Friday, July 31, 2009

Reviewing the Adventist Review

July 16, 2009
Vol. 186, No. 20

This is an issue that Adventists of all persuasions can enjoy. There were two articles that deserve BOUQUETS along with special mention, and they are. . .

STRAIGHT FROM THE MULE’S MOUTH by Gerald A. Klingbeil in which stories about mules in the ancient Mid East confirm the Bible’s accuracy. It is a brilliant piece of historical reporting and a MUST READ.

MIRACLES “OUTSIDE THE BOX” by Eva Holdridge is her account of the way fostering children with special needs has transformed her life. Her story may well transform yours. (To find out about fostering children in your home, contact your local Child Protective Services.)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Literally, the story is a joke.

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

Reviewing the Adventist Review

July 9, 2009
Vol. 186, No. 19

When PAULSEN SPOKE ON ISSUE OF ORIGINS, he affirmed the official Adventist position on creation and the flood, by citing a statement voted by the General Conference Executive Committee at the 2004 Annual Council. That document affirmed “our historic, biblical position of belief in a literal, recent, six-day creation. . .that the seven days of Creation account were literal 24-hour days forming a week identical in time to what we not experience as a week; and that the Flood was global in nature.” He called “on all boards and educators at Seventh-day Adventist institutions at all levels to continue upholding and advocating the church’s position on origins”.

This “affirmation” flies in the face of overwhelming scientific, historical, and literary evidence that the creation story recounted in Genesis 1 & 2: 1-3 and the Bible’s universal flood stories are not, and could not be, factually real accounts of “recent” events. Why was such an affirmation necessary? A political outsider can only fearlessly speculate.

When the Biblical Research Institute continues to gloss over the problems inherent in the literal interpretation of the Bible; when the Geoscience Institute avoids even suggesting that the 6-day creation story might be a poetic, rather than scientific, affirmation that God is the creator of this world; and the GC Executive Committee is unable muster the political courage to even suggest that the 1988, 27 Fundamental Doctrines of the Church*, need revision, it leaves church administrators, like Jan Paulsen, no wiggle room in which to officially accommodate progressive elements within the Church.

When “traditional” Adventist power brokers demand that a reasonably progressive administrator “put down” challenges to their influence by speaking with the authority of an elected president, it is fair to assume that change is in the wind. It is also worth noting that Paulsen carefully avoids expressing his “take” on the situation. “Faith is certainly not subject to the findings of science,” is as far as he, personally, is willing to express an opinion. What effect his “affirmation statement” will have remains to be seen.

*We have not written this book to serve as a creed, a statement of beliefs set in theological concrete. (Seventh-day Adventists Believe, pp. vii, viii.)

Philosophy is simply supporting fundamental assertions about reality with what the author believes are convincing arguments. Bad philosophy fails either because the fundamental assertion (rock and roll music is demonic) is flawed, or the arguments in support of the fundamental assertion (because I say so) are unconvincing. In Clifford Goldstein’s ZEUS CRUCIFIED, he does good philosophy rather well until he makes the flawed assumption that Moses, Paul, John, and he are somehow not included in “the vast corpus of philosophical inquiry since the time of Thales”.

Check out Amanecer’s music on the Internet. They are an internationally acclaimed Adventist quartet that sings IN PERFECT HARMONY.

Jimmy Phillips experiences an ALTERNATE REALITY that reminds him “that no matter what my ‘reality’. . . the people around me should never be ignored”.

AM: RX for the NAD SDA

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

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Reviewing Adventist World, NAD Edition

July 2009
Vol. 5, No. 7

Angel Manuel Rodriguez, Director of the Biblical Research Institute of the General Conference, evidently believes that HONORING THE CREATOR GOD includes the invitation to join in a witch-hunt! His editorial purports to be written in response to the following question: “Is it true that some Adventist scientists and theologians no longer believe that God created everything in six literal days?” The answer to that question is “yes”. Is it true that “their reading of Genesis 1-11 is based on a particular understanding of revelation and inspiration?” The answer to that question is “yes”.

Does it follow that failure to believe in a six-day creation week means that these scientists and theologians embrace “some type of evolutionary model”, “No!”
Does it follow that these men and women are “evolutionists?” “No!”

These folks may be more comfortable with the other story of creation found in Genesis 2* which does not involve the creation of the universe after the earth was created. This seems eminently in keeping with Rodriguez’s assertion “that a passage is to be interpreted in its literal sense unless the context points in a different direction”.

