurt at the same time about the same thing. Not everyone gets to see what someone else saw in the same way. So, maybe some need to stay where they are, and some need to follow what was given. If this weren’t a true thing, then Adventism wouldn’t even exist in the first place.

When we are able to remove our tinted spectacles long enough to see clearly, even if just for a moment, some piece of reality might just flood in that we hadn’t been noticing.

It was Paul who said that we see now as though through a dark glass, but one day we will see clearly.

To mix and alter my metaphor, it’s past time we clean our lenses and add a prescription and get that laser surgery we’ve been putting off.

There is a lot of light waiting to be seen if we are just willing to see it.

Tony Hunter is a Seventh-day Adventist pastor and a hospital chaplain working for UCHealth. Tony, his wife Nirma, and daughter Amryn live in Firestone, Colorado. Email him at: [email protected]  

06 Mar


I don’t think I have a worldview. Moses had one, Martin Luther King, Jr., had one. And Jesus had the most comprehensive one. All three views were clear, forcefully stated, and led to action. Mine is cloudy and diffuse. What I have are the influences on me from those I love and those I loathed. Influences form attitudes, attitudes become habits, habits may become virtues by which we navigate life. One powerful and mysterious influence on me is humility, modeled by others and life-changing when witnessed.

I don’t remember when I first weighed the difference between humility and humiliation. It may have been when I’d reluctantly joined a party game, reluctantly because I am not good at party games of any sort. This game involved thinking of a word that everyone else had to guess. The fun part was that you would give clues that would throw everybody off, and if you could hold them off for a certain length of time, you won. [This paragraph was omitted in error in the printed version. We apologize.]

At least I think that was the point. It was a long time ago, and I’ve forgotten almost everything but the part where I leaped to my feet in triumph and shouted that I’d won.

There was silence as everyone stared at me. Gently, a friend explained a crucial bit of information. It took a moment before I realized that, in fact, I had misunderstood the rules from the beginning. I’d been losing all along. No one had had the heart to tell me. But now it was obvious—even to me—and there was nothing to do but wither up and die.

The conversations resumed. Chips and salsa were passed around. Voices rose over laughter. The world righted itself and sailed on elliptically around the sun. I shot myself into space at an oblique angle that would place me in orbit around Pluto sometime in 2030.

I’m convinced that humility is vital to our survival. C.S. Lewis put it succinctly when he said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.” That has the ring of truth, but paradoxically, the humble are more self-aware than the rest of us.

There are many in religion and the religions, who are icons of humility. This is not surprising, since some religions make humility the sine qua non of relationships, both human and divine.

Why was this, I wondered. Was the humble person a convenient patsy for those in power? Does God and the gods require the abject humiliation of humans in order to feel good about themselves? Were humble Christians limp rags, wrung out scraps with no personality, no fight, mere toadies and bootlickers?

In philosophy courses in graduate school, I’d felt the sting of Nietzsche’s scorn for the humble. I remembered my grandfather, a gentle man from Yorkshire, who had raised me. He didn’t seem to fit the bill of Nietzsche’s resentful and craven Christian. He was kind, resolute, stony-lipped when in pain, and uncomplaining. He could also stand his ground on moral matters. He was my exemplar.

I wanted to be humble. I wondered if wanting it was a form of pride. Was it something I should pray for? How would I know if I’d truly become humble?

To examine humility rightly—or perhaps righteously—is to vanish into it past the point of articulation or at least of explanation. The truly humble are those who are pointed out by others. Nobody says, “I do humble right” or even “I am humble.”  To claim it is to refute it in the claiming.

+ + +

Humility is not listed among the classic virtues. Aristotle and Plato would have regarded it with suspicion, if not distaste. In a hierarchical society of elites ruling over a vastly larger population of common people, humility is not only unnecessary, but also socially destructive. It suggests weakness, vacillation, an inability to properly assess one’s position in society.

What threatens one, threatens all. To question the inherent rightness of one’s position is to question the social order that supports and legitimizes that position. Little wonder, then, that those in powerful positions rarely show genuine humility.

