Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Religious Metaphor

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

Reviewing the Adventist Review

December 23, 2010

Vol. 187, No. 41


This issue is standard Christmas devotional fare. Click on the above address to discover author, title, and a short summary. Click on the following addresses to get the latest church news. I have a comment, but this time it’s about two letters to the editor.


Myklebust Named Interim Head at Newbold College
Jane Sabes resigns after two years in role.

Antillean Adventist Hospital Resumes After Flood Damage
Hurricane Tomas closes AAH for a month.

Ministry Editor Satelmajer Completes 40 Years of Service
Former pastor, administrator leaves a legacy of accomplishments.

WWU Students, Church Members Set "The Longest Table"
Fellowship, outreach topped the menu.


Robert Paulsen and Marlilee McNeilus wrote to complain about including THE SHERROD AFFAIR, and editorial by Fredrick A. Russell, in the October 14 Review. Paulsen complained that putting “an article of this nature in our church paper just two weeks before a very important election is not right. This article is pure politics and has no place in our church paper. To berate the tea party in over half of the article seems a little strange…I don’t think we should feature political subjects; but if we do, we need to hear both sides of the issue”.

McNeilus wrote, “I am very disappointed that the Adventist Review would publish such a critical article about racism and politics…The Adventist Review should not be anyone’s platform for this personal and political opinion.”

What was it that was said that upset these readers? In what way were Russell’s words “political”? Are these readers so disconnected from television news that they didn’t see the hateful and disgusting racist placards carried by “the fringe elements of the Tea Party movement”? Shouldn’t our Church and every Seventh-day Adventist Christian applaud Fredrick Russell’s sentiments? Did McNeilus interpret this editorial as a Democratic fundraiser? Shouldn’t these tactics also outrage Republicans?

I’m concerned that the Review editors decided to publish two such critiques. Was the critical response so intense that two letters were required? Are the editors pandering to what they perceive to be a Republican audience?

In the online issue of this Review, only one contribution to WORLD NEWS AND PERSPECTIVES was omitted from the online edition. It was coverage of Michelle Obama’s Anti-Obesity Initiative. In the December 2010 edition of the Pacific Union Recorder, the headline of the Public Affairs and Religious Liberty page was RELIGIOUS LIBERTY DEPARTMENT CALLED TOO LIBERAL. Alan J. Reinach, Esq., felt the need to explain, “The Adventist Church is not partisan, politically.”

In conclusion, I’ve quoted liberally from Fredrick A. Russell’s editorial. Let me know what’s partisan and/or political.

“During the past year many Americans have watched with growing concern as some of the fringe elements in the Tea Party movement crossed the line from basic political dissent, which is every American’s right, to actions that looked, well, racist, while hiding under political cover. Some of the signs at Tea Party rallies were, frankly, offensive to many Americans, as they brazenly advanced racial stereotypes.

“As my family and I watched some of the Tea Party rallies on television—observing both the signs and some of the rhetoric—we were shocked by what we saw. The overwhelming majority of people participating in these rallies were only expressing disagreement and dissent, and there was nothing remotely racist in what they said or did. But that wasn’t the case for all.

“Add to that the racially tinged conversations emanating from some radio talk show hosts, coupled with the nightly cable television talkfest, and you see a “neo-populism” emerging that says it’s OK to subtly project racist views: just don’t call me out on it. Pointing out the racism evokes an explosion of vitriol.

“Despite what’s clearly seen and heard, it is made to seem that the opposite is occurring. How does the saying go: “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?”

“I ask, then, where is the Christian church in all this?

“Martin Luther King, Jr., in his profound letters written from the Birmingham Jail to the White clergy of that city back in the 1960s, lamented that the clergy were standing silent in the face of overt racism and violence against their Black brothers and sisters, while at the same time vehemently criticizing King for agitating on behalf of justice. The clergy of Birmingham framed it that King and the demonstrators were the problem—not the police and city power structure intent on perpetuating injustice.

“The church in that era did not collectively raise its prophetic voice to oppose injustice, but facilitated it by its silence.

“Given the intense political environment in which we live in America, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to call out wrong because of the swift retribution and obfuscation that often follow.

“Notwithstanding the risk, the church must have a strong, moral voice in responding to any kind of wrong, refusing to be co-opted by a culture that insists on silence.”

A Therapy Session with Doug

Comic modified from Pearls Before Swine, by Stephan Pastis.
(click to enlarge)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

I Wish You and Our World a Merry Christmas. Support ADRA!

Cartoons by Cameron (Cam) Cardow
(click to enlarge)

Reviewing the Adventist Review

December 16, 2010
Vol. 187, No. 39


This issue is full of good advice and devotional encouragement. My only comment will be a short response to Mark A. Kellner’s editorial. Bon appétit!


REVIVAL, REFORMATION,…AND TITHING is a Mark Kellner appeal for “a faithful tithe” from every Adventist. “It is my sincere belief that if every Seventh-day Adventist in the North American Division were to return a faithful tithe, we would end up with tremendous resources to finish the work, and serve our fellow believers. I believe the latter rain would more quickly fall.” Kellner also argues that those who don’t tithe are robbing God and delaying the “latter rain”.

Perhaps an argument can be made for directing tithe to other “unofficial” church ministries. According to Reflections on the Future of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America: Trends and Challenges by David Beckworth and S. Joseph Kidder in December 2010 issue of Ministry Magazine, “In terms of economic productivity, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the NAD was spending about $41,000 in 2005 per convert…This indicates inefficiency in resource management with much of the donated money to the denomination being spent to support the structural system of the church in various levels and organizations.”


A TEMPLE REBORN, by Carlos Medley, is a cautionary reminder that Adventists should not ignore educational trends in higher education.

“In her report to the General Conference Executive Committee, Beardsley announced plans to strengthen the Adventist mission and identity on our campuses. Among the many goals announced is the priority of increasing the number of Adventist teachers where needed, and helping all teachers model Adventist values and lifestyle. Another goal is to strengthen the role of religion and theology faculty and promote the integration of faith and learning in all course work.

“While I’m encouraged to see our GC education leaders sounding the alarm and sensitizing church officials of these goals, it will take the full cooperation of pastors, parents, administrators, education leaders, and faculty around the world to make a difference. It will be an extremely laborious task, but one that can’t be ignored if we are to see Adventist identity and mission reborn in our schools.”

Matt Kohls’ THE BIZARRE BIRTHDAY PARTY is a parable about a birthday party in which the guests bought presents for each other.

CHRISTMAS IN MY HEART—AND BEYOND is a tribute to Kimberly Luste Maran’s mentor, Joe Wheeler, the author of 73 books that include the famous Christmas in my Heart series, “the longest-running Christmas series in America. Wheeler’s comments about story telling and Adventism are particularly relevant.

“We tend, as Adventists, to think that God has a pipeline only to us. But I nevertheless feel that story may represent the one thoroughly neutral ground where [every person] could meet. Instead of us feeling that we have to crystallize into a set of ‘thou shalts,’ which can tear us apart, we need to live the [biblical] dyadic. And if we are to come together, I don’t know of anything else that could do it other than story—the way Christ used it.

“We don’t have to be doctrinaire. We don’t have to be judgmental. All we have to do is share stories, and let the stories—the kind that Christ told—carry their own freight. Christ didn’t bang His readers over the head with a moral at the end of His stories. He let the story have its own effect. Early Adventism had its greatest growth period with story, and we essentially have deserted it. I feel that God is calling us back to it.”

According to S. R. Morris, WHY JESUS WAS BORN IN A MANGER should not be a mystery. “Jesus was laid in a manger so that we would know that we have a High Priest who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities (Heb. 4:15). Even though our sins are like filthy rags (Isa. 64:6), even though like sheep we have all gone astray (Isa. 53:6), He stands at the door and knocks (Rev. 3:20).

LISTENING TO HBAKKUK is worth the time it takes to read this often neglected prophet, according to Tina Billups. “A significant theme embedded within Habakkuk is that of worship, a theme very near and dear to Seventh-day Adventists…After describing the cruel conquest of Judah, Habakkuk writes in verse 11 that the Babylonians attribute their success to their god (“ascribing this power to his god”). There is a clear echo of the timeless conflict between good and evil, true worship versus futile worship.”

