Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Fear and Loathing on the Evangelistic Circuit

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

Sad But True

“If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction."
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Reviewing the Adventist Review

March 18, 2010
Vol. 187, No. 8

This issue motivated me. I’m almost a vegetarian, and I think WHAT ARE WE REALLY DOING TO GOD’S CREATURES pushed me over the line. For that I am truly thankful. DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL motivated me to once again speak out as strongly as I can against the Adventist Church’s official position regarding homosexuality. To have to do that again makes me want to pull my hair out. Thank goodness for Stephen Chavez’s editorials: THERE IS A DIFFERENCE and LET’S CLIMB OUT OF THE BOX. I felt his calming hand on my shoulder.

Two letters caught my attention. The first, from Frank McMillan, made the point that the words we use can have unintended consequences. In the Review of February 11, referencing Adventists Among Fatalities in Haiti Earthquake, Haitian Earthquake, survivors were told, “We are saddened for the members we lost in this tragedy and yet are so thankful that the Lord spared you. . .We thank God that He took care of most of our people. . .” By implication, the Lord did not spare some of the Haitian members and God did not take care of some of our people.

Keith R. Mundt, made this timely suggestion referring to the article, The Decision (That No On Wants to Make) in the January 21, Review. “I appeal to Adventist Health to develop a vision, plans, and a mission statement to assist young adults who need to make serious decisions for loved ones needing long-term care.”

In the two preceding months, the Adventist Church lost three of our best. In January, Arthur Griffith died. He was a deaf ministry pioneer and the first ordained deaf Adventist minister. In February, Harold D. Singleton and Maurice T. Battle passed away. Elder Singelton was the first President of the South Atlantic Conference; Elder Battle was a Former World Church Associate Secretary and was instrumental in the Adventist Church’s efforts to dismantle apartheid in South Africa.

Jan Paulsen continued series of unscripted dialogues with the young people of Inter-America, and the multilingual Bible toured the Dominican Republic on its worldwide journey to the General Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.

HELP FOR HAITI—AND HUMANITY by Kimberly Luste Maran reminds readers that, “We can offer aid to Haiti and—on a grander scale—humanity. If you can give big, do it! But also remember that small things make a difference, sometimes a world of difference.”

I’m a fan of Stephen Chavez. His editorial, THERE IS A DIFFERENCE, is so down-to-earth sensible that discovering it in the Review blew me away! It’s a definite MUST READ!

“Whether we’re talking about Harry Potter, the Left Behind series, or The Vampire Diaries, no useful purpose is served when we engage the public in a discussion about fiction as if it were fact. Most people know the difference between the two.

“The only thing such a debate reveals is that Christians are easily sidetracked about matters that most of society sees as entertainment, not doctrine.

“If we want to be known as defenders of the truth, we have plenty of real error to oppose. But if we can’t tell the difference between the two, we’ll earn nothing but scorn from those who’ll think, Poor Christians—they don’t know the difference between fact and fiction.

TRY ANYTHING by Connie W. Nowlan is a lovely parable about an aerialist who discovers that there is nothing to fear if your father is your catcher, and he knows when you’re ready to fly.

The cover story, WHAT ARE WE REALLY DOING TO GOD’S CREATURES? by Sigve Tonstad is a MUST READ. As I said earlier, I’m now a vegetarian!

“We should expand the emphasis from an interest in personal health to include an interest in ecology and of ethics and ecotheology. We should give additional reasons for our food choices, raise the prominence of the issue, and get more serious about advocacy for change. We cannot afford to have just this nice, private piety that is interested only in what we put on our tables. We have to hear the plea of nonhuman creation, be sensitive to the abuse that is happening.

“I wish our universities would provide an education for people interested in careers in advocacy and public policy. If we did that, we would find many allies and would become more involved in dialogue with other sensitized communities that ponder these questions with convictions and sensitivities that are sometimes lacking in the Christian world.”

VISION FOR OUTREACH is an eye-opener. The outreach opportunities associated with ASI (Adventist-laymen’s Services and Industries) are limited only by the imagination. Norman Reitz, the Association’s President, asks readers to “visit the ASI Web site—www.asiministries.org—to see how you can become involved, either as a member or supporter of ASI. There is a place in the ASI family for any member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church who is sincerely interested in sharing the gospel.”

CAFETERIA: MEETING PLACE MORE THAN AN EATING PLACE is the place to hang out according to Jarrod Lutz.

“Mealtimes are a chance to slow down and realize that life is so much more than the time in between assignments. A meal can be better defined as a memory. As sad as this may sound, the ideal situation for any Friday afternoon is arriving at the cafeteria at lunch and not having reason to leave until after dinner.”

