How much of what we Seventh-day Adventists teach is really from the Bible? I often find myself wondering this as I write materials for the Tawbuid to use in church planting among their own people.
Now, before you throw me out as a heretic, I’m not talking about our statements of fundamental belief or Mrs. White’s counsels. Both of these are soundly based in scripture. I’m talking about some of the practices we’ve always done. For example, a man recently asked where the Bible taught that we need to close our eyes or bow our heads while we pray. After thinking for a bit, I had to admit that I don’t remember reading anything about that in the Bible.
That started me thinking: How about church buildings? The closest thing to a church in the Bible is the synagogue of the post-exilic Jews, and that was almost as much a town hall as it was a church. The early Christian church met primarily in members’ homes.
These kinds of practices are not actually Bible teachings. They are part of a rich and ancient Christian and Adventist culture. Am I saying that these practices are bad? No! There is nothing inherently wrong with a cultural practice if it is not contrary to the Bible. In fact, they are good in their own context. Am I saying that we should always pray with our eyes open and meet for church in homes? No! Arbitrarily doing the opposite of what we do now doesn’t help anyone. We don’t need to enforce different cultural practices. Maybe, though, we do need to think about how to require only what the Bible explicitly teaches, and allow variations in the “Adventist Culture” department, especially when it comes to unreached people groups as they struggle to apply the Bible in their contexts.
After all, the Seventh-day Adventist creed is, “Sola Scriptura,” right?