Sunday, April 6, 2008

Reviewing Spectrum

Winter, 2008
Volume 36, Issue 1

GENERAL COMMENTS
This issue reminded me of my trip with Dante in his Devine Comedy. I have placed the following offerings under his titles, beginning with the lowest level of Purgatory. Because there were moments of lucidity in every literary offering, no one in this issue was awarded a place in Hell. (Jones and Cafferky are close enough to smell the brimstone, however.) Purgatory is a mountain, a place of struggle and hope.

PURGATORY—LOWEST LEVEL
“Examining the Biblical Texts About Homosexuality: Toward the Unity of the Body of Christ” by John R. Jones
“Change in the Adventist Church: Analyzing the Latest Actions of the General Conference” by Michael E. Cafferky
“Ordinary and Dangerous: Sex in the Christian Community” by Loren Seibold
“Jesus Loves Me This I Know” by Dana Schuster (a pseudonym)

PURGATORY—HALFWAY UP THE MOUNTAIN
“Flame of Yahweh: Sexuality in the Old Testament” reviewed by James D. Lorenz
“Critiquing the Movie Critics” by R. Munsey
“The Language of Morality” (Comments published in the Spectrum Blog)
“A Dream Of” a poem by Andrew Cockerham

PURGATORY—CLOSE TO THE TOP
“Reading the Bible Together” by Bonnie Dwyer
“Let’s Eliminate Hyperorthodoxy” by Charles Scriven
“Call to Community: A Liturgy Celebrating God’s Call to Experience Authentic Community” by Charles Teel, Jr.
“Public Policy Issues Involving Homosexuality: An Adventist Response” by Mitchell A. Tyner

HEAVEN
“The Beloved Community: A Radical Reformation Conception of the Church” by Charles Scriven
“Adventists Through Academic Eyes: An Interview with Eva Keller” by Alita Byrd
“The Road to Clarity: Seventh-day Adventism in Madagascar” reviewed by Rich Hannon
“Blest Be the Tie That Binds” by Juli Milleir
“The Adventist Community as the Light of the World: Claiming the Whole of Mathew’s Vision” by Ernest J. Bursey


PURGATORY—LOWEST LEVEL
“Examining the Biblical Texts About Homosexuality: Toward the Unity of the Body of Christ” by John. R. Jones is eighteen pages, including notes, of torturous quibbling, hairsplitting, and intellectual blather that, in the end, leaves the reader guessing about what it all means. The following is a quote from Jones’ conclusion.

“There is no question that the Spirit’s onward call, from comfortable stasis to destabilizing rethinking in line with Christ's rule, will continue to affront many. And I realize how readily the perspective represented in this article can be cheapened with a dismissive label of ‘situational ethics’.”


”Change in the Adventist Church: Analyzing the Latest Actions of the General Conference” by Michael E. Cafferky is positive proof that the administrative structure of the Adventist Church is self perpetuating. The writing is administrative gobbledygook of the first order. Unfortunately, the writing reflects the inability of General Conference delegates to do the necessary work of the Church. Here's part of a typical committee report.

“As a church, we must become mature enough to embrace continued discussions about vertical power and authority as we move on to include other discussions about the horizontal connections that are needed. Without horizontal integration efforts, we will make slow progress toward improved flexibility. The net result will be only marginal progress toward mission accomplishment.” The concluding paragraph is a doozy!

“We need the commission or another group to study ways to improve horizontal integration across functions, departments, support services, specialized ministries, and organizations that share common goals. Discussions like this offer the potential for helping us learn how different perspectives can be unified, and how we can come to agreement on our priorities.”


“Ordinary and Dangerous: Sex in the Christian Community” by Loren Seibold is a painfully inept attempt to talk about sex outside of marriage. The pictures of Marilyn Monroe are gratuitous and give the article a sleazy look. And the writing reveals a disturbing moral ambiguity. The following quotations are troubling.

