Thursday, February 24, 2011

Who says compromise isn’t possible?

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

Reviewing the Adventist Review

February 10, 2011
Vol. 188, No. 4

This issue one you can feel reasonably comfortable sharing with your friends. The contributions of four writers are exceptional: Dixil Rodriguez’ A CHILD, A MOTHER, AND THE SPIRIT; “NOT AFRAID TO GO ALONE”, the story of Georgia Burrus, the first woman missionary to India; Monte Sahlin’s thoughtful critique of religious trends; and 1,096 DAYS by Marilyn Petersen, a wheelchair bound commentator on life and living.

The INBOX contains two critical letters! I hope this encourages the editors to publish more thoughtful responses that aren’t just congratulatory. Stanley V. Maxwell is critical of the contributions of Drs. Handysides and Landless, and Jeanne Henriksen provides a cautionary coda to Fredrick Russell’s December 9 editorial that seems to her to deemphasize planning and orderliness in worship.

REVIVAL FOR WHAT? is Mark A. Finley’s take on what revival means. I only wish these words were reflected in the sermonizing of our GC President, Ted Wilson. *

“Any so-called revival that focuses on “my spiritual experience” alone also misses the mark. If it develops attitudes critical of those who may not measure up to “my standard of holiness,” it’s certainly not genuine spirituality. If the emphasis of revival is merely to change external behavior rather than to experience a change of heart, something is wrong.”

* See GOD'S SOLID WORD IN A CHAOTIC WORLD in the February 2011 Adventist World.

PLANKS, JUDGES, AND JESUS by Kimberly Luste Maran is an affirmation that “in the plan of salvation there’s no such thing as self-
righteousness. No room for smugness”.

"NOT AFRAID TO GO ALONE" by Gordon E. Christo is the story of Georgia Burrus, the first woman missionary to India. Because of her decision to learn Bengali immediately upon arrival, she was able to assist the missionaries that followed to establish a school for girls and further her mission to educate the women of Bengali speaking India.

NOT BUSINESS AS USUAL by Gerald Klingbeil urges readers to step out of their comfort zones, so long as their ”comfort zones” don’t rock the official Adventist boat. Sad.

GOD RULES--BUT HOW? by Thomas Lobitz is heartfelt but his tennis simile leaves me with these questions, “Why are we still citizens of Earth? How can God have “won” the match if humankind is still suffering?”

“But the [Great Controversy] battle is not over. It is a bit like a Davis Cup tennis tournament: five matches are played. The winning team is the one who is the first to win three matches; however, the tournament is not over until all five matches have been played. In the remaining matches the losing team plays hard in order to win as much fan support as possible. Satan, God’s opponent, has already lost, but continues to try to keep as many as possible away from God (see 1 Peter 5:8).”

A CHILD, A MOTHER, AND THE SPIRIT by Dixil Rodriguez is a story in which she “was made conscious of the obvious: there is always a need to help one another”.

1,096 DAYS by Marilyn Petersen offers a perspective all of us need to respect.

“Have you ever considered your church from the perspective of a wheelchair user—or any individual with a disability? My home church was built decades ago, and even though a ramp to the church door has been installed, the bathrooms are downstairs, making my attendance there challenging. This is not unique, as almost all the Adventist churches in my area are multilevel. Restrooms are usually inaccessible. Fellowship halls and pianos in the sanctuary are too. For wheelchair users who attend churches where restrooms are downstairs, this means either not attending church services or dehydrating (limited or no liquids beginning Friday evening) in order to make it through the four hours of a morning service. While this is often the fault of old architecture, it’s something I had never thought of before needing a wheelchair.

“The church I attend more regularly now is all on one level and has a pull-up drop-off point at the door, which is very nice. But I used to play the piano for Sabbath school, and because the sanctuary piano is up on a separate level, it’s no longer accessible to me. Several of the church aisles are too narrow for my wheelchair. No church that I’ve attended has designated seating for those with disabilities. Often there are only one or two places a wheelchair can fit and thus enable the person to sit with family. A member of my family or I have to move quickly each Sabbath to assure the appropriate seat isn’t taken by another church member. While I’m sure they would move if asked, it makes the situation awkward and uncomfortable.”

