Thursday, September 29, 2011

Educating Adventist Theologians

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

Reviewing Adventist World, NAD Edition

September, 2011
Vol. 7, No. 8

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 of World does a good job of informing members and nonmembers around the world of current Adventist beliefs and practices. That said, in addition to recommended reading, I have my usual comments and questions.

SNACKING AND HYPOGLYCEMIA by Allan R. Handysides and Peter N. Landless
NEW BODIES by Edna Olsen Regester

Ted Wilson continues to expound his recipe for “biblical” worship music and “the integrity of Seventh-day Adventist preaching as a component of true worship” in WHAT MAKES WORSHIP “ADVENTIST”?
–Surely the Adventist Church is confronted by more pressing problems.

MEET THE FUTURE by Kimberly Luste Maran is an account of her conversations with young General Conference delegates from around the world. The piece is fresh and informative. There was, however, the following exchange that suggests that SDA converts in developing countries may “join the church” for reasons other than agreement with or even understanding of the 28 Fundamental Doctrines.

“You all seem to feel that the church has good leadership. So this is a bit of a pointed question: What do you all think the church is doing right? What could it do better?”

“We have to be careful about how we prepare members to be Adventists, and when we baptize them. New members are more than numbers—they have to know who we are as a church and whom we stand for.

“Here’s what happened to me during an outreach event at my church. We were dispensing medicine for those in need. At one point I was writing down a woman’s name, and there was a friend of mine just next to me. My friend very nicely asked the woman, “So how did you learn about Jesus?”

“The woman responded, ‘Who is Jesus?’ She really did not know—and she had just been baptized! I can’t imagine a person who is baptized not knowing. But it was true.” (Alice Danla, a delegate from India)
--If I were a poverty stricken villager in a remote province of India, I would be first in line to be dunked, if clean water, literacy, education, medical assistance, and possibly a job were offered to me on condition of baptism!

WONDERFUL WORDS OF LIFE, by Paul Peterson is an explication of Fundamental Belief Number 10. While Peterson’s words obfuscate rather than illuminate the belief itself, the actual “The Experience of Salvation”, is included on the second page. It begins with these words: “In infinite love and mercy God made Christ, who knew no sin, to be sin for us, so that in Him we might be made the righteousness of God…”
--God turned Christ into sin? Maybe, in spite of our protestations, Adventists are a sect after all. In addition, these words smack of Arian heresy.

Finally, in CHOICE OR COERCION? Angel Manuel Rodríguez gets entangled in his own rhetoric once again as he attempts to answer the crucial theological question, “Why did God harden
 Pharaoh’s heart?”
--Editors, have you given this guy a carte blanche pass? Does he have a BRI contract?

Goldstein Agonisties

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

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ted meets himself on the island sometime in the next 30 years.

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

Reviewing Spectrum

Summer, 2011
Volume 39, Issue 3

This issue has two outstanding editorials and one MUST READ report. If you, gentle reader, are pressed for time, here’s what not to miss: ACCREDITATION BLUES and MISUNDERSTANDINGS MULTIPLY: LA SIERRA EMPLOYEES FILE SUIT; WASC ISSUES FORMAL NOTICE OF CONCERN by Bonnie Dwyer and THE FALLACY OF HIERARCHY by Charles Scriven.

From Accreditation Blues:
“La Sierra, like all Adventist institutions of higher education, needs the approval of both the regional and the Adventist accreditors. Students cannot get loans for unaccredited colleges. Graduate and professional schools—such as Loma Linda University—cannot accept students with degrees from unaccredited colleges. To lose WASC accreditation would be the end of LSU.”

From Misunderstandings Multiply
“With site visits from both WASC and AAA teams, the accreditation processes have dominated administrative life at La Sierra for the past two years. Self-study reports have been prepared, response to the consulting letter developed and delivered. And while both accrediting bodies recognize the importance and significance of what the other agency does, sometimes it has seemed as though the university was caught between the requirements of the two.

“WASC’s latest concern over the structure of the Board of Trustees is sure to create a different set of concerns with the church administration.

“And while La Sierra attends to these concerns, the issue that prompted the soap opera atmosphere of the past two years continues to challenge the entire denomination, as well as other conservative Christians. Solving the creation-evolution debate is not a La Sierra issue, but until the denomination finds some level of peace with that discussion, misunderstandings are bound to continue.”

From The Fallacy of Hierarchy
“The New Testament thus has, after Jesus, no teacher-masters; it has no ‘magisterium,’ no official teaching authority. Leaders and theologians, traditions and creeds, matter for their persuasive influence; they deserve attention and respect. But they have no coercive authority. (In 1 Corinthians, Paul treated the question of food offered to idols differently than the Jerusalem Council did.)

“Behind all of this is the premise, as John Howard Yoder writes, of ‘simple trust that God himself, as spirit, is at work to motivate and to monitor his own’ through ‘disciplined human discourse.’ So from this standpoint, the Hierarchy Principle, with its assumption that top-down control is a necessary bulwark, gives expression to lack of trust.

“Our leaders seem oblivious to this. And to the degree that the rest of us go along, or lapse into funks of resignation, so do we. I do not assign blame. The tide of hierarchy came in before most of us were born. But I do want to assign credit where it is due. In 1872, for the benefit of non-members and for the first time ever, Adventist leaders published a statement, or ‘synopsis,’ of their faith. The first paragraph said that it was not to have ‘any authority with our people,’ nor was it meant to “secure uniformity among them, as a system of faith.”

“The statement was not, in other words, an instrument of top-down control. The pioneers of Adventism still knew what it was to trust.”

The NOTEWORTHY section features old news, and BIBLE ISSUES is a tired recapitulation of Atonement Theories and Science and Creation apologies. The featured, RACE, IMMIGRATION & THE CHURCH, is so poorly written that it fails to deliver the relationships the title promises.

UNIVERSITIES & THE CHURCH is introduced by a lengthy, esoteric, and irrelevant piece by Gottfried Oosterwal, but Bonnie’s account of the LSU situation is authoritative and brilliant! Finally, I was disappointed by the POETRY selected from the SDA college and university literary journals. Sorry kids.

This issue, particularly, is a reminder that Spectrum now lives on the blog and is on life support in print.

One can only hope!

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

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Therefore Endangered?

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

Reviewing the Adventist Review

Vol. 188, No. 23
August 18, 2011

This issue’s cover, GOD’S PSYCHOLOGY: HEALTH FOR BODY, MIND, AND SOUL, was a profound disappointment! The official psychological information provided was little more than sermonizing! Only a 350 word piece by Jill Carlson, THE STIGMA OF MENTAL ILLNESS AND ITS TREATMENT IN THE CONTEXT OF A CHRISTIAN BELIEF SYSTEM, (which wasn’t even cited on the Feature Page) provided helpful clinical information!

If you’re busy, this is the issue to skip. If World News interests you, it’s available online.

Vol. 188, No. 24
August 25, 2011

I had trouble concen-trating on this review when I read that