THE IMPACT OF A (REVO)LUTION has been profound in the life of Leslie Mutuku. “REVO is a grassroots movement based on love. REVO stands for revolution, and the event taking place at our school was going to be raising money for the Gakoni Orphanage in Rwanda, an Adventist-operated supporting ministry in Africa, where an alumnus from our school is the director.”

The doctors, Allan R. Handysides and Peter N. Landless have some surprisingly candid comments about foods that are ORGANICALLY GROWN AND GENETICALLY MODIFIED. “To date, though emotional arguments are made, there is no hard data that inorganically grown food is nutritionally inferior to organic, or vice versa—that organically grown food is nutritionally superior, and there’s absolutely no nutritional evidence of danger relating to genetically modified foods.”

JOY IN THE SYSTEM is A. J. Church’s testimony that when he “gave up on the world years ago, immediately God was waiting there for me. Saturation with the systems of humanity disarranged my heart and mind. But when I found Jesus and His law, I found the only harmonious system in the universe.” He found joy.

Andy Nash councils, “If you’re in the desert, talk to those who have been there. They will help you find rest for your soul.” It’s a process of FINDING REST AGAIN.

If you PRAY MORE, DO LESS, Gina Wahlen argues that your life will be more open to Christian service. “Spending more time on my knees has given me a quiet peace, opening my eyes to how I can be more efficient in what I should be doing and less worry about what I’m not doing. In addition, it has opened more opportunities for others to experience the joy of working in God’s vineyard harvest.”

Christmas Cartoons

Cartoons 1 & 2 from Reader's Digest
Cartoon 3 from
Cartoon 4 from Guy Sports
(click to enlarge)

Reviewing the Adventist Review

December 9, 2010
Vol. 187, No. 38


In this issue, I comment on an article that illustrates the kind of careless theology that would be called into question if the words uttered had not been familiar clichés, delivered to an audience of church leaders, and published in a “friendly” publication.


In LIFT UP THE TRUMPET, Alberto R. Timm quotes Booton Herndon’s comment concerning the literal interpretation of Matthew 24:14. It is unclear whether the “gospel” referred to in this passage is the peculiar “gospel” message of the Adventist Church, or a universal Christian gospel delivered in partnership with Christians of other faiths. It is also unclear what is meant by “every single living person”.

“The Seventh-day Adventist Church is a mission-driven denomination, motivated by the promise of Matthew 24:14: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (KJV). According to the non-Adventist author Booton Herndon: “Surely no other twenty-five words [namely, Matt. 24:14] have had such a direct impact on so many of the world’s peoples. The Seventh-day Adventists accept this message literally. To them it means this: when every single living person in the world has been told the good news of the coming of Christ, then the world will end, Christ will come again, and the righteous shall live in happiness forever.” *

“No human endeavor could have a more glorious goal, and to hasten that day when the last man on earth shall have been told the gospel, Seventh-day Adventists have gone forth into ‘all the world’.”

Booton Herndon, The Seventh Day: The Story of the Seventh-day Adventists (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1960), p. 23.

If Timm’s presentation at the Annual Council meetings reflects official Adventist doctrine and is not just emotional hyperbole, it raises the following questions: What does “a witness unto all nations” mean? Should the Adventist Church establish ecumenical relationships with other Christian fellowship groups? What principles should guide SDA evangelistic philosophy and practice? What will “the last man on earth [who] shall have been told the gospel” been told and by whom; and is telling him [her, child over 12] enough? Does the “telling” by a radio or television broadcast count? And finally, can the efforts of human beings determine “the day and the hour” of the Second Advent?


John asked Mark A Finley, HOW LONG DO YOU PRAY? His answer: “My prayer life is not measured in minutes or hours; it is determined by my relationship with God. The goal of my devotional life is to enter the presence of God daily. Each day I want to know that I have fellowship with Jesus. On some days I spend a longer time with God than others. The critical question is not How long have you spent praying today? It is Have you met God today?”

HAVE YOU HEARD SINGING? is a reminder by Chavez reminds us that “Christ comes to each of us individually, often unexpectedly. It’s not enough for our leaders to tell us how glorious the angels sound; we must each hear the music for ourselves.”

Our intrepid Moscow reporter, Andrew McChesney, experienced A REAL-LIFE CHRISTMAS PARABLE (WITH NACHOS) on a memorable Christmas Day when he and his friend, Andrea invited “14 church friends who celebrate Christmas [to dinner] on December 25. Most Russians observe Christmas on January 7, as prescribed by the old Julian calendar…All the guests accepted months in advance…

(It turned out that all the invited guests had forgotten or made excuses for not showing up.)

“As the clock struck 6:00 Andrea and I looked at each other. We were the only people present for Christmas dinner. We wondered what to do with all the food.”

(If you guess the parable, you’ll know what happened to the food.)

PRAYER AT 37,000 FEET by Elfriede Volk about events that made it possible for a Jew to pray “for two Gentiles who had been born in a country that had been responsible for the deaths of millions of his people.”

In the cover feature, AND ALL GOD’S PEOPLE SAID…, Bill Knott reported on AMEN. It’s an organization “reviving Adventism’s historic understanding of combining medical care and spiritual health on a scale not seen in North America for at least four decades…“The Adventist Medical Evangelism Network (AMEN) exists to motivate, train, and equip Seventh-day Adventist physicians and dentists to become effective medical evangelists.”

AMEN sponsors The Life and Health Network (Galaxy 19 satellite, and that “offers both television and Web-based video programming that focuses on depression recovery; diabetes; vegetarian cooking; childhood obesity; and health and fitness, among other topics.”

I’M A RECOVERING LAODICEAN is Fredrick A. Russell’s reminder that “What God’s kingdom needs now, more than ever, is some recovering Laodiceans; believers who are willing to answer the call to step out of their personal space of comfort—prepared to become committed followers of Christ.”

DUAL CITIZENSHIP by Lowell C. Cooper is a discussion of character—what it is and how it’s developed. “One might think that character is developed in the crisis moments of life. However, crisis doesn’t build character so much as it reveals character. Careful cultivation of Christian values in life is important because in the crucial moments of choice, most of the choosing has already been done—determined to a large degree by seemingly lesser choices made in the quiet private moments of our lives.”

BOOKMARK reviews two cook books: Naturally Gourmet is for anyone who wants to cut down on refined grains and sugars (but still may be hoping for some compliments!). This cookbook is an easy-to-follow collection of vegan recipes with an emphasis on fiber. The Full Plate Diet builds a convincing case for the whole-food approach. Extra helps such as a start-up diary, an activity journal, and a book for those with type 2 diabetes are also available for an additional cost.

THE LOVE OF GOD is the testimony of 21-year-old Dena Rucker. The morning she decided to kill herself, a knock on the door and a picture saved her life.

GC Headquarters

Comic modified from Pearls Before Swine, by Stephan Pastis.
(click to enlarge)

Reviewing the Adventist Review

November 25, 2010
Vol. 187, No. 38

This issue doesn’t strain any brain cells, but it has its moments. Ellen provides some surprising advice concerning evangelizing city residents, the docs info is worth the price of the subscription, and it’s left to me to clarify the difference between a paraphrase and the Clear Word.

Leslie Pollard is Oakwood University’s Thirteenth President.

Scholars at Andrews University Symposium’s Theology of Salvation discussed Arminianism and Adventism.

National Camps for Blind Children, a SDA Christian Record sponsored program, begun in 1967 has “nudged more than 50,000 blind campers toward achievement and self-confidence”.

The story of Kirsten Wolcott, murdered Adventist student missionary, is told in the new book, Love, Kirsten by Rainey H. Park with Andy Nash.

In his editorial, AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE, Gerald A. Klingbeil reminds us “that gratitude is not seasonal, limited to a couple of days in late November. Gratitude is an attitude, ‘always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father’ ” (Eph. 5:20, NASB).

Wilona Karimabadi identifies THE PLACE THAT MADE ME STAY as La Sierra University, “the place where I understood this [SDA] movement had a place for me. It was there I learned that no two of us practice our faith in exactly the same way, and that’s OK. And it was there I learned that God is big enough for all of us.