When Rodriguez goes on to add, without evidence, that these scientists and theologians are “evolutionists” who use “science” to “define Christian theology and doctrine”, he has destroyed his credibility and called into question any future “authoritative” pronouncement from the Biblical Research Institute. When he proceeds to address the parents of students currently enrolled in Adventist educational institutions in the two paragraphs following the heading, YOUR CONCERN,** he is guilty of fear mongering.

*This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created. When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground. Genesis 2: 4&5

**Space does not allow me to say more about the tragedy of Adventists who are evolutionists. But I do want to address the concern expressed in your communication about what Adventist parents should do in this situation. I agree that having teachers in our colleges and universities arguing and supporting the idea that natural evolution is the best alternative for the understanding of origins is outrageous. They not only violate the meaning of the biblical text, but also violate the trust the church placed in them by calling them to teach our young people.

Your alternatives are few. Remember, you are paying for your children to obtain an Adventist education; and if the school is not providing what you’re paying for, you have to make a decision. This is what I suggest: Visit our colleges and talk to the teachers about their views on natural evolution and their interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2. If you are unsatisfied with their answers, discourage your son or daughter from attending that school. Most teachers in other Adventist schools stand by what the Bible teaches. You may also want to inform the school’s administration about your findings.

Maybe it’s just me, but setting out on a 12 month, secret campaign to get a neighbor to join the Adventist Church, seems unethical, distasteful, and unchristian. ONE SOUL FOR CHRIST, 11 STEPS FOR EVANGELISM IN A SECULAR SOCIETY by Dragan Stojanovic isn’t my idea of evangelism.

REVELATION’S SLAIN LAMB, the Bible Study by Mark Finley, is unsettling. The sight of a Lamb with seven horns and seven eyes* is “one of the most moving scenes in all the Bible”? And I’m pretty sure that citing Rev. 13:8, is a mistake.**

*1. One of the most moving scenes in all the Bible is when, in prophetic vision, John gazed into heaven and saw the heavenly judgment (Rev. 5:1, 2). The scrolls of heaven’s eternal records were opened. What did John see in the midst of this scene of solemn judgment?
“And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth” (Rev. 5:6).

**2. When did the plan of salvation go into effect? Circle the correct answer in the text below.
“All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8).

WORLD REPORT continues to inspire, as does the monthly LOMA LINDA REPORT. The medical information conveyed by Handysides and Landless. RADIATION RISKS is a MUST READ.

The Cover Story, NEW MAN AT JAMAICA’S HELM, reported by Mark A. Kellner, is a brief biography of the Honorable Doctor Patrick Linton Allen, ON, CD, who has just assumed the role of Jamaica’s Head of State. It’s the life of an Adventist Pastor whose life has inspired the confidence of a nation.

THE LITTLE BOAT THAT COULD is taken from the book, Light Bearer to the Amazon, Leo and Jessie’s memoir of their 38 years of dispensing medicine and the gospel on their boat, The Luzerio I, on the Amazon River between Belem and Manaus. It is an inspirational MUST READ.

The story told by Mathurin Diatta, A FAITHFUL AND TRUE FRIEND, has been awarded a BOUQUET. It moved me to tears. It’s a story of love and friendship and a heart breaking metaphor for the love of God.

A Beastly Dilemma, Continued

Cartoon modified from Prince Valiant, by Mark Schultz and Gary Gianni
(click image to enlarge)

A Beastly Dilemma.

Gentle Reader,
As you might have noticed, I, an innocent dreamer, the Beast from a Revelation Seminar, and a cast of characters from the Review, have found ourselves in Prince Valiant’s kingdom fighting for our lives! After today, I will no longer burden you with this continuing nightmare. Thank you for accompanying me thus far.
Your on-the-scene blogger,
Andrew, The Disheveled

The Nuclear Option

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

The Glowing Opinion We Hold of Ourselves

The following quotes have made me more thoughtful, and, it is hoped, a little wiser.

