Thursday, May 27, 2010

Are there degrees of "nearness"?

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

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Reviewing the Adventist Review

May 13, 2010
Vol. 187, No. 13

This issue is worth reading. Bill Knott and Stephen Chavez came through with excellent editorials. The cover feature was a thought provoking MUST READ, there was good advice for college students about the dangers of debt, Clifford Goldstein’s essay is a MUST READ, and Hyveth Williams blew me away with a MUST READ editorial concerning women and the Church. Unfortunately, there were two AARRRRR! moments, but I get to those at the end of the review.

Roy Adams, Lawrence Geraty, Miroslav Volt, and Henry B. Wright were the featured speakers at the annual, Adventist sponsored seminar in the First Congregational Church, adjacent to the campus of Fuller Theological Seminary. The theme of the conference was The Importance of Scripture for Contemporary Life.

A new Hope Channel media studio at Silver Spring “is the next step in the church’s digital communication commitment”.

The Wall Street investment income of the World Church is rebounding with the strengthening of the dollar. However, income from tithe and mission offerings has fallen off significantly. Officers are cautiously optimistic.

Bill Knott’s editorial, OF FABRIC AND FRENCH SILK, is a refreshing reminder that “that a healthy church community is formed of many more things than those a pastor may initially be interested in.”

In his editorial, HANDLING TRUTH, Stephen Chavez lauds Rotary’s “Four-Way Test of the things we think, say, or do. . .Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?”

The cover feature, A CULTURE HUNGRY FOR GOD, was written by Belinda Kent, a missionary who, along with her family, lived with the Iwam People of Papua New Guinea, for eight years. “Along with [my husband and] our three small boys, and later our new baby daughter, [we lived] in a 400-square-foot home, learned how to paddle dugout canoes, and climbed the log ladders into Iwam huts, where we visited and ate with them. We spent eight years playing, working, weeping, laughing, loving, and worshipping among them as we established a church planting movement.”

She writes from Berrien Springs, Michigan. “Rather than finding a culture around us antagonistic to spiritual life, we find a culture hungry to experience God, to figure out who He is, if He is real, and if He is relevant and meaningful to daily life. There is a search for a spirituality that is authentic, that improves relationships, and that is a wholistic faith. Unfortunately, for far too many, Christianity is not an option that fills these needs.*

“The problem with Western Christianity is that we’ve divorced the knowledge of God from our experience of God. We’ve reduced God to an idea and live life as if He doesn’t exist for us personally. We go to church a couple hours a week, and then go home, living the rest of our lives apart from experiencing Him—which results in a powerless Christianity.”

DOES GOD FEEL OUR PAIN? by Walter Booth is an essay that argues that we should be better able to deal with the pain and suffering and horror that “flesh is heir to” because God suffers with us. I’m always uneasy when people tell me what’s happening in God’s mind. What I do know is that Jesus healed people. I assume he did it because he was compassionate and they were suffering.

Melody Tan shares the following financial advice to young people GRADUATING FROM COLLEGE and all the rest of us!
  1. Open a bank account. . .and limit yourself to using money from that account only on “rainy days.”
  2. Shop around for a bank.
  3. Put money aside that is different from your dedicated savings account.
  4. Write it down. Know exactly how much money you have spent in a day and how much money you have left.
  5. When you see something that you want to buy, especially a big-ticket item, ask yourself if you really need it.
  6. Do you need a credit card? If you do, use your credit card as you would a debit card. Spend only what money you actually have.
  7. Choose friends wisely Friends who habitually get into debt will influence the way you spend.
  8. Get financial advice
THE LAST ENEMY by Clifford Goldstein is a beautiful essay about life and living and Christian hope. Here’s a taste.

“It’s weird: as I age I sense myself kind of, well, fading. High-pitched sounds bounce off my ears. I need thicker reading glasses to pull letters into my eyes. My muscle tone is dwindling. I’m even, I think, getting shorter! I used to have a head of rich-black, wavy hair that’s now gray, crinkly, thinning. With the exception of a metal plate and seven screws in my ankle (courtesy of a hockey injury last year), I’m evaporating (makes me think of James’s words about us being a “mist,” James 4:14). The only thing I’m adding is negative space, wrinkles—the graffiti of time, which constantly remind me that my stint here is just that, a stint.

