Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The strange case of Adventism and sexuality

by David Read June 16, 2013

We [Seventh-day Adventists] are, as a practical matter, pro-abortion...

God has commanded us to be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:28; 9:1), and Scripture portrays children as a blessing from God (Gen. 33:5; Deut. 7:14; 28:4, 11; Psalm 127:3-5; 113:9; 128:1-6; Prov. 17:6; John 16:21; 1 Tim. 2:15; 5:14). 

A recurring scriptural motif is the barren woman who, in answer to her prayers and through God’s power, is made fertile and bears a child. This was true of Sara (Gen. 18:9-15; 21:1-6), Rachel (Gen. 30:1-22), Samson’s mother (Judges 13), Hannah (1 Sam. 1:1-20), and Elizabeth (Luke 1:5-25). In Scripture, children are greatly sought after, a cause for rejoicing, and fondly cherished.

Interestingly, the prophets write of God having formed them in the womb, and called them to be his messengers while still in utero. “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139:12. “Yet you brought me out of the womb . . . from my mother’s womb you have been my God.” Psalm 22:9-10. Of Jeremiah, God says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Jer. 1:5. Isaiah testifies: “Before I was born the LORD called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name. . . . And now the LORD says—he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself.” Isa. 49:1, 5. Paul states, “But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles . . “ Gal. 1:15. Samson’s mother began preparing him for his future calling while he was yet in the womb, by eating a special diet during her pregnancy. (Judges 13:7, 13-14) These passages clearly imply that personhood begins before birth; a person is a person, capable of being designated for a consecrated purpose, while yet in the womb.

One who accidentally causes a premature birth or a miscarriage is subject to a fine (Ex. 21:22-25), but Scripture does not seem to have contemplated a situation in which someone would intentionally kill a baby in the womb. Yet there can be little doubt that abortion is contrary to a biblical and Christian world view. Scripture condemns the ritual killing of children as a “detestable practice.” (Lev. 18:21; 2 Chron. 28:3, 33:6; Ezek. 16:20-21; Jer. 7:31; 19:3-6; 32:35). In most pagan cultures, including ancient Greece and Rome, it was perfectly acceptable to abandon unwanted babies to die of exposure. But just as a Christian Rome eventually outlawed gladiatorial combat, she eventually, in 374 AD, also outlawed the pagan practice of exposing unwanted babies (the ancient practice most comparable to the modern late-term abortion). The Christian consensus about babies is that they are not to be killed, in the womb or out of it.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church has an ambivalent official statement about abortion, which speaks of an unborn child as “a magnificent gift of God,” while also seeking to preserve “the personal liberty of women” to toss that magnificent gift in the trash. But there is nothing ambivalent about the Church’s involvement in the abortion industry. We are hip deep in the abortion business. Elective abortions are performed at many Adventist hospitals, but the real history has been made by individual Adventist doctors. Dr. Edward C. Allred, a graduate of La Sierra University and Loma Linda University, founded “Family Planning Associates” and personally aborted well over a quarter of a million babies. Dr. Allred made the abortion business very lucrative by spending no more than five minutes with each expecting mother. “We eliminated needless patient-physician contact,” he told one reporter. Allred owned 23 abortion clinics, which generated $70 million in annual gross revenues and $5 million in annual profits. When Dr. Allred retired from the business, he sold it to another Seventh-day Adventist, Dr. Irving M. “Bud” Feldkamp III. (Dr. Feldkamp is a dentist, not an OB/GYN, but he recognized a profitable business when he saw one.)

Although Allred’s fortune was built on aborted babies—and he continues to own horse-racing venues which he has stuffed with slot machines—his money was plenty good enough for his alma mater, La Sierra University, which named the “Edward C. Allred Center for Financial Literacy and Entrepreneurship” after him. La Sierra’s board is chaired by Pacific Union President Ricardo Graham; other union officials and three conference presidents also sit on the board. If these men approve of taking blood money from a mass abortionist and naming a “center” after him, it cannot reasonably be argued that the SDA Church is ambivalent about abortion. We are pro-abortion. We seem to consider abortion as wholesome as motherhood and apple pie.

The church’s pro-abortion stance has consequences. It is often argued that high standards are an impediment to church growth, but all of the research and empirical evidence suggest that people are attracted to churches that have high standards and make demands on their members. Our failure to take a Christian position turns people off, including many Adventists. Teresa Fry Beem was a Seventh-day Adventist anti-abortion activist, one of four children of a prominent family in Keene, Texas, where I grew up and was educated. Teresa became so frustrated with the church’s stance on abortion that she converted to Roman Catholicism. She’s written a book entitled, “It’s Okay Not to be an Adventist,” and has founded a “former Adventist discussion group” on Facebook. It’s hard to know how to respond to the Teresa Beems; abortion is a needless and indefensible stain on the Adventist Church.