WAKE-UP CALL by Jimmy Phillips asks the question, “Why would I want to start my day with the rubbish of man when I have the opportunity to first fill my heart and mind with the words of God?”

CHURCH TRENDS reported by Monte Sahlin should make all Christians more aware of the secular world.

“Adventist evangelism—as we have practiced it from the very beginning of our movement in America—has always assumed that our audience already believes in God, accepts the Bible as the Word of God, and is prepared to listen to texts and logic that undergird the unique Adventist teachings. But the growing numbers of secular Americans are unprepared to hear or understand our conventional evangelistic messages. In order to reach these individuals we must start at an earlier point in the logic of evangelism and address more basic concepts that we have always assumed to be already accepted.

“In most Adventist churches in metropolitan areas in the U.S. you will find that some of these secular people are already attending your church. Fellowship often develops long before belief in doctrines, and you cannot use some of the typical indicators such as vegetarian diet and simple dress, because many secular people accept those values without any Bible basis.

“How do you move from friendship to Bible study, while retaining the friendship?” Sahlin suggests the following:

Reaching and Winning New Agers—available from AdventSource at or (800) 328-0525.

Jon Paulien, dean of the School of Religion at Loma Linda University, has written several books on this topic.

iFollow discipleship curriculum resources—published by the North American Division Church Resource Center and available in the Meeting With Jesus section under Lessons at and in the iFollow Pastor’s Edition, which is being distributed to pastors on DVD.

LIFE AND DEATH IN THE SAME FRAME by Loren Seibold describes a day in which he spent time with the parents of newborn twins and sat by the bedside of a dying parishioner, and “feeling a little like those old Russian writers, Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, who in their novels and stories placed life and death, happiness and sadness, achievement and failure, joy and gloom, all in the same frame, part of the same picture, never completely carefree nor entirely despondent about this mortal span, but more honest for portraying a chiaroscuro of failure and redemption.”

Multiple Choice

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

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The choice is ours.

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

Reviewing Adventist Today

Winter 2011
Vol. 19, No. 1

In general, this issue gets things right graphically—illustrations do not compete with content for space. Substance was a bit thin, but there were enough illuminating and informative moments for me to keep my subscription current.

MORE ON DEATH BEFORE SIN by J. David Newman is an introduction to the theology of Marco T. Terreros who explains why the bedrock of evangelical theology is the idea that sin caused death. Here are Terreros five arguments.

“The rejection of a cause-effect connection between sin and death adversely affects the evangelical theology of the atonement in at least the five following ways: ‘First, it was the tragedy of the fall of humanity into sin that set in motion God’s plan for the redemption of the human race.’

“Second, the disjunction of death and sin undermines the biblical teaching on death as a penalty for sin.”

“A third effect of the rejection of the biblical cause-effect connection between sin and death for atonement theology is that only if the phenomenon of death is more than natural is a more-than-natural plan of redemption necessary. If death were just a natural problem, it could have then been solved through natural solutions, and no supernatural intervention, such as God’s irruption into human history through the incarnation, would have been necessary.”

“Fourth, according to a high view of Scripture, the above conclusion is not less true of the phenomenon of death in the nonhuman world.”

“Fifth, affirming death before sin means that the first human sin ceases to be the basis for the human need of salvation, and this suggests the need of a rethinking of the Christian faith.”

Two letters justify the subscription price. One by John McClarity demolishes the idea that sin caused death if the words of the Genesis account are taken literally. The other letter is from my remaining editorial hero at the Review, Steven Chavez. He makes the point that “Adventists will never be taken seriously by other Christians, let alone by believers in other faith traditions” until we “get past this unrealistic competition about who can quote Ellen White more or better”. He suggests that all of us “sing that old song: ‘The B-I-B-L-E’.”

WHOM DID CAIN MARRY? Richard W. Coffen urges an unconventional approach to the first eleven chapter of Genesis.

