Sunday, December 30, 2007

Reviewing the Adventist Review

December 13, 2007

GENERAL COMMENTS: I'm not sure who to blame. Is it the failure of the Review mailroom to get the weekly Reviews out in a timely manner, or is it the failure of the U. S. Postal Service? I got my last three editions of the Review between December 22 and 27. I checked with another Review subscriber today, and I'm not the only one. (My cartoon,
“Waiting for the Review” is an expression of my frustration.).

LETTERS: A. Allan Martin's words from the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary stick in my mind. “I have high hopes that before 2014, when my daughter will enter her young adult years, we will have progressed to where all levels of our beloved church would embrace new generations and be dissatisfied with the fact that half of them leave the Adventist Church. Flipping a coin is not how I would wish to forecast my daughter's future with our faith.”

LIVING OUT OUR DREAMS by Stephen Chavez is up to his usual high standard. His dream for our Church matches my own. “Our own dreams come true when we give others a reason to dream.”

THE DIGITAL PARADIGM by Claude Richli is disturbing. His reading of the parable found in John 15 creates the illusion that Jesus went around proclaiming, “It’s my way or the highway!” If you didn't “abide” in Him, God discarded you like a withered branch. The author defines Jesus teaching as simple and digital. “We’re either on (the vine) or we're off as in cut off, out of the loop, not real Christians.” Claude uses John 15:5-6 from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible to support this theological argument. Other translations suggest other possibilities. My New Jerusalem Bible renders this saying in poetic form.

I am the vine
you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me, with me in him,
bears fruit in plenty;
for cut off from me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
is thrown away like a branch
-- and withers.

It's important to understand the Jesus is talking to his disciples, not to a general audience. In this context Jesus is talking about effective ministry and the consequences to those of his disciples who do not demonstrate the fruits of His spirit. Claude, you are a branch who advertises himself as being “in Christ”. I suggest you reread the rest of the book. Your Heaven's Digital paradigm is mechanistic and judgmental as well as “radical”.

God has never chosen to talk to me “in a voice as clear as if a person stood next” to me, so I don't know how to relate to Renee Sim’s THE COST OF THE CALL.

Sari Fordham's A (SOMETIMES) BEAUTIFUL WORLD expresses the mixed feelings of all thinking and caring people as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, The Hope of the World.

The subtitle of the theological essay, A COSMIC RELIGION? was an inappropriate introduction to the article. “The Signs are there. And it's coming -- ready or not!” led me to believe that this was another warning about the end of the world. I was pleasantly surprised. The tone was scholarly and evenhanded. The only thing that disappointed me was the final paragraph, a quote from Ellen White that discounted most of the scientific authorities quoted in the article who "treat upon these subjects from a merely human point of view".

Jan Paulson continues to impress me as a Christian, Seventh-day Adventist, and a man. We are fortunate to have him as our General Conference President. PRIME MINISTER PRAISES ADVENTIST SCHOOLS DURING PAULSEN VISITP justifies these praise words.

LAW SIERRA STUDENTS IN FREE ENTERPRISE TEAM WINS WORLD CUP is a tribute not only the SIFE team but the curriculum and teachers that inspire them.

Jonathan Gallagher has been a speaker at Grace Connection, and I continue to be impressed by the way he represents not just our Church but Christian believers everywhere. The report from the United Nations, “OBJECTIVE CRITICISM” OF RELIGION DEEMED A HUMAN RIGHT is a testimony to rational thought.

FOR LOVE OR MONEY by Angela Baerg provides practical financial advice for all of us but particularly college students and young married couples.

Because I am a layperson who is sometimes a speaker, I enjoyed Suvi Anderson’s personal account of the joys and misgivings of amateur preachers. HE SAID, “GO!”

THE LORD IS MY LAWYER by Kelly Razzouk is troubling in two ways: the title itself and the illustration of Jesus as defense counsel elevated in the air between a downcast sinner and his guardian angel pointing out the man’s sins in a book. Editors, before you include another well-meaning essay about Jesus as our defense counsel, reference the words Jesus spoke in the upper room just before he was betrayed. (I’m quoting from John 16:25.) “The hour is coming when I shall no longer speak to you and veiled language but tell you about the Father in plain words. When that day comes you will ask in my name; and I do not say that I shall pray to the Father for you, because the Father himself loves you for loving me and believing that I came from God.” The "not" in this passage is known by many biblical scholars as to the missing "not" in Christian theology.

LESSON FROM A LAPTOP Seth Pierce provides a humorous reminder that it is important to match our private lives with our public ones. (Seth, perhaps you can explain in a future essay why your identifying logo is a huge open Bible facing the reader, masking your head and neck, and held by hands that are out of proportion to the rest of your body. Weird.)

GOT ANYTHING GOOD? by Amy Pringle is a reminder that panhandlers, like the rest of us, look “gift horses in the mouth”, and well-meaning contributions are not always appreciated.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Let's All Be Winners in ‘08

How would you define a “winner” in the game of life? Here are a few thoughts from James and Jongward’s book, “Born to Win”.

A winner can reveal himself instead of projecting images that please, provoke, or entice others. . .

While he can admire and respect other people, he is not totally defined, demolished, bound, or awed by them. . .

A winner does not play ‘helpless’ nor does he play the blaming game. Instead he assumes responsibility for his own life. . .

A winner’s timing is right. He responds appropriately to the situation. His response is appropriate when it is related to the message sent and preserves the significance, worth, well-being, and dignity of the people involved. . .

A winner learns to know his feelings and his limitations and is not afraid of them. He is not stopped by his own contradictions and ambivalences. He knows when he is angry and can listen when others are angry with him. He can give and receive affection. He is able to love and be loved. . .