In PLUGGED IN AND READY TO GO Gerald A. Klingbeil shares the following insights from Jesus' devotional life.

“1. Adapt your lifestyle to your convictions. . .2. Learn to live with silence and tranquility. . .3. Remember that worship is not only an intellectual exercise. Meditate and listen. . .4. Do not get discouraged. Try again. . .5. Live on a balanced spiritual diet. Build change into your devotional time. . .6. Practice the presence of God. The Creator of the universe is ready to spend time with you.”

THE LOST MEANING OF THE SEVENTH DAY by Sigve Tonstad is a book review by Peter M. van Bemmelen who believes it to be “the most significant study of the seventh-day Sabbath published by a contemporary Adventist.”

CHURCH TRENDS is a MUST READ. Monte Sahlin has some very interesting news and identifies some invaluable resources.

“The Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America stepped across a significant demographic threshold in 2008. For the first time there is no ethnic majority. Whites made up just 50 percent of the members, and people of color made up the other 50 percent.

“Dealing successfully with growing ethnic diversity requires creating an atmosphere in which people can talk honestly, ask questions openly, and learn to listen carefully. Adventist churches may target certain segments of the community as a matter of missional effectiveness, but they must also be open, welcoming, and inclusive fellowships that portray the reality of God’s love for all.

Seventh-day Adventists in North America: A Demographic Profile (can be obtained from the Center for Creative Ministry web site at or 800-272-4664). Additional updates can be found on the Web site produced by the Bradford-Cleveland-Brooks Leadership Center at Oakwood University.

LET’S CLIMB OUT OF THE BOX is another thoughtful reflection on Adventist life by Carlos Medley.

“Adventist churches do a great job of providing the best for their members. We have scores of talented musicians; we cook healthful, nutritious food; we offer quality education for children as well as a litany of youth activities. In many churches you’ll even find active senior ministries and special programs for singles.

“Unfortunately, most of these ministries are just for us. What a difference we could make by being more intentional about sharing our gifts with our communities. We might find a world that’s longing for the gifts and blessings we take for granted.”

DON’T ASK DON’T TELL by Fredrick A. Russell is a huge disappointment. Elder Russell is on the fence when it comes to the military’s policy, and claims a scriptural foundation for his belief that “homosexuality—in practice—is a sin”.

When I grew up in Glendale, California, in the forties and fifties, I thought African Americans, like you, Fred, were descendants of Ham, Noah’s son who saw him naked and was cursed by God. According to the story I was told, he and his family had their skins turned black and were doomed to be slaves and servants thereafter. The Bible also told us white people to treat you kindly and give you a break from working on the Sabbath. Since homosexuals were not mentioned, I didn’t grow up to think they meant me any harm.

Adventists, like all Christians of the literalist persuasion, pick the Bible admonitions they choose to honor. I’m glad we don’t treat women as badly as they were treated in the Old Testament and have decided, against the advice of St. Paul, to allow them to speak in church and even hold church office. Why not just skip over other pronouncements of ignorant biblical authors?

Fred, I wish I could introduce you to my students and friends who are Christian and gay. It sounds to me like you are just ignorant when you talk about homosexuality as “a choice”; when you speak of your concern “that there seems to be a well-designed plan to impose the gay lifestyle on everyone.” You claim to be “fine with private choices, but uncomfortable when those choices are forced on me”. Fred, I got the Civil Rights Act forced on me, and when that happened, fortunately, I cheered!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Book Review - God is Back

God Is Back. How the Global Revival of Faith Is Changing the World by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, Penguin Press, 2009, 404 pp.

Reviewed by Lawrence G. Downing

A group of well off and educated men and women on their way up in the world meet in one of Shanghai’s gated communities. Wang, the host for the day, is described as a prosperous management consultant. The others include a pair of biologists, a Chinese- American doctor from Los Angeles, a prominent academic, a manager from a state-owned business, two ballet dances and several successful entrepreneurs. A laptop sits on the coffee table and BMWs are parked in the lot outside. These people gather in Wang’s living room to worship God and to share their understanding of God. With this story John Micklethwait, editor in chief of The Economist and Adrian Wooldridge, its Washington bureau chief, introduce the reader to a journey that will travel the world and explore events pertinent to our world today. Their findings about religion in the world challenge stereotypes and their observations illicit further thought. Their description of how diverse religious groups and their adherents influence business, society, and politics provides fodder for further discussion and opens a door of opportunity to church leaders everywhere.

