Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Reviewing Adventist Today

September / October 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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