The modern state of Israel had no significance in my Seventh-Day Adventist upbringing.
I heard ten times as much anti-Catholic sentiment as anti-Jewish sentiment.
Compared to other Protestants, Adventists are scholarly. They have a bigger school system than any other Protestant group. They give more tithe. And they probably study more Bible than any other Protestant group. The average Adventist spends a few minutes a day reading the Bible while the average Christian probably spends zero minutes in Bible study.
Few Adventists have any facility in the original languages of the Bible and the type of intensive text study that Jews engage in is virtually unknown by lay Christians.
Adventist religious services on Sabbath morning last about three hours, approximately the same time as the average Jewish religious service on Sabbath mornings.
Services for other Christians on their day of worship usually last about an hour.
According to Wikipedia: “As stated on its official world website, the Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDA) also embraces the term People of the Book. As also noted in its official flagship publication Adventist World (February 2010 edition), it is claimed prominent Islamic leaders have endorsed Seventh-day Adventists as the Qur’an’s true People of the Book.”
Three years ago General Conference president Jan Paulsen asked me to work on developing interfaith relations with leaders of the world’s religions. With Adventists numbering some 17 million in more than 200 countries, it makes sense—indeed, our mission demands—that we make efforts to understand people of other faiths, so that we may share with them our values and hope in the return of Jesus.
During these three years I have focused on making contacts with leaders of Islam. Slowly, steadily, several convictions have taken deep root in my psyche.
…Several months ago I received a message totally outside my previous frame of reference: a spiritual leader of many thousands of Muslims in several countries, a sheikh, stated that God had given him a vision about Adventists. He had made contact with lay Adventists; now he was asking to meet with leaders from the General Conference. What to make of such a request?
After consultation with Pastor Paulsen and others it was decided that a few of us from headquarters should follow up, with a view to entering into serious discussions if they should seem warranted. In preparation for this meeting, I made an advance trip to get acquainted with the sheikh. The nine hours I spent with him, spread over two days, were, to say the least, memorable.
…I turn now to a second conviction: Seventh-day Adventists are uniquely positioned to bring the gospel to Muslims.
Adventists have the following advantages over other Christians in taking the good news to Muslims:
The place of the Scriptures. We base our practices and beliefs on the Bible and the Bible alone. This devotion and loyalty to the revealed Word impresses Muslims, who look to the Koran as God’s revelation.
Lifestyle. Our abstinence from pork and alcohol comes as a welcome surprise to Muslims, who are not used to associating Christians with these practices. This means that Adventists and Muslims can enjoy table fellowship without apprehension—an important factor in establishing basic relationships. Beyond these practices, the Adventist emphasis on simplicity and modesty resonates with sincere Muslims, whose religion is a 24/7 matter.
Concern with the last days. The ideas of the last judgment, the second coming of Jesus, and the resurrection play a prominent role in Islamic thought. For serious Muslims all of life is lived with a view to one’s standing in the final judgment. Their teachings differ from ours in important respects, but the key ideas in common present an opportunity for Adventists to present instruction that will enlighten their understanding.
The Sabbath. The Koran mentions the Sabbath, and in a positive light; it makes no mention of the first day of the week as a day of worship. Our observance of the Sabbath, enshrined in our very name, sets us apart as a people obedient to divine revelation.
Cosmic conflict. Muslims understand events on this earth against the backdrop of a cosmic struggle between good and evil, in which Iblis—Satan—and evil beings play a major role. This broad framework has obvious parallels—along with significant differences—with the Adventist understanding of the great controversy between Christ and Satan.
Creation. Both Muslims and Adventists believe in the doctrine of creation and reject the theory of evolution.
Health. Muslims have a keen interest in health and healthful living. Adventists and Muslims enter into easy partnerships to improve the quality of life. In the Middle East, Adventists operated a series of hospitals and clinics in Muslim countries, while Loma Linda University and Medical Center has an ongoing relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan.
Relation to Israel. The fact that as a church Adventists refuse to be identified with any geopolitical lobby is a huge plus in the Muslim world. We are not part of a pro-Israel lobby: we believe in justice for all peoples, Israelis and Palestinians alike.