A winner can be spontaneous. He does not have to respond in predetermined, rigid ways. He can change his plans when the situation calls for it. . .

Although a winner can freely enjoy himself, he can also postpone enjoyment. He can discipline himself in the present to enhance his enjoyment in the future. He is not afraid to go after what he wants but does so in appropriate ways. . .

A winner cares about the world and its peoples. He is not isolated from the general problems of society. . .”

Dilbert Asks A Fundamental Question

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Don't Worry Santa, Bloggers Believe

(Cartoon by Richard Guindon from his book, "Together Again".)

The Worst Christmas Ever

For me that Friday before Christmas Eve was the most depressing day of the year. Nothing much happened at school to take my mind off what was coming, and so when I started walking home I was dragging my feet. My Catholic neighbor on the corner was building a brick wall in his backyard, and there was a pile of sand in his driveway. Since I was a Seventh-day Adventist and hence the sworn enemy of all Catholics, particularly the Pope, I felt justified in kicking the pile of sand vigorously two or three times.

Just as I dreaded, my father was giving my neighbor a haircut out back by the garage. Since he only charged a dollar, he usually cut three or four heads of hair every Friday. I thought his haircuts were hideous. He almost shaved the temples and only let short hair exist on the top of the head. To make matters worse, he had used gasoline to “dry clean” his Sabbath suit. It was on a hanger hooked to a bar inside the open garage door. I couldn't believe the man getting haircut didn't complain about the smell.

Continue reading at the Grace Connection web site.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Remember, Holidays Have a Dark Side

(Cartoon by Richard Guindon from his book, "Together Again".)

Reviewing Adventist World

December 2007
Vol. 3, No, 12

The feature article, EMPOWERING WOMEN IN INDIA, is what the Gospel is all about. My only criticism is the cover picture. While it graphically reinforces the idea that the women helped are poor and determined to learn, the photo tends to strengthen the stereotypical “mission” view of the people “in foreign lands”. The two women whose faces are in focus seem to have been singled out because they appear to fit that stereotype. I teach and have taught a number of Indian women, and I’m convinced that the cover shot would have made them uncomfortable. On the other hand, the photos that accompany the article would be viewed as presenting a more realistic and informative “picture” of what happens in the “Literacy Circle” program.

Bill, ditch the title FROM THE EDITOR’S PEN. Don’t you have a computer with a world-processing program? I know you're “cutting edge”, not an old “fuddy-duddy”. Besides, I get this visual picture of you writing in a pen!

WORLD REPORT, particularly the words of Jan Paulsen, is encouraging and enlightening. He encourages young people impact society by holding political office and questions the lasting effect of “tent” evangelism! When I was growing up, these words, spoken publicly, would have cost a pastor his ministerial license or a “call” to Boron, California.

In a Comment following this review, a reader crunches the numbers included in the World Report, GROWING CHURCHES, GAINING MEMBERS. Interesting reading!

My mother suffered from undiagnosed PERNICIOUS ANEMIA, and it contributed to her death at seventy-two after at least twenty years of increasingly psychotic behavior and dementia. I never knew the brilliant teacher and writer who read me “Oliver Twist” almost before I could imagine a world beyond my backyard. A blood test can save a life and a family. Handysides and Landless are MD’s that continue to make a vitally important difference in the “Adventist World”.

When he Don Schneider writes that the disciples “looked forward to their future delivery from sin, to the Messiah’s death” as they participated in the Last Supper, it reconfirms my belief that all writers need an expert to look over our final drafts. As a person who corrects typos and grammatical errors as he reads an already posted blog for the sixth or seventh time, it’s not SO EASY TO FORGET that writers needs editorial help.

Lincoln E. Steed, Editor of “Liberty Magazine”, reminds us that “the attacks on the wall of separation [of church and state] been so insistent, so transparent.

EMPOWERING THE WOMEN OF INDIA is a must read, thanks to the efforts of Loren Seibold. When he writes, Hepzibah Kore, is the “human angel” behind the “Hope for Humanity” ministry, I believe him. He is not only a pastor, he is a first rate journalist whose reporting is the result of “on-the-spot” interviews and extensive travel in India. Check out

MORE, BETTER, HIGHER: REFLECTIONS ON THE SUPERIORITY OF JESUS is the central argument of the book of “Hebrews”. However, Ekkehardt Mueller’s theology does not reflect the words of Jesus or Paul’s clear rejection of Law keeping as “Christian”. Mueller’s words are in quotes.

“He [Jesus] redeemed us, and through Him we have access to God’s throne with full confidence.” This opinion is clearly in conflict with John 16:26, 27. (In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.)

The following statements hint at salvation by works. “Yet this prelude [referring to verses in Hebrews 7-11] is important, for it provides the opportunity to gain eternal life through Jesus Christ.” “We obey His commandments and by his grace live by the principles that governed His life here on earth.” Paul comments on Law extensively in Romans and elsewhere, but the following words are from Romans 4:13. (It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.)

Finally, Mueller’s quote “If we want to boast, then let us boast in our Lord Jesus Christ”, is a perversion of Jeremiah 9:24. (But let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me.)

The RE-FORMATION IN ICELAND by Gavin Anthony is bound to be successful. They are extending to the community “an invitation to experience a quality of life that can be found nowhere else” and members of the Church have committed themselves to reflecting the character of Christ.

La Sierra University students are REALIZING POTENTIAL, SERVING THE WORLD. They are demonstrating what is possible when energetic students are energized by a faculty and curriculum that emphasizes community and world service! Fantastic!

