Thursday, January 31, 2008

Reviewing the Adventist Review

January 24, 2008
Vol. 185, No. 3

GENERAL COMMENTS: This issue is worth reading from cover to cover; the Kenneth Wood piece is outstanding. But God as a bacterium?

LETTERS: These letters are uniformly thoughtful and interesting.

GIRL POWER: Kimberly Luste Maran's editorial is a little preachy, but she does mention the Spice Girls and Victoria's Secret, a first for the Review. A little risky but cool!

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF KENNETH H. WOOD is the cover story. Assistant Editor Sandra Blackmer's interview is brilliant. She knows how to phrase the questions she asks and when to ask them. As a consequence the six-page article provides a fascinating inside look at Adventist history through the eyes of a man whose journalistic skill and editorial judgment is legendary.

I will admit to some qualms about the fact that this ninety-year-old was Chair of the Ellen G. White Estate, but Wood's response to following question ended my concern. Honesty and lack of defensiveness win me over every time!

Blackmer: Wikipedia online says your "editorship has been noted for its uncritical stance toward the church in contrast to journals. . . that began to force the church to look more candidly at issues". How do you respond to that?

Wood: Well, my concept was to have a mix on that. I was not happy with the approach used by some so-called Adventist publications because I thought they were more critical than supportive. I tried to call the church to account where I felt it had strayed, but I am very much against anybody who tears it down. I feel very defensive over the church, the body of Christ. So that evaluation of Wikipedia is probably fairly accurate.

KIDS VIEW: GOD IN A PETRI DISH? The scientific information in this addition of Kids View is excellent. The 2008 February calendar was fun to read, and its illustrations made it memorable. However under the title, God's Offer to Us, the following words require an intellectual stretch even for adults. "God, the ultimate Scientist, by sending His Son, literally injected Himself into the Petri dish [of this world] and became a bacterium." This is an emotionally disturbing metaphor and it demeans both God and mankind. In addition, the communication between men and women and God is not an involuntary chemical reaction.

THE SECULARIZATION OF DR. FAUST Cliff, this piece is carelessly written and "smartalecky" rather than thoughtful. Your postmodern "straw man" is a caricature of a caricature, and your attempt to equate the Great Controversy between God and Satan with the "struggle [between] strong and weak nuclear forces" makes no sense scientifically or intellectually.

ADVENTIST UNIVERSITY WORKERS EVACUATED AS CRISIS ROILS NATION It's ironic that students on a retreat in Rwanda are safer than they would be in their own Adventist University of Eastern Africa in Kenya.

ADVENTIST UNIVERSITY CATALOGS CONCERT MANUASCRIPTS OF FAMED PIANIST ARRAU This is an impressive tribute to the work of Professor Carlos Larrondo, Chairman of the School of Music at Chile Adventist University..

SATTELLITE SERIES REACHES NEW BELIEVERS. "God So Loved" is the second a series of twice-a -year reaping meetings sponsored by the Northern Pacific Union Conference to help Northwest churches develop the concept of Momentum--an evangelistic philosophy that creates an ongoing cycle of bringing people to Christ."

ROBBERY AT MARANATHA-RENTED WAREHOUSE LEAVES GUARD DEAD The Adventist guard, Adrian Chissano, was a husband and the father of six children. Construction tools and a truck were stolen. Maranatha is attempting to build 1001 church buildings and eight schools in Mozambique. Plans also include the drilling of deepwater wells to supply each newly constructed church and its surrounding village.

BRINGING DARKNESS TO LIGHT: The title font of this theological essay by Don Droze is interesting in itself. It, along with a book advertisement, makes the piece seem weightier and longer than it is. In addition the faces revealed in the title font might be construed as being racist—dark skin to light.

First of all the premise that Moses could not approach God and live is at odds with Exodus 24:9-11. “Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself. But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.”

In addition the author makes the claim that "sin cannot exist in the direct presence of a holy God". What does that say about Jesus? When he asserts that Christ "became sin for us, reconciling us to God", John 16:25-28 comes to mind. "Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. 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. I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father."

The questions Drose raises at the end of the article are significant, and the answers traditionally Adventist. Unfortunately, some of the answers are not supported by the Biblical references he uses.

THE WORTH OF LIFE by Valerie N. Phillips is a forceful and poignant reminder that "while you can, speak out for the [children] of the world. Remember—and remind others—that life is a precious gift, in every form, in every circumstance".

Homer Trecartin and his family have faced the most difficult challenges imaginable. NINE YEARS LESS ONE DAY recounts those experiences, which include death and paralysis. There are no happy endings to stories like this one. They are, however, inspiring testimonials to Christian faith and the validity and practicality of the Gospel.

OF BABEL AND BIOLUMINESCENCE: Apparently this feature article inspired KIDS VIEW. It is based an exciting scientific discovery about the ability of communities of bacteria to communicate. One application of this discovery is that it may be possible to treat disease by chemically making it impossible for deadly bacterium to organize themselves and/or combine with other life supporting bacterium.

Author Gary Swanson uses this discovery as a vehicle to talk about a God that "confused the language of those who were building the Tower of Babel" and Christ becoming a bacterium with us in the Petri dish of this world. I'm disappointed that the luminescence of this amazing scientific discovery is treated so shabbily.

‘CATCHING’ GOD by Richard J. Bauman uses the artistry of trapeze performers as a metaphor for humankind's relationship to God. It is a lovely piece of writing and the reflection of an inspired Christian mind.

You SDA Bloggers Are the Brains! Don’t Leave the Church’s ‘Body’!

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

God is the Crew Chief

The Little Debbie brand now sponsors Ken Schrader's #21 Ford Fusion in NASCAR. Little Debbie sponsorship note: The #21-Wood Brother's part time primary sponsor, Little Debbie snacks, is run by Seventh Day Adventists. From sundown Friday till sundown Saturday, the team has to cover all Little Debbie logos on the hauler, wear non-Little Debbie attire and remove all Little Debbie decal from the racecar. (Autoweek, 3-16-2006)

Little Debbie is a brand name of the McKee Foods Corporation, which is a privately held United States company headquartered in Collegedale, Tennessee.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

One of the Finest Men I Have Known

James Delmer Baker, Jr. was awarded a Silver Star for heroism as medical officer in WWII. Last Sunday, his family and friends awarded him another medal: the Christian Medal of Honor. He was our hero. Andy

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Reviewing Adventist Review

January 17, 2008
Vol. 185, No. 2

This is definitely an edition that is worth reading. There is only one article, GOD OF THE PROPHETS, that richly deserves to be panned. As usual, I’m not bashful about doing it. That piece will be reviewed last.

It was gratifying to see my November 15 letter included with the others in this issue. What impressed me most, however, was a letter commenting on the Sean Taylor article in the December 27 Review. Timely!

CRITICS ARE WATCHING by Roy Adams is a respectful review of one of the harshest criticisms of religion ever written. Christopher Hutchins "pulls no punches" as he describes Christian demigods and mass murderers. Adams' response is not defensive or mean-spirited. It is a thoughtful reflection. Roy Adams can speak for me as a Seventh-day Adventist anytime, anyplace, and anywhere.

I feel the same way about Stephen Chavez. His editorial, STRING FILES AND SPIRITUAL GROWTH, is not only a metaphorical jewel, it is a practical formula for living a Christian life in chaotic times.

The cover story headlined, 2008, IS GOD THE SILENT CANDIDATE, made me fear the worst until I saw that Mark Kellner was the reporter. The article along with "Of Faith and Freedom", its accompanying sampling of speeches by Clinton, McCain, Obama, and Romney, was informative, balanced, and nonpartisan. (Mark called me once to correct an inaccuracy in my review of an article. I was impressed by his kindness as well as his concern for accurate reporting.)

SPECIAL DELIVERY by Sandra Doran is the story of what it means to give up a child for adoption in the generosity and love of an adoptive family. It is a beautifully written account, and the illustration brings to life the story's subtitle, "You never know what you'll see at the intersection of 'love' and 'providence'.

When ADVENTIST OUTREACH TARGETS PORTLAND, OREGON, the effectiveness of this all-out media blitz should be evaluated by non-Adventist, media consultants. Research findings should include the ethnicity and socioeconomic status of newly evangelized members, and provide a detailed accounting of how much money was spent and for what. This study should also include a five-year follow-up survey of those baptized. The data obtained would assist the Church in evaluating the effectiveness of this type of evangelism. At present this information is virtually nonexistent.