“This less-conventional approach affirms that the first 11 chapters of the Bible serve the same function as the remainder of Scripture—to keep in focus those who worshiped the true God. From this perspective, it does not shock us or even take us by surprise that Genesis has an implicit supposition that other human beings may have existed contemporaneously with Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel. Indeed, this is what readers expect when carefully noting the assumptions underlying the storyline…

The real plot—[is] namely, an account of the activities of those who worship the true God. That’s what the Old Testament is all about, where the real focus is: the Hebrew people. Reading these Genesis narratives with any other expectation resembles trying to extract orange paint rather than orange juice from Valencia oranges. Squeeze them for their delicious and nutritious juice ... and be satisfied.

AN ADVENTIST HISTORICAL PUZZLE: THE DELAYED BURIALS OF JAMES AND ELLEN WHITE by Joe Wiley is the story of Edson White’s curiosity regarding the literal (there’s that word again) translation of his father and mother after their deaths.

“An interesting aspect of this theory is that it provides an insight into the personality of Edson White. When peeled away, it can be argued that he had great respect for his parents. After his father did not turn up missing over the course of 10 days, he may have thought his mother had a greater possibility and hence he waited three times longer before reburying her. Finding both physical remains, it was simply better for both brothers to not talk about it with others, including family.

“Perhaps even more interesting is that this theory might open a new window into the ethos of those who were active participants in the world of Adventism as practiced during the times of James and Ellen White.”

ADVENTISM AND ECUMENISM: DOES OUR ESCHATOLOGY HAVE ROOM FOR RELATIONSHIPS WITH FELLOW CHRISTIANS? by Borges Schantz attempts to find a middle ground in which traditional Adventist exclusivism can sometimes be preserved as we interact with other Christian fellowships.

“On the practical, social, welfare, and personal levels, in local church life and missionary activities, interaction with other Christian traditions and general cooperation are needed. As Adventists, we have not only to consider these opportunities. We should seek them.

“In some situations, no doubt, there remains a sensitive balance between belief and practice. How do we interpret the [Church’s] admonition to ‘hold in high esteem Christian men and women in other communions who are engaged in winning souls to Christ’? What is included? How far do we go? In a time when stress on Adventist fundamental beliefs is somewhat revived, it could perhaps be in order to create guidelines defining areas where cooperation will be advantageous as well as areas that would be in conflict with our eschatology. Keeping a balance is perhaps the trickiest art in the world.”

NO CHURCH MANUAL. George I. Butler, President of the General Conference argued against one in The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Nov. 27, 1883.

Editors note: “In the introduction to the 2005 Church Manual, the editors explain that the church, out of necessity, has developed policies and procedures to guide it, and all that this manual was doing was bringing them into one easy place for reference. However, what is not addressed are the original reasons why we should not have a manual.”

If you want to take a look at this “one easy place for reference”, It’s a PDF file that can be downloaded using the following Google reference: sda church manual.

IS THERE ANYBODY LEFT WHO WILL READ THIS? by Alden Thompson reflects his quandary about Adventist Today an Spectrum’s attempt to create dialogue on the issues that face the Church. He concludes that there are no easy answers.

“Yes, we should deal with issues. But can issues nurture the body of Christ? They so easily stir up anger... So I called two thoughtful Adventist families, asking them candidly about their views of Adventist Today. One family had cancelled their subscription some time ago. The spirit of Jesus was too often missing, they said. The other family still subscribes but admitted that they cannot stand the angry blogs from either Adventist Today or Spectrum. And that gave birth to the title for this piece: Who will read it? Many don’t read anything at all these days. And if those repelled by anger, criticism, and cynicism have turned away, only the contentious remain—ones not particularly drawn by gentleness.”

A LOOK AT DES FORD’S LATEST BOOK ON REVELATION by Jon Paulien is a piece of academic snobbery. I’m not a fan of Des Ford’s, but simply citing names and using vague, impressive sounding terminology rather than providing the “up-to-date information alluded to is the kind of insider putdown that leaves the reader wondering whether “new” insights really do reveal problems with “old” thinking. Lists of names are meaningless to readers who are not Daniel and Revelation scholars. Consider the following:

