Adventists: Its Time to Stop Teaching Doctrine

One of the biggest mistakes Adventists make is that we teach doctrine. Now before you crucify me, hear me out.

Belief tends to work like a burger. There needs to be harmony in the ingredients if you want it to be good. You cant just serve the bread on one plate, the meat on another, and then bring the lettuce, tomato, and cheese out for desert. If you want a burger, all the ingredients need to be there, at once, in a harmonious relationship with one another. If they are, you have a slamming burger.
Rather than teach doctrine, Adventists need to teach narrative. Teaching doctrine is like giving someone a burger in pieces. Its disjointed and lacks harmony. The danger with this is someone can believe in all 28 fundamental doctrines of the church, but if they are not harmonized as one narrative, anyone can come along and harmonize it for them. For example, a legalist can easily harmonize those teachings by bringing them together into one narrative using legalism. So just because a person knows the 28, doesn't mean that they can't be duped by some playboy with an agenda. Knowing the 28 is pretty useless if you don't have a story that strings them together into one compelling belief system.

Unfortunately, most of our Bible study resources do the disjointed burger thing. Some of the doctrines connect here and there. But over all, there is no harmony of thought. There is no central story being told. Its just a bunch of random doctrines. And when we baptize people just because they believe in our random doctrines, we are not baptizing them into Adventism, we are baptizing them into a check list. All you need is for a proponent of Last Generation Theology, the 1888 Message Study committee, ultra-conservative ideology, Maxwellian philosophy or any other heresy to come along and, in perfect harmony with the 28, con our new brother or sister by harmonizing the 28 for them via their pet system. Not cool.

There is only one way to prevent this and that is, rather than teaching doctrine we need to teach narrative. Our Bible studies need to tell one story, not just disjointed doctrines. And the thing that should bring our burger ingredients together is the love of God as revealed, in time, through his sanctuary. In that way, our students will walk away with more than just 28 doctrines. They will walk away with a harmonized belief that is able to identify the counter-narratives that are always floating around.

I am currently working on designing a study set just like this, and am using it for a Seekers Bible Class at my local church. So far, its going really well. I hope to make it available to everyone once its ready. In the mean time, start thinking of ways in which you can teach narrative, not doctrine.

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  1. Marcos. Thanks for your articles, stumbled upon them via the Haystack. However, in terms of not teaching "doctrine", isn't the word "doctrine" actually "teaching"? So not teach teaching is a little redundant.

    I'm wondering if you mean "systematic beliefs" when you say "doctrine". Also curious to know what you mean by Maxwellian philosophy? Are you talking about Dr. Graham Maxwell, his brothers or his dad?

    Let me know. Thanks for your passion to share the word!


    1. Hey Marcelo! Thanks for the comment. You are right with the whole "doctrine/ teaching" thing. I wrote this article in pop-language rather than academically which why I went with that approach. I dont mean systematic beliefs because systematics lend themselves toward narrative where each belief is tied into a whole. What I mean is we need to stop teaching doctrine disjointedly or all over the place. It has to be tied into an overall story.

      Maxwellian philosophy doesnt refer to Dr Max or any of his family. Its a reference to the "God doesnt kill" movement. Dr Max was one of the most popular voices in that movement but its not really talking about him, just the concept itself.

    2. Thanks for clarifying. As far as Dr. Maxwell, I've listened to quite a lot of his own teachings, which are freely available online as well, I think it's a misconception and misunderstanding about him to say that God doesn't kill. He has said many times that God has put millions of his children to sleep (first death), but he differentiates the first from the second death quite emphatically.

      The second death, according to him, is a death of an intrinsic nature rather than an imposed penalty. Ultimately if what God is really saying, "love me or I'll kill you", then he's coercing, using threats and force to demand obedience, something that would be appalling to us as human beings in our broken nature, let alone to God himself.

      Regardless, I understand your point about some heresies that are in the church, I just don't believe Dr. Maxwell has taught heresy, that's all.

      Have a blessed week.


  2. can someone help me find where in the bible these 28 doctines are

    1. Not fully understanding your question. Are you asking for Bible verses that accompany each of the doctrines?


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