Thursday, February 17, 2011

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.

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