Thursday, January 29, 2009

My Desperate Attempt to Solve the Daniel Dilemma

Modified from the comic Non Sequitur, by Wiley
(click to enlarge)

At first, Adam didn’t understand monotheism.

Comic modified from Rubes, by Leigh Rubin
(click to enlarge)

Reviewing Adventist Today

Winter 2009
Vol. 17, No.1

“Adventist Today brings contemporary issues of importance to Adventist Church members.” That’s what the editors proclaim, and that’s why we subscribe. In this issue, there were 29 interior pages in which these issues could be discussed. 3½ pages were devoted to very large, albeit beautiful, pictures that accompanied three feature articles. 4½ print pages were devoted to 8 short student interviews of “people around us—the people we see only periodically, on a surface level.” Interview questions included, “What makes you happy?” “What did you want to be when you grew up?” “Describe your perfect day.” The answers given were necessarily superficial. Of the remaining 21 pages, only 14½ were devoted to “contemporary issues”.

Happily, those 14½ pages were worth reading. I also enjoyed the ADVENTIST CARICATURIST’S 1½ pages, and the 2 pages awarded to Marcel Schwantes’ 7 QUESTIONS for Tami and Jeff Cinquemani and ADVENTIST MAN.

Andy Nash, it seems to me that you should also be careful while TREADING ON HOLY GROUND. While “plumbing the riches of the Living Word”, you argue that Christ’s reference to Adam and Eve and Daniel the prophet validates their physical existence. You go on to disparage “thought leaders” who believe that some biblical texts “no longer pertain to our day”.

Christ uses the word “hell” 12 times. Consider Christ’s account of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16; I would argue that in this case, and others, Christ is making a literary allusion to make a point, rather than establishing proof that biblical characters and actual places exist.

Alex Bryan argues that the Adventist Church in America is in critical condition. In THE END OF AMERICAN ADVENTISM? Bryan offers as critical conditions: loss of membership, an aging membership, and local churches that “lack a vibrant worship environment”. His prescription: tell the truth, i.e. “bad news can drive us to the gospel faster than platitudes.” Re-claim the local church as THE church. “Hospitals and colleges and publishing houses are only important as the [local] churches are alive.”

And finally, SDA educational institutions must prepare “young 20-something graduates who are prepared, upon graduation, to flood local congregations with energy, spirituality, relational passion, and missional skill. . .Every collegiate (and possibly) high school Adventist diploma ought to mean that the young person. . .
[has] served a full year in domestic or international mission. I’m talking Peace Corps or Mormon mission-type service.”

Alden Thompson warns of THREE ADVENTIST DANGERS: fearfulness “of everything without the Adventist label”, embarrassment that “kills evangelism”, and the “raw bid for power”.

ORDINATION IS NOT THE ISSUE: REFLECTIONS OF A FEMALE PASTOR by Bonita Joyner Shields provides the biblical and historical argument that “it takes both male and female to accurately reflect the image of God”. J. David Newman’s WHY MEN SHOULD NOT BE ORDAINED provides a persuasive rational and biblical argument for not ordaining men. Consequently, “If we give up ordaining men, we solve the problem of whether or not we should ordain women.

Beware of Telling God What to Do!

Modified from the comic Non Sequitur, by Wiley
(click to enlarge)

Nobody’s talking.

Comic from Frank & Ernest by Thaves
(click to enlarge)

Reviewing the Adventist Review

January 15, 2009
Vol. 186, No. 2

Roy Adams’ editorial, On The Right Side of History? Argues that the election of Barack Obama and those that celebrate his election are on the right side of history. Reader Elden Walter believes that recent history indicates that our Church is Headed for Trouble. “I don’t think I’m out of touch, but I plead guilty to a feeling of distress and anxiety over the direction we are headed toward liberal/progressing/socialistic politics, and postmodern/politically correct theology and church culture.” Which side of the argument are you on? This edition of the Review provides readers on both sides of this issue something to think about.

