When It Comes Our Time to Choose
Of the many stakeholders in Adventist higher education, the group that frequently is least heard from about the futures of our universities and colleges is the one that actually underwrites those schools with its dollars and its dreams—the parents. Most schools have built strong systems for gaining counsel and insight from church leaders, faculty and staff, and alumni. But only rarely do Adventist colleges and universities intentionally seek the input of the group most critical to their functioning. In the language of the market, these are the “consumers”—the mothers and fathers and yes, the grandparents—who are committing an average of at least $100,000 for each child they send through a four-year liberal arts Adventist college or university.
I’m writing as one of those “consumers”—someone who is even now making plans to enroll my eldest in an Adventist college or university three years from now. I’m also in that alumni cohort—a graduate of Southern Adventist University, where I majored in business management and marketing. SAU is also where I met my beautiful wife, Christy. I want my children—ages 8, 11, and 15—to enjoy and appreciate the value that I received from my own Adventist education, both personally and professionally. That’s why Christy and I have chosen to involve our kids in the faith-building activities sponsored by several leading Adventist universities, including digging for dinosaur bones in Wyoming with Art Chadwick of Southwestern Adventist University, and participating in archaeological digs in Israel with Michael Hasel and Martin Klingbeil of Southern Adventist University. There are few things that bring an Adventist child more fully into the reality of the biblical world than uncovering important artifacts from the Assyrian and Babylonian invasions described in Scripture. I’ll move more than massive piles of dirt to make sure that happens!
Ask me what I hope my greatest achievement in life will be, and I’ll tell you that it would be that my kids would learn to love Jesus, make the personal decision to follow Him, and ultimately, be together as members of a forever family in heaven. I’m not under any illusions that realizing that goal will be easy: this world is a pretty complicated place to grow up in, with plenty of distractions at every turn. There’s a battle going on for the minds of our children, made more intense by the media saturation of our lives that we now accept as normal. This broken world now looks increasingly as it did in the days of Noah.
Of Faith and Yeast
On a 2013 visit to Israel I had the privilege of reading the words of Jesus to my kids as we sat on the banks of the Sea of Galilee not far from where He first spoke them. I was struck then—and now—by one recurring theme in Jesus’ teaching: that we express our trust in Him and believe in the truth He offers. John 6:29 records Jesus as saying, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” That’s such a simple request, but it’s one that has deep implications for how we live our lives and structure our families.
But Jesus also has a warning for us. “Be careful,” He says. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” I can’t take this warning lightly. Even as Jesus asks us to believe, He warns us not to get caught up in the teachings, philosophies, and worldviews of those who choose not to believe.
Satan’s chief weapon against belief is doubt. In fact, Satan’s first interaction with humans in Eden cast doubt on the Word of God. This doubt led both Eve and Adam to no longer implicitly trust the Word of God but instead to place their trust in human reason. Blinded by a desire to be “wise,” they ultimately broke their covenant with God by disobeying His command to them. This first human story underscores the difference between the biblical worldview, founded on the Word of God, that leads us to believe, and other popular worldviews built on human reasoning that inevitably lead to doubt.
God isn’t caught in the web of history: He is, instead, its Master.
My challenge as a parent is to first answer Jesus’ call to believe as a father, but then also to teach my kids to believe as well. That’s why my wife and I have built so many of our family adventures and worship experiences on a goal to teach our kids to “think biblically.” We believe that the Bible has all the answers to life’s questions and challenges, and that Scripture offers the only trustworthy way to both know the one true God and understand our world.
This biblical worldview starts with the belief that the Bible is the Word of God, written by inspired persons—just as it claims. Furthermore, God has revealed Himself authoritatively in Scripture. By immersing ourselves in the truth of the Bible, we can learn who God is—a personal God who cares for each one of us. The same God who created us in His image personally came to this earth to suffer and die for our sins when our first parents rejected Him. Through His grace we are offered the eternal life we lost.
I teach my kids that this biblical worldview provides the framework for how we should live our lives. With God’s guidance, revealed in the Bible, we can plan for the future, choose a spouse, choose a career, and perhaps even choose a college. In just two years our family will be officially shopping for a college for our children to attend. That’s not a task that I take lightly, because I will be trusting the school we select to provide our kids with the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful in this life. More important, we’ll be entrusting that school with our children’s final destiny.
There’s no way I could take that job lightly.