“Yet again, that paradox: the longer I’m here, the more I put into this world and, thus, the greater its pull, even though there’s less of me to pull on.”

LIFE FOR LIFE by Doug Rennewanz is a story about a kidney transplant, a sister’s love, and a special blessing.

In THE TESTIMONY OF TWO WITNESSES, Hyveth Williams tells it like it is!
“Even on my servants, both men and women” will God’s Spirit be poured in the last days (Joel 2:29). The word “even” tells us how unusual this is, for it’s the very first time in the entire Old Testament that such an inclusive blessing is promised to slaves/servants. This word predicts that there will be no segregation in God’s true community of faith. And if we really are the remnant church, this will not be named or practiced among us.

“For when God planned to send His only begotten Son to die for the sin of the world, He also made provision that His Holy Spirit would be poured out in full measure on males as well as females, so there would be unity in His church, and all would freely share in His everlasting grace!” **

BOOKMARK is a review of the book, Parochialism, Pluralism: Challenges to Adventist Mission in Europe (19th–21st Centuries), Adventistica 9 edited by David J. B. Trim and Daniel Heinz, (Frankfurt/Main: Peter Lang, 2010), 208 pages, hardcover, $61.95, reviewed by Gerald A. Klingbeil, associate editor of Adventist Review.

“The book is divided into 15 chapters, written by 13 authors, and looks at Adventist mission to Europe from a historical as well as a missiological perspective. Trim’s helpful introduction (pp. 9-29), a good read and chockfull of insightful and challenging observations.”

AN OLD STARGAZER REMEMBERS. Robert G. Wearner reflects on 90 years of looking at the stars. As part of the celebration of his 90th birthday, he told his story to his grandchildren and us. Thanks Robert.

*Could this be one of the reasons Paul Young’s, The Shack, much maligned in this magazine, has been translated into over 30 languages and become a worldwide best seller?

**I was able to identify the faces and figures of 59 men in this issue and only 15 women. (I counted advertisements and used a magnifying glass.) The size of faces and figures favored men, also.

The INBOX included a letter from Richard Story in which he concludes, “Many have been drawn to a life of witchcraft and worshipping demons because of Harry Potter.” This is the kind of irrational, unsubstantiated rhetoric that makes Christians like me cringe, and nonChristians question the rationality, if not the sanity, of the speaker or writer. I am also prepared to wager that Mr. Story has not read any of the Harry Potter books.

In my opinion, and the opinions of the vast majority of children's book editors and critics, the Potter books belong in the same fantasy genre as Homer’s Odyssey, T. H. White’s The Sword in the Stone, Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising books, Lloyd Alexander’s Pridane Series, and L’Engles’ A Wrinkle in Time.

If the decision is made to ban books dealing with the supernatural, we would have to get rid of works by Shakespeare, A Christmas Carole by Charles Dickens, Walt Disney's Snow White and Cinderella, Milton’s Paradise Lost (one of Ellen White’s favorite literary sources), and The Chronicles of Narnia, by C. S. Lewis, where supernatural evil creatures are actually portrayed torturing and killing the defenseless Christ figure, Aslan.

If the claim is made that the Potter books lure children into witchcraft, it follows that the Shirley Temple movies set in the nineteenth century South teach young viewers to be slave holders, or, as John Monk, editorial writer for “The State,” in Columbia, South Carolina, opines “Treasure Island entices children to be pirates, or Peter Pan urges children to run away from home.”

WOMEN’S ORDINATION IS NOT ON THE GC SESION AGENDA because “a canvass of the church’s 13 world church divisions revealed only three willing to accept a change in the current policy of not ordaining women to pastoral ministry, and eight divisions reporting the move would negatively impact membership. Two other divisions apparently did not respond.”

I guess “negatively impacting membership” takes precedence over doing the right thing. There are two women who are ordained Adventist ministers in China because the communist state required these women to be ordained if they were to assume leadership positions. It is unconscionable that the presidents of divisions in areas of the world where women face demeaning and unholy discrimination have the authority to continue this worldwide practice for at least another five years, because “ordination under church bylaws is required before certain offices, including election to most executive leadership roles”.