CHOOSING A BIBLE TRANSLATION by Michael Zwaagstra does a good job of defining and illustrating the different translation approaches to the Bible: essentially literal, dynamic equivalence, and free paraphrase. Unfortunately, his credibility is somewhat damaged when he includes the Clear Word as a paraphrase. It is not! Reputable biblical scholars refer to it as “The Adventist Bible” because it has been expanded to contain a considerable amount of Seventh Day Adventist theology.

In WORD TO THE WISE Hyveth Williams, a professor of homiletics explains that “preaching is more than standing in a pulpit and proclaiming words.

There is HOPE IN MANHATTAN. Mark A. Kellner answers the question, “Can anything good come from a city as large, impersonal, and imposing as New York? If it’s the Church of the Advent Hope and its outreach to young professionals who could otherwise end up estranged from Adventism, the answer seems to be a resounding ‘yes.’ ”

The selection of A PASSION FOR REACHING THE BIG CITIES from the writings of Ellen White is a curious combination of concern for “the abandoned classes”, pragmatic advice for city evangelists, and dire warnings about life in the city.

“In visions of the night I was shown the difficulties that must be met in the work of warning the people in the cities; but in spite of difficulties and discouragement, efforts should be made to preach the truth to all classes. There are some who advise that our efforts begin with the abandoned classes; but this is not the wisest course. It is true that some souls would be reached by this plan; but if our workers should begin their labors in the cities with this class, they would surely be cut off from the broad work that should be done. Rather let us devise means whereby we may reach the very best class of people; then our work for the abandoned classes will follow. Physicians can do a good work in devising plans for the working out of this problem…

“As I consider the conditions in the cities that are so manifestly under the power of Satan, I ask myself the question, What will be the end of these things? The wickedness in many cities is increasing. Crime and iniquity are at work on every hand. New species of idolatry are continually being introduced into society. In every nation the minds of men are turning to the invention of some new thing. Rashness of deed and confusion of mind are everywhere increasing. Surely the cities of the earth are becoming like Sodom and Gomorrah.”
Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, January 25, 1912

ASTHMA and bed-wetting (enuresis) are tackled in the latest column from Drs. Handysides and Landless.

WHAT STOLEN JEEP? is the humorous experience that taught Michael W. Campbell “to check the license plate of the vehicle you’re going to borrow” and “ministry isn’t about perfection; it’s about authenticity. I made an honest mistake. Now that enough time has passed I can even laugh about the whole episode. I think most church members, including the sheriff, know this”.

WHEN WORDS WEAVE recounts the events that turned rent from an adult book story into funds that provided a full-time pediatrician for the Adventist hospital in Haiti.

MEYER, Earl G.—b. Nov. 15, 1916, Beaumont, Calif.; d. Jan. 21, 2010, Ceres, Calif.
MOORE, Arthur Bryson—b. Nov. 17, 1918, Los Angeles, Calif.; d. Apr. 15, 2010, Loma Linda, Calif.
PEARSON, Rex—b. 1920, Durban, South Africa; d. Dec. 12, 2009, Cheltenham, England.
SANTEE, Enid Irene Grossman Cortez—b. Sept. 30, 1930, Rolla, Kans.; d. Jan. 2, 2010, Euless, Tex.
SCHMIDT, Harold H.—b. Feb. 2, 1910, Scottsbluff, Nebr.; d. Jan. 2, 2010, Altamonte Springs, Fla.
SIMMONS, J. Elizabeth West—b. Oct. 24, 1922, Roanoke, Va.; d. Aug. 10, 2009, Rushville, Ill.
SLATE, Sarah J.—b. May 25, 1921, Gaston County, N.C.; d. Dec. 16, 2009, Davidson County, N.C.
WILLIAMS, Benjamin J.—b. Jan. 13, 1917; d. Nov. 12, 2009, Portland, Oreg.

Leah called him Judah. HIS NAME WAS “THANKS”. And the Bible records the reasons he deserved the name.

In Memoriam: Graham Maxwell, God’s Friend

*and 3ABN, CAN, Between the Lines, Breath of Life, Faith for Today, Freedom’s Ring, Hope Channel, It is Written, La Voz de la Esperanza, Loma Linda Broadcasting Network, The Quiet Hour, and Voice of Prophecy.

Comic modified from Pearls Before Swine, by Stephan Pastis.
(click to enlarge)

Fill in the blanks.

If the boat is a metaphor for the Adventist church, the fisherman is_____________, the nibble is ______________, the fisherman’s companion was______________, the Great White Shark is______________.

Comic from Tundra, by Chad Carpenter
(click to enlarge)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A prayer/poem inspired by the words of Graham Maxwell

Our gracious God
Remind us daily Lord of the truth about our heavenly Father
that was confirmed at such cost by the life and death of his Son
that God is not the god his enemies have made him out to be—
arbitrary, unforgiving and severe
that He is just as loving and trustworthy as his Son
that he is just as willing to forgive and heal
that he values nothing higher than the freedom
dignity and individuality of his intelligent creatures
whose love, faith, and willingness to listen and obey
must be freely given
that it is this everlasting Good News
that wins the trust and admiration of God’s loyal children
throughout the universe
May we desire truth in our inward beings
and to be taught wisdom in our secret hearts.
Create in us clean hearts, O God
and put new and a right spirit within each of us
We ask these things in the name of our Lord and Savior
Jesus Christ.

revised 12/14/10

Rowing Forward

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

Reviewing the Adventist Review

Nov. 18, 2010
Vol. 187, No. 37

This issue has left me unsettled, once again, about the future of Adventist education. On the bright side, there’s the story of a kitten rescued in the fast lane of a LA freeway!

Abandoned Churches in isolated Alaskan towns are once again open for business. There is a new church structure in Angola that will provide needed supervision and leadership. Greggs University and International Academy is moving its operations to the Lake Union Conference offices in Michigan, and will merge with Andrews University. And Andy Han von Walter, a student from Southern University, was a finalist on Jeopardy’s College Challenge.

In FINDING THEIR FOOTING, Bill Knott has written a well-crafted appeal for subscribers.

TAKE A VACATION by Sandra Blackmer reminds us of how much we need to make work less of a top priority.

PENTECOSTAL POWER by Clinton Wahlen is persuaded that “Being filled with the Spirit is not a solitary, ecstatic experience or an end in itself, but the way God opens doors to people’s hearts to hear and respond to His Word. It is always connected with the teaching and preaching of the Word.”

In GOD OR NOTHING Cliff Goldstein argues that the choice is God or nihilism: the rejection of all religious and moral principles, often in the belief that life is meaningless. No one would argue that nihilism is one choice for nonbelievers, but it certainly isn’t the only one. Some of my atheist friends profess a social morality and live conspicuously loving and compassionate lives.

ADVENTIST EDUCATION LEADER [LISA BEARDSLEY] UP TO THE CHALLENGES reported by Mark Kellner and Ansel Oliver, had me nodding my head in agreement with the educational philosophy Beardsley expressed until these last paragraphs in which she seems to make the assumption that Adventist college and university students lack the maturity to think for themselves. Here are the paragraphs. What do you think? Are you comfortable with the idea that Beardsley is the new GC Director of Education? I’m not!

“Although she seeks to increase Adventist identity and spirituality on denominational campuses, Beardsley isn’t opposed to exposing students to a variety of ideas and evidence, even when in conflict with official Adventist beliefs.

“It needs to be done, but in balance with Adventist identity and mission,” she says. “It needs to be done in appropriate context at the right time and with sufficient support for students as they wrestle through intellectual issues, such as what is the current scientific thinking about the age of the earth, and how do we reconcile that with our belief that God is our Creator.

“Still, she cautions that such topics should be taught with ‘maturity, judiciousness, and mindfulness.’

“ ‘There are things that academics talk about among themselves with other professors, and there are things they talk about with undergraduates. And it’s not the same thing. . . .We should never throw our students to the wolves and let it be survival of the fittest.’ ”

In CATCHING THE SPIRIT OF MISSION Feryl Harris chronicles her and her husband’s adventures as missionaries in a variety of settings and countries. She describes the rewards of being of service to others.

