In my first church, one of the members regularly told me that he had been attracted to Adventism when he heard about the different time periods in our prophetic explanations. He was a bookkeeper, and figures and graphs were the kind of thing he could relate to! I thought of him when, the other day, I saw on Facebook an extremely convoluted schema of dates, lines, and arches indicating the beginning and the end of several periods of prophetic days, equaling as many literal years.

I had not seen anything like that for a while, but, after a bit of Googling, I found that the fascination of our brother-bookkeeper with numbers, and this schematic approach to our doctrinal heritage is still very much alive in many Adventist circles. It points to an aspect that was very characteristic of our church life in the past and has left its stamp on the excessively rational approach of many Adventists to their faith, even today.

Seeing this, it brought again to my mind a question I have increasingly been asking myself: Supposing all Adventist teachings are correct, what difference does my belief in them make to my life every day? Does knowing when the 1,260 “days” began and ended make me a better Christian? Does my ability to explain the meaning of the 2,300 “mornings and evenings” make me a more balanced and pleasant person?

This question does not just apply to the Adventist explanations of apocalyptic numbers and other symbols but to all “fundamental beliefs.” How do I become a more lovable person by my ability to carefully separate and define the different stages of my faith journey: justification, sanctification, and glorification. And how to explain to others how imparted righteousness differs from imputed righteousness, and how a pre-fall concept of Christ’s human nature differs from a post-fall concept? And so on.

By saying this, I am not suggesting that theology and doctrines are unimportant, and that genuine faith has nothing to do with statements of fundamental beliefs. But, in this short article, I want to emphasize that the role of doctrinal statements is often misunderstood.

A Christian Worldview

First of all, it is important to recognize that knowing a lot of Bible facts and being astute with regard to doctrines and theological fine print, has only limited value if it does not fit into a larger framework and does not provide an overall perspective for viewing life, its goal, and values. To be a genuine Christian requires having a Christian worldview.

There are many definitions of the concept of worldview. One may define it simply as a set of presuppositions which we hold about the makeup of our world. It is “a collection of attitudes, values, stories, and expectations about the world around us, which inform our every thought and action.” 1

Our worldview is the lens through which we view reality. It has to do with our convictions about the nature and the source of knowledge; with our beliefs about the origin of the universe, the world and us as human beings; and with the meaning and purpose of life. It also relates to our values: what is good and bad, what is right and wrong.

Many people have a materialistic worldview, which has no place for God or for ideas and ideals that surpass the purely human sphere. A Christian worldview, however, places God in the center of everything. It provides a specific framework for all our thinking about past, present and future. Our worldview guides us in making political choices, and in the way we spend our money. It gives us a particular perspective on our work and the kind of career we pursue. And it furnishes us with a basis for making ethical decisions and determining our priorities regarding how we use our time and talents.

Being an Adventist Christian means, first and foremost, that we have a view on the world and on our life that is based on the underlying values of God’s Word and that is nurtured by our relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. Doctrinal knowledge is important, but what counts most is that we are able to connect our theoretical beliefs with the praxis of life.

“What does it do for me?”

Adopting a Christian worldview is closely connected with a statement of Christ about the essence of Truth. In John 8:32, Jesus tells his followers that the truth will set them free. I especially like the rendering of this text in the MESSAGE paraphrase by Eugene H. Peterson, which captures the meaning of these words in an incomparable way: “Then Jesus turned to the Jews who claimed to believe in Him: ‘If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience for yourself the truth, and the truth will free you.’ ” 2 In other words: biblical truth and doctrinal propositions must be integrated into the activities of daily life. If that happens, this will affect our life in a very concrete way.

Learning about the truth should not just be an intellectual exercise and a matter of absorbing a quantity of theological knowledge, but the truth must do something for us. It must change us into better, more balanced, happier, and more fulfilled human beings.

As we think about our doctrinal heritage, this one question must be uppermost in our minds: What does it do for me? How does the doctrinal content of my faith help me to become a more faithful follower of my Lord and a more caring neighbor? If doctrine remains only a matter of mental assent and does not translate into a way of life, we have sadly missed the mark!

Christ told us: The truth will make you free! But let’s face it: the faith of many Christians—Adventists most definitely included—is more closely associated with a lack of freedom than with the actual enjoyment of freedom. Regrettably, many Adventist Christians in past and present have allowed themselves to be locked into a legalistic frame in which faith deteriorated into a system of do’s, and especially of don’ts. And while they claim(ed) to be obedient to the Word of God, their actual conduct was/is more conditioned by traditions than by a Spirit-infused freedom, with social control (what other people would think) severely restricting them.

The life of a true Christian is characterized by freedom. The apostle Paul tells us that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17). Contrary to what many believe, God’s law does not force us into a straitjacket of limitations but provides us with freedom (James 1:25). It just depends, the apostle Peter says, on how we use our God-given freedom. Do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but live as free people (1 Peter 2:16).

Our belief in God as our Creator should remind us every day anew that we are his creatures, with freedom of choice. Created in his image, we can enjoy the creativity with which He has endowed us. Our conviction that Christ is our Savior and that He stands ready to forgive our countless mistakes and shortcomings, makes it possible for us to be free from guilt. Our past failures no longer hound us, as God’s grace opens up a future of freedom. The Holy Spirit guides us in our life of discipleship and stewardship. He does not force us into a particular regime but helps us to bear personal responsibility for the free choices that we make.

As Seventh-day Adventist Christians we enjoy the gift of the weekly Sabbath, which helps to distance ourselves from the stress and pressures of daily life and, thus, to experience a special kind of physical and spiritual freedom.

The church in the Galatian region of Asia Minor faced challenges that were similar to what many Adventist churches are still struggling with today. Factions in the Galatian church demanded that all members would abide by particular rules and traditions, which they considered essential if one wanted to be a true Christian. Paul told them, in no uncertain terms, that they were wrong. Read Galatians 5:1: It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourself be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Surely, doctrinal teachings are important. But they must be far more than theory. They must do something for us! They must inspire us to stand in the freedom that Christ, who is the Truth, has opened up for us.

Reinder Bruinsma, PhD, has served the Seventh-day Adventist Church in publishing, education, and church administration on three continents. He writes from the Netherlands where he lives with his wife Aafie. Among his latest books is I Have  a Future: Christ’s Resurrection and Mine. Email him at: [email protected]


1  Sire, J. W. (2004). Naming the Elephant: Worldview as a Concept. Intervarsity Press.

2  Peterson, Eugene H. (1993). The Message. NavPress.