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Sabbath School for a New Generation

Among Seventh Day Adventists, Sabbath School is a time for discussion and learning. It is the belief of this site that Sabbath School should be an exciting venue for the discussion of new ideas, instead of rehashing old arguments. So welcome to a virtual Sabbath School, a Sabbath School for a new generation.

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I am an Electrical Engineer, working at Intel in the Portland area. I received my undergraduate degree from Walla Walla College and graduate degrees from the University of Southern California. The views expressed on this website are my own and do not reflect the viewpoints of anybody else. I reserve the right to change my mind at any point in time.

Monday, April 10, 2006

How I became a Postmodern

I grew up in an Adventist family and I have attended Adventist schools my whole life except for graduate school. Of course Seventh Day Adventists are extremely concerned about truth. We talk about the "Sabbath truth" for example. Our history is full of ordinary people who spent thousands of hours studying their Bible to find truth. Our church has come up with doctrines that we use to describe and summarize what was found. The SDA church is a thoroughly modern institution and somehow I became a post-modern.

Now some may argue that I tainted by the evil influences of "the world," that dark place of sin and iniquity. And maybe their right in their own way (although I wouldn't characterize the world as a bad place, since I enjoy living here even with its problems.) In looking back over my life, there is one key moment that started my transition away from modernism. It happened the year that I spent in Russia as a student missionary.

One of the key differences between modern and post-modern thinking is how truth is viewed. While the modern believes that their is an absolute truth that is true for everybody. We can find (or approach) this truth through objective reasoning. Meanwhile the post-modern believes that all truth is conditioned on our experiences and biases and culture. So there is no absolute truth.

When I went to Russia, I strongly believed in the structure of doctrine that we as a church had built up. I thought given the same evidence two people who were both objective observers would come to the same conclusion. However talking to my Russian friends made me realize that the conclusions were based on the starting point. And while my starting point was the individualism and rationalism based on scripture, their starting point was based more on the importance of community. Russia has only been lightly touched by the enlightenment, efforts that were largely started by Peter the Great. Also because of the greater contact Russia had with Asia, they are a hybrid of east and west. Now, when I started trying to look at things from their point of view, something interesting happened. The results that I came up with were more similar to the Russian Orthodox Church than my own Adventism. So at one point I said that Adventism and Orthodoxy were the most internally consistent segments of Christianity, but I started to have doubts about the nature of truth.

So I struggled with the concept of truth and how do we know truth. I thought I was all alone until I started reading about the Emergent Church and then I realized that I wasn't the only person asking these types of questions. The best answer that I found to explain my experiences was found in post-modernism.

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