150 YEARS AND COUNTING is Ross Calkins way of saying SDAs are a ragtag bunch that have managed to survive as a church in spite of our differences for a century and a half, because, somehow, “we have committed to continue our journey in love”. I pray that he’s right.

THE MAN, THE BANKER, AND THE PRICELESS GEM by Julian Vines is a parable about protecting a priceless treasure and investing it wisely, i.e., “helping young people find true prosperity in freedom of choice”.

THE SIMPLE POWER OF INDUCTIVE PREACHING by Andy Nash celebrates the preaching and studying what the words of the Bible have to say about our present lives.

THE MITZVZH by Erin Stone is his memorable account of saving Freeway, a kitten who had inexplicably found himself on the fast lane of a busy freeway. As the author comments, “Doing mitzvoth [doing good deeds] strengthens the connection between God, who gives the commandments, and people, who perform the consequent good deeds…Bantering about biblical beliefs is laudable, and discussing theology or the fine points of religious life are all fine and good. But at the end of the day, what is important is doing. What is important is action. What is important is getting out of the armchair and putting boots to the ground. And the mitzvah is all about putting boots to the ground.”

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Thursday, December 9, 2010

This cartoon illustrates a confidential recording of a conversation at GC headquarters.

Comic from Pearls Before Swine, by Stephan Pastis.
(click to enlarge)

Reviewing Spectrum

Fall 2010
Vol. 38, Issue 4

This issue is worth the price of a subscription. The information conveyed is substantive, intelligent, and thoughtful. However, article length remains a problem. Come on, editors, help us Sabbath afternoon readers stay awake!

The cover is graphically exciting. However, labeling of some of the illustrations in the magazine made me smile. (I assume most readers recognize dinosaurs, unicorns, Stonehenge, mermaids, and Darwinian spoofs!)

AFTER ANNUAL COUNCIL by Bonnie Dyer is a report along with an editorial comment that first appeared on the Spectrum blog and touched off 10 days worth of comments. It was these two paragraphs that did it.

“What really concerned me, however, was the sense that the focus of the church is shifting away from reaching out in service to reaching in with judgment. Rather than being concerned about serving the needs of the world, we are focusing on each other with a critical eye. To use the words of Pastor Ryan Bell, there seems to be more concern about being right than about doing right. And that is worrisome. Judgment is not our job. We are to be known by our love for one another. It is only love that breathes revival into our souls.

“My love for the church has never been greater-- nor has my fear of administrative micromanaging. I guess it is time to turn our eyes upon Jesus and look full in his wonderful face. And, perhaps, the things of earth—including all things bureaucratic--will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.”

PUNITIVE ADVENTISM by Charles Scriven’s editorial is an appeal for civility, of “living out God’s grace in the world”.

Bonnie Dyer’s NEWS FROM ANNUAL CONFERENCE 2010 is straight reporting. The 2011 budget was approved, the Nominating Committee reported, Griggs University will become part of Andrews University, and a Mission Board was created that will coordinate the various missionary programs of the church. Testimonies and prayer closed the session.

A PORTRAIT OF THE ENEMY AS MOTHER by Judith P. Nembhard is a poetic sketch of the mother of Sisera’s torment before she learns of her son’s assassination at the hands of Jael.

TRUE BLOOD: RACE, SCIENCE, AND EARLY ADVENTIST AMALGAMATION THEORY by Ronald Osborn is awarded 15 pages. His conclusions: Ellen White and more recent Adventist believers were of the opinion that humankind and animals mated before the flood and after. Their progeny were people with dark skin. The flood was God’s unsuccessful attempt to destroy these “amalgamated” creatures. White believed that these “races” were fully human, but her views were not shared by many of her contemporaries.

In CIVIL RIGHTS: NEW STUDIES ON ADVENTISM’S MIXED LEGACY, Douglas Morgan acquaints the reader with unheralded Adventists, like T.R. M. Howard, who were in the forefront of the Civil Rights movement in the United States, and by contrast, chronicles the less-than-enthusiastic support of the movement by the Adventist Church.

STATUS, TRENDS AND ANALYSIS OF SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST REGIONAL CONFERENCES 1950-2009 by Henry E. Felder is a 15 page argument for the preservation of the nine Regional (Black) Conferences in NAD. He cites extensive statistical evidence of membership growth and per capita giving.

MOVING ON TO MATURITY: FROM CULTURE TO DIASPORA: THE THREE ANGEL’S MESSAGEW AS AN EITHICAL MULTICULTURAL ENCOUNTER by William Ackah makes the argument that “a failure to develop ethical positions on diversity and to emphasize the importance of the multiple nature of Adventist identity over and above any singular allegiance to nation, race or culture leads to lazy accommodations and tolerance of racism and prejudice…

“The result is that today you can be a racist and a member of the SDA church but not a smoker and a member…Adventist identity seemingly inhabits a contradictory space between modernity and postmodernity—relativist and seemingly flexible on racism, genocide and ethnic cleansing, but deterministic and all-knowing on dietary requirements…

“The case of regional conferences in the US is a clear example of a particularistic, culturalist accommodation that is now an enshrined institution. It provides an unfortunate model for groups that wish to assert their identity and authority as their numbers grow, and they perceive that their particular cultural Adventist practices are not given sufficient recognition.”

WHAT HAVE VOLCANOES AND SOILS TOLD GRAHAM WILL? “I cannot reconcile what I see and what careful scientific studies have shown with a short chronology for the history of the earth.”

JUST WHAT IS THE SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST POSITION ON WHEN LIFE BEGINS? is a nuanced, thoughtful, scientifically based discussion of the official position of the Adventist Church that informs without legislating. It made me proud to be an Adventist.

PSALMS: FOR THE BLUES II by Ramona Hyman suffers from the inclusion of the last three cantos. It’s part of a larger piece, In the Sanctuary of the South, and without that context, the last three cantos spoil the music. Leave them out, and the poem rocks!


It bothers me
It bothers me
when authority
is science
love is gobsmacked
by politics
mustard is forbidden
in the GC cafe
arrogance reigns

It bothers me
that Spectrum
Discipleship and Truth
authority demands
Faith and Obedience

It bothers me
that I don’t just want
I want hope
I want
out of this Adventist
cage fight
over stuff like
short chronology
Noah’s flood
apples and snakes
literal ignorance
7-day creation
women’s ordination

It bothers me
that I can’t just
walk away
shake the dust
from my Birkenstocks


The Gospel?

Comic modified from Pearls Before Swine, by Stephan Pastis.
(click to enlarge)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

This cartoon illustrates a confidential recording of a conversation at GC headquarters.

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

Reviewing the Adventist Review

November 11, 2010
Vol. 187. No. 36

I guess in times like these, readers should expect that editorial writers might see the “glass half full” when speculating on the future. In this issue, Mark Kellner and Fredrick Russell provide the sobering assessments. The rest of the issue is standard Review fare—a combination of news, lifestyle advice, devotional essays, evangelistic pieces, and personal testimonies.

Lael Caesar, a religion professor at Andrews University is a new Associate Editor of the Review. He will replace of Roy Adams, the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Adventist Communicators, who has retired.

Rudi Maier is the new ADRA CEO, Derek Morris has been named the editor of Ministry magazine, Artur Stele was appointed the director-elect of the Biblical Research Institute, and a new Mission Board has been given the job of streamlining missionary processing.

WHEN A NATION FORGETS GOD is a Mark A. Kellner editorial that reminds readers that bad things happen when the politics of fear, expediency, and hatred are encouraged by irrational leadership. He recommends the book, “When a Nation Forgets God” by Erwin W. Lutzer as a thoughtful reminder.

“Before, during, and after the Hitler era, home schooling was outlawed, a prohibition that traces its roots to a nineteenth-century desire for ‘standardized’ education and societal advancement…We Adventists have a great refuge in our educational network. But our believers who do not have such access must have their right to instruct their children preserved.

“Those who naively believe a federally guided ‘village’ will raise their children with sympathy for Adventist values or Christian principles may well shed copious tears later when they discover their error. This world is not our home; its values are not the values of the Christian; and our great challenge—and high calling—is to stand athwart modern secularism and say, ‘No.’