Arthur W. Spalding got his reputation as an outstanding educator, the old fashioned way, he earned it. The proof is MEETING THE NEEDS OF CHILDREN, an essay from his four-volume history of the Church, “Origin and History of Seventh-day Adventists” published in 1962, nine years after his death.

It brings me no joy to criticize Adventist theologians, (It means longer hours doing the review, for one thing.) but it is again necessary. SATURATED WITH MEANING by Gerald A. Klingbeil is poorly written and saturated with weird theology. Listen to this.

The Lord’s Supper celebrates the fundamental concepts of “our Christian walk, namely: (a) that salvation does not come from within, but, rather, is a gift made possible only through the sacrifice of our Savior Jesus Christ; (b) that service and humility are not just theological concepts, but are, rather, elements to be put in practice; and (c) united we stand, divided we fall”.

“When you and I participate in the Lord’s Supper without having repented of hurtful thoughts, wrong deeds, and selfish motives. . .we keep on carrying these sins with us, instead of ‘uploading’ them to our heavenly Sin-bearer and having them wiped away from our record.”

The quotes from Ellen White continue to be inspiring and timeless. ACTIVE IN WORD AND DEED appeared 100 years ago in the Advent Review and Sabbath Herald.

Sometimes I think Angel Manuel Rodriguez just doesn’t get it. Angel, do you ever really listen to yourself? In THE REVELATION OF SALVATION you claim that “God’s wrath is an expression of divine love; it reveals a God who cares for us to the point of showing us how painful sin is for Him.” God cares for us by hurting not only us but himself? Sadism and masochism as love?

What a relief! THE DAY THE ANGELS SANG by Mark Finley isn’t an embarrassment, and I loved Jeane De Haven’s “old time” missionary expression of God’s love for all of us in the Adventist World.

Of course I love you all, editors and writers, even when we disagree. It’s been a blast! I hope to inspire or provoke readers to actually turn the pages of the real Adventist Review. Readers, thank you for motivating an old man to improve his thinking and writing skills and, thereby, delaying the eventual onset of Alzheimer’s.

Upon reflection, in an irritating, ironic way Angel’s argument isn’t quite ridiculous. It’s 2:40 in the morning, and my back is hurting. Given my present situation Angel might with justification assume that infamous look of confident superiority, raise his gentle fist and say, “Notice, Andrew, that in my case, at lease, you have inflicted pain by hurting yourself!"

Merry Christmas, Seasons Greetings, Best Wishes to All, and a Good Morning!


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Reviewing Adventist Today

November/December 2007
Volume 15, Issue 6

SOMETHING TO BELIEVE IN is the announcement that Andy Nash will be the editor of AT beginning with the next January/February issue, an appeal for readers to get out there and add subscribers, and a promise that, “We will have one agenda—excellent journalism. We will look for the clearest voices, wherever they’re found, and show respect for them all.”

LETTERS features an exchange between Alden Thompson and me. Subsequent personal correspondence has not changed our basic differences, but has resulted in a growing friendship and mutual respect. Way cool!

Chris Blake’s FINDING A BALANCE explains the genesis of the following nine essays written for his Magazine Writing Class. All are worth the read, and if these students begin to write for Adventist journals or blogs, the quality of both will be improved.

The thing that impressed and heartened me most about these essays is their clear-eyed commitment to the Gospel. There was no talk about 28 Doctrines of the Church. These essays are nonjudgmental and exude the “fruits of the spirit”. Now the challenge for all of us “old time” church members is to support their Christian idealism and welcome them into our Adventist fellowship. They will determine the future of a Church teetering on the edge of irrelevance.

VISIONS AND THE WORD: THE AUTHORITY OF ELLEN WHITE IN RELATION TO THE AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE IN THE SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST MOVEMENT—PART II by George W. Knight is an abbreviated version of the full text (see of a paper he read at a conference on religious authority at Brigham Young University in April, 2006. It is enlightening historically and theologically. Knight is a “must read”, period. Brilliant historian and committed Christian Adventist.

UNDERSTANDING GENESIS: CONTEMPORY ADVENTIST PERSPECTIVES reviewed by Sean D. Pitman is provocative. Kudos to Bull, Guy, and Taylor for allowing a traditional Adventist to review the book. The authors argue against a literal seven-day creation week and worldwide flood. Pitman damns Brian Bull, Fritz Guy, and Ivan Blazen with faint praise, but apparently Ervin Taylor gets no praise at all.

Pitman delivers some (apparently) well-deserved shots. The notion that animals don’t experience “true suffering” is silly on “on its face”. The notion that predation and death “make important contributions to our lives” is a hoot. He also has fun with the word, “non-scientific”.

When Pitman states that “other forms of religion, such as Hinduism, are much more compatible with evolution than is Christianity", readers are asked to assume that this is obviously fact. However, when he asserts that “any useful purely empirical observations [are not] entirely independent of interpretation or value judgments”, he attempts to support this assertion with the following, unrelated scientific truth. “The very basis of science includes the ability to interpret evidence and establish predictive value.” In an attempt to make this comment relevant to his argument, he redefines this meaning of “value” by equating it with ”a value judgment”.

The “automatic default” argument is a “straw man” as it is argued here. Pitman implies that that authors Guy and Bull equate the everyday expectations of farmers and sheepherders with what the Israelites believed to be the miraculous interventions of God.

When Pitman argues that geologic dating methods are calibrated against each other, he is stating a fact. However, when he goes on to say, "there is a great deal of scientific evidence to suggest that life on Earth and the formation (sic) all of the sedimentary layers of the geologic record were formed recently and rapidly”, he fails to define, “recently” and “rapidly”. This assertion is unsupported, and, one hopes, he is referring to geological rather than historical time.