The caption under his picture is a description of Christianity in action. "Buddhist-turned-Adventist pastor Sophat Sorn hands out pamphlets to fellow Cambodian refugees in Stockton, California, warning them of the harmful mercury levels in many delta-area fish, which have been linked to learning and memory problems." ADVENTIST HELPS CAMBODIAN REFUGEES TO HEALTH documents Sorn's work within the Northern California Cambodian community. Elizabeth Lechleitner reports that in addition to earning the trust of the 20,000 Cambodian refugees in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, Sorn founded United Cambodian Families, a local nonprofit organization, and has received recognition for his community service from Blue Cross of California, the United States Congress, and The California Department of Public Health's Environmental Health Investigations Branch.

The title of this World Church report, ADVENTISTS LOOKING FOR JESUS IN 2008, is ambiguous and misleading. The subtitle, "Members also hope to minister more, do more in the community", better communicates Taashi Rowe's report.

O ZION, HASTE by Jerry Stevens is a charming account of Ellen White's first rides in automobiles. Her last reported ride was purely for pleasure. It was in a "snazzy Model T. Ford" with Henry and Herbert, her son Willie's twin boys.

BOOKMARK chronicles the "Changing Lives" of the graduates of Canadian University College from 1907-2007. The publisher is "CUC, Lacombe, Alberta, Canada, 2007; 240 pages: CAN $35; hardcover. Dorothy Minchin-Comm comments, “Perhaps the Canadians have shown us [Americans] how to do it.”

A PEOPLE OF SERVICE: According to Sung Kwon, Director of the North American Adventist Community Services, Jesus took "a servant leadership role, a servant who is hired to do the masters will and to serve others. So as Christians we also are called to serve the welfare of humanity and the church".

The Hollywood Adventist Church is used as an example of this "wholistic (sp?) ministry". According to the article, wholistic ministry is described as a ministry that goes "beyond service to include advocacy and social change", and involves "promoting social justice" which "is a prime example of wholistic ministry in action". Social justice is not defined. Before I use this catchphrase, "wholistic ministry" as a synonym for the Gospel, I need a clearer definition.

The two other churches identified in the article as "promoting wholistic ministry", the Des Moines, Iowa Adventist Church and Summerville Adventist Church in West Virginia, don't seem to fit the Hollywood model. They serve the communities in which they exist without actively "promoting social justice". Why they are mentioned in this article is unclear.

RESOURCES TO "TOOL" US FOR MINISTRY by Monte Salin is "my review of a review in the Review! (That quote is credited to my friend, Doug Snider, who thought it was funny.) "The Bible for iPod Users" and "Teenagers and Religion" can be purchased from the Adventist Book Center.

IT'S ALL IN A NAME by Gordon E. Pifher is a reminder that a Christian witness may be simply remembering a name or performing an almost unthinking act of kindness.

GOD OF THE PROPHETS buy Elijah Mvundura raises some very serious questions. The most serious question must be directed to the editor or editors who decided that this essay should be published. “Why?” If one of my university students had submitted this essay in fulfillment of an assignment, it would have occasioned to a long and serious conference in my office. Had I accepted this paper, my professional qualifications could and should be seriously questioned.

The factual information contained in this essay is called into question in the first paragraph. Nietzsche’s madman does not run into the square shouting, “God is dead!”.(1) The poet Thomas Hardy, while perhaps imagining God's funeral, was not an atheist.(2) Mvundura should have checked out Exodus 24:9-11 before he used Exodus 33:18,20 and 1 Timothy 6:15,16 as proof texts.(3) These careless citations are ones that I could easily document. They call into question every other statement of fact in the piece.

The grammar and syntax are confusing.(4) The organization is chaotic.(5) And in his summary statement, Mvundura misinterprets and misuses Hebrews.

“To look for Him [God] anywhere else is to search in vain. For the Bible is clear: the sanctuary is God's dwelling place. Accordingly, the books of Daniel and revelation portray demonic attacks concentrated on the sanctuary. The sanctuary message, embedded as it is in the time prophecies of Daniel and Revelation, tells of God's deep yearning to dwell among us. But it also reminds us that the time is not far off when the proclamation will be made: Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”

Every reader of the Adventist Review, The Flagship Journal of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, deserves better.

1. “Have you ever heard of the madman who on a bright morning lighted a lantern and ran to the market-place calling out unceasingly: "I seek God! I seek God!" As there were many people standing about who did not believe in God, he caused a great deal of amusement. Why? is he lost? said one. Has he strayed away like a child? said another. Or does he keep himself hidden? Is he afraid of us? Has he taken a sea voyage? Has he emigrated? - the people cried out laughingly, all in a hubbub. The insane man jumped into their midst and transfixed them with his glances. "Where is God gone?" he called out. "I mean to tell you! We have killed him, you and I! We are all his murderers!

“It is further stated that the madman made his way into different churches on the same day, and there intoned his Requiem aeternam deo. When led out and called to account, he always gave the reply: ‘What are these churches now, if they are not the tombs and monuments of God?’ (Internet source, Google, Friedrich Nietzsche Gay Science)

2. The name of the poem was not given, and I could not find it in my “Selected Poems”. Hardy “never rested in his search for the Unknown God”. (John Crowe Ransom) Selected Poems of Thomas Hardy, edited by John Crowe Ransom, p.xxxii, The MacMillian Company, New York, 1961.

3. Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and seventy elders of Israel then went up, and they saw the God of Israel beneath whose feet there was what looked like a sapphire pavement pure as the heavens themselves, but he did no harm to the Israelite notables; they actually gazed on God and then ate and drank. Exodus 24:9-11.

4. “But if the normalness of modern atheism seems to prove the ‘death of God’, it is equally true that many millions still believe in Him. A 1998 Harris poll, for example, revealed that 94 percent of adult Americans believe in God. Which begs the question: Is God really dead? Or to put it differently, is the God declared dead by the philosophers the same as the God of the prophets?”

5. Mvundura begins with the pernicious effects of Greek thought “on the biblical view of God”. He then refers to the prophetic hope of the second coming; the philosophical views of Aristotle, Aquinas, Darwin, and Nietzsche; “the response of the prophets after encountering the living God of Israel”; and the Israelite sanctuary message.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Reviewing Adventist World, North American Division

January, 2008

GENERAL COMMENTS: It makes me unhappy to be critical of anything in this edition of Adventist World, but A LITTLE CHILD SHALL LEAD THEM should not be the cover story. More about that later.

EDITORIAL: Bill, I was right with you until you implied that we, 15 million Adventists, were God's "remnant people". This comment directly followed your words in about "the godly desire we [Adventists] find in our souls to meet with other Christians, to learn from them and pray with them, is a witness to His authority over the otherwise chaotic forces that threaten our peace".

WORLD REPORT: News reports from the South Pacific Division, Netherlands, Poland, Cuba, and Thailand were informative and well written. These are exciting days to be an Adventist.

SHARED RESPONSIBILITY, SHARED TRUST is an article adapted from a sermon by Jan Paulsen, at a gathering of church leaders from every division of the world church. My admiration for our General Conference President continues to grow. He continues to emphasize Adventists shared beliefs, and his final statement which follows is not only a testament to his l superb leadership ability, it also allows Divisional leadership to be flexible enough to adapt to adapt cultural differences without requesting specific guidance from higher authority.

"How should those who lead the church responded to difficult issues; how should we approach decisions were the consequences are uncertain or unpredictable? If, after we have talked the matter through and prayed about it, and our mind day finds rest with what we believe is right, it is important that the prospect of uncertain consequences does not hinder us from moving forward. If you are clear about what is right, just do it. Don't be political. Keep your heart clean. Be self-critical with reference to potential conflicts of interest and then just do what you know is right. You will sleep better for it, for you did your best to be loyal and obedient to God. In an uncertain world with an uncertain future, that is, the only safe stand church leaders can take."

INTERSTITIAL CHSTITIS "is a chronic inflammation of the bladder that is poorly understood". Allen R. Handysides and Peter N. Landless knowledgeably discuss this medical problem. Successful treatment requires "a team approach of gynecologists, urologists, physical therapists, dietitians, and nurse practitioners".

TIMID? by Don C. Schneider illustrates that a history of neighborliness makes possible an effective Christian witness.

THE ART AND SCIENCE OF PLANNING A MEETING by Martin Ytreberg is a convincing argument for adding another General Conference Secretary/Treasurer. Event planners, it makes good sense to check out the Adventist Event Planners Association web site.