A worthwhile warning. However, it is sobering to note that the Adventist Church, along with almost all other Christian denominations, supported the politics of National Socialism as Hitler came to power. This official Adventist position was opposed by many German Adventists who paid the ultimate price for their dissent.

It should also be noted that the Adventist Church hierarchy remained silent during the Civil Rights struggle in this country. It was this country’s “federally guided village” and individual Adventist members, not our church, that championed Christian values.

That said, I believe that Kellner’s distrust of “standardized education”, coupled with the politics of fear, is well founded wherever it is promoted.

In her editorial, A CHURCH STORY, Kimberly Luste Maran's tells the story of a 200 member church in which the middle-aged and elderly and youth and young adults “got along quite well” in spite of a few hiccups. Her final comment, “I wonder why I don’t hear more stories like this?” may be an appeal for some good news. How about flooding her mailbox with testimonies of harmony and good will?

VANISHED WITHOUT A TRACE by Susan Baker is a definition of and prescription for dealing with “ambiguous loss”.

“Ambiguous loss…occurs when a person experiences a loss, but the exact nature or some aspect of the loss is unclear. Confusion is related to the loss. Something valuable is gone and there’s no resolution, no finality, no reasonable way to come to terms with the loss, no sense of closure.” Baker provides “four keys from the Bible and Christian psychology that provide help in dealing with ambiguous loss:

Be Resilient
“Losses happen in this life—we have to accept that. And when bad things happen we can’t always answer the question “Why?” So to some extent we have to develop a level of comfort with the questions of life. Don’t try to explain everything…

Be Engaged
“The important thing is that you determine not to stay in the grief; you have to move on. Reengage with life and people. Moving on may mean that you have to forgive and refuse to live with bitterness and resentment…

Be Disciplined
“Ambiguous loss opens the door for fearfulness, loss of control, and pain to invade the thoughts and emotions. It takes discipline to resist being afraid, angry, and feeling helpless. Here is where the spiritual disciplines of consistent prayer, Bible study, devotion, and worship are so therapeutic…

Be Expectant
‘The last strategy is perhaps the most potent: being expectant for the glory to come. Doggedly hold on to your faith in God.”

THE CROSS AND THE CULTURE by Fredrick A. Russell is a warning that “it’s highly possible that we are heading for a time of violence in the streets of our cities. As I wrote in this column more than a year ago, the incivility of speech and discourse in the political arena would eventually lead to violence. I have no doubt that we are now going there—fast…We Christians are not champions of ideological views; we are champions of the cross.”

THE 4/14 WINDOW is a plea from Linda Mei Lin Koh, the Director of the GC Children’s Ministry Department “to tag children as an unreached people group and for the church to become a part of a global move to bring children to Christ…This relationship between the 10/40 and 4/14 windows should compel us to reprioritize and redirect our evangelism efforts to reach the most receptive group of children and youth today—the 4/14ers!”

In ANOTHER HILL FAR AWAY, Ray Minner visits Aysuluk, “a hill crowning the modern town of Selcuk, Turkey, [that] supports the ruins of a huge church built in the sixth century, destroyed by Tamerlane 900 years later…[where] the apostle John is believed to have spent his last days [and completed] the most important work of his life, sharing the Revelation”.

MOMENTS FROM DEATH is a story about Jimmy Jiamah V. Adil, Jr.’s underwater exploration of Blue Water Cave, a 90-minute ride from Mountain View College in the Philippines, that almost cost him his life.

DISCIPLINE BY DESIGN is another report from our intrepid Moscow reporter, Andrew McChesney, in which his kindness produced a brilliant solution to a problem and allowed him to effectively witness to a defensive employee and a former boss. In retrospect, he concluded that James was right: ‘Mercy triumphs over judgment’ (James 2:13).”

TOOLS OF THE TRADE is Monte Sahlin's latest roundup of great sources for ministry.

“The North American Division released this fall the comprehensive resource for discipleship that has been under development for the past few years. It’s called iFollow . . . because it is largely an electronic system published on DVD and via a Web site, and its focus is “I follow Jesus.” It’s a resource designed for pastors and lay leaders in local churches to use in small groups, seminars, midweek meetings, new member classes, and one-on-one.

The first edition released this fall in a special issue of The Pastor’s DVD, a regular production of the NAD Church Resource Center. Most conferences distribute this to all their pastors. Anyone who is interested can purchase a copy from AdventSource, the NAD’s distributor of leadership resources, at or (800) 328-0525. Users can also go to the corresponding Web site—www.ifollow—to download the original set of materials on the DVD.

THE BODY OF CHRIST: A BIBLICAL UNDERSTANDING OF THE CHURCH is reviewed by Reinder Bruinsma. The review is positive, and Bruinsma “found the chapter on the history of the doctrine especially interesting”.

We remember those who sleep in Jesus.
ALBERT, Wilbert F.—b. Apr. 12, 1932, Guyana, South America; d. Nov. 4, 2009, Ocala, Fla.
ANTONETTI, Mabyline H.—b. Apr. 5, 1928, Avery, Tex.; d. Mar. 28, 2010, Altamonte Springs, Fla.
BARRETT, William E., Jr.—b. Nov. 26, 1953, Toledo, Ohio; d. Dec. 27, 2009, Daytona Beach, Fla.
BARTLETT, Alvin Marbert—b. Apr. 20, 1910, Roswell, N.Mex.; d. Aug. 14, 2009, Yuma, Ariz.
BERTOLO, Hulda—b. Sept. 3, 1940, Parana, Argentina; d. Mar. 6, 2010, Apopka, Fla.
BROWNLOW, Harmon C.—b. Dec. 11, 1928, Winston-Salem, N.C.; d. Nov. 16, 2009, Altamonte Springs, Fla.
CARTER, Howard Wilson—b. June 13, 1928, Kodicanal, India; d. Nov. 23, 2009, Rogue River, Oreg.
CEBALLOS, Antonio Alejandro—
b. Santa Marta, Colombia; d. May 25, 2010, Silver Spring, Md.
CHILSON, Jerry Louise—b. Apr. 12, 1935, Takoma Park, Md.; d. Apr. 7, 2010, Walton, Oreg.
HESS, Alvin J.—b. Apr. 7, 1925, Hins-dale, Ill.; d. Feb. 3, 2010, Apopka, Fla.
HUMPHREY, Margaret J.—b. Chicago, Ill.; d. Feb. 2, 2010, Apopka, Fla.
JEMSON, Willard D.—b. Apr. 4, 1910, Nanaimo, British Columbia; d. Apr. 15, 2010, Port Charlotte, Fla.
LUTZ-BARTELSON, Vera—b. June 15, 1924, Wells County, Ind.; d. Feb. 10, 2010, Tavares, Fla.
MCPHERSON, Donnie—b. Oct. 1, 1944, Macclenny, Fla.; d. Dec. 6, 2009, Orlando, Fla.
MORGAN, Mary Elizabeth—b. Nov. 22, 1923, Everett, Mass.; d. Jan. 18, 2010, Avon Park, Fla.

Climbing THE TRAIL UP BONEY MOUNTAIN persuaded Art Kharns that it would take more than a few recreational climbs on Boney Mountain to prepare him for the climb to Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park.

GIVING LIGHT TO OUR WORLD is a report on the “outreach initiative in multiple NAD conferences based on the concept of church members carrying Adventist literature with them wherever they go and handing it out—free of charge—at every opportunity.

Why is this a joke?

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

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A picture's worth a thousand words.

Reviewing Adventist World, NAD Edition

Reviewing Adventist World, NAD edition
November 2010
Vol. 6, No. 11

Adventist World is free online. For that reason, I only review or comment on articles and editorials that I believe to be of special interest.

“Seventh-day Adventist leaders in Guatemala were chosen to participate in the Change of the White Rose…The Change of the White Rose of Peace ceremony came about after the signing of peace accords ending Guatemala’s 36-year civil war in 1996. Every day since then, a white rose is placed on the monument in the courtyard of the National Palace by an army honor guard or a distinguished person to symbolize another 24 hours of peace in the country.