+ + +

Is humility a virtue? It does not appear in most lists of virtues, either classical or contemporary. Neither is it part of the fruits of the Spirit that Christians find in Paul’s Letter to the Galatians.

The word itself derives from the French, humilité, which can be traced back to Classical Latin and the word humus, or earth, in the sense of soil. This is the origin of the word human, the creature whom God fashioned by hand out of the dirt, the one who is close to the earth.

I find this earthy quality deeply attractive. It grounds us (pun inevitable) in this world in a manner both direct and graceful. We are here at home, growing up out of the soil that roots us, sustains us, and to which we shall return. To walk upon this earth with grace is to recognize what we owe it—a passage that takes only what it needs, replaces what it can, and preserves the rest.

It occurs to me that humility is a form of self-knowledge, the inner eye perceiving oneself from the outside. This measuring, assessing, observing, is the work of the self in dialogue with the Spirit.

It is a sign of moral health to recognize and own up to one’s failings. It is the necessary first step toward metanoia or repentance. Paradoxically, one moves forward in spiritual experience through a reversal, a turning away from plunging over the cliff of despair. Peter found it after betraying the Lord; Judas did not.

Humility acknowledges our limitations. The best we have to offer, said Kant, pales by comparison to the requirements of the moral law. And that is the only comparison we should make, he said. To compare ourselves to others is futile and wrong: we are all equally deserving of respect. We learn humility only when we realize how far short of the moral law we fall.

Humility, then, is a clear-eyed lucidity about ourselves. Far from a weakness, it is a recognition both of our limitations and of the spectrum of our potential—frail, complex, conflicted beings as capable of the sublime as we are of monstrosities.

But Kant’s critique, though right on both counts—that we are deserving of respect, and we inevitably fall short of the law—offers no hint of mercy. And mercy, as the humble well know, is the traveling companion of humility.

+ + +

If humility begins with the recognition that we lack something essential, then it would be a general precondition to learning, an awareness sometimes arrived at only in the wake of humiliation.

It took me a while, but in time I came up with the phrase, “epistemological humility,” by which I meant, as I explained much later to my students, that there is no shame in admitting one’s ignorance. It’s only when we try to brazen it out that we get ourselves entangled. And silence, in those situations, is rarely taken for wisdom. Humility as a prerequisite to learning is not passive but open and alert.

If epistemological humility is one of the gateways to learning, where does it lead one in the realm of the spirit? In religions, notoriously, there is a lot of bowing and prostrating.

The Bible is full of references to bowing before God, some of it ritualized and public and some spontaneous and private. The word in the New Testament translated as “worship” means “to bow the knee,” as before royalty. In the context of kings and generals, sovereign power demanded reverence and awe. To bow the knee in worship was a position of vulnerability exposing oneself to blessing—or decapitation—by the king.

A ritual that is better understood is what we Adventists call “The Ordinance of Humility.” This is the ritual washing of the feet of another person, combined later with the Communion Service or Eucharist.

During Jesus’ time, visits to someone’s home would begin with the washing of the visitor’s feet by the host, a ritual that had both practical and symbolic value where most people wore sandals or were barefoot as they trudged up and down the dusty roads. Today’s ritual, where performed, is almost purely symbolic. No one would ever commit the social faux pas of showing up at church barefoot for the Ordinance of Humility.

Our usual practice when I was younger was for the men and boys to gather in one room of the church while the women and girls found another room. You would ask someone if you could wash their feet, or you’d wash the feet of your father or brother.

We were encouraged to participate with visitors or people we did not know. This resulted in a curious intimacy not usually shared with strangers. For me, the act of going down on one knee before someone else and washing their feet—especially someone I did not know well—was not a lowering of status but a breach of a rather starched etiquette. It had the benefit of breaking down barriers and giving one freedom to reach beyond the familiar and the comfortable. It got one’s attention by challenging the bland expectations of the congregant and forcing him or her to think about the relation of humility to the value of others.