Only the curious will learn and only the resolute overcome the obstacles to learning. The quest quotient has always excited me more than the intelligence quotient. Eugene S. Wilson

The very purpose of existence is to reconcile the glowing opinion we hold of ourselves with the appalling things that other people think about us. Quentin Crisp

The most important function of education at any level is to develop the personality of the individual and the significance of his life to himself and to others. This is the basic architecture of life; the rest is ornamentation and decoration of the structure. Grayson Kirk

My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind. Albert Einstein

Good people are good because they have come to wisdom through failure. William Saroyan

Practically all human misery and serious emotional turmoil are quite unnecessary--not to mention unethical. You, unethical? When you make yourself severely anxious or depressed, you are clearly acting against you and are being unfair and unjust to yourself. Dr. Albert Ellis

Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without loosing your temper or your self-confidence. Robert Frost

A problem is a chance for you to do your best. Duke Ellington

Perhaps the valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not; it is the first lesson that ought to be learned; and however early a man's training begins, it is probably the last lesson that he learns thoroughly. Thomas Huxley

With increasing intensity, Christians have been asked the question, "Is there really a spiritual vacuum, a God-shaped void in every human being, the real filling of which is essential to the full development of human nature: And does Christianity make an inward, real, measurable change in a person, or is Christianity just one of several sets of metaphors?" Donald John

I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go to the mountain. And I've looked over, and I've seen the promised land. So I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man.
Martin Luther King, Jr. (the night before his death)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Reviewing the Adventist Review

June 25, 2009
Vol. 186, No. 18

The issue GOOD HEALTH—MORE THAN AN APPLE A DAY makes a powerful statement regarding the mission of the Adventist Church: love, heal and educate in the spirit of Jan Paulsen’s words in the June 18 Adventist Review: “. . .recognize and respect other religions, and that among Christians there are shades of difference. It is important for Christian believers to practice their convictions without being critical and hostile to other believers. . . .relate to all other expressions of belief and faith and be good neighbors not only to other Christians but also to Buddhists and Muslims. Negativism is something we reject.”

"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'” Mathew 25:34-40

It’s the Gospel, and it ain’t rocket science.

Let’s treasure our 28 doctrines. In their clumsy way they have prepared us to love, heal, and educate worldwide. This Gospel that Jesus lived and died to make real is the solid foundation upon which Christian Adventists can light up the world and glorify the Great God of the Universe. Let’s treasure the 28 as traditional beliefs, not distracting, petty, legalistic, and dogmatic assertions. Charles Sandefur, writing in the July, 2009, edition of Ministry Magazine makes this point eloquently.

“We must do what we do with no strings attached. And no strings means just that—no strings. To make service dependent on people’s interest in or potential for becoming a follower of Christ would be a tragic distortion of the principle of love, which gives, expecting nothing in return.

“What then, is the relationship between acts of service and witness? Christian service calls us to serve human need, even if there were no reason to hope that our ministry will now or later create opportunities for outright evangelism. Of course, we must never seek to hide the source of our motivating Christian values, and we should always be ready to give an account of our faith when asked. But we should not have a guilty conscience if we have to wait a long time to give that account, or even if the opportunity to share our belief never comes.

“Who knows? In some cases what we do can be a better witness than what we say. At ADRA, for example, we want our work, what we do with our bodies, to proclaim what we, ourselves, can’t always verbalize. In other words, let our body language preach the gospel.”

ADRA and organizations like it must be our future, if we are to have one. I pray that we do.

A Beastly Dilemma, Continued

Cartoon modified from Prince Valiant, by Mark Schultz and Gary Gianni
(click image to enlarge)

While you're there, Shawn, have a nice time.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Reviewing the Adventist Review

June 18, 2009
Vol. 186, No.17

Mark A. Kellner’s cover article, CHURCH “DROPOUTS” IS THERE HOPE? is an important piece of reporting marred, perhaps fatally, by the illustrations that accompany it. First of all, the illustrations suggest that Adventists are a herd of homogeneous sheep. Secondly, those who stop attending the local Adventist church are prone to wander mindlessly off high spiritual cliffs unless they are aggressively (violently?) hooked to safety by someone in a suit and tie wielding a long shepard’s crook. Unfortunately for Kellner and the reader, a picture is worth 1000 words.

Paul Richardson is now the North American Division’s Coordinator for Reconnecting Ministries, and it sounds like lots of “reconnecting” workshops are in the offing, so that NAD laymen and pastors can learn to provide support to independent thinkers, smart-alecky bloggers, old fuddy-duddies, energetic young adults, biblical scholars, skeptics, vegans, revolutionary Christians, new converts, traditional Adventists, and just folks who “can’t handle it alone”.

All of the aforementioned need a church home where “love and freedom” reign, according to Monte Salin and Martin Weber. And if you believe that a Division Coordinator and “reconnecting workshop instruction” can create that environment, I have a bridge I’ll be happy to sell you.

