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Anabaptists and Adventists:
What Can They Teach Each Other?

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BY GARY WAGONER

now, as a defender of the Advent heritage, I wonder whether Adventists can learn anything from the descendants of the Anabaptists. You bet!

Let’s start with simplicity. It’s funny how modesty and simplicity often keep company. Take clothing, for example. My wife and I occasionally find ourselves missing the simplicity of our Anabaptist days. We share a longing sharpened by the world’s fascination with seduction. We see attire (or the lack of it) in Adventist pews--seductive attire--that would not have made it up the aisle of our former church. There! Got that off my chest!

Simplicity has other dimensions, such as never feeling any pressure to keep up with the proverbial Joneses. We can cultivate a virtue treasured by my family from my boyhood--the virtue of gratefulness stripped of material competition. (I suspect that some of my father’s friends may occasionally covet their neighbors’ new buggy or horse-drawn plow. On this point, the Lord may have to develop some sanctification in both pastures.)

Manual skills. Good craftsmanship is a receding shore in America. I know this as a contractor. People are slowly losing the desire and ability to work skillfully with their hands. The Anabaptists have moved into this vacuum, surprised to learn that the skills they take for granted are highly prized in modern society.

My Amish cousin Abe once apologized when he showed me a beautiful handmade bureau chest he had made for a daughter. “I’m not really a craftsman like the man down the road,” he said. New York City people would fight each other for a chance to own one of his oak and walnut bureaus. No cheap plastic in this masterpiece.

Sure, it could be argued that Amish technology is subpar; after all, they use air saws and hand tools. But in this setting, skill is an easy master over the electrical cord. Hands can be trained, as were the Lord’s in His youth. Most Amish daughters are taught at minimum the invaluable skills of cooking and sewing.

Historically, Adventists have placed a premium upon academics linked to vocational skills. I understand that until a few decades ago one could not graduate from an Adventist college without having acquired aptitude in some vocation.

I’m happy, of course, for the Adventist Church’s medical ministry, though teaching how to live and alter lifestyles, emphasized in the early sanitariums, seems to have been substantially diminished, at least in America. As for education, I’m all for it, if it’s the right kind. I’d be even happier if Adventist youth were taught quality manual skills.

Family togetherness. I read much today about parents spending quality time with their children. The term seems to excuse a minimum of time parents spend with their children if they shout love instead of whispering it. Quality time doesn’t come during a 70-mile-per-hour day; it comes in quiet times when time itself slows down and love blossoms. It begins when we learn it’s OK to say “no” for the sake of the family. We need to ask whether it’s really necessary for both father and mother to work outside the home. Or is it made necessary only by our desire for the things of a world that is passing away?

Most Anabaptists have avoided this pitfall. They also take the marriage vow seriously and look for ways to strengthen the union rather than for loopholes to put asunder what the Lord has joined. I’m grateful for their example.

Entertainment. Most Anabaptists grow up without a television, as Nancy and I did. After we became Adventists, we had one for three months, the time it took for us to see what television is made of and that it “ain’t gettin’ any better” (as Grandma would say). We threw the set out, along with its sinister influence. When people ask why we don’t have one, we just say, “We can’t afford it.” And that’s the truth.

Besides, we have too much fun without one. We have a woodworking shop out behind the house, where the whole family can get excited about a project. We also have a dirt bike track back in the woods, where you could often find Dylan (19), Nathan (16), and me. We have a softball field in our four-acre yard. We’re just too busy for Hollywood. We have enough money for a TV. But, as I said, we just can’t afford it.

Wearing the Mantle

What can Anabaptists learn from Adventists?

Just look at the precious truths the Lord has given Adventists. Anabaptists, their tree planted firmly on the Reformation waterside, often paid the supreme price as they sought to pass on the doctrine of believer’s baptism and, in some cases, even the seventh-day Sabbath.

But, like other Reformers, they laid down their spiritual weapons too early, and spent their remaining energy holding on to the truths they had, rather than continuing their search for more. Thus it remained for the Lord to raise a small band in the 1800s willing to challenge the world with the news that Jesus is coming again.

My Anabaptist friends desperately need the confidence Adventists have in the Scriptures. Too few Anabaptists desire to look deeper into Bible teachings. Too often they simply set their feet in the path to truths Grandpa found (if it was good enough for Grandpa . . .). Knowing the power of the truth that laid hold of me, I am persuaded that many of my former brothers and sisters would stand with me if they could only see what I see in the Scriptures. I found not simply academic truths intellectually presented and absorbed. Rather, I discovered the truth as it is in Jesus. Powerful! Living! Convicting!


 
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