Friday, November 13, 2009

Reviewing Adventist Today

Fall 2009
Vol. 17, No. 4

Ervin Taylor and J. David Newman are to be congratulated! This edition of Adventist Today is a step in the right direction. The graphics are excellent, as is the layout. My only complaint is that there is too little space devoted to LETTERS. Reader response is the lifeblood of a magazine promoting change. And nothing motivates like responses publicly validated and valued.

J. David Newman quotes Ellen White in answer to his editorial question, WHY MUST WE CHANGE?

"Today have many in the church consider being conservative a good thing. Not Ellen White. . .' when God raises up men to do his work. . .He will prepare men for the times. They will be humble, God-fearing men, not conservative, not policy men; but men who have moral independence and will move forward in the fear of the Lord. They will be kind, noble, courteous, yet they will not be swayed from the right path, but will proclaim the truth and righteousness whether man will hear or whether they will forbear.'"

Dorothy Patchett opines in LETTERS, “I could not believe someone could get into my mind and express my thoughts so well. I have been deeply distressed over the very things he mentioned" in THE END OF MINISTRY AS WE KNOW IT by Loren Seibold (Summer 2009).

ADVENTIST TODAY WORKS! By Edwin A. Schwisow is convinced that independent Adventist publications promote editorial honesty. "Adventist Today has helped the church press become more forthcoming. Traditionally church executives have exerted absolute power over the denomination's publications. Bad news about the church is normally discouraged-- and for decades was not permitted in Adventist publications. But now editors of the Adventist Review and other publications are often told to 'go ahead and write the story; better we tell it then Adventist today.'"

THE PIVOTAL DESIGN by Ron Gladden provides a detailed blueprint for church growth. He calls it The Pivotal Design for a Prevailing Church. Gladden describes a church led by a strategically assembled team of pastors and staff that share specific gifts and characteristics. These team members hold [common beliefs] about ministry, life, and God. In general, the culture of the prevailing church, its ‘pivotal design’, must be Christ centered and inclusive.

TITHE—SACRIFICING THE SACRED COW by J. David Newman is MUST READ. He argues that "Church structure, organization, and policies are for the sake of the Gospel, not the other way around”. When funds, including tithe, generated by local churches in North America are used to support a top-heavy church bureaucracy, rather than locally supported programs, the best outcome, in terms of church growth, is negligible. “[Adventists] have five levels to support in our system: local church, conference, union division, and General Conference. The Roman Catholic Church, which is also worldwide, has only three levels: local parish, and Vatican.”

Desmond Ford provides a devastating scholarly critique of George Knight’s THE APOCALYPTIC VISION AND THE NEUTERING OF ADVENTISM. My September review of NEUTERING in the Summer 2009 Adventist Today is less genteel.

LETTER TO A CHURCH LEADER by Kevin Ferris, an elder at the Springwood Adventist Church in Brisbane, Australia, protests the Church’s “scandalous treatment” of Desmond Ford and, by proxy, loyal church members of like mind in Australia and North America. For Ferris, “The silencing of Ford was code for ‘Righteousness by faith is finished.”

HOW DO WE DEAL WITH PIERCINGS by Joe Okimi is a plea for acceptance. “Should some of the younger generation change their appearance? Sure. But some of the older generation should change their mindset. . .In the grand scheme of god’s amazing grace, physical appearance is somewhere near the absolute bottom. Colored hair and body piercings don’t make us saved or condemned.”

Alden Thompson asks the question, IS THE TIME RIGHT? for three kinds of Adventists to learn to live together instead of quarreling. Whether you belong to the Perfectionist Peter Crowd, Paul’s Jesus Does It For Us Crowd, or the Do Your Best Apollos Crowd, Thompson believes that “all three kinds of Adventists will revel together before God’s throne, singing his praises through all eternity.” Maybe in Heaven.

LESS THAN ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY is David A. Pendleton’s review of Help My Unbelief by William J. O’Malley. According to Pendleton, “Help My Unbelief reminds us that while the nature of God does not change, our conception of God does change over time. The universal laws of physics did not change when science transitioned from Newtonian physics to Einstein’s theory of relativity to the uncertainty principle and quantum mechanics. Only our comprehension of those laws changed. In other words, the presence of ‘truths that don’t (yet) fit snugly [don’t necessarily] negate the whole—any more than quantum physics destroyed the usefulness of Newtonian physics in the everyday world.’”

According to Pendleton, “O’Malley proposes that doubt, rightly conceived, can be a virtue. A Christian in the 21st century should exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, for life is (alas) often less than black-and-white, and meaningful patterns must be discerned from shades of gray.”

In SEVEN QUESTIONS FOR DOUG BATCHELOR, Marcel Schwantes interviewed a man with an international media ministry. In addition to Amazing Facts, he hosts another weekly television program, Central Study Hour. He is a featured speaker on two radio programs: Bible Answers Live and Wonders of the World, and his organization has created “multiple evangelism websites”.

He is a biblical literalist and preaches a traditional Adventist “end time” message. His support for “last days” evangelism is buttressed by his belief that “Bible history [is] divided into three epochs: 2,000 years from Adam to Abraham, the age of the prophets; 2,000 years from Abraham to Christ, the age of the Hebrews; and we anticipate that the pattern will continue with approximately 2,000 years from Christ’s coming to second coming.”

ADVENTIST MAN, AT’s “agony aunt”, tackles the following readers’ questions concerning: the role of talking animals in literature, what to do with rich Adventists, the outcome of the ASI convention, whether angels can survive in movie theaters, and what to do about drums in churches.

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