In a time of sickness a crisis may mean either recovery or it may mean the end. To such a crisis this sin-sick world of ours has come—a crisis where the world will either start improving or it may be the end of everything.
When we think of the Greek word krisis (meaning a time of dividing, of choice—even of accusation), we can agree that we have come to just such a state of affairs We can either expect a time of recovery, a time of great and noble attainments, or we can expect a further deterioration, degeneration, and retrogression in the immediate future.
Some optimistic thinkers of our time are expecting that the world will get better. And they are calling the crisis we are experiencing a time of transition. Seventh-day Adventists have strong doubts about this, of course. But we can agree with them that we have arrived at the "great dividing" where definite choices will have to be made, for we realize undoubtedly that this crisis is not politically isolated. It is something that is all-embracing, all-controlling in the lives of modern man.
Mankind has known times of crisis in the past. We think of how the Greco-Roman world came to a crisis, declined, retrogressed, and how the Christian Middle Ages became dominant in Europe.
Then another crisis developed—the time when modern rationalism became uppermost; a period of boundless human freedom, self-confidence—mankind suffering from a delusion of power. And then a third period of critical transition was experienced when a new rational world period became dominant—a time when human freedom existed in certain, permanent boundaries.
World Crisis Coming
For a time everything seemed to go smoothly. But we have now come to a crisis differing from all others; differing not only as far as content is concerned, but as far as magnitude and scope are concerned. The previous times of crisis were usually to be found in the West only, but now Western civilization has spread to new territories on the globe, e.g., Africa and Asia. All parts of the world have been welded together by the science and technology of the West. We have a world traffic, a world intercommunication system, a world culture. These things are continually enhancing until, as it seems, this world is becoming one big, unhappy family. These contributing factors have brought man to the greatest crisis in history—a political, social, economical, and religious crisis. This will be a time in which we can expect a racial confrontation as never before experienced in mankind's history.
It is in this time, called by philosophers "the critical period of transition," that we find man has lost his boundless self-confidence and self-glorification, because of the two world wars. After three centuries—the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth—man has come to the abyss of nothingness. He has found no home among the stars of the universe (although still desperately trying to). He has come to the point where he is seeking for a place and longing for that place where there is no God.
Even in science man has found that he cannot comprehend everything; that some things happening in nature are not necessarily happening according to fixed laws, and, therefore, everything is not precisely precalculable and predictable. Yes, even in nature there is uncertainty.
He has found, too, that he cannot fully isolate the object of his thought, but that he, in the process of thinking, is being involved himself. His brain is not, as he previously thought, an objective registering apparatus with which he can determine precisely what is going on around him.
The World of Uncertainty
Man has suddenly realized the limits of what his physical, emotional, and spiritual composition can endure. And the most important feature of the crisis man has come to is the abandonment of all established standards in all spheres of life. We find, especially in the sphere of truth, that there are no more certainties. Man does not know anything anymore for sure. And this has come about because of the liberalistic loosening of all ties between man and his fellow man, his family, his nation, and his country. We can see it as a process whereby the individual has become a member of a local and international amorphous mass. And, ironically enough, we find at the same time the linking together of mankind—mankind so vastly different in its culture, thinking, and religion. No wonder he has come to the place where religion, culture, and tradition are regarded suspiciously, not worthy of notice any more; things that man must break away from as quickly as possible.
The main symptom of mankind's sickness is that he has nothing of which he can be definitely sure. We can see that he is constantly seeking for stronger sensational stimulation—stimuli that will help him in his loneliness (e.g., the devilish LSD used by thousands of young people). Man has drifted away from nature and healthy labor and is stranded on a beach of loneliness where he is trying to find comfort in drugs, alcohol, and still stronger stimuli.
Ironically, too, he is looking for more knowledge which, of course, is being supplied by superficial and sensational information through mass mediums such as the press, films, radio, and TV. His thoughts and thinking are thus being led in a predetermined pathway, in a vicious circle that we feel is the final spiritual crisis of this world.
