An ex-Seventh-Day Adventist friend of mine posted a question that got a lot of replies: When you were a Seventh-Day Adventist, what was your opinion of non-Seventh-Day Adventists?
I myself was never a Seventh-Day Adventist, though I attended Adventist churches for about a decade. But I grew up as a Sabbatarian, one who honored Saturday as the seventh-day Sabbath. At times, my family would attend offshoots from Herbert W. Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God, or offshoots from offshoots. At other times, we would go to a local branch of the Church of God (Seventh-Day), from which the Worldwide Church of God was an offshoot! And there were some occasions when we would attend an offshoot from the Seventh-Day Adventist church.
My friend’s question got me thinking about how I used to perceive people who did not honor the Seventh-Day Sabbath.
I think that the question that went through my mind when I was a child was this: How can people not keep the Sabbath? It’s in the Bible, after all! The Bible said that God rested on the seventh day, which is Saturday. The fourth commandment concerns resting on the seventh day, the Sabbath, or Saturday. So why did people around us work on Saturday and go to church on Sunday? Certainly they can read, can they not? How did they miss the plain teaching of the Bible?
The answer we usually got was that they were deceived by Satan. And, although on this blog I have expressed disgust with that sort of answer—seeing it as a condescending dismissal of other points of view—I must admit that the people who made this claim were not exactly saying that they themselves were deceit-proof. They sincerely thought that God had opened their eyes to truths that the rest of the world did not have, and that they couldn’t legitimately pat themselves on the back and congratulate themselves for arriving at those truths on their own. Why? Because there was a time when they themselves were just like the society around them. For some time, they went to church on Sunday, kept Christmas and Easter, worked at their jobs on Saturdays, and ate pork bacon for breakfast, without it even dawning on them that they should question what they were doing. Why did they reach a point where they thought that what they were doing was wrong, and that the Bible was presenting them with an alternative way of doing things? And in an obvious sense, too! After all, there’s nothing in the Bible that explicitly commands people to go to church on Sunday, or to keep Christmas, or Easter. But there is in the Bible a command to honor the seventh day as the Sabbath. I think that people who joined the Armstrong movement wondered how they missed that for so long, and also how the rest of the world missed it. The world being deceived was one explanation that they settled on. God opening their own eyes to the truth corresponded to that.
And they also made another observation: There are many religious people who don’t read the Bible for themselves, but rather they settle on what their preacher tells them, or what society tells them.
I can’t really say that I hold this Armstrongite sort of worldview anymore. But there’s something about it that intrigues me: How people could arrive at a point where they questioned what they and the society around them were believing and doing, and embark on a path that appeared to be so bizarre to others. And they weren’t exactly pulling these beliefs out of the clear blue sky, for they could point to passages in the Bible in which God commanded the observance of the Sabbath (whether they correctly applied those passages, or not). It’s surprising to me that they bucked the trend, but, in a sense, it’s also surprising that so few others did. Why did so few people ask why they kept Sunday, but not Saturday? Did the rest of society even think of reading the Bible to see if their beliefs and practices matched up with it? Not really. They just went with the flow. For those who joined the Armstrong movement, the fact that they themselves bucked the trend was nothing short of miraculous!