ARISE is thoroughly Gospel-centered.
ARISE is authentically Adventist.
Let’s be unmistakably clear: there exists no tension whatsoever between these affirmations. Both can be affirmed concurrently, absolutely, enthusiastically and unapologetically. Neither is threatened or crowded by the other. We don’t have to play one against the other, or emphasize one at the expense of the other.
So it’s not one.
Or the other.
Authentic Adventism is not “conservative” and neither is gospel-centeredness “liberal.” Both (there’s our word again) are biblical. And, in a sense, even identical. We’ll return to this last point.
Earlier this year I received an e-mail inquiring about my availability for a certain speaking appointment which included a query as to whether or not I could be less “conservative” for this particular appointment. I wasn’t quite sure how to respond. And I’m still not quite sure how to respond.
I, for one, am wearying of the bipartite portrait of Seventh-day Adventism as “liberal” versus “conservative.” It’s time to move on. Past time, actually. These are tired, tattered words. They are unnecessarily constraining, unimaginative, and just plain lazy. They often say little about the described and much about the describer. My good friend, Nathan Renner, has observed that many people appear to prefer a bipartite structure to reality. He cites many examples, but here’s an easy one that lies close at hand: republican or democrat.
Thankfully, reality is usually more complex.
A biblical example comes to mind. The disciples’ encounter with a certain Christ-preaching exorcist (Mark 9:38-40; Luke 9:49, 50). Apparently the disciples were sufficiently impressed with the nomadic preacher that they invited him to join them, but then felt snubbed at his declination. Their pride prickled. In their view there were but two rather self-evident options: either 1) you are with us and Jesus or 2) you are against us and Jesus. So they told him to stop preaching and ministering (NKJV, they “forbade him”).
The narrative does not reveal how the itinerant preacher responded. We can only hope that he politely listened to, then ignored their directive. The disciples were sufficiently stirred by the incident to relay it to Jesus. The narrative seems to indicate that they anticipated his approval. As was often the case, their expectation was to be disappointed. Listen carefully to their report, “we tried to stop him because he was not following us” (Mark 9:38 ESV). When they say “us” they seem to think that “us” includes Jesus. So to repeat: In their view there were but two options: either 1) you are with us and Jesus or 2) you are against us and Jesus.
Jesus, to their astonishment, offered a… (wait for it)… third option. That option? The itinerant preacher could be for Jesus, but not with the disciples. The disciples, no doubt, were nonplussed.
Because sometimes it’s more than “either or.” Sometimes reality will not be constrained by the choice between “this or that.”
Sometimes both are wrong.
And sometimes both are right.
Authentic Adventism and Gospel-centeredness are not at odds. And they are more than merely compatible; they are perfectly complimentary. This perfect complementarity, this bothness, is readily explained: they are essentially identical things. How so?
Authentic Adventism centers on Jesus Christ, as, for example, the name itself makes unambiguously clear. Adventists affirm and anticipate the reality of Christ’s second advent, precisely because we affirm and adore His first advent—His life, death, burial and resurrection (This is, by the way, Paul’s definition of the Gospel. See 1 Cor. 15:1-8) The second advent, or Second Coming, drips with the Gospel, precisely because it is itself the long-awaited consummation of the Gospel!
Like the first advent, the second advent is all about one thing: Jesus Christ!
And what of the “Seventh-day” part? Gospel, Gospel, Gospel! The Sabbath is about nothing if not the desire of God to create, to love, to savor, and to redeem. You might say that the Sabbath was the “Immanuel”—the God with us!—of the Old Testament. Jesus Christ, of course, was the “Immanuel” of the New Testament (Matthew 1:21). Both the Sabbath and the incarnation are about access to God and time with God.
As even a cursory reading of the New Testament reveals, Jesus wrought many of His most profound and prominent miracles of healing and restoration on, you guessed it, the Sabbath! “The Sabbath,” He would say, “was made for mankind!” And who made it? Jesus Christ! (see Mark 2:27 and John 1:3)
So like the first and second advents, the Sabbath is all about one thing: Jesus Christ!
Seventh-day Adventist. The name drips with the Gospel. (Some of you may need to hear the name with new ears.)
So we’re not talking about two separate things, but one thing. You don’t have to choose between this or that. Because, in this case, there is no this and that.
There’s only a this.
And this is beautiful.
And what is “this?”
“This” is Seventh-day Adventism.
And ARISE is all about “this.”