“She” is a friend of the author who was repeatedly raped by her church school teacher when she was thirteen. When questioned by the church pastor and elders, “she read the future in their faces: they were disposed to disbelieve her, or at least hoped they could find some way not to deal with it. So not to prolong the agony, she (showing the most sense of them all) denied anything had happened, and it was dropped. He moved on to another church school, she to a period of depression and promiscuity”.

“Many (even Christian) young people believe that sex with a boyfriend or girlfriend, or even with several dozen necessarily destroy your life. The virginity myth that was widely accepted (if carelessly practiced) for thousands of years has lost adherents. I do not ask young unmarried couples attending church if they are sleeping together; whether or not, my goal is to get them married, not embarrass them and make them unwelcome. From a traditional point of view this may be regrettable, but it is also realistic.”


“Jesus Loves Me This I Know” by Dana Schuster (a pseudonym) belongs in the lowest level of Purgatory for what it reveals about the writer and the religious institution (presumably the Adventist Church) he/she works for. It is a profound tragedy that a person who “can accept the scientific data and also affirm a traditional view of the Fall ” risks censure or criticism if his/her identity is known. The writer concludes this “heretical” letter as follows:

“First, I think it is important to be honest with data. Second, I think it is important to affirm the loving kindness of God. Third, I think it is important to cultivate humility and to allow the love of Jesus to release us from fear of the unknown. If I may paraphrase Romans 8:38-39, I am persuaded that neither ice cores, nor pseudogenes, nor weird fossils, nor inconceivable distances, nor on imaginable long time spans, nor any other thing in creation can separate us from the love of Christ.”


PURGATORY—HALFWAY UP THE MOUNTAIN
“Flame of Yahweh: Sexuality in the Old Testament” reviewed by James D. Lorenz is a “deep and comprehensive discussion on so many aspects of Old Testament sensuality (it is generous footnotes in almost 200 pages of documentation in the back), no doubt the community will be forced to reference this work for years to come”. Unsurprisingly, “Davidson targets three audiences: the Evangelical, Adventist, and academic communities.” Teenagers may also find it interesting.


“Critiquing the Movie Critics” by R. Munsey reaches the following conclusion, “It was wrong in the past to forbid all movie watching. It is just as wrong today to deny the need to be very cautious about watching them.”


“The Language of Morality” (Comments published in the Spectrum Blog) is reassuring for an old guy like me. The kids are talking about the right stuff: morality, evangelism, science, and the Bible.


“A Dream Of”, a poem by Andrew Cockerham, came close to being heavenly, but the last stanza contains a wish that arrives without reference or explanation in the context of the poem.


PURGATORY—CLOSE TO THE TOP
“Reading the Bible Together” by Bonnie Dwyer is a beautifully written introductory essay. The theme of community is heavenly, but too much of the magazine’s content is a disappointment.


“Let’s Eliminate Hyperorthodoxy” by Charles Scriven. ‘Nuf said.


“Call to Community: A Liturgy Celebrating God’s Call to Experience Authentic Community” by Charles Teel, Jr. contains some of my favorite biblical texts, quotations, and hymns. I'm not sure what an “authentic community” is, but if Charlie is a member, I want to be part of it.


“Public Policy Issues Involving Homosexuality: An Adventist Response” by Mitchell A. Tyner is refreshingly straightforward. “Today, much of the resentment of homosexual claims for equal rights at bottom is resentment of a claim of a equality.” Tyner argues that failure to advocate “on behalf of equality rights for homosexuals [will] negate the ability of the church to witness to society.”

He continues, “More fundamentally, how can it ever be in the Church's interest to act other than in accordance with scriptural council and instruction? The Bible clearly tells us that God puts a tremendous value on human freedom. . . Our own history shows the dangers that follow the legislation and imposition of religious beliefs and religiously based moral convictions on those who do not share them.”


