Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Confusion

(click to enlarge)

A Christmas Comics Extravaganza

(click comics to enlarge)

Contributing comics:

Jumpstart, by Robb Armstrong
OPUS: 25 Years of His Sunday Best, by Berkeley Breathed
Big Science, by Nick Downes
Non Sequitur, by Wiley
Foxtrot, by Bill Amend
Rubes, by Leigh Rubin
Together Again, by Guindon

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

World Church Faces Financial Limitations

Travel budgets cut, hiring freeze implemented
Reported by Ansel Oliver, assistant director for news, General Conference

Executives of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists announced financial restraints and cutbacks to deal with the current economic situation, ranging from delaying pay increases and budgeted increases in appropriations to reducing travel budgets and relocating executive meetings. Also, a hiring freeze is in effect. The moves come in response to global economies facing declines in stock market value, a credit crunch and increased unemployment rates, realities that could significantly affect tithe and other contributions to local congregations and administrative offices worldwide.

Church finance officers will review the church's budget in mid-February, shortly after new tithe and offerings figures will be available. Leaders emphasized the church was not in a "crisis" mode, but making short-term changes until they have a clearer understanding of where the economy and financial markets are headed.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Comics

Comic from Rubes, by Leigh Rubin.
(click for enlarged image)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Reviewing the Pacific Union Recorder

December 2008

Although I believe the Recorder could provide a context for Adventist news that is more engaging, spiritual, and thoughtful, I have to admit that it has become an amazingly comprehensive Adventist news source and a mecca for specifically directed Adventist advertisers interested in reaching 75,000 Adventist homes in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, and Utah. In addition, the new Recorder website is state-of-the-art and includes the calendars and advertisements that appear in the magazine. The layout and graphics are also impressive, and the editorial work is professional quality.

Consequently, I will continue to read the Recorder, but will post a review only when issues relating to politics or belief are reported.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Reviewing the Adventist Review

November 27, 2008
Vol. 185, No. 33

This Review, with one exception, rates high marks for its feature articles, letters, world news and perspectives, Kid’s View magazine insert, and editorial comments. Three Bouquets have been awarded along with five Honorable Mentions. (If you decide to share this issue with a possible new subscriber, tear out page 17. Next, write in “God for All Seasons by Gerald F. Colvin” on page 19 and all will be well.)

SAFE WATER, COIURTESY OF ADVENTIST VOLUNTEERS: MOZAMBICANS BENEFIT FROM CHRISTIAN AID reported by Wendi Rogers, Maranatha Volunteers International. Maranatha volunteers “provide [clean well] water in every location where we build a church or school. . .Church buildings are also being used for literacy education classes, which are held in partnership with the government of Mozambique”.

ADVENTIST LEADERS IN SOUTHERN AFTICA TESTED FOR HIV/AIDS reported by Rajmund Dabrowski. For too long the Adventist Church in sub-Saharan Africa, an area of 23 countries and 20,000 Adventist congregations has not provided needed leadership in Africa’s HIV/AIDS pandemic. This is an impressive first step!

A TREE GROWS IN AUSTRALIA by Cyril R. Were is a fascinating historical account of the beginnings of the Adventist Church in Australia.

The following quote from reader Richard Wright highlighted INBOX’s important contribution. “I believe that the primary goal of students at our colleges and universities should be to bring about spiritual liberty.”


KID’S VIEW, Managing Editor Wilona Karimabadi, Content Editors, Kimberly Luste Maran and Gina Wahlen. I have only one suggestion for the editors. If you had used a Scrabble first letter in the framed words accompanying each child’s comment, it would have graphically tied pages 1 & 3 to the Scrabble letters used for the title.

Gerald F. Colvin’s GOD FOR ALL SEASONS contributed the following story. "Philanthropist Robert Owen, a Welsh manufacturer, once interviewed a 12-year-old breaker boy, black from head to toe with coal dust, and weary from unbroken hours spent chipping shale from broken coal. 'Do you know God?' Owen asked. After pondering a moment the lad replied, “No, sir. He must work in some other mine.”

WHAT ABOUT SPLENDA by Allan R. Handysides and Peter N. Landless
“Rats fed sugar substitutes ate more food and gained more weight than rats fed sugar-sweetened food. Studies show that, while both are sweet on the tongue, they affect the brain differently. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), tests demonstrated that sugar engages the parts of the brain that respond to food rewards and then switch off the craving for more; whereas the artificial sweeteners do not. It is likely that people using artificial sweeteners who tend to be overweight gain this extra weight at least partly because they are not satisfied with the food they eat.”

Cliff Goldstein’s THE CIRCLE, on page 17, is analogous to reading a medieval Catholic Church critique of Galileo when it was assumed that scientific knowledge was the result of speculation and traditional authority rather than experimentation and the scientific method. Consider the following quotes from the essay:

“Knowledge comes with a kind of circularity, doesn’t it? As more books are written, the circle gets wider, but it still goes round and round.

“Suppose, though, all those books were science books. We’re not talking, then, about feminist critiques of Rainer W. Fassbinder filmography; we’re talking, instead, of quarks, chemicals, and continental shelves—reality as we meet it, and not as filmmakers or playwrights create it. Doesn’t that break us out of the circle?

“Not really. Science is, inevitably and necessarily, a human endeavor—shackled, weighed down, and distorted by the shackles, weights, and distortions that qualify knowledge. The myth persists that science stands at some Archimedean point, “a view from nowhere,” and thus delivers an objective reflection of what’s really real.”

In Goldstein’s next to last paragraph he offers this criticism of science in general. “Scientific realities of even a generation or two ago aren’t the same as today. No doubt, too, if time should last, some present ex cathedra scientific certainties will be mocked as myth.” Who is it that Cliff believes will be responsible for these scientific breakthroughs? Theologians?

Finally, Goldstein concludes his essay using impressive-sounding, undefined philosophical generalities along with a comment about the “circularity” of knowledge that I have attempted to contextualize using his own words.

“There’s a real world out there, one that we meet as opposed to create, and science is a particularly fruitful way of encountering, experiencing, and interpreting that world. But what science reveals remains uncertain, contingent, and particular, as opposed to necessary, universal, and certain, because human knowledge remains that way. No matter how large the library, how many impressive volumes. . .

(‘—deep tomes filled with page after page of references. (Wow, references!) References to what, though, other than other humans, whose writings reference other humans, whose writings reference humans . . . and on and on. Knowledge comes with a kind of circularity, doesn’t it? As more books are written, the circle gets wider, but it still goes round and round.’)

. . .fill the shelves, or how large the circle gets, it still of necessity goes round and round.”

If, after reading this essay, you are left with your brain spinning “round and round” and questioning your ability to make sense of what you have read, you are not alone.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas Comics

Comic from Rubes, by Leigh Rubin.
(click for enlarged image)

Reviewing the Adventist Review

November 20, 2008
Vol. 185, No. 32

This edition of the Review is worth reading cover to cover. I have some comments, of course, but the magazine is edited well, informative, and more often than not, inspirational.

One Bouquet has been earned along with four Honorable Mentions.

The cover article, THINK GLOBAL—ACT ADVENTIST is truly a “vision of what the contemporary church could be. Won K. Yoon speaks eloquently of a global outlook that is open, inclusive, and creative. He closes with the following words.

“We Adventists must either develop a global attitude or experience increasing difficulties in our attempt to convey our message to our contemporaries. The church has established a solid global hardware, so to speak. But it now needs to develop a global software—namely, its people. The new wine of present truth needs a new wineskin.”

INBOX—Letters from Readers
I didn’t know that there are nearly 325,000 members and more than 451 organized churches and congregations in Haiti. They, along with their countrymen STRUGGLE WITH DEVASTATION FROM FOUR MAJOR HURRICANES. Adventist volunteers along with ADRA are working to help victims in the worst hit areas. (There is no better Christmas gift than an ADRA gift card!)
REJECTING THE CURE by Connie J. Beehler
THE SILENCE IN BETWEEN by Dixil L. Rodriguez

I have two concerns. One is factual; the other is theological.