These 10 Division Presidents should be fired for their failure to require their ministers and missionaries to include women as full partners in Christ’s Kingdom. Leave it to a woman to get it right as far as the qualifications for leadership are concerned:

“The greatest want of the world is the want of men—men who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.” (Ellen White, Education, page 57)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Speaking about the end of the world...

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

There is at least some truth in advertising!

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

Reviewing the Adventist Review

April 22, 2010
Vol. 187, No. 12

This issue celebrates a great Adventist institution, Loma Linda University’s School of Medicine. It has a special place in my heart because my sons are graduates. If you don’t subscribe to the Review, pick up a copy at your local church and read it from cover to cover. If Adventism has a future, this is its beating heart.

Celebrate the school’s 100th birthday. Subscribe to the Review and join the party!

Now the truth can be told. The editor cut out all the good stuff!

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

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Metaphysical Party Pooper

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

Say it isn’t so!

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

Reviewing the Adventist Review

April 15, 2010
Vol. 187, No. 10

This is an issue that straightforwardly attempts to deal with controversy. Bravo! Even though I believe that a literal interpretation of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, is irrational, at least the Review is talking about archeological evidence; even though I prefer the creation story in Genesis 2 as a more realistic and scientifically defensible account than a literal 7 day creation week chronicled in Genesis 1, the Review has offered a journalistically fair account of the controversy at La Sierra University; even though I believe that the Adventist Church’s position on homosexuality and gay rights is misguided and harmful, at least the Review is confronting this issue in feature articles.

However, what continues to drive me crazy is the use of unnamed sources and unsupported generalizations about “Adventist leaders who undercut the clear, Bible-based teaching of this church”, “thought leaders”, “these people” and some amorphous group referred to as “they” in Review editorials and articles, who are supposed to be enemies of all that’s holy. Come on, naming names is the next step to creating a real dialogue about important topics. Is this cloak of anonymity an attempt to protect “these people” from a mob of radicals that will attempt of destroy their reputations and get “them” fired if they happen to be employed by the Church?

If that is the case, shame on the Review and shame on the Adventist Church. It reminds me of Pilot washing his hands. It smacks of let the mob do the dirty work. Don’t ask, don’t tell is a policy that strikes at the very heart of the personal and corporate integrity that Gerald A. Klingbeil so ardently defends in his editorial. When this unattributed “they” occurs, it makes me cringe as a former English teacher and ashamed to be a Seventh-day Adventist.

The “evolution controversy still simmers at La Sierra University. This report by Mark a. Kellner is fair-minded and up-to-date. Reader, get the facts here.

Evangelism in South America involves big programs and huge member support.

Virginia Fagel, a cofounder of Faithfor Today with her husband, William, died on February 25 of this year. She was 92.

Even though Timor-Leste (formerly known as East Timor) is 98 percent Roman Catholic, the government has pledged to honor religious freedom.

Gerald A. Klingbeil’s editorial, INTEGRITY, is a challenge to match our Christian talk with our Christian walk. He asks the question: “Do people around me, outside of our faith community, see integrity in my words and (more important) deeds? Is integrity only an important discussion point in our Bible studies or sermons but difficult to discern when we interact with the people around us?”
In FROM THE MOUTHS OF BABES Wilona Karimabadi’s reminds the reader why Jesus liked to be around little children.
UP IS DOWN AND LEFT IS RIGHT is not a liberal editorial. David Tasker uses the story of Jonah to reflect. “Instead of trying to gain the upper hand of the ups and downs of an unstable world economy, and instead of becoming passionate about either the left or the right wing of politics (or church), maybe it is time to identify God’s direction for us and to recognize Him for what He is—the passionate Redeemer, eager for the great family reunion He has promised.”
Jimmy Phillips recalls THE RELIEF OF FORGIVENESS in South Africa, at a moment at the end of a rugby match, when choices created forgiveness. “In that moment 27 years of anguish were wiped away because one man [Nelson Mandela] had made three choices: to forgive those who’d wronged him, to let go of the bitterness inside, and to change—proving that the forgiveness was real.”

MEET @ THE TEXT by Andy Nash is a wrenching disappointment. In his attempt to find a way to promote dialogue between Adventists with different views about biblical scholarship, he generalizes about the motives, scholarship, and “spiritual insight” of those who don’t see things his way. Those of opposing views are the unnamed “they” in the extensive quotation that follows. Ironically, Desmond Ford, himself a highly controversial interpreter of Scripture, is consulted with regard to biblical exegesis.