A LITTLE CHILD SHALL LEAD THEM by Wilona Karimabadi as the featured article. Kevin and Dailyn Patino began their preaching careers when Kevin was four and Dailyn was three. This brother and sister evangelistic team received their call to the ministry directly from God. It happened at 11:30 one evening when Edgar Patino heard a voice saying, “Kevin will preach”. The “children's program has now grown into an international ministry, and the Patino’s travel throughout the Inter-American Division preaching and singing about salvation.” Pastor Edgar to Patino “writes Kevin's sermons after much prayer and time spent with the Lord. Then a unique complement of their preparations comes into play. The children's mother, Jogly, turns the text of the sermons into drawings. Kevin and Dailyn and do not memorize the sermons, but use the sketches to bring the point to life in their minds. Their sermons typically run 25-30 minutes with one message sometimes containing 200 to 300 different drawings, all from Jogly’s own hand”. Kevin is seven and “on fire for the Lord”.

I'm not one to challenge a direct, auditory command from God. I am concerned, however, about the welfare of these two children. Child evangelists have all too often been victimized and psychologically damaged by overzealous and ambitious parents. I can't help but reflect that Jesus’ ministry was regional and began at age 30.

PREPARING TO GROW APPLES by D. Reid McCary is one of the best, short devotional pieces I have ever read. His central metaphor is developed beautifully. The following paragraph is his final summing up.

“As we lived in the ‘orchards’ of society, we all take the same sunlight, the same water, the same nutrients. But we rearrange them in a unique fashion to make us special expressions of the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

BEHIND PRISON BARS should have been the lead story. George Uba describes the work of 1200 Romanian Adventists who minister to the needs of incarcerated men and women in 42 prisons and 2 prison hospital wards. Their organization, ”The Humanitarian Service for Prisons” is officially recognized as one of the strongest humanitarian organizations in Romania. These men and women, assisted by hundreds of volunteers and mission-minded individuals in United States, are the ones to whom Christ will say, “Take as your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave a drink, I was a stranger and you made me welcome, lacking clothes and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.”

ADVENTIST TELEVISION MINISTRIES, “Breath of Life”, “Faith for Today” and “It is Written” are alive and well.

THE LOMA LINDA REPORT never ceases to inspire. Their annual radiothon raised $608,000 for the Loma Linda University Children's Hospital. Linda Linda isn't just a “state-of-the-art facility”, its service to the worldwide community is “state of the heart”.

TELLING OF GOD'S GOODNESS AND LOVE: A REPORT FROM THE 2007 NAD YEAR-END MEETINGS. There were devotional sermons and reports from various evangelistic efforts. There was also a Secretary’s Report concerning membership data from 2002-2006. When deaths were tallied (33,947) and missing members accounted for (77,985), North American membership totaled 1,050,210. There were 38,275 baptisms and professions of faith in 2006, and Secretary Roscoe Howard reported “steady growth”, or a 1.72 % increase in membership from 2005 to 2006.

Am I missing something? What happened in 2002-2005? This is 2008. What was happening last year? Was there any attempt to justify money spent on evangelistic efforts with regard to membership growth? How many children under the age of 14 were baptized? How much money was spent on evangelism? How much was spent on Adventist education? Is a 1.72% an acceptable growth rate? These are just a few of the questions that beg to be answered.

What are readers to make of the report by George Johnson Jr., Associate Director, Office of Communication, North American Division that “on Sunday the nearly 340 delegates to the session said they were, in effect, tired of business as usual and wished to depend on the power of the Lord to accomplish great things—far larger than many may have believed possible”? This blogger is also “tired of business as usual”.

The subhead of POWERED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT by Craig R. Jeffrey says it all. “A new technology is making the gospel more accessible than ever.” He's talking about the Internet and the amazing uses to which it can be put.

SERVING AS GOD'S HANDS as reported by Jill Walker Gonzalez is a testament to the remarkable impact that members of local Adventist communities can have in Developing Nations when even limited resources are made available.

WHAT IS IT REALLY LIKE TO BE A CHRISTIAN? by Robert K. McIver is a thoughtful and generous answer to that question.

Ellen White’s OUR SACRED TRUST is a reminder and that “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance—these are the fruit of the Christian tree”.

LOVE IN ANY DIRECTION made me laugh! Angel Manuel Rodríguez attempts to explain the biblical symbolism associated with the four cardinal directions of the compass. It turns out that no matter which way you go, you could be going in the wrong direction!

Maybe it's just me, but when Mark A. Finley titles this lesson study, JESUS:THE MIGHTY CONQUEROR, it conjures up a vision of Alexander the Great, not Jesus, whose Kingdom can never be established by might and power.

WORLD EXCHANGE is as fascinating, insightful, and heartbreaking as usual. Editors, the extra page and information about how to be part of this exchange is space will spent. If you don’t have access to the Internet, you can fax material to 301-680-6638 or send a letter to World Exchange, Adventist World, 12501 Old Columbia Pike, Silver Springs, Maryland, 20904-6600 USA.

Back in Church

Modified from the comic Pearls Before Swine, by Stephan Pastis.
(click to enlarge)

NOTE: I am republishing this cartoon and including a link to an audio interview with Pearls Before Swine creator Stephan Pastis. (link courtesy of Bob Andelman)

Click here for interview

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Reviewing Spectrum

Fall, 2007
Vol. 35, Issue 4

Sharon Fujimoto-Johnson knows her job. The cover design and interior graphics are exceptional. (Notice I said, “design”. The subject’s knuckles and fingers are too grotesque to be anything but a distraction, even figuratively.)

In her editorial, KATHY JONES, Bonnie Dwyer, far from confessing that she reads contemporary fiction, announces the fact shamelessly. Not only that, she goes on to give Dennis Johnson's spy novel, "Tree of Smoke" and enthusiastic review. Good on you Bonnie. In this issue she introduces her readers to former "on-the-books” Adventists, Ray Garton and Steve Spruill. Both are novelists. More about that later.

WHO WILL REINVENT ADVENTISM? by Charles Scriven is a call to “reinvent” the Adventist Church. He argues that, “a church that is merely a refuge can grow. But it cannot appeal to those it educates into prophetic, as opposed to merely sectarian, awareness”. As a consequence, people “who dare to engage the world, to imagine its betterment and to resist its evil--want more than a cloistered life, and they will leave us, if they have to, in order to get it”.

Charles, most of those people have already left and are leaving in droves. Adventism as defined by our Twenty-eight Doctrines cannot be reinvented. A metamorphosis may be possible if church members come to regard “The Twenty Eight” as “coming of age” phenomena. We have done it with the Shut Door proclamation, The Lake of Judgment Fire, and Salvation by Works. The traditional Sanctuary Message, the 2300 Day Prophecy and the Investigative Judgment seem to be following those doctrines into obscurity as well. I am hopeful that a butterfly may emerge when that happens.

Editors, feedback is the life-blood of the magazine. Just over one full page is not enough.

Nathan Brown provides ONE REASON WHY CHURCHES GROW. That reason is summarized in his final paragraph. “As a church, we need to work together to find creative, authentic, practical, and ongoing ways to serve our communities.”

I was a student at Pacific Union College when Walter C. Utt was a professor in the the History Department. No faculty member was more love or respected. A FEW WORDS WITH WALTER by Benjamin McArthur brings him to life, visually and conversationally. I had forgotten that he had written children's books about the persecution of the Huguenots: ”No Peace for a Soldier” is currently available from the Adventist Book Center.

I have not forgotten, however, that his was one of the voices of calm and reasonable judgment that saved me, Ernie Bursey, Larry Downing, and others from being expelled after our noisy but harmless midnight escapade involving water balloons and a siren in Andre Hall.

The following words epitomize the thoughtful perspective he brought to all who were fortunate enough to hear him speak. I don’t know to whom the following words should be credited, McArthur or Utt, but they sound and feel like a quote. There is “an ineffable sadness in the apparent vulnerability people feel. It's not just--or even primarily--an Adventist problem. Conspiracy mongering permeates American life. Many people seem to live in an atmosphere of vulnerability. It breeds suspicion and aborts clear thoughts”.

Gary Chartier reminds us that regional COLLEGES CONFRONT MONEY PROBLEMS. Atlantic a Union College and Columbia Union College are in real trouble.

Just a suggestion. On your first reading skip the FORUM MEETING RESPONSES TO BULL AND LOCKHART by Gary Land, Douglas Morgan, and Julius Nam if you don’t have an overpowering interest in Adventist Church history. The responses are long and tedious. (Editors, references need only be cited.)