The author’s data led them to conclude that those who posited that modernity and religion are incompatible are wrong and they present America as a prime example! The secularists were, however, right about one thing: religion can be a dangerous force in politics, especially on the international level. Consider the world’s potential hotspots. In most of them burn the fires of religion. The Middle East is a poster child. A closer look at other outwardly stable regimes, such as China, reveals that there is a religious revival lurking under the surface. We can only guess the effect when that sub-rosa force erupts.

The authors take secular and religious leaders to the woodshed for their lack of knowledge about the power religion has in much of the world. Political and military leaders ignored the influence religion has in Iraq and Afghanistan. Government leaders are quick to dismiss the religious factor when consideration is given to world events. The British authors ask why it is that America is unable to draw global lessons from our unique success in dealing with our religious plurality. At the same time, they applaud the occasions when religious leaders, such as Rev. Roy Magee, a Protestant, and Fr. Alex Reid, a Catholic who together, by their moral persuasion, brought the hard-line terrorists in their congregations to meet at the negotiating table. Peacemaker, say the authors, is a role religion is too often denied or too often has been reluctant to employ.

Based on their examination of global religion and how religion plays out in our diverse societies, the authors worry about the new religious wars and how religion will evidence itself in the public square. How, they ask, can we make room for religion without sacrificing the fundamental principles associated with liberal pluralism? They propose that the American system is the most viable answer. America, they believe, does a better job than any other country in combining religious vitality with both religious diversity and religious toleration.

The breaking news from the Middle East, Africa, South America and Europe are evidence that the authors have selected a topic that has contemporary importance. Their observations on how religion and religious leaders affect the world ring true. Their conclusions are affirmed on a day-to-day basis. God indeed is back! In a big, big way.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The money's good!

Check out this amazing fact!
Modified from the comic Dilbert, by Scott Adams
(click to enlarge)

Reviewing the Adventist Review

March 11, 2010
Vol. 187, No. 7

This issue was, as advertised, A TIME FOR JOY, not because I agreed with the theology of Bill Knott and Clifford Goldstein, which I don’t, but because every piece was well written, thoughtful, and interesting. However, most of my joy was generated by Janine Goffar’s reflection, EMPTY COTTAGE CHEESE CARTONS. Janine was a fifth grade student in my combination 5/6 language arts classroom at Santa Monica Junior Academy. I had a year of teaching under my belt when she walked through the door, and I was better prepared to appreciate writing talent. Janine wrote well then; she writes beautifully today.

Mikhail Kulakov, Sr. died on February 10. His autobiography, Though the Heaven’s Fall (Review and Herald Publishing) described his imprisonment for his faith under Joseph Stalin and his leadership in established the Euro-Asia Division and the Zaokski Adventist Seminary in Zaokski, Russia. He later became that Division’s President. This short biographical tribute is a MUST READ, as is his autobiography.

ADRA and other Adventist groups continue their lifesaving work in Hati, the Herald of Health, India’s oldest existing health magazine, has begun its second century of publication, and the Finns are on the verge of banning smoking in cars with underage children and prohibiting stores from displaying tobacco products. The goal to is to eventually prohibit smoking entirely!

In the WATCHFIRES OF A HUNDRED CIRCLING CAMPS, Bill Knott implies that white flags are “deadly”.

“Emissaries, some with smiles, recommend that we surrender things distinctive about which Adventists have rallied for a century and a half. The flag proposed to us is not some scarlet banner decked with mystic symbols: no, it is simple, white, and deadly.”

Bill, white flags are carried by people who don’t want to be shot. They may only be innocent bystanders; folks who just want to provide convincing evidence that they are no threat; or, just possibly, friends and reinforcements who treasure our Adventist fellowship because it has loved, healed, and educated worldwide. This is the Gospel that Jesus lived and died to make real. This is the solid foundation upon which Christian Adventists can light up the world and glorify the Great God of the Universe.

Bill, there are real enemies to oppose and real battles that must be fought. Don’t be distracted by petty, legalistic, and dogmatic assertions. And in the future, don’t shoot at the white flag! It’s against the rules.

Gerald Klingbeil makes a lot of COMMON SENSE.
“God often (though not always) works closely with our common sense or common everyday duties. He wants His followers to follow with open eyes, open hearts, and the desire to discover God’s handiwork, as mundane as it may be. When you ask God to lead the way today, enjoy the scenery and do not forget to use and enjoy your God-given common sense—even as He is rerouting your life.”

In UNITY IN FELLOWSHIP Richard W. Medina champions “unity”, a word not to be mistaken for uniformity.

