28 is enough
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28 is enough

Published on: 14 January, 2016

Melbourne’s Prahran neighbourhood may well be the world’s epicentre of hipsterism. Should Ned Kelly get his breath back* and wander over to Prahran from the Old Melbourne Gaol, he would fit in perfectly well—assuming he isn’t wearing the helmet. And not just Kelly. J N Andrews and James White would look very in vogue stopping by to have their beards trimmed at Greville Street’s “Brother Wolf Barber Shop and Shave Parlor”. 

I was in Prahran on New Year’s Eve with my beautiful wife on a very enjoyable little wedding anniversary celebration. As we walked down Chapel Street I got a kick out of watching all the J N Andrews clones walk by—anyone for a mission trip to Switzerland? All the facial hair brought to mind a friend who recently proclaimed that no Adventist pastor should be allowed to sport a beard. It is, he said, unbecoming and unprofessional. Well then, we better not come recruiting for pastors in Prahran! It seemed an odd issue for my friend to take a stand on, so I ribbed him a little—reminding him of some rather prominent Christians with facial hair beginning with, well, you know who. But he wasn’t backing down. Shave off your beard or get off that pulpit. That was his message du jour

And it’s not the only surprisingly strident message I’ve heard of late. Another friend recently posted on Facebook that if someone believes in full obedience to God’s law they should be kicked out of the Church. Seriously? Yet another friend, this one living overseas, told me he had just been banned from recruiting students at GYC because those kids are the “wrong type” of Adventists. All of these strike me as a great shame, as if we randomly chose 100 human beings from around the world, do you know how many would be Adventists? Zero. That’s right. It takes a random sample of 400 people to produce the likelihood that a single whole Adventist will be among them. We really are a tiny bunch—we don’t need to divide ourselves any further.

All this divisiveness comes out of our laudable desire for purity. However, the more points we believe others must share in order to achieve a level of acceptable purity, the lower the chance of achieving unity. But, ironically, unity is a sign of purity. Indeed, Jesus prayed, “May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me” (John 17:23). Without unity there can be no purity.

So how can we achieve purity in unity without compromising our spiritual integrity? The trick is discerning between core beliefs on which we cannot compromise, and our opinions, prejudices and preferences, on which we can and should. The Lord originally gave 10 Commandments as the bedrock test of purity. Jesus simultaneously made the test more succinct and expansive: “love God with all your heart . . . and your neighbour as yourself.” Today we’ve unpacked those into 28 core beliefs. 

I suggest that 28 is more than enough points on which to test purity. None of us need to add a 29th. Rather, we need to follow Paul’s advice in Colossians 2:16 and not judge each other on peripherals. Music styles, the role of women in church, what youth programs, which Adventist TV network—on all of it, and every other non-core matter, viva la difference. Unity requires us to focus on the essential and have the humility to accept diversity in everything else. 

A few years ago I was speaking with an American academic about Roger Williams. “Remember,” she said, “Williams became so inflexible that he would only worship with his wife—and she probably wasn’t pure enough for his liking.” Williams’ conclusion that all churches are impure is, of course, right—they are after all, composed of fallible human beings like you and me. But as Christ established His church and prayed for its unity, disassociating from everyone else in order to get closer to Him seems, well, rather misguided doesn’t it?

Ellen White, reflecting on unity, noted: “Again and again the angel has said to me, ‘Press together, press together, be of one mind, of one judgement,’ Christ is the leader, and you are brethren; follow Him.” 

Let’s be united on our core doctrines, accept our diversity on everything else and, more than anything, “press together” in 2016. Even if in so doing we risk coming in contact with some whiskers.

* For matters of life, death and resurrection refer to Fundamental 26.

James Standish is editor of Adventist Record.


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This quote "not judge each other on peripherals. Music styles, the role of women in church, what youth programs, which Adventist TV network—on all of it, and every other non-core matter, viva la difference. Unity requires us to focus on the essential and have the humility to accept diversity in everything else." is very problematic.

This sounds very similar to what 3 men of old said: Who made you a judge over us, Moses?

Did it turn out well for them?

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I put myself in the church at the time of jesus,
Did jesus add or take away from the word?
Why have we progressed to now 28?
What has entered the original church?
EGW says Knowledge will increase or existentialism
So to debate there will be no 29th is to be pre determined or how could one say god like how can one predict

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Unity is great. However, it should be understood that within our own Church divisions arise because of our different understanding of scripture. We get different messages from scripture because we are not converted. It is inconceivable that a person who uses higher criticism or the principle-based historical-cultural formula to interpret scripture will arrive at the same understanding as the one who uses the historical-grammatical method. As a Church, we need unity, however, in seeking unity we need to start with establishing operational rules and respecting those rules.

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True Christian unity is Word-based. Jesus prayed, “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world…Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:14,17). True unity is not about doing what feels right; nor is it based on reckless inclusions. It is founded on the Bible alone – Sola Scriptura - and this attitude will cause friction with those who prefer a ‘buffet’ religion where you pick and choose beliefs that suit a person’s culture, comfort level, or personal agenda. The Bible is the key ingredient to true unity and this, in turn, will produce results that are in line with Biblical truths. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is beautifully simple, but it requires us to totally surrender our hearts to His sanctifying power.

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I want a beard but my wife won't let me have one. Happy wife - happy life. I also want to belong to a church that won't kick me out because I want to (by God's grace) strive for and achieve character perfection. Is that asking too much?
Whoever your Facebook friend is that wants to kick me out, should have a good look at the Bible. It seems clear to me that Jesus is looking for people who believe His Word and will follow, "the Lamb wherever He goes".

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James. I greatly appreciate your editorials. May the Holy Spirit continue to guide you. I am aware of coats and neck ties stored in vestries in some tropical regions for wayward preachers. Fortunately my 1969 vintage beard has not denied pulpit access in India.


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Unity requires us to focus on the essential and have the humility to accept diversity in everything else.

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