Saturday, May 17, 2008

Reviewing Adventist Today

May-June 2008

This is a landmark issue! Adventist Today has served notice that it is a publication to be reckoned with. I predict that more and more Adventist Review and/or Spectrum readers will subscribe. "It's what's happening!" Special kudos to Art Director, Chris Komisar. Great cover!

Praying for a Recession? by David Beckworth as a steely-eyed analysis of why church membership in the United States fluctuates significantly. His conclusions can be summed up echoing that old political mantra, "It's the economy, stupid". Included here is his final paragraph.

"Both theory and empirical evidence, then, seemed to confirm what the frustrated Adventist pastor told me the late 1990s—at least for evangelical Protestant Christians. Economic hardship does seem to make people who gravitate toward evangelical Protestantism more aware of their true need for God, even if it does mean they first approach God from a cost-benefit perspective. On the other hand, mainline Protestants may find God more easily during prosperous times. These results suggest, then, that it may not be a bad idea for leaders of evangelical Protestants to be hoping—dare we say praying—for a recession this year."

Currently, he hierarchy and membership of the Adventist Church are predominately “mainline”. (See the 28 Fundamental Beliefs.) This essay begs the question, “If our evangelistic efforts add members who ‘gravitate toward evangelical Protestantism’, how likely is it that these new members will remain Adventist church members?”

Essentials and Accidentals
In this MUST READ essay, Larry Downing asks the right questions and requires the reader to thoughtfully consider doctrinal essentials.

“There are [Adventists] who believe it is important to . . . set precise doctrinal boundaries. These members expend energy and resources to promote what Hilgert defines as Accidentals. The end result of these efforts is division, infighting, and loss of credibility. To the extent to which this continues, the Adventist Church’s contribution to the world’s progressive understanding of Essential Christian theology may become heavily discounted.”

Ranking the 28 Fundamental Beliefs by Lynn Sauls features a graphic of four concentric blue circles that contain the numbers and names of all 28 Fundamental Beliefs. The circles become lighter the farther they radiate from a dark blue 3/4" circle labeled “God is love”. Each circle identifies beliefs by name and number. The color intensity of the concentric circles indicates the importance of the belief. The following beliefs are listed by their number, the order in which they are listed, the circle in which they appear, and their order of importance. Saul provides the following note.” For lack of space, I have not explained why I placed each belief where I did.”

First Circle: 9, 8, 4, 3, 5, 2, 19, 1, 6
Second Circle: 7, 23, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28
Third Circle: 13, 17, 18, 21
Fourth Circle: 22

The value of this exercise is in Saul's brave attempt to evaluate the essential Christian content of each belief. Perhaps it is a necessary first step in the creation of one Adventist circle of belief containing only the Gospel: love God and your neighbor as yourself.

The Adventist Church and Lawsuits
James Coffin argues for what he calls The Jesus Model for settling disputes in his essay, The Adventist Church and Lawsuits. "The Jesus model advocates dialogue—carried on in a gentle, conciliatory, truly concerned tone. It advocates agreeing quickly with the aggrieved—before the ongoing debate creates an additional mountain of grievance. It advocates going beyond the call of duty—not doing just the absolute minimum. It advocates turning the other cheek—even when it would be more natural to vigorously defend oneself. The goals are not only truth and justice, but also redemption, pastoral care, and nurture."

Adventist Mediation Service Finds Few Takers
Jim Walters is disappointed that the Adventist Justice Commission is not popular with the Southeastern California Conference constituency. As a consequence, its funding may be discontinued.

The Problem With Generational Loyalty by Andy Nash is a creative, articulate and a thoughtful reminder that smug certainty is often a generational legacy. "The challenge each of us faces is to keep the good and throw out the bad."

A letter of mine is one of the nine selected for publication. I feel honored to be included.

News and Analysis
Katherine Brownlow's Adventist Publishers Face Changing Markets is a MUST READ. She does a brilliant job of describing the challenges facing the Review and Herald and Pacific Press Publishing Associations. She also provides an objective demographic portrait of an aging, philosophically traditional membership when she includes these publishers 2007 best-selling books and authors.

In his analysis of Adventist Publishing Then and Now, James Stirling comments, "College students and young parents who have been exposed to publications outside the church's domain have come to look for reasoned thinking beyond the apologetics of writers who simply afirm 'the truth' with greater emphasis. They expect that writers who deal with large questions about life and science will demonstrate their sympathetic acquaintance with reasonable, divergent views."

Alden, no one can be A Calvinist on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and something else on Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday. You can't have it both ways. Either God chose us—predestined some of us to be saved—or all of us have the freedom to choose God. Alden, this essay is schizophrenic!

7 Questions for . . .
Andy Nash asks Chris Blake seven questions. His answers, along with a brief biography supplied by Nash, reveal an author (Swimming Against the Current, Pacific Press) and teacher with a generous Christian outlook and a flair for Christian leadership.

Building Momentum—Thanks to You
Readers, renew your subscriptions early, give AT subscriptions as gifts, and send an additional buck or two whenever you discover that you can speak intelligently about Adventist politics and religious life thanks to an article in Adventist Today.

Adventist Man
Historic Claims, Sabbath Evening, Jesus the Omnivore! Adventist Man has found his voice. Brilliant! Funny!

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