AFTER TWENTY-FIVE YEARS, AAW CELEBRATES A LEGACY OF SERVICE. Loren Seibold provides brief biographies of the six women who were 2007’s Adventist Women of the Year. The accomplishments of Joy Ford Butler, Karen Hanson Kotoske, Rigmor Mari-Anne Nyberg, Qin Zheng Yi, Nancy Webber Vyhmeister, and Dorothy Eaton Watts are astonishing. The suggestion by Rosa Banks, General Conference Associate Secretary, that the AAW has become irrelevant, is disappointing. In Seibold’s words, “young women either don't know about AAW, or are so accustomed to the quality in the workplace that they don't know their church is half a century behind the curve”.

Zdravko Stefanovic’s SMALL HORN WITH A BIG MOUTH: AN APPRECIATION OF LITERARY FEATURES FROM DANIEL’S BOOK should be required reading only for reviewers. “Literary Features” deconstructs the Book of Daniel into a confusion of “artistic imagery”. It also violates the spirit of the author’s final quotation from Clark H. Pinnock's, “The Scripture Principle”. “It is very important not to forget. . .that the Bible is a means to an end, not an end in itself.”

CINEMATOGRAPHY—WHY BOTHER? Zdravko Plantak chairs the Department of Religion at Columbia Union College. This essay is an earnest effort to make it possible for “good” Adventists to go to the movies without guilt. As might be expected for someone employed by the Church, his argument involves six pages of tortured prose and “scholarly” justification. And he uses words like “cinematography” and “a meditative art form” instead of “movies” whenever possible.

Scot Moncrief, THE RESPONSIBILITY OF WATCHING, Winona Winkler Wedth, TOP TEN MOVIES, and Daneen Akers, MAKING A LIST FOR 2007, recommend movies, and provide viewing tips, brief plot outlines, and background information. My wife, Claudia, recommends the movie reviews in “Christianity Today”.

Ray Garton’s WHEN ADVENTISTS RIOT is a funny, poignant, and unsettling description of student life at Rio Lindo Academy twenty-six years ago. He writes horror stories today, and credits the beasts of biblical prophecy for his initial interest in this literary genre. The following is his introduction to “Live Girls” on Amazon.

“Live Girls has been published in several countries and languages, and has had a few different editions here in the U.S. Since then, I have written over fifty books, but Live Girls remains my most popular and well-known novel. Eighteen years passed before I finally wrote a sequel (Night Life, now available in paperback from Leisure Books). I wrote one other vampire novel, Lot Lizards (coming soon in paperback from Leisure Books), which makes up my vampire trilogy.”

Best selling novelist and clinical psychologist Steven Spruill (alias Steve Lyon, Steve Morgan, and Steven Harrison) graduated from Andrew’s University with a BA in biology. He claims his own idiosyncratic SDA affiliation, and in BROTHERS AND SISTERS he writes knowingly about what all Adventist have in common “under the skin” (My quote not his.)

Check out Sprill’s book, “Absorbing Sponge Bob: Ten Ways to Squeeze More Happiness out of Life” and his novel, “Sleeper”. (The following is an Amazon description.) “The Pentagon holds many secrets, but none are more deadly than what is kept hidden beneath the basement in a cryogenic freeze. It has claws that could cut a man in half and an insatiable appetite for human flesh...and someone just woke it up.”

In BOOKS ON A BEDSIDE TABLE readers learn that “Freud read Scripture as though it were poetry and learned from it accordingly”. Words fail me.

Benjamin Lau, THE ADVENTIST ADVANTAGE, is a fascinating account of why SDA’s “are among the longest-lived people in the world”. But according to Lau, Adventists can do better. He is “concerned about the huge amounts of the dairy based and redefined sugared foods” Adventists commonly ingest. He goes on to state that “lactoovovegetarians may actually consume more animal products (cheese and milk) than meat eaters”.

GARDEN ENVY is Heather Isaacs Royce’s review of “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life”, by Barbara Kingsolver with Steven L. Hoop, and Camille Kingsolver. The book engaged Royce to the extent that she postulates the following question: “What would it mean if . . . eating became as fundamental to our ethical life as prayer is to our spiritual life and as voting is to our civic life?” Unfortunately, that is a meaningful question only to those in our world who can make that “fundamental” choice.

THIS IS ONE OF THOSE POEMS that brings back wonderful memories of Albion. I must confess, however, that the art that accompanies it on the back cover (a brick red rectangle) does not, as advertised, succeed in “moving” my spirit or prove to be helpful when meditating on Genesis 1:2.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Reviewing the Adventist Review

January 10, 2008
Vol. 185, No. 1

GENERAL COMMENTS: If you want to introduce a friend to the Review, this may be the edition. The cover is beautiful, the editorials are written with Christian grace, the review of recent developments at the Loma Linda School University Adventist Health Sciences Center will make you proud to be an Adventist, and there is a thrilling report from Mozambique.

LETTERS: Clifford Goldstein continues to be controversial.

Bill Knott’s editorial, THROW THIS AWAY, is a gentle but forceful reminder that "The secret of successful Christian living is knowing what to throw away, what to forget, what to discard."

Mark Kellner reminds readers of the groundbreaking media influence of “Faith for Today”. TURN YOUR RADIO ON is a heartfelt tribute to the pioneers of Adventist broadcasting.

THE JADE BRIDGE by Rebecca Brillhart is a lovely tribute to the joys, rewards, and necessity of the “Sabbath rest”.

Sari Fordham is simply fun to read. “YOUR SISTER HAS A DIRTY FACE” AND OTHER TEMPTATIONS is a riveting account of adult cynicism, theft, and trust in a God who answers the prayers of little children.

FORTY-NINE GLIMPSES OF GOD, PLUS ONE is a devotional piece by Lynell Lamountain that reminds readers that Heaven is a place "where smiles never fade, where tears never fall, and where love never dies". (The title was a bit puzzling. Only six “glimpses” were mentioned.)

BEHREN, LOMA LINDA UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT, TO RETIRE: What a career! What a medical institution! What a CEO! My only criticism of the article was Dr. Behren’s picture with board chair, Lowell C. Cooper, on page 19. The fuzzy black-and-white picture looked at first glance to be a newspaper publicity shot of an event in the 1940’s! It was, in fact, a photo taken during the groundbreaking ceremony for the Centennial Pathway.

FRANK JONES, 81, FORMER ASSOCIATE TREASURER, DIES. Paula L. Webber remembers his years of selfless service.

ADVENTIST CHURCH TO OPEN LITERACY CENTERS: "Under a new literacy education program, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Mozambique is partnering with national leadership to address the country's abysmal illiteracy rates. . .Under the agreement, the Adventist Church is responsible for running and staffing literacy centers throughout the country, which will be located at newly built Adventist churches. Church leaders plan to hire an initial staff of 700.” Church leaders anticipate that improving literacy in Mozambique will “build a strong relationship between church members and the communities where they live”. What a testimony to the credibility and community involvement of Christian Adventists in Mozambique! This is a proud day for SDA’s around the world!

TRUTH IS BETTER THAN FICTION by Jennifer Jill Schwirzer is an account of the kind of personal evangelism that changes and enriches lives.

In A FATHER’S JOURNEY, Ivan Blazen shares an autobiographical story of love lost and found. The compassionate care of his father by of Adventists in Zagreb, Yugoslavia, made it possible for him to be reunited with his father who had disowned him when he became an Adventist. It also made it possible for his father to embrace “the God of love” before he died.

BOOKS: Alexis A. Goring reviews “Can’t Keep My Soul From Dancing” by Mike Mennard, Review and Herald Publishing Company. According to reviewer Alexis A. Goring, It’s “not your average young adult devotional. . .It was written with the heart of an artist and skill of an educator.”

ADAPTABILITY by Seth Pierce begins with a funny story about adaptability. When he wrote this piece, Seth was about to become a father for the first time and had yet to really test his own adaptability. As a consequence, his advice lacked the humility that undoubtedly arrived along with his daughter, Madeline Claire, on November 30.

Truth to Power: What If That’s Why Adventism Is Flowering in the Developing World and Wilting at Home?

What if Adventism is flowering in the Third World because we establish schools and hospitals, not because of our theology? Tyrants fear the educated citizens of their countries; medical care for the poor is not a priority.


Successful evangelism in Developing Nations may be blinding us as to the ineffectiveness and Christian irrelevance of our evangelistic efforts in the United States and Europe. In the First World we are a politically and socially powerless denomination that attempts of evangelize by scaring people using the “final judgment” and terrifying end-time events. In the Third World our emphasis is The Gospel i.e. education and medical care that results inevitably in Truth to Power--spiritual, social, and political.