In the New Testament stories, the disciple Peter resists the washing of his feet by Jesus. The reversal of roles—the teacher serving the student—horrifies Peter. But Jesus makes it clear that leadership, especially in religion, calls for humility. I am among you as one who serves, he said, with the clear implication they were to do the same.

+ + +

If there is an entrance point to a human spirituality in these politically and religiously fraught days, it is through humility. Just realizing that we don’t have to know everything, win at everything, or even pretend to anything, is liberating. It’s more than that, of course. Humility reorients our self-identity away from grasping to accepting. “Seek and you shall find. Knock and it shall be opened to you.” To be humans of the earth, without pretense or pride, simplifies one’s life.

Humility clarifies our limitations without crippling the reach of our imagination. And it is humility which liberates us from envy and jealousy. It is not too proud to accept the gift of hope.

Freely given service through humility renders irrelevant the perks of power, levels hierarchies, and cleanses the spirit for the upsets, the reversals, the unexpected in a life. Perhaps the Ordinance of Humility is a foretaste of that, a reminder of what could be if we are strong enough to bow the knee without fear or guile.

If I am to think my way to a sober estimate of myself, as Paul says, it calls me to regard myself without external comparison. This is me standing naked before God and the world, just as I am. The “measure of faith” that God deals to each of us is ours alone, understood by no one but ourselves. The one thing we can be sure of, if we can believe it, is that God’s estimate of us, unclouded by the past tense, is forever forming and reforming out of the deepest, dearest, image of our potential.

Barry Casey has published in Adventist Society for the Arts, Brevity, Faculty Focus, Lighthouse Weekly, Mountain Views, Patheos, Spectrum Magazine, The Dewdrop, and The Purpled Nail. His collection of essays, Wandering, Not Lost: Essays on Faith, Doubt, and Mystery, was published by Wipf and Stock in November 2019. He writes from Burtonsville, Maryland. Email him at: [email protected]

06 Mar


A few months ago, I had a clarifying conversation with a young lady who’s been journeying with our church for the last 18 months or so, after she met one of my church members in line at the post office.

Since they both had children around the same age, they soon started getting together for playdates. And the friendship quickly ratcheted up when the young lady—we’ll call her Stephanie—tragically lost her son in a freak accident. My church member immediately provided emotional care and support and recruited others from our church to do the same.

Unfortunately, Stephanie’s bad luck didn’t end there, as the loss of her son led to one series of tragic events after the other. And each time tragedy struck, she kept coming back to the inevitable age-old question: If there truly is a God, why does all this bad stuff keep happening to me?

The reality is, Stephanie’s unsure of the God thing altogether. She was raised in a country where animism was the religion of the land, and though she was adopted by a family here in Maine when she was 12, her adopted family practiced a very strict, fundamentalist version of Christianity, leaving her confused about God and turned off by organized religion altogether.

Despite spending a lot of time, and having lots of open conversations about God, with our church family, she still feels very unsettled about God (which isn’t surprising, considering all she’s been through).

A few months back, however, it seems like we had a bit of a breakthrough. As she and I, along with one of my female elders, sat for a couple hours in her small, dark, upstairs apartment, it seems like the lights flickered on—just around the time that she literally decided to turn the lights on to brighten up the room.

What was it that finally seemed to help things click?

I told her a story.

But not just any story. I told her the biggest, grandest, and most captivating story ever told.

I told her, in short, about the cosmic conflict.

The Story Behind the Story

It was then and there that I realized something—though I’ve had moments of clarity about this before.

It occurs to me that, in our current cultural moment, there are two ways that we as Seventh-day Adventist are uniquely positioned to reach the growing post-Christian and secular population in the West.

The first way is through our storytelling. We live in an age when the power of story trumps just about every other form of communication. People have always loved stories, of course—which is why Jesus never spoke to the masses without a parable—but I think it’s truer today than ever before.

