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Searching Sabbath 12: The Remnant

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Sorry, I haven’t been doing very well lately at posting blogs other than my twice-weekly vlogs … nor have I been keeping up with my vlog conversations with Ed about Genesis. What can I say — it’s just a busy time, and I do the best I can. Anyway, I do have a vlog for this week despite the increasing difficulties that YouTube is throwing into my path (or maybe it’s my home computer, because I can upload fine from work).

I think this week’s topic, “the Remnant,” is one of the most alienating for Seventh-day Adventists when it comes to dialogue with other Christians. When our friends in other denominations find out that we believe that at the end of time there will be a small group of people who remain faithful to God — well, there’s nothing too controversial about that. But when they discover that we think the membership of that group, while not synonymous with the membership of the SDA church, will be made up of people who just happen to subscribe to the same doctrines SDAs do … that can be problematic.

Not that it being problematic is a reason to reject a doctrine. Lots of true things make people uneasy. But is this a true thing? I don’t really get into this in the above vlog — it’s more of a reflection on the implications of holding a remnant-type theology — but I think there are significant problems with supporting this doctrine — in the way that it’s currently understood and taught in the SDA church — from Scripture alone. And that makes me uneasy.

That said, I have no problem with the belief that’s God’s true followers are always a minority, and will be until Jesus comes again, or that those who are faithful are often persecuted for their faith, and will be till Jesus comes again. It’s (once again, something that seems to be becoming a persistent theme for me in this series) where we draw the boundary lines, how we define who’s “in” and who’s “out” (of the remnant? Perhaps) that can be troubling.

I also like the fact that the word “remnant” basically means “leftovers.” Maybe saying that we aspire to be part of God’s Leftover People would do a lot to curb spiritual arrogance.

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9 thoughts on “Searching Sabbath 12: The Remnant

  1. Carly Simon comes to mind, “you’re so vain, you probably think this [joke] is about you.” Several years ago I was listening to an old recording of a sermon given by a Baptist preacher to a large meeting of Baptists. He told the same joke except it was the Baptists who were behind the wall. It was also evident that this joke was well known to them.

    I think remnant theology can only be held by those who remain isolated from other Christians. To claim in any way that “my faith is better than yours” is tantamount to saying “the grace I receive is better than the grace you receive.” I like Barbara Brown Taylor’s test of doctrine: “How does this belief affect the way I interact with others” or something to that effect. I think the Remnant fails this test. But I also think a correct understanding of the Sabbath can go a long way helping this.

    Am wondering, are your words “makes me uncomfortable” code for “I don’t agree with this”?

  2. No, they’re code for “makes me uncomfortable.” I”m nearly 50 and I don’t really feel like I have time or energy to use code words. Generally I prefer describing ideas in terms of how they make me feel, so if an idea or teaching makes me feel uncomfortable, I’ll say that.

    I recorded and edited this video a couple of weeks ago and I can’t remember now whether I actually said that I’d heard that joke used by several groups other than Adventists (I’ve heard it told by Pentecostals too) but obviously the belief that “we have the One True Way” is quite widespread throughout Christianity.

  3. well, I think that this idea that “we’ve got it a little bit more right” is one of the reasons why we have denominational divisions. I grew up Pentecostal, but my mother’s family is Mennonite and my Dad, who is a counsellor and pastor, often spoke and gave seminars in a variety of (primarily evangelical) churches. Needless to say, I was exposed to a great variety of theology by the time I hit adulthood and often encountered, even within myself, this idea.

    I am enjoying your series, because I think it is important to a) be able to truly understand why we subscribe to the beliefs that we do and b) it’s good to be able to step outside of our denominational boundaries and get a look at how other Christians interpret Biblical teachings. I remember first reading Madeleine L’Engle’s more spiritual non-fiction books. I loved seeing her view of God through her Orthodox background. Not only was my mind opened to an aspect of Christianity that I had little understanding of, but I gained a great perspective on my own faith. Opening up your blog to a discussion of Adventism is hopefully giving your readers a chance to have a similar experience. Christians certainly need less division and more unity.

  4. I can’t express how much I dislike the way the SDA church proclaims “we are the remnant”, usually because it comes with an attack on some other faith tradition (usually Catholic, but no one is exempt). I am so uncomfortable with the self-righteous attitude of a church that essentially says “we have the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” No wonder so many in the SDA church are intolerant of questions and differences of opinions.

    I dislike any kind of church branding. In the past decade, my local congregation has proclaimed itself the helping church, the caring church, the healing church, and the friendly church. Currently we’re the family church – which doesn’t exactly make a single woman with no children feel welcome. Why do we have to label ourselves at all? Why not be known by our fruits?

    • Ditto, except we are known by our fruits. Ask average person in N.A. if they’ve heard of SDAs. Unfortunately, none of the answers will have even a remote connection to the various self-branding labels you listed above. However, there is one thing that does make me proud and that is the work that Hope For Humanity is doing. Check out their videos if you haven’t seen them: www.http://hope4.com/ They are doing amazing things. However they are coming under criticism for not being “remnanty” enough — (not producing enough baptisms).

      • I am not one to shy away from critical comments in regard to the “friendly church” if that is its current self-appointed adverb. However, in reflecting on my comment I remembered the following incident:

        A few years ago I was a board member of the local Adventist hospital. At one of the meetings a doctor was criticizing a large expenditure made by the corporation’s president. I would not describe this doctor as humble or say he had the best bed-side manner. But in his area he is one of the top in this region and therefore in the entire country. What he said floored me! “You don’t need to give the Disney Institute a $1,000,000 to teach employees how to care. Now I’m not an Adventist, but all you need to do is get the Adventist employees here, put them in a room upstairs and get them to teach the other employees how to care. Adventists know how to care. That is why I work at this hospital.”

        Sometimes we do get it right.

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