Thursday, October 28, 2010

Going Forward By Candlelight

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

Reviewing the Adventist Review

October 14, 2010

Vol. 187, No. 33


This issue has earned an above average rating. There are four mildly critical letters to the editors, Roy Adams says goodbye, and Loren Seibold and Fredrick A. Russell have contributed MUST READ editorials. The Norma Nashed story is also a MUST READ.

The cover feature, Grace, Free Will, and Judgment by Whidden was a disappointment as was How to Read Stories, Rituals, Laws, and Poems in the Pentateuch by Klingbeil. More about that later.


Adventists supplied the Chilean Miners with mini-Bibles and Adventist pastor Parra Diaz became the de facto chaplain at the rescue sight.

Christchurch, New Zealand Adventists escaped serious injury in a 7.1 earthquake. Sanitarium Health Food headquarters and factory, churches, and school escaped significant structural damage.

Mount Ellis Academy in Bozeman, Montana, stands to gain $500,000 to make needed repairs to a decades-old pluming system. The school finished tenth in an online voting contest sponsored by Kohl’s department store.

The radio station of Southwestern Adventist University is back on the air less than a year after a disastrous lightning strike.


OUR BIGGEST NAD CRISIS ISN’T THEOLOGICAL—IT’S RELATIONAL by Loren Seibold is first up because of its importance. It was difficult not to quote more extensively, but I hope the following selections will paint the picture.

“I hear stories…of churches that have lost all their young people, of pastors seeking calls to escape unending criticism, of soul-numbing conflicts about worship styles and theology.”

“Small churches, it seems to me, are especially in trouble. The majority of North American Division (NAD) churches—actually, nearly two thirds of them—have fewer than 100 members. There are fewer people to soften the impact of even the smallest crisis.”

“I like to visit churches when I travel. Being a lifelong Adventist, I don’t let unfriendliness, or embarrassing things said by a preacher or Sabbath school teacher, or the shabbiness of the building, or the absence of anyone between the ages of 12 and 35, push me away. Still, I can’t help asking myself: ‘If I were a stranger with no background in our faith who’d come here today, would I join this congregation?’ "

“I don’t know exactly why we’re in this situation. Perhaps it’s because we’ve attended more to beliefs than relationships, have more concern for dogma than people. Perhaps we’re self-focused, more concerned with our own orthodoxy than we are about serving others. Maybe we’ve grown organizationally old and therefore not as flexible to adjust to changing times.”

“Many church leaders live among large, well-resourced congregations and may not be aware of the crisis further afield…The Adventist presence is static or declining in many towns and cities, and even in some major metropolitan areas. Too many of our young adults aren’t staying: the average age of church members in all but a few areas of Adventist concentration is about 50.2”

“I wonder what kind of church we’ll be when only a handful of larger congregations in North America can keep the loyalty of thoughtful young Seventh-day Adventists?”

Roy Adams reflects on the past twenty-two years in his final editorial, OUR TIME TOGETHER.

“I’ve often thought that God made me an editor to keep me from exploding. My mind, you see, is constantly probing, reflecting, dreaming. And it would be difficult to imagine all these thoughts, dreams, and reflections piling up in the system with no outlet. My work at the Review provided an outlet, a vent, a medium to share…My prayer then was for wisdom—“To know when to speak and when not to. What to say and what not to. How to say it and how not to. Which issues to cover and which to leave alone.” And I prayed for “courage to say it. With dignity and courtesy and tact.” Did I succeed? The Lord alone will judge that. But I’ve enjoyed our time together.

THIS FORGOTTEN DAY IS ONE TO REMEMBER according to Mark Kellner. “October 14–the cover date of this Adventist Review–didn’t exist some 418 years ago in several notable places: the nations of Italy, Poland, Portugal, and Spain. That’s because 1582 saw much of the world shift from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, and several days just dropped off that year. One of these was October 14, 1582. Reading about that reminded me of another “missing” day for many around the globe: the Bible Sabbath day.”

Fredrick A. Russell argues in THE SHERROD AFFAIR that what happened to Shirley Sherod, the USDA employee who was forced out of her job a couple of months ago after she was falsely accused of racism, is the tip of a racist iceberg.

“The racially tinged conversations emanating from some radio talk show hosts, coupled with the nightly cable television talkfest [reveals] 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.

“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.”

GRACE, FREE WILL, AND JUDGMENT by Woodrow W. Widden II was a disappointment. The article might have been fascinating, but the narrative and message were obscured by trivial details and bureaucratic language. Nonetheless, the following quote almost saved the day.