What if Adventist First World evangelism was a message of boldness rather than timidity, Truth to Power instead of terror and helplessness, determined optimism instead of deus ex machina. Might more of our educated, idealistic young people “stay with us” into maturity?

Does It Have To Be Like This?

(click image to enlarge)
Taken from the comic Opus, by Berkeley Breathed

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Poems I Love Communicate

Commentary by Andy Hanson

The poems I love say something valuable about communication. That’s because communication makes teaching and learning possible. I know; I’ve been a Professor of Education at Chico State for the past thirty-five years. During that time I have instructed and supervised over 4000 beginning teachers and worked with over one hundred elementary and secondary schools in the North State. The following poems have important things to say to all of us about communication.

Sandburg speaks directly to the frustration that results in failure to understand exactly what it is another person is trying to say.

What is there for us two
To split fifty-fifty,
To go halvers on?
A Bible, a deck of cards?
a farm, a frying pan?
a porch, front steps to sit on?
How can we be pals
when you speak English
and I speak English
and you never understand me
and I never understand you?

And when we can’t communicate, things get desperate. Evangeline Paterson expresses that desperate feeling well.

The water that I live in
is full of piranha
and it doesn’t do
to have a bleeding heart
in this locality.

Please God
get me out of this water
or give me a shell
or teeth. . . .

Just don’t leave me here
with nothing
but the conviction
that piranha
are all God’s
children too.

Robert Graves provides insight into why this lack of understanding might happen between a person of a traditional viewpoint and someone with a skeptical or scientific outlook.

He is quick, thinking in clear images,
I am slow, thinking in broken images.

He becomes dull, trusting to his clear images,
I become sharp, mistrusting my broken images.

Trusting his images, he assumes their relevance,
Mistrusting my images, I question their relevance.

Assuming their relevance, he assumes the fact,
Questioning their relevance, I question the fact.

When the fact fails him, he questions his senses,
When the fact fails me, I approve my senses.

He continues quick and dull in his clear images,
I continue slow and sharp in my broken images.

He in a new confusion of his understanding,
I in a new understanding of my confusion.

e. e. cummings speaks to the tension that results when a social, political, and religious groups preach conformity.

To be nobody but yourself
in a world which is doing its best
night and day
to make you everybody else—
means to fight the hardest battle
which any human being can fight
and never stop fighting.

Shel Silverstein reminds us that age can be a barrier to effective communication.

Once I spoke the language of the flowers,
Once I understood each word the caterpillar said,
Once I smiled in secret at the gossip of the starlings,
And shared a conversation with the housefly
in my bed.
Once I heard and answered all the questions
of the crickets,
And joined the crying of each falling dying
flake of snow,
Once I spoke the language of the flowers . . .
How did it go?
How did it go?

Robert Frost lets us know that plain speech is indispensable if we wish to communicate our feelings.

We make ourselves a place apart
Behind light words that tease and flout,
But oh, the agitated heart
Til someone really finds us out.

Tis pity if the case requires
(or so we say) that in the end
We speak the literal to inspire
The understanding of a friend.

But so it is with babes at play
At hide and seek to guard afar
So all who hide too well away
Must speak and tell us where they are.

Fred Bremmer and Steve Kroese of Calvin College & Seminary of Grand
Rapids, Michigan that English itself is evolving in ways that make communicating the simplest ideas almost impossible.


This poem
can only be appreciated by reading it aloud, to wit:

Waka waka bang splat tick tick hash,
Caret quote back-tick dollar dollar dash,
Bang splat equal at dollar under-score,
Percent splat waka waka tilde number four,
Ampersand bracket bracket dot dot slash,
Vertical-bar curly-bracket
comma comma CRASH.

Yevgeny Yevtushenko knows first hand the destructive legacy of lying, even for what some people believe to be the “right” reasons.

Telling lies to the young is wrong.
Proving to them that lies are true is wrong.
Telling them that God's in his heaven
and all's well with the world is wrong.
The young know what you mean. The young are people.
Tell them the difficulties can't be counted,
and let them see not only what will be
but see with clarity these present times.
Say obstacles exist they must encounter,
sorrow happens, hardship happens.
The hell with it. Who never knew
the price of happiness will not be happy.
Forgive no error you recognize,
it will repeat itself, increase,
and afterwards our pupils
will not forgive in us what we forgave.

Ralph Hodgson warns us of the dangerous values that are fostered by irrational ideas.

I saw with open eyes
Singing birds sweet
Sold in the shops
For the people to eat,
Sold in the shops of
Stupidity Street.

I saw in a vision
The worm in the wheat,
And in the shops nothing
For people to eat:
Nothing for sale in
Stupidity Street.

In her book, Mother Teresa, A Simple Path, she despairs of ever being understood. The demands of duty are paramount.

People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered,
If you do good, people will accuse you of
selfish, ulterior motives,
If you are successful,
you win false friends and true enemies,
The good you do will be forgotten tomorrow,
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable,
What you spent years building may be
destroyed overnight,
People really need help
but may attack you if you help them,
Give the world the best you have
and you'll get kicked in the teeth,

So, how should we communicate, in what spirit? As Christians, our model is Christ.

Mathew 6:7-13 Jesus advises direct, straight-forward language. “In your prayers do not babble as the Gentiles do, for they think that by using many words they will make themselves heard. Do not be like them; your Father knows what you need before you ask him. So you should pray like this:

Our Father in heaven,
may your name be held holy,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
and forgive us our debts,
as we have forgiven those who are in debt to us.
And do not put us to the test,
but save us from the Evil One.

Mathew 10: 34 As Christians, our speech, while not designed to produce dissension may create it, because it involves decision making.

Do not suppose
that I have come to bring peace to the earth:
it is not peace I have come to bring
but a sword.

Mathew 13:34,35 Mathew tells us that “Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables; indeed, he would never speak to them except in parables.”

I will speak to you in parables,
unfold what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.

Mathew 18:15 Brotherly correction was a topic addressed by Jesus.

“If your brother does something wrong,
go and have it out with him alone,
between your two selves.
If he listens to you,
you have won back your brother.
If he does not listen,
take one or two others along with you. . .
But if he refuses to listen to these,
report it to the community,
and if he refuses to listen to the community,
treat him like an outcast.

Mathew 22:37-40, Mark 12:28, Luke 10:42 All communication must be judged by whether it conforms to the “great” commandments. “On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets too.”

You must love the Lord your God
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind.

You must love your neighbor
As yourself.

Mark 7:8,9 Traditional ways of thinking and speaking must be judged by these commandments. Rebuking the scribes and Pharisees Jesus said:

You honor God only with lip-service,
while your hearts are far from me.
Your reverence of me is worthless;
the lessons you teach are nothing but human commandments.

Luke 6:36, 37 Speak with words of compassion and generosity.

Be compassionate
Just as your Father is compassionate.
Do not judge,
And you will not be judged;
Do not condemn,
And you will not be condemned;
And you will be forgiven.

John 15:14,15 Communicate boldly. You are a chosen friend of God.

You are my friends,
if you do what I command you,
I shall no longer call you servants,
because a servant does not know
his master’s business;
I call you friends,
because I have made known to you
everything I have learned from my Father.
You did not choose me,
no, I chose you. . .

John 16:26, 27 Communicate fearlessly. Jesus does not have to protect you from the wrath of God.

The hour is coming
When I shall no longer speak to you in 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 Him.

1 John 4:16-19 Communicate without anxiety. God’s judgment is nothing to be afraid of.

God is love,
and whoever remains in love remains in God
and God in him.
Love comes to its perfection in us
when we can face the Day of Judgment fearlessly,
because even in this world
we have become as he is.
In love there is no room for fear,
but perfect love drives out fear,
because fear implies punishment
and whoever is afraid has not come to perfection in love.
Let us love then,
because God first loved us.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


Written from the SDA University in Kenya

Date: Thu, 3 Jan 2008 01:16:32 -0800
Subject: Going Through Nightmare of Ethnic War - Baraton, Kenya

Dear Talkback Forum,

I wish to share with you the terror and nightmare we are going through of Ethnic War. I am emailing from Baraton the location of the biggest Seventh day Adventist University in Africa. The situation is bad! It all began soon after lection results were announced! Then several groups of community around broke into war songs. They broke into the shopping center next to the university and looted all the shops that belong to Kikuyus and Kisiis. Then they broke into rented offcampus houses of students.

