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.)

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