Friday, September 25, 2009

Reviewing Spectrum

Summer 2009
Volume 37, Issue 9

This issue is more than fast food. Bonnie has prepared generous servings of a tasty meal along with a choice of desserts. As usual, the following diner’s guide reflects my personal sense of taste and flavor, but rest assured, you’ll enjoy the meal.

"It takes me aback what I see people insisting—Insisting to the point of saying opponents should be barred from full participation in church life—on their reading of Genesis 1. The Bible seems quite at ease with simple statements of divine creation--and it bears witness, in any case, to the idea that God's thoughts and ways are higher than ours. In light of verses 8 and 9 of Isaiah 55, it's hard to credit people who say they alone are right about when creation happened or how long it took."

"By seeking to meet the market expectation of many committed Adventists who are not pursuing Adventist higher education does not necessarily mean compromising our product! Moreover, the definition of excellence in Adventist higher education changes over time; what was optimal one hundred or twenty-five years ago may not be optimal today." Ray Paden, Dripping Springs, Texas

"Christians can be involved in the political process as ecological/environmental activists (and, I would venture to add, social activists as well) without, in Ellen White's words, 'identify[ing] ourselves with party interests'. There is no conflict here with God's prophetic guidance to his people."

"Paulsen addressed concerns that partnerships would be at odds with the church's mission, saying, ‘some have been critical, and rightly so, all of an eschatological perspective that serves simply to reconcile us to current ministries. Awaiting [Christ's return] is not a passive exercise, but something that the man's action [in] the present’."

“PROCLAIM LIBERTY” OR “SUBMIT TO AUTHORITY”? The Biblical Basis for Civic and Ecological Activism Among Adventist Christians by David J. B. Trim
"Christians can be involved in the political process as ecological/environmental activists (and, I would venture to add, social activists as well) without, in Ellen White's words, 'identify[ing] ourselves with party interests.' There is no conflict here with God's prophetic guidance to his people."

“SWINE OF THE TIMES”: Ecumenism, Ecology, and Ethics in the Era of Factory Farming by Sigve K. Tonstad
"From the point of view of the Bible, interest in non-human creatures and the earth is not motivated by an ecological state of emergency but by recognition of the dignity and rights of the rest of the created order. The ecological paradigm is too narrow."

"My favorite moment came when Grace Dammann began to speak. Dammann was a 2005 Unsung Heroes awardee who had suffered paralysis from a motor accident. From her wheelchair, she could not properly reach the microphone. So when she began speaking and no one could hear her, the Dalai Lama quickly got up, adjusted her stand, and instructed her to speak directly into the microphone. The people in charge of sound grew red with embarrassment, but the rest of us enjoyed a good belly roar."

SOMETHING YOU DO: Rachel Davies Interviews Karen Hanson Kotske
"At its best, and Adventism teaches that Jesus saw the world through a prism of compassion. He told us that our lives should be about feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty. I don't believe there are any lines drawn between hungry Hindus or hungry Christians. I doubt that Christ asked anyone's religious affiliation before he provided them with fish and bread."

“THEY PREACH A POLITICAL GOSPEL”: The Prophetic Witness of Washington, D.C.’s Earliest Seventh-day Adventists by Douglas Morgan
"The bitter divisions and crushing setbacks that lay ahead almost wiped out the memory of the time when Adventists in Washington were at the head and not the tail when it came to racial justice and equality; when, on the basis of the Gospel they resisted a national capitulation to racism. Their long-ignored place in the Adventist heritage needs to be restored, for without it we diminish the power and clarity of the light we draw from the past for the journey ahead."

FIFTY YEARS SELLING CHOPLETS” Alita Byrd Interviews Allan Buller
"Alan Buller joined Worthington Foods as a young ex-soldier immediately after the Second World War and served as an executive at the legendary Adventist food company for more than fifty years, until he retired as president and chief executive officer in 1986."

NOTE: In the past, I've complained about the length of a number of articles published in Spectrum Magazine. In this case, however, the seven pages devoted to this interview are engaging, well written, and provide an important history of the Adventist Church’s involvement in the production of meat analogs.

