“I will plant my feet on that step where my parents put me as a child, until self-evident truth comes to light.”
St. Augustine, Confessions
Most former Adventists remember the moment like it was a 911 theological terrorist attack upon them. I know, it happened to me and I have heard that it happened to you too. Perhaps it was in prayer or in a Bible passage. You might have been on the internet looking up something about Ellen White and came across a former SDA website. You might have been in a discussion about Adventism. But something hit you.
Your tower of beliefs collided with reality and for a few moments of confusion you didn't know what happened. Then a slow and nauseating awareness crept over you like you were in a nightmarish Twilight Zone episode. You panicked with disbelief as you were struck with the body-blowing realization that you were deceived. Your theological tower, your core heart-felt values and beliefs, collapsed.
"No, no, no, no." You may have controlled the mounting hysteria. "No. God is good. God is kind. God wouldn't betray someone as sincere, someone who loves Him and is so dedicated to Him as I am." Your heart was crushed. God humiliated you. You who had for so long felt among the elite, the chosen.... the remnant. Was your life a cruel joke played out for the amusement of a sadistic God?
Most Adventists today cling with all their souls to the idea that God would never, ever, ever allow them, in their sincerity and love for Him, to be caught in the grip of a historical and theological lie. Their entire lives would implode if the encountered the truth. For self-preservation they reject reality before reality can even be processed. Many innocent, sensitive souls who allow themselves to suffer truth feel so rejected by God that they return the rejection and become atheists.
I have often grieved over this. I cannot understand why God does not rescue from deception those seeking and serving Him with all their hearts. Why did God rescue me and not other Adventists who love Him as much?
While I do not have a pithy and satisfying answer, today, Christendom looks to St. Augustine and there, in his life, I find comfort.
The fourth century Christian scholar Augustine of Hippo discovered, as a youth, his own brilliance. And like the ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates, wandered about philosophically testing his mental acumen against other learned men.
Augustine bumped into the exotic Persian wisdom of Mani who had led a movement the century before into the belief that there was a great controversy between Ormuzd, or "light" (Christ) and Ahriman "darkness" (Satan). The sect of Manichaeism offered a better explanation of evil than Catholicism. He quickly accepted these truths based not upon faith but upon reason.
After years of faithful promotion of these beliefs, Augustine had a sobering encounter with Faustus, a Manichee bishop known for his wisdom. Having harbored difficult questions about his own beliefs, Augustine poured them out breathlessly awaiting the brilliant answers.
After hearing Faustus' illogical replies Augustine had his own great disappointment. He realized that his pride had caused him to rationalize and ignore fundamental realities. Embarrassed that his brilliance had not been enough to prevent such a gullibility to deception, he left the sect.
We who left Adventism need not despair over our intelligence. Better men than we have been sucked into false religions.
In our journeys of faith God path isn't always the shortest distance between two points. The trip from Egypt to Canaan shouldn't have taken Israel more than a month and God had them wander for forty years.
St. Augustine's experiences enriched his relationship with Christ in not only wisdom but in humility. As we look back upon our years in Adventism, do not consider them wasted. Do not regret them or hold resentment towards God for them. Do not chastise yourself for failing to outwit or out think the Devil. God wasn't trying to humiliate you. There was an ultimate purpose.
Take comfort in the fact that the great saint and scholar Augustine had his own "Adventist" experience in the sect of Manichaeism. Just thank God He drew you out of it and brought you into His glorious light. The experience has brought you wisdom.