FACTUAL: There are reasons why the title, Clear Word, does not include “Bible”. It could, if it were a legitimate paraphrase, but it isn’t! It is a “bible” rendered consistent with the interpretations supplied by Ellen White without regard for the plain words of the Biblical authors. The Review and Herald Publishing Association knows this, as evidenced by the title, but it is advertised in the Review as a “popular paraphrase”. The advertised audio CD is doubly misleading in that the “Clear Word” in italics is followed by the plain text “New Testament”. The type is small but the intent to mislead is again present.

THEOLOGICAL: This issue contains a pullout titled, The New Believers Plan. It is an attempt to get free subscriptions of the Review into the hands of new converts. That is an admirable endeavor. However, in this attempt to “sell” the Review, Bill Knott advertises Cliff Goldstein as an author that will “continue to offer new believers plenty of evidence why biblical faith is the only viable alternative in a sea of relativism”. It is difficult for me to agree with Knott’s assessment in light of Goldstein’s editorial writing. His reactionary essays are provocative rather than enlightening.

Knott goes on to assert that Angel Rodriguez will give new converts the “tools for talking with their neighbors and friends”. I don’t know the “tools” to which he is referring, but only occasionally does Rodriguez provide answers that do not confuse the issue under discussion.

Christmas Comics

Comic from Rubes, by Leigh Rubin.
(click for enlarged image)

Reviewing the Adventist Review

November 13, 2008
Vol. 185, No. 31

This is a solid issue. I do, however, get tired of the recurring “signs of the end” refrain that permeates all official church literature. Assertions like the following that conclude the cover feature, THE END OF A SIGN, OR A SIGN OF THE END? damage the Church’s credibility with members and nonmembers alike. “While we do not know how much longer time will last, the prophetic periods and signs confirm that truly we are in the end-times.”

One article has earned a Bouquet, and several pieces deserve Honorable Mention

The Inter-American Division is a happening place! IN ONE DAY, ADVENTISTS FEED ONE MILLION. Sabbath, October 11, 2008 was the yearly division-wide Day of Kindness and Compassion. No wonder SDA membership in this part of the world is exploding! Imagine what might happen if instead of “evangelizing” North America in 2009, we spent those millions providing food, education, and healthcare to the poorest of the poor in North America?

INBOX—Letters from Readers
EDITORIALS—thoughtful words from Stephen Chavez and Carlos Medley
I was unprepared for but delighted by the illustration that accompanied Elaine Hayden’s THE POWER AND THE GLORY: A REFLECTION ON JESUS’ GREAT PRAYER BEFORE THE CROSS. The portrait was of a man of African heritage.

Christmas Comics

Comic from Foxtrot by Bill Amend
(click to enlarge)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Reviewing Adventist Today

November-December 2008

This is an issue that is big, and I mean BIG on graphic illustrations, and advertising. We Need to Talk by Chris Blake and God Wants Israel Back, the Andy Nash Interview, were accompanied by picture spreads that covered a page and a half. (There was only space for four letters to the editor.) I would have happily donated most of the full-page picture of LA that accompanied my cLAim news update to reader feedback.

We Need to Talk by Chris Blake makes the obvious point that the SDA church in North America will “continue to lose our next generation” unless changes are made. The changes he suggests have to do with identifying and catering to the preferences of “Older Mosaics” and “Young Busters”, ages 16 to 29.

I don’t buy it. Tweaking the delivery system of the Adventist message won’t solve the problem. The problem is the message itself, the 28 Fundamental Doctrines of the Church. Children raised as Adventists who do not attend SDA schools discover early on that other Christian communities tolerate less restrictive lifestyle choices. Young people that leave the sheltered world of the Adventist educational system discover that they have left a loving, inclusive Christian environment in which SDA doctrine is virtually ignored. The nonacademic Adventist world requires all but the cynical to conform to doctrine that dictates ritualistic, traditional behavior that is Christian in name only. For both groups, Adventist dogma is an intellectual, emotional, and spiritual turnoff.

Andy Nash and family had a great time in Israel, and the pictures that accompanied his tour bus editorial are charming. Unfortunately, his interview with Richard Elofer, President of the Adventist church in Israel needs the kind of editorial scrutiny that was afforded my piece. God Wants Israel Back is an interview that is scattered and too informal. Consequently, it looses focus and the title of the interview remains an unsupported assertion.

The “special advertising section” sponsored by Alumni Awards provides four pages of information about the state of Adventist secondary education and a reward strategy designed to improve it.

A Time to Laugh features caricatures and a brief biography of famous personalities; most are Adventists. Their author is anonymous “to avoid any sort of reprisal from the saints lacking humor”. (I too have had the honor of being “caricatured”!)

The Eye Doctor by Alden Thompson makes the point that “the whole truth is presented more clearly by several than by one. He is aided in this observation by an extensive quote from Ellen White’s Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, pp. 432-433.

The Seven Questions for Mary Whipple, Olympic Gold Medalist coxswain leaves out what for me is the most interesting question for Adventist readers. “How does she navigate traditional Sabbath taboos as an international athlete?”

Adventist Man’s comedic performance is steadily improving. However, he should have ended his answer to the question, “What should we avoid doing on the Sabbath?” with the first two sentences of his answer, “Adventist Man notes that many Christians tend to require lists. Otherwise, they feel listless.” The rest of the answer is preachy.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Improbable Stories

When should parents and teachers raise questions about the literal interpretation of these stories?

Comics from Rubes, by Leigh Rubin.
(click for enlarged images)

Sales have been slow lately.

Comic from Rubes, by Leigh Rubin.
(click for enlarged image)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Reviewing Spectrum

Summer 2008
Volume 36, Issue 3

This edition of Spectrum is one of the best ever and a cover-to-cover MUST READ. My only ongoing criticism is that most Spectrum articles are about a third too long. That said, Bouquets all around! Bravo! I was particularly impressed by:

Allita Byrd’s skillful interview of Ronald L. Numbers.
Eric Scott’s comments regarding “Scientific Subjectivity: Bias Evolution, and Astrophysics”.
E. Albert Reece, Catherine Verfaille, Dan Kaufman, and Terry Burns knowledge of stem cell research.

Adrian James’ “Uphill, Downhill, and the Wretched of the Earth” was the story of a robbery and kidnapping that, at least to me, was less about racism than it was about mindless criminality.

A quote by Haney Lopez included in Maury Jackson’s “Answering the Call for a Sacred Conversation on Race” elegantly expresses something that I have attempted to communicate to my students for a very long time.

“The rejection of race in science is now almost complete. In the end, we should embrace historian Barbara Field’s succinct conclusion with respect to the plausibility of biological races: ‘Anyone who continues to believe in race as a physical attribute of individuals, despite the now commonplace disclaimers of biologists and geneticists, might as well also believe that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the tooth fairy are real, and that the earth stands still while the sun moves.’”

A Conversation About God

In my review of the July 10 Adventist Review, I included the following words from Kenneth R. Miller’s, Finding Darwin's God: A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution. New York: Cliff Street Books.

In the course of a recent conversation with Sarah Andrews, a friend who is a geologist and mystery writer*, I shared Miller’s perspective. I was delighted with Sarah’s response. Both writers are brilliant scientists and philosophers. Each has challenged the way I perceive the world and made me a less narcissistic and more thoughtful Christian.

KENNETH MILLER: Believing in Darwin’s God
Evolution is neither more nor less than the result of respecting the reality and consistency of the physical world over time. To fashion material beings with an independent physical existence, any Creator would have had to produce an independent material universe in which our evolution over time was a contingent possibility. A believer in the divine accepts that God's love and gift of freedom are genuine - so genuine that they include the power to choose evil and, if we wish, to freely send ourselves to Hell. Not all believers will accept the stark conditions of that bargain, but our freedom to act has to have a physical and biological basis. Evolution and its sister sciences of genetics and molecular biology provide that basis. In biological terms, evolution is the only way a Creator could have made us the creatures we are - free beings in a world of authentic and meaningful moral and spiritual choices.

