SDA Doctrines: The Value of Human Beings Basic to Doctrinal Adjustment
The value of human beings must be the driving factor of the SDA Church. Without question, people matter. The here and now, is what drives who we are, how we live and how we think. Consideration of how we progress though our modern lives is essential.
To get some background on this discussion you may wish to read:
- SDA Doctrines: What to Do?
- Religious Language as Sign and Symbol
- SDA Doctrines: Faith & Adjustments to the Doctrine of God
Forming a System of Values
The first step for the religious person in resolving the question of religious relevance would seem to be asking the most obvious questions: Given the kind of existential questions we are asking, what is immediately present for our epistemological consideration; and on what basis are we to form a system of values? Thinking of the answer to these questions in terms of “risk” would normally lead us to opt for giving “known present earthly life” (existence) priority over a promised but unknown “ideal,” a utopian life in the world made new. Actually, the fundamentalist tendency to view the present as evil while idealizing the past as utopia, negates any hope for the future. The future is often subject to the determination of the myth of the eternal return.
Empirically and rationally, humans in the here and now are the most valuable things in the universe, and their values help shape the future. While sounding suspect, and string theorists with their faith in infinite numbers of universes are positively hostile to it, positing a cosmological constant for each possible universe, on the basis of what we do know about the universe, the statement seems obvious because as far as we know humans are the only organism capable of knowing the universe and cognitively forming values. If you ask, “but what about God?” you are asking only about the symbol for something greater than you think you know.
Extending Value to Human Beings
Certainly, while humans are the result of evolution, there is a metaphysical quality that describes human beings beyond their evolutionary ancestors. To be human is to be greater than the sum of our parts. That metaphysics may reference God, if you will, but it need not. The issue is more difficult than I have made it sound. Brain science is busy looking for applicable mechanisms to explain all aspects of our mental life, but explaining human beings by mechanisms threatens to reduce humans to deterministic machines.
Likewise, in religion, concentrating exclusively on beliefs that demote the value of human beings, and the “here and now,” to the idea of eternal God, and the value of the “there and then” are subversive to the need for immediate action to preserve both ourselves as humans and the world in which we live. The value of human beings in the here and now is to be expressed as a primary value in doctrine.
Answers to Value of Human Beings: Stay Present
We must bring ourselves to attention on the question of values such as, integrity, justice, rights; values which are not to be separated from human love. Are we willing to risk the present good for our understanding of a promise for the future?
Once again, the fundamentalist doctrine of revelation and the infallible text become a stumbling block to understanding the value of the present good. To put it in the most shocking way, some doctrines can promote not only irresponsibility, but a subtle suicidal attitude for the future. The present, which is known, is devalued for the future which is unknown. So, drink your Kool Aid, or strap on a suicide vest. The future will be better. God says so.
Joe Greig, Ph.D.
Ph.D. (New College, Edinburgh University), Professor Emeritus Andrews University, Berrien Springs, MI