"Today's canonical disciplines did not begin with well-defined epistemological boundaries. For example, early mathematicians often were scientists or philosophers or even religious leaders. Over time, the modern disciplines developed naturally into epistemological categories, which resulted in great advances. Today, interdisciplinary work is once again taking the lead, but this time its synergy is leveraged in a powerful way by the clear-eyed recognition of epistemological categories.

"I think that all disciplines are searching for truth and reality, but with different ways of knowing (epistemologies), different standards of 'proof', and different scopes of questions that can be addressed."

CHANGE, SCRIPTURE, AND SCIENCE: Good News for Adventist Thinking in the Twenty-first Century by Fritz Guy
"To insist that theology be limited to past knowledge is spiritually shortsighted, intellectually unrealistic, and theologically self-defeating. Since the eleventh century, theology has been famously defined as 'Faith seeking understanding', and the reality of 'present truth' is a call to advance in understanding."

MAPPING THE CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE: A Review of Barbara Brown Taylor’s book, “An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith” by Ken Curtis
"For Adventists, the implicit challenge in Taylor's book is to consider what it might be like for us to define ourselves less with detailed doctrinal descriptions and to imagine instead the possibility of us immersing ourselves in the world around us. Instead of relying upon twenty-eight fundamental snapshots of doctrine, what might it be like for us to define ourselves by envisioning a series of fundamental video clips that demonstrate possible engagement with those around us? Could the way we relate to the world be at least as important as how carefully and uniformly we describe it within the context of theology?"

PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST: Will It Ever Be Achieved?
David A. Pendleton reviews the following books: “The Faith Club” by Ranya Idliby, Suzanne Oliver, and Priscilla Warner; “Islam and the Secular State” by Abd Allah Ahmad Na’um; “Against Us” by Jim Sciutto; “A Deadly Misunderstanding by Mark Siljander; and “Dreams and Shadows” by Robin Wright.
"These authors provide a central balance and nuance to the discussion [of the West's conversation on the Middle East and Islam], reminding the reader that, among other things, Jihad need not entail violence; terrorists do not speak for Islam, there are varieties of legitimate expressions of Islam, continuity and change characterize all faiths (including Islam), and although Muslims agree on what the Qur'an says, as with the U.S. Constitution, interpretation is required to discern what the Qur'an means. Moreover, one senses throughout these works a steadfast, if cautious, optimism about Islam."

POETRY SLAM: Prose Poems by Brittney Mourer, Emily J. Hickerson, and Katie Paul
These poems, “Do We Ever?” “A State of Silence” and “Goodwill, or How to Pretend you Never Followed That Fad”, are the reflections of three English majors attending Andrew’s University.

McKee Foods Brings You Paradise Regained

Cartoon modified from Over the Hedge: Stuffed Animals by Michael Fry & T. Lewis
(click to enlarge)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Reviewing the Adventist Review - 2009 International Pathfinder Camporee Edition

August 27, 2009
Vol. 186, No. 24

This issue is about Pathfinders, first and foremost, and then about what happened when 35,000 Pathfinders representing more than 100 countries got together at the International Camporee in Oshkosh, Wisconsin on August 11-15.

Contents include a history of the Pathfinder movement, plans for a Pathfinder Museum near the Historic Adventist Village in Battle Creek, Michigan, and the stories of outstanding clubs. The following is my favorite.

“In December 2007 and January 2008, the Adventist Pathfinder Club in Rwanda built 100 houses within two months for families that were expelled from Tanzania. These people who were forced from Tanzania are originally from Rwanda but have lived in Tanzania for many years. The Tanzanian government forced them to go back and reclaim their properties, but on their return they discovered that their houses were gone. The Rwandan government offered them land, but they did not have homes to live in. The government asked the Seventh-day Adventist Church to help in constructing houses for these families. The first group of 2,380 Pathfinders did the work for two weeks, and the last team of 1,800 Pathfinders finished the work in an additional two weeks.