“I am no specialist on Daniel, but mainstream Revelation scholarship has certainly moved on from historical criticism in several directions, as evidenced in the recent work of David Barr, Ron Farmer, G.K. Beale, Edith Humphreys, and Steve Moyise. I doubt that Ford is familiar with such works. I also believe he has too readily bought into preterist and futurist perspectives on the book and does not seem to have taken into account more recent Adventist work on Revelation by Ekkehardt Mueller, Ranko Stefanovic, SigveTonstad, and the Daniel and Revelation Committee (DARCOM volumes 6 and 7). His attitude toward the Jews, on page 4, also rings strange in the light of post-holocaust scholarship on the New Testament. Things have moved so rapidly in studies of Revelation over the last 30 years, both inside and outside the Adventist Church, that reading Ford’s book makes it seem little has changed in his thinking over the last 30 years. For those unfamiliar with recent research, this is not a problem. But for those reading the above-mentioned works, and also those of Leonard Thompson, David Aune, and John and Adela Collins, the book comes across as a little out of date. To be fair, Des has been in retirement for more than a decade now and should not be expected to keep up with the latest literature in specialized fields.”

WOULD ELLEN G. WHITE ENDORSE THE REMNANT STUDY BIBLE? is a question posed by Adventist Today editors. They provide an illustration of the opened study Bible and a two-page spread of Ellen White quotations. The editors provide the following introduction and leave it to the reader to decide if this “Bible” would earn Ellen’s stamp of approval. I’m undecided.

“A new study Bible, published by Remnant Publications and printed by Thomas Nelson and Sons, places the words of Ellen White within the text of the Bible. You read a few verses, then comes a quotation from Ellen White. You read a few more verses, then comes another quotation. What would Ellen White think of this use of her writings? Would she endorse it? Following are statements she made about the authority of the Bible compared to her authority. You be the judge.”

The 7 QUESTIONS FOR…HEATHER-DAWN SMALL by Jeff Boyd, concern the Enditnow worldwide campaign to end violence against women and girls. Small is the Director for Women’s Ministries at the GC. Here’s how you can do your part.

How can individuals and congregations get involved with the Enditnow Campaign? “Well, there are a number of things they can do. One is that they can visit our website,, which gives many resources and ideas they can download and use in their churches. We have the petition online. We also have a little “Take a Stand” pledge card. They [can] get graphics for banners from the website. There’s also a video they can download and show in their churches. It’s very powerful.

“We suggest that church members and Women’s Ministries leaders work with their local pastor to receive his advice and support. We don’t want people going off and doing their own thing. Also, if they can work with their pastor, then they may be able to get a day on their church calendar. We have an Abuse Prevention Emphasis Day, but we can’t wait for the whole year until that date comes along, so we ask church members to work with their church pastor and get a date. It may be a Sunday when they go out into a mall, into their communities—something that the entire church gets involved in.

“Then we also suggest that they get a team to work with who can help plan and implement the campaign. They can invite people from the community to talk on this issue of violence against women and how it impacts their particular country. It’s important for the speaker to make the topic of interest and value to the people who are listening. For this event, church members can invite non-Adventists to their church and make it a community event.

“If church members want to get involved in doing something to make an impact, we tell them to look in their local communities for things like halfway homes, which shelter abused women. Go and find out what we can do. Can we make care packages? Can we assist in some way? Do they need volunteer help? We need to work alongside whomever is in the community already working on this problem. I’ve seen that work around the world.”

2 For more on this topic, see René Drumm, Marciana Popescu, Gary Hopkins, and Linda Spady, “Abuse in the Adventist Church,”
Adventist Review, Oct. 11, 2007,
3 You can also purchase an enditnow Action Kit from AdventSource at

ADVENTIST MAN is in top form. He provides the “True Meaning of the 144,000, calms your fears if you are concerned about the pagan influence of Christmas, and reviews Desmond Ford’s new book.

Train up a child. . .

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

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Stop the Presses!

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

Reviewing Adventist World, NAD Edition

Reviewing Adventist World, NAD Edition
February, 2011
Vol. 7, No. 2

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.

The events and stories chronicled in this issue are a testimony to the unconditional love and personal commitment to others, around the world, that characterizes Adventist commitment to service. Docs Handysides and Landless’ thoughtful and cutting edge advice undoubtedly saves lives and educates a worldwide audience. “To Suffer for Him” by Yevgeny Zaitsev is an account of Stepan Zaitsev’s witness during the days of Soviet Union persecution. And the editors published Edwin L. Christiansen’s letter championing women’s ordination. Wow!