Pitman concludes his review with a series of “yes” or “no” questions that seem to be designed to force the reader to decide whether or not he/she believes in God, the literal truth of the Bible, life after death, or heaven.

His final sentence is an important question regarding religious belief, and it is worthy of careful and prayerful consideration: “Does it matter”.


DEVOUT CALVINIST MANOAH AND HIS PRACTICAL METHODIST WIFE by Alden Thompson treats the reader to a fascinating journey into the mind of the author. The article, framed by the story of Samson's parents, reminds me of Melville’s “Moby Dick” in that all the action happens at the beginning and the end. The middle is a gently philosophical treatise about liberals and conservatives. Here’s a sample. “So we pick the words that suit our temperament and off we go, intent on remaking the church into our image, rather than God’s. But those of gentler stock may not stay to watch; they’ll just leave.”

There is also a tongue-in-cheek “one verse summary of the Old Testament, [Matthew 7:12] a Reader’s Digest version for those who don’t want to read the whole thing”. We also learn that “some temperaments confront authorities more easily than others. Some need to ask questions (the liberals) while others need answers (the conservatives). Yet both are necessary. . .to maintain a proper balance between inquiry and affirmation”.

There is a happy ending to this extended commentary on the parents of Samson. If the two of them could stay together long enough to finally produce a son, we, both liberals and conservatives, like Manoah and his wife, “can indeed live together and help each other experience God’s presence”.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

from Good Advice

compiled by William Safire and Leonard Safir
Wings Books, New York

Buy this book on for $1.00. Andy Hanson

After victory, tighten your helmet cord. Japanese proverb

When you have got an elephant by the hind leg, and he is trying to run away, it’s best to let him run. Abraham Lincoln

In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted. Bertrand Russell

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them. Henry David Thoreau

A person should do one unpleasant duty a day just to keep himself in moral trim. William James

In the education of children there is nothing like alluring the interest and affection; otherwise you only make so many asses laden with books. Michel de Montaigne

If, in instructing a child, you are vexed with it for want of adroitness, try, if you have never tried before, to write with your left hand, and then remember that a child is all left hand. J. F. Boyse

Be a pianist, not a piano. A. R. Orage

Be master of your petty annoyances and conserve your energies for the big worthwhile things. It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out—it’s the grain of sand in your shoe. Robert Service

If you aren’t fired with enthusiasm, you will be fired with enthusiasm. Vince Lombardi

If there is no wind, row. Latin proverb

If a donkey bray at you, don’t bray at him. George Herbert

Be honest with yourself until the end of your life. Then listen to the slow movement of the Schubert Quintet and kick the bucket. Nathan Milstein, at age 77

Be of good hope in the face of death. Believe in this one truth for certain, that no evil can befall a good man either in life or death, and that his fate is not a matter of indifference to the gods. Socrates

Comments on Life and Religion

There are two techniques that every man and woman needs to live life. One is the technique of volition, of trying hard, putting your back into it and doing your best. That’s output. . . .The other is the philosophy of intake, of spiritual hospitality, of the receptivity of the soul to the oversoul, of the open door that lets the highest in. That’s intake. One is like the ranches of a tree, spreading out. The other is like roots, digging in. Multitudes of people in our modern world are using only the first technique. They are trying hard, and then someday, inevitably, like everybody else, they run into an experience that they can’t handle simply by trying hard—a great grief, for example. Try hard? You need intake, too. You need sustenance; you need invigoration from beyond yourself. Harry Emerson Fosdick

It is a fine thing to establish one’s own religion in one’s heart, not to be dependent on tradition and second-hand ideals. Life will seem to you, later, not a lesser, but a greater thing. D. H. Lawrence

Don’t be agnostic. Be something. Robert Frost

Whatever you are, be a good one. Abraham Lincoln

To learn the worth of a man’s religion, do business with him. John Lancaster Spalding

Waiting for the Review

(Modified from a cartoon by Richard Guindon from his book, "Together Again".)

A Short Course in SDA Admin

Modified from the comic Dilbert, by Scott Adams

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Leadership in Action

Cartoon modified from Wizard of ID, by Parker and Hart

Animals Aren't Alone: Consider the Words, "The Will of God"

Cartoon by Gary Larson, The Far Side

Denominationalism is Not a Recent Development

NOTE: Cartoon by Richard Guindon from his book, "Together Again".

Jonah Didn't Join "Save the Whales", Either

I particularly enjoyed Dan J. Fahbach’s WISDOM FROM JONAH in the December 22, Review. He makes the timely observation that even in the Old Testament, there are stories that illustrate that God is a God of all people not just Israel. It was particularly interesting to know that as recently as eighty years ago Moslem worshipers in Mosul, Iraq, practiced three days of fasting in honor of the Fast of the Ninevites. There is also a place of worship in Mosul called the Mosque of Nebi Yunus, the mosque of Jonah, a shrine of great sanctity.

However, one concluding sentence should have been omitted, “Yet he forgives whom he wills and destroys whom he wills.” This is an Old Testament idea that is diametrically opposed to Jesus’ revelation of the character of God.

NOTE: Cartoon by Richard Guindon from his book, "Together Again".

Reviewing the Recorder

December 2007

In this issue, Tom Mostert, President of the Pacific Union Conference, says goodbye. Central California continues to record a lively youth ministry, and Arizona Pathfinder's tear down and rebuild the home, damaged by fire, of two children who attend the Maricopa Village Adventist Christian School on an unnamed Native American reservation in Arizona.