“In an article in Newsweek’s online edition for November 15, 2008, Lisa Miller tells how “apocalypse watchers” have come to the conclusion that Barack Obama is the antichrist—sentiments fueled by former Saturday Night Live personality Victoria Jackson, who reportedly wrote on her Web site that Obama “bears traits that resemble the anti-Christ.” One apocalypse watcher from Illinois thought it highly significant that “one of the winning lottery numbers in the president-elect’s home state was 666.”

Not for a moment should Adventists be found on the side of those advocating such harebrained piffle. It’s the wrong side of history.” Roy Adams

ADRA Scores Charitable Recognition. “For the forth consecutive year, ADRA was a warded a top four-star rating by Charity Navigator, America’s leading charity evaluator, for a high level of financial accountability and transparency. This rating is granted to less than 6 percent of US charities.” The Better Business Bureau and the Chronicle of Philanthropy also give ADRA exemplary ratings. Reported by ADRA

The Molding of a Musical Mission is the story of the New England Youth Ensemble that has traveled the world for thirty-eight years restoring “faith in American Youth”. Virginia-Gene Rittenhouse

Changing Lives One Word at a Time chronicles the work of the Southern-Asia Division’s Women’s Ministries. “Currently, the division has established 200 learning centers in six provinces in the southeastern region of India. Most are in remote villages. About 20 students ages 15 and older attend each literacy center.

“A common saying in India is ‘If you educate a man, you educate a person; but if you educate a woman, you educate a family. . .The family’s health improves because wives and mothers can explore available medical care programs such as immunizations for their children and family planning options. They can fill out the application forms for the old-age pension, and because they can now sign their names, they can receive additional dry food rations, apply for small government loans, and open their own bank accounts. More job opportunities are available to them, which results in a higher standard of living. They learn to manage their personal finances and can help their children with their homework; therefore, they become more valued by their children, their husbands, and others in the community. Just being able to read the bus signs, which allows them to travel freely from one village to another, greatly improves a person’s quality of life.” Sandra Blackmer

No More Delays. “We are on the verge of something, and that the Holy Spirit’s fingerprints are all over it. I’ve never seen so many people who are so open to spiritual conversations; people of diverse religious backgrounds—Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims—the list goes on. It seems as though you can strike up a spiritually oriented conversation on the spot, and people are open to talk.” Fredrick Al. Russell

When asked the question, What Are You? “non-Adventists can’t point out an Adventist with the speed I usually can, [but] they can certainly recognize a Christian!” Patty Froese Ntihemuka

Responding to an Impression, I handed Doug Batchelor’s book, Broken Chains, to Ambassador William Burns during his farewell reception at Soaso House, the U.S. Ambassadors Residence in Moscow, with the comment, ““It’s a survival guide to Washington.” Andrew McChesney, a Russian journalist,

Calling God’s Bluff? “Many today are proud of their immorality. They frame their sins and flash them as ID cards. They trumpet them on highway billboards for all to see, hold placards in the streets, protest on national television. We praise the immoral, make movies about them, elect them as government officials and church leaders, and pass laws in their favor. We challenge God in every way. We are conceited, proud, wicked, arrogant, irreverent, unloving, brutal, 
reckless, treacherous, selfish, pleasure-seeking, money-loving—and proud of it all! Describing our situation, Paul says: “They invent new ways of sinning. . . . They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage 
others to do them, too (Rom. 1:30-32)” Sam Belony

For about seven years I've been part of a navy that ensured open shipping lanes for Ghana’s commerce. In The Last Ask, he was “with my mate John in Liberia when we were ordered to cross over into war-torn Sierra Leone. It was a cold midnight. Under the cover of ECOMOG tanks, we rolled over the Liberian border and entered Sierra Leone, altering for the better the lives of terrified millions who were caught up in the mayhem of war.”

John was mortally wounded in an early morning attack by rebels, but before he died, John and I both discovered “the way to heaven”. Israel Banini, Frontline Reporter

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dogbert Tells It Like It Is!