Arminius offered “some sage counsel about the seemingly endless disputes over the perfection issue that should positively resonate with Seventh-day Adventist Arminians of ‘the heart’: ‘I think the time may be far more happily and usefully employed in prayers to obtain what is lacking in each of us, and in serious admonitions that every one endeavor to proceed and press forward towards the mark of perfection, than when spent in such disputations.’ ”

ONE WOMAN’S MISSION reported by Dittu Abraham is the story of Norma Nashed and her quest to look after children in troubled places around the world. “The story of Reaching Hearts for Kids (RHK), a Maryland-based nonprofit organization, is the story of how one woman lives her dream of selfless service to orphans in thirteen countries.”

In I CALL HIM MY GOD, Elena Olson King talks about discovering a God who is all hers. “The word “my” clarifies, intensifies, and determines. I call Him my God. Of course, He is the God, but He created me. He answers my cries. He protects me. He heals my hurts. He forgives me.

HOW TO READ STORIES, RITUALS, LAWS, AND POEMS IN THE PENTATEUCH by Gerald A. Klingbeil was another disappointment. Exciting questions and controversies died under the weight of advice about “how to read effectively”. Poetry was not mentioned.

“As we linger longer with unfamiliar text types and spend time with God’s Word, something will happen. Pieces will fall into place. When we know what to look for and how to read effectively, God’s Spirit will be able to talk to our hearts and minds. Suddenly, what used to be boring and dry becomes engaging and challenging and we read not only with understanding but with enthusiasm.”

Andy Nash offers an important insight into the meaning of John 21 and the mind of an insecure disciple in THE THINGS OF PETER. “The driving issue in Peter’s life wasn’t how he stacked up against the other disciples. The issue was how his plans stacked up against Jesus’ plans.”

Monte Sahlin is an invaluable resource when it comes to recommending TOOLS OF THE TRADE. In this issue he recommends The Radical Teachings of Jesus by Derek Morris to prep for those moments when a nonAdventist asks you what you believe; Loving Them Back, Leading Them Home by Barry Gane; No More Excuses: Domestic Violence by Mable Dunbar; and the Andrews Study Bible.

According to Sahlin, if you “are you looking for a way to stay in touch with the names you collected? Hamblin’s Outreach Publishing Enterprises (an ASI organization) provides an excellent, four-page, full-color mailer that can be sent regularly to these contacts. The back panel can be imprinted with announcements of your local activities. For more information call (800) 274-0016.”

HAPPINESS BOOKS LONGEST-RUNNING ASI PROJECT is a report by Harold Lance thatPacific Press Publishing Association recently reprinted a 100,000-copy run of Ellen White’s book Prophets and Kings from the ASI Happiness Book series. Prophets and Kings is the eighth and final volume of the series.”

Wayne Hamra learned some LESSONS FROM BAMBOO on the campus of Chiang Mai Adventist Academy in northern Thailand. It turns out that removing the stumps of trees is easier than cutting “through what were the massive root clumps found where bamboo thickets had once thrived”.

“As we dug and chopped I began to wonder if bamboo clumps may illustrate God’s purpose for His church. As individuals we often more closely resemble frail bamboo canes than sturdy hardwoods. Yet when linked together to pool and share our resources with those in need, a collection of weak individuals may become formidable, indeed, almost indestructible. In the words of Aesop, the Greek slave and fable author (620–560 B.C.): ‘United we stand, divided we fall.’ ”

Frightening Folks With the Good News

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

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Props for Pitman

Andy, I’ve been reading and re-reading Dr. Pitman’s reply to your letter and to your recent editorial chiding Spectrum for descending to gesture towards “Wilsonites.” Your editorial was, as intended, provocative, provoking in most of us correspondingly focused and exercised responses. But Dr. Pitman’s response was not that.

Of all the polarizing issues Dr. Pitman could have centered on, he looked only at your mutual awe of nature, and consequent moods and reactions. Clearly and unashamedly, as I read him, Dr. Pitman receives the awesomeness of nature as evidence of God, as religious, rather than as impersonal, academic reactionary morality. To him the distinction is crucial.

Dr. Pitman can be all-out polemic when he needs to be, believe me (, but in his reply to you – and there could be no more fitting occasion – he demonstrates, I think, that extraordinarily thoughtful and thinking SDA academic Gensis-1 creationists – yes, Virginia, there are not a few – can be religious and sympathetic and courteous, forbearing of adjectives, in debate.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ted, it was more than a “bumpy start”!