Different churches offered transportation and meals for about 2,500 Pathfinders. The government provided cement, iron sheets, trees, sand, stones, and doors, and within two months these houses were completed. The Pathfinders not only built these new homes but also helped heal many hearts that had been deeply scarred. Every morning the Pathfinders had devotions with these families and shared food. In turn, these families were amazed to see love in action, not just in words, and several individuals decided to join the Seventh-day Adventist Church.”
—Information provided by Jacques Nkinzingabo, youth director, Rwanda Union

Note: I became a member of the Glendale, California, Pathfinder Club 57 years ago. I tied knots, marched, earned patches and went camping, even in the snow, with friends and classmates. In high school, I was the bugle boy at several regional camporees. (I had my own personal tent, and could come and go pretty much as I pleased.) I’ll never forget lying on the concrete fire ring after all the other campers had been sent to bed, warmed by the coals of the huge fire that remained after the final song had been sung.

I played taps at 10:00, four times in four directions. My horn sounded clear and sweet and lonely. (It gives me the chills remembering.) and reveille four times at 7:00 each morning, (The leaders’ RV’s received my first blast.) after which I went back to bed!

A Cautionary Fable for Any Political Season

Cartoons from There's Treasure Everywhere, by Bill Watterson
(click to enlarge)

Reviewing the Adventist Review

August 20, 2009
Vol. 168, No. 23

The cover feature, SINGING OUR SONGS, by Roy Adams along with Page 7's, A TUNEFUL TRADITION, (1) are a MUST READ. ANSWERING TOUGH QUESTIONS provides important information regarding depression and coronary risk thanks to Neil Medley, Hans Diehl, and John Kelly. Carlos Medley chronicles A NEW MILESTONE in giving. (2) Check the SPECTRUM blog for the latest information about STUDENT UNREST in Bugema Secondary School, an Adventist boarding school in Uganda, where two students were shot during a riot.

One book review and one editorial require comments. Cindy Tutsh reviews THE SHACK by Wm. Paul Young. "In this postmodern novel Mac—who has experienced unspeakable personal tragedy—is invited by papa (god) to spend the weekend with him in a remote shack in the mountains. There Mac encounters a triune god composed of an African-American woman, a Middle Eastern carpenter-type, and an esoteric Asian named Sarayu. Mac discovers a god who is seeking relationship, who has answers to the perennial question of 'Why does God allow suffering and pain?' and who is eager to communicate theological commentary in twenty-first-century language. So what's not to like?"

Tisch chronicles 17 ways in which the triune god of the Shack is "vastly dissimilar" to the God of the Bible. She goes on to state that these "dissensions could wreak havoc with our relationship to the real God of the Scriptures and ultimately affect our eternal destiny."

At this point it is important to point out that this is a novel not a theological treatise. I have read the book, as have dozens of my Adventist and nonAdventist friends and at least a hundred of my acquaintances, and I'm confident that they have exhibited the "spiritual discernment. . . to distinguish truth from falsehood, even when that falsehood is woven into an emotionally compelling narrative". In fact, everyone I know that has read the book recommends it!

However, there is a book far more dangerous for "some. . .less prepared to resist” a distorted god. The god described at the beginning of this book is arbitrary, severe, exacting, vengeful, and unforgiving. (It is the belief in this "distorted god" that has made the depiction of the loving god of the SHACK so appealing and comforting.) "Spiritual discernment" must be intensively employed to discern truth about the character of this god after his Old Testament introduction. (3)

Clifford Goldstein's editorial, ONE LORD OR THE OTHER, (4) calls to mind an observation by the eminent psychologist Dorothy Satir. She believed that human beings can’t be loved enough or be powerful enough. She argued that when a person devotes her life to attaining one at the expense the other, she loses both.

The same can be said for belief and inquiry. Human beings require evidence to temper and inform belief if they are to live lives that are fully human, fully Christian, fully Adventist. In this editorial, Goldstein asks the reader to be a “believer”, to disregard or at least discount evidence that calls into question what he believes to be the Truth. For him the question is “either or”, belief or the evidence of our senses. My reply is that inquiry informs belief, and belief makes inquiry possible. In other words, Cliff, I want both. Life without love and trust and compassion and a generous spirit is not worth living, as is life without awareness and reason and curiosity and evidence.