And then there’s Ted Wilson’s inflammatory, divisive screed. I’ll have something to say about that at the end of the review.

In UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES, Bill Knott chronicles the exponential growth and popularity of Adventist World.

“When Adventist World was launched in September 2005, it was available in just two languages (English and Korean), and only in print. Five and a half years later, 1.5 million copies a month are printed in eight languages, and readers can access the magazine online in 13 language editions, including Arabic, Romanian, and Urdu (go to, and select from the language menu).”

In CAMBODIA, Adventist Students From Germany’s Marienhöhe Adventist Academy have begun an aid project at their partner school in Cambodia. In September 2010 the students of Marienhöhe Adventist Academy organized various fund-raising activities to earn the money needed to build dormitories for teachers and volunteers working at their partner school.

In MONGOLIA, Descendants, an Adventist Singing Group, supports evangelism as the Seventh-day Adventist Church grows in the country. Onstage the group performs a mix of locally composed songs, Japanese songs, and religious songs. They sing in English, Korean, Japanese, and Mongolian.
(picture grab)

In PERU, Adventist supported legislation guaranteeing the religious liberty of all citizens, a freedom already recognized by the South American country’s constitution.

In TANZANIA: ADRA U.K. is providing support and training for the albino community, which faces a lack of education, scarce job opportunities, and segregation in the region.

In the PHILIPPINES, Adventist Conversions help to end childhood marriages.

In the SUDAN, ADRA UK is providing food and services in the most dangerous country in the world. Lleqellyn Juby, the country’s ADRA director, reports. It’s a MUST READ.

These are today’s accounts of world service. A reminder of the Adventist tradition of unselfish love and service is “TO SUFFER FOR HIM” by Yevgeny Zaitsev. His grandfather, Stepan Zaitsev, served as a pastor of the Seventh-day Adventist Church when he, along with thousands of others, was convicted as an “enemy of the people” in 1937 under Stalin’s famous article 58 of the Russian Penal Code.

LIFE-SAVING VACCINES by Allan R. Handysides and Peter N. Landless calms the fears of readers who question the adverse effects of vaccines. As evidence of their position, they offer the findings of a Rotavirus study.

“People who are worried about vaccines think of adverse effects. These occurred in 9.7 percent of the vaccinated group, but also in 11.5 percent of the placebo group. This means that what are called ‘adverse’ effects are often just coincidental events ascribed to the vaccine, because there were more in the unvaccinated group.* The 60 percent reduction shown in this study, when multiplied by the millions of children who get rotavirus-related diarrhea, translates into millions of children who were saved the misery and possible death caused by the disease.”

* Statistical information taken from Shabir A. Madhi et al., “Effect of Human Rotavirus Vaccine on Severe Diarrhea in African Infants,” New England Journal of Medicine 362:289-298;, January 28, 2010.

GOD'S SOLID WORD IN A CHAOTIC WORLD by Ted N.C. Wilson is, as usual, an “in your face” insult to Adventist believers who question his authority as an interpreter of Scripture. It’s a “know nothing” sledgehammer assertion that he is the arbiter of what it means to be an Adventist Christian. He knows what motivates anyone that disagrees with him; he knows “the subtle, and not-so-subtle, ways in which the devil seeks to distance us [progressive Adventists?] from the Bible”. He is “the final authority on all matters of belief and of lifestyle”.

The following words are from his essay. The comments directed to Ted in italics are mine.

A Question of Authority
“Perhaps the main reason many do not accept the Bible as God’s Inspired Word is because they would then have to accept the authority of the Bible in their personal lives.”

Perhaps the “main reason many [in the Church and out of it] do not accept the Bible as God’s Inspired Word” is because you are attempting to make your excruciatingly literal interpretation of Scripture a test of Christian fellowship! Your comment about what motivates other people’s “personal lives” is a narcissistic display of arrogance.

“Accepting that God was and is actively communicating through His Word gives the Bible authority. It becomes the final authority on all matters of belief and of lifestyle. We cannot let scientific and sociocultural forces dictate what the Bible can mean. The apostle Paul’s words are as relevant today as when he first wrote to the believers in Rome nearly 2,000 years ago: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:2).”

