In an earlier post, I linked to articles by Chuck Scriven and Erv Taylor, both liberal Adventists, both aghast at what they see as a “retrograde” and “backward” movement in Adventism. Add John McLarty to the mix. They present themselves as the voices of reason, of compassion, of progress, of openness. They see Ted Wilson as being “afraid.” As I said then, I don’t see fear in Wilson’s General Conference sermon. I see faith, and hope, and joy, and confidence. I see a pastor who knows in whom he has believed, and knows the mission and message of his church, and is ready to cast arms against a sea of doubters to lead it forward.
Some had asked me if I saw parallels between Wilson and Benedict XVI. I commented on that here. Both have the task of refocusing their churches on their identity and mission in the face of doubts and the pressures of society to conform. Both inspire fear among those who thought that liberalism was in the ascendancy. Compare the panicked pronouncements of Taylor, Scriven, and McLarty to the talk recently given by Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg, South Africa. Like the liberal Adventists, he accuses his church leader of going backwards, of abandoning the hopes and dreams and opportunities that he and other liberals had envisioned. Like them, he is scared.
But we have no reason to be afraid. For as the Catholic liturgy proclaims, this is the mystery of our faith: Christ has died! Christ is risen! Christ will come again! He died for our sins, he is risen and lives to make intercession in the heavenly sanctuary as our great High Priest, and he will come again in glory to bring us home with him forever. This is not a message of fear. This is not a message of despair. This is a message of hope–if you believe.
But if you think Jesus was just a good man with a special relationship with God, if you think the Bible is full of myths and that we evolved by chance, if you don’t believe in Christ’s intercession, if you see the return of Christ as a metaphor for human progress, if you think the church is a feel good society that must embrace contradictory messages–if you embrace all the tenets of liberalism that undermine Christian faith–then, yes, I see why you might be afraid.