You have a LONG class session that runs through worship services, how do you attend church?
At Sabbath Seminars, University Church, we encourage participation in the University Church worship service, even though our schedule only permits attending the early service. So now that we are back to in-person study and fellowship, we encourage participation in the early, 9 AM worship service at the Loma Linda University Church Sanctuary
.Why don’t you study the Sabbath School Quarterly?
Many years ago our class made the decision to change formats and choose its own books as subjects of study. Partly due to a dissatisfaction with the quality of the “quarterly,” which, often in spite of an excellent author, is revised and watered down by its editors and censors. Sabbath Seminars seeks to ask life’s big questions, and study the work of the great thinkers and scholars in all the fields that touch on religion and the spirit, from origins studies to the latest scholarship on Ellen White to the nature of human sexuality and gender identity in the light of the gospel, to the question, just studied in a book by David Bentley Hart, on whether “......All Will Be Saved.” We hope you will understand....and we welcome you to this path of growth and study.
I noticed that your class seems comfortable with members who express skepticism about the existence of God.
In our quest for better understanding the Good News, we do not judge, and embrace those in all walks and paths of faith. So often, the struggle of faith is the consequence of a difficult experience with the institutions and people of our own church. And within our own Loma Linda University institution, reliant on science for its ability to to do all its work, many have a more complex understanding of the world than that of their childhood. Sadly, there is little place for those who question, who search and doubt. We have poorly represented our God. So we support the priority of fellowship over doctrinal judgment and assent. Many of our own Adventists have doubts and struggles with conventional belief, and we are a refuge for all.
Your class has a reputation for discussion the subject of origins, and we’ve heard statement to the effect that God might have created over eons, not in 7 days?
The relationship of science and faith is one of the most important subjects of our class, we return to it often and with rigor. While 40 years ago even Jack Provonsha felt it necessary to support a 6000 year age of the world, we seek truth in all areas, and this requires a quest for honesty with regards to the ever-increasing evidence. Today the church cannot so easily “shush” a modern Galileo; our very own scientists, theologians and philosophers today express their faith in powerful and modern ways that we embrace, in our quest for the Good News for today.
I noticed that your class is regularly attended by non-Adventists.
Heaven will be too. Sabbath Seminars is an interface between the University Church and the world of deep reflection and study, and does not exclude anyone who wishes to participate. Some of our finest thinkers and contributors are not Adventists, and we embrace this pluralism in our fellowship. We often invite non-Adventist speakers, and we encourage an open mind towards those of other religious persuasions, for they have much to teach us, too.
You have discussed church politics to the point it makes me uncomfortable. Why do you have to do that?
Somehow our Adventist tradition has embraced an unquestioned, unthinking, uncritical faith which accepts an authoratative church structure which minimizes member participation in the decisionmaking process. We usually eschew normal personnel search processes in favor of the decision of the executive preference at the higher level of governance; we think that the idea that we are a prophetic movement means that we are a non-democratic organization which God speaks through from the General Conference president on down. We have said so in numerous court filings, especially the Merikay/Pacific Press case. We are wired to avoid conflict and go with the flow, as the Kingdom of God is soon to come, where all will be peace and without sin - and for now we must trust our leaders to “finish the work.” But principles of the sharing of power are basic to the gospel, and even to our own Church Manual. We support an increased participation in church life, including the decisionmaking and leadership apparatus. We support exposes of fiscal and leadership irresponsibility, and the increase in the participation of board members and constituency. Our own Douglas Hackleman’s “Who Watches, Who Cares,” which we studied together 15 years ago, exposed, many years ago, just how important it is for our unethical practices to be exposed to the light of day.
I understand you tolerate talk about politics in your class!
Jesus’ main concern was for the poor, the dispossessed. The message of the later Old Testament prophets concerned the liberation of the oppressed. Our class represents a fair cross-section of political views, which ensures disagreement on political issues. But we embrace the quest for truth and for justice, and in today’s world, as in the first century, the gospel first speaks to those who were in need. And whether your hero is Walter Rauschenbush or Ayn Rand, or you think Piketty’s “The Economics Of Equality” directly speaks to the message of Jesus, or Thomas Friedman’s “Free to Choose,” we welcome your participation in addressing the big questions of life. But if you wish to suppress the expression of other’s sincere thought you will not be comfortable here.
It is difficult not to notice that both Jesus and Paul advocate for human flourishing. Today this is best expressed in political ways, through ensuring fair distribution of basic income, health care, quality education and the right to vote. We are called to see God’s kingdom as Jesus saw it, and that was - The Kingdom of God is Now. Only later interpreters emphasized the future coming of Jesus as the focus of salvation.
It is also difficult not to notice that the state can wield more power than is good for human flourishing and opportunity. Unfortunately, today this argument is used not to protect the poor and dispossessed, but to support an increasing transfer of money and power to the wealthiest. The New Testament was not supportive of the oligarchy, even as Paul recognized the legitimacy of the state. It is this dual recognition - that the gospel seeks the human flourishing of all, and the state is not evil but useful in God’s grand scheme, that keeps us striving for a better world for all. That children might not receive a poor education because of their financial condition; that so many depend for their basic existence on keeping 2 or 3 jobs; that minorities of both race and gender still find walls towards the opportunity we promise to all - these illustrate that the work of the “Good News” is always uphill; that the Kingdom of God is not yet here for many people, because they have no home, no food, no basic education. and no opportunity to participate in the political process, as even their electoral rights are being restricted.
Centennial Complex of Loma Linda University Sabbath Morning 10:30-12:30