Unfortunately, Operation Global Rain seems to be gathering steam. Beginning January 2, there will be 10 days of prayer for former and inactive Seventh-day Adventists. Beginning May 1, there will be 10 days of prayer for people of the congregation's community, including family and friends. Beginning August 28, there will be another 10 days of prayer for the people belonging to the congregation's community, including family and friends. These 10-day prayer periods will each be followed by 110 days of united and intentional “outreach”. That's 30 days lost because church members don't seem to be able to pray and do “outreach” at the same time. Or maybe those involved believe that God is more apt to get behind the program if He is petitioned for 30 days.

It's almost expected. "La Sierra University Students In Free Enterprise" win the World Cup again. These guys and gals are perennial world champions, and while we have a picture of the team, I'll bet family and friends of these amazing students would appreciate it if names accompanied the picture.

The Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital’s “Cops for Kids Fly-in” brought joy to kids facing medical problems that daunt the most mature Christian adults.

The Northern California conference staged quite a convocation! The theme was “Be Bold for God”. There were 5000+ Adventists in Sacramento’s Convention Center. A 450 member choir composed of choir members from all over the Conference sang with the Sacramento Philharmonic Orchestra, and The Christian Edition, a men’s chorus, also provided musical inspiration. My only complaint about the Recorder’s coverage is that Sacramento Adventist Academy kids and adults that provided box lunches were pictured, but their names were not included.

Norman Fairly who spoke at a “Lunch and Liberty” event in Corona, California, sounds like a guy who has his head screwed on in the right. His speech dealt with the heresy of the United States as a “Christian” nation. Students at Pacific Union College are working hard to serve their community in a way that will demolish the stereotype of at Adventists as nonalcoholic vegetarians. Feather River Hospital has a new pharmacy robot, and three LA Dodgers visited the White Memorial Medical Center to visit patients in the Pediatric Unit, and were serenaded by children from a hospital's Pediatric Rehabilitation and Cleft Palate programs.

Dr. Nancy I. Meister was honored on October 24, as a Woman of the Year by the Association of Adventist Women. She has worked in Argentina and the Philippines, was a translator and editor for the Seventh-day Adventist Commentary, and designed the Master of Theology and Doctor of Ministry Programs offered by the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies in the Philippines. She and her husband retired in 2000, and now she has time to do special projects in India, Mexico, and Africa. My note in the margin of the Recorder opposite her résumé is simply, “Wow”!

Los Sierra Academy celebrated its eighty-fifth anniversary. Southern California’s Heritage Mission Teams are doing amazing work in Africa. (Contact Ron Pollard, 818-482-9545, if you want to be part of that exciting program.) Newbury Park Academy sponsored a golf tournament that raised $36,000. And my old alma mater, the Glendale City Church, has a new, high tech pipe organ.

Mark F. Carr suggests that there are a great many Muslims who are doing a great deal to promote a moderate and peace-loving Islam. He suggests that readers checkout He makes the case that peace and understanding are foundational to the principles of both faiths.

George Knight was rated both the most valuable and least valuable speaker at the Pacific Union’s Ministerial Council. That's unsurprising. His evening presentations were presented as individual aspects of “The Apocalyptic Vision and the Neutering of Adventism”. That title suggests a “neutered” version of the huge statue that got Daniel’s friends in trouble. Disturbing!

The Southern California fires devastated what was once the campus of San Pasqual Academy located about twenty miles north of San Diego. Most of the Church numbers that lived in the area were burned out. One bright spot: ADRA was on the scene with $50,000 for fire relief efforts.

The advertisement pages of the recorder always fascinated me. There just isn’t the stereotypical Adventist anymore. That’s also were the sunset table is published. In that table, Sabbath always comes earliest in Alturas and latest in Honolulu. Of course it’s really the earliest the previous day on Chatham Islands just east of New Zealand.

Reviewing the Review

November 22, 2007

GENERAL COMMENTS What is generally an excellent edition of the Adventist Review is almost fatally damaged by the feature article, GROWING GOD’S LOVE IN OUR CHILDREN. It is reviewed last. Now the rest of the story.

I am including only one of the seven web addresses included in Peggy Harris in her response to "Abuse in the Adventist Church" (Oct.11, 2007). The CEASE website address is " cease". Chris Bullock's question, “Can church culture be influenced?” is directed to Ansel Oliver’s article, “Paulsen: Include Young Adults in the Church, women in Ministry” (Oct. 11, 2007). Bullock points out that church culture determines whether or not young adults are included in church decision-making, not the pronouncements of authority figures.

It's not often that the review prints sarcasm, but G. Sittlinger sets the standard when commenting on “The Copycat With the Green Crayon” (Sept. 13, 2007). The words, “Why would I [worry about my daughter's behavior] when I am “surrounded by fellow believers who seen so sure of their salvation and of always doing the right thing as they become more like Jesus”. Ron McDonald’s comment regarding “Common Sense" (August 23, 2007) reminds the reader that the poor were also mentioned, along with the Commandments, when the rich young ruler asked Jesus what he might do to “enter life”.

Bill Knott argues in THE MAKER’S DOZEN editorial that Adventist church members need to financially support the Review in its effort to meet the needs of the 38,216 new members added this year. Unfortunately, the number of magazines in circulation does not equal the number of magazines read. Most of the Reviews sent to my friends in this community, are discarded unread. This is the legacy of a magazine that for years preceding Johnson's editorship had no consistent intellectual content.

Mark Kellner makes a strong endorsement for LOGGING ON TO TECH’S BENEFITS. He confesses that he is keen on blogs even though they can be “either enlightening or infuriating depending on your point of view”. Mark, I’m keen on the Review with the same caveat.