So when we look for a college, we’ll be looking for a school whose mission both in word and in action supports the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. We’ll look for an administration that understands the theological issues going on both inside and outside the church. We’ll check to make certain that the school we pick has policies and procedures that ensure the employment of faculty who believe all 28 fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
The main reason that we would specifically choose to send our kids to an Adventist college or university is that we want them to receive a distinctly Seventh-day Adventist education. We frankly expect that each professor in every department would teach with conviction that the Bible is the foundation of his or her respective discipline. Additionally, we expect them to follow in the footsteps of Jesus by warning students of nonbiblical worldviews, which, in the end, lead to doubt.
To be specific, a biblical approach to origins reminds us that God recently created life on earth in one literal, seven-day week, ending with the creation of the Sabbath—a perfect creation. But then humans sinned, and the world became corrupt. So God chose to send a worldwide flood. The Bible provides the key to understanding what we observe in the natural world. This biblical worldview stands in stark contrast to the beliefs held by other faiths—and no faith—that the world came to be through natural processes over deep time. What a perfect ploy by Satan to cast doubt on the nature of God and His ability to create. I sometimes think that if Jesus were among us now, He would be saying, “Beware the yeast of the theory of evolution.”
A biblical approach to history offers what historians term “explanatory power.” Informed by Scripture, we Seventh-day Adventists view all of history through the lens of the great controversy. Scripture, written by inspired individuals, is a trustworthy record of human history. History doesn’t exist as a thing apart from God, but has its character by reason of God’s creative act. God isn’t caught in the web of history: He is, instead, its Master. God is a personal being who interrelates with us personally in history. God has knowledge of the future, and He has revealed prophecies which have both been fulfilled and are yet to be fulfilled. In contrast, many historians cling to a methodological creed that, when applied to the Bible, undermines or eliminates its authority. The biblical concept of revelation and inspiration is either denied or reinterpreted. Human reason, not divine revelation, becomes the final arbiter of truth as the past is understood by its analogy to the present, and history is thought to be caught in a web of cause-and-effect relationships.
For many historians the Bible is simply a product of culture. As they see it, Scripture began as oral traditions handed down from generation to generation, each generation interacting with and changing the message to define its own “present truth.” Later these oral traditions were penned by priests and scholars, not inspired prophets. Some scholars even take what can only be called a mystical approach to Scripture and suggest that it is our obligation to interact with these sacred texts because they have “infinite flexibility and call for constant reinterpretation” as we search for and define today’s present truth. What a perfect ploy on the part of Satan to cast doubt on the authority of Scripture. I think that if Jesus were with us today, He would be saying, “Beware the yeast of the historical-critical method.”
A biblical approach to marriage and the family proclaims that marriage is a sacred union between one man and one woman. Defining sin is God’s domain, and not a task He entrusts to humans. If God says not to eat of a particular tree, then we shouldn’t eat of it. If God says not to participate in sexual immorality, then we shouldn’t. The world, however, insists that human reason and experience, sometimes mixed with biblical teaching, determines right and wrong when it comes to sexuality. After all, why would a loving God deny a person a relationship they have come to think of as holy and pure? What a perfect ploy on the part of Satan to cast doubt on God’s character, redefining the institution of marriage. I think that if Jesus were with us here today, He would be saying, “Beware the yeast of sexual immorality.”
A final indicator I will be looking for when selecting a college or university will be to gauge the institution’s attitude toward what is popularly known as the emerging church movement. While on the surface, the message of the emerging church may sound appealing by emphasizing “authenticity and the spiritual experience of the individual,” most adherents ultimately deny almost every fundamental belief Seventh-day Adventists hold to be true, including the Genesis account of Creation, original sin, the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, and the Second Coming. Some emergent church disciples even deny that there is a devil. These denials cannot be reconciled with Seventh-day Adventism, and I will be attentive to what a selected college or university both allows and encourages about this religious trend. What a perfect ploy on the part of Satan to cast doubt on almost every facet of God’s character. I think that if Jesus were with us here today, He would be saying, “Beware the yeast of the emergent church.”
As Jesus’ disciples, living at the end of time, we are called to be in the world but not of the world. I expect—as a parent “stakeholder” and consumer—that Adventist educational institutions will answer this call by emphasizing the Word of God as the foundation of our educational system and the underlying premise of each academic discipline. Philosophies and theories built on other foundations should be taught as information, but should also be critiqued from the biblical worldview. This approach alone will lead our students—and my children—to think biblically, believe in Jesus Christ, and thus be armed against the doubt the devil devises.
There’s nothing more valuable to our family than our children. My wife and I are committed to entrusting them only to an educational institution that will teach them to love God, teach them how to serve others, and prepare them for Jesus’ second coming.
Douglas Zinke lives with his family in Ashton, Maryland.