Jean-Luc Lezeau, Associate Director of the General Conference Stewardship Department, asks the question, FINANCIAL MEELTDOWNS—IS THE CHURCH SUSCEPTIBLE? His answer is: “Current world events are just more signs that He cannot delay His return too much longer (1). We have never seen so many catastrophes (2) and every continent (3) is afflicted by one type of conflict or another. But we’re assured that we don’t need to worry about the financial crisis—or even about our retirement funds (5)—because our Lord has promised that He will soon come again (6) to take us to the home He has been preparing for us from all eternity.”

(1) Has He been informed? (2) WW II? (3) Antarctica? (4) Didn’t I hear that the GC’s investment portfolio took a hit and there’s a hiring freeze? (5) If that includes me, someone needs to reassure my wife! (6) Who did He promise and how soon?

Roy Adams raises an important question in his editorial, WHAT DETERMINES WHERE WE GO? He wonders, “How many of those areas covered by these pro-tem missionaries and evangelists were really in dire need. Did not some of them—many of them, in fact—go to areas of the world where “the work” is growing much more rapidly than where they themselves live? How to explain that a person who wouldn’t touch evangelism with a 10-foot pole in their own country can be so eager to spread the message in fields far removed from home? Might there be a motive operating here that needs exploring? Why do we tend to go to areas of the world where the work is fairly well advanced, to the neglect of [other] areas?”

PAULSEN, IN HISTORIC VISIT, SEES GROWTH, VISION OF ADVENTISTS IN CHINA, reported by Raimund Dabrowski and Bill Knott, chronicles Jan Paulsen’s visit to China. This article is an inspirational MUST READ. Paulsen’s world is my world, and his words could be mine.

“We recognize and respect other religions, and that among Christians there are shades of difference. [It] is important for Christian believers [to] practice their convictions without being critical and hostile to other believers.

“I want the Adventist believers in China to relate to all other expressions of belief and faith and be good neighbors not only to other Christians but also to Buddhists and Muslims. Negativism is something we reject.”

I have only one criticism. Two prominent women leaders, Hao Ya Jie and Zu Xiu Hua, whose “parishes number in the thousands of believers” are not pictured.

Jay Gallimore is my kind of guy. He sensibly avoids THE PITFALLS OF HEALTHFUL LIVING and has earned a BOUQUET for his persuasive advocacy of healthy food and a Christian attitude.

“Healthful living must be applied in an imperfect world with multitudes of variables and cultures. My body handles a vegetarian diet just fine. I have no food allergies. So for me, eating flesh food when I am surrounded by large varieties of fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains, and so forth is not wise or right. But what if I were in a place where there was no supply of fruits and vegetables? What if the only way to maintain good health was to eat clean flesh food? Would that be wrong? It might be personally distasteful, but not wrong. The principles of healthful living must be applied in light of the conditions in which I find myself.

“Another danger we need to avoid is a wrong attitude. People must have the freedom to apply the principles of healthful living to meet their own personal situations. In fact, that freedom is a principle from heaven, as well. When health education loses this attitude, it loses the Lord’s blessing. This is ministry—not force.”

Monte Salin can be counted on to suggest important TOOLS OF THE TRADE. The books, A Demographic Profile and Adventists and the Internet, should be in every church library. These books can be ordered on the Internet and by phone. 1-800-272-4664.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Reviewing the Adventist Review

June 11, 2009
Vol. 186, No. 16

This issue contains some inspiring and informative articles. Unfortunately, Adventist writers and scholars, not to mention evangelists, are hung up on the book of Daniel. I am aware that downplaying its significance, in this case the cover article MAKING SENSE OF DANIEL 11 by Zdravko Stefanovic, is like touching the "third rail" of Adventist theology, but I urge the reader to read the entire book again. Then check out the book of Daniel in the Jewish Encyclopedia and the words of other Christian scholars.* To put it succinctly, Daniel is an historical novel. (In this context, it should be noted that the founding fathers of Adventism were not biblical scholars and using the “prophetic” book of Daniel, preached the Shut Door message and the End of the World in 1843 and then 1844.)

EXCEEDING THE GOAL reported by Sandra Blackmer is the story of Adventist Review readers who made it possible for Indian women to earn a Bible and carrying case upon completion of a literacy course offered by the Southern Asia Division's Women's Ministries Department. (I hope they begin by reading the New Testament.)

Gerald A. Klingbeil's editorial, PERSPECTIVES, is a thoughtful challenge to put our lives in the context of a heavenly perspective. And as usual WORLD NEWS & PERSPECTIVES is a reminder that Adventists are part of an amazingly diverse worldwide Christian fellowship.