Caveats and Observations
1. “Singing our songs” is not meant to convey the idea that we should individually like each song in the hymnal. 2. The “our” in the article’s title does not refer only to North America (where I happen to live). The hymnal we use here is also used in other places, but it’s not universal. 3. A factor to consider in using the word “our” for North America (and other places with the same hymnal) is that most of the songs in that hymnbook originated from a single culture. This should raise an alert for anyone concerned about the future of a multicultural, multiethnic, global church. 4. Those who’re into contemporary music of one form or another should remember that our brains are big enough to hold both the “classical” and the “modern.” We should not become narrow by restricting ourselves to a single genre of music.”

General Conference Treasurer Robert Lemon announced, “For the first time in the 146-year history of the Adventist Church, gross tithe from the denomination’s 12 international divisions exceeded the gross tithe from North America. In 2008 international tithe totaled $1,040,330,853 as compared to $894,234,155 for North America, a difference of nearly $150 million. These numbers represent a quantum shift in church funding that has principally come from North America.”

The following 17 biblical “dissensions” might also present a picture of god that "could affect our relationship to the real God of the Scriptures and ultimately affect our eternal destiny”. In this book, god:
3:16 caused pain in childbirth; 3:17 cursed the soil; 3:21 killed the first animal; 6:13 wiped out almost “all living things” with a universal flood; 10:25 introduced the institution of slavery; 19:26 turned Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt
7:14-12:34 created 10 plagues; 14:28 drowned Pharaoh’s army; 20:5 decreed that children would be punished to the third generation for the sins of their parents; 32:25-28 commanded Levites to kill brothers, friends, and neighbors
26:14-39 promised to terrorize the Israelites if they didn’t put His commandments into practice
11:31-33 sent a plague for collecting too many quail; 15:32-36 ordered a man executed for collecting sticks on the Sabbath; 16:27-32 caused the ground to swallow Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and their families; 17:6-8 killed 14,700 for approaching the Tent of Meeting; 25:6-9 sent a plague that killed 24,000 for immoral behavior and worshiping Baal; 31:1-24 ordered “holy war” against the Midianites
20;16-18 commanded the Israelites to kill every Hittite, Amorite, Canaanite, Perizzite, Hivites, and Jebusite.

“Choose the God you’re going to serve: the one who raised up Darwin, or the One who raised up Ellen White. But let’s end the farce of thinking you [as an Adventist] can do both.”

The Pastor’s Dilemma

(See THE END OF MINISTRY AS WE KNOW IT by Loren Siebold in the Summer, 2009 edition of Adventist Today)

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

Friday, September 11, 2009

Christ's Parables for Today

By Sakae Kubo

The parables of Jesus though spoken almost two thousand years ago in an ancient culture very different from ours are still very relevant today because Christ dealt with universal human problems. Christ's parables are disarmingly simple, and yet it is extremely difficult to create new parables with the force and power of his stories.

Christ's parables are disarmingly simple, and yet it is extremely difficult to create new parables with the force and power of his stories.

When we clearly understand references made to customs of his day, the relevance of the parables of Christ becomes even more apparent. However, because of the nature of the parables with their different characters and their actions, it is possible to universalize the meaning of these parables without reference to the context. Characters can be represented by arbitrarily chosen persons, and objects and actions with arbitrary meanings, thus allegorizing the parable.

To read Sakae's book online, visit Grace Connection.

Sakae and Hatsumi Kubo live in Chico, California and are actively retired. Dr. Kubo holds degrees from Andrews University, Andrews University Theological Seminary, Western Michigan University, and the University of Chicago. He has been a Professor of Biblical Languages, Biblical Greek, and New Testament Theology as well as Seminary Librarian. He has taught at Andrews University and Walla Walla College. He is a past President of Newbold College and retired from the position of Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Atlantic Union College. He has written numerous books and articles.

We really miss you, Bill.

Cartoons from There's Treasure Everywhere, by Bill Watterson
(click to enlarge)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Reviewing Adventist Today

Summer 2009
Vol. 17, No. 3

The following two articles strike out. The rest of the issue hits a home run. WHY I AM A SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST by John Tangen belongs in the Adventist Review. ISLAMIC CONNECTION: HOW ONE ADVENTIST BELIEVES ISLAM WAS BIRTHED BY THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH by Seth Pierce is an esoteric waste of four pages that could be better spent by expanding the not-quite two pages devoted to Letters. Finally, John Tangen's full-page photograph and what amounts to another full-page graphic illustrating Islamic Connection is monumental graphic excess.

