The Seventh-day Adventist Church just held its Fourth International Bible Conference in Rome. Conspiracy theorists and fringe “fake news” press have questioned why the General Conference president, Church leaders, scholars, researchers, and ministry and theology lecturers would hold such an event there.
During the meetings I presented a devotional and proudly heard some of the 12 people from the SPD present in-depth theological and practical biblical studies. I have been strangely warmed as Scripture has been explained, and challenged to relook at Scripture in new ways that uphold truth and open the mind. Others have shared similar reflections with me. Adventists have always wanted to be people of the Book. The introduction to our fundamental beliefs says, “Seventh-day Adventists accept the Bible as their only creed and hold certain fundamental beliefs to be the teaching of the Holy Scriptures.”
The Romans ruled the world in the time of Jesus and the early church. Rome was their capital. The apostle Paul wrote a letter to the Christians in Rome. His life probably ended in Rome. Tradition suggests Peter was crucified upside down in Rome. We visited catacombs where Christians buried their dead and hid from persecution. We saw Circus Maximus and the Colosseum and Mamertine prison where at different times Christians were persecuted, tortured and killed for their faith—at times by the thousands. It took immense courage to be a Christian.
We visited the Vatican, St John Lateran Cathedral and St Paul’s Basilica—magnificent buildings with incredible biblical artwork as well as scenes depicting the work of popes. We saw evidence of the prophetic understanding that the Christian church would fall away from biblical truth and follow tradition. The tours and presentations remind me that, in these times, we need to have the same kind of courage as Christians of the past and be people of conviction, living by the Word of God.