Those who ask from science a final argument, an ultimate proof, an unassailable position from which the issue of God may be decided will always be disappointed. As a scientist I claim no new proofs, no revolutionary data, no stunning insight into nature that can tip the balance in one direction or another. But I do claim that to a believer. Even in the most traditional sense, evolutionary biology is not at all the obstacle we often believe it to be. In many respects, evolution is the key to understanding our relationship with God.

When I have the privilege of giving a series of lectures on evolutionary biology to my freshman students, I usually conclude those lectures with a few remarks about the impact of evolutionary theory on other fields, from economics to politics to religion. I find a way to make clear that I do not regard evolution, properly understood, as either antireligious or antispiritual. Most students seem to appreciate those sentiments. They probably figure that Professor Miller, trying to be a nice guy and doubtlessly an agnostic, is trying to find a way to be unequivocal about evolution without offending the University chaplain.

There are always a few who find me after class and want to pin me down. They ask me point-blank: "Do you believe in God?"

And I tell each of them, "Yes."
Puzzled, they ask: "What kind of God?"

Over the years I have struggled to come up with a simple but precise answer to that question. And, eventually I found it. I believe in Darwin's God.

SARAH ANDREWS: Experiencing God
It amazes me to think that any biologist worth his or her salt spends a minute of any millennium worrying about such matters. As a geologist training with a master, I was taught to leave thoughts of genesis out of my thinking as much as possible until I had my observations and facts together. Coming from that direction, one observes what is, rather than what one thinks it should be. By leaving out myself-centered and, in some obscure or obvious way, self-serving recipes for the universe, I can better hope to see it clearly and admire its divinity without judging it by my puny standards.

I don't believe in God; I experience God.

*Sarah’s eleven mystery novels entertain and explain what geologists do. I recommend them all. The setting of her latest novel, “In Cold Persuit”, is Antarctica’s McMurdo Station where Sarah spent two months on a research grant.

Comics from Rubes, by Leigh Rubin.
(click for enlarged images)

Reviewing Adventist World, NAD Edition

November 2008
Vol. 4, No, 11

This edition has a great deal to recommend it. I was particularly impressed by the ADRA materials. However, its juxtaposition to the advertisement for the eStore Music Cruise, “7 Days in the Western Caribbean” sponsored by the Quiet Hour was a bit unsettling. Two Black Eyes have been awarded, and I have some critical comments.

IS THE GENERAL CONFERENCE NECESSARY? General Conference president, Jan Paulsen, recently spoke with the Adventist World editor, Bill Knott, about the purpose and future of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s world headquarters.
CELIAC DISEASEL by Allan R. Handysides and Peter N. Landless
AND THERE WAS LIGHT: A vision, a mission, and the story of this journal by Bill Knott

According to Gabriel E. Maurer and Angel Manuel Rodriguez, the Ten Commandments is a PERSCRIPTION FOR FREEDOM and THE NEW COVENANT IN HEBREWS and “should be internalized, shaping our character and actions. It’s not a burden but a joyful expression of our covenant relationship with God; a covenant instituted through the gracious blood of Jesus.”

Gentlemen, have you read Galatians 3? Here are some excerpts from The Faith or Observance of the Law chapter that might jog your memories.

“You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?”

“All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.’ Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, ‘The righteous will live by faith’.”

“What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.”

“Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.”

Bill, I was applauding your editorial, EVERY GOOD GIFT, until I hit the “just” in your last sentence. Here is the sentence. “That great numbered throng gathered at the Father’s throne will include JUST those who have allowed the Lord’s good gifts to transcend all other human categories. I was willing to forgive the word “categories” as being a confusing word choice, but the “just” smacked of perfectionism and would certainly eliminate Sampson and David and even, I suspect, the entire “great numbered throng”!

I was disappointed with the two articles that described plans for evangelism in North America. Both SAY IT BOLDLY by Gary Gibbs and CHRISTIAN MARKETING 101 by Dan Day ignore the message and hype the marketing strategies. “It’s the message, stupid!” The 28 Adventist Doctrines that finally surface at the end of Revelation Seminars, Amazing Facts, and It is Written evangelism don’t sell and are viewed as irrelevant by target audiences. According to Monte Sahlin, “Conventional evangelism is largely stalled, despite the widespread use of satellite technology, Web sites, etc., and increased funding. The majority of baptisms in North America come from immigrants, despite the fact that these are not the focus of most of the evangelism initiatives. . . .There are very few real converts among the cultural mainstream of America—less than one per congregation per year.” (Surprisingly, this quote is cited in Marketing 101.)

FOUR LESSONS FROM THE POTTER’S HOUSE by Keisha McKenzie was so well written that it is painful to take issue with the central metaphor that she so beautifully develops, namely the efficacy of suffering. In my experience, extreme suffering only succeeds in creating goodness in a tiny minority of survivors. The notion that God is responsible for these “fiery trials” is reprehensible. It mocks the words, the life, and the death of Christ. In addition, it leaves the Devil without a job.

Dilbert, cLAim Project Planning Consultant

Modified from the comic Dilbert, by Scott Adams
(click to enlarge)

Reviewing the Adventist Review

October 23, 2008
Vol. 185, No, 30

This issue is a MUST READ! BOUQUETS have been awarded to the following:

EDITORS AND TECHNICAL STAFF for doing an exemplary job

If you’re kind and caring, you can touch the hearts even of criminals. Fred Rogers’ car was once stolen from near the TV station where he worked. The story was picked up by the media, and, incredibly, the car was returned to the spot from which it was stolen. On the dashboard was a note: “If we’d known it was yours, we never would have taken it.”

True to our name, Adventists are students of last-day events, often attempting to identify the movements, causes, or even individuals God will use as specific instruments to fulfill His Word. A few among us invest countless hours filling in intricate, highly specific charts that detail the precise nature, order, and relationships of the final events of earth’s history, demonstrating, I think, a desperate desire to accurately predict the future.

But that is not our proper role. Rather than building faith in God, such an approach seeks to replace faith with knowledge. It springs from a desire to walk by sight, rather than by faith. And if John the Baptist and the Millerites could misinterpret events, so can we.

KIDS VIEW editors, young writers and poets, and graphic designers

Before I could change my mind I grabbed my box of laundry soap and walked over to the man. I tried to look directly into his eyes. For the first time in my life I stuttered: “Hi, I, uh, I noticed you might be a quarter or two short and I have extras. Can I help you start your machine?”

So here I was, sitting in the jail’s visiting room wondering what to say. I knew the girl he had molested—a 7-year-old with long blond hair and trusting blue eyes. She and her family had befriended Dad while his wife was suffering from cancer. They mourned with him when she died. They included him in family gatherings and outings. They had trusted him, and he had molested their daughter.

FIGHTING A KILLER by Allan R. Handysides and Peter N. Landless
We continue to be saddened by women who decline [breast cancer] therapies that can save their lives (and have been clearly documented to do so) in favor of untested, unproven, and often disastrous forays into such things as fruit and vegetable juicing.

The Theological Precipice

From the comic Frank and Ernest by Thaves
(click to enlarge)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Reviewing the Adventist Review

October 16, 2008
Vol. 185, No. 29

I am a committed supporter of the Review, but all too often the theology included in its pages leaves me shaking my head. The cover piece by Cliff Goldstein is, in my opinion, an egregious example of pseudo intellectual confabulation, and I have awarded him and the editors of the Review a Black Eye. I’ll make the case and give you the opportunity to disagree with me. One Bouquet has also been awarded.

This issue does an admirable job of informing members of the activities of the worldwide church. The graphics are a marked improvement over those of the “old” Review.