First of all, Romans 12:2 does not support your claim that the Bible is “the final authority on all matters of belief and of lifestyle”. Secondly, “scientific and sociocultural forces” are not concerned with “meaning”,i.e., morality. They deal with facts and theories.

“The tools or methods generally applied to literature are insufficient with which to approach the Bible. The Bible is superior to all human wisdom and literature. It is the norm by which all other ideas or methods must be tested. Rather than judging the Bible, everything will be judged by it, for it is the standard of character and test of all experience and thought (see 1 Cor. 2:15; 2 Cor. 10:5).”

First, these words raise questions about your extensive use of Ellen White as an authority. Second, check out your friends at the Galileo Was Wrong: The Church Was Right website.

“We Seventh-day Adventists accept the Bible as the foundation for all our beliefs, and see in its pages our unique prophetic identity and mission. We must resist the subtle, and not-so-subtle, ways in which the devil seeks to distance us from the Bible and a plain understanding of what God has said is true. We must take all the Bible as authoritative; for how can we trust Christ as Redeemer if we doubt Him as Creator? Or how can we trust the implicit biblical statements about the literal Second Coming if we doubt the biblical account of a six-day creation in its plain, literal sense?”

“All our beliefs?” That’s certainly a “literal” stretch. (Need I mention “Hell” and our “Health Message”?) Are progressives “devil possessed”? And by the way, one can believe in a “literal Second Coming” and question the literal six-day creation of the universe.

“It’s a great blessing to know that even amid the uncertainty of the world around us we can rest with absolute confidence on the unchanging Word of God. The reading of the Bible, under the direction and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, will revive us and reform us. Let us as God’s people place ourselves individually and corporately under the authority of ‘the author and finisher of our faith’ (Heb. 12:2). Let us covenant to read His Word daily. As we do this we will discover a new power in our spiritual lives that will energize and empower us to proclaim eagerly the good news that the chaos, uncertainty, fear, and pain will not go on forever.”

It may come as a surprise, but these words, taken out of their context, elicit an Amen from this reviewer. Ted, come on, make the context go away.

“Death ruins everything. It voids all that comes before it.”

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

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The angel at the door was not seriously injured.

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

Reviewing the Adventist Review

January 27, 2011
Vol. 188, No. 3

This is an issue you can proudly share with your non-Adventist friends. It’s generously ecumenical, provides some excellent advice, and includes four MUST READ selections.

In UNAVOIDABLY HIS, Bill Knott talks about how revival begins and continues. I wish this had been Ted Wilson’ inaugural sermon.

“We must make ourselves available to Jesus in new ways and for unaccustomed amounts of time. We must bow to Him and to each other with unfeigned and persistent humility. We must cultivate a culture of listening for His voice—in His Word, through the whisperings of the Spirit, wherever two or three are gathered in His name. And we must surrender ourselves to be held by Him and healed by Him in that reviving embrace that raises us—and all His body—to walk with Him in newness of life. That’s how the revival begins—and continues.”

Once again, Stephen Chavez speaks common sense. TO MAKE HIM KNOWN “a person-to-person witness is much more effective than any mass attempts to saturate society with God’s gospel message”.

Alberto E. Delanoe’s ON BEING HUMAN reflects a Christ centered theology that makes room for joyful spiritual freedom within a religious community. In that community every person is “more than a gear in economic machinery. We need to push hard to discover God’s image in people, especially in a world that tries to make us believe that marginalized individuals can be integrated into society only by supplying their material needs…Being human is something that cannot be bought or sold. Life, friendship, and joy, among others, are given or received as gifts”.

EYES WIDE OPEN, as defined by Delbert Baker is “basically, situational awareness is nothing more than paying attention to your surroundings and avoiding ‘being surprised’. When we’re surprised by an event, our ability to respond successfully is greatly reduced. Situational awareness increases our ability to anticipate and develop an effective response, because when we’re aware, we respond sooner and more intelligently, and we can more likely influence the outcome of an event and our corresponding actions”.