Modified from the comic Dilbert, by Scott Adams
(click to enlarge)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Ray Kroc’s Childhood

Comic from Rubes, by Leigh Rubin.
(click for enlarged image)

A Sign of the End

Comic from Rubes, by Leigh Rubin.
(click for enlarged image)

Reviewing Adventist World NAD Edition

January 2009
Vol. 5, No. 1

I continue to be impressed by the ”new look”. It allows editors and tech staff to more comfortably handle illustration, advertisement, and format issues. In addition, this issue has lots of other things to recommend it including a Bouquet tossed in the direction of Angel Manuel Rodriguez! Check it out!

Vietnam has granted the Adventist Church Official Recognition.
“The last Adventist out of Saigon, Le Cong Giao, center, initiates the Communion service marking the government’s recognition of the Adventist denomination in Vietnam. About 130 delegates met in Ho Chi Minh City October 22 to 24 to approve the denomination’s reorganized Vietnamese Mission.” There are six Adventist church buildings in Vietnam and about 100 registered Adventist groups meeting in homes.

(Editor’s Note) It is amazing that Vietnam would have anything to do with the US after the war in which our “Christian” nation killed 2,000,000 Vietnamese, indiscriminately bombed, Ho Chi Minh City, and spread millions of tons of Agent Orange over its ecosystem and population. “Forgiveness” is a word we Americans have yet to comprehend. Perhaps the Vietnamese can be our teachers.

Jan Paulsen is traveling the world in his attempt to hold the Adventist Church together. His conversation with Bill Knott is chronicled in A Dynamic Church for Difficult Times is one more brave attempt to “keep the Adventist ship afloat”. The next General Conference President needs to listen carefully to what Paulsen has to say.

“Because previous GC sessions decided not to ordain women to gospel ministry, women haven’t had the same access to leadership positions. . . There’s no question that there has to be a more deliberate effort to correct that. We simply have to be more deliberate in choosing women as members of the General Conference Executive Committee. We also have to include more young lay professionals under age 35—not because they fill a leadership role in the church, but because they bring competencies and skills we very much need as we do the church’s business. We also need to ensure that they can serve for an adequate length of time—perhaps up to 10 years—so that they can function as productive and contributing members of the Executive Committee.”

When Allan R. Handysides and Peter N. Landless remind us that when our Global Church Preaches an Antismoking Message, it benefits the entire world.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) report on tobacco for 2008, a person dies because of tobacco usage every six seconds. Tobacco kills between a third and a half of all the people who use it, and the 5 million who die each year from its consequences represent one tenth of all deaths in the world annually.

Of the world’s current population, 500 million will die of tobacco’s effects, and the twenty-first century could witness tobacco killing 1 billion people.

Secondhand smoke has serious health consequences. Some 46,000 cardiac deaths and 3,400 lung cancer deaths per year in the United States alone are attributed to secondhand tobacco smoke. The 200,000 episodes of childhood asthma, 71,900 preterm deliveries, and 24,500 low-birth-weight infants calculated to be a result of secondhand smoking in the U.S. surely give pause for reflection.

The Bounty and the Bible: How the Adventist message found its 
way to Pitcairn Island and stayed by 
Herbert Ford 
and Wilona 
Karimabadi is a brief history of the island’s secular and religious history. The story isn’t always pretty, and it has never been and is not today a “tropical paradise”. “Pitcairn Island has received worldwide attention during 
the last several years as reports of alleged criminal activities 
and subsequent legal trials have been covered by the media. Seventh-day Adventists on the island and throughout the 
world church are working toward bringing healing and reconciliation to those involved.”

Ministering the “Techie” Way by Carolyn Sutton and Cindy Waterhouse-Wheeler
is a nontraditional—but effective way to minister to a local and worldwide parish. This is brilliantly conceived, inexpensive evangelism. One can only imagine what fantastic things might happen if local, member supported organizations like Light Stream International and Terri and Ko Saelle’s ministry to the Hmong communities in the US (An Evangelistic Paradigm Shift) were funded like the traditional, ineffective and expensive evangelistic efforts like Share Hope, set to launch satellite events from Myrtle Beach on January 20.