J. David Newman's editorial, GEORGE KNIGHT AND THE NEUTERING OF ADVENTISM, sums up Knight's message with the following comment. "Preaching the beasts is much more captivating than simply preaching Christ. We want to be scared, frightened, whipped into shape. Love is not enough. We need a healthy dose of fear." (My own review of “Neutering” concludes this review.)

LETTERS should be the lifeblood of the magazine. My plea to the Letters Editor: fight for at least four pages and limit Desmond Ford to one response.

In IS GOD FINISHED WITH THE ADVENTIST CHURCH? J. David Newman writes, "There is little call to revival and reformation in our [church] papers and from church leaders, but there is much about the progress of the Adventist Church throughout the world, as if the growth of the Church is God's measure of our purpose." Reality, according to Newman, is that the Adventist Church, like Hans Christian Andersen's emperor, has no clothes. "The problem is that no one . . . wants to admit that we are naked, even though we have biblical proof." This article is MUST READ for all Adventists, particularly Church administrators.

THE END OF MINISTRY AS WE KNOW IT by Loren Siebold is another MUST READ. Siebold tackles the issues of GIVING: "Church members aren't tossing their money into the kettle as readily as they used to. They'll still give, but to what they want to, not to what we (the Adventist Church) tell them to;" NEW WAYS OF DOING MINISTRY: "Some changes, like bivocational or lay ministry, have been thrust upon us;" DEMOGRAPHIC REDISTRIBUTION: "The rural North Dakota church I was born into, a few years after World War II, was thriving. Not anymore. It, and thousands like it, are barely holding on;" DISPIRITED PASTORS: "Those [pastors] who went the whole professional route into parish ministry appear especially disillusioned;" A MONEY-SAPPING SCHOOL SYSTEM: "At least one conference I know of builds its whole program around keeping alive a white elephant of a boarding academy, built for 300 but schooling about 50, and has adjusted the number of pastors and the size of its districts accordingly. That, friends, is where our money goes. . .The irony is that I know of few schools. . . that aren't just barely surviving, even with the subsidies [provided];" A STUCK CHURCH STRUCTURE: "All the bureaucratic levels Ellen White knew are still there, and no one seems to be able to subdue administrative office inflation for very long. One reason might be an overriding fear that without a strong hierarchy, churches could become independent and self-sustaining—the dreaded 'congregationalism'."

Alden Thompson tussles with culture in BABYLON IS FALLEN--OR IS IT, and there is no clear winner. "But can we know when truth is enduring and when it is shaped by culture? That's one of the most challenging questions facing the church today. Yet the answer is simple: all truth that can be known by humans a shaped by culture. All."

Adventist Today's readers' survey provided "surprising insights". "Readers are primarily in their 60s, 70s, and 80s. . . While the readership may be very attached to the magazine and very supportive per capita, a strongly homogeneous readership also demands certain kind of coverage that may have fewer receptor points among younger Adventist readers. . .The decision to become a quarterly publication should translate into increasing general interest in the magazine, and potentially more subscriptions. To the extent that new subscribers are younger and well-educated, the publication stands an excellent chance of expansion, growth, and solvency in an improving economy."

7 QUESTIONS FOR RON GLADDEN by Marcel Schwantes is a revealing look and what makes Mission Catalyst a viable and growing network of unofficial Adventist congregations.

I'm personally delighted that Adventist Man is still a feature. I wish to extend a belated thanks to Chris Blake for keeping the Man alive, and kudos to his anonymous successor. (I've always wanted to know when it was the right time to reveal to a friend that the Pope is the Antichrist.)

My review of George R. Knight's the Apocalyptic Vision and the Neutering of Adventism resonates with J. David Newman’s editorial comments and Ervin Taylor’s thoughtful and devastating critical review, NEO-APOCALYPTIC ADVENTISM: VISION OR NIGHTMARE? However, I decided to provide the reader with my own critique.

