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I like of lot of the work Pastor Bell does on social issues, but this is an absolutely silly stunt.

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What difference does God make?

About a year ago a friend and Episcopal priest, told me her atheist friend asked her this question. She found it harder to answer than she expected. He had batted away her first few attempts and she was now running it by me. We didn’t end up discussing it for very long but the question has stayed with me. Recently I decided I would find out, by living for a year without God.

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I was more or less raised in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. My parents were United Methodists when I was born in 1971 in Parma, Ohio — a suburb on the west side of Cleveland. When I was six years old my parents’ marriage started to come apart and in an effort to save it, we all ended up with my mom’s parents in Southern California. Part of the effort to save their marriage must have been a renewed commitment to their Christian faith, this time in the Seventh-day Adventist dialect of my grandparents.

From that time until early 2013, I lived within the family of the church. My relationship with God and the church has taken many turns — a story for another time — but I always managed to maintain the tension between the relatively unchanging demands of the church, my growing understanding of God, and my own personal experience of the world. I realize now that this tension was always there. These relationships were never easy for me. Whether during my fundamentalist phase, during college, or my growing progressive convictions in recent years, I always had a nagging sense that I didn’t fit. So, naturally, I became a pastor. Since 1991 I have either been a pastor or in school developing my skills to be a better pastor. When I felt that I couldn’t do it anymore I was convinced, by myself and others, that I could make my best contribution from inside rather than outside the church. So I stayed.

As it turns out, the day came when I really didn’t fit within the church anymore. I had been an outspoken critic of the church’s approach to our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered members — that approach being exclusion or, at best, second class membership (“we won’t kick you out but you can’t participate in leadership”). Through the years, I had also been a critic of the church’s treatment of women, their approach to evangelism and their tunnel-vision approach to church growth. I was deeply committed to my community and its betterment — something that won me the praise of some (and even an Innovative Church of the Year award from the North American Division) and the vitriol of others. I engaged in and sponsored interfaith relationships within my churches and in the community. I struggled alongside our neighbors for justice and peace. All of these things — things I was most proud of in my ministry — earned me rebuke and alienation from church administrators. I tried to maintain that I was a faithful critic — a critic from within — someone committed to the church and its future success but unwilling to go blindly along with things I felt were questionable, or even wrong.

This was on top of my theological concerns. I couldn’t affirm the teaching that the Seventh-day Adventist Church was the “remnant church” — God’s chosen people to prepare the world for the last days. If fact, there was a lot about the church’s beliefs concerning the last days (and the more proximate days) that troubled me.

In March, I stood my ground on these issues and was asked to resign. I didn’t want to resign but I finally agreed. My family and my health had suffered over the past several years but my faith had suffered most of all. Since that time I have been a religious nomad. I have struggled to relate to the church and, if I’m honest, God. I haven’t attended church consistently; I struggle to relate to church people, preferring the company of skeptics and non-church-goers. I haven’t prayed much and, without sermons to write on a regular basis, I haven’t studied, or even really read, the Bible.

So, I’m making it official and embarking on a new journey. I will “try on” atheism for a year. For the next 12 months I will live as if there is no God. I will not pray, read the Bible for inspiration, refer to God as the cause of things or hope that God might intervene and change my own or someone else’s circumstances. (I trust that if there really is a God that God will not be too flummoxed by my foolish experiment and allow others to suffer as a result).

I will read atheist “sacred texts” — from Hobbes and Spinoza to Russell and Nietzsche to the trinity of New Atheists, Hitchens, Dawkins and Dennett. I will explore the various ways of being atheist, from naturalism (Voltaire, Dewey, et al) to the new ‘religious atheists’ (Alain de Botton and Ronald Dworkin). I will also attempt to speak to as many actual atheists as possible — scholars, writers and ordinary unbelievers — to learn how they have come to their non-faith and what it means to them. I will visit atheist gatherings and try it on.

In short, I will do whatever I can to enter the world of atheism and live, for a year, as an atheist. It’s important to make the distinction that I am not an atheist. At least not yet. I am not sure what I am. That’s part of what this year is about.

For this life-long Christian, and a pastor for nearly 20 years, this feels abnormal. Risky, even. It is as uncomfortable as a lifelong atheist trying on Christianity for a year. Many of my colleagues will fear for my eternal security (what if I somehow die during the year?), others will question my mental health, reasoning that the recent trauma in my life has sent me over the edge. Perhaps they are right. There has been some religious trauma in my life in the last year and it has shaken the foundation of my faith, but honestly, it was getting pretty shaky anyway.