A crowd of about 1,000 people surged to the university gate and wanted to storm the university. They demanded that all Kikuyus, Kambas, Meru, and Kisii people leave the university within two hours. That was the only way to save the university from being stormed. They remained at the gate until it would be seen done. About three armed policemen arrived and spent time negotiating with the crowd. Finally the police advised us to evacuate the named ethnic groups. We put the faculty and students numbering about 250 into three university vehicles and were taken to Kapsabet Police station under police escort. They are still there as at now. A few of us are on campus!

The Division tried to evacuate those from Kapsabet Police Station to Eldoret international Airport but the next road block was a no-go-zone. Inspite of the police escort, the university buses had to return to Kapsabet. The is no way anyone can get out. One baraton group is holed up at Kapsabet police station while faculty members from Luo and Luhyia community, international workers and students are holed up within the campus. Those at Kapsabet have no food or water The worst fear is not so much of food but possibility of police station being stormed. The police are few and overstretched.

We have been having threats a almost daily at campus. On one occassion, we had to give out a bull for them to slaughter and guarantee us peace. Then they came and demanded milk which we also gave. Then we succeced in pleading with the malitia to allow us transport food to those at police station. They allowed us first day and we transported it on varsity tractor. It took three hours to go through road blocks to reach Kapsabet wich is only 15 kilometers away.

I attended a meeting yeasterday with commaders and malitia leaders who came to meet university adminstration. We confirmed that Malitia had had their own meeting and resolved that on humanitarion ground, faculty with kids and pregnant mothers be allowed to return to campus. They also told us students of other communities should come back. It sounded good news. We shock hands. We asked them to transport food to Kapsabet. They agreed and used their own vehicles. But the food never arrived. The malitia who were escorting the food we beaten and vehicles destroyed. The fact that you negotiate with one malitia group, remember the next and several others groups have their own policy. It is like you need visa to cross several of them. We have about 130 Kisii students and workers stranded at police station but cant leave for home. I know of Mr Obuchi whose wife is pregnant! I know of Pr Elijah Njagi and wife, Nyarangi anf wife, etcThey are sleeping in the grass and some in university bus parked at the police station. There is no food and I have never witnessed this.

As I write this email, have just been informed that a crowd came to university gate 15 min ago and demanded that we go out and join them in mass demonstration in the street. That means we shall be put on front line to meet the armed police. University PRO has negotiated with them and the crowd has now chained the university main gate, locked it and gone with the key. No vehicle an come in or go out. We pray that they dont come to force us out.

It is a nightmare to meet them. All of them are armed with matchets, rungus, arrows and bows. Some are drunk and others baying for blood. I have never seen this! We are fear frozen and prayer takes a new meaning! My home is 100 km from here but how do you pass those road blocks? We have Luo workers who want to get out but we hear the Kisii are grouping to fight Luos on Kisii/Luo border. We are boxed in. The road blocks are manned by not less than 500 people. The road block at Cheptrit has a thousand youth manning it. Police told us that Mosoriot has ten thousand worriers camping there. It is a no-go-zone.

We have no where to buy food, no calling cards available, no fuel! But we are finding a new meaning in prayer. I hope I can keep updating you of what is happening at Baraton. You can get from internet what could be happening in other parts like Eldoret, Kakamega and Kisumu.

I have to leave for a crisis meeting to try and avert any attack on the campus. I hope internet access will remain open so that I can keep updating you. I can see helicopter flying over us but seems to be passing again! American Embassy called yesterday for the sake of their citizens. This is a no-go-zone! We need to be evacuated from here! Promises of safety from some malitia groups cannot be trusted.You need to be here to feel it. Whatever the political arguement, it is a nightmare! The ground issue is not how you voted but ethnic affliation. Some are using it to settle personal scores! There were some leaflets from one group saying that all non-Nandis get ready to leave. Other Militia groups say no. But God still keeps us safe!

Caesar Wamalika.

Caesar Wamalika
University of Eastern Africa, Baraton
14 Mwalimu Drive
P.O. Box 2500, ELDORET 30100,
Tel.: 254-734-429-326 (Mobile)

Reviewing the Pacific Union Recorder

January, 2008

GENERAL COMMENTS: In this review I will only comment of essays, news reports, and editorials that are not just “more of the same old stuff”. Ricardo and Jim, attention please! The following CCC report is especially for you.

CENTRAL CALIFORNIA RE-ELECTS OFFICERS. First the facts. Between 2003 and 2007 this conference raised over $5,000,000 in annual offerings. This allowed the conference to hold 222 “full-scale public evangelistic meetings, [to support] 52 Bible workers, 105 New Work projects, 30 church plants, two full-time evangelistic teams and 13 new evangelistic initiatives”. The conference sponsored a “student literature evangelism program which trains youth for leadership, Bible work and outreach. . . During the last three years, 242 students visited 840,000 homes, distributed 317,000 Bible study interest cards, placed 153,000 books in people’s homes and personally visited 1,648 people for Bible studies. The students distributed $1.2 million worth of literature. . .Tithe has increased steadily for over 10 years, reaching over $25 million in 2006. Conference reserves stand at 112 percent of the amount recommended by the GC.”

Now for the payoff. “5,753 members were added to the CCC in the last three years through baptism, profession of faith and transfers. Membership at the end of 2006 stood at 32,701, up from 31,054 in 2003. In other words, membership increased by 1,647. Why only 1,647? Why did 4,106 people leave the church between 2003 and 2006? (No number is given for membership deaths, so none is assumed.) This number assumes only that transfers in and out of the conference balance out, and that the new members “evangelized” include children attending Adventist schools in the conference.

When one considers the outcome of the CCC's efforts, the Adventist Church’s traditional methods of evangelism must be considered pointless and a huge waste of money and time. Two questions are immediately obvious. Why did 12% of the 2003 membership "leave" the church? "Why are Adventist evangelistic efforts so ineffectual? These questions need to be addressed by North American, union, conference and local leadership, ASAP!

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Richard H. Utt’s comment entitled, “Errors and Orchids”, is an apt description of the readers’ comments.


CAMP WAWONA APPROVED FOR REDEVELOPMENT This camp is in Yosemite National Park and the approval has been earned after a twenty-year struggle with local and national bureaucracy. Way to go folks! Perseverance is an underrated virtue.

OUTDOOR EVANGELISM DRAWS CROWDS in Ventura, California, and the West Jordan Church in Utah. While this “full-sized replica of the Old Testament tabernacle” draws crowds and raises money, it promotes an Old Testament view of God. Christ isn’t a scary being sitting on the lid of the ark or hovering between the wings of golden cherubim.

The words “Messiah’s Mansion” “prayer retreat” and “Paul Harvey, news legend”, “tofu steaks”, “the edge of eternity”, and “non-taxable IRA Transfers” have just been included in my list of Adventist oxymorons. In just eleven pages!

When FALLBROOK MEMBERS ASSIST FIREFIGHTERS, I cheer! Unfortunately, the names of those thirteen wonderful adults and kids are not identified by name. Reporters and editors, work a little harder.


REDDING ADVENTIST ACADEMY CROSS-COUNTRY COACH WINS AWARD is an amazing story of what kids in a school with only fifty-six students can do. The six boys who ran so well that their coach was named “2007 Northern Section Cross-Country Coach of the Year Award” (for both public and private schools) are pictured but not named! Unforgivable!

NUTS TO YOU by Dynnette Kenneth Hart is informative and motivating. Great job!

Alan J. Reinach, Esq. is very persuasive when he writes, “Learning to live together in peace, despite our religious differences, is among the most important things we can do for national security and world peace.” RELIGIOUS LIBERTY BUILDS BRIDGES.

LOVE MOTIVATES SAVANNAH EDWARDS TO RAISE FUNDS IN MEMORY OF COUSIN, Stephen Dysinger, 13, who died of a rare form of cancer that attacks muscle cells and connective tissues, called Rhabdomyosarcoma. Savannah, eleven, says that Jesus’ special gift to her is “acts of love and service for others.”

ASSEMBLYMAN NAKANISHI VISITS PUC. As a PUC ’63 alum myself, I’m proud that his life of service to others as a physician and elected official of the Tenth Assembly District began on Howell Mountain where my mother, Pauline Sturges, arrived in a stagecoach in 1918.

ADVENTIST RODDERS CLUB CELEBRATES 10 YEARS. Jim White, a member of the Camelback Church plans to use his “newly purchased classic car. . .as a witnessing tool”. Jim, is that the story you told your wife?

