An announcement: My paper, “Who Really Is the Remnant Church?,” has been published in the Winter 2010 edition of Adventist Today, above, a quarterly journal of progressive Seventh-day Adventist thought.
It’s one of the most gratifying bylines I’ve ever received. Admittedly, I’m not sure how compelling this news, or the document, will be to people who are not Adventists, nor interested in exegetical critiques of SDA theology.
For those who are, though—one, the other, or both—it should prove provocative reading.
Some background information:
The doctrine of the remnant is part of Seventh-day Adventist eschatology, or our theology of last events. Particularly, Adventists, right, see themselves as a prophetic movement—one that fulfills a Biblical call for obedience to God’s law during the remaining days of Earth’s history, before the return of Christ.
Thus, one will often hear SDAs refer to our denomination as “the remnant church.” This self-understanding is centered in our reading of statements in the book of Revelation, esp. 12:17 and 19:10. However, the notion of remnancy is found throughout the Bible.
I became interested in our remnant doctrine about a dozen years ago. That is, from the time I began to question our interpretation of the concept, and disagree with aspects of it.
During most of the subsequent time period, I kept my views to myself. But over the last year, I began to refine my counter-argument. In July 2009, I submitted a 3,500-word document to Adventist Today, above. In December, two days before Christmas, I received notice that my essay would run in the first edition of the new decade.
This is good news, arriving at an important time. Besides being a longstanding belief, remnancy is a topic of rising interest in Adventist circles.
For example, my piece, the editor has told me, is by far the longest article the magazine has ever published. This seems to suggest, no doubt, a growing preoccupation with the subject amongst readers.
In the October 2006 edition of Ministry magazine, Dr. Gerhard Pfandl, right, of the Biblical Research Institute of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (BRI), said that “the remnant issue is one that is highly debated,” pronouncing it one in a group of “fundamental truths that mark us as a church,” and that “are under attack today, not from outside but from within.”
(As noted in its purpose statement, the BRI, though small, was commissioned by the General Conference [GC]. The GC is the administrative body that oversees the global SDA church and its 16 million members. The BRI was formed to “promote the study and practice of Adventist theology and lifestyle as understood by the world church.” Accordingly, its conclusions are definitive within our denomination, and for all intents and purposes, represent our scriptural beliefs.)
More recently, in the online edition of December 2009′s Adventist Review—the flagship journal of the church—BRI head Dr Ángel Manuel Rodriguez, right, published, “God’s End-Time Remnant: What Are the Practical Implications of This Theological Concept?”
That text represents an even more substantial effort, though, as it is excerpted from, and/or summarizes key ideas found in, Toward a Theology of the Remnant: An Adventist Ecclesiological Perspective, right, a volume of over 250 pages and a dozen essays edited by Rodriguez, and published only this past April. It may be the most extensive treatment SDA scholarship has yet given this issue.
Finally, this year, 2010, is that of the 59th quinquennial General Conference Session of the world church, taking place this June, in Atlanta. Though its working agenda has surely long been set, the spirit of study, self-definition, and introspection is in the air, perhaps to carry through the annum.
My expectation is that a wide circulation of diverse counter-arguments on the remnant—as well as those which advance our traditional position—may engender a more thoughtful, nuanced debate on, and understanding of, this significant issue. At the very least, that is what I believe.