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Trans-European Division Encourages Serbian Students to ‘Unzip’ the ‘God’ Within

The Trans-European Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church has reported on its own news site, in an article titled UNZIP Rediscovers the Forgotten God, that “Some 500 students at Novi Sad University, Serbia, are discovering God through UNZIP, a Public Campus Ministry initiative by Adventist students.”[1] On the surface, it would seem to readers that perhaps some major evangelistic work is being carried out in post-modern Europe, and that many hungry souls are receiving the everlasting gospel. It would be terrific news indeed to read that there is true revival and reformation taking place at this Serbian university, and that these 500+ students are getting victory over sin as a result of the work being commissioned and financed by the TED.

However, after carefully reading the text of the article and taking the time to wade through the contents of the UNZIP student organization’s Facebook page[2], any hope for such good news will be quickly crushed. We learn, for example, that “they ran a series of weekly workshops … with topics ranging from psychology and philosophy to popular science,” and that “experts were invited to present each topic in an interactive style with the ultimate goal being to introduce God in a natural way and talk about spirituality.”[3] If this sounds harmless, then what sort of “spirituality” shall we suppose was talked about, when the whole concept of the organization is related to the spiritualistic lie that God is within us, and that we only need to “unzip” our true selves in order to experience Him in our lives?

As part of the reading plan for the UNZIP book club, students are encouraged to read spiritualist Brené Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. The title of this book would be more honestly rendered as Forget About Achieving Perfection of Character Through Self-denial and Submission to Christ, and Resign Yourself to a Life of Perpetual Sin. The cover of the book, incidentally, pays homage to Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sundayprogram, which should give a strong hint that its contents belong to the realm of spiritualism and Sunday sacredness.

The article goes on to state that “games nights also give students a chance to relax in a safe, friendly environment. Leaders did experiment with a movie night but that did not prove to be popular.”[4] The organization’s Facebook page makes it immediately obvious that the meetings are about the playing of games and consumption of unhealthy snacks. Pizza and pancakes are big hits with the attendees, and, by the looks of it, the pizzas are topped with generous portions of pork, compliments of the Trans-European Division.

The failed movie night idea, in at least one case, involved the airing of Sandra Bullock’s film The Blind Side.

It is not difficult to guess why this particular movie was selected, based on what Christianity Today had to say about it. They called it a “moving and inspirational story of compassion, self-discovery and hope.”[5] Reading about the plot of the movie (God forbid we should actually watch it), it’s clear that the lead character “unzips his true self,” so to speak. More on that later.

According to the TED’s article, the leaders of the UNZIP meetings have reported that students “ask really deep questions concerning the relationship of the Bible and psychology and the Bible and modern science.”[6] This is something we really need to think about. Does the Bible have a relationship with psychology? If anything, it seems that the Bible condemns such mumbo jumbo as witchcraft. “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king” (1 Samuel 15:23). Ellen White, through inspiration from the Lord, wrote: “I have been shown that we must be guarded on every side and perseveringly resist the insinuations and devices of Satan. He has transformed himself into an angel of light and is deceiving thousands and leading them captive. The advantage he takes of the science of the human mind, is tremendous. The sciences of phrenology, psychology, and mesmerism are the channel through which he comes more directly to this generation and works with that power which is to characterize his efforts near the close of probation.”[7] Despite these clear warnings from the Word of God, SDA leaders and educators are delivering lectures and workshops about psychology.

Throughout all the photos and videos posted on UNZIP’s Facebook page, there doesn’t seem to be a single bit of evidence to suggest that the Bible is studied or preached at these meetings, even though the article touts that “the highlight of the week is a spiritual workshop where they only talk about God and how a relationship with God can impact life.”[8] The TED article closes with the worrying suggestion that “the UNZIP leaders dedicated their summer planning new ways how to reach even more students and inspire them to be the agents of change in their community by UNZIPPING their true self.”[9] The unzipping of one’s true self, according to this thinking, involves engagement in the practices of mysticism. According to The Lumen Christi Institute’s Web site, “‘True introspection is not finding ourselves, in a sense of who we are on our own, but should rather be an exercise of finding who we might be, especially in the eyes of God,’ said McGinn, describing the aim of interiority in the mystical tradition.”[10] To put it quite simply, the true Christian experience does not involve interiority in the mystical tradition, nor does it put the individual on the path to self-discovery or anything like this whatsoever. It rather requires self-denial and complete dependence on Christ. As the apostle Paul put it, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galations 2:20). On the same page of The Lumen Christi Institute’s Web site it says: “As Augustine famously declared, ‘God is deeper within me than my inmost being and higher than my highest point.’ This signifies that ‘to go within is to be drawn above,’ to allow the transcendent source to take us up, to elevate our souls.”[11] So, it seems that unzipping one’s true self involves looking inward to find “God.” If that isn’t the very essence of spiritualism, then what is?

The things currently taking place within the Trans-European Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church are particular troubling for the author of this article, who happens to work as a university lecturer in one of the countries belonging to the territory of the TED. From daily experience and interaction with students from all around the world, it is painfully apparent that, in general, they have no concept of who God is and that Jesus Christ, His only begotten son, died to save them from their sins. If proper care is taken, and if God is sought earnestly in prayer, many of these young people will gladly listen to the preaching and teaching of the everlasting gospel. They don’t need games and worldly talks about spiritualism. Their education at European universities is already full of those things. What they need is for humble, faithful Christians to teach them about, and acquaint them with, Jesus, that He may make them new creatures. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

1. https://ted.adventist.org/news/1484-unzip-rediscovers-the-forgotten-god

2. https://www.facebook.com/unzipns/

3. https://ted.adventist.org/news/1484-unzip-rediscovers-the-forgotten-god

4. Ibid.

5. https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/novemberweb-only/blindside.html

6. https://ted.adventist.org/news/1484-unzip-rediscovers-the-forgotten-god

7. White, Ellen G. 1991. Counsels for the Church, p. 329. Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Association

8. https://ted.adventist.org/news/1484-unzip-rediscovers-the-forgotten-god

9. Ibid.

10. https://www.lumenchristi.org/news/2015/05/interior-life-true-self-god

11. Ibid.

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