In the Kari and Julia Story by Sandra Blackmer, both girls died untimely deaths in spite of devout parents and fervent prayers. That doesn’t square with the naive assertion by Patty Frose Nthemuka that, “Although we can’t see Him, God is always standing outside the ‘cleft in the rock,’ with his hand protectively over us so we will be safe.”

Ms. Nthemuka uses the Mt. Sinai ‘cleft in the rock’ story in which God covers Moses with His hand “so the glory of God would not kill him” as an example of God’s protecting power. Another Sinai story in Exodus 24:9-11 illustrates God’s desire to fellowship with human beings on a more personal basis. Moses, along with Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and seventy elders of Israel, “gazed on God and then ate and drank” with Him on their visit to the mountain.

I’ll Tell the World That I’m a Christian by Fredrick A. Russell
“When I’m Adventist first and not Christian first, I can become exclusive and territorial when it comes to the message of God’s Word. When I’m Christian first, it doesn’t matter who tells the message as long as it gets out.” 

Reason, Faith, and Hope: Revisiting Daniel 2 by Clifford Goldstein purports to tell “the truth about the grand sweep of history” from a prophetic interpretation of the great statue described in Daniel 2.
It doesn’t.

While I honor the conversion experience of Cliff Goldstein, his tears and exclamation, “It’s all true! It’s all true!” when experiencing his “first ever” Bible study does not constitute a “proof” that his interpretation of Daniel 2 is the correct one. His conversion experience immediately preceding this Bible study is unique, bordering on the bizarre, and I am convinced that it has influenced Cliff’s attempt to create a prophetic reality that is not supported by biblical evidence. Here is his conversion story, as recounted in the first five paragraphs of this article.

“In the fall of 1979, under the looming shadow of my twenty-fourth birthday, I had a dramatic, life-changing experience. For two and a half years I had been writing a novel. The book consumed me, controlling my life outside the pages more than I controlled the lives I had created on them. Then, that evening, the Lord Jesus spoke to me in my room: “Cliff, you have been playing with Me long enough,” He said. “If you want Me tonight, burn the novel.”

“The novel was my god. And because we must have “no other gods before” the true One (Ex. 20:3), the book had to go if I wanted the true One, which by then I did. After hours of divine-human wrestling, knowing nothing about salvation, nothing about the three angels of Revelation 14, and nothing about myself as a sinner, I took the manuscript—two and a half years of my existence—and burned it on a small hotplate. That night in Gainesville, Florida, just after sunset, I became a born-again believer in Jesus.

“Now, my experience that night was just that—an experience—personal, subjective, interior. No one standing in the room that evening would have heard the Lord speaking to me. Nothing logical, nothing scientific, nothing from the common academic disciplines could have explained the moment. What happened was mystical, supernatural, beyond rationality, perhaps like Saul’s overwhelming experience on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-9).

“The next day, in a health food store, I had my first-ever Bible study: Daniel 2. When our study came to the part of the prophecy describing the great statue’s feet and the toes of iron and clay, I read the text that said: “They shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay” (Dan. 2:43), symbolic of modern Europe. I burst into tears, looked up, and exclaimed, “It’s all true! It’s all true!”

“There in my hands for the first time was powerful confirmation, not only of God’s existence but of His foreknowledge and sovereignty. There on the page before me in that health food store was logical, objective, and publicly available evidence for belief. With Daniel 2, my experience of the night before was now underpinned by a firm platform for faith, a platform that remains as solid, as affirming, and as rational now as it was nearly 30 years ago.”


1. Read the entire Goldstein article.
2,. Read Daniel 2, 7 and 8.
3. Read the following scholarly reference.
“The date of composition [of the book of Daniel] is decided by clear evidence in Chapter 11. The wars between the Seleucids and the Ptolemies and a portion of the reign of and Antiochus Epiphanes are described with a wealth of detail quite unnecessary for the author's purpose. This account bears no resemblance to any of the Old Testament prophecies and, despite its prophetic style, refers to events already past. . . The book must therefore have been written during the persecution under Antiochus Epiphanes and before his death, even before the success of the Maccabaean Revolt; that is to say between 167 and 164.

“There is nothing in the rest of the book to contradict this dating. The narratives of the first section are set in the Chaldaean period, but there are indications that the author is writing a long time after the events. Belshazzar was the son of Nabonidus and not, as the book says, of Nebuchadnezzar; nor was he ever king. Darius the Mede is unknown to historians, nor is there room for him between the last Chaldaean king and Cyrus the Persian who had already conquered the Medes. The neo-Babylonian background is described in words of Persian origin; the instruments in Nebuchadnezzar's orchestra are given names transliterated from the Greek. The dates given in the book agree neither among themselves nor with history as we know it, for chronology. The author has made use of oral and written traditions still current in his own times.

“The late composition of the book explains its position in the Hebrew Bible. It was admitted after the Canon of the Prophets had already been fixed, and the place to between Esther and Ezra among the very the group of 'other writings' forming the last section of the Hebrew Canon.”

The new Jerusalem Bible, Leather Deluxe Edition, Introduction to the Prophets: Daniel, pages 1177 & 1178.

4. Ask yourself the following questions:

Is current Daniel 2 scholarship based on a “false hypothesis”?

Do the aspects of the image foretell the eventual dismantling of the Roman Empire?

Is the iron imbedded in the clay of the feet “symbolic of the transition from pagan to papal Rome . . . that remains until the end of time?

Two Images

Why do you think they appear together here?

It’s just a question.

This portrait of John the Baptist (Adventist Review, 10/21/08) looks like a “Review” Jesus, except for two things. What are they?

If you were Eve, would you be impressed?

Which creation story do you prefer? The first one found in the first chapter of Genesis and Genesis 2:1-4a) or the second one in Genesis 2:4b-25?

Comic from Rubes, by Leigh Rubin.
(click for enlarged image)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Reviewing the Pacific Union Recorder

November 2008
Vol. 6, Issue 6

This issue is one of the best of the year. The articles are well written and, for the most part, informative and interesting. I have some Bouquets to hand out, and a few comments, but no Black Eyes. One illustrative photograph, however, deserved separate attention. (See my October 24 post, They say a picture is worth 1000 words.)

Youth Make Over Vet’s Home During Camp Meeting Week reported by Phil Draper
Penn Valley church Member Launches Adult Care Program reported by Chuck Starnes.
Marriage Amendments Spark Online Debate reported by Gerry Chudleigh.

Ricardo, I wish you would, at least occasionally, inform readers about the challenges the Pacific Union faces in terms of administrative achievements, policy and financial decisions, bureaucratic snafus, and the day-to-day challenges that you face an administrator. You are charged with leading half of the ethnically and socially diverse Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America. Members need to see you as an administrative leader not a pastor.

By the way, your homily on The Unparalleled Power of Prayer is cliché riddled, and confusing, particularly when you discuss the power of prayer. It is my prayer that in the future, you will write as our CEO.

As an emeritus professor of education and past Adventist School Board Member and acting principal, I noted the Northern California Conference’s Action Plans for Education spelled out in the article reported by Julie Lorenz.

This “new” action plan isn’t new. It’s been proposed many times before, and it has not produced much in the way of positive change at the school level. My suggestion would be for the NCC along with every church in the conference to guarantee the tuition of all Adventist students who wish to attend Adventist schools. We used to call it the Temple Plan. Our principals and teachers don’t need a new plan. They need the unconditional moral and financial support of every church member in the Conference.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My Tar Pit Revelation

I visited the La Brea Tar Pits when I was about seven, and after that I became skeptical of anything about science that l was told by SDA preachers. The one who lived behind my house tried to convince me that there were no such things as dinosaurs. He said certain scientists, under the influence of the devil, were just gluing all different kinds of animal bones together (elephant, giraffe, cow, chicken, etc.) in an attempt to discredit the Bible.

Comic from Rubes, by Leigh Rubin.
(click for enlarged image)

Seven Days in the Western Caribbean

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Mathew 25:34-36

The Official Adventist Blame Game

Modified from the comic Dilbert, by Scott Adams
(click to enlarge)

They say a picture is worth 1000 words.