Most people today aren’t interested in propositional ideas; they’re turned off by dogma. But they’re captivated by stories.

And we, as Adventists, for nearly as long as we’ve existed, have understood our theology in the form of a grand story—a great controversy, a cosmic conflict.

We understand the main characters, Christ and Satan, and the basic plotline. We understand how God’s character has been maligned and how He’s seeking to return the universe to a place of eternal safety and security, which can only be accomplished by fully demonstrating His trustworthiness.

We understand Christ’s plans to return, and how we’ll bring us back to heaven for a thousand years, at which point all our questions will be answered and all our doubts will be alleviated. We’ll then return to this earth, where God will set up His eternal home with us, and we’ll live forever with Him in peace, harmony, and love—with trauma, abuse, and hatred never rising again.

We understand that the story truly ends with God and His people living “happily ever after.”

Though I’m omitting a lot of important chapters in the story, this is a broad overview of how we understand the grand story. And it’s what I shared with Stephanie—seemingly helping the “light” turn on for her.

And that’s just it: after spinning our wheels for nearly two hours, with me patiently listening and trying to answer her questions with propositional answers, I finally decided to put it all in story form—and it was then that it started to make sense.

The second way we as Adventists are primed to reach secular minds is something I’ve already hinted at. We have not only a story to tell; we have a theological story to tell.

Indeed, we have a story about God.

And I’d humbly submit that this big God-story makes more sense of all the smaller stories than other theological narratives.

I won’t pretend to be an expert on all other versions of the big story. I haven’t exhaustively studied any other religion—nor familiarized myself with every nuance of each version of the story that various Christians tell.

I can just say, purely from anecdotal experience, that the God-story that Adventists tell (properly understood and articulated) seems to resonate a lot more with thinking people today than the way many other Christians tells the story.

Instead of telling a story about a God who predestines some to be saved and others to suffer the eternal torments of hell, we tell a story about a God who loves all equally and desperately wants everyone to live eternally.

Instead of telling a story about a God who’s going to torture people forever in the flames of hell, we tell a story about a God who, despite His deep desire to live eternally with everyone, honors the choices of all, realizing that eternal existence with Him would feel like hell to those who can’t imagine living only ever by other-centered love.

And so, in His mercy, he will gently “pull the plug” on all those who refuse to embrace and be embraced by His love. He won’t torture them eternally.

Instead of telling a story about a God who refuses to be questioned by His creatures, and who pulls a “power-play” by insisting that we’re to blindly follow Him, we tell a story about a God who eagerly opens up his decision-making process and actions, inviting examination and even “judgment” from us as a way to demonstrate His trustworthy character.

I could keep going with this line of thinking, but I trust my point is clear.

In short, we tell a story about a God who is love at His very core—and all that he does stems from and flows out of His character of love.

And I’ve discovered that that story really resonates with thinking people today.

Adventist Worldview

Essentially, what I’m talking about here is the Adventist “worldview.” The way we make sense of the world, the lens through which we see all that exists, is through a story—a theological story.

Indeed, we don’t simply have a worldview. We have a universal view.

As mentioned above, we sometimes refer to it as the “Great Controversy” or perhaps even the “cosmic conflict.”

Oftentimes, when we use the term “Great Controversy” especially, we think of fear-inducing end-times scenarios. We think of “Sunday laws” and the “mark of the beast.” We think of the “time of trouble” and hiding in the mountains.

For some Adventists, this worldview causes them to look suspiciously at every little event, seeing it as a “sign of the times,” and to look suspiciously at other people, seeing a Jesuit behind every bush.

This isn’t the type of “Great Controversy” worldview I’m referring to—it’s not, I’d submit, a healthy lens through which to see the world.

This isn’t to deny the reality of last-day events. But such scenarios and prognostications are too speculative to provide solid footing for us—and often lead us to be unpleasant residents of this world rather than the “aroma of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:15) that brings healing, wholeness, and happiness to those around us.

