Monday, October 27, 2014

Sabbath greetings at the Seventh-day Adventist Church of Ogden

On Saturday, I visited the Seventh-day Adventist Church of Ogden. Let's right to it and see where the Seventh-day Adventists come from and what they believe.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church is the largest branch descended from the Millerite movement founded in the 1830's. Founded by William Miller, Millerites believed that Christ would return in 1844. Miller gained a huge following of people who believed that Christ was about to come. The day of Christ's predicted return came and went like any other day, and the event is now known as The Great Disappointment. After this, the movement still continued, but eventually split into different groups, including: Christadelphians, Branch Davidians, Church of God General Conference, etc. The most well known (other than the infamous Branch Davidians) and by far the largest is the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Beliefs held in common with traditional Protestant Christianity:

  • Belief in the Trinity
  • Belief that Jesus is the second person in the Trinity, the Messiah, and Savior of mankind.
  • Mankind deserves eternal punishment for their sinful nature. 
  • Grace is a free gift of God made possible through the atonement of Christ and accepted through faith alone.
  • Believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and completely free from error.
  • Believe the Bible is the sole and final authority in matters of faith and practice.
  • Belief in the Ten Commandments and that they are still binding on Christians today.
  • Practice baptism by immersion.
  • Practice communion. For them it is done quarterly using unleavened bread and grape juice. A foot washing ceremony is part of this service.
  • Adherence to traditionally conservative stances: abortion not condoned except in cases of the health of the mother or severe congenital defects in the child, homosexuality condemned, modest dress encouraged, any sex outside marriage condemned, swearing discouraged, belief in a literal six day creation, etc.
  • Christ's return is imminent.
Beliefs not shared with other Christian faiths:
  • They don't worship on Sundays like most Christians. Instead, they hold to the traditional Jewish Sabbath believing that Christians are still obligated to observe it. This begins from sunset on Friday evening and goes to sunset on Saturday evening. Members are encouraged to limit activities and focus on God and Bible study on the Sabbath.
  • Mankind is an indivisible unity of mind, body, and spirit. There is no immortal soul and mankind is unconscious after death. (This belief is shared with the Jehovah's Witnesses, who were influenced by the Millerites.)
  • Immortality is conditional. The wicked will not go to Hell, but instead be annihilated on the last day. (Another belief held in common with the Jehovah's Witnesses.)
  • Mankind is involved in a Great Controversy between God and the Devil. There has been an ongoing war between the two factions since Satan first rebelled against God and mankind is in the middle of this war.
  • They believe the date of 1844 was correct, but that it wasn't referring to Christ's return to Earth, but instead him beginning the cleansing of the Heavenly Sanctuary, preparing it for the End of Days.
  • They believe that since 1844, the judgment of professed Christians has been ongoing to determine the salvation of all mankind since the beginning of time.
  • There is a remnant of people in the End Times who will remain faithful to the commandments of God.
  • Prophecy continues into the modern day, though prophecies must be tested against the Bible for validity.
  • It is recommended members adhere to a vegetarian diet often following kosher laws. Members are also recommended to not partake in drugs, alcohol, or tobacco, and many members abstain from coffee, tea, and soda.
And now, onto my time with the Seventh-day Adventist Church of Ogden.

Atmosphere:

The Seventh-day Adventist Church of Ogden is a rather unremarkable building from the outside. You can tell it's a church, but it's a very simple red brick building without much adornment or anything that would set it apart from other churches in the area.



I forgot to snap a picture of the interior while I was there. The interior is a basic chapel with pews, mint green walls, and a pretty standard sanctuary with a place for a band to perform, a screen down to play a video at the beginning of the service, and a pulpit. The most unique part of the chapel were the small sections on the sides of the chapel. These sections were separated by an arcade (row of arches) from the rest of the sanctuary. The Sabbath school lessons were given in this part of the section, and some of the elderly members remained there throughout the service. I didn't see any crosses in the chapel, but there were a couple of lovely metal cutouts of angels sounding trumpets on either side of the sanctuary.

Overall, very simple and traditional style atmosphere. Nothing of major note, but it was done well.

The People:

The people were friendly, though rather reserved. A few came up to us and introduced themselves. One very nice girl hunted us down after the service and said that she was so excited to see someone our age because most of the people there are children, teenagers, or older and that few are college age.

Everyone was very well dressed, men in suites and ties, women in skirts or dresses. The congregation was pretty diverse. There were a number of white people, but also Asians, Latinos, among others. The people all seemed to get along pretty well and seemed to be a very tight knit group,

Overall, the people were nice. Fairly typical of a lot of other churches I've visited around here.

The Service:

The service was sort of like an Evangelical service, but a little more traditional than modern Evangelical services. It began with announcements, then the Praise Team got up and sang a song together with the congregation. The music was traditional hymns accompanied on piano.

After that, there was a video that featured an attractive young man showing clips with ominous music of Halloween scenes. The young man said that Halloween has a dark history and basically called it Satanic. But then he said, it doesn't have to be and encouraged the congregation to purchase pamphlets and hand them out as they go door to door trick-or-treating this year. Or if you're not going door to door, hand them out to trick-or-treaters instead of candy. 

It's starting to really annoy me hearing these churches talk about turning every single thing into a way to proselytize and spread their message. Can't we have a fun holiday with candy and costumes that doesn't have to be about Jesus and spreading the Good News? It's like church and Jesus consume every part of some of these people's lives with no balance outside of it. There's a lot of complex layers to life. Letting one aspect of it dominate every other part just makes me sad. Not just with religion, but with everything. If alcohol, weed, sex, church, God, a hobby, your job, anything is taking up so much of your time and thoughts that it seems that it's what you're living for or it's taking away from other things you love, then you probably should consider cutting back, diversifying your life. and enjoying different things more. There is so much out there to waste everything on just one thing. And we're all guilty of this from time to time, but it's important to sometimes step back and reassess things in your life.

