The Fulcrum7 staff wrote an article on April 27, 2017 entitled, “The World is Getting More Polarized,” and ending it with the same slightly more emphatic statement, “The world IS getting more polarized. For now.”
Their discussion primarily described country conflicts and political squabbles with ominous phrases such as deepening chasms, sharply divided, coastal vs interior differences, north vs south, east vs west -- all influenced by the wealth equation: W=P (wealth = power). And rightly so. For now.”
Should the Seventh-day Adventist Church evaluate these same ominous phrases about polarization in the church today? Does polarization exist in the church? Or do we merely skirt the issue and instead cry out, “Unity.”
Several years ago at the height of the creation/evolution conflict in the SDA church, I had a conversation with my pastor. He was talking on the phone as I passed by the doorway to his office but he quietly he gestured for me to come in and sit down. We hadn’t had an opportunity to talk for some time so when his call was finished, we caught up on family, friends and such.
Suddenly I heard myself asking him the question, “What is your view on the creation issue?” I mentally kicked myself for even bringing up the controversial subject. He immediately set me at ease as he quickly talked me through a solid Biblically-based response citing his personal belief in a literal 7-day creation week. His answer momentarily comforted me. However, he quickly added a strange caveat to his statement. “But I don’t preach it.”
My momentary comfort suddenly dissolved into disbelief. I had never heard a preacher say he couldn’t preach a key tenet of Seventh-day Adventist beliefs in church. “What?” suddenly came out of my mouth. “How can you not?” I heard myself saying, softly but emphatically. I quickly cited several reasons including the embedding of creation in the heart of the Sabbath commandment -- so key to our beliefs. Confidently he stated his reasoning which he must have thought would reassure me. Yes, he firmly believed in the Biblical narrative, but to preach it from the pulpit would be “too polarizing. If I preached about creation,” he confided, “It would divide the church.”
Somehow I could not exude sympathy for his self-imposed “predicament.” I left his office disappointed and he knew it -- disappointed to know so many in my church family no longer believed in creation as God spoke it, and disappointed that my pastor chose to remain silent to placate those unbelievers.
That conversation took place several years ago but where are we now? Are we more polarized? Haven’t we forgotten all about creationism and moved on to become polarized about newer more exciting issues now - women’s ordination, LGBTQ. . . Isn’t polarization prophesied for the last days? Shouldn’t we be expecting it?
According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary the definition of polarization is:
- division into two opposites
- concentration about opposing extremes of groups or interests formerly ranged on a continuum
- (see summary---The Shaking)
Polarization can be applied to country conflicts, international politics and even our own church dynamic. The Bible stories of old tell of God’s chosen leaders pleading with His people to make the choice to follow Him – a choice between “two opposites.”
Joshua, speaking to the children of Israel, urged them to serve God with sincerity and truth, to put away the antediluvian beliefs of their fathers and the idols of Egypt. “Choose you this day whom ye will serve...but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:14-15).
All twelve of Christ’s disciples dedicated their lives to standing before multitudes across the known world presenting His truth and pleading with them to choose Christ’s way---a simple message of “Follow Me.” A simple choice of life or death. And if they did not choose, the disciples moved on to another village.
Today in our own Seventh-day Adventist Church, we tend to ignore the concept of polarization as though it just couldn’t possibly happen to us. And we too, like the world, cry for “unity,” but is there any semblance of unity in us right now? Is it realistic for us to expect to achieve “true unity” now?
Christ spoke graphically about polarization choosing His own synonym when He said, “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather DIVISION: . . . The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; . . . how is it that ye do not discern this time?” (Luke 12:51-56).
“Divisions will come in the church,” said Ellen White. “Two parties will be divided. . . The work will grow deeper and become more earnest to the very close of time. . .They will not be turned from the present message” (2 Selected Messages, p. 114).
My former pastor isn’t a pastor any more in the traditional sense, but his words, “I don’t preach about it,” still ring in my ears. He has now moved up to be Ministerial Director, a position which makes him a pastor’s pastor and counselor to all other pastors in his conference. Does he preach creation now? Is he still fearful of polarization? How does he counsel his pastors? I don’t know....
Today, even more than when Ellen White said it,
“The greatest want of the world is” STILL “the want of men – men who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right thought the heavens fall” (Education, p. 57).
And, if I may be so bold as to add: Men with the courage to stand up, without fear, willing to speak the truths of the entire Bible, not solely the selective sections that softly soothe the slumbering soul.
Yes, Fulcrum7, as you said in your April 27 article, “The World is getting more Polarized” --- deepening chasms, sharply divided, coastal vs interior differences, north vs south, east vs west. And not surprisingly, we hear cries from the loftiest of Protestant, Catholic and a multitude of other religious leaders – echoing the same tune of “unity.” However their “unity” will only come when all other religions ignore the past, discard the teachings of the mighty reformers and with bowed heads return to the “mother church,” not having achieved true unity, but rather acquiescing to the governance of an unchanged, same-as-500-years-ago Roman Church. Yet strangely, from our own Seventh-day Adventist belfrys', we herald a feeble cry of “Unity,” one without the necessary “of one mind” as exemplified at Pentecost. How can “Unity” occur before the “division” Christ foretold?
Christ told us “division” (polarization) would come – divisions, difficult and painful. He even asked us, “How is it that ye do not discern this time?” (Luke 12:51-56).
If polarization is a prophecy in fulfillment now, as Christ defined it in Luke:
- Will polarization come before unity?
- Must polarization come before unity?
- Or, should polarization have an additional synonym? Could it be “The Shaking?”
There will be a shaking of the sieve. The chaff must in time be separated from the wheat. Because iniquity abounds, the love of many waxes cold. It is the very time when the genuine will be the strongest (Letter 46, 1887).
The history of the rebellion of Dathan and Abiram is being repeated, and will be repeated till the close of time. Who will be on the Lord's side? Who will be deceived, and in their turn become deceivers? (Letter 15, 1892).
The Lord is soon to come. There must be a refining, winnowing process in every church, for there are among us wicked men who do not love the truth or honour God (RH March 19, 1895.)
We are in the shaking time, the time when everything that can be shaken will be shaken. The Lord will not excuse those who know the truth if they do not in word and deed obey His commands (6T 332 (1900).
Janet Lundeen Neumann lives in College Place, WA.