HOME INFLUENCES by Ellen White is as timely today as it was when she wrote it

I particularly enjoyed Dan J. Fahbach’s WISDOM FROM JONAH. He makes the timely observation that even in the Old Testament, there are stories that illustrate that God is a God of all people not just Israel. It was particularly interesting to know that as recently as eighty years ago Moslem worshipers in Mosul, Iraq, practiced three days of fasting in honor of the Fast of the Ninevites. There is also a place of worship in Mosul called the Mosque of Nebi Yunus, the mosque of Jonah, a shrine of great sanctity.

However, one concluding sentence should have been omitted, “Yet he forgives whom he wills and destroys whom he wills.” This is an Old Testament idea that is diametrically opposed to Jesus’ revelation of the character of God.

ALL OR NOTHING by Clifford Goldstein is an eloquent reminder that fame and riches don't make people happy. We also learn the Clifford does not like music, any music! One sentence is also a reminder that Cliff is irrepressible when it comes to creative language. “De Kooning was confronted, too, with the cold, immutable fact that in some wet loamy hole worms were licking their chops in anticipation of his arrival, and all the one-man shows and fantastic prizes for his paintings couldn't keep him from them, either.”

ADVENTIST TEEN HELPS ECUADORIAN CHURCH MEMBER TO NEW HOME is an amazing and inspirational story. Learn more about the Maranatha Volunteers International and Ultimate Workout and seventeen-year-old Janelle Pierson at

OAKWOOD COLLEGE is soon to become Oakwood University.

ADVENTIST COMMUNICATORS SINGING THE BLUES? NOT HERE in Nashville, Tennessee. A very cool bunch of Adventist communicators conferenced there in October.

One other reasons I read the small print in articles like MARAN, DOWERS HONORD WIN ADVENTIST COMMUNICATIONS AWARDS is that there are some wonderful surprises embedded in paragraphs after the first. It's no surprise to me that Kimberly Luste Maran won the 2007 Young Professional Award, or that Dick and Nadine Dower received the group's Lifetime Achievement honor. But the most exciting reward mentioned, at least to the Adventist congregations in Paradise and Chico, California, was the fact that Melanie Eddlemon won the Student Award. A hometown girl makes good! “Lifelines”, a series of public service radio health spots produced by the Church's North American Division also won an award of excellence.

ASK THE DOCTORS by Allan HANDYSIDES AND PETER LANDLESS was of particular interest. I have never read a more concise and informative discussion of breast cancer and cholesterol. These guys continue to impress me week after week.

TWO LETTERS AND A PHOTOGRAPH by David Bland was marred only by these two sentences. “Finally, pray with care. Sometimes the well-meaning prayer of a sincere Christian can put God in a terrible bind.” I can't for the life of me envision the God of the universe “in a terrible bind” because of a well-meaning prayer. Where do ideas like this come from? Isn’t it certain kinds of prayer that put people in a “bind”?

I continue to be impressed by the number that dedicated members of our Church who dedicate their lives to helping less fortunate people who live outside the United States. My heroes, THEY STILL GO.

A DIFFERENT KIND OF DEATHBED CONVERSION is an allegory written to encourage parents and grandparents who worry about the fate of wayward children and grandchildren. The “planting the garden” analogy doesn't include gophers, and that's probably a good thing.

Gilbert Goodwin beautifully defines GRATITUDE, and A PSALM FOR THANKSGIVING (Psalm 67) on the inside back cover is one of my favorites.

Now for one of the most unfortunate “authoritative” articles I have ever read. GROWING GOD’S LOVE IN OUR CHILDREN. Linda Mei Lin Koh, the Director of Children’s Ministries for the General Conference, suggests that a story in which a father decides to save the lives of train passengers by “leaving his little boy on the track to be crushed by the oncoming train” teaches children about God’s love and the supreme sacrifice of his Son.

She notes that children often draw Adam and Eve leaving the Garden of Eden in a car driven by an angel or Jesus. “When you say Adam and Eve were driven out of their beautiful garden you set up young children for this kind of (sic) misconceptions. Watch your words carefully, specially when teaching preschool children and young primaries.” (I think that this salvation image more accurately portrays the Plan of Salvation than this writer can imagine!)

Under the heading, “Involve Children and Learning Activities, Linda advocates cutting newspaper clippings of terrible events such as the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, or the 2004, Indian Ocean tsunami, and giving them to children to read. She then suggests that teachers can then relate these events to the promise of a better home with Jesus in Heaven.

If these worship activities are used to help children understand Biblical truths and the fundamental beliefs of our Adventist Church, God help the children, and God help the Church.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Reviewing the Review

November 15, 2007

This edition of the Adventist Review is outstanding. I would be comfortable sharing this magazine with any of my colleagues at Chico State. I am truly impressed, and I am saddened to know that many of my fellow church members, and this includes SDA pastors, will not experience the excitement and thrill of seeing the contribution this magazine has made in changing our Church for the better. My hope is that the changes celebrated in this edition reflect the changed and changing lives of my Adventist friends and family.

One of the unfortunate and unintended consequences of belonging to a Church that has the “Truth” is that the “official” magazine of the Church is of little interest to a readership interested in honest discussion rather than a reiteration of official theology and devotional articles. There is no incentive for thoughtful readers to read about what they already have been told. Perhaps this is why blogs like this one are popular and increasingly influential.

I review the Review in the hope that what I have to say will improve the quality of the magazine and, as a consequence, motivate readers to get back to reading “The Flagship Journal of the Seventh-day Adventist Church”. If this edition is an indication of future journalistic efforts, The Review will become a “must read” for all audiences, and I can spend my time reading it instead of reviewing it.