Pacific Union Recorder
November 2008, page 8

Cordwood: Poems from the Forgotten War, Final Chapter

Ralph Jacobs, the author of CORDWOOD, A COLLECTION OF KOREAN WAR POEMS, is a treasured friend and a Harvard educated medical doctor. He served in Dog Medical Company, First Marine Division, in the Korean War.

I served in the Marines from July 1950, through June 1951. . . I hope the poems will offer a personal lens for you to see and feel my experiences in Korea. Many of the events, situations, and dilemmas in these poems mirror what others have seen and felt in other wars."
Ralph Jacobs, from his Introduction
April, 2004

poems from Ralph’s fourth and last “chapter”

(Chinese Spring Offensive)

Shimmering dawn on our
Marine test hospital
Earlier we slept soothed by the
tympani of an all night deluge.
Pine dripping, water droplets on sword ferns,
scallions fused with the pungency
of dung-fertilized soil.
Jumping frogs in erotic frenzy
swarmed in viridescent mounds.

Private McCabe grabbed a Chinese
before he could stab Dr. Ed Raney.
McCabe and Corporal Hansen grappled
six more assassins
in the doctors’ tent that night.

Morning: the big guns and rifles resounding.
I foresaw gaping wounds
exuding virulent mud.
First I contemplated
the throbbing and croaking
green mounds.

A through-and-through wound
of the small intestine.
Two surgeons curse, as they flip
a steady stream of six-inch white
roundworms onto the planked floor,
then stomp on each one.
A visiting surgeon stares and laughs.

Breathe the air when the roads are muddy
Don’t breathe when the roads are dusty

Lower right-sided stomach pain—
No, it’s not appendicitis—its worms,
the admission tend doc’s adage.
Roundworms, whipworms, hookworms
Schistosomes—or a combination.
The diagnosis—microscopic—
eggs in the stool.
One large dose of hexylresourcinol
Send that marine back to duty.

Breathe the air when the roads are muddy
Don’t breathe when the roads are dusty

My lab tech Gerry frowns—
I’ve found the eggs of Schistosoma haematobium—
not the S. japonicum found here.
The marine tells me—We were in Egypt.
We shipped across the Indian Ocean
to join you here. Gerry smiles.

Breathe the air when the roads are muddy
Don’t breathe when the roads are dusty

Most of our field hospital staff—parasite infestation.
How can we avoid these worms?
I advise—

Breathe the air when the roads are muddy
Don’t breathe when the roads are dusty

Our admission tent is full of stretchers—
men needing belly surgery, shrapnel wound
debridement, casts.

Eight to ten Chinese bayonet-slash and tramp
Through the side of that tent, bayonet
a corpsman, two patients lying on the ground.

“Get those goddamn gooks out of here”,
I order, kneeling by the stretcher
of my mangled blood-soaked marine—
“Everything’s under control. You’ll be OK.” I lie.

Mechanics, ambulance drivers, corpsmen
grab pistols, carbines, bayonets—
kill or capture.

“Chief Rice, fix the fucking side of the tent.”
I turn and start a transfusion.

Three of us operated on a thirteen-year-old
Last night. I seemed an eternity.
Beauty radiated from her broad checked face.
Rain tattooed, then crescendoed on our surgical tent.

We debrieded her left forearm.
We casted her right forearm
for compound fractures of her radius and ulna.
We wrested deep shrapnel from her left thigh.
We purged her right groin of muck, pus, necrosis—
exposing the fascia and femoral artery.

The early sun gleams.
Rain shimmers, drips from rhododendron leaves.
She died at dawn.

My jaw tightens.
I stand in our chow line.
A marine plays ball with an eight-year-old boy
outside our surgical tent.

Five Chinese soldiers slash and stamp
through a battalion aid station tent,
shoot a corpsman at blank range
in his chest land belly as he starts plasma IV.
Bayonet a medic syretting morphine,
slicing his arms and shoulders.
Slaughter the doctor—a burp-gun slammed to his head—
as he listens to a rattling lung.
Stumble over wounded on litters as they charge on.

A successful counterattack reclaims this scrap
Of forest—its yellow forsythia—
its jumble of men and equipment.

From the bloody muck marines gently retrieve
the wounded, ambulance them over rocks,
mud and ruts to our hospital.

As a civilian, I doctor each individual,
as a marine, I doctor men—
to keep a maximum bearing arms.

Must I send a man to death?
Our medical company—trucks, jeeps, ambulances
Advance in single file down the virgin road—just bulldozed
from the steep side of a mountain by army engineers.
A smoking Chinese rocket lands in our ammo trailer.
Appalled, I foresee our company blown up.
our army’s only road blown up.
Must I send a man to death?
My choice is clear—“Buzz,
run that trailer over the cliff.”

Our army lays mines
to kill enemy soldiers,
but they maim kids, mamasans, old men.
Our air force napalms a village
to kill enemy soldiers,
but it kills kids, mamasans, old men.
Our artillery barrages a city
to kill enemy soldiers,
but it kills, maims kids, mamasans, old men.

Corporal Polanski pleads to return to his unit,
To his BAR,* to protect his buddies.
His thigh wound is healing,
But emotional quirks may plunge him into psychosis.
I must have the courage to evacuate him.

*Browning Automatic Rifle

Poems from Jacobs’ chapters of poems: Trip to Korea, Inchon and Seoul Campaigns, and the Chosin Reservoir Campaign can be read on this blog. In addition, Spectrum Blog has previously posted a piece I submitted in which Jacobs’ poem, Cordwood, is featured.)

“Cordwood” can be purchased from Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Bl., Corte Madera (415-927-9016) or Ralph Jacobs, 55 La Costa Ct, Novato, CA 94947 (415-898-6064).

Ralph W. Jacobs, born in New Jersey in 1925, attended Duke University for his undergraduate studies and received his MD from Harvard Medical School. In World War II he served as a Navy corpsman. In the Korean War he served three years as a physician in the Navy Medical Corps. He practiced medicine in San Rafael, California, for forty years.

Since retirement he has been writing poetry and chairing a philosophy discussion group. He and his wife have four children and enjoy playing with their eight grandchildren.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Reviewing the Adventist Review

October 9, 2008
Vol.185, No. 28

Drumroll, Please. This is the first issue of the “new” Review, and it substantially meets Bill Knott’s pledge of expanded news of the global Adventist church, fresh unambiguous explorations of key Bible teachings, a special focus on young adults as well as those new in the faith, a new emphasis on wellness and preventive medicine, thought-provoking opinion and incisive commentary, heartwarming stories of grace and witness, and an abiding focus on the certainty of Jesus’ second coming. Impressive! A MUST READ.

The editors and technical staff of the Adventist Review
It’s All About Me, Isn’t it by Tompaul Wheeler
The World’s third-Largest Illegal Trade by Diana Scimone

I have very few nits to pick in this issue, but that’s my job, right?

Page 7, Where is the Mission? Adventist to Population Ratio
The North American and world graphic should also include, Christian to Population Ratio. The charge has been made that Adventists are primarily focused on “converting” other Christians rather than nonbelievers.

Headlines like Rolling Markets Won’t Change Investment Strategy are not specific enough to be informative. Comments like “We feel the portfolios of the church’s investments are prudently invested” are not reassuring. In these troubled financial times, investors (us) would appreciate easily accessible, complete information regarding our investments.

In the Zone, Roger Gotch makes a dubious claim that a tennis victory was due to divine intervention. “True, I had practiced a great deal, but was my expertise that day really due to my own power? I think not. Looking back, I think God was with me that day. The power, the deft touch, the feel for my game came from Him. I realize that now that I’ve had the opportunity to know the Lord and His ways.”