“[Unity] challenges us to develop creative practices that can build such a warm fellowship among church members that visitors feel part of a community of faith. Fellowship nurtures our unity in faith, hope, and witness. It creates, or re-creates, a family-oriented church and an inspiring atmosphere for worship. It not only brings spiritual revival, care, and support, but also constitutes a public affirmation that we—the other, you, and I—belong to a triune God. I would like to be part of such a community.”

A TIME FOR JOY is a MUST READ. Skip Bell delivers. He creates a joyful read and a brilliant definition of faith.

“But yielding to faith also requires that I allow the seriousness and limitations of life to be transformed by an awareness that God’s grace is complete, for Jesus lives! The world, for all its ugliness and pain, no longer appears a dreary place, but one filled with God’s presence, and in His presence I still find “fullness of joy.” The Creator draws me to Himself, and standing in the safety of His power, joy emerges from its hiding place. I begin to celebrate with laughter.”

BIBLICAL LITERALISTS by Clifford Goldstein is a beautifully crafted argument for a literal interpretation of the Bible. Unfortunately, his argument is based on literary allusions. Bare with me while I demonstrate the fallacy that underlies Cliff’s argument (1) by using his own words, (2) providing a few literary allusions provided by Jesus in Matthew 5, (3) supplying the definition elucidated in A Handbook to Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama by X. J. Kennedy, (4) generating a few literal words of my own, and (5) citing an editorial comment from St. Augustine.

(1) Goldstein: “Of course, if anyone knew how to interpret the Bible, it would be Jesus. Was He a biblical literalist, like the ones my young friend so bemoaned? Well, Jesus did say: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man” (Matt. 24:37-39). Jesus not only believed the Noah story; He gave it added theological significance by linking it with the Second Coming, a crucial doctrine that we take in the most literal sense possible.”

“We like to say that the Bible interprets itself, and that through the study of the Bible we can learn to interpret it correctly. And though we always bring some personal baggage, some personal presuppositions, into whatever we do, including biblical hermeneutics, the above examples show that these Bible writers—even Jesus Himself (who comes to us through Bible writers)—interpreted the Scriptures literally.”

(2) Jesus: “Anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”

(3) X. J. Kennedy: Allusions are often used to summarize broad, complex ideas or emotions in one quick, powerful image. For example, to communicate the idea of self-sacrifice one may refer to Jesus, as part of Jesus' story portrays him dying on the cross in order to save mankind (Matthew 27:45-56). In addition, to express righteousness, one might allude to Noah who "had no faults and was the only good man of his time" (Genesis 6:9-22). Furthermore, the idea of fatherhood or patriarchial love can be well understood by alluding to Abraham, who was the ancestor of many nations (Genesis 17:3-6). Finally, Cain is an excellent example to convey banishment, rejection, or evil, for he was cast out of his homeland by God (Genesis 4:12). Thus, allusions serve an important function in writing in that they allow the reader to understand a difficult concept by relating to an already familiar story.

(4) Andy Hanson: The literal interpretation of the Bible* requires literalists to abandon reason in their search for biblical truth. On this fact St. Augustine and I agree. The genealogy of Jesus is recorded twice in Matthew 1:1–17 and Luke 3:23–28. However, the two genealogies are remarkably different. They disagree completely on Jesus’ lineage after his father, Joseph. This is probably the most glaring of the many obviously contradictory accounts of the same event in both the Old and New Testament beginning with the two creation stories in Genesis.

(5) St. Augustine: “Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although ‘they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.’
The Literal Meaning of Genesis, translation by John Hammond Taylor. (The Millennium Project)

THE FEAR FACTOR by Marlon T. Perkins, Sr., reminds us that fear, though it can slow us down, it shouldn't stop us.

“Fear is a snare that the devil uses to trap your (and God’s) plans in a perpetual state of inactivity and thus uselessness. The world is in dire need of your fulfilling your life’s purpose. Untold stories of wonderful developments with eternal results are awaiting your decision to move forward. If you trust God, His purposes will come to pass, and He will exalt you in due time. “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31). Live with purpose.”

In THE PATH OF GRACE AND SERVICE Hyveth Williams takes the reader on a life’s journey filled with beauty, grace, and service.

“I was born in a house, not a hospital. The house was made by my grandfather, with none of today’s tools or technology. He cut the trees and sawed the wood with a handsaw, and put zinc on the roof of a love nest for his beloved wife, who bore 12 children in that humble home.

“This past Christmas, memories of life when adults seemed like giants compelled me to take one last look and recall the sights and sounds of those early years. I took a quick visit to the cradle of my formative years with two aunts, an uncle, and my sister. We drove as close as we could to the barely accessible, muddy, slippery footpath on a hill located in St. Mary parish on my paradise island of Jamaica.”