What isn’t too speculative is God’s love. What isn’t too speculative is His commitment to freedom and justice and mercy. What isn’t too speculative is his invitation to us to participate in His story—to step into His plan to renew and restore all things, to bring “healing” to the nations (see Revelation 22:2).

When we put on that pair of glasses and look at the world, we don’t look with fear, we look with hope and love. We answer the invitation to participate in God’s redemptive work, while recognizing that our task will ever be incomplete this side of His return.

We see suffering and pain and sin and understand that was never God’s plan—and we rest in the assurance that He will one day, at last, put things to rights, even as we strive to bring that future reality into the present.

Indeed, when we put on those glasses, we recognize that the story ends (or, really, it would be more accurate to say that the story begins) with those lines that come at the end of every great love story: “And they lived happily ever after.”

Shawn Brace is a pastor in Bangor, Maine, whose life, ministry, and writing focus on incarnational expressions of faith. The author of four books and a columnist for Adventist Review, he is also a DPhil student at the University of Oxford, focusing on nineteenth-century American Christianity. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @shawnbrace and sign up for his weekly newsletter at: shawnbrace.substack.com

06 Mar


If you have ever visited England, you may well have made your way to Oxford. You may remember charming buildings of yellowish Cotswold stone. Bookshops and libraries everywhere. A bell sounding somewhere. The feeling that you might just have walked past a future prime minister. Old black bicycles flying in all directions, student gowns flapping in the wind. Arched gatehouses giving on to college quadrangles.

Walk into a quadrangle and you will find student rooms built maybe two or three levels high overlooking a carefully manicured lawn carrying the warning “Keep off the grass.” It is like stepping into another world. If you were to trespass a little and walk past the sign which says “Staircase not open to visitors—residents only” you would find yourself on a rather bare corridor. A few strides and through an open door and you will be in a student room. It has a
window overlooking the quad.

The sun is streaming in. From the window, you can see a few bicycles propped up against the wall. The porter’s lodge at the arched entrance is visible to the right. In the center of the quad is a modern sculpture, roughly in the shape of an “S,” gifted by some wealthy benefactor who wanted to be remembered by future generations.

Wander further into another corridor at right angles to the present one and another open door. This room is not yet touched by the sun. Over to the window and there’s a different view on to the quad. You can no longer see those bicycles. Neither is the gatehouse visible. You can now see the window of the room you were just in. But the sculpture now looks like a kind of fat vertical—nothing more. No shape of an “S.”

Another few strides. Another open door. The sun is slanting across this room. Through this window, yet another aspect of the quad. Everything is somehow familiar but it’s all in a different place. And the sculpture now looks like a back-to-front “S.” The bicycles must be leaning against the wall below this window.

Your wander into the quad has taught you a valuable lesson: that it all depends on which window you look out of as to what you see in the quad.

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It’s a little like this with our windows on the world. Familiar things look strange under an unfamiliar aspect. And some things are just not visible to us.

Go into the Adventist room, go to the Adventist window, go to your Adventist window, and what do you see from there? Something different from what others see from their own windows.

What can you see? I can only describe what I see from my own window on the world.

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First, I see a place, the church, where the story of Jesus is kept alive. Where the Living God is part of the reality in which we live. Where God’s unpredictable Spirit moves where the Spirit wills. Where, mysteriously, we can have direct access to God in prayer and worship, and so learn who we really are and who God really is. That is the center piece of the Adventist worldview.

The church is like the Oxford quad in offering a protected space. The noise of the busy street outside is quickly excluded by the old walls. But once in the quad it will not be long before you sniff a sense of privilege. Of exclusivism. Of superiority. One university wit said that the great virtue of Oxford was its tolerance, its great vice was its arrogance. He was not wrong.

Adventism is somewhat similar. Certainly, it can offer a safe place in this conflicted world. Tolerant? Often but not always, and perhaps less so now in this binary world, in this binary church, in which we live. Arrogant? Maybe to some extent. The idea of being “a remnant,” of being a “peculiar people,” of having a unique mission in Christianity, is perhaps not of itself toxic but it easily becomes so. A superior, self-regarding group? The idea of being “special” can easily lead to distorted ideas of entitlement.