“When we accept His Son’s sacrifice and claim Christ as our Savior and Lord, God blots out the sins we have committed from our records and doesn’t remember them anymore.” Chongo Mundende makes this assertion in Busted! What I Learned About Grace from a State Trouper. Question: Is this statement hyperbole or can you and I give God amnesia? Can created beings do something that God can’t, i.e. remember sins? Isn’t forgiveness the issue here?

In Clifford Goldstein’s essay, The Evanescence of Us, he speaks directly to me, a recent retiree. Allow me to insert my name and institution:

“After 36 years of working in the Education Department of California State University, Chico, I’ve seen many people come and go. And what boggles my mind is that some of them, while here, were significant and influential figures. Then they moved on, and before long it’s as if they had never been here at all. Their presence, their influence, even the memory of their presence and influence, start to evaporate the day they leave. Time, and not much of it either, ravenously devours it all.”

Cliff, it’s not important that one is remembered by the institution one serves; it matters only that that service is remembered by those served, for good or ill. (I’m inclined to believe that those who strive to be remembered will be forgotten rather quickly.)

And by the way, sight is far more than “nothing but light waves bouncing off objects and then reaching our eyes.”

Friday, October 17, 2008

Reviewing the Pacific Union Recorder

Special Issue: Adventist Health
October 2008

This edition of the Recorder features the Adventist Health System. It is an impressive organization to say the least! A MUST READ. The rest of the issue is also informative and worth reading.

Conference Team Builds First of 25 Churches reported by Julie Lorenz. Student’ Donations Help Feed South African Children reported by Joeclyn Fay. Pathfinder Pioneer Henry Bergh Honored reported by Caron Oswald. And ASI Convention Inspires Lay People, Raises Record Offering reported by Steve Hamstra.

It seems that our Religious Liberty Department advocates for the separation of church and state only when the Adventist ox is in danger of being gored. Without the consent of church members, church officials have informed the press that Adventists are in favor of amendments to the constitutions of the states of California and Arizona “to restrict marriage to a man and woman”. Who gave our leaders that right?

According to Alan J. Reinach, Esq, our Union Religious Liberty guy, “The broad implication of this [State Supreme Court ruling which California’s Proposition 8 seeks to overturn] is that businesses and professionals cannot allow their religious conscience to govern their choice of clients and services.”

Couldn’t it be argued that the court ruling is a good thing? I was taught in church school and in church that in the “end times”, Catholics were going to do their best to deny Adventists the right to buy food and worship on the Sabbath, and we were going to have to flee to the hills! Couldn’t it be argued that a vote to amend these state constitutions is an attempt to deny the fundamental rights of any minority group, SDA’s for instance, that offends the “religious consciences” of the majority? Couldn’t it be argued that a vote to amend these state constitutions is an attempt to crack the wall separating church and state?

Reviewing Adventist Review

September 25, 2008
Vol. 185, No. 7

This is a special issue of the Review comprised of a Signs of Hope introduction from Jan Paulsen and eight devotional messages beginning on Saturday and ending on Saturday for both adults and children. The central theme of these messages is Signs of the Second Coming.

There is no one who desires Christ’s return more than I. However, the “Loud Cry” has lost its ability to increase the membership roles of the Adventist Church in North America or motivate young people to remain active in the Church. The countdown to Christ’s return has become an almost endless repetition of “1’s” and has been since the turn of the twentieth century when my five-year-old mother hid under her bed after hearing about end-time events.

The Gospel message is put on the backburner when our Church emphasizes the Second Coming. Members become more concerned with being in “the remnant” and guarding the edges of the Sabbath than being neighborly. Not a single writer in this issue mentions ADRA or local efforts to make their communities better, kinder, safer places to live. It’s unfortunate that these week-of-prayer devotionals are so narrowly “advent oriented”. In Mathew 25:34-36, Christ described those who will inherit His kingdom upon His return, and he didn’t mention those who correctly interpreted “the signs”.

“Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Reviewing Adventist World, NAD Edition

October 2008
Vol. 4, No. 10

This is a solid issue. It informs and educates, and sometimes inspires. Even Faith that Works by Angel Manuel Redriguez is lucid and thoughtful! While I have a follow-up question for Reinder Bruinsma, only Mark Findley’s Last-Day Deceptions Bible Study fails to measure up.)

No Fault of Their Own: Helping the Families of Prostitutes in Kolkata’s Red-light Districts by Loren Seibold and Going Boldly for God by Jim Pederson: Building One-Day churches in Mozambique are MUST READS.

[Paul’s] letter to the church in Rome, a church worshipping at that time in the homes of members, turned out to be his most prominent letter, spelling out in more detail than in any of his other letters his theology of redemption in Christ.
(from Greetings from Paul by Reinder Bruinsma)

My Follow-up Question: How should Romans 14:5 influence SDA theology?
“In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable.”

Adventist Church statistics estimate that the 16 million-strong worldwide membership is approximately 70 percent women. (from Western Australia: men’s Ministry Stirs Support Online)

It’s a misconception that the Adventist church is doing well everywhere around the world. . .The 10/40 window [the region stretching from northern Africa to the east coast of Asia], is less than 1 percent Christian, let alone Adventist. (from Why Adventist Mission Tales Are Still Needed by Dan Weber)

The young mind can be very legalistic” in the sense that it sees the world in sharp, distinct lines. It seeks safety in clearly defined borders. Some young people want precise formulas, and they can be very persistent. They are sometimes not comforted with principles; they want specific answers. They are driven by a need to define themselves, to define the boundaries that surround them, to discover “Where do I fit into this? Do I like what contains me? Do I even understand the boundaries and why they are there? How does a life of obedience to God express itself?

Young people are also frustrated by the sheer numbers of their peers who are leaving the church. . . We are losing too many of our young people—too many people under the age of 25. Exact figures are difficult to find, but it would not surprise me if half of those who grow up in this family lose their way for one reason or another (from Looking Back at Let’s Talk by Jan Paulsen)

We need more cross-cultural missionaries from all regions of the world church teaching in Adventist schools in Europe, the Americas, Asia, Africa, the South Pacific. We need pastors and administrators. We need to be a church that goes from everywhere to everywhere. . . Today, more Adventists speak Spanish than English. (from The Last Missionary by Homer Trecartin)

Exercise can be damaging to osteoarthritic joints, but aquatic exercise that is, swimming—has been shown to be very helpful and is the exercise of choice. It also helps to lose weight, especially if the joints involved are knee or hip joints. Dietary changes are not particularly useful in helping osteoarthritis, though a reduced acid load may help rheumatoid arthritis, hence the benefit of a vegetarian diet in that condition.

Some have touted the use of chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine, but a large controlled study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health found them not superior to placebo* (from Osteoarthritis by Allan R. Handysides and Peter N. Landless)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Painful Choices

Modified from the comic Non Sequitur, by Wiley
(click to enlarge)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Breaking Financial News

Budget Adjusts for Tough Financial Times
General Conference eyes hiring freeze, pledges prudence

by Mark A. Kellner, News Editor, Adventist Review, with reporting by Ansel Oliver, Adventist News Network, writing from Manila, Philippines

“The financial situation of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is under pressure from the turbulence rocking world financial markets, General Conference financial officials report, but world church leaders are taking what they call prudent steps to manage during the crisis.

“On Oct. 13, the Annual Council of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, voted to accept a 2009 budget based on 2007’s income levels, along with a resolution allowing the GC Administrative Committee, or ADCOM, to make interim adjustments to the budget between the Manila session and the Spring 2009 business meeting.

“In commenting on the financial situation and the need to have the ability to adjust the church’s budget as conditions shift, General Conference Treasurer Robert E. Lemon said the General Conference operates in a way that’s different from some other organizations.

"’Our budgets are not built on the dollars we have,’ Lemon noted, "but on the blessings we anticipate." This means, he said, "We don't know what effect the markets will have" on future income.