It Is Finished by Rolf Pohler has difficulty explaining why Jesus had to die. I suspect that the difficulty lies in the basic atonement and satisfaction premise of his argument and Fundamenrtal Belief #9 of the Adventist Church. (I mean, Jesus could have died to save any repentant angel who was taken in by Lucifer and saved all this earthly mess, right?)

“But what was it then that made atonement and satisfaction—and therefore the death of Jesus—necessary? Is it the profound disgust that God, the Perfect and Holy One, feels for all injustice? Is it the disregard for His just and holy law (Rom. 7:12)—the reflection of His character—that must be punished? Do we feel something of the same indignation—indeed, the “righteous anger”—that God feels in the face of the million-fold presence of sin and appalling injustice (John 3:36; Rom. 1:18 ff.; 1 Thess. 1:10; Rev. 6:16 f.)?

“But that doesn’t mean that Jesus was trying to placate an angry God and move Him to be benevolent toward us. After all, it was the Father Himself who sent His Son into the world “that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:9 ff.). It was not necessary to win God over for us; He already was on our side. God does not love us because Jesus died for us; Jesus died because God loves us. God’s love is the reason and source, not the result or effect of the atonement.”

Ellen White: Who Was She?
Ellen White was more than “The Little Woman Who Talked About Jesus”. James R. Nix provides a brief, bland biography of a woman who deserves a more intelligent and personal account of her life. Ellen established our Church, survived the death of two of her children and the bullying of men more interested in establishing an organization than in warning the world of the soon coming of her Lord and establishing a theology based on New Testament truths. The other woman in the picture accompanying the article (I assume it to be her twin sister) is not identified and their relationship is not discussed.

The Gospel According to Mary
Angel Manuel 
Rodríguez tackles the question, “Is Mary, the sister of Martha, the same as Mary Magdalene?” and he does a pretty good job. Unfortunately, he confuses the issue by his first statement: “We know little about this Mary [of Bethany], unless she is identified with Mary Magdalene.” And later he goes on to speculate about how the two Marys might possibly be the same, even though “no historical evidence exists to support the position that they are the same person.” Rodriguez’ further speculation about this issue “cannot provide a final answer to the question.”

In his concluding paragraphs Rodriguez notes that Mary Magdalene played a “significant role in the gospel narrative. She almost became the disciple par excellence. She witnessed Jesus’ death on the cross (Matt. 27:55, 56; John 19:25) and accompanied His body to the tomb (Matt. 27:60, 61). On Sunday morning she was the first to get to Jesus’ tomb, and, seeing that it was empty, went and informed the disciples that someone had taken away Jesus’ body (John 20:1, 2).”

He concludes with the words, “If the resurrected Savior used women to proclaim 
to the male disciples that He was alive, we should also 
make full room for women in the proclamation of the 
eternal gospel.”

Way to go, Angel!

Nightmare of a Fast Food Junkie

Comic modified from Rubes, by Leigh Rubin
(click to enlarge)

Reviewing the Adventist Review

January 8, 2009
Vol. 166, No. 1

This issue is an excellent one. Share it with a friend. Bill Knott’s editorial, Snowbound, deserves a Bouquet even though he spends longer than necessary to conclude his argument. Reader Frank Hutchins was a Navy medical corpsman on the beach at Tarawa! Paulsen’s speech to the Evangelism Council is impressive. Nostalgia, by Reinder Bruinsma and Beauty for Ashes by John Press are exemplary stories that allow the reader to conclude, with the authors, that the lessons learned are useful and worth remembering. And Cliff Goldstein’s essay is insightful and well written!

“We seem to be entering another of those periodic seasons in the life of the Adventist Church when strong-minded individuals are asserting their privilege to declare what emerges from their study of prophecy and current events without much concern for the consequences. Perhaps it is the admitted drama of these times that tempts some to say the irresponsible things they are proclaiming in pulpits and newsletters. . . It takes no special skill to agitate the ‘scattered flock’ of God with fear-filled speculation. Otherwise-sensible sheep quite naturally run when shepherds cry ‘Wolf!’ to facilitate their own influence, agendas, or economic interests.”

