It is important to make every effort to have the best public image possible because this public is whom we were placed on this earth to try to reach with the gospel. People don’t listen to those they don’t respect. And, for the most part, Adventists have significant advantages over other Christians when it comes to making a good impression on the secular public. But, along the way, we have managed to turn some of these advantages against us as well.
What are some of our advantage? Think of this from the perspective of an intelligent, educated, open minded secular person:
- We don’t believe that God tortures people in hell for eternity for the sins of one lifetime.
- We don’t believe people have an immortal soul that does pretty much the same thing that modern science has demonstrated the brain does.
- We promote a healthy lifestyle
- We have the great controversy theme as a robust explanation for the problem of evil.
- We believe that Christianity should be supported by evidence not just accepted by faith which is why we place high emphasis on prophecy.
- We believe in separation of church and state.
- We emphasize education and science, etc. etc.
In essence, if someone were to put together a list of the top objections people have against Christianity, a good portion of that list would not be applicable to our denomination. And, this is something that the public should be made aware of. However, there are areas where we are not doing so well.
Because Adventists have always emphasized the need for a healthy lifestyle some of our people have taken that to extremes where they discourage people from going to the doctor or from getting vaccinated or they promote unverified natural cures for serious diseases.
Here is an article where I briefly discuss the scientific method: Natural Remedies & The Scientific Method
The key here is to understand that regardless of whether a person is right or wrong in their beliefs on these issues, others will lose respect for them and will no longer be receptive when the gospel is shared. And, the question is, what is more important, the gospel or vaccines/remedies?
Adventists have always emphasized the importance of Bible prophecy as a way to verify the truth of the Bible. But, some of our people move from here into conspiracy theories and end up losing the credibility of the public. Like with the previous point, people must decide if it is more important to convince someone that 9/11 was an inside job or that they must accept Jesus as their personal Savior, since, in most cases, they will not be able to do both.
Atheism has made major inroads the past 20 years in American culture and Adventists are probably the one Christian group that is best equipped to offer a response. However, our people seem as illiterate when talking to atheists as the rest of Christendom. Here are a few chapters I have put together on how to debate Atheists: Manual for Debating Atheists.
The theory of evolution is one of the few exceptions to the statement above that Adventists have an advantage over other Christians. It is the one area where we come head to head with the scientific establishment and, more than any other Christians, we must address this point or else we will lose the respect of those we are trying to save. Here is a paper I wrote on this topic that outlines what very well could be the only approach that has any chance of succeeding against evolution: Christians, Scientific Methodology & Evolution.
We have allowed certain evangelical groups to poison the well against us by labeling us a Cult. Such groups should be confronted publicly since we don’t qualify as a Cult even by their own criteria. Here is an article on how to respond to such groups: Are SDAs a Cult?.
The Christian world today is heavily involved in politics and very vocal on topics like abortion, gay marriage, evolution etc. What many Adventists miss however is that in most cases this isn’t because these groups care about the unborn, marriage or creation but rather because these are issues that can by pivoted to change public opinion regarding the Separation of Church and State. We however should view every issue through this lens (church/state separation) and refrain from lending our support even if in principle we are in agreement on the issue.
Adventists overreact and have historically overreacted to current events. Adventists and the 10-Year-Plan.
Our endless arguing about this topic is a public embarrassment to the church regardless of which side is right.