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

Reviewing Adventist World, NAD Edition

October 2010

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.

This issue has an extended CHURCH WORKS section that includes a Bill Knott editorial, information about the church’s latest mobile website, a report that 34 Africans received their Doctor of Ministry degrees from Babcock University in Nigeria, a sermon by Ted N. C. Wilson, and an account of Tim Wolfer’s documentary, Taking Haiti Home. NAD LETTERS includes props for the article, Jakob Erzberger: The Forgotten Pioneer, by a good friend and PUC classmate, Arleen Downing.

The rest of the issue includes an Adventist World Radio insert, some interesting historical pieces, and reformation and revival statements that warrant a comment.

It’s clear that Ted Wilson’s “reformation theology” is being pushed at all levels of the church. Bonnie Dwyer reports from Annual Council in Spectrum blog.

“There was no tent for this revival meeting. Officially called Annual Council, it took place at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. But there were plenty of prayers and calls to stand for Jesus as the executive committee of the denomination met for its annual business meeting in Silver Spring, Maryland this week.

“Newly elected president Ted N.C. Wilson fashioned the session to jumpstart the revival and reformation that he is calling for during his administration.

“Monday morning deliberations began with two hours of devotion and prayer that concluded with the reading of a five-page document titled “God’s Promised Gift: An Urgent Appeal for Revival, Reformation, Discipleship, and Evangelism.” The delegates lined up at the microphones to affirm the findings of the document and make suggested changes. Wilson’s call for a vote was to ask those who agreed to kneel in prayer.

“With that vote, the representatives committed themselves to personally set aside time daily for prayer and study of God’s word as well as encouraging prayer and Bible study in the churches.

“’We appeal to each church member to unite with church leaders and millions of other Seventh-day Adventists seeking a deeper relationship with Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at 7:00 each morning or evening, seven days a week. This is an urgent call to circle the globe with earnest intercession. This is a call to total commitment to Jesus and to experience the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit that our Lord is longing to give now.’”

In WALKING IN PAUL’S FOOTSTEPS, Wilson further outlines what has now become orthodox Adventist theology, by claiming that the words of Paul on Mars Hill, "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands,” (Acts 7:24) “demonstrate that Paul understood and endorsed the Biblical account of creation, and that he was explaining a creation of recent origin that occurred in six, literal, consecutive, 24-hour days.”

Wilson goes on to assert that, “There is to be no pluralism and loss of mission focus in God’s ranks. We will be united in theology and mission as we are personally and corporately connected to Jesus Christ.”

In his editorial, THE INCENDIARY FELLOWSHIP, Bill Knott establishes his bonafides as an official acolyte with a call for “incendiary fellowship” that prevents Satan from casting “his hellish shadow between brethren”.

“So step closer to the fire, my friends. Decide to be part of the new Pentecost God is now lighting among His people. The heart you find on fire will surely be your own.”

Roy Adams joins the official revival and reformation chorus in UNDERSTANDING THE WORD.

“The Creation story is what it is—a factual, historical account of the origin of the human family, an indispensible plank in what biblical theologians call Heilsgeschichte (“salvation history”); but in the wake of the Fall, Creation also points us to God’s re-creation in Jesus Christ. The Exodus is what it is—a factual account of the rescue of Israel from Egyptian slavery.”

Mark A. Finley’s Bible Study, PRESERVING THE FAITH, has also found a comfortable home in this issue. “Abraham’s faith was so good it worked. Living faith—genuine, authentic faith—always leads us to do exactly what God says.”

Unexpectedly, CAN WE TALK by Angel Manuel Rodríguez introduces a voice of reason as he discusses the issue of women’s ordination.

“So what’s next? We should work and pray for healing. The debate among theologians indicates that in this particular case the Bible is not as clear as some may think. Both groups should keep this in mind. Theologians in particular have contributed to the problem by being dogmatic in their views and unwilling to listen to each other.

“Perhaps the time has come for all of us to sit together, look at the issue in a spirit of service to the church as the body of Christ, and pray for healing in an effort to see where the Spirit is leading. This will require humility and willingness to work together in building up the church.

In SYMPTOMS OF A STROKE Allan R. Handysides & Peter N. Landless provide their usual invaluable information about stroke and triglyceride levels.

WHAT’S IN A NAME by James R. Nix is the story of how the name, Seventh-day Adventist, came into being.

MISSION MATTERS by Stephen Chavez is a well-written historical account of what the Adventist Church has accomplished in the last 20 years.