MANUEL’S PASSION by Manuel's widow, Anita Clay, reminds us that witnessing has an enduring life of its own. This is a MUST READ.

EMPTY COTTAGE CHEESE CARTONS is another MUST READ. Janine Goffar’s Uncle Harold and Aunt Dorothy’s enduring Christian witness involves empty cottage cheese cartons!

*Encyclopedia Britannica Online: “Literal interpretation is often, but not necessarily, associated with the belief in verbal or plenary inspiration, according to which not only the biblical message but also the individual words in which that message was delivered or written down were divinely chosen. In an extreme form this would imply that God dictated the message to the speakers or writers word by word.”


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

Thursday, March 18, 2010

When Did Ignorance Become a Point of View?

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

Reviewing Adventist World

March 2010
Vol. 6, No. 3

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.


LOOKING FORWARD to the General Conference is a short, informative piece by Kimberly Luste Maran.

More than 2,400 delegates are selected from all the church’s 13 world divisions as representatives of the local conferences and churches. They review important plans and policies of the church and change, remove from, and/or add to the church’s manual (a document containing information and instructions about the operation of the Adventist Church). They also elect leaders to serve in key church governance roles.

This year the session will be held in Atlanta, Georgia, United States, from June 24 to July 3. About 50,000 people are expected to travel from all parts of the world to the session to worship on Sabbath and fellowship with brothers and sisters from around the globe.

In IS THE FACE OF ADVENTISM CHANGING? by Jan Paulsen is an attempt to apply eternal values to our changing cultures. The following is his statement of belief about Scripture.

“Scripture. . .is the voice of God giving values and direction to humankind. Scripture tells us about the second coming of Christ, about His ongoing ministry of reconciliation and judgment, about how He made us and life on this planet, about His prophetic gift to the church—it’s a list we could expand to embrace each of our 28 Fundamental Beliefs.” (1)

SLEEP APNEA by Allan R. Handysides and Peter N. Landless is a really, really important medical wake-up for people who have a peculiar sleep pattern in which they snore and/or breath deeper and deeper, then stop breathing, only to start breathing again with a kind of snort. That pattern is repeated, sometimes hundreds of times during the night.

“Millions of people worldwide have sleep apnea. It’s more common as the population ages, and more frequently found in men—especially those who are overweight, smoke, have thicker necks, and possibly have more soft tissue in their nasopharyngeal area.

“Sleep apnea is a factor in high blood pressure. The rise in blood carbon dioxide and the fall in blood oxygen tension may be involved in triggering vascular changes.

“It’s well recognized that as a group, people with sleep apnea are more likely to have ischemic heart disease, cardiac rhythm irregularities, and heart failure in their ranks than a control population.

“Some people have had relief from what has been called “somnoplasty.” This is a surgery in which soft tissue at the back of the throat is removed. The procedure involves the uvula and the soft palate. It can bring benefits, but by far the most useful treatment is something called CPAP. The letters stand for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. A device that increases the pressure in the airway is used to hold the airway tissue open during sleep. This takes a little getting used to, but the patients readily adjust to the apparatus and soon learn to appreciate the benefits enormously. By reducing the fluctuations in oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, CPAP removes some of the underlying mechanisms that may predispose to hypertension and heart risk.”

Visit your doctor if that sounds like you. I did, and after a sleep study, I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. I don my CPAP mask nightly. It’s a matter of life and breath.

CASTING A UNITED VISION is Sandra Blackmer’s interview of Daniel R. Jackson, President of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada. What I found interesting was the following response to Blackmer’s questions concerning same-sex marriage.

Jackson: “In a free and open society you can have a law that provides for same-sex marriage [which doesn’t] penalize the person who does not choose either to practice it or promote it.”

Blackmer: “So Adventists in Canada still have the right to choose not to perform same-sex marriages and the right not to hire a person who practices a gay lifestyle as a teacher or a pastor?”

Jackson: “Right, absolutely.”

Clinton Wahlen reveals seven must-know facts about last-day events in TIME TO GO. Wahlen serves as an Associate Director of the Biblical Research Institute at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. (2)

TOUCHING THE UNTOUCHABLES: Sung-Hun Choi, A Korean Adventist Pioneer by Kuk-Heon Lee, is a MUST READ.

“Choi. . .was passionate for God’s work. When he got an invitation from the lepers to come and preach God’s message, he made a decision to work for them. ‘I couldn’t refuse their invitation because I saw their looks of appeal. I found that they really longed for God’s message and heavenly hope,’ he confessed. This meeting was to be a providential encounter for Choi, as he decided to focus his ministry on people suffering from leprosy for the rest of his life.