After reading Irvin Taylor's extensive review of George R. Knight's The Apocalyptic Vision and the Neutering of Adventism, I thought I had better read the book before I wrote a review of his review. While I find myself in complete agreement with Taylor's comment that "Dr. Knight might wish to look to the future rather than the past and envision a broad spectrum of 'Adventists' at peace with each other or, at least, agreeing to disagree without exchanging invectives", I decided to review the book myself, beginning with Knight's own description of his book.

"The Apocalyptic Vision and the Neutering of Adventism is not a slow-paced 'scholarly' book. Rather, it is a tract for the times and a wake-up call based on the gut-level feeling that Adventism is losing its way and the observation that many of its younger ministers and members have never even heard the apocalyptic vision, while many of its older ones question whether they can any longer believe it or preach it." p. 106

There is a great deal of evidence in the book that these words express “gut level” feelings. Knight explains that his use of the word "neutering" is used for emotional effect.

"Thoughts on the word 'Neutering'
'Neutering' is not a nice word.
Neither is the process agreeable, whether it be physically or spiritually.
Some will hate the metaphor,
Others will love it,
But none will forget it.
If so, I have achieved the first part of my purpose in writing this brief book." p. 6

The following comments and phrases reflect the rhetorically sarcastic tone of the book. The effect is a kind of aggressive diminution of anyone that dares to disagree with him.

"Obviously, we have to downplay references that describe Ellen White as 'inspired', since so much of her writings deal with last-day events. But just make her over into a 'devotional writer' and no problem!” p. 12 "Announcing that people should 'fear God' is politically incorrect' in the early twenty-first century.” p. 25 "I am a big-picture sort of person. My approach is to look at the trunk and the general shape of the theological tree. And to put it in a more homely way yet, I pride myself on the fact that I can identify a tree when I see one.” p. 52 "If I were the devil I would tempt Adventists and their preachers to just be nice evangelicals and forget about such nasty stuff as apocalyptic.” p. 55 “Their arguments are "masterstrokes of the human intellect.” p. 17 “They refuse to commit "the sin of Bible study" p. 33

Knight describes himself as an "outsider to the club of the born-in-the-church community" p. 16 and uses words and phrases to demean those in the “club” whose views differ from his own. They are "adjusted to culture", have "nebulous spirituality”, use "politically correct assumptions", and spout "relatively meaningless [religious] fuzzies". In short, they don't speak with Knight’s "sanctified arrogance".

In Knight's religious world everything is black or white. "All religious communities consist of two sorts of members—believers and cultural adherents." p. 9 "If Adventism loses its apocalyptic vision, it has lost its reason for existing as either a church or a system of education.” p. 11 "Adventism cannot escape the dilemma between being meaningful or being neutered. It can't have both ways. p.19 "Christianity is an abnormal religion." p. 21

Again and again, Knight creates "what if" or "straw man" situations that make it difficult for the reader to challenge his argument or propose a different solution to the question posed. For example, if Adventists were "to dump our heritage and beliefs in eschatology/last day events, along with the implications of our historical stance on the prophecies, and focus only on being Christlike . . . what would be our excuse for existing as a unique denomination"? P. 12

Chapter 3, But Don't Forget the Beasts, is a tortured, almost unreadable, explanation and defense of the traditional Adventist prophetic interpretation of apocalyptic end time theology. According to Knight, the books of Daniel and Revelation contain truths about the apocalypse that are essential if Adventism is to regain its virility. "The apocalypse is what Adventism is all about." p. 25 "The plain fact is that if we have only the Lamb of God, we have only half a gospel. . . An Adventism without the Lion* is a neutered Adventism, just as a Christianity without the slaughtered Lamb is a neutered Christianity. p. 24, 25

Occasionally Knight's "mind wanders in strange directions". [William Miller] was responsible for "one of the most fruitful ministry's in mid-nineteenth-century America. His message was the coming of the Lord 'about the year 1843'." p. 34 "Adventism has only one real theological problem—Jesus hasn't returned." p. 59 Referencing the parable of the Bridegroom and the Ten Virgins, Knight notes “that all 10 [bridegrooms] are outwardly Christians". p. 93

Occasionally reason prevails. "William Miller read the book of Revelation like most of us. We grab hold of those things we think we understand and skip over those we don't." p. 35 "We humans maybe more limited then we might weigh and extrapolating heavenly knowledge from the particulars of an earthly model." (specific reference to ideas concerning a heavenly sanctuary) p. 73 "We are truly keeping God's commandments only when our actions flow out of a heartfelt love for Him and other people. p. 48