INTRIGUING PEOPLE WITH GOD’S ANSWERS by Eldyn Karr is another historical piece chronicling the 80-year history of the Voice of Prophecy. Its website, is the most widely accessed Adventist site in the world.

Commentary by Vuvuzela

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

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Dr. Pitman Responds

Editor's note: This is in response to an earlier post.

Hi Andy,

Feel free to post my response or use it as you see fit.

Sorry for the delay in getting back to you regarding your letter and request for conversation on the topic of origins (one of my favorites as you know). I have been very busy of late. Just got back from giving a series of talks on origins and my work is also quite busy. In any case, I'd like to respond, in particular, to something you said in your letter that struck me as especially interesting. You wrote:

"I stand in awe of the natural world. Its mysteries amaze, confound and inspire me, and I want to understand it as completely as my intellect permits. However, scientific discoveries in no way influence my personal religious beliefs. They are moral choices, influenced primarily by my understanding of the life and teachings of Christ and an inner voice."

In this passage it seems like you suggest that your beliefs regarding the workings of the natural world in no way influence or affect your religious beliefs. This is interesting to me because many of what I would call my own religious beliefs are in fact influenced by what I think I understand about the natural world. Morality, on the other hand, is not the same thing to me as "religion" in my understanding of the term. After all, even atheists can be morally upright "good" people - many of whom we will no doubt see in Heaven someday...

Because of this, I don't believe that morality is based on knowledge, but on motive. Useful religion, on the other hand, is based on knowledge. This is because religion, at least the Christian religion as I understand it, is based on the understood reality of the Gospel's "Good News". One doesn't have to like or appreciate the Gospel in order for one to understand its reality. After all, we are told that even the devils believe, and tremble (James 2:19).

It seems then that a solid rational basis for a belief in the Gospel message of hope in an eternally bright literal future for all who live according to the Royal Law (a motive-based Law by the way) must be based on some sort of empirical, physical, universally-available evidence.

If one doesn't have or understand this evidence, one may be a very good and moral person indeed - and therefore in a saving relationship with God. However, such a person will not have a conscious hope in the Gospel's message. While such individuals will no doubt find themselves in Heaven someday, and be very surprised to be there by the way, how much better would it have been for them in this life to have understood the reality of the Gospel's message of hope? How much more tolerable the trials and struggles that we all experience? How much closer a relationship with God here and now?

It is for this reason that I work so hard to spread the message of hope that is found in the Gospel as more than a good moral fable... but a solid reality based on the significant weight of generally available empirical evidence.

Thanks again for your thoughts and time.

Sincerely yours,


P.S. If you have a specific question or comment regarding something I've written on my website, by all means feel free to send it over...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I had this dream!

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

Reviewing the Adventist Review

September 23, 2010
Vol. 187, No. 32

This issue of the Review is comprised of devotional WEEK OF PRAYER READINGS for adults and children prefaced by a MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT of the General Conference, Ted N. C. Wilson

A People Who Look Forward in Anticipation: What it means to wait for the Lord by Ted C. Wilson

A People Who Are Happy and at Peace: How Jesus transforms our personal lives and our life together by Gina Wahlen

A People Confident in the Promises of God: Christians can have assurance in uncertain times by Miguel Luna

A People Empowered by the Holy Spirit: If not now, when? By Erton Carlos Kohler

A People Who are Holy and Blameless: We are called to reflect the likeness of Jesus by Chantal J. Klingbeil
A People Who Have Surrendered All to Jesus: How do we respond to God's many blessings? by G. Edward Reid

A People Who Endure: Holding fast till He comes by Douglas Jacobs
Accepted in the Beloved: A meditation on Ephesians 1:1-6 by Ellen G. White

Children of Hope: Special Week of Prayer readings for children by Jean Kellner

The world can be a dangerous place, even for vegans.

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

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Seriously though, Andy, “tribal,” “primitive,” “mindless”?

My review of the summer issue of Spectrum produced a response from Wes Kime that resulted in the following letter to Sean Pitman, and an email from Wes, posted here with his permission.

Dear Dr. Pitman,
My name is Andrew Hanson. Until 5 semesters ago, I was an Education Professor at Cal State Chico. I am a friend and admirer of Wes Kime. He suggested that I contact you.

He mentioned that your views regarding a young earth are being trashed by both the left and right. The left, because of your scientific argument for a young earth and your literal interpretation of Genesis 1. The right, because you use science to support your position and your belief that evolutionary theory should be taught and challenged “scientifically” in SDA universities and colleges.