But I see other things through my Adventist window.

I see a community which tends to see things in terms of conflict. Its lead story, the “Great controversy,” pits one against another with no middle ground. Battle, competition, strife. This is not an inaccurate description of the world in which we live. At least on the grand scale. The danger is that we take an adversarial spirit into the smaller world in which we go about our daily business. It is dangerous to see the enemy everywhere. It is thus that conspiracy theories breed. Paranoia sets in. The will to see the good in other communities is squeezed.

I see a church which has become so heavily bureaucratized that it appears to differ little from a multinational corporation like Coca Cola. With a worldwide membership of 20 million plus and a multitude of institutions, this is probably inevitable. It is too easy to measure success simply in terms of growing “sales”—baptisms, size, rising tithes and offerings, and other empirical indicators used to measure the unmeasurable. The danger is that at the heart of things is not God, just the concept of God. The church easily degenerates into a mere religious bureaucracy.

Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, has identified the wider church’s “constant struggle not to become the object of its own faith.” Christ on Trial (Fount, 2000, p. 135). That’s a short but devastating indictment and we Adventists do well to reflect on it.

But the Church wants to be a worldwide family too. It offers warmth and a sense of direction. A home. I see a community of people who have given me a sense of belonging. It is a large family with many different personalities, and so it needs some sort of structure to contain it. And that is where identity problems begin.

Members tend to think of the church either as a family or a multinational corporation as it suits them. Family for warmth and institution for structure. Flesh and bones. But families and corporations are regulated in different ways. When members seek a sympathetic understanding, they think of the church as family. At other times they think of the church as a corporation with procedures and rules. It inevitably creates conflict in our church.

I also see a community where the teaching of the imminent Advent has been in tension with the doctrine of the divine creation. It is strange that Adventists are not especially interested in the well-being of our planet. We say that it makes no sense to protect the Creator’s handiwork when it will soon be destroyed at Christ’s return. A strange logic for creationists. Similarly, I see a community which is more interested in providing social welfare than in seeking social justice. These are expressions of the tension between the now and the not-yet. There are tensions aplenty in this Adventist worldview.

+ + +

But enough of things in the shadows. I see other things too out of my Adventist window.

I see a concern for excellence. The charity Oxfam began in Oxford and has become a worldwide force for good. So too is ADRA. It is smaller but the humanitarian impulse is the same. I see some fine academic institutions. I also see institutions which have given a chance to those on the margins. I see vital medical institutions, large and small, where great human need exists. I see a strong musical tradition. I see a church which has been well ahead of the curve when it comes to matters of healthy lifestyle.

Most of all, I see a chain of local church communities which are good at transmitting the love of Jesus not only among their members but often those beyond too. They provide support, warmth, and direction for those who make them their home. I see friendships which last a lifetime sometimes despite barriers of great distance and culture. I see people swimming against the strong tide of changing values. They are an inspiration. I see people who can find some peace amid the frenetic activity of the wider world thanks to the Sabbath rest and all it entails.

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Perhaps there is no such thing as a single Adventist worldview nowadays. The global spread of the Adventist Church is perhaps also its fragility. When Adventism meets any culture, it will inevitably produce variants. And so today we have many Seventh-day Adventist windows on the world.

But the genius of Adventism is its uniting value of wholeness. A whole mind in a whole body in a whole world. At its best, it creates coherence in a fragmented world. This hunger for wholeness finds different expression in different places in the world. And not just personal wholeness but community wholeness. And not stiff uniformity but organic wholeness. Creating community, generating wholeness is valuable but hard work. It demands no less than our whole self.

To this, we are called.

Michael Pearson is Principal Lecturer Emeritus at Newbold College in the U.K. For many years, he taught topics in ethics, philosophy, and spirituality. He and his wife, Helen, write a weekly blog pearsonsperspectives.com Email him at: [email protected]