“Choi ministered for 40 years as a pastor. Most of the time he worked to take care of the lepers at Youngshinwon in Hadong, Aejowon in Chungmu, Sosaengwon in Iksan, and in other places. He built many churches, training centers for the children of lepers, and old age homes for the aged lepers. After retiring officially from the ministry, he continued with the same passion until the end of his life. God surely used Pastor Choi to open a window of mission to his fellow Adventists in Korea and beyond. He was a wonderful man of God and is remembered by Korean Adventists as the saint of the lepers. He truly touched the untouchables.”

CREATION AND END-TIME TRUTHS is a Bible study by Mark A. Finley. As a summary statement, he offers the following: “The last battle in the long-standing controversy between good and evil is over the commandments of God. The Sabbath, the symbol of Creation, is at the center of the conflict.” Finley, you’re just plain wrong about the “center of the conflict”. (3)

(1) Dr. Paulsen, just because “we could expand [that statement] to embrace each of our 28 Fundamental Beliefs”, why must we? Why should we? What about sola scriptura? This creed is now set in concrete and defended officially and irrationally as God ordained, in spite of the fact that a preface to SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISTS BELIEVE states that “understanding is ever progressive” and Adventist doctrines are “the product of Adventist growth ‘in grace and knowledge’”.

(2) What I found interesting was the 27-footnote bibliography supplied by a Director of the Biblical Institute. Every footnote referenced the writings of Ellen G. White.

(3) Matthew 25:31-46"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

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

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

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'”

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Geology and Biology approach Silver Spring Castle.

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

What’s so funny about Noah and the ark?

Comic from Mother Goose and Grimm, by Mike Peters
(click to enlarge)

Reviewing the Adventist Review

February 25, 2010
Vol. 187, No. 6

Once again, there is nothing in this issue that inspires controversy. However, the cover feature, ANOTHER BATTLE OVER DAVID AND GOLIATH, is interesting and cutting edge informative. Note: For those of you who do not subscribe to the Review, some of the news and articles I review are “members only”. Often, those are worth the very affordable subscription price.

WORLD NEWS AND PERSPECTIVES includes information about the April 20 Ministry Professional Growth Seminar that will take place in Pasadena, California. Featured speakers are: Marguerite Shuster, Miroslav Volt, Roy Adams, and Lawrence Geraty.

SDA’s creation care stance is lauded on the New Humane Society Web Page.

Florida’s Nicholson Center for Surgical advancement received a $4.2 million dollar grant. The money will be used to train doctors in surgical robotic research.

In February, the SDA Health Training Conference met in Orlando, Florida. “The annual summit offered tools for local and regional church leadership to deliver community health programs.”

Gerald a. Klingbeil’s editorial, CONTEXT, makes the case for illuminating even the darkest events of our lives with the light provided by The Light of the World.

ON KEEPING ON, Mark A. Kellner quotes Ellen White to remind readers that “A rich, glorious reward. . .is the prize for which we run”.

NICODEMUS IN THE NIGHT by David Marshall provides the evidence that after his secret conversation with Jesus, Nicodemus was a changed man.

Andrew McChesney, iconoclastic Moscow reporter, as done it again. In DON’T PICK UP! he tells the story of the time that sin called him on the telephone “just a few minutes after midnight”.

ANOTHER BATTLE OVER DAVID & GOLIATH, Michael G. Hasel, the Director of the Institute of Archaeology at Southern Adventist University, confronts the many questions regarding the historicity of the Old Testament before the time of Josiah. The Review is to be congratulated on its evenhanded reporting of this current archeological controversy. This is a MUST READ.

Ellen G. White regarded THE SCRIPTURES AS SAFEGUARD. She paraphrases the Psalmist with these words. “Thy testimonies are my meditation. Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.”

A PORTAL FOR PRAIZE is a MUST READ. It is the story of lay men and women who have created a virtual ministry that opens Internet portals for churches throughout the world. Amazing!

RETHINKING VEGETARIANISM by Wes Youngberg is a MUST READ for vegetarians and those who might want to give it a try.

For young people, It’s all ABOUT EMPOWERMENT, according to Jose Cortes, Jr. He recommends mission projects.

According to Vanessa Sanders, “Christians should be more like drug addicts.” JUST AS YOU ARE explains what she means.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Love shines through in unlikely places.

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

It must be the cottage cheese casseroles and brownies.

Modified from the comic Bizarro by Dan Piraro.
(click to enlarge)

Reviewing the Adventist Review

February 18, 2010
Vol. 187, No. 5

This issue is pretty much standard fare. I do have things to say about two of the articles, CLAIM YOUR CAMPUS and PRESS POWER, after reviewing of the rest of the magazine.