“I wouldn’t want to be only with those who have it all figured out. [Such people can become] arrogant, clinical, and judgmental. . .It is within our reach to shape and create the spiritual atmosphere of our community. . .a good home in our local congregations, a warm family.”

“So when people say they want to go back to the church of the past, they, in actual fact, tend to work with a heavily edited version of the past, from which uncomfortable aspects of the past have been deleted.”

“As long as we believe in human freedom, God’s moral law must be present. Moral freedom is inseparable from moral law; for without it how would free creatures know how to use the costly and risky God-given gift of freedom, to stay within the bounds of what God Himself deems right and wrong?”

Fred was immediately sorry he had agreed to the interview.

Modified from Together Again, by Guindon
(click to enlarge)

Eunice was also a master of alternate appearances.

Modified from Together Again, by Guindon
(click to enlarge)

It’s the Same Old Line for 2009

Modified from the comic Dilbert, by Scott Adams
(click to enlarge)

Reviewing Adventist World, NAD Edition

December 2008
Vol. 4, No. 12

This edition is a mixed bag. While the cover article, A New Humanity, by Jan Paulsen is theologically generous, informative and thoughtful, there are occasionally disconcerting lapses into devotional speak and misleading reporting.

1 Million Join Church in Year
Ansel Oliver reports that “for the fifth consecutive year, more than 1 million people have joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church worldwide.” If you just read the headline, you might have missed the following:

“This year’s report reflects a membership audit of the church’s South American region, which resulted in a more than 300,000-member decline. . . Between 2003 and 2005 the church in Southern Asia-Pacific lost 400,000 members from membership audits.”

Annual Council Votes 
Administrative Changes
Is the Pacific Press headed for Chapter 11? “Robert Smith, Review & Herald Publishing Association President, noted that the General Conference has studied the North American publishing system previously. He urged that the new commission not “study us to death and make the cure worse than the disease.”

“Smith asserted that RHPA made a profit of $100,000 in the year ending September 30. He said that if the General Conference ‘would give us all the work that is justifiably ours,’ the press’s business would be stable.

“Pacific Press president Dale Galusha told Adventist Review: ‘We welcome opportunities such as this to explore better ways to even more effectively strengthen the church, promote its mission and deliver faith-strengthening and spiritually inspiring books and materials to our church members.’”

New Administrators Elected
G. Alexander Bryant was voted as executive secretary for the Adventist Church’s North American region. The position is also an associate 
secretary for the world church. Bryant, 51, currently serves as president of the church’s Central States Conference, “a historically African-American administrative church region” in the Midwestern United States.” Is this newspeak for “Black Conference?

Addictions and At-risk Behaviors
Allan R. Handysides and Peter N. Landless tell it like it is. “Meaningful relationships and good friends are beneficial to our health. Positive friendship connections promote positive mental health, a sense of belonging, self-respect, and the strengthening of purpose. This can occur at any age. It is vital to foster resilience in our youth; investment in our friendships can improve health and brighten disposition for the long haul.”

Did You Know?
Founded in 1899, Christian Record Services (CRS) is a ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church that provides free Christian publications and programs for approximately 100.000 people with visual impairments.

It’s All About Jesus
Maybe it isn’t. Fred Kinsey’s words indirectly suggest a little competition. “The Voice of Prophecy will not compete with any other Adventist ministry. I will not be a part of any comparison that suggests we are doing a better job than anyone else. . .In my view, the Lord is not honored by competition between or within His agencies.”

Adventist World On Line
This is a great site, user friendly, and with real graphic appeal. However, North American viewers will not get their entire magazine on line. The following articles and information in this issue do not appear: Give and Take, It’s All About Jesus, The Blessing of Giving, Information about Native America Evangelism Ministries, NAD News, and Defining Liberty.

Defining Liberty
Lincoln E. Steed’s report is balanced and thoughtful. Unfortunately, it contains the whiff of that old anti-Catholic fear mongering.

