A Divided Remnant?

As you can see, the contemporary Adventist church is divided on what constitutes the remnant, theology of salvation, the nature of Christ, the Godhead, Women's ordination, and much more....

These divergent views have vast implications for ecclesiology.   Any attempt to rally around the concept of a remnant in the NAD is nearly impossible due to the multiplicity of views in all the factions. 

The logical premise for the organization of the Seventh-day Adventist church is found in the Three Angels’ Messages.  As the factions in Adventism drift farther from each other, the need for concerted action through a worldwide organization also diminishes.  There is no reason to have an organization if there is no coherent message to take to the world.  If the concept of the remnant is being framed as the problem of the church’s woes in the NAD, then what is the alternative?

In ancient times, when armies gathered for war, the king would make plans for battle with his generals.  Once the plans were set, the generals would return to their division to be at the head of their division ready to lead them into battle at the command of the king.  The king would be viewing the entire battle from a vantage point, in order to command his troops into battle.

Often the troops would be spread over several miles and it was impossible to shout commands thus the king would have a trumpeter next to him.  He would give a command, and the trumpeter would sound the first particular note, which would alert a certain division to move forward according to the plan established beforehand.  The second sound would denote whether they turned to the right or to the left.  As the battle proceeded, the king would make necessary adjustments and deploy his troops where they were needed most.  It was crucially important that the trumpeter sounds the accurate notes to activate the correct battalion for the battle and the generals hear the sound correctly and implement the command from the king.  It is from this practice that Paul drew the analogy in 1 Cor. 14:8. 

Even things without life, whether flute or harp, when they make a sound, unless they make a distinction in the sounds, how will it be known what is piped or played?  For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle? (1 Corinthians 14:7-8).

If the trumpeter gave an uncertain sound, the men would be confused as to the commands of the King, and the confusion that resulted may cost them victory.  Contemporary Adventism, with its divided views on its identity as the remnant, faces the same predicament.

I would like to suggest that our King, Jesus, is sounding the call through the Three Angels, but it is our interpretation of that signal that is at fault.  Thus, we are all preparing for some battle, but it may not be the one that is directly in front us.  And despite the trumpet’s sounding, some of us who have heard the call haven’t activated the troops forward into battle.

The contributory causes as to why growth and retention has been anemic in the North American Division are: matching the wrong method with the wrong audience (the 21-day series with non-Adventists), a transition from the New Testament model of traveling pastors and evangelists to settled pastors, a failure to implement discipleship that demonstrates a lifelong commitment to biblical teachings before baptism, and theological diversity or confusion that arises from a departure from the Sanctuary-based hermeneutic regarding the identity of the Remnant and thus the central existential purpose of the Adventist church.

With our church currently riven with deep theological divisions.  We are incapable of rallying to the work that God has set before us because we cannot agree on who we are, let alone who needs to hear our message.  Our division has factions scoring its “own goals” and large “divisions” of our army that are unable to mobilize for battle because of the ‘uncertain sound’ preached week after week in many of our pulpits. 

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At the 2015 GC vote on Women's Ordination, the war mutated.  Once upon a time the conflict was restricted to individuals and a few breakaway groups and the odd cult or two.  Now whole conferences and unions are currently engaged in a war against the General Conference itself.

Ellen White told us under inspiration that as we neared the end that "every wind of doctrine would be blowing"...and we see that today with such groups as the no trinity people, the 2520 people, the impossibility of character perfection people, 6 days of creation approx. 6,000 years ago, the unbiblical ordaining of women to be eldresses and "pastors", etc etc. 

Here is but one example of the divisions among us.  In liberal Adventism, Scripture is often challenged historically using textual criticism and the epistemological certainty of evolutionary theory.

“After reviewing alternative approaches,” (La Sierra University theologian and Professor Emeritus) Dr. Fritz Guy concludes: “Wandering around the highways and byways of recent theology, I have not encountered even one example of a serious, sustained theological argument for affirming the creation of the world in six literal days a few thousand years ago.”

Fortunately God knows the future, and He has predicted that even though some of the leaders of our church, and many of its members will go out from us in the tumultuous days just ahead, that their places will be filled with the people called out of Babylon.

God help us to be faithful is my prayer!

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Jim Beldin attended Enterprise Academy and studied History/English/Education at Union College.  He taught elementary school at Carolina Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, and  is currently retired and living in Cohutta, Georgia.