ADRA along with Loma Linda doctors and nurses are making a difference in Haiti. Hopital Adventiste d’Haiti is serving as the clinical center for the country.

Kent Hanson’s blog and email ministry has a worldwide readership of 4,000. Check out the email version at http://mondaygrace.com.

Bert Beach, longtime Adventist worker and religious liberty leader, is looking forward to attending his fifteenth General Conference Session in Atlanta, Georgia.

STRETCHING OUR FAITH by Sandra Blackmer recounts a personal story in which she learned to be a successful public speaker.

Roy Adams advises readers that STAYING CALM when your contribution to a project goes unrecognized is a smart move in God’s eyes.

Fredrick A. Russell and George Johnson, Jr., and Alvin Kibble remind us that February is Black History Month. Russell’s forbearers never got the 40 ACRES AND A MULE they were promised, but “even in the face of these inequities, [Russell contends that] “God has blessed African-Americans as a people, notwithstanding their bad start in this country”.

George Johnson Jr. profiles three African Americans who are MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN THE HALLS OF POWER. Darron Paul Monteiro works in the White House Office of Public Engagement, Debra C. Anderson is the Deputy Chief of Staff and Communication Director for Representative Chaka Fattah, and Mark Brown is a Senior Information Security Officer for the Department of Health and Human Services.

Alvin Kibble reminds us that the spirituals like THE MORNING TRAIN reveal “the sagacity and spiritual awareness of these slaves of yesteryear. Wisely, they warned us not to wait for the evening train. ‘The evening train may be too late!’”

LIFE IN A PHRASE by Andy Nash demonstrates that you only need six words to sum up a formative period in your life. Andy, here are my six words. “God loved Job, an honest man.”

Kathryn Lay reminds us that when our lives change IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE, hope remains.

With CHURCH TRENDS, Monte Sahlin begins a new series about “action-oriented information about the Adventist church and the world in which it works”. This information is vital, and I don’t understand why it’s not available online. The following websites and addresses are those supplied by Sahlin.

SDA’s in North America: A Demographic Profile can be obtained from the Center for Creative Ministry at www.creativeministry.org or 800-272-4664; Why Our Teenagers Leave the Church: Personal Stories From a 10-year Study—Roger Dudley; Valuegenesis Ten Years Later: A Study of Two Generation—Gillespie, Donahue, Boyatt, and Gane; and Ministering With Millennials—edited by Dudley and Walshe. These materials can be obtained from the local Adventist Book Center or through AdventSource at www.adventsource.org or 800-328-0525.

In CLAIM YOUR CAMPUS, Jimmy Phillips argues that if the Adventist Church will only “give young adults meaningful roles within the church”, they will stick around as adults. In my opinion, that tactic will only work if young people can be given a powerful voice in a campaign to modify the official 28 official doctrines of the Adventist Church. This creed is now set in concrete and defended officially and irrationally as God ordained, in spite of the fact that a preface to SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISTS BELIEVE states that “understanding is ever progressive” and Adventist doctrines are “the product of Adventist growth ‘in grace and knowledge’”.

Asking young, educated Adventists to stay connected to an organization that refuses to ordain women, demonizes homosexuals, requires a belief in the literal interpretation of the Bible, discounts scientific evidence, and espouses ideas that have originated from extra biblical sources, is asking the impossible. For these young people (and older ones as well) the Adventist Church as an official organization is irrelevant.

PRESS POWER by Bill Krick makes a relevant point when it comes to the power of the press. Spiritual ignorance cannot “successfully contend with the mass distribution of myth-exposing literature” when it finds “its way into the hands of the common people”. Maybe that’s why half of Jimmy Phillips’s high school class “is no longer actively involved in the church, many of whom drifted away during college.”

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Jonathan Gallagher pays the price for his theology.

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

Jonathan, this is a strictly forensic transaction.

Dr. Gallagher’s story is an example of what happens when the “forensic” view of salvation is challenged at Silver Spring.

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

Reviewing the Adventist Review

February 11, 2010
Vol. 187, No. 4

There is nothing in this issue that isn’t kosher, including a shot at critics of the church in a letter from Trevor Connell, comparing them to “Jesus’ enemies”.

ADVENTISTS WERE AMONG THE FATALITIES IN THE HAITI EARTHQUAKE. 522 church members, 450 of them young people, lost their lives. (The number of injured was not reported.) 27,000 members are without homes, 55 churches were destroyed, and 60 churches damaged. The Adventist hospital, the only local one that survived the quake, is a vital medical outpost. ADRA is hard at work. North American Division promised $500,000 in tithe and the General Conference $200,000 to be used to aid the Adventist work in Haiti.