After this they sang another hymn and took up an offering. Like in most churches, the deacons came around with collection plates and took money, but children also went around collecting money in their hands and bringing it up to the front. This was interesting to me. I think it's cute to get the kids involved, but nobody seemed to really be watching them. I know if I were a kid, it would be very tempting and easy to pocket some of that money. I think there should be a little more monitoring of them, but that's just me.

Afterward, there was a children's sermon. A lady told the story of Moses parting the Red Sea and related that to what she called a miracle in her uncle's life. He was driving a big rig and a herd of animals came out in front of it, but they parted miraculously when he was driving and he didn't hit any. This is a pretty low scale miracle to me. Animals have a survival instinct and most will dart out of the way of a moving vehicle. It's nowhere near as impressive to me as say if somebody were actually able to make waters part.

After the children's sermon, there was a lovely song sung by two men playing acoustic guitars. It was very pretty and I enjoyed it

After that, there was a community prayer. The worship leader and several other people got up front and got on their knees and gave a long prayer about the needs of the community. While they did this, some members of the congregation knelt at their pews while others just bowed their heads.

This was followed by a brief scripture reading, then a sermon. I ducked out during the closing hymn, but the bulletin said there was just a closing hymn and a closing prayer. I had had my fill of the service by then, so left.

The service was a traditional style Protestant service, but pretty slow paced and went on much longer than I thought it would.

The Message:

The sermon was pretty hard for me to sit through. It started out with the man quoting the scripture that we were to test everything by whether it taught us that Jesus had come in the flesh. He then said that there were three big Satanic teachings that were the spirit of the Antichrist that were popular today: Darwinism, pantheism, and spiritualism.

He said that Darwinism is the belief that everything just happened and that the universe evolved out of a Big Bang and that life just happened on earth and that there's no reason for it. He said this kind of thinking devalues human life because we're just an accident and there's no reason to live. He said that this teaching is appealing because things seem really old and there's a mountain of evidence like giant ice sheets, radio carbon dating, etc. But then he said that it was mathematically impossible, and that it contradicted the Bible.

Christians, please, for the love of God, don't talk about things you don't understand! If you want to talk about evolution, the Big Bang Theory, natural selection, etc., you had better have read actual scientific textbooks and material on the subject, and not just stuff that the church handed out to you or you found on a creationist website. Because more often than not, when I hear Christians talking about evolution and how it's evil, they explain evolution to me in a way that is not scientific and that is not taught in science classrooms. First off, evolution has absolutely nothing to do with the Big Bang Theory. Those are two separate theories in two separate branches of science. Evolution is part of biology, and the Big Bang Theory is in the realm of physics.

There is no such thing as Darwinism, this is a term created by those who teach Intelligent Design to malign people who teach evolution and other scientific theories that are contrary to a very narrow interpretation of Christianity. Evolution isn't the enemy of Christianity. Many millions of Christians the world over accept the Theory of Evolution with no consequence to their faith at all. It is accepted by the Roman Catholic Church, many Anglicans, many in liberal Lutheran churches, many Eastern Orthodox Christians, most other Mainline or Progressive Christians, etc. In fact, outside the United States, in Christianity, the denial of evolution and the Big Bang Theory are only upheld by a minority of Christians. Intelligent Design is not supported by the scientific community as a whole, populated heavily by Christians, and is largely an American phenomenon.

He then said that Darwinism wasn't created by Christians nor is it really believed by Christians, so he focused on another Antichrist teaching that has permeated the Church. He said pantheism was an Antichrist teaching because he said that it equated God with everything in the universe, which would mean suffering, sickness and death were part of God too, and that's not right. He talked about pantheism, but what he actually was talking about was panenthism. Pantheism is the belief that God is the universe, that everything in it is God. Panentheism says God is the universe, but that God also exists separately from it, which is how he described pantheism.

He then said that a final Antichrist teaching that is popular is spiritualism, which is the belief that matter and spirit are separate and that spirit is all that matters. He said that this is contrary to the holistic teaching of the Church which is that mankind is mind, body, and spirit and that there is no separate immortal soul. He said that this was a popular belief in Hinduism, Buddhism, and other Eastern Religions, but was gaining popularity in Christianity, too. Essentially, he called Hinduism and Buddhism Antichrist religions, which is a nice roundabout way of demonizing Eastern Religions.

Overall, I found this message really ill informed and spread some very upsetting messages. I did not enjoy the sermon and couldn't wait to get out of the church throughout the whole thing.

Overall Experience:

The service was slow paced but pretty, the people were lovely, and the sermon was awful. I wouldn't return to the Seventh-day Adventist Church again as it made me very uncomfortable to hear a message like that being preached to people who don't understand that much of what is being said is misinformed and misguided. A person giving a sermon like that perpetuates misinformation and creates a vicious cycle in which people just accept what they hear as the Word of God and anything outside of it is seen as satanic so they don't investigate it and then they pass on this misinformation to everyone else creating a culture of fear around something so integral as education and research.

3 comments:

  1. Raphael, Thank you for your honest and accurate description of our church given in October of 2014. As the pastor of this church since October of 2013, I have shared your same concerns and have worked to change the issues that exist. I agree with your assessment. It is accurate. We have made significant changes to try and address many of the concerns that you shared. Our worship format has changed and our weekly speakers are vetted much more closely. I was preaching at our sister church in Logan on the day you visited. I appreciate your honest review. I will share it with my elders and board in an effort to continue to initiate change. Blessings, Pastor Ryan.

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