I am delighted to report that this Review published one of my letters. The first thing I noticed was the fifth word in the first paragraph. I intended the word to be “faculty” but instead I vote “family”. On one hand I'm embarrassed that I didn't "catch" that mistake. On the other hand the word family is really a truer word, a more honest word. Chico State has been my “family” for 37 years, and the colleagues and staff that comprise the Department of Education have consistently treated me respectfully and lovingly despite my mistakes and misadventures.

SILVER LININGS by Kimberly Luste Maran is a delightful preface for what follows. I'm sorely tempted to quote her paragraph beginning with the words, “Please don't misunderstand. I'm not talking about the metaphoric patronizing tap on the head that most of us have received at one time or another”. She's speaking here about well-meaning people who claim to feel the pain of “your double amputation”. But she deserves to be read, beginning with the first word.

Nancy Vazquez’s cover feature, WHEN YOU LOSE A SPOUSE, is both an honest and painful account of loss, a description of what it feels like to be a widow, what to say to the bereaved, and how to prepare oneself for the death of a spouse. Her words have convinced me that my wife needs to be in possession of a clear written summary of our present financial situation which also includes my future hopes and dreams.

CORRECTION by Frederick A. Russell is a revelation of Christian character. He uses Proverbs 12:1, “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid”, to remind us that “God is continually speaking corrective words into our lives”.

OUT-OF-THE-BOX MINISTRY by Paula Olivier as told to the Adventist Review is an inspiring story of how one young woman can teach a community how to love its young people. The other thing that impressed me about this Adventist Service article was the fact that the school’s graduation photograph identifies by name every person in the picture.

Jan Paulson continues to impress. His world Church feature, PAUSLEN COUNDS UNITY CALL IN ANNUAL COUNCIL KEYNOTE, is remarkable. The nonverbal impact of the photograph that accompanies the article conveys the seriousness of his words, the urgency of his message, and his concern for his Church. I was particularly awed by the way he seems to be encouraging a Division and Conference solution to the question of the ordination of women. “I encourage young people, men and women, to follow the calling God has placed within them. To deny the calling God may have given them is often at the risk of their own spiritual life. If this is an employment issue which you need to fix in your part of the world, then let's do that. We are going to need everyone--everyone--to finish our mission, and for God to usher in eternity.”

He also made it crystal clear that a continuing controversy over the Church's rather vague definition of Christ's nature will not, “’on my watch’, cause a reevaluation by the church of its position on the nature of Christ”. He went on to say, “I have to tell you I just cannot imagine a postmodern person in Europe, a businessman in Asia or Latin America, any more than a farmer in Africa will care one I owed a whether Christ had the nature of man before the Fall or after the Fall. The realities of the world in which we live have other concerns which occupy us”.

Mark Kellner goes on to provide the reader with another important Paulsen quote. “If we do not get it right in the local church, it cannot be fixed anywhere else. So, let us listen carefully to what the local pastors say to us as leaders . . . about the flow of ideas, about diversity and unity, about the needs of our people, what they say to us about standards, and about the use of tithe. Their voice must be heard, or our decisions as leaders will not be safe”. These are the words of a leader. Today Ellen White would call him the “real deal”; then she would have identified him as “The Want of [our Adventist] World”.

CHURCH POSTS GAINS IN TITHES, MISSION OFFERINGS. As a longtime critic of the way tithe has been used, I was heartened to read World Treasurer Robert Lemons words. “Tithe is for support of the ministry and evangelism; it is not for in endowing and then just using the interest.”

It was also exhilarating to learn that the General Conference has added an Office of Assessment and Evaluation of Programs. Paulson justified the new office in this way. “if we are spending many, many millions each year in developing initiatives, tools, and services for the world field, it seems right to have something in place to say how well we are doing. We've never had in place a mechanism to evaluate the effectiveness of these programs, both in terms of if they meet the expected needs or if they are effectively delivered or if there are adjustments that can be made.”

GROWING CHURCES, GAINING MEMBERS. It was encouraging to note that there is an increased concern for statistical accuracy when it comes to reporting church growth.

When Sherian Atkins Wills discusses God's mysterious ways in her story WHEN GOD ORDAINS, she might also consider it doubly fortunate that her Bible ended up in the hands of the old alcoholic. That Bible was ”marked [with] all the crucial doctrines--the Sabbath, the state of the dead, Christ's work in heavenly sanctuary, the Second Coming, with chain references”. She now has the opportunity to rediscover and reevaluate those “crucial doctrines” as she annotates her new Bible.

Monte Salin supplies some excellent RSOURCES TO ‘TOOL’ US FOR MINISTRY, and the books that are BOOK MARKed deserve Sandra Blackmer and Jean Kellner’s thoughtful and provocative reviews.

Stephen Chavez’s WHEN FEARFUL is as inspiring, honest, and self-deprecating as usual. Stephen, when you inform readers that you sometimes “visit other congregations that are brave enough to invite me to preach”, add Grace Connection to that list if your travels take you to Northern California.

I want to conclude my review with LET ME INTRODUCE YOU TO DOCTOR LUKE by Lyndon McDowell. I will reread St. Luke through different, more discerning, and grateful eyes. Thoughtful and beautifully written.

Lyndon’s Bible Study has also reminded me that Grace Connection, the Magazine, includes Sakae Kubo’s online book, CHRIST’S PARABLES FOR TODAY, in which he provides a timely, fascinating, and scholarly interpretation of thirty parables.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Reviewing the Review

November 8, 2007

Once again I enjoyed reading this edition of the Review when I got back from a two-week stay in the Midwest. As they say in New Zealand, it was “good value”. Now for the rest of the story.