Wes and I disagree, sometimes passionately, about whether the Genesis stories of creation are literally true, but we both agree that the creation debate should be a debate in which Adventist scientists, biblical scholars, and laypersons present their evidence and arguments in a public, uncensored, collegial, respectful, and loving arena in which name calling and mud-slinging are not tolerated. In this conversation, there would be no winners or losers; “agree” and “disagree” would be the official substitute for “right” and “wrong”.

In my recent review of Spectrum Magazine, I characterize the Ted Wilson faithful as a primitive Adventist tribe who openly declare science as an enemy of Truth in the evolution/creation debate, at least that was my intent. Wes interpreted my characterization differently, and referred me to your very impressive website in an attempt to prove that “Genesis 1 people” are not ignorant or stupid. Wes and Sean, that was never my intention.

My position is that scientific debate is exciting and informative. It is an arena in which there can only be winners as long as the intent of all concerned is to extend our knowledge of God’s Second Book and bring Adventist theology into conformity with the best present understanding of inspiration.

I stand in awe of the natural world. Its mysteries amaze, confound and inspire me, and I want to understand it as completely as my intellect permits. However, scientific discoveries in no way influence my personal religious beliefs. They are moral choices, influenced primarily by my understanding of the life and teachings of Christ and an inner voice.

By the way, in my attempt to understand of the natural world, I have included “Nature” as a title under the SECTIONS rubric on the right side of my blog. I have included 4 natural occurrences that seem to me to challenge the explanations of both creationists and evolutionists. Sean, if you would like to take a shot at an explanation or two, I would be further in your debt.

I look forward to your reply and hope that it will lead to an ongoing conversation.

Andrew Hanson

Dear Andy,
Funny thing happened on your way to the Advent Forum the other day, when you stopped off at my house to reminisce the old days at the old Burbank church when you were editor of the original Adventist Perspective, back when Spectrum was only a glint in Molleurus Couperus’s eye, that long ago, and I was your art director. You reminded me (I’d forgotten) that I had once badgered you into rewriting a paragraph, to leave out the adjectives. Sheer chutzpah of me, that. Apologies.

But may I rise again to that office, for old time’s sake? That editorial of yours, “Reviewing Spectrum,” in which you take Spectrum to task for venturing to convert a tribe of unthinking, magical-thinking, mindless, irrational primitives. Best leave out all those adjectives -- “tribal,” “primitive,” “mindless.”

“But,” you say, “those adjectives are the pecs, abs, the glutes of my message. Without tribal, primitive, mindless, my message would be emasculated.” Hmmm… so it would. So it would.

But, sure, “tribal, primitive, mindless” would make a helluva caption for one of your cartoons.

Seriously though, Andy, “tribal,” “primitive,” “mindless” – I think you need to give more thought to those adjectives. Is “tribal, “primitive,” mindless” likely to win over that mindless tribe, especially its SDA scientists – yes, Virginia, there are some – who still go with Genesis 1? And I fear that the Spectrum, on its mission of reconciliation, might be disconcerted too, having you slap its wrist for extending a hand to such a sorry tribe of flat-world, science-denying aborigines.

But not to worry, Andy. I’m sticking with you. Great to see you again.


PS: I believe Genesis 1.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Actually, Eve ate the apple because the snake promised her fig leaves and a sewing machine.

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

Reviewing Spectrum

Summer 2010
Vol. 38, Issue 3

This issue of Spectrum is designed to convert a primitive Adventist tribe that believes that the first eleven chapters of the Bible really happened just as described. And they want to make the existing Fundamental Belief #6 * say so in no uncertain terms. This attempt is complicated by the fact that these primitives venerate magical thinking and pray to a god that requires unthinking obedience and irrational devotion to the ideas of acolytes who regale them with amazing events and mythical monsters.

I doubt that this missionary effort will be successful, but one has to admire Spectrum’s brave attempt to win over the primitives using missionaries that employ reason, logic, and modern science. In addition THE BACKSTORY ON THE NEWLY-ELECTED PRESIDENTS: GC President Ted Wilson and NAD President Dan Jackson, makes it clear that a concerted attempt will be made to keep Spectrum’s missionaries out of areas claimed by the tribe.

In any event, Bonnie Dwyer begins Spectrum’s missionary effort by attempting to establish the grounds for a rational discussion. She asks, WHY REVISE BELIEF #6 in order to specify that the first eleven chapters of the Bible are literally true? The official tribal response employs a number of debatable assertions.