JAN PAULSEN WAS HONORED AT LOMA LINDA UNIVERSITY by scholars and health professionals for his 35 years of denominational leadership. The organization, GENERATION OF YOUTH FOR CHRIST (GYU) held its eighth annual worldwide conference in Louisville, Kentucky.

A CELEBRATION OF MATURITY is a salute to the senior Adventists. A PRACTICAL PROMISE is a Carlos Medley reminder that “all things work together for good”.

Mark A. Kellner interviewed the Mid-America Union President Roscoe Howard in INSIDE MID-AMERICA. LOOKING OUTWARD, SEARCHING WITHIN by Erica Richard is a story of how two specific experiences shattered her comfort zones. WAGING WAR WITH ADJECTIVES by Trevan Osborne counsel carefulness in defining our church with an adjective.

JESUS FOR US ALL by Wilona Karimabadi is a concise overview of the problems and blessings that are part of a church committed to the Christian education of special-needs children. Resources are cited along with checklist designed to help children’s ministries leaders ready their programs and Sabbath School rooms.

Karimabadi ends her report with the words of Ann Roda, Associate Pastor of Fulton, Maryland’s New Hope Adventist Church. “This whole idea of inclusiveness—that has to be the foundation [of] a church’s [efforts]. . .[These efforts must not be] limited to those with special needs. . .The starting point in what we do in ministry should be to ask, ‘What is the environment we can create here that will allow kids to experience God? In this classroom, in this program, in this activity, how can kids experience God?’ All the training in the world will not help if you don’t have an attitude of inclusiveness and an attitude of ‘This is God’s ministry, this is His kingdom.’”

WHY, GOD, WHY? reveals a side of Cliff Goldstein that I admire. “Long ago I quit seeking to understand evil and suffering. Even in the context of the great controversy it’s a fruitless venture, one guaranteed to drive you mad. All I know is that a God who would take upon Himself all our sin is a God I can trust and love, despite my immersion amid a planet wired through and through with nerves that sizzle and snap like downed electric wire.”

Goldstein’s other, doctrinaire and authoritarian side, is not so attractive. In his defense of a biblical, literal, seven-day creation delivered at the GUY Conference, he asserted, “You can be an Adventist, [or] you can be an evolutionist, but you cannot be both!”

In SLIPPING THE KNOT: A BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE ON LIVING TOGETHER without benefit of marriage, Richard Davidson argues that, “We [as a church] need to uphold the biblical mandate that disapproves of any emotional-sexual relationship other than within the institution of marriage. At the same time, in the spirit of the Pentateuchal legislation (and the gospel of Jesus Christ!) we need to act redemptively. . .Scripture calls for a balanced approach by the church: maintain the biblical standards, and at the same time minister with grace to the offenders. (1)

“While Pentateuchal legislation does not directly address the practice of cohabitation, it does deal with the foundational premise upon which cohabitation is based—the right for men and women to engage in sexual intercourse outside of marriage. Although premarital sexual intercourse did not carry the same severe punishment as many other sexual offenses, it nonetheless was taken seriously. The penalty included a heavy fine that the man (who presumably initiated the sexual relationship and deprived the woman of her virginity) (2) must pay to the woman’s father, and the requirement that the couple face the consequences of their action by marrying, with no possibility of future divorce (Deut. 22:28, 29)—unless the father of the woman considered that such marriage was unwise, in which case they did not marry but the man paid the dowry to the woman’s father as if they had married (Ex. 22:16, 17).”

Norma O'Hara offers her answer to the question, WHY NOT MUHAMMAD OR BUDDHA? “With deep respect and admiration for the piety of other religious leaders, and with the understanding that everyone if free to choose their own belief system, the Christian must yet uphold the God-man, Jesus Christ, as sovereign Lord of all and the only way of eternal salvation.” (3)

(1) Sounds better than advocating that these couples be thrown out of the church, although “ministering” (by whom) with “grace” (how defined) to the “offenders” (certainly a judgmental word) leaves plenty of room for the same old holy persecution. Sounds like “don’t ask, don’t tell” still makes a lot of sense if you’re an Adventist. If Pentateuchal legislation is cited as the biblical constraint, it provides no condemnation for people with no living parents and when virginity is not an issue. Party on old timers!

(2) That’s a genteel way of describing probable rape.

(3) I’m increasingly skeptical of the words of anyone who uses the word “only” in a theological conversation. And another thing, if Christian belief is the “only way of eternal salvation”, why should Christians show “deep respect and admiration for” other religions?