Why are we here? What is our mission as a church? How do we describe God? How should we view other Christian denominations? What is at the core of sanctification? How should a Christian regard the environment? alcohol? sex? politics? abortion? evolution? There are many questions.
Last week I was chatting with a friend about the state of the Adventist Church in Denmark. In that conversation the idea was floated of launching a new church magazine for people my age – people who will soon be growing too old for the youth magazine, but don’t really feel ready to join the mainstream. While there is probably too few resources for such an endeavour (and, as I pointed out, some bloggers try to fill the gap) it highlighted an issue of change. Change in the broader culture and now also in the church.
For years the education system (in Northern Europe, at least) has been teaching everybody how to question the established; not to take truths for granted; how to judge anything and anybody on their merits, not on our own presuppositions. I believe this is good. And while church has been slow to catch on (as it has with many things – music is one), this is now the predominant way of thinking among the educated young and middle-aged, within the church as well as outside it.
The church has been actively, if not explicitly, encouraging this, at least at the youth level. Many years of teen retreats, pathfinder camps, the boarding school Vejlefjord, and other things have somewhat contributed to a new way of thinking: that asking questions is ok; no, that it is good. The church planting projects of the last decade have, despite their very different styles and missions, had this in common: they ask questions. They do not take established truths for granted. They wonder: why don’t we do like this instead?
Once upon a time the Adventist pioneers did exactly the same. They asked questions, they sought answers for themselves, and they didn’t accept the argument: that’s how we’ve always done it. Today much of the Adventist establishment has grown stale. And while older generations may tolerate young people asking questions, many do so with an expectation that eventually they will find the right answers (i.e., theirs).
I don’t think finding the right answer to every question is possible, or even desirable. There are some things people will never fully agree on, and this doesn’t have to be a problem. I believe and hope that the current leadership of the church in Denmark will acknowledge and encourage this. I dream of a church where nobody ever stops asking questions; and nobody ever stubbornly holds that they have the only right answers. Because they never do – only God can claim that right.