“Looking for official answers to the question of why this revision is necessary, I found the July issue of Reflections from the Biblical Research Institute helpful. Gerhard Pfandl summarizes the meetings and actions of the past decade in an article titled: ‘Creation Debate in the Seventh-day Adventist Church’. He writes, ‘Without the Creation week, the Sabbath becomes a Jewish institution; and if death existed long before the appearance of man, then there was no Fall in Eden and therefore really no need for salvation.’ This linchpin view of Sabbath or domino theory of how ideas fall is thus where we begin our five-year discussion of origins.”

RADICAL GRACE AND BIBLICAL REALISM by Missionary Scriven is an attempt to get members of the tribe to take a small step toward dialogue by suggesting that another understanding of the Genesis story is possible. Unfortunately Charles’ effort is doomed because he claims that “statements of faith are dangerous”, and his use of the word “idolatry” doesn’t refer to worshiping graven images.

“The Bible is the church’s single most important document, and that statements of faith are dangerous unless they are taken to be provisional and open to correction…If doctrine becomes a means of excluding people who are engaged in the practice of discipleship, that signals a distortion in understanding. It is a distortion that borders on idolatry and has nothing at all to do with the faithfulness that is God’s primary concern.”

The LETTER, a missionary missive by Lillian Moore, Ed.D. does more harm than good. She just blurts out offensive stuff like:

“Scientific discoveries are not subject to a democratic vote, administrative action or the stance of a particular institution. They are what they are…Newly discovered science, through the ages, has served to enlighten mankind.

“[Scientific] discoveries have not threatened our belief in the gospel nor have they negated the role of the Creator in the beginning of all things.”

She goes on to talk about integrating “new knowledge...while supporting the concept of a Divine Creation, admitting to the new vistas emerging from scientific inquiry”.

The title, YES, CREATION AFFIRMS A LITERAL READING OF GENESIS by Missionary Lawrence T. Geraty is going to be a disappointment to any member of the tribe who is daring enough to read this issue of Spectrum. The title should read, “The Series of Lectures on Creationism at the General Conference Session in Atlanta Affirms a Literal Reading of Genesis.”

Geraty’s missionary effort will fail, primarily because of his defense of liberal education and his obvious sympathy with the views of Sigfried Horn.

“The concerted attempt during the week to bolster a literalistic interpretation of Genesis 1 by setting in motion a process to change the biblical language in Fundamental Belief #6 to an extra-biblical literalistic interpretation of that language with the apparent motivation to rid the church of anyone with a different interpretation cast a pall on those thinkers in the church who are attempting to follow Ellen White’s counsel that both books of God’s revelation, Scripture and Nature, should shed light on each other. It left us wondering what has happened to the traditional denominational commitment to the concept of ‘present truth.’ Again, we are contra Ellen G. White who has told us there is still more to learn!

“Finally, what is the role of Adventist higher education? Among other goals, I thought it was to help our young people develop their critical faculties so they could stand on their own in any situation and not be merely the ‘reflectors of the thoughts of others.’ This requires helping students to look at all the evidence and current interpretations and paradigms, including their pros and cons, their strengths and weaknesses, so students can make up their own minds, guided by the Spirit in a context which is loyal to the church and its teachings. I’m sorry to say I didn’t hear anything like that during any of the meetings of the recent General Conference Session.

“I may be among those consigned to ‘wandering in the wilderness’ for a generation till God can raise up a generation following mine that will take His people into the Promised Land.”


“Writing in his diary on January 27, 1968, [Horn] says, ‘It will be interesting to see what will happen in the next 20 years. Will we find an honest way out of our dilemma and retain the respect of our young people, or will we become—more than we already are—a church of oldsters and simpletons?’ Later that year, commenting on a report of GC President Pierson in the Review (Oct 10, 1968) about a geo-science trip he [Pierson] had taken where he was again defending the importance and necessity of believing in a 6,000 year history of the earth, Horn wrote in his diary on October 13, 1968, ‘It is regrettable that a man like Pierson comes out with such a statement on a controversial point. It could easily be the beginning of a witch-hunt, as the pope’s decision on birth control is now in the Catholic Church. I would not be surprised if they would require us either to teach the 6,000-year age of the world in the future, or get out. It can happen under the administration of ill-trained and narrow-minded men, as we have a few in high places’”

THE MEANINGS OF THE BEGINNING by Missionary Sigve Tonstad is another ill-fated attempt to convert the primitives. His prose will leave them scratching their heads. Phrases like “explicitly prescriptive”, “argued tentatively”, and “concise scaffolding” will make it difficult if not impossible for them to comprehend his primary message. In addition, he quotes Biblical scholars who are known to use the historical-critical method of biblical interpretation!