OF CANCER, CHEMO, AND CREDO by Lynette M. Schenkel is a BOUQUET WINNING letter of hope trom a cancer survivor to a new cancer patient.

Clifford Goldstein's YEAR OF HORIZONTAL THINKING is an editorial review of Joan Didion's book, A Year of Magical Thinking. It is a beautifully written reminder that for the Christian, "death does not have the final say".

DERAILED AND DELIVERED by Dean O'Shea is a suspenseful account of a policeman who was “saved” because he didn't fire his weapon.

Roy Adams reviews Michael Novak's book, No One Sees God. In TOUCHING ATHEISM WHERE IT HURTS, Adams argues that this is, "the kind of work more Adventist scholars need to do". While he does not agree with Novak that "much of the Bible should be considered 'allegorical, metaphorical, resonant with many meanings', or that 'from a Roman Catholic point of view. . . there is no difficulty in accepting all the findings of evolutionary biology", Adams considers the book "a breath of fresh air". (For what it's worth, I consider entire book a breath of fresh air.)

Finally, SECERT SONGS OF THE SOUL by Valerie N. Phillips has earned a BOUQUET for her delightful essay in which she substitutes some keywords in well-known songs. For example, "Blessed assurance, I'll be just fine"; or "What a friend we have in Face Book". Valerie, I will never again sing the old familiar hymns without really listening to and appreciating their marvelous words.

* The data of composition [of Daniel] is decided by clear evidence in Chapter 11. The wars between the Seleucids and the Ptolemies and a portion of the reign of and Antiochus Epiphanes are described with a wealth of detail quite unnecessary for the author's purpose. This account bears no resemblance to any of the Old Testament prophecies and, despite its prophetic style, refers to events already past. . . The book must therefore have been written during the persecution under Antiochus Epiphanes and before his death, even before the success of the Maccabaean Revolt; that is to say between 167 and 164.

There is nothing in the rest of the book to contradict this dating. The narratives of the first section are set in the Chaldaean period, but there are indications that the author is writing a long time after the events. Belshazzar was the son of Nabonidus and not, as the book says, of Nebuchadnezzar; nor was he ever king. Darius the Mede is unknown to historians, nor is there room for him between the last Chaldaean king and Cyrus the Persian who had already conquered the Medes. The neo-Babylonian background is described in words of Persian origin; the instruments in Nebuchadnezzar's orchestra are given names transliterated from the Greek. The dates given in the book agree neither among themselves nor with history as we know it, for chronology. The author has made use of oral and written traditions still current in his own times.

The late composition of the book explains its position in the Hebrew Bible. It was admitted after the Canon of the Prophets had already been fixed, and the place to between Esther and Ezra among the very the group of 'other writings' forming the last section of the Hebrew Canon.

The new Jerusalem Bible, Leather Deluxe Edition, Introduction to the Prophets, Daniel, pages 1177 and 1178.

Reviewing Adventist World, NAD Edition

June, 2009
Vol. 5, No. 6

Traditional Adventists should find this issue reassuring. It proclaims that Adventists are God's remnant people, according to Daniel and Revelation; that other Christian denominations' theology is flawed to the extent that it is not quite pleasing to God; that Adventists alone are currently guided by “the spirit of prophecy”; and while "many other churches are doing a good work, none is preaching the 'everlasting' or 'final', gospel in the setting of the final judgment-hour message". (ADVENTISTS REAFIRM MISSION FOCUS, reported by Mark A. Kellner and A UNIQUE PROPHETIC MOVEMENT by James R. Nix.)

This kind of self-promotion isn't Christian or biblical and is guaranteed to offend progressive Adventists and members of other Christian denominations. Insufferable exclusiveness holds up to ridicule not just our Church but Christianity in general. In contrast I offer Christ's words.

"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'" Mathew 25:34-40

Allen R. Handysides and Peter N. Landless assure the reader that EXERCISE AT ANY AGE is, in almost all cases, a good thing.

Check out the bloggers from the Denver First Adventist Church. That congregation believes in HIGH TECH FOR HIGH TOUCH, as reported by Roscoe J. Howard III.

YOUNG ADULTS RELENTLESSLY PURSUE CHRIST is an interesting and presumably effective evangelistic program with a creepy title.

Hans Olsen's LEGACY OF FAITH is a financial appeal to build on the foundation of sacrifice and service rendered by Adventist missionaries in Africa.

Angel Manuel Rodriguez answers a HIGHER EDUCATION question, "Were there schools in [ancient] Israel?" "Probably."