“Not many months ago Protestant America lauded the ‘state’ visit of Pope Benedict. . .However, students of Bible prophecy and church history have to take note of the significance of the visit. The modern Papacy is a power player. Protestant America seems enamored with the old ‘mother church.’ There is no longer any gulf to reach across.”

The Guiding Light
Ron Laing supplies readers with a brief personal and biographical look at Harry Anderson, SDA’s most famous and beloved painter.

Unique and Unrivaled
The Question: Does the Bible recognize the existence of other gods?
Angel Manuel Rodriguez’ answer to that question is truly “unique and unrivaled”. He sets out to define the word, “monotheism”. But because of his belief in the inerrancy of the literal words of the Bible, he attempts to explain away the Old Testament writers’ references to many gods. He even confuses a literary allusion in the New Testament to mean a reference to an actual god!

“The New Testament acknowledges the existence of at least another ‘god:’ ‘The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers (2 Cor. 4:4, NIV).’”

Rodriguez concludes his answer to the question, “What is monotheism”, with these words: “This biblical understanding of God and the nature of the “gods” may not fully fit a traditional and narrow definition of monotheism, but it is monotheistic in that it does not recognize the existence of any other being that is in any way similar to the Lord God or that participates of His distinctive nature.”

Some Notable Quotes in this Issue
“Several leaders also mentioned the success of church planting in developing church growth. Krause pointed to a Fuller Theological Seminary study that said three people are needed to bring someone to Christ in a church that is one to three years old. That figure jumps to seven people in churches that are four to seven years old. Eighty-five people are needed in churches 10 years and older.” Ansel Oliver

“Here lies a miser, who lived for himself,
And cared for nothing but gathering pelf.
Now where he is or how he fares,
Nobody knows and nobody cares.”

“Sacred to the memory of Charles George Gordon, who at all times and everywhere gave his strength to the weak, his substance to the poor, his sympathy to the suffering, and his heart to God.”
Tombstones in the United Kingdom courtesy of Lilya Wagner

“We have in so many countries around the world a considerable number of “ethnic” or national churches. They are churches to which people, immigrants or refugees, can come and taste and feel a bit of their own home culture, speak their own language, sing their own songs, and nurture much-needed social links. That is the reality we live with in which people are on the move, and many of them are our brothers and sisters. That is how we must accept those who have come into our areas—into our space. “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household (Eph. 2:19, NIV).” Jan Paulsen, A New Humanity

“Forgiveness” does not trivialize sin; it heals the damage and hurt caused by it. That is as true for the relationship between God and humanity as it is for the relationships between people.” Jan Paulsen, A New Humanity

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Spring in Winter Prayer

It’s suddenly spring here
in Chico
We’re not ready
to put on the gloves
pull the weeds
break out the shovels
turn the earth
plant the carrots
buy the six-packs
of pansies

It’s suddenly spring here
in Chico
It’s hard to imagine
wind whipped snow
freezing temperatures
in Georgia
black ice
homes with no heat
and the desperation
of folks without a home

remind us
that our new president
is on a train to Washington
traveling though the bitter cold
like Lincoln
toward chilling challenges
and bitter realities
as real as the artic wind
with a miraculous confidence
that a springtime of the soul
can melt the snow
of bitterness
and hatred
and cynicism
and fear

It’s suddenly spring here
in Chico
and mabe
in America too
despite the weather



Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Wounded Angel

Hugo Simberg painted The Wounded Angel between 1898 and 1903. It is a large oil painting, height 127 cm (50 inches) and width 154 cm (60 inches).

I was fascinated by Hugo Simberg’s painting, Wounded Angel. It was the illustration that accompanied Elfrieda Volk’s essay of the same name in the December 25 Adventist Review. Its impact on me was visceral and immediate, and led me reassess my assumptions about religious symbols and the human condition. Simberg refused to answer questions about the painting, but I’m interested in discovering how it “speaks” to you.