“The first seventh day must be seen as an expression of God’s view and decision, irrespective of any human response. Skinner writes that the Sabbath ‘is not an institution which exists or ceases to exist with its observance by man; the divine rest is a fact as much as the divine work, and so the sanctity of the day is a fact whether man secures the benefit or not.’ (57) He can say this because the text we are exploring is descriptive of what God does, and not explicitly prescriptive as to what human beings ought to do. ‘The first Sabbath is cosmic, only hinting at what its significance will be to man,’ says Shimon Bakon. (58) The Genesis account of the seventh day is written in the indicative and there is no imperative attached to it. (59) Whether or not human beings will join God in God’s rest can only be anticipated and argued tentatively. Where the seventh day is conceived as a human obligation, it might show how important God is for human life and for the meaning of existence. When, on the other hand, the seventh day is left to speak from the concise scaffolding of its first mention in the text in Genesis, the seventh day tells of the importance of human beings to God, and its primary message is not human duty but divine commitment.”

57. John Skinner, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Genesis (ICC; Edinburgh: T. & T.
Clark, 1910), 35.
58. Shimon Bakon, “Creation, Tabernacle and Sabbath,” JBQ 25 (1997): 84.
59. Andreasen, Rest and Redemption, 75.

ADVENTISM’S HISTORIC WITNESS AGAINST CREEDS by Missionary Graybill is verifiable history, but that doesn’t mean that the primitive audience will be swayed by his rhetoric. According to the leaders of the tribe, their god demands conformity of belief as a condition for his Second Coming. Consequently, while Ron’s facts are accurate, they’re irrelevant.

“The historic Adventist witness against creeds was based on a tendency for the more specific doctrinal statement to seize interpretive control of the less specific. Thus when a creedal statement attempts to define a doctrine more precisely than inspiration does, the creed becomes the authorized interpreter of Scripture rather than Scripture standing alone as its own interpreter…Once a creed is enacted, any attempt to change it will unleash charges of laxness and heresy or foolishness and obscurantism…The enactment of a precise and detailed creed places a sharp tool in the hands of those in power. No matter how carefully some may handle such a tool, there are always those who will use it to coerce the conscience and impugn the motives and beliefs of their fellow church members. For all these reasons, churches should seek other ways of defending and preserving the landmarks of their faith.”

Missionary Warren H. Johns’ MODELS OF ORIGINS: CREATIONIST OPTIONS FOR AVENTISTS fails as an “entering wedge” because while 3 geological tests, 2 recency tests, and 10 major theories invalidate universal flood geology, it advocates testing fundamental beliefs by scientific investigation.

“The most obvious implication is that when the Church attaches statements relative to geology and earth history to its fundamental beliefs, then every time the progress of science revises its understanding of geology and earth history the fundamental beliefs may have to be revised accordingly. This already is beginning to happen with the discovery of 60,000 countable layers in the Greenland ice core being first reported four years after the 2004 statements were formulated. This puts our theology into the precarious position of being tested by science and being vulnerable to constant revisions. This is a superb example of what happens when we insert a Biblical chronology into our theology; it opens the door to future change, especially as dating methods become more refined and more accurate. The lesson to be learned is this: the theology that is the child of science in any century becomes an orphan in the following century. That is even true of the science of flood geology. On the other hand, a creation doctrine that avoids mentioning the universal Flood and the age of the earth will stand the test of time as long as it adheres closely to statements in Scripture.”

THE SIX “CREATION DAYS”: PROLOGUE TO GOD’S REST by Missionaries Brian Bull and Fritz Guy has no chance of influencing the primitives because it is unclear in what way a “worthwhile task” transforms an “ereb” into “boqer”.

“By failing to remember that the six creation days were a divine prologue to that first Sabbath we run the risk of missing the purpose for which we are granted the privilege of “working while it is day” (John 9:4). We are called to work six days a week to bring order out of chaos and, on the seventh to join the Creator in celebrating worthwhile tasks accomplished. And what, one may well ask, is a “worthwhile task”?...A worthwhile task takes a state of ’ereb and transforms it into a state of boqer. And the purpose of the seventh day is to allow us, in the presence of our Creator, to share in the joy of a worthwhile job well done.”