I continue to have a difficult time understanding why letters are published almost two months after the articles to which they respond. Often, their impact on the reader is diminished or nonexistent. Also, in the last week and a half, I have received three Reviews! (I have a comic comment on this frustrating and too often occurrence in another “review” of the Review.)

SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF by Roy Adams is a gem. I was one of the folks who hoped that Roy not Bill would become the Editor of the Review. However, this editorial seems to reveal a man who isn't constrained by “that” title; who is very comfortable speaking his mind about the fact that “Adventists can earn the unenviable distinction of being numbered among the destroyers of the earth”. Roy, I'm with you all the way. The world should know that SDA’s are people who are committed to “bringing some of nature's beautiful music back”.

Sandra Blackmore's editorial, SCHOOL DAYS, has special meaning for me. As a university professor, I am delighted to have mature (read older than thirty) students in my classes. Invariably they set the academic standard for everything we do together.

HOW SHOULD CHRISTIANS VIEW ISRAEL by Mark Kellner is informative and fair. His reflections on his July 2004 trip to Israel reminded me of a trip I made when I was nineteen. I considerer Mark a friend. He called me to correct some misinformation in one of my past reviews of the Review. He is a charming person, as friendly as his picture suggests.

His reference to the Garden Tomb “as being of “questioned authenticity” made me smile. I visited the spot in 1962 along with Professor Siegfried Horn, and it is obviously a tourist trap. According to Horn, the city walls of Jerusalem were extended to include Golgotha, and the location of Jesus’ tomb is unknown. The actual site of the crucifixion is enclosed in a basilica owned by six “Christian” orders that hate each other. In the past fifty years, these “guardians” of the site have attacked each other physically, inside the basilica and on the roof. In at least one modern fracas, a number of these old men have ended up the hospital with serious injuries.

Edward Reid’s IS THERE SOMETHING ABOUT MARY? CAN PROSTESTANTS AND CATHOLICS AGREE ON MARY? is of historic interest. However, I came away from the article wondering whether Mr. Reed was aware that Paul's letters were written before the Gospels. Paul makes no mention of a virgin birth. Reid reminds us that “Mariology” is “based on nonscriptural sources and is based on nonbiblical teachings such as the natural immortality of the soul”. I would be more comfortable with comments like that if all of our Twenty-eight Doctrines passed the same test.

Seri Fordham is as bright and engaging a writer as is her smile. I really dig her socks! Her thoughts AFTER A BRIDGE COLLAPSE are a reminder that “tragedy might be as sudden as a falling bridge, but most of it is as constant and is preventable as poverty”.

BEWARE OF GIBEONITES SEEKING FAVORS: AN ANCIENT STORY WITH MODERN IMPLICATIONS by Thurman C. Petty, Jr., portrays God as a collaborator in political and moral depravity. The illustrations were particularly offensive.

Mark Kellner, “with additional reporting from Florida Hospital” notifies readers that ADVENTIST--OWNED FLORIDA HOSPITAL GETS $10 MILLION DISNEY DONATION. Mark, when Des Commings, Florida Hospital Foundation President, reports that “Disney understands that Adventists are the healthiest people in the world”, a scientific attribution supporting that statement is required.

In this issue of the review, readers learn that ADVENTIST WORLD RADIO PLANS TV SERIES. Doesn’t this title seem a little strange? However, the people at Adventist World Radio are an amazing bunch, and Shelley Nolan Freesland, is right when she informs us that very few SDA church members are aware of the contribution they make to freedom of religion worldwide.

I guess it's a good thing for RISK MANAGEMENT TO OUTSOURCE CLAIMS PROCESSING, but I was left with three questions. First, who is the “unnamed contractor” who will be responsible for future health care claims processing? Second, what will the current Adventist Health Management do when it will be “focusing more on administrative issues with local conference administrators”? Finally, I’m not sure who the “clients in North America” are. In the concluding paragraph, ARM is identified as “serving clients in North America including the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, Griggs University, the church's North American administration, and employees at the world church’s headquarters in Silver Springs, Maryland”. This inquiring blogger wants to know.

WHEN THE WAVES WERE HIGH AND MY BOAT WAS SMALL, Margie Littell Ulrich reminds us that the Circle of Beneficence is more than a figment of the imagination. You're right, Margie. All of us need all of us.

There is a holiday sale on ADVENTIST PREACHING. These are “inspiring sermons for home and church”. I don't know everyone on the list, but HMS Richards was a personal friend of my father’s and one of the men I most admired growing up in Glendale, California.

GROWING A FAMILY MINISTRY by Kathryn Leigh is well written, thoughtful, and inspirational. At least occasionally, what I assume to be non-Adventist writers make important contributions to the Review.

I hope Seth Pierce survives the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary. His editorial WE HAVE THE TRUTH is bold and to the point. When he writes, “everything we believe, including our distinctive doctrines, is all found in Christ. If it isn't, it should be thrown out”. (Seth, shouldn’t it read, “should be found in Christ?” I would like to know if “is all” are the words you originally submitted for publication.) He goes on to say, “We need to rethink what having the truth means when we are asked, or we make it as a statement by which to judge others. Christianity's truth is Jesus Christ.” I couldn't agree more.

I'm not sure why THE PERSISTENT POTTERY PEDDLER was included in this issue. The story recommends quiet language, attentiveness, awareness, not giving up, not saying too much, and, smiling a lot. I hope it takes more to be an advocate for Christ’s Kingdom than it does to sell pottery.