“Confirming and completing a modern-day view of Bible history, a Seventh-day Adventist archaeologist and historian has unearthed important, pivotal ruins and artifacts from the 3,000-year-old Iron Age at a temple site in Ataruz, Jordan…“ ‘This is an extremely important find and one that has relationships to biblical history; it is very exciting,’ ” said Lawrence Geraty, president emeritus of the school and an archaeology professor [at La Sierra University].”

A REVIVAL OF TRUE GODLINESS in the Adventist Church will herald the Second Coming, according to Ted N. C. Wilson. When the Adventist Church “holds fast to the Bible truths by which God raised up this end-time movement, including the biblical teaching about the gift of prophecy. Of God’s many gifts to His remnant, this is one of His greatest. The Spirit of Prophecy offers counsel for almost every aspect of Christian life, and is as relevant today as when it was written decades ago. These are truly messages from heaven. Read the Spirit of Prophecy daily alongside your Bible. Believe it. Promote it. Use it. Teach it. Support it—and you will discover a new power in your spiritual life that helps you to rise and walk in newness of life.

“Let’s hold fast as well to the three angels’ messages; to the imminent second coming of Christ; to righteousness by faith in Christ; to the seventh-day Sabbath; to the Genesis account of the creation of this world in six literal, consecutive, 24-hour days of recent origin; to the sanctuary message; and to the Bible’s teaching about the state of the dead.

“Let’s remind ourselves that the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy call us to righteous living through the Holy Spirit’s power, to a healthy lifestyle outlined in Scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy, and to music and worship styles that uplift Christ, not ourselves. Let’s pay special attention to what we have been taught about the conditions under which the Holy Spirit will be poured out to those earnestly seeking revival and committed to a message of reformation…

“A humbled and surrendered church will very soon also be a revived and reformed church. And a revived and reformed church will very soon be a church looking up into the eastern sky with joy and expectation as Jesus returns to claim His own.”

No mention here of, “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.“ Sad.

THE CHALLENGE OF BEDBUGS by Allan R. Handysides and Peter N. Landless provides everything you need to know about those pestiferous pests.

Check out A HOLE IN THE SOUL online. The video clip provides a well-produced and interesting attempt to “reach out to a secular world”. Gerald A. Klinbeil reports that the Australian Union Conference is sponsoring a series of thirteen 27-minute videos that tackle life’s “Big Questions”.

Richard Doss’ CATERING TO DIVERSITY provides a fascinating look at Kenya’s Maxwell Adventist Academy. It has to be one of the coolest SDA high schools in the world. It’s a place where missionary kids from all over the world “feel at home” and excel academically. (I would be ecstatic if one of my grandchildren had a chance to attend!)

HOPE FOR HAITI by Jimmy Phillips is one of the most compelling, thoughtful, and loving pieces I have read about that ravaged country and its people.

This one's for my creation science readers.

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

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Moving Spectrum Forward

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

Reviewing the Adventist Review

October 28, 2010
Vol. 187, No. 34

This issue had one very refreshing moment, courtesy of Stephen Chavez, and one mind blowing moment, thanks to Hyveth Williams. NO STRINGS and NO FEAR are MUST READ editorials!

Stephen Chavez' editorial, NO STRINGS, was a breath of fresh air.

"It occurs to me that too many people do things to call attention to themselves or their causes. If they get a few seconds on TV or a few column inches in the newspaper, so much the better. But Jesus calls us to love our neighbors not to draw attention to ourselves or to our causes, but because it’s the neighborly thing to do."

In NO FEAR, Hyveth Williams blew me away with words that put her on the shelf of my mind that I reserve for only the most Christian SDA writers and thinkers.

"The act of being disfellowshipped from a community of faith...was often used to control or influence the behavior of believers through negative reinforcement. Much as we love and value the communities, the groups, the churches, and even the families that surround us, the gospel truth is that we don’t have to belong to anyone but Jesus, who has the ability to set us free (John 8:36).

"Coming to this realization will make us blissfully happy, causing us to ride on the heights of the earth and be fed with the heritage of Christ (Isa. 58:14). When we are free in Christ, we become a terrifying force to the majority of society, because we cannot be controlled, cajoled, or manipulated, even with the threat of death (see 2 Cor. 11:21-33). Like Jesus, we may be threatened with false accusations, criticism, and rejection, but we will take the punishment rather than succumb to fear."

In SUMM(IT)ING IT UP Bill Knott marvels at the exponential growth of the Adventist Review since the Advent Review began as an eight-page, print-only paper in November, 1850.

"The languages of this growing ministry—once English only—have expanded in the past five years to include seven major world languages in print and 12 (most recently Romanian, Arabic, and Urdu) on the Web."

"A human network of dozens of editors, translators, designers, and proofreaders now circles the globe, supported by hundreds of press personnel in eight publishing houses from Indonesia to Korea to the United States to Germany. Except when Sabbath makes its welcome visit in each time zone, someone is working on Adventist Review or Adventist World every hour of every day of every week all year long."

FORGIVING FATHER, REPENTANT SON, ANGRY BROTHER by Clinton Meharry concludes his devotional essay with some questionable theology, but he makes this point: "Based on the importance of the three parties involved, it would seem appropriate to call the story “The Forgiving Father, the Repentant Son, and the Angry Brother.”

Our intrepid Moscow reporter, Andrew McChesney is determined to share his faith on the way to work. THE FIVE MINUTE WITNESS proved it could be done. The result was surprising!

THE DEVIL DOESN'T PLAY GAMES tells the story of Wilona Karimabadi's grandmother' life and times before, during, and after World War II. In addition, This is a tribute to a remarkable woman by her granddaughter, and the writer's love and respect shine through every word. The title refers to the great evil of war and a particular evil that might also have destroyed lives.

WATCH AND PRAY...LEST YOU WILL BE FOUND SLEEPING is a cautionary essay from Ellen White on the need for a keen, sanctified perception of reality. "This perception is not to be used in criticizing and condemning one another, but in discerning the signs of the times."

VIBRANT LIFE is Sandra Blackmer's interview with Heather Quitana, the editor of Vibrant Life, a magazine that has been advocating the Adventist health message for the pst 125 years.

"Quintana also promotes healthful living as benefiting not only individuals but the planet and God’s nonhuman creatures as well. Along with the Adventist Church’s wholistic perspective of personal health, we sometimes forget, she says, that there’s a connection to the health of the planet.

“ 'It’s not just about us,' Quintana explains. 'What’s healthy for us is also healthy for the planet. For example, in our special ‘Going Vegetarian’ issue this year [an undated issue released in May/June 2010], we have some really significant statistics and facts about what it means for the planet when someone eats a hamburger.' ”

HYPERTHYROIDISM is one more important medical bulletin by Drs. Handysides and Landless. In this article, Hyperthyroidism or Graves's disease and Parkinson's disease are explained, prognosis discussed, and appropriate medical follow-through recommended.

Jimmy Phillips concludes his series on falling in love--with God. MORE LIKE FALLING IN LOVE provides some salient advice to all lovers: "Transcend emotion; choose to love. And we’ll all live happily ever after."

HODDE, Erwin F.—b. June 29, 1918, Cincinnati, Ohio; d. July 19, 2009, Greeneville, Tenn.
HOFMANN, Dorothy June “Dottie”—b. July 12, 1927, Nevada, Iowa; d. Mar. 19, 2010,
Sunland, Calif.
HUNT, Roger W.—b. July 12, 1919, Bravo, Mont.; d. June 8, 2009, Avon Park, Fla.
HUTTON, Barbara Aileen Twiggs—b. Aug. 21, 1927, Gentry, Ark.; d. Dec. 9, 2009, Grants Pass, Oreg.
KYAMBADDE, Stanley B.—b. July 21, 1927, Namulesa-Kyaggwe, Uganda; d. Feb. 7, 2010, Kampala, Uganda.
LING, Irene—b. July 22, 1917, Kulangsu, China; d. Apr. 6, 2010, Loma Linda, Calif.
MEDFORD, R. Foster—b. Apr. 6, 1923, Coleman, Mich.; d. Dec. 29, 2009, Grants Pass, Oreg.