The Sexual Revolution brought about radical changes to the sexual constitution of the developed world, discarding a traditional Christian view of sexuality and replacing it with a pagan view of sexuality that is based upon the idea that anything consenting adults want to do with each other is normative and acceptable. Because of this cultural earthquake, Christians in the developed world can no longer coast along with the dominant culture. And yet that is exactly what Seventh-day Adventists have done in the areas of sex roles, abortion, and divorce and remarriage. We must not continue to drift along with an increasingly pagan larger culture. As Seventh-day Adventists, we need to open our Bibles and, in humble submission, learn what Scripture teaches about sexuality. It seems late in the day to transform our sexual subculture, but the first step in solving any problem is to admit you have one. We have one.

The strange case of Adventism and sexuality

[This blogpost contains only the parts of the article. The comments to his post are enlightening to read if you are a pro-life Adventists. Just go to the link above.]

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Experience of Conversion


There was that moment...

Lying on the floor weeping in hopelessness, I handed everything to God. For the first time in my life, I had to really let go of all outcomes and recognize I was helpless, out of control and if God didn’t step in and take over, all was lost.

Then gently, God’s presence washed over me and I had a sense of divine peace. God gave me a little spark, the first spark of hopefulness I had felt in over a decade. I stood up, changed somehow. My life slowly strengthened over the years and I have never gone back to feeling hopeless again. Something true happened that afternoon.

I had given my life to Christ as a child, and had remained faithful to Him, never going through a rebellious teenage period. Yet my life had fallen apart and for years I had prayed, no begged God for help and had no such supernatural experience. However, that day, the experience did happen, that day. Why didn’t God make me feel His presence earlier? What was this blessed experience that rerouted my course of despair and put me on the path of joy again?

Internal Conversion Experience

I related the story to an evangelical Sunday School Class and was told that I experienced the Holy Spirit and had a true “born-again” conversion. My relationship with Christ before, they explained, had not been authentic because it had been based upon my will rather than my heart and that was legalism.

I was confused, for I had a vibrant relationship with Christ and felt spiritually secure for decades before this experience.

However, with my fundamentalist friends, the pressured question “Have you been saved?” had an expected date attached. For years I replied with the date of my story.

Over the years I have learned that many Christians expect a feelings-based, internal moment used to verify for them that you are a child of God.

External Conversion Experience

While Catholics and other Protestant denominations encourage a deep, personal relationship with Christ, they have always taught that we are born again at baptism. Faith is given freely by God and we respond with an act of the will. We choose baptism.

In the historical Christian teaching, faith is an act of the will in response to God’s outpouring of grace. Only recently, since the 19th century has faith been related to “Christ coming into your heart” by means of an emotional, internal experience.

The Bible lays out baptism as this public act of faith:

Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.  Romans 6: 3-5

[A]nd this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also--not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I Peter 3: 21

Baptism, an external and public act of commitment to Christ, allows no personal subjective judgement. Baptism leave no ambiguity like a personal revelation does. 

Therefore, when the external sign of effective grace in baptism is rejected, as many Protestants reject, another proof is sought after, many times in the emotional realm.

The disturbing effect of demanding an emotional experience is that a person’s salvation is judged by how well a person can express this born-again moment. Such judgements can appear very arrogant and prideful, even elitist. 

"You're testimony didn't convince my spirit that you really invited Jesus into your heart, therefore I am not convinced you are a true Christian." This is often how some Christians come across.  

Some people never have that experience and they are left desolate, assuming God never loved them. Often people become atheists because this expected experience never was given to them, so they quit believing altogether.

Jesus gave us a public act to cut through all personal opinions and judgments. Baptism is the public act of our faith that brings us into the New Covenant. 

One of the reasons Christ chose this external signs of the covenant of faith is because feelings and internal experiences cannot always be trusted. Feelings of holiness can begin to replace true holiness. The lifelong journey of faith includes struggles, temptations and growing in grace and glory. A feeling of God in your heart undercuts the journey.  

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. Heb. 12:4

 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me--the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace. Acts 20:24

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. I Cor. 9:24

[God Disciplines His Sons] Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Heb. 12:1

God chose an external, material signs of grace that can accompany internal experiences, but the act of will allows us to know for certain we are children of God. 

My moment of experiencing God's grace that day on the floor wasn't what saved me. It didn't bring me into the New Covenant. It was a great blessed experience with Christ that had repeated itself several since, but the feelings, the experience had no power to save me, only encourage me in the path I had already chosen with my will.

Christians can have wonderful mystic internal experiences, but they should be counted blessings and not evidence of their Christianity.