This concludes Spectrum’s missionary endeavor. After reviewing the missionaries’ attempts to convert the tribe, I am forced to conclude that their efforts were misguided and, in informal parlance, “dead on arrival”. Perhaps if Spectrum’s missionaries dig the tribe a well, offer to sponsor a medical clinic, and build a multipurpose building in one day, their missionary effort will have a better chance of success.

The book, AWAKEN: MEMOIRS: OF A CHINESE HISTORIAN by Gu Chang-Sheng is reviewed by Rebekah Liu, an ordained Adventist minister whose home is in Mainland China, and who has never renounced her love for the Chinese Communist Party. She is currently completing a Ph.D. in New Testament Studies at the SDA Theological Seminary at Andrews University.

Rebekah “found this book thought-provoking” and was “grateful for Gu’s honest opinion and description of the human side of the Adventist Church”. The book is an autobiographical account of his life as an Adventist before the Cultural Revolution in which he “renounces both Adventism and the Chinese Communist Party”. Gu is now an American citizen and was interviewed by Rebekah at his home in Massachusetts.

Todd Kline reviews Martin Doblmeier’s film, THE ADVENTISTS and considers “56 minutes…to be too brief to comprehensively detail such a truly fascinating and complex subject, one that deserves greater coverage. As an exploration of the medical journey Seventh-day Adventists have taken from their inception to the present, the film is quite successful, but viewed as an overview of the denomination’s history as a whole, it is less successful.”

In this poem, INTANGIBLES, T. S. Geraty describes the mysteries of science and meaning. These are the final lines.

In systems closed momentum stays
And energy is saved,
But how can quantum bosons move
When protons misbehaved?
In distances beyond our ken,
In light-years with the spheres
Who controls exactitude
Of days and months and years?

* Fundamental Belief #6, Creation
God is Creator of all things, and has revealed in Scripture the authentic account of His creative activity. In six days the Lord made "the heaven and the earth" and all living things upon the earth, and rested on the seventh day of that first week. Thus He established the Sabbath as a perpetual memorial of His completed creative work. The first man and woman were made in the image of God as the crowning work of Creation, given dominion over the world, and charged with responsibility to care for it. When the world was finished it was ``very good,'' declaring the glory of God. (Gen. 1; 2; Ex. 20:8-11; Ps. 19:1-6; 33:6, 9; 104; Heb. 11:3.)

VOTED: To approve a Protocol Statement on Additions or Revisions to the Statement of Fundamental Beliefs, which reads as follows:

In adding to and/or revising the Statement of Fundamental Beliefs it is imperative to involve the world church as much as possible in the process. Any suggestion should be based on a serious concern for the well-being of the world church and its message and mission, be biblically based, and informed by the writings of Ellen G White. Considering the importance and necessity of involving the world church in the process of additions and/or revisions to the Statement of Fundamental Beliefs, any suggestion for possible changes should reach the office of the President of the General Conference not later than two (2) years before a General Conference Session.

If the perceived need for additions and/or revisions to the Statement of Fundamental Beliefs is initiated by the world field, the matter should be carefully discussed at each administrative level. In the evaluation of the suggested change the governing body at each level shall establish an appropriate process for evaluation, seeking wide input. The process at each level shall result in the governing body either recommending the proposed change to the next level of administration, or abandoning any further consideration of it. In this way the recommendation for changes in the Statement of Fundamental Beliefs arrive at the General Conference. Once the suggestions reach the General Conference, or if the suggestions originated at the General Conference, it shall appoint an ad hoc committee to coordinate the process and facilitate the dialogue.

The following procedure shall be used by the General Conference in seeking the consensus of the world church in favor of or against the proposed change:

1. The General Conference will coordinate and facilitate the process of discussion through Presidential and the members of the ad hoc committee.
2. A preliminary draft approved by the Spring Meeting or Annual Council will be sent to the Divisions for reactions and comments. It should be discussed at the Union and Conference/Mission levels and printed in the local church papers.
3. Involve Theology/Religion Departments and Seminaries.
4. Discuss it at the Biblical Research Institute Committee and other pertinent committees.
5. Publish a draft in the Adventist Review, the Ministry, and place it on the Internet for comments and reactions from church members.
6. The GC ad hoc committee will receive all the suggestions from the world field and prepare the final draft to be submitted to the Annual Council for further discussion before it is placed on the agenda of the General Conference Session.
7. Only the General Conference in session can approve additions or revisions to the Statement of Fundamental Beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Ted, you needn’t worry about a possible Heritage Singers gig. All the music is live.

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