In OOPS! I GUESS I'M GOING TO HELL, Seth Pierce supplies a memorable quote from Morris Venden that speaks to more than just the effects of religious rejection. For me, a teacher for 45 years, these words speak to the psychological effects of community and societal bullying as well, and explain why so many young people and adults fail to achieve their God-given potential.

“We have been so sure that He was going to reject us because of what we are, that we keep on being what we are! We keep on sinning because we don’t believe we are forgiven. We remain defeated because we have no assurance that He accepts us even while we grow.”

In A MISSION TO OREGON Paul A. Gordon reveals a woman whose Christianity embraced everyone she spoke to or associated with. It’s a MUST READ.

“Ellen White was invited to speak to the prisoners held in the state penitentiary in Salem. Later describing the experience, she wrote, ‘When the time arrived for service, we were conducted to the chapel, which was made cheerful by an abundance of light and pure, fresh air. At a signal from the bell, two men opened the great iron gates, and the prisoners came flocking in. The doors were securely closed behind them, and for the first time in my life I was immured in prison walls.’ (Life Sketches, p. 233).

“Using 1 John 3:1 as her key text, Ellen White spoke on God’s love and His power to transform lives. In a letter to her husband, James, she explained, ‘I tried to imagine the youth around me as my boys, and to talk with them from a mother’s heart of love and sympathy, with no thought of lowering the standard to meet them in their sinful, lawless state, but to exalt the law and hold the standard of the cross of Christ high, and then show them the path of virtue and obedience’ (letter 32, 1878).

“She was again requested to speak at the Methodist church in Salem, where on Sunday evening, more than 700 people listened to her presentation on temperance. Afterward one of the Methodist ministers remarked that he ‘regretted Mrs. White was not a staunch Methodist, for they would make her a bishop at once; she could do justice to the office’ “

In GOD'S MATHEMATICS Andrew McChesney, our intrepid Moscow reporter faces a difficult test of his Christian charity. The account of his personal struggle to do the right thing is a MUST READ story of angry faith.

“Nikolai, who attends my church, approached me after the worship service with a request for a hefty sum of money to help a fellow church member in Siberia who urgently needed to buy medication. I had that exact amount in my bank account, tucked away for an emergency.”

TRUTH IN ADVERTISING is a story of initial disappointment and then renewed faith. In the end, Laurel Lafaut was able to “praise God for Christians who behave like Christ”!

HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY does not disappoint. Drs. Handysides and Landless dispense important information about hormone replacement therapy and Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a MUST READ.

ARE YOU A THERMOMETER OR A THERMOSTAT? is an important question for all followers of Christ. Mary-Allen Colon provides another MUST READ account of how the Presbyterian New Song Community Church in the Sandtown section of Baltimore, Maryland, was used by God to transform the environment of the community around it.

Homage to Cliff

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

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


A comment reposted from the Spectrum blog

by Dr. Linda Seger
Author, "Jesus Rode a Donkey: Why the Republicans Don’t Have a Corner on Christ"

Everyone interprets the Bible, even those who believe that they take the Bible literally. Rarely are fundamentalists stoning adulterers and their children, even though Leviticus and the Gospels tell us that’s just what we should be doing. Fundamentalist women cut their hair, wear men’s clothes, work outside the home, and no one seems to be burning oxen in their back yard to atone for anything, even though the Bible seems clear about what we are, and are not, to do. We all have a different lens by which we read the Bible – the difference is, Progressives tend to admit they have a lens through which they view the Bible, whereas Fundamentalists and Conservatives usually don’t believe they see the Bible through anything but the correct, absolute lens. For many, they are right and we are wrong. For Progressives, we believe that only God knows for sure – and anything we interpret may be, but probably is not, 100% accurate.

Many Conservatives and Fundamentalists read the Bible through the lens of their pastor, the view of their favorite authors about the Bible, or through what someone said in their Bible study which they’ve decided to accept as absolutely true. It is not to be questioned. Yet, even Fundamentalists don’t agree. Billy Graham has a different view of the Bible than Bob Jones, which is why he left Bob Jones College and enrolled, instead, in the Florida Bible Institute and then Wheaton College. Both would say they believe in the inerrant truth of the Bible, but both are emphasizing different aspects of what the Bible says, and what it means.