“Are they sure they want to go down this road? Until recently, scholars also cast doubt on whether a King David existed. Researchers may have found independent, archaeological evidence of King David’s palace itself. Are we not allowed to believe in the biblical text until it’s been independently confirmed?

“To be honest, I don’t really know what to do with this approach to Scripture—the idea that we can set aside clear biblical teachings because we think we understand more now. This seems much different to me, much more dangerous, than grappling with the meaning of a text.

“Out of curiosity, I decided to see what Desmond Ford, the controversial figure of Adventism’s great theological debate of the 1980s, thought about these things. Last winter I emailed him in Australia. Here’s what he wrote back:

“’These examples that you used present an attitude toward Scripture that the Christian Church has repudiated for 2,000 years. These men have given the Word of God a nose of wax. The best of evangelical scholars in other communions would be horrified by these departures.’

“Do you see the irony here? At times, this movement has struggled to make room for those who took a high view of Scripture, who grappled with the biblical text but arrived at different conclusions. Yet today we have ‘thought leaders’ willing to set aside major teachings of Scripture altogether. Incidentally, these aren’t dull minds we’re talking about; they’re very bright. In fact—and here’s the great tragedy—these are the people who are supposed to be carrying the torch for the deep study of the Word of God.

“What the Adventist left seem to overlook is that spiritual things are spiritually discerned. You can’t always quantify and qualify the Word of God. Instead, you enter into it by faith and by prayer. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned.

In FACING A NEW REALITY, Marcel Schantes remembers the moment when he realized that clothes, cars, and women were not enough.
REACHING OUT by Wayne Blakely is an Adventist homosexual’s account of his struggle to act in accordance with his convictions.

“Jesus calls everyone to self-denial. The road for the single heterosexual is no different from that of a same-sex attracted individual. Each of us is called to celibacy unless God leads us to that very special person of the opposite sex. Temptation may be as enticing as the shiny fruit was to Eve, but we don’t need or require it. We may want it, but we’ve been warned and are directed to obedience instead of worshiping self.

“As it is with all controversial topic discussions, we must be grounded in knowing the truth Jesus gave us to live by. God’s Word does not need to be rewritten, and the church’s manual and guidelines for the church body should remain intact.

“Many people struggle with this life issue, but if we prayerfully seek God’s counsel in His Word and lovingly reflect His love to all sinners, we can break the silence, bridge the gap, and welcome them into a loving, supportive community in which they can experience the freedom that only Jesus gives.”

Blakely is happy to communicate directly with readers. To contact him, email
LOSING “WALDO”, FINDING JESUS, is the fascinating story of a Little Rascal. Mark A. Kellner tells the story of a child star that became an Adventist pastor.

“For most Americans, the name Ken Smith meant very little when the news flash came in May 2002: a hit-and-run accident had taken the life of the 72-year-old Smith, who as “Darwood Kaye” had a continuing role as snooty rich kid Waldo in the Our Gang movie serials.

Luca Marulli, a student at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, reviewed THE CREATION HEALTH BREAKTHROUGH, by Monica Reed, M.D., CEO of Florida Hospital Celebration Health, hardcover, published by Hachette Book Group, New York.

“As a board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist, Dr. Monica Reed has been promoting health and well-being in various ways, such as through her directorship of the Loch Haven OB/GYN group, her lectures at annual meetings of the National Medical Association, and her appearances on television (ABC and NBC affiliate channels) for medical news reports.
“Reed’s emphasis on wholistic health and prevention through behavioral change is well documented by her contribution to creating the innovative Florida Hospital Celebration Health, opened in 1997, at which she serves as chief executive officer (CEO).”
CHURCH TRENDS is Monte Sahlin's latest column on great resources reporting on Adventist church trends.

“The median age for the Seventh-day Adventist community in North America is 51, about 15 years older than the median age among the general population. It is called 'the graying of Adventism.' Most local churches have a large percentage of older people, and this lopsided demographic will continue to grow as 70 million baby boomers retire throughout the coming decades.