In WORDS ON A WALL; WORDS IN MY HEART, Kathryn Lay reflects on the following words that encourage and provide hope: "I know that I am never unloved. There is always Someone who loves me unconditionally, who loves me in spite of my flaws, who wants me to love others as best that I am able. And He is the God of the universe!"

Nobody’s perfect.

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


Dear Lord,
Thank you for fishing
for the memories
for the moments of my life
that are so necessary
for my spiritual
and emotional survival
In a world of chaos
that seems
at every turn to be
a jungle out there

My prayer is
that every reader
will make the time
to go fishing

The fishing I’m talking about
doesn’t require a pole
or hand line

Books or cooking work fine
or skiing or golf,
yoga or bird watching,
gardening or teaching,
swimming or story telling
riding or meditating
praying or skipping rope
or anything that resets the mind
that nourishes the soul
that makes it possible for us
members of the Christian community
to be as Christ commanded
spiritually whole
fishers of human kind
in a worried world
of disorder and confusion



Thursday, November 11, 2010

An Easy Choice, Right Ted?

Comic modified from Pearls Before Swine, by Stephan Pastis.
(click to enlarge)

Reviewing the Adventist Review

October 21, 2010
Vol. 187, No. 34

On the surface, this issue is just another "good old Review". But there are some surprises for the critical reader. TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY EDUCATION by Eric Anderson is timely and thought provoking, TERM LIMITS by Roy Adams is even handed and informative, and Cliff Goldstein's PAUL THE OCTOPUS is an unintended critique of creation science!

Mexican drug violence mistakenly claims the lives of Jose Ines Martinez, 18, and his sister Maribel, 26. Witness heard the shooters say they shot the wrong people.

Dickson Santongo, a senior news anchor at a SDA owned radio station in Kireka, Uganda, was beaten to death, possibly in connection with his announced candidacy for a local council election.

Walter R. L. Scragg, a retired president of two world divisions and a "tireless advocate" for Adventist World Radio, died on September 20. He was 84.

John Loor is the new executIve secretary of the Pacific Union Conference, and Fred Manchur is the new CEO of Kettering Health Network.

Atlantic Union College has retained its current regional accreditation and expects to achieve national accreditation before July 31, 2011.

Gerald Klingbeil argues that it's CRUNCH TIME in Adventist Church history.

"I cannot help noticing that this is crunch time for us as a church. In a world of relative values and convictions God calls us to base ourselves firmly on Scripture—including also the biblical concept of a literal seven-day, 24-hour, consecutive Creation week, undertaken by a powerful Creator who spoke life into being. I cannot understand this, I cannot replicate it in a laboratory. I believe it because over the years I have gotten to know the Creator personally, and because Scripture tells me so."

Gerald, I don't understand why you, along with Ted and Roy and Bill equate a belief in a "literal seven-day, 24-hour, consecutive Creation week" with Christian values. First of all, there are two creation stories in Genesis. Why can't an Adventist in good standing prefer the second one? Second, "Christian values" are derived from the teachings of Christ not the author of Genesis. Third, Cliff Goldstein, the Review's own conservative apologist and philosopher, counsels that "we [Adventists should] be careful not to tie our interpretation of Scripture to science". (See Cliff's Edge, this issue) And finally, the creation/science debate is an extremely divisive issue, and you argue that "Crunch time requires a concerted effort and—above all—[an Adventist] team that pulls together".

In PAUL THE OCTOPUS, Cliff Goldstein uses the Underdetermiination of Theory by Evidence, i.e., "Correct predictions never prove a theory right, but, simply, show that it has yet to be falsified", to make an unintended argument against creation science!

"How crucial, then, that we be careful not to tie our interpretation of Scripture to science. During the time of Galileo and Kepler, for example, the church used the Bible to justify error based on a science (i.e., Aristotle) that no one takes seriously now."

Wilona Karimabadi went to GC and came back with PROOF that "if you are a believer in God and trust Him to guide every last detail of your life, nothing happens 'just because'.

TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY EDUCATION by Eric Anderson has a surprising liberal arts flavor!

"The reason we grade on important but secondary matters is that students’ freedom matters to us. Although Adventist universities and colleges have clear and distinctive commitments, it does not follow that they may indoctrinate; that is, tell students only one side of the story and reward them for agreeing with us."

"The cure for skepticism is sometimes more skepticism. In dealing with dogmatic Darwinians or cocky materialists or absolute moral relativists, the beginning of wisdom is sometimes to say, “Are you sure?” In this narrative, faith grows from doubting the world’s certainties."
"Even as they pray for you, your teachers and mentors must wait to see what choices you will make over the next few years. The most accurate spiritual grade they could give you now is probably an Incomplete.
"Before that Incomplete can be removed you will need to learn one central insight: understanding cannot be separated from participation. Educated people learn to analyze ideas, to debate interpretations, and to discover context. But that is not enough. At some point we must ask, “Is it true?” then act."

SMELLY KELLY--AND THE POWER OF SILENCE by Heather Marie Thompson is a reflection on the healing effect of silent companionship.

Roy Adams' TERM LIMITS is a balanced, informative piece that discusses it's pros and cons.

Arguments Against Term Limits
1. "The complexity of the modern church. Given the global nature of the contemporary church, it would seem unreasonable to expect a new president to master that kind of complexity and get critically important programs up and running until well into their first term..."

2. "A waste of talent, experience, and expertise. Why remove a competent, forward-looking incumbent simply because of some hard-and-fast tenure requirement, and perhaps replace them with someone less competent, less visionary?..."

3. "It can lead to administrative confusion and dysfunction..."

4. "It negates the choice of the constituency. The constituency may very well want to keep a particular leader at the helm a little longer..."

5. "It would politicize a GC session considerably beyond anything we see now."

6. "The “lame duck” effect. In the United States, where a president is limited to two four-year terms in office, the political community begins to write off the incumbent sometime around the seventh year..."

Arguments in Favor
1. "The need to keep abreast of the rapid modern pace. With contemporary developments taking place at breakneck speed, perhaps no CEO of any major enterprise can keep on the cutting edge for a period longer than 10 years..."

2. "The need to bring fresh thinking to the table..."

3. "The need to counteract the negative effects of incumbency..."

4. "The need to help relieve election-time unpleasantness. A considerable amount of bad feelings frequently accompany the removal of a CEO from office..."

For Adams, and me, the final argument in favor of term limits carries the day.

5. "Term limits carry the hope that no administration would last forever."

In the second half of his Adventist Heritage article, CONFRONTING A CRISIS, PART 2, Kameron DeVasher reveals what happened to the holy flesh movement in Adventism.

"In the first installment of this series we saw how the Indiana Conference became the stage for the holy flesh movement in the late nineteenth century. Led by conference revivalist S. S. Davis, the movement was composed of two unique characteristics: 'a sinless flesh' message and a charismatic worship experience. In short, people were encouraged to exchange their sinful natures for Christ’s sinless nature brought on by a full-body surrender in worship."

"The end of the holy flesh movement can be pinpointed to a single day—Wednesday, April 17, 1901. That morning Mrs. White rose and gave her testimony about what the Lord had shown her regarding the holy flesh movement. She pointedly stated: 'The late experience of brethren in Indiana has not been in accordance with the Lord’s instruction.' "

MIND RENUAL, Sally Lam-Phoon asks the reader to embark on a journey of self discovery.

"Consider this thought, based on a decade of research into spiritual transformation: 'Living deeply doesn’t require retreating to a mountaintop or embarking on a hero’s journey; rather, the convergence of life and practice is about the hero’s return—in which you bring the fruits of your journey of self-discovery back home, into your life, your family, and your community.' * True spiritual transformation cannot be limited to the privacy of an individual’s journey; it must impact the lives of others in its natural developmental path and embrace Jesus’ command to “go” (Matt. 28:18, 19)."

* M. M. Schlitz, C. Vieten, and T. Amorok, “Living Deeply,” in Measuring the Immeasurable, p. 457.

In A CATERPILLAR'S MESSAGE, Stephanie Knight reflects on what a caterpillar taught her about life and eath.