Most Progressive Christians do take the Bible seriously, and some parts even literally, but they look for the consistencies and are less apt to be concerned over ambiguities, unclarities, and seeming contradictions. Whereas a Conservative might spend a great deal of time trying to match up Biblical passages that are seemingly contradictory (i.e., was Jesus really born in a manger in a stable, as Luke tells us, or was he born in a house and laid in a manger beside the house after his birth, as Matthew seems to suggest? Or was he born in the stable, and then moved to the house and to the manger after most of the other visitors to Bethlehem left and some room opened up at an inn? Or did Joseph and Mary have relatives in Bethlehem where they stayed at his birth? Or before his birth? Or during his birth?) The Progressive generally doesn’t care so much about these details – but cares about the many values implicit in this story and what they have to say to our lives today – Light coming into the Darkness, the Word made flesh, the Hope, the possibility of forgiveness, the celebration of new beginnings, a Savior that would, truly, save us from our hurts, our wounds, our sins so that which was torn and broken now can be made whole. And on and on – the many, many, many meanings that can come out of one passage and speak to us, so profoundly.

Perhaps one of the greatest distinctions comes from what, or who, is the true Word of God. For fundamentalists, it’s the Book, the Bible, and they take most of what it says literally. This may come, partly, from their desire for facts, and absolute desire to know everything for sure. They seem to like to do Apologetics more than Progressives – to argue and convince and persuade that Christianity is the One Truth Faith and proof text and choose the Bible verses to show their logic. They are less comfortable with conflict, confrontation, ambiguity, and the mystery.

For the Progressive, the Word of God is Jesus, the Christ, who dwells within as the Holy Spirit, who continues to move, guide, inspire, and fill us. For the Progressive, it is the on-going revelation that continues to work through the Bible, through other spiritual literature, through our lives, and is without limits. We are more interested in the work of the Holy Spirit, then who we can convince and how to memorize all the verses so we can argue better than anyone else. Logic is not what moves us. It can be phrased in many ways, but for many of us it’s the Holy Spirit, the Inward Presence, that which is Transcendent and Immanent, that which pulls us together in spiritual community. We are less concerned about persuading others, than in figuring out how to actualize our faith in action.

We are willing to live in the Mystery, knowing that we won’t know everything in this life, but that we can take, very seriously indeed, that to abide in God means to abide in Love, in Compassion, in Care. Quakers (and I’m one) talk about dwelling in The Light, holding others in The Light, Being in The Light, holding up our concerns and our joys and our sorrows and our uncertainties to The Light. This does not de-emphasize the Bible, but recognizes that we can connect with the Light and the Spirit that inspired the Bible.

Politically, this means that Compassion is more important to us than Being Right and proving that the other people are Wrong – perhaps wrong enough that we need to kill them, get rid of them, or to convert them. It means that Mercy might, in many circumstances, be more important than Justice, especially when Justice has echoes of revenge. (Although we always hope they work together.) It means that we care more for the poor, and the hurt, the broken-hearted and broken-bodied, than being overly concerned with the rich who seem to be doing just fine. Since we know that none of us deserve the blessings and grace that we have, we have less problems with raising taxes – it won’t hurt the rich to give more, and we know that it isn’t simply theirs anyway. We are more aware of the ambiguity of wealth- that much of it is earned at the expense of others, and that there truly is such a thing as privilege. We know that suffering can be alleviated, and that the work of Jesus did much of that. We are less concerned with the End Times, than we are with being Good Stewards of these times. We are more concerned, politically, with Doing Good, than with telling everyone else how good we are – while doing nothing and putting a stop to solving problems. We are more apt to see Christ as the Liberator than as the Sacrificial Lamb whose image might seem a bit too passive to us. And we are more concerned with action that expresses and actualizes the Love of God, than with a belief system that says the right things, but may create division rather than unity, judgment rather than acceptance, and harm rather than resolving the many, many problems that can only be solved socially and politically. We recognize Christ as the Man for all Seasons, and as more than just an individual Savior, but as one who can speak to all aspects of our lives and can inform all of our individual and collective decisions.