The picture is difficult to produce electronically because of the reproductions available on line and its somber colors, and so I have included details that may be difficult to see along with what is known about the setting.

In the painting, two boys, looking very solemn, walk along a deserted road by a body of water. Between them they carry a makeshift wooden stretcher on which sits an angel-girl, who has injured her wing.

The allegorical procession with the angel walks through quite a realistic landscape. It is, in fact, Eläintarha Park in Helsinki, and even today the same road skirts the shores of Eläintarha bay. In Hugo Simberg's day, the park was a popular spot for leisure-time activities among the working classes, while the gentry favoured Kaivopuisto park. At the time, many charity institutions were located in Eläintarha park; in The Wounded Angel the healthy boys are carrying the injured girl towards the Blind Girls' school and the Home for Cripples.

The boys and the angel are depicted from the side in the foreground of the painting. The boys seem to be walking slowly and heavily, and no wonder, they are carrying something precious. The younger boy, walking in the front, is dressed in black and wearing a black hat. He carries the stretcher looking straight ahead, but the boy at the back has turned his serious face towards the viewer and makes direct eye contact. He is wearing a brown jacket that is too small and black trousers. The trouser legs are tucked inside long leather boots.

The color scheme of the painting is very subdued. The light fragility of the angel-girl creates a stark contrast to the earthy, solemn figures of the boys. The angel sits on the stretcher hunched forward, head held down, and holding onto the sides of the stretcher with her hands. She is wearing a long white gown, whose hem sweeps the ground. Her feet are bare. In her right hand the angel holds a small bunch of flowers, already wilting. There is a white kerchief around her head, shading her eyes.

The painting does not reveal what has happened to the angel-girl. On closer inspection, you can see that her left wing is slightly torn at the bottom. The bright white wing has also been stained with some drops of blood.

The background for this sad procession is a quiet landscape by a body of water. The bottom of the painting consists of a dirt road, along which the boys tread, from right to left. Small tussocks of white flowers, resembling those held by the angel, grow by the roadside. The middle ground of the painting is filled by marshy meadow, pierced by a narrow stream flowing diagonally from the right into the water. By the stream there stands a delicate pale green willow. Water and an empty shore at the far side form the background of the painting. At the very top of the painting there is a narrow strip of sky.

The composition of The Wounded Angel is simple: the road in the foreground, the shore in the middle ground and the water and the opposite shore are all horizontal elements. The vertical figures of the boys, stretching nearly the whole height of the painting, and the slumped figure of the angel create the dynamics in the painting.

It's just basic science, Goldstein.

From Non Sequitur, by Wiley
(click image to enlarge)

Reviewing the Adventist Review

December 25, 2008
Vol. 185, No. 36

This issue is definitely Christmassy. Roy Adams has been awarded a Bouquet for his editorial, Tidbits From the Christmas Story. Megan Brauner’s interview of Mark Finley is disturbing. It’s as if Finley is still beating that old Revelation Seminar drum. For that, Mark has earned coal in his stocking.

I was fascinated by Hugo Simberg’s painting, Wounded Angel. It was the illustration that accompanied Elfrieda Volk’s essay of the same name. Its impact on me was visceral and immediate, and led me reassess my assumptions about religious symbols and the human condition.

In “Year of Evangelism” to Span 18 Months, Mark Finley makes the following announcement: “It is true, evangelism is always the focus of the world church, but there are times when we give it special emphasis. We see this being unique in a number of ways. We will give it adequate promotion and emphasis, but also we're preparing materials for it. There'll be sermons prepared, called Revelation of Hope, and materials on the book of Daniel.” (Sounds like the same old stuff is being repackaged one more time!)

Congolese rebel leader General Laurent Nkunda, contrary to media reports, is not an Adventist minister and ”not regarded as an active member [of the Seventh-day Adventist Church]”

In Kids View, Rilla Taylor should be standing under a real puhutakawa tree. That plastic palm doesn’t do Rilla’s New Zealand postcard justice.