The Lost Word of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate

Reviewed by Lawrence G. Downing

Organized religion, in whatever form evidenced, has frequently placed itself in the role of a preservationist or protector of the established norms. The Seventh-day Adventist Church is one example among many. Over the years the church has taken leadership in pronouncements upholding the separation of church and state, the promotion of health principles: vegetarianism, anti-smoking/alcohol campaigns, and religions liberty matters. A present-day concern among a significant segment of Adventism is the creation/evolution debate. The call to preserve a literal interpretation of Genesis 1 has been sounded from all levels of the church.

In his inaugural presentation, General Conference president Ted Wilson said, “Go forward, not backward! Stand firm for God’s Word as it is literally read and understood...Don’t misinterpret the first 11 chapters of Genesis or other areas of Scripture as allegorical or merely symbolic. The Seventh-day Adventist Church teaches and believes in the biblical record of Creation which took place in six literal, consecutive, contiguous 24-hour days. If God did not create this world in six literal days and then bless the Sabbath day, why are we worshipping Him on the seventh-day Sabbath as Seventh-day Adventists? To misinterpret this doctrine is to deny God’s Word and the very purpose of the Seventh-day Adventist movement as the remnant church of God. Don’t go backward to atheistic or theistic evolution; go forward to the prophetic understanding that loyalty to God, the Creator and Redeemer, will be seen in the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath as the distinguishing characteristic of God’s people in the very end of time.” (1)

Wilson’s call for a “literal interpretation” of Genesis is an invitation to take him at his word. The end-point, when this invitation is accepted, invites the hearer/reader to explore options that have the potential to lead one in directions quite different from those set out in Wilson’s inaugural speech. A “literal interpretation” of Genesis One, according to some reliable exegetes, allows the reader to accommodate the findings of current science while holding true to the original intent of the biblical text. This, in fact, is the proposition John H. Walton sets out in his book, The Lost Word of Genesis One Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate, (IVP Academic, 2009.)

Walton fully affirms God as creator. This belief, he holds, is an essential to the Christian faith. The proclamation of God’s creative power is at the heart of our understanding of the Bible and is first expressed in Genesis 1. Yet these few verses has caused a brouhaha that has challenged Christian churches over the centuries. The Seventh-day Adventist Church is one example.

Genesis 1, as interpreted by traditional Adventists, demands a belief in a short-term earth-chronology and a belief that all of creation took place in six consecutive twenty-four hour days. However, not all Adventists agree with how the traditionalists interpret the text. One can empathize with Walton when he writes, “Though simple in the majesty of its expression and the power of its scope, the chapter is anything but transparent. It is regrettable that an account of such beauty has become such a bloodied battleground, but that is indeed the case.” (2)

Adventists have not escaped the bloodletting. Charges and counter charges are hurled between those who adhere to and advocate the traditional Adventist interpretation of Genesis 1 and those who are less concerned about biblical chronology than they are about the processes that lead to the world as it is now. Under the current church administrative leadership, the debate between the two camps is likely to intensify, and the divide between the two factions will continue to expand. This is unfortunate and unnecessary. There are exegetical interpretations of Genesis 1 that allow both sides to coexist and open the possibility that there can be a degree of civility between the tow groups. (As an aside, is there not something in scripture that calls for toleration among believers?)

In ten propositions, Walton sets forth conclusions that arise from what he terms a “literalist” interpretation of the text. He understanding of the biblical creation account is set within the context of the cultural, linguistic and exegetical framework of other accounts of creation found in ancient non-biblical sources. His examination leads him to conclude that Genesis 1 is a description of function rather than an account of how matter came to be. The writer seeks to explain how the Creator God acted upon a nonfunctional state and through divine intent and act utilized matter for function purposes.

Walton posits that the sun, moon, seas and land are the things that exist that have material existence. Their "function” is the purpose that they serve, the reason they exist. Walton invites the reader to consider a "chair" and a "business" as his examples for how his thesis can be understood. The material in a chair can be analyzed, measured and detected with our senses. The material is what defines the chair and allows us to say it exists. He calls this "material ontology.” (3)

A business can also be said to exist. When we speak of a business existing " would clearly not be the same as a chair existing. Does a company exist when it has filed the appropriate papers of incorporation? Does it exist when it has a building or a website? In some sense the answer to these would have to be yes. But many would prefer to speak of a company as existing when it is doing business...Consider a restaurant that is required to display its current permit form the city department of health. Without that permit, the restaurant could be said not to exist, for it cannot do any business. Here existence is connected to the authority that governs existence in relation to the function the business serves. It is the government permit that causes that restaurant to exist, and its existence is defined in functional terms.” Walton calls this "functional" ontology. "In a discussion of origins we need to focus on the ontology of the cosmos. What does it mean for the world or the cosmos (or the objects in it) to exist? How should we think about cosmic ontology?” (4)

Walton addresses one of the foundational issues in the evolution/creation debate: How is one to understand creation? In today's world we look at existence in material terms. The material view of ontology determines how we think about creation. In essence, to believe that existence is “material” is to believe that to create something means to bring its material properties into existence. Consequently, we tend to focus on material origins. But what about the creation of a curriculum? What, asks Walton is “material” about a curriculum?

With this question Walton invites the reader to consider the question of cosmic ontology. Most people, he points out, do not consider alternative ontologies. When we think about the cosmos, we think material ontology; creation as a material act. When he examines writings from the ancient world, Walton finds an alternative view. He proposes that "... people in the ancient world believed that something existed not by virtue of its material properties, but by virtue of its having a function in an ordered system. Here I do not refer to an ordered system in scientific terms, but an ordered system in human terms, that is, in relation to society and culture. In this sort of functional ontology, the sun does not exist by virtue of its material properties, or even by its function as a burning ball of gas. Rather it exists by virtue of the role that it has in its sphere of existence, particularly in the way that it functions for humankind in a human society. In theory, this way of thinking could result in something being included in the 'existent' category in functional terms...In a functional ontology, to bring something into existence would require giving it a function or a role in an ordered system, rather than giving it material properties. Consequently, something could be manufactured physically but still not 'exist' if it has not become functional.” (5)

Walton reminds both the scientist and the theologian that their areas of study are distinct and the boundaries for each discipline should be respected. “Those who accept the Bible by faith accept also by faith a teleological view of origins. Empirical science is not designed to be able to define purpose, though it may theoretically be able to deduce rationally that purpose is logically the best explanation. As the result of an empirical discipline, biological evolution can acknowledge purpose, but…it must remain teleologically neutral.” (5) This boundary does not apply to theology. Theology can legitimately argue for a particular teleological point.

While Walton does not answer every objection that arises from the evolution/creation debate, he does, I believe, open an avenue that allows for both advocates of their respective positions to participate in a respectful dialogue. Neither group need demonize the other. An example of how Walton’s conclusions can be applied is found Brian Bull and Fritz Guy’s recent SPECTRUM article, “The Six ‘Creation Days’: Prologue to God’s Rest. (7) The authors use a method similar to that found in Walton’s book to address the evolution/creation debate that rages within the Adventist church and its educational institutions. The authors suggest the possibility for a reinterpretation of the texts upon which conservative Adventists base their conclusions and, as does Walton, they hold that a “literal” reading of Genesis 1 allows for more flexible conclusions than those advocated by church administrators and others.

These authors join with Walton to offer a word of hope that in the end reasonable people can and will follow a course other than one that condemns those that read the same Bible but come to different conclusions. Unlike those who read Genesis 1 and conclude that their reading of the text is incompatible with the conclusions of modern science, Bull and Guy, in agreement with Walton, affirm that science and religion can coexist.

1. Wilson, Ted, “Go Forward,” Adventist World—NAD September 2010, p. 11.
2. P. 7
3. P. 24.
4. Ibid.
5. P. 26
6. PP. 152, 153
7. SPECTRUM Vol. 38 Issue 3, Summer 2010, p 48-53.

John H. Walton (Ph.D., Hebrew Union College) is professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College. Previously he was professor of Old Testament at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. Some of his books include Ancient Near Eastern Thought: Essential Bible Companion, Old Testament Today (with Andrew Hill), Genesis NIV Application Commentary, and IVP Bible Background Commentary (with Victor Matthews and Mark Chavalas).