“In light of this, church leaders are already making moves to economize, Lemon said. "We will be holding off as long as we can" on filling vacancies at the world headquarters, he noted, though the hold is "not a total freeze" on filling vacancies, that might occur. Similarly, the voted approval of a 3-percent increase in appropriations included in the 2009 budget might have to be delayed – or even eliminated – depending on economic realities.

“A major portion of the Oct. 13 Annual Council discussion surrounded the General Conference’s operational funds equity investments. Some of these have taken a 30- to 40-percent “hit” in recent days, but they represent a very small portion of overall operating funds for the world church. Associate Treasurer Roy Ryan said the purpose of most equity investments is to generate sufficient returns to compensate for inflation and to preserve purchasing power. Ryan said it is not prudent to attempt to “time the market.”

“In other financial news, church leaders said the “extraordinary tithe” reported earlier as the proceeds from a family’s sale of a private business has reached just under U.S. $102 million, to which another U.S. $2.8 million in interest has been added. Of the U.S. $104 million available for allocation some U.S. $75.7 million has been allocated to world divisions, as well as GC institutions and programs aimed at world evangelism. Another U.S. $15.7 million is reserved for future allocation, leaders said.”

Check out “” for
Kellner’s complete financial report.

EDITORS COMMENT: This current financial report answers some critical questions as to the present financial position of the Adventist Church. It also finally reveals the amount of the “special tithe” the GC received “from a family’s sale of a private business”.

What is lacking is an accounting of the specific equity investments that took a “hit” in the GC stock portfolio and what “a very small portion of overall operating funds for the world church” means in dollars and percentage of. How much money is required to provide “sufficient returns to compensate for inflation and to preserve purchasing power”? A definition of “purchasing power” would also be helpful.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Reviewing Adventist Today

September / October 2008

I was a bit confused by Andy Nash’s editorial, enjoyed the letters, appreciated the information regarding what appears to be our next GC president, disappointed by the cover story, unconvinced that bad news can be good news or that there are dream churches, appalled that AT would spend six pages on something as silly as the notion that statistics can determine supernatural influences, enjoyed Hyvath Williams interview, and had mixed feelings about the responses of Adventist Man.

Andy, I was with you, head nodding approvingly until I hit the following paragraph.

“It used to be that when church members sinned, we at least felt bad about it—or if we didn’t feel bad, we left the faith community. Now, some of us are doing neither. We’re sticking around, even leading out, with an arrogance matched only by those who think we can earn our way to eternal life.”

Who is “sticking around, even leading out” with arrogance? Are all legalists arrogant? Something is missing. I suspect something was overlooked or lost in the editorial process.

The conversation on race-based conferences reflects differing points of view, but it’s not particularly helpful in terms of decision-making. Where is the input from members of these conferences?

David Newman and John Thomas McLarty do an excellent job of introducing the three leading General Conference candidates for the top job in 2010.

This scattershot sampling of salaries does little to explain salary disparities within the denomination. Stating “the Adventist Church struggles to preserve a uniform pay scale” is not informative. For instance, I was hoping that Edwin A. and Edwin D. Schwisow would have noted the pay and benefits disparity between teachers and ministers.

Teachers loose out twice. Less pay now means a differential of thousands of dollars in teachers’ retirement benefits. The ministerial “association” is a de facto union that controls church finances at every administrative level of the Adventist hierarchy. Adventist teachers have no “association” and no effective representation. The notion that ministers will “lookout” for their teacher colleagues has not proved to be true. Teachers, unite.

The accepted idea that Adventist Health administrators are entitled to be paid ten times the salary of the President of the General Conference because “health care salaries are market driven” is absurd.

Alden Thompson, this is a nonsensical question. Bad news is simply bad news. It can never be “good”. It speaks to the resiliency and courage of human beings that we can pick ourselves up and soldier on in the face of catastrophe. That is encouraging news, not “good news”.

The philosophical twaddle, bad news can be good news, underlies the notion that God hurts people to make them better.

There is no such thing. My dream and yours are different dreams. I’ll settle for a working church, a thoughtful church, a tolerant church, a caring church. Church communities that struggle to create a “dream church” inevitably feud when members’ idyllic dreams come into conflict.

Unfortunately, AT used six precious pages to critique and defend goofiness. “The Prophet and Her Critics” and “Acquired or Inspired” promote the idea that the existence of God can be proved statistically by comparing the health principles advocated by Ellen White and the views of her contemporaries. Leonard Brand and Donald McMahon would undoubtedly argue that Henry Ford was divinely inspired, as was Albert Einstein and millions of others who come up with sound, original ideas.

Joe Willey deserves only mild approbation for his humane dismissal of this idea: “From a scientific point of view, both the approach that [Brand and McMahon] employed and their conclusions are decidedly questionable.” The readers of Adventist Today deserve better.

Marcel Schwantes asks the right questions. Ms Williams is quite a lady!

“Is rock and roll music sinful?” A Man’s answer to the question is very cool. His answers to the other two questions, “We hear often that we are in ‘the last days’, but does anyone actually know when Jesus will return?” and “What’s worse—legalism or apathy?” are just short sermons. Come on, A Man. Don’t get serious.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Reviewing the Adventist Review

September 18, 2008
Vol. 185, No. 26

This issue is pretty standard SDA fare. I do, however, have two Bouquets to award and two comments.

$8 Million Raised for Missions at ASI Convention, reported by Steve Hamstra, is a tribute to Adventist laymen and women who live and breath Christ’s admonition to feed the hungry, provide clean water for thirsty, build shelters for the homeless, and preach the gospel message of love.

James Standish, a Seventh-day Adventist is now the Executive Director of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent, bipartisan federal agency. The Commission monitors violations of the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Flies in Your Head by Ginger Ketting-Weller
The cover story and Kids View graphically describe maggots and festering sores. I find the subject distasteful, particularly the pictures of flies that festoon the Kids View. The title is also misleading. The “flies” referred to are maggots that inhabit the scalp of a man whose “hygiene is terrible”. For the “evil thoughts” metaphor to work, the “flies” should be located inside the skull not on it!

Quotations from the Old Testament should be used with care. Ketting-Weller cites David’s advise in 1 Chronicles 29:9 as an example of “keys to thought hygiene”. “In his charge to Solomon before he died, David advised his son to ‘acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts’. Solomon’s life might have been very different had he followed his father’s advice. The keys to thought hygiene were there. Solomon simply didn’t use them.”

It should be noted that David gave Solomon some additional deathbed advice. Perhaps it was using this “nonhygienic” advice that got Solomon in trouble.

“You know what Joab son of Zeruiah did to me when he murdered my two army commanders, Abner son of Ner and Amasa son of Jether. He pretended that it was an act of war, but it was done in a time of peace, staining his belt and sandals with innocent blood. Do with him what you think best, but don’t let him grow old and go to his grave in peace.”

“And remember Shimei son of Gera, the man from Bahurim in Benjamin. He cursed me with a terrible curse as I was fleeing to Mahanaim. When he came down to meet me at the Jordan River, I swore by the Lord that I would not kill him. But that oath does not make him innocent. You are a wise man, and you will know how to arrange a bloody death for him.” 1 Kings 2.

Ketting-Weller provides eight Practical Strategies “to tend to our spiritual hygiene”. The first is “Repent. Give yourselves completely to God.” No instructions for accomplishing this are supplied.

I don’t know about Goldstein. Cliff seems to oscillate between writing as a smug supercilious know-it-all and a tormented food-for-worms golem. In Delmore Schwartz’s Statues, it’s wormsville.

“This story (“The Statues”) is a metaphor for the human desire and need for transcendence, for purpose, for hope beyond ourselves. After all, what are we but small packets 
of flesh carrying around within us our own fecal matter and (not far away) our own minds. And what are our minds but a couple of pounds of carbon-based organic material closer in composition to a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken than to a hard drive. What can such a small, self-contained packet of meat mean in contrast to the infinity that surrounds it?”