What must be shocking to every Adventist liberal who manages to read the entire book is that Knight's "ballsy", bull-in-the-china shop "sanctified arrogance" is neutered by his concluding definition of the term, "neoapocalypticism" and his statements regarding the "ultimate message of both the book of Revelation and the synoptic apocalyptic". Holy smoke screen! It looks like under all the fiery rhetoric and name calling there lurks a closet progressive, a fuzzy thinker of nebulous spirituality!

"Neoapocalypticism does not put forth a message of legalism, but one of true worship that takes God at His word. After all, it is the Christ of the Revelation who forcefully claimed that at the end of time He would have a people who are
1. patiently waiting for his return.
2. keeping God's commandments while waiting.
3. maintaining a faith relationship with God through Him (Rev. 14:12)" p. 106

"The ultimate message of both the book of Revelation and the synoptic apocalyptic is that the only real solution to poverty and injustice is the return of Jesus. It is that solution that makes the Adventist message truly relevant to a dying world." p. 101

"Adventists have too long expressed a wrongheaded approach to the apocalyptic vision that has emphasized what is wrong with other churches, fear-mongering, and—worst of all—a fixation on time. Have a Sunday law show up on the horizon, and Adventists get excited. But they all too often have failed to see that time is not where Christ placed the emphasis." p. 101

"Jesus, even though He cared for the outcasts and fed the poor, repeatedly turned away from the social justice path as the primary focus of His own ministry. His message at its core was that social engineering and Christian benevolence would never solve the world's problems." p. 104

The following words reflect Knight's philosophical ambivalence with regard to the Adventist Church, individual church members, evolving Adventist theology, and his reasons for writing this book.

"I used to be able to preach a sermon entitled 'Why I Don't Like Adventists'. And I really don't, but I finally stopped presenting it because it sounded a wee bit negative. . .Not long ago I saw a bumper sticker . . .'JESUS SAVE ME' read the large print. 'From your people' declared the small. I thought the entire blurb might make a meaningful book title. And then there was the atheistic philosopher Frederick Nietzsche, who proclaimed the profound truth of my early years: 'The best argument against Christianity is Christians.' In all too many cases the same dictum would hold for the best argument against Adventism.

"Well, as you can see, my mind wanders in strange directions. But the upshot of my journey has left me with three inescapable questions that have driven my life both existentially and intellectually.
"What is the meaning of life both existentially and intellectually?
"Why be a Christian?
"Why be a Seventh-day Adventist?
I have to admit that I'm not happy with most people's (including most Adventists’) answer to these all-important questions." p. 10

George, speaking as one of the "most people" born-in-the-church Adventists, I'm not at all sorry that my answers to these three questions are not your answers. And it's not my job as a Christian Adventist to make you happy. In this instance, it’s my job as a reviewer to let readers know that the book is poorly organized, carelessly written, mercenary, and in spite of the title, eminently forgettable. And writing as a follower of Christ—inflammatory and divisive.

*"That is where the wrath of the Lamb (Christ) comes in. That is where the Lion of the Tribe of Judah enters, pictured in Revelation 19 is arriving from heaven on a white horse to put an end to the sin problem and its ongoing mystery.” p. 24

Committeeship is safe. Leadership ain’t.

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

Parting Words for a Divided World

The following is a talk presented to Grace Connection on June 22, 2002, by Heather Isaacs, then a graduate student at San Francisco Theological Seminary.

I sometimes wonder why God doesn’t be the God of the Old Testament and DO something. I mean, we have biblical stories of how God stepped into human history time after time and DID something. God LOVED a good miracle. Especially in the Hebrew Bible. Fire from heaven, talking donkeys, floating axheads. These were dramatic, creative expressions of God’s will. God seemed to like to step in and do something. So my question may seem too obvious but I ask it anyway--where is God now? In a world desperately in need of intervention, has God begged out? Has God thrown up her hands, departed and left the rest of history to us?

Click here to read the rest at Grace Connection

Au Gratin Potatoes, Anyone?

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