“We get concerned about the lack of youth, but plentiful numbers of retired people is not a bad thing! People who have worked long hours all their adult life now have time to invest in Christ’s mission and the church.

‘Pacific Press Publishing Association recently began a journal specifically for Adventists who are at or near retirement. It is published on the Web, and you can access it at
“The Senior Adult Ministries Quick Start Guide is a great tool to begin planning and development. You can get a copy from AdventSource at or (800) 328-0525.

“The Retirement Years is a compilation from Ellen White’s writings that is available from your local Adventist Book Center at or (800) 765-6955.The Center for Creative Ministry provides a number of resources for reconnecting ministry at or (800) 272-4664.”
THE UPSIDE OF KNOWLEDGE by Mark A. Kellner is a revelation of who he is: the kind of reporter who is an informed tekkie and on top of stories as they break. Most of you know that Mark is the News Editor of the Review and Adventist World Magazines. (What you may not know is that he is a very nice guy. I know. He called me on the phone to point out a mistaken attribution when this blog was in its infancy, and he followed up that conversation with an email informing me that I had misspelled a name when I made the correction!)

Mark “sincerely and deeply believe(s) that God has indeed guided the growth of technology, its development, and, dare I say, revelation to the inventors and pioneers of the past century in order for Christians, and specifically Seventh-day Adventists, to take advantage and bring the gospel to more and more people.”

Obviously Moses didn't consult his wife.

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

Thursday, May 6, 2010

This is something earthbound Adventists shouldn’t make jokes about. In Heaven, it’s OK.

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

Reviewing Adventist Today

Spring 2010
Vol. 18, No. 2

I live in hope that the next issue of AT will be brilliant. I’m still hoping. This issue is only marginally better than the last, but the copyediting is sloppy; (Authors deserve better help.) theological arguments are, for the most part, irrational, esoteric, poorly organized, and unconvincing; and the issues discussed have little relevance to an Adventist world on the brink of a General Conference. Finally, editors, why is Desmond Ford getting so many pages?

The title of J. David Newman’s editorial, CHURCH INSTITUTIONS ARE NOT NECESSARILY CHRISTIAN. The title should read, Are Adventist Institutions Christian Enough? Newman argues that the Gospel commission is not just to do good, i.e. “heal the sick, feed the poor, comfort the afflicted”. The Gospel commission “was to preach ‘the good news of the kingdom’, and part of [Christ’s] method was ‘healing every disease and sickness among the people’”(Matt. 4:23, NIV).

Newman believes that unselfish benevolence is an entering wedge, “a means to a greater goal”. Is it? Or is unselfish benevolence itself a proclamation of the Gospel?

The question, IS GOD IMMORAL? Bedevils every Christian theologian who assumes that the god of the Old Testament is really the God revealed in the New. They go to great irrational, convoluted, horrifying lengths to make the god of Numbers 31, the one that ordered the murder of boys and encouraged to the Israelite army to rape and murder girls and women*, Jesus himself. “If you have seen me, you have seen the father,” doesn’t seem to compute for these folks. Desmond Ford is no exception. He quotes Thomas Scott to support his position.

“The sword of war should spare women and children, as incapable of resisting; but the sword of justice knows no distinction, except that of guilty or not guilty, and more or less guilty. This was the execution of a righteous sentence upon a guilty nation, in which the women were the principal criminals; and perhaps particular instructions had been given on this head: therefore Moses was angry, when he found that the women had been spared. If those concerned in the detestable project of Balaam had been preserved as captives, they would have been a constant temptation to the people and they could not be known from the rest except by miracle.

“Orders were therefore given to put all the women to death, and the male children, and only to spare the female children who could not be supposed to have been culpable; and who, being brought up among the Israelites, would not tempt them to idolatry. It has been groundlessly asserted that Moses authorized the Israelites to make concubines of the whole number of female children, or even promiscuously to debauch them; and a formidable objection against his writings have been grounded on this strange supposition. But the whole tenor of the law and especially a statute hereafter to be considered proves the contrary (Deut. 21:10-14).