My desire is, as always, to pursue the truth and do it in a sometimes serious, sometimes playful, way that might be insightful for others as well. During the year I will be blogging my experience here and working on a book. I invite you to follow along and share your thoughts.

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Wow. The book of Proverbs talks extensively about this kind of behavior, thinking, attitude. Does "fool" sound too harsh? 

"My relationship with God and the church has taken many turns — a story for another time — but I always managed to maintain the tension between the relatively unchanging demands of the church, my growing understanding of God, and my own personal experience of the world."

He stated what his problem is in the beginning, but refuses to see that his solution is actually adding to the problem. Hebrews 13:8; Revelation 4:8; James 1:17. These verses all point to God's unchanging nature, but he instead demands that God change with the times, follow trends, etc.

I do have to commend him for stepping down. I wouldn't be comfortable as a member of his church, or bring visitors to the service, if he was publicly expressing his disappointment in what he feels is too rigid, harsh, etc. But it's when we are feeling doubt and discouragement that we should turn to God, not the world.

Remember, it has been Satan's accusation since the beginning that God isn't fair. Whenever we hear someone making similar claims, look deeper, at the motives. Does this guy really think the SDA church and doctrines are outdated, unfair, exclusive, or is he trying to compromise the truth with his own personal rebellion? 

WOW.  This is the most liberal, ecumenical, community organizing Marxist agitating, Jesuit social justice, homosexual, Babylonian SDA pastor I've EVER seen.  I didn't know it was THIS blatant.  I honestly never thought I would see it this in-your-face evil.

---my growing progressive convictions in recent years, I always had a nagging sense that I didn’t fit.  So, naturally, I became a pastor.

Liberalism, a.k.a. progressivism, is not compatible with the SDA Christian religion.  Liberalism believes that one can do whatever one wants, whenever one wants.  One can employ homosexuals in leadership / role model positions, dress how they want, listen to whatever kind of music one wants, eat, think, worship, etc. etc.  This vision is incompatible with the obedience and faithfulness required in a child of God, and is directly opposed to the three angel's messages which is the duty of SDA to proclaim.

The law of God is a revelation of His will, a transcript of His character, the expression of divine love and wisdom. The harmony of creation depends upon perfect conformity to the law of the Creator. Everything is under fixed laws, which cannot be disregarded. But man alone, of all that inhabits the earth, is amenable to moral law. To man, God has given power to comprehend the justice and beneficence of His law, and of man unswerving obedience is required.” {EP 22.3}

----I had been an outspoken critic of the church’s approach to our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered members — that approach being exclusion or, at best, second class membership (“we won’t kick you out but you can’t participate in leadership”). Through the years, I had also been a critic of the church’s treatment of women

This whole narrative here comes straight from cultural Marxism, which was the elite's answer, and the Roman Catholic Churches answer, to defeating Protestant culture and republican government in Western civilization.  It is literally designed to deconstruct and destroy Western civilization so it can be remade in the image of Babylon.  I could supply five footnotes supporting this, but I'm tired.  It is used in Jesuit Social Justice, Feminism, Jesuit Liberation Theology, Jesuit Social Gospel, Critical Theory / Historical-Critical Hermeneutics, Cultural Studies, Multiculturalism, Gender Theory, and in advocating for LBGT rights and equality, and is the core ideology of community organizers a.k.a. Marxist agitators, which is what President O'Vomit did for twenty years before becoming president when he worked for Jesuit Priest Fr. Galuzzo.  All of this is part of the counter-reformation--it is purely Jesuitical and meant to destabilze society, the church, and the Patriarchal nuclear family which are what has made our society so strong in the past. 

----I engaged in and sponsored interfaith relationships within my churches and in the community. I struggled alongside our neighbors for justice and peace.

I mean seriously?  Interfaith?  Can anyone say "Image to the Beast?"  We are not to enter dialog, or "relationships" with apostate religious organizations.  It is completely against the Bible and SOP:

Relations With Those Not of Our Persuasion

The question may be asked, Are we to have no union whatever with the world? The word of the Lord is to be our guide. Any connection with infidels and unbelievers that would identify us with them, is forbidden by the Word. We are to come out from among them, and be separate. In no case are we to link ourselves with them in their plans of work. But we are not to live reclusive lives. We are to do worldlings all the good we possibly can.

