by Colleen Tinker
On September 22, the Adventist Review ran a story introducing the new Sabbath School Lessons which will be released in 2019. The lessons and “quarterlies” for “beginners” through young adults “will provide a daily Bible study lesson” and “will follow the Bible timeline over a two-to-four-year period, depending on the division.”
The lessons for children from infants through high school will be called MyBibleGuides, and the young adult lessons which will replace the Collegiate Quarterly will be named inVerse.
The Sabbath School and Personal Ministers Department (SSPMD) of the General Conference states nine objectives for these new Sabbath School lessons on its website, MyBibleGuides.me. Many of these are not surprising, such as learning Adventism’s teaching on God’s love and the plan of salvation, inclusive artwork and content to accommodate a world audience, daily lessons to encourage daily study, and so forth.
Embedded in these nine objectives, however, is a more focussed emphasis on uniquely Adventist doctrines and practices. For example, point number two is “emphasize key Adventist beliefs”, but the explanatory copy states that Sabbath School is the “religious education period” during which “students study God’s word, the Bible. As such, children will gain a clear understanding of the Bible and its values, from which all Adventist beliefs are derived.”
It is a fact that Adventism is not taught in the Bible; rather, Ellen White’s books describe Adventist beliefs and practices supported by out-of-context proof texts. To state that the second objective for the new lessons is to “emphasize key Adventist beliefs” and then to explain that the goal will be realized by children’s learning how the Bible supports those beliefs clearly illustrates Adventist double-speak. The copy reveals the intentional teaching of Adventist proof-texting to all ages beginning with the youngest children.
Another clearly stated objective is to “recognize the prophetic gift of Ellen White, key lessons from Adventist history, and end time events.” These new lessons will not be only a cursory look at biblical themes; they will overtly include teaching about the ongoing authority of Ellen White’s prophetic voice. In addition, they will educate children about the history of Adventism. These lessons will be especially important for the new converts from other continents where Adventism is not “home-grown”. African and Brazilian children, for example, will understand their religion better if they learn about its history along with their Sabbath School lessons. These new study guides are designed to help children to think and to feel like “Adventists” by identifying with historic Adventism and their unifying prophetess, Ellen White. They will be taught to believe in her just as they are being taught to believe their Bible proof-texts.
The eighth stated objective is “include enrichments that complement the lessons”. The explanatory copy then states that “science, health, and nature enrichments” will be included “to further illustrate the lesson themes.” The first lesson in the new series illustrates one such enrichment; the “Health Nugget” for that study explains the NEWSTART lifestyle program. This detail will be discussed in more detail below.
Finally, the ninth objective is to “include children in the mission of the church”. The copy then overtly states the new curriculum’s intention to make children part of Ted Wilson’s Total Member Involvement initiative. It says, “Total Member Involvement or TMI is a plan to involve everyone, including children, in the mission of the church. The MyBibleGuides Leaders’ manual will include time for weekly TMI In-reach (to visit, pray, care for missing or hurting members), TMI Out-reach (to discuss activities and ways to reach out to the community), and TMI Up-reach (Bible study time, reaching up to God).”
Adventism is intentionally attempting to train (some might say “brainwash”) its children into deeply identifying with historic Adventism and seeing themselves as bound to the goals, practices, and beliefs of the religion. Superficial Adventism is not the goal; they want their children growing up completely dedicated to working for, honoring, and practicing an Adventist lifestyle and mission. No child is too young to become an active part of TMI.
Duane McKey, the director of the SSPMD was quoted in the Adventist Review on April 5, 2016, as saying that the new lessons are “not only about Jesus on the cross but the teachings of Jesus as well.” The article went on to say that the main goal of the lessons is to ensure “that children have a solid, practical understanding of what they believe as Seventh-day Adventists by the time they reach adulthood.”
McKey also “expressed concern that Adventist children are being bombarded with biblically incorrect messages about spiritualism and the state of the dead through the media and public schools,” and “the revised Sabbath School curriculum would help them navigate those issues as well as give them an understanding of how the Sabbath was changed from Saturday to Sunday and of basic endgame prophecies such as Daniel 2.”
The children’s Bible study guides “are to lead children into an experiential and saving relationship with Jesus Christ, to help children better understand the character of God and the love of Jesus, and to give children a clear understanding of key biblical teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” the department leaders say.
InVerse, the new young adult lessons, “will address unique biblical topics such as apologetics, sexuality, spirituality in the professional life, missions, and leadership.” The Adventist Review states that the studies will be “Christocentric, pragmatic, contemporary, and uniquely Adventist.”
The recent Adventist Review article shows Monday’s lesson from the first lesson of the first quarter of the first year; it’s title is, “The Gift of Health”. The brief copy begins with instructions to read 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20, and then explains that God give Adam and Eve “the best diet to eat and pure water to drink so they would have lots of physical energy, would think clearly, and would make wise choices.” It then directs the readers to Genesis 1:29 to find what God gave them to eat.
The next paragraph emphasizes that God also gave the first couple plenty of opportunity to exercise and then asks, “List the ways that you can glorify God in your body and in your spirit?” It refers the reader to the “Health Nugget” in the right column which is entitled “Tips for Good Health” and proceeds to list the eight components of the NEWSTART program: Nutrition, Exercise, Water, Sunshine, Temperance, Air, Rest, and Trust in God.
The NEWSTART lifestyle program originated at Weimar Institute shortly after the independent Adventist health conditioning center opened in 1978. Since that time, NEWSTART has been widely adopted by Adventist health professionals and is an accepted Adventist program taught at churches and medical institutions worldwide.
Finally, the first lesson concludes with a “memory verse check” and gives the week’s memory verse: Genesis 1:26.
The materials online introducing the coming new Sabbath School lessons tell us several things. First, these new lessons are being written for a specific purpose: to train children in the “Adventist distinctives” that uniquely shape a person into an Adventist. They will intentionally include material from Ellen White, and they will carefully teach children to believe their doctrines are based on the Bible alone. In other words, these lessons will be indoctrination tools to teach Adventist children to harmonize the cognitive dissonance of believing that their doctrines are based exclusively on the Bible while concurrently believing that Ellen White is God’s special messenger who explains the Bible.
Second, the new lessons will focus on Adventism’s lifestyle emphasis as demonstrated by the fact that the very first lesson begins with the “health message”. Vegetarianism/veganism and Adventist lifestyle will be introduced first, before any Bible stories or other doctrines are taught. In fact, this intentional leading with health is the same pattern Adventism uses in proselytizing the public: they attract people with promises of better health and longer life. Once they have their audience’s interest and commitment to personal improvement, they connect their diet and lifestyle recommendations with promises of improved spiritual awareness and introduce their doctrines of Sabbath, annihilation, the investigative judgment, and a continuing prophetic voice in Ellen White.
These new Sabbath School lessons are using the same general arguments to indoctrinate children that they use to entrap unsuspecting people who attend their free health clinics and prophecy seminars.
Finally, the goal of these lessons is expressed in point number 9 above: they are designed to incorporate Adventist children in the Total Member Involvement initiative that is being pushed worldwide by the General Conference.
Adventism, under the leadership of general conference president Ted Wilson, is involving its members in intense proselytizing while concurrently tightening their personal commitments to living the Adventist lifestyle. The new Sabbath School lessons scheduled to be released in January, 2019, will be one more step in the relentless plan to grow the organization while intensifying personal commitment to the Adventist cause.