“They were merely permitted to possess them as female slaves; while all the laws concerning marriage and concubinage, and against fornication and whoredom, were in full force, in this, as well as in other cases. But what shall we say of the execution of all the male infants who could not personally be guilty in this matter? … Had they lived, they might have conspired to avenge the death of their parents on Israel: and the example was thus rendered more tremendous, warning parents not to imitate the guilt of the Midianites, lest they should involve their beloved offspring in destruction. … It should also be remembered that children are constantly involved in the desolations occasioned by famines, pestilences and earthquakes.” (Thomas Scott, Commentary on the Holy Bible)

Ford also claims to speak for all philosophers when he asserts, “Philosophers are agreed that evil itself would be no problem if there were no God. All moral outrage is irrational unless the background premise of thought is the existence of Deity. So it is belief in God that creates evil in all its forms.” Really? Belief in God creates evil?

Ford also has difficulty differentiating the difference between literary allusion and reality except when Jesus alludes to a hell Ford doesn’t believe in.

“But there is absolutely nothing in the Old Testament so horrifying as our Lord’s words recorded in Mark 9:42-49: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea.

“And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. … And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. … And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. For every one will be salted with fire” (RSV).

Finally, Desmond Ford should be reminded that God was unable to explain evil to Job. He could only remind his suffering servant that He existed.

* Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man. (Numbers 31: 17, 18)

THE CANVASBACK CONSPIRACY: A TRIBUTE TO SYDNEY ALLEN authored by his son Edward, had the potential to be at least a cautionary history lesson involving Adventist politics at and around Loma Linda University. Instead, his tribute became entangled in his father’s famous insider fable and became a morass of explanations about which animals were who, rather than a fitting tribute to an extraordinary man. (Editors, get your thumbs out!)

Once again, PROPHECY AND SCARE TACTICS by T. Joe Willey had the potential to great. Unfortunately, editorial guidance was lacking. Fortunately, the following story justifies the read (perhaps even the issue), which includes an evangelist’s take on prophecy’s role in evangelism and the church.

Joe discovered his dad’s rolled up evangelistic posters when he was cleaning out his garage, and invited his him over to comment on what he’d found.

“The [largest] poster read: The Devil Boycotts These Meetings!!! Standing there, my curiosity sprang up—the temptation too much—and I broke into his thoughts. “How did you use this poster, Pops?” He continued standing in silence, gathering up bits of strewn memory, and then he cocked his head to one side like a raven that has just seen its image in a mirror.

“We rented a bright-red devil suit with horns and a long, curved tail from a Halloween costume store downtown,” he said. “The deacon in the church put on The devil suit and walked back and forth in front of the tent, carrying this sign over his shoulder. He had a pitchfork in his other hand. People would drive by, slow down, gawk, then speed away like misfortune was about to strike. At first the deacon got to jumping up and down on the sidewalk, shaking his fist, and
frightening people away. So we had to subdue his ardor as a pretend devil. Some came in out of curiosity. If they listened to 10 sermons, we gave them a free Bible.”

“We continued talking about how an evangelist in his day gathered precious souls for the kingdom of God using shifting prophetic headlines. After a time I jokingly asked him, “Pops, I know you never meant to scare anyone using fictitious prophecies, but have you ever thought about taking out a full-page ad in Newsweek or Time magazine? You could apologize to the general public for frightening them with false and troublesome prophecies that were so readily replaced by new canvases of eschatological artworks after the war.”

“The kind of man who enjoys a ribbing, my dad put his hands in his pockets and looked at me firmly with his jaw set. ‘I need to explain something to you, young man,” he said, using a quaint Scandinavian accent he liked to mimic. “Prophecy cannot fail and does not fail for the committed! Prophecy is used to show that the world is governed by Providence. The bows and arrows found in Ezekiel are changed in modern times to tanks, rockets, and atom bombs. When people start believing that prophecy fails or they lose their prophetic enthusiasm, their convictions soften and they are likely to stay in the church simply because the church becomes institutionalized with many layers of management and security. Viewed this way, such an institution likes long-term commitments from the congregants, but not the prospect of imminent danger or the end of the world.’”

CHANGING THE WORLD by Shawn Brace deserves to be a backup piece to be shortened and included only at the last moment if, due to miscalculation, it is discovered that one more page is needed for the folio. The moral is, “Pastors, don’t neglect your families in your attempts to change the world.” To make maters worse, the copyediting is abysmal. It’s too painful to document every instance, but I offer just one sentence fragment as an example. “I can remember a few months ago when I flew across the country for a speaking engagement.”