Some optimists reckon that man will be able to overcome all these difficulties, that the world will recover from its sickbed. But Seventh-day Adventists believe that we have reached the beginning of the end. That "there should be time no longer." As the R.S.V. puts it: "that there should be no more delay" before our blessed Lord will come again (cf. Rev. 10:5, 6).
In this final crisis what should be the attitude of God's remnant people? Should we be abandoning the established standards; discarding the very attributes that have made us the remnant? Should we be allowing ourselves to drift away to the place where we will know no certainties like the church we have been called out from? Will the church allow herself to be swept away by the pernicious currents of this time? We can undoubtedly see the crisis of the world developing within the Christian church itself, where she is allowing unnecessary room for uncertainties and coming even to the place where the existence of God is being discarded or questioned!
What must the outstanding characteristic of God's church be? Is it not that she must be like a firm rock among the swirling and destructive currents where sinking man can get a firm grasp and thus be saved for eternity? Or should she be allowing herself to be influenced in such a way that even she will know no certainties anymore?
The question, therefore, arises whether we have been allowing the spirit of the outdoor crisis to come indoors or not. How one can wish we were able to say honestly that it has stayed completely outside the walls of our church! But sadly we will have to admit that the last spiritual crisis of the world has had its influence on us as the remnant people. And the most important symptom of that influence can be seen in the fact that we as a people (and here we as ministers are mostly to be blamed) have come to the place where we hardly know anything for sure any more. Are we able to give definite answers to the questions of our people? Or do we leave the inquirer none the wiser? Are we not sure any more of the landmarks on our way to eternity? And because we are not sure of the landmarks, are we in danger of abandoning established standards?
If we were to ask the average Seventh-day Adventist minister this question, "What are the things you are definitely sure about?" what would the answer be? Perhaps the answer would show confidence in some of the great Bible truths that we hold, such as the Sabbath, baptism, the second coming. But how sadly we have come short of giving our people definite answers on some other questions of vital importance. Do we believe in the Spirit of Prophecy wholeheartedly? Or do we regard it only as good council for a time gone by? What do we know for sure regarding this vital issue?
As ministers what do we believe about health reform (not referring to vegetarianism only)? What definite answers can we give God's people on this great subject? Seeing that we are living in a time of crisis that is demanding great strength of intellect, great physical endurance, and complete spiritual well-being, what do we answer? Or are we not so sure about some of the things that have been written for our instruction?
Do we have certain definite standards, standards given to us by God, regarding dress, sport, amusements, and entertainments? Or are we helping to create disorder among the remnant people because we do not know anything for sure?
Our people (like mankind around us) are in desperate need of definite answers. Do we "study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15)? When our young people ask us questions about TV, radio, films, dancing, et cetera, do we know the answers and the reasons for sure? What will we answer about going to drive-in theaters where we sit in our own cars? What will we answer about modern art, modern literature, modern music? Have we decided reverently and devotionally before God what the only answers are? Or do we prefer to evade them, comforting our people by saying, "It is not so important"? Are we able to give the trumpet of warning a clear and certain sound? Are we able to say a definite Yes or No in the fear of the Lord?
Let us "give diligence" to make our "calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall" (2 Peter 1:10). We have followed no "cunningly devised fables" (verse 16) and, therefore, as leaders of the people we must be sure about the landmarks and the standards on our way to eternity. Let us call sin and worldliness by their right names. Let us not be guilty of loose, uncertain speculations, creating disorder among a people who have a battle to fight to keep the crisis of this world outside their strongholds.
The world has always had its influence upon the church throughout the ages. But we have been called "out of darkness into his marvellous light" (1 Peter 2:9). If we would only walk in "his marvellous light," we would know the answers to our people's questions. We should not be saturated by the wine of fornication of this world. We should know the landmarks. We should not abandon the standards. We should not sow insecurity and uncertainty and then we will not reap problems and discontent.
Let us humbly and prayerfully reconsider the standards that we are called to stand for. Let us be able to "know for sure" the vital issues at stake in this world's last spiritual crisis. Let us be worthy of the confidence our people have in us, and let us, in the strength of God, keep the time of krisis outside the walls of the church.