The Penguin's Lament

From Non Sequitur, by Wiley
(click image to enlarge)

Reviewing the Adventist Review

December 18, 2008
Vol. 185, No. 35

This is a “safe” issue in that it is primarily devotional and provides the reader with no original insights into the way we Adventists lead our lives. The cover article by Larry R. Evans, Two New Questions the Church Must Ask, was a disappointment. “Where are you in your relationship with God?” and “Where are you in your relationship with your brother?” summarize age-old questions, not new ones.

Two news articles deserve inspirational Bouquets.

Adventists’ Aid Welcomed by Mozambique’s President chronicles Adventist work in Mozambique. Literacy and fighting malaria are among the goals set for the 500,000 Mozambiquan SDA’s. “Maranatha is currently building 1,001 community centers throughout Mozambique. While Adventist congregations will use the buildings for worship on Saturdays, they will function as literacy centers, schools, and medical clinics throughout the week.” Church members “have joined other religious, government, and nongovernment groups in a coalition coordinated by ADRA” to improve health and human services.

Fear-Free Education: Adventists Aid in Human Rights Struggle, is an account of the amazing work of the Kajiado Adventist Rehabilitation and Education Center in Nairobi, Kenya. “Rajmund Dabrowski, director of communication for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, visited Kajiado and talked with the center’s director, Jacinta Loki. The interview. . .connects the center’s mission to provide fear-free Christian education with the acute need to repair basic human rights. These rights are often overshadowed by traditional Masai beliefs and practices that leave scores of Masai girls without education and force them into early marriages.”

While this issue is primarily devotional, some quotes deserve attention.

Mark A. Kellner reports that Students in Adventist schools in North America] are doing above average work, but the claim that these schools “produce students who. . .[score] above their potential” seems a bit unrealistic.

Larry R. Evans provides an amazing quote by Ellen White in his cover article. “Any man, be he minister or layman, who seeks to compel or control the reason of any other man, becomes an agent of Satan, to do his work, and in the sight of the heavenly universe he bears the mark of Cain” (Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 1, p. 1087).

Bread for Bread tells the story of Peter and Suzie Ventner’s South African evangelistic campaigns in the 1930’s. This picture is worth at least 1000 words.

Introspection 2009

Modified from the comic Non Sequitur, by Wiley
(click to enlarge)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Reviewing the Adventist Review

December 11, 2008
Vol. 185, No. 34

Well I’m back from a holiday hiatus with good news about this issue. Bouquets have been awarded to: The Inbox; Bill Knott’s editorial, This Remarkable Moment; and Roy Adam’s cover feature, Atheists Going for the Jugular. The rest of this edition of the Review is standard fare—informative and worth checking out.

I appreciated the articles by Mark A. Kellner and Ansel Oliver, and the timely information regarding the financial situation of the Church.

Mark Kellner’s report, Adventist North American Membership Tops 1 Million, produced a deja vous response. (Note Alexander Carpenter’s Numbers and Evangelism, Spectrum Blog, 14 November, 2008.)

“Back in 2004 the Adventist Review News reported that:
North American Division membership has passed the one million mark-1,001,872 as of October 21, 2004. According to the most recent numbers helpfully available for us lay folk through the church's, in 2006 the NAD recorded 1,041,715 members.

“I applaud the focus on weeding out the excess on the books, but if, as the secretary states, the NAD grew at a 2% rate over the last five years (including losses) than we should be just hovering around 1,100,000. (The 2003 membership was 992,046.) Four years later, the news is that the NAD tops 1 million?

“What's missing from the most recent Annual Council report in the Adventist Review is the actual 2007 number. Why?

“Also not included in the report: the amount of money invested by the division, unions, conferences, local churches and individuals in public evangelism during 2007.”

I’ll miss Sari Fordham’s socks and the young lady herself. She has provided some memorable columns.

Martin Butler and Gladys Neigel’s Simple Church: Getting Back to Basics is evangelism that has a better chance of producing lasting results than Revelation Seminars and big city campaigns. (I wonder how Butler and Neigel would spend the 2009, $1.000,000+ cLAim evangelistic effort?)