OPEN COMMUNION? WHY NOT THE KIDS by James Coffin is another backup piece. The title says it all. It certainly doesn’t deserve the full page, very cool graphic that accompanies it.

What is obvious to any but the most uninformed, would appear to require no further research. However, DEATH BEFORE SIN is Ole C. Olsen’s attempt to discover “whether or not one could remain rooted in the Bible and still believe that death came before Adam’s sin”. Could this idea be supported from the Bible or Ellen White? After an extensive search, Olsen could come up with only a few “distinctly minority interpretations” that just might support the idea. If these unlikely interpretations were accepted as plausible:

“Creation week” could easily cease to be a six-day event, even though clearly written with that viewpoint in mind.

“The Garden of Eden could be seen as an outpost, a heavenly beachhead on a planet already filled with life and death (but not second death)—a promise of what the whole world could become under Adam’s dominion. (Note the strong parallel to Adventist expectations that the Holy City, New Jerusalem, will
arrive on earth, surrounded by Satan’s final rebellion, at the end of the Millennium.)

“The “death” brought by Adam’s (and Eve’s) sin could be seen as that of “second death”—accountability before our Creator— rather than “temporal death, for all must suffer this.”

“The origins of death and fossils could predate Adam and Eve.

“Any such pre-Adam, “temporal” death could be seen as originating on earth after the fall of Lucifer; hence, after sin— just not Adam’s sin.

“The atonement of Jesus as the Messiah could then be focused on Adam and Eve and their descendents as well as a world that still agonizes for “the Creator’s glorious plan” to be fulfilled.

“Finally, sharing the good news of the gospel could need to include admitting that God somehow tolerated eons of adaptation, predation, disease and extinction, before initiating his plan for eternal life in the Garden of Eden.

“We could feel forced to become “agnostic” (if not evolutionary) as to the origins of “natural” life that predated Adam.”

“In summary, there appears to be a little “wiggle room” for a longer story than I like. It appears to me that a believer can still treasure the Bible and value Ellen White even though one is convinced that there was life on earth millions of years ago. Many who attended my Sabbath School class expressed their appreciation that I had opened that possibility.” Whew!

GENERAL CONFERECE: LIVING IN HOPE is a call to account, even if “we don’t have a prophetic messenger”. Alden Thompson assures us that “we [Adventists] know what we have to do” when we get together, but his only admonition is to maintain “the rules of courtesy and Christian deportment” and pray when we get home, as counseled by Ellen White in 1901. Is that asking too much? Is that enough?

James Coffin reviews The Greatest of All the Prophets by Russell R., and Colin D. Standish, (Rapidan, VA: Hartland Publications, 2004), 411 pages.

The review is titled a BLAST FROM THE PAST, and it most certainly is. Why the editors decided that this book warranted a three page review is a mystery to me. The authors of The Greatest of All the Prophets defend Ellen G. White’s inerrant prophetic role and denounce “those who’ve sought to paint a more human and fallible picture of her prophetic ministry.”

Coffin continues, “While I find the overall spirit of The Greatest of All the Prophets objectionable, I sympathize with the authors on several points. The theology the Standishes espouse is the theology with which I grew up. The triumphalism, legalism, perfectionism, judgmentalism, exclusivism, and isolationism—that’s my perception, at least—were all part of my spiritual instruction. The book Questions on Doctrine was anathematized in my home church.”

“Perhaps surprisingly, I’d recommend that people who are interested in either Adventist theology or Adventist history read it—despite its excesses. . .My guess is that a lot of younger Adventists, even pastors, have never encountered the theology defended by the Standishes. If for no other reason, they should examine it because it is part of our denomination’s history.” In addition, it might help them better understand the publications of the Adventist Theological Society and the Biblical Research Institute.

7 QUSTIONS FOR HERB DOUGLASS is the first interview by Marcel Schwantes that is a waste of time. Marcel seems satisfied with Douglass’ tired clich├ęs randomly inserted in meaningless blather.

ADVENTIST MAN is his usual irreverent self as he comments on resumes, salvation, the last days, and pacts with the devil. Once again, the caped crusader soars above an issue of Adventist Today that breaks my heart.


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