Christ has given us an example of this. When invited to eat with publicans and sinners, He did not refuse; for in no other way than by mingling with them could He reach this class. But on every occasion He opened up themes of conversation which brought things of eternal interest to their minds. And He enjoins us, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. Matthew 5:16. --Gospel Workers, 394

The society of unbelievers will do us no harm if we mingle with them for the purpose of connecting them with God and are strong enough spiritually to withstand their influence.

Christ came into the world to save it, to connect fallen man with the infinite God. Christ’s followers are to be channels of light. Maintaining communion with God, they are to transmit to those in darkness and error the choice blessings which they receive of heaven. Enoch did not become polluted with the iniquities existing in his day; why need we in our day? But we may, like our Master, have compassion for suffering humanity, pity for the unfortunate, and a generous consideration for the feelings and necessities of the needy, the troubled, and the despairing. --Testimonies for the Church 5:113

Look at this heresy in the Hollywood Church.  Only an indoctrinated pseudo-academic fool or a Papal change agent would attack the Protestant ethic of the patriarchal nuclear family and decry heterosexuality.  This is off the deep end crazy:

I have to disagree with your definition of conservatism. Now don't get me wrong here.  If we were speaking politically, which I AM NOT, but if we were, I would predicate everything by stating emphatically that I am NOT a conservative, and I am NOT a neo-liberal / progressive.

Conservatism seeks to preserve the foundations and traditions of a system.  It is averse to imprudent change.  We as a people should be (as much as I personally dislike the word) a conservative people:

To equate Pharisaism with Conservatism isn't really accurate Aquila because conservatism denotes a progressive unfolding of truth with a cautious acceptation of new truth, while Pharisaism is dictatorial and self interested.  It took me a while to warm to the idea.

Liberalism is the zeitgeist of the day and has been the trend since the renaissance.

"Thus saith the Lord, Sand you in the wys, and see, ad ask for the OLD PATHS, where is the good wy, and walk therein, and you shall find rest for your souls.  But they said, We will not walk therein.  Also I set watchmen over you saying, Hearken o the sound of the trumpet.  But they said, We will not hearken."  Jer 6:16-17

I wonder what the spirit of Sadduceeism is? 

One thing is for sure, both Legalism and Liberalism are being used to create neo-Babylon.  Clearly Rome is qualitatively Legalistic while strategically aiming neo-Liberalism at the churches to destabilize Protestantism.

Walter Veith touched on this and said the same thing.

 

Agree, the pastor is a leftist snake.

That is why I walk the knife's edge between the two of you.

You are correct, Daniel. Speaking in terms of Adventist conservatism and liberalism both extreme sides are whacked.  Why is it so hard to be balanced and sober and see things for how they are? 

I have wondered that for years.  But, there are a lot of good people to associate with that are neither one nor the other.  

I guess I just have my own weird way of thinking about this.  As far as politically, the left-right paradigm is an obvious psy-op which I shun like the black death..  I'm an old-pather libertarian republican Constitutionalist. 

When it comes to SDA, I don't see any justification for equating conservative / liberal neatly with Pharisee / Sadducee, so my thinking is that since we're called to be 'restorers' of something from the past, 'repairers' of something that was already there before, 'builders' of the old waste places (Is. 61:4, 58:12) and we are told that: "Nothing is to be allowed to come in that will disturb the foundation of the faith upon which we have been building ever since the message came in 1842, 1843, and 1844," then the SDA faith fits a conservative moniker as far as I can tell.  Centrists in this context tend towards compromise and fence sitting, and they're not particular enough in their defense of the line of distinction between the world and the church. {GCB April 6, 1903, Art. A, par. 35} It's common sense that someone who would be opposed to WOPE would primarily be considered a conservative in my view.

 read this and it makes me sad. Jeremiah 20, especially verse 9 comes to mind. I hope and pray that Bell's love for God is stronger than his love for liberalism and frustration with doctrine. 

Also, didn't George R. Knight come to a similar conclusion years ago and resigned as pastor? The end result was his book  The Apocalyptic Vision and the Neutering of Adventism. 

I remember buying that book back in 2009 and mostly agreeing with what I had read. However, I misplaced the book so I never finished it. Has anyone read that book?

With regards to Jeremiah 20:9. Yes indeed, very appropraite. If His word is in our hearts, it will look for expression. But if we give it no vent, it will die away.

"Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But His word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay." (Jer 20:9)

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