HEAVEN
“The Beloved Community: A Radical Reformation Conception of the Church” by Charles Scriven is a message of hope and encouragement for those of us who are committed to making the Adventist Church, a beloved community of Christian believers, a place that “can provide enough support, enough patience, and enough hope to nourish and sustain [ADRA, our children and grandchildren], a Fabiola, a Martin Luther King, and a band of health researchers at Loma Linda University”.


“Adventists Through Academic Eyes” by Eva Keller is an interview edited by Alita Byrd. “The Road to Clarity: Seventh-day Adventism in Madagascar” by Eva Keller is reviewed by Rich Hannon. He highlights this quotation from the book.

“The central question this book addresses concerns the nature of the attraction of Seventh-day Adventism for church members in Maroantsetra and Sabameloka. The answer to this question, in a nutshell, is that it is the intellectual excitement linked to the process of studying the Bible that is the key to local people’s commitment to the Adventist church. . . Bible study is received by the local Adventists to be the road to clarity.”


While Adventist members in Madagascar are less sophisticated than members of Juli Milleir’s Wood River Church in Sun Valley, Idaho, “Blest Be the Tie That Binds” is a description of another beloved community that shares “the intellectual excitement linked to the process of studying the Bible”. For both, the Gospel is “the road to clarity”.


MUST READ
The “road to clarity” leads to a panoramic view of Heavenly terrain. “The Adventist Community as the Light of the World: Claiming the Whole of Mathew’s Vision” by Ernest J. Bursey is a masterful interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount in terms of an early and lasting Christian theology that “was intended in its entirety as a manual for missionaries (Matthew 28: 18 – 20). Its construction spoke to the skill of a Master Teacher being well-served by a master writer-teacher who edited Mark's story to allow room for several lectures constructed out of the available sayings."

In conclusion, Bursey suggests that a “comprehensive vision of a community of Jesus’ apprentices would suggest that the Church’s “attention would be directed to the weightier matters of the law like justice, mercy, and faithfulness (23:23). Local congregations would provide honest mutual support in the journey to maturity (18:1-32). The church would be a safe place to grow. And a renewed appreciation might arise for the mature moral vision of Ellen White (or if you prefer, the moral vision of the mature Ellen White).

“This would be a church with a balanced and realistic view of the normal spiritual life with the assurance of a present salvation for the repentant. It would be a church with humility in place of religious arrogance; a church with a sense of identity and mission beyond pointing out who and what is dangerous out there; and a church with members who are actively and creatively loving their evil world instead of isolating themselves from it.”

1 comment:

Carole McIntyre said...

Quite obviously you simply skimmed the article by Dr. Loren Seibold and did not read it in the same thoughtful way in which it was written because you totally missed the point.

The article is not about sex outside of marriage at all but about the church's refusal to face the issue of sex in the world. I'm not sure why you chose those two particular excerpts for comment but if the sexual molestation by a church school teacher makes you uncomfortable then perhaps you are one of those who prefers to cover up that such things do happen and they happen in our ultraconservative church.

My own daughter was sexually molested by her Seventh-day Adventist school teacher (who was studying for the ministry)for a period years. Her father and I never even suspected that something this horrible was the reason she didn't want to go to school and because she had been threatened, she did not tell us until years later. After all, we had sacrificed to send our children to church school to "protect" them from the "world." Well, sin doesn't just exist in the world - it is alive and well within our church communities.

In my Sabbath School class one week, we somehow got onto the subject and in our very small group (about 8-10 people) there were four different parents whose children had been molested by church school teachers, Pathfinder leaders and other church volunteers and employees. It happens, trust me, and it has a long lasting and damaging effect on the victims. I find it insulting that you seem to believe that "she" was a figment of Pastor Seibold's imagination - created to make a point.

When talking about the attitude of youth today Pastor Seibold is not approving such behavior. He is simply stating the belief of many young people and that the church's response to sexual sin should be redemptive. There is a median of grace somewhere between ignoring the issue and harsh discipline. After all grace and redemption is what Jesus is all about. I,for one, am grateful.