When the UNION PROVIDES FREE WEB MINISTRY HELP, they aren’t kidding. Check out Click on the Internet Ministries link.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Reviewing Adventist Today

January/February 2008

GENERAL COMMENTS: The new look is a definite improvement. Chris Komisar’s graphics are clean and just plain fun to look at. The idea of putting this “new look” edition online as a one-time promotion is a winner, as is the idea of AN ADVENTIST TODAY CONFERENCE AT SEA.

Andy Nash’s editorial, FLESH, SPIRIT, AND THE BODY OF CHRIST sets the stage for a magazine in which readers and are challenged to suspend “blanket judgments” of fellow Adventists and other contributors.

LETTERS: Reader responses to “Understanding Genesis” in the November/December issue were summed up by Patti Hare as “a prime example of keep-God-in-a-box thinking”.

COME TO OUR SCHOOL--WE'RE LISTED. “U.S. News and World Report’s 2008” ranking of colleges and universities was demystified by Melanie Eddlemon.

'RED BOOKS' PLAY TOURS SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. A DVD of “Red Books: Our Search for Ellen White”, a play written by Mei Teo and an original production by the Dramatic Arts Society of Pacific Union College, will be available soon. Contact Adventist Today at 1-800-236-3641.

Suggestions for theological SHEEP—Adventist Today; HYBRIDS—Adventist Review; AND GOATS—The Clear Word.

Tom MOSTERT’S ARITHMETIC (0+0+0+0) in the August, ’07 issue of the Pacific Union Recorder, “equates” Adventist members and pastors with Pacific Union Conference failures in the areas of sanctification, health, evangelism, and prophecy. The equation is incomplete. Completed: (M+0+0+0+0)=0

BULL AND LICKHART’S CHALLENGE TO ADVENTIST PROGRESSIVES, was paraphrased nicely by Lisa Clark Diller. “We, [readers of AT] often imagine that we represent the ‘real’ church. But immigrants, converts, and the world church are changing the realities on the ground. And these newer Adventists appear to value the unique doctrines of the Adventist church more than multi-generational, institutionalized Adventists. . .Maintaining an identity while promoting inclusively is a creative dynamic tension [that hopefully] propels Adventism forward, allowing it to ‘renew its tradition’ and to continually appeal to new constituencies.”

CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE by Dennis Hokama is an informative survey of Adventist beliefs. Unfortunately, the survey was interrupted by an extended editorial comment following the views of Ramone Romero.

Ervin Taylor’s report on the QUESTIONS ON DOCTRINE CONFERENCE revealed that, at least publicly, old theological enemies can “make nice”. Unfortunately, that was all that was accomplished.

Reading BREAKING THE SILENCE—TOGETHER as reported by Andy Nash made me uncomfortable. Bernie and Christina Anderson’s responses to questions about Bernie’s addiction to pornography seemed scripted, and their relationship seemed untested by publicity and time.

CAN YOU BE AN ADVENTIST AND EVOLUTIONIST—NO by Clifford Goldstein; YES by Ervin Taylor, almost deserves the following dismissive “YES”. (Both of their local churches have chosen not to disfellowship them.) I do have some comments on the “debate”, however.

Cliff, according to current evolutionary theory, Jesus didn’t die for “highly advanced Neanderthals”. He died for highly advanced Homo sapiens. Neanderthals became extinct 30,000 years ago. Erv, I went to some trouble to come up with a current definition of neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory. “Neo-Darwinism and population genetics theory assumes that the necessary and sufficient set of conditions for all genetic, therefore evolutionary, change has been identified.”

Both debaters moved quickly away from the uncomfortable assumptions that anchor their arguments. Cliff avoided discussion of the geological and anthropological record and presented his brand of rational theology. Erv moved just as quickly away from a rationale for neo-Darwinism to a discussion of the evolutionary nature of Adventist doctrine. This “debate” wasn’t.

MAD ABOUT MUSIC is very cool. Vanessa Sanders’ history of Adventist music controversies was enlightening and fun to read. Graphics at the bottom of the pages made the story come alive. The fact that musical clips are available at “” is a great bonus feature. Readers can also vote as to whether or not the music is offensive. This option is hokey, but fun.

FORD, TOYOTA, AND CHURCH is a beautifully crafted essay that speaks volumes about Alden Thompson’s ability to foster Christ-like inclusiveness and positive change in Adventist culture.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Thoughts for a New Year

A Paraphrase From the Last Three Chapters of Hebrews

Don’t ever forget those wonderful days when you were a new convert. Do not let that happy trust in the Lord die away, no matter what happens. Remember your reward! You need to keep on patiently doing God’s will if you want him to do for you all that he has promised. And those whose faith has made them good in God’s sight must live by faith, trusting him in everything.

What is faith? Is the confident assurance that something we want is going to happen. It is the certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it up ahead. People of Faith in days of old died without ever receiving all that God had promised them; but they saw it all awaiting them on ahead and were glad, for they agreed that this earth was not their real home, but that they were strangers visiting down here. And quite obviously when they talked like that, they were looking forward to their real home in heaven.

Some were laughed at and their backs cut open with whips, and others were chained in dungeons. Some died by stoning and some by being sawed in two; others were promised freedom if they would renounce their faith, then were killed with the sword. Some went about in skins of sheep and goats, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in dens and caves. They were hungry and sick and ill treated--too good for this world.

Since we have such a huge crowd of men and women of faith watching us from the grandstands, let us strip off anything that slows us down or holds us back, and especially those sins that wrap themselves so tightly around our feet and trip up; and let us run with patience the particular race that God has set before us.

Keep your eyes on Jesus, our leader and instructor. Take a new grip with your tired hands, stand firm on your shaky legs, and mark out a straight, smooth path for your feet so that those who follow you, though week and lame, will not fall land hurt themselves, but become strong.

Try to stay out of all quarrels and seek to live a clean and holy life. Look after each other so that not one of you will fail to find God’s best blessings. Watch out that no bitterness takes root among you, for as it springs up it causes deep trouble, hurting many in their spiritual lives. Continue to love each other. Don’t forget to be kind to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! Share the sorrow of those being mistreated, for you know what they are going through. For God has said, “I will never, never fail you nor forsake you.” That is why we can say, in faith, without any doubt or fear, “The Lord is my Helper and I am not afraid of anything that mere man can do to me.”

Now may the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he who became the great Shepherd of the sheep by an everlasting agreement between God and you, signed with his blood, produce in you through the power of Christ all that is pleasing to him. To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Reviewing Adventist Review

December 27, 2007
Vol. 184, No. 36

GENERAL COMMENTS: it was great to see what you all look like, both editors and production staff. It's my hope that in the new year the editorial work will improve, particularly in the area of the selection of articles for publication. It is also my hope that editors will work with contributors to eliminate or modify words and phrases that detract from the overall intent of the article or editorial. (I question the word, "protagonist's" on page 23 and also the syntax of the sentence beginning "In the fast-food. . ." in the same column.) Happy New Year.

LETTERS: The letters this week reflect a wide range of personalities, religious orientations, and degrees of sophistication. I was particularly impressed by letters from Donald Lawrence and Brent Skilton.

Bill Knott's editorial, DANIEL'S BAND, reminded readers that people working to make the world a better place, no matter their religion or employer, should be honored by all of us. I was impressed by his reference to God as "the Merciful One". That term speaks volumes about love and inclusiveness. Way to go Bill.

IS THE WORLD FLAT? WITH TODAY'S TECHNOLOGY, FULFILLING THE GOSPEL COMMISSION HAS NEVER BEEN EASIER is thoughtful and important. Richard Osborn, President of Pacific Union College, is persuasive and comprehensive in his argument. Unfortunately, the article is two pages too long. This is not Spectrum. (Osborn writes like a college professor; I ought to know.)

Leo S. Ranzolin's THE NEW JERUSALEM is one man's heavenly fantasy. While it's not the Heaven of my dreams, I would certainly be happy living there.

It would have been great to get THE ADVENTIST REVIEW FOR KIDS, AND THOSE WHO ALWAYS WILL BE KIDS AT HEART before Christmas. There was at least one fun activity and some appropriate devotional thoughts that would have come in handy when I was visiting six of my grandchildren. Sadly, this excellent insert arrived after the tree was taken down.