Come on Cliff, we were created in the image of God. Take a day off, dude.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Quick Stop Shopping

Modified from the comic Non Sequitur, by Wiley
(click to enlarge)

Cordwood: More Poems from the Forgotten War

Ralph Jacobs, the author of CORDWOOD, A COLLECTION OF KOREAN WAR POEMS, is a treasured friend and a Harvard educated medical doctor. He served in Dog Medical Company, First Marine Division, in the Korean War.

I served in the Marines from July 1950, through June 1951. . . I hope the poems will offer a personal lens for you to see and feel my experiences in Korea. Many of the events, situations, and dilemmas in these poems mirror what others have seen and felt in other wars."
Ralph Jacobs, from his Introduction
April, 2004

The four poems that follow are from Ralph’s third “chapter”: Winter and Early Spring, 1951. I will post poems from his final chapter, Late Spring, 1951, before the presidential election.


A counteroffensive—
we Marines recapture rice paddies, villages
seized by the Chinese three weeks ago.

Ambulanced to our field hospital—
six wounded GI’s—left
wounded in the snow weeks ago.
North Korean farmers risking death
had carried them into their huts,
fed them rice and tea by the fire,
helped by wives and children.

Phil gaunt but with a feeble smile—
wasted to the marrow,
has bilateral bronchopneumonia.
His punctured chest cavity oozes green.
We suction pus, insert drains,
start Streptomycin and penicillin.

The top of Ernie’s left foot—
a thick cotton dressing applied weeks ago
by a Chinese medic.
a swarm of maggots eating dead tissue—
nature’s beautiful debridement—
extensor tendon sheaths shine below.

We place their stretchers by our pot stove,
feed them Hershey bars, and listen.

Screaming news—600—heavy casualties
from the Marines, the Army, ROK* troops.
Everything is coming our way—right now.

Evaluating the wounded in Receiving:
I order shock therapy stat.
I order others to the holding tent—
belly surgery, chest surgery, many for major debridement.*
Pressing corpsmen to quick-step and IV and IM meds,
surgical preps, IV plasma and blood.
Snarling suddenly—too low a blood supply.
Commanding by phone--more blood by copter.

Scrubbing up to insert chest tubes in the short of breath.
Sheathing hot water bottles around frozen blood units.
Surveying surgery—all teams with shiny retractors bent over
wide-open bellies, wide-open chests,
large shrapnel wounds being debrided—
then lavaged, lavaged, lavaged.
Supervising corpsmen casting arms, legs,
dressing face wounds—
dressing genitals, abdomens, thighs.
Wolfing a Tootsie Roll for supper.

Lifting stretchers, flipping sutures, giving open drop
ether anesthesia throughout the night.
Devouring a Spam sandwich at midnight.

Overcast dawn, bitter 20 degrees below, light snow falling.
A wall of cordwood:
Two piles, each four frozen bodies high,
line our path to the mess tent.

*Republic of Korea
**removal of dead tissue and foreign material

A stretcher in our hospital tent—
a Korean mother,
a six-year-old girl clings
to her quilted jacket.
Shell fragments had thundered—
flung her against her stove
Her right upper arm—
a triangle pointing backward—

I flush the wound with saline,
Pluck out clothing with forceps,
necrotic tissue with scissors,
smooth the plaster of Paris into
a hanging cast from shoulder to hand,
Ace-wrap the cast to her body,
write on it in Korean—
Please don’t take off for three months
—until May.

One month later our hospital
is 100 miles north in rugged mountains.
On a mountain path two men plug along
with a patient on a stretcher,
a small child dogging their footsteps,
through rain and sleet.

My patient—castless.
Her fracture grates.
I’m pleased to see her flesh wounds healed.
I reapply that cast
And plead—Please,
please don’t take off for three months
—until June.

On post-op rounds one morning
I attend patients from seven countries
lying on a row of stretchers.

The small Korean boy—
the plastic repair of his hand looks fine.
A US marine in a leg cast has
a fracture from a mortar wound.
The Royal British Marine has good bowel sounds
since belly surgery.
His Cockney accent I understand.
The Frenchman’s breathing improves
since chest surgery.
His English is much better than my French.
The Aussie with his broad accent
thanks us Yanks for his face-neck repair.
The tough looking Greek—large dressings
over his lumbar spine and right thigh look OK.
The wiry Turk looks even tougher.
I check his arm and side bandages.
We shake hands.

Poems from Jacobs’ first and second chapters of poems: Trip to Korea, Inchon and Seoul Campaigns, and the Chosin Reservoir Campaign can be read on this blog. In addition, Spectrum Blog has previously posted a piece I submitted in which Jacobs’ poem, Cordwood, is featured.)

“Cordwood” can be purchased from Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Bl., Corte Madera (415-927-9016) or Ralph Jacobs, 55 La Costa Ct, Novato, CA 94947 (415-898-6064).

I’m posting this cartoon because it was rejected for publication in Kid’s View.

From the comic Opus, by Berkeley Breathed
(click to enlarge)

Revelation Seminars Just Aren’t What They Used to Be!

From the comic Pearls Before Swine, by Stephan Pastis
(click to enlarge)

Sorting Out Belief, Faith, and Religion

“Beliefs are unprovable propositions about reality; faith is trusting that those beliefs are true, and religion is a system of communal behavior designed to enforce and reinforce faith in the correctness of those beliefs.

“Beliefs should not be confused with facts or hypotheses. Facts and hypotheses are testable; beliefs are not. That is why you need to have faith in God but not in gravity. Because beliefs are not testable, they need not change. Beliefs only change when experience makes faith in them indefensible.

“When scientists demand that myth conform to physics, and religionists demand that physics conform to myth, we get silly religions and bad science. We needn't choose between science and religion, we only have to insist that each be true to its calling.”

Rabbi Rami Shapiro in Spirituality and Health / Sept, Oct, 2008

Leigh Ruben

That is the famous Leigh Ruben of Rubes fame. He invited me to attend his “cartoonie” presentation in Sacramento, and I went, bought seven of his cartoon books, and posed with him. That picture was a failure, so you, dear reader, are spared another shot of my mug.

Leigh is a great guy, very funny, down-to-earth, and modest about his amazing talent. He is syndicated in 400 newspapers, and has graciously allowed my to “modify” some of his cartoons on my blog.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. (Paul)

Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the Law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. (Jesus)

Comic from Rubes, by Leigh Rubin.
(click for enlarged image)

Reviewing the Adventist Review

September 11, 2008
Vol. 185, No. 25

I was really disappointed! Mark A. Kellner’s cover article was a tease. How Would Ellen White Vote? Was the Review about to go political? Obama or McCain? A subtitle even promised to reveal how “any of the early Adventists” would have cast their ballots. In the end, all that was revealed was the following:

“From Ellen White’s words, as well as the counsel of other Adventist pioneers and many of today’s thought leaders, the message seems clear: Seventh-day Adventists have the ability to help shape society through their votes and political participation. It’s up to each of us to follow our consciences—and to pray for more than human wisdom in making our electoral choices.”

Kellner should have consulted me. The historical evidence is overwhelming. White: Obama; Early Church Leaders: McCain.

This is a solid edition. The editorial comments are thoughtful, the stories are inspiring, and the news articles are informative. This would be a good issue to share with a friend.

Even though Mark Kellner bailed out on his presidential prediction, he earned a BOUQUET, along with Lainey S. Cronk, for the article, Adventist Surgeon Helps Disabled Children walk. Scott Nelson, an orthopedic surgeon, is in the midst of a five year commitment to serve in the Dominican Republic, is working for CURE.

“CURE, based in Pennsylvania, is a [nonAdventist] organization seeking to combat diseases that often destroy lives and families in the developing world, but that are treatable with modern medicine in the Western World. Nelson’s expertise as an orthopedist, for example, is used to correct cases of “club foot,” a birth defect.

“CURE also emphasizes their teaching hospitals, through which they train local medical professionals and students in first-world medical techniques with the goal of raising the standard of medical care in the countries it serves.”