Until the final two paragraphs of ALTERNATIVE HISTORIES, I thought Clifford Goldstein and I were going to agree on a fundamental Christian position. But then Clifford wrote, "This life, instead, comes only from the perfect righteousness of Jesus, wrought out 2000 years ago in Him, which He offers to us by faith. And the good news is that the moment we except it we have all the righteousness we need for salvation, because it's 'the righteousness of God' Himself." Clifford, righteousness is a magic act? Even medieval nobles were uncomfortable with this notion. It's why they built cathedrals. I was hoping you would say that the life of Christ defined the Gospel message, and you would conclude with a counterfactual of what this world would be like if we humans had decided to become citizens of Christ's Kingdom.

SEAN TAYLOR; SLAIN NFL PLAYER, HAD ADVENTIST TIES sets the record straight about the life and death of Sean Taylor. He was a good guy and a great football player. Mark Kellner reports the story with his usual humanity and attention to detail.

MONARCH LAUDS ADVENTIST WOMAN FOR COMMUNITY SERVICE, ADRA WORK. Joan Saddler received the Order of the British Empire from Queen Elizabeth II on December 6. She is the second Adventist to receive the MBE in the last two years. Pastor John Arthur was also awarded the MBE in June 2006, for his work with ADRA.

ASK THE DOCTORS is another winner. MILK OR SILK? by MD’s Handysides and Landless. discusses soymilk, the history of peanut butter, fats and oils, and stress.

TAKING OUR MESSAGE TO THE WORLD by Ellen G. White is the admonition of a woman who lived this message. The last sentence is a bit of a jolt, however. "The end is near!" was and written in 1890.

LIFT by Larry Bucher is a moving tribute to medical professionals who serve the Lord and humanity in the Third World.

Valerie N. Phillips' WINDOWS ON BROKENESS is a lovely parable illuminated by broken glass.

MAKING THINGS RIGHT, NOW is a delightful example of using personal experience to make a relevant spiritual statement. Thanks to Jimmy Phillips, my communion foot washing experience has important, added meaning.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Reviewing the Adventist Review

December 20, 2007

GENERAL COMMENT: This issue as a mixed bag. News reports are compelling, and interesting; Roy Adams’ editorial is outstanding as usual; a reviewer reviews a movie he did not see; the feature article is an elegantly written sermon that reflects the worst aspects of traditional Adventist theology; and an author seems to have forgotten that Mary was a virgin.

LETTERS: The letters selected for review thoughtful and all written. However, the most recent letter referenced an article in the November 8 Review; and one letter was written in response to an article in the Review of September 27. I'll keep asking the following question until I get an answer. Why does it take letters to the editor so long to be published?

In A COSMIC GAMBLE Roy Adams portrays Jesus as an extraordinary hero, and his portrayal is beautifully written and convincing.

Sandra Blackmeyer notes A MAJOR MILESTONE. Kenneth H. Wood, a former editor of the review, turned 90 in the month of November, and continues to serve as Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Ellen G. White Estate.

The feature article, THE GOD WHO COMES LOOKING, is an elegantly crafted sermon in which Calvin B. Rock:

describes a god
“whose holy nature is antithetical to evil, [and] demands just recompense for our transgressions. Sinners may think that because punishment against evil is not executed speedily, they can, with impunity, transgress his law. But it is not so. The God who comes delivering also comes in demanding accurate accountability for all our actions. Humanity cannot escape the ‘looking god’. God is just, and someday he will revenge the oppressed and repay the keepers of false imbalances.”

describes a god with an ego problem.
“Sin is not simply defiance. It is disrespect; it is disloyalty; it is ingratitude.”

describes a god that sacrificed His Son
“to pay a debt He did not owe, because we [humans] owed a debt we could not pay.”

This sermon is the antithesis of The Sermon on the Mount. Jesus’ life was a living testament to the fact that God was not as Rock has describes him. Jesus taught his followers to love their enemies, and He made it clear that this message was from his Father. Rock’s sermon is an artful justification for getting even. Jesus said that he came to save the world not to judge it. Rock advocates saving the world by punishing sinners.

The idea that a god who created this universe was required by his own “law” to murder his son (if you are an Arian) or part of his “indivisible self” (if you are a Trinitarian) to satisfy a debt he/his son “did not owe, because we owed a debt we could not pay” is ludicrous on its face. Jesus told his disciples as much just before He was crucified. I offer two translations of John 16: 8-11 as Jesus’ attempt to set the record straight.

John 16
When he [the Paraclete] comes, he'll expose the error of the godless world's view of sin, righteousness, and judgment: He'll show them that their refusal to believe in me is their basic sin; that righteousness comes from above, where I am with the Father, out of their sight and control; that judgment takes place as the ruler of this godless world is brought to trial and convicted.

And when he [the Paraclete] comes,
he will show the world how wrong it was,
about sin,
and about who was in the right;
and about judgement:
about sin:
in that they refuse to believe in me;
about who was in the right,
in that I am going to the Father
and you will see me no more;
About judgement:
in that the prince of this world is already condemned.

Human beings killed Jesus. It is the wages of sin that causes death, and the religious and political systems that sponsored Jesus’ murder have earned terrifying wages. The chaos that sin produces and continues to produce devastates our planet and the lives of the living creatures that inhabit it. Jesus offered us a chance to live as citizens of His Kingdom, but we opted for “an eye for an eye” rather than love, rules instead of righteousness, war instead of peace, the Law of Moses instead of The Gospel, a god who must punish “disrespect, disloyalty, and ingratitude” instead of a God who is a Friend.

In JUST ONE QUALIFICATION, Fredrick A. Russell suggests “that until we consider spiritual qualifications as the dominant way we choose and select leaders on all levels of our faith community, we will have leaders ill-equipped to fight in this world of 'present darkness'. . . The one and only qualification to lead in today's church is to be filled with the Spirit. If that's offensive, so be it." I have two questions pastor: how do you define "spirit" and who decides who’s filled with it?

MAY I GIVE YOU A GIFT? The answer by Delona Lang Bell and Michele Conklin is an unqualified "yes". The article describes the gift of Porter Adventist Hospital to Denver, Colorado, the United States, and the World. The featured Doctor is Ken Kulig who not only gives Bibles to his patients, but has learned to help take care of his patients faith needs as well.

WHO'S LAUGHING? by Dick Renfro is a review of a review of a movie he has not seen. The movie is "Evan Almighty". A review of a movie review in the June issue of Time Magazine is as close as Mr. Renfro will allow himself to approach a comedy based on "an historical event such as the biblical Flood. . . I do not attend the public theater, and I don't condemn those who do, but God gives us a simple rule of phone to rate any kind of 'entertainment'. If we strive to follow this holy council, it will ultimately keep us safe in our walk with God." Editors, this opinion piece would be funny if it didn't hold you and the Review up to ridicule. I'm not laughing.

ANDREWS CONFERENCE MARKS CONTRIVERSIAL BOOK'S ANNIVERSARY. The subtitle and a quote from David Larson, a Professor of Religion at Loma Linda University says all that needs to be said. (subtitle) "Questions on Doctrine inspires cordial debate; fellowship results." (Larson comment) "This is a big, beautiful world -- get a life!"

ZIMBABWE: ADVENTIST UNIVERSITY'S FOOD SUPPLY DWINDLING is a cry for help from the 3,200 students, faculty, and staff of Adventist-owned Solusi University.120,000 US dollars will buy enough food in Zimbabwe's neighboring countries to keep the doors open along with him the elementary and high school located on the University's campus. (An irrigation system is planned so that the campus can achieve self-sufficiency.) A severe drought and corrupt government have accelerated the country's food crisis. An account has been established to receive donations at the North American Division Office of Education, which will be wired directly to Solusi University. Checks should be made out to "NAD Solusi Project," and mailed to:
North American Division
Office of Education
Solusi Project
12501 Old Columbia Pike
Silver Spring MD 20904

Weymouth Spence, Ed.D. is the new president of Columbia Union College.

JUST A HOMELESS PERSON is a story about how John Wooden and an unnamed restaurant (McDonald's or Burger King?) worked together to provide a homeless man with a free meal.

IF YOU COULD CHOOSE YOUR FAMILY TREE makes an important point about a prideful accounting of the personal and professional status of one's ancestors. However, when he claims that "there wasn't a single person in Jesus lineage who is not a sinner", both Frederick Pelser and the editors had forgotten that Mary was a virgin.

Monte Sahlin suggests some useful RESOURCES TO “TOOL” US FOR MINISTRY.

THE GAS LAMP by Janine Goffar, a student I met as a fifth grader on my first day of teaching at Santa Monica Junior Academy, found a “soft, flickering light” in the darkness of difficult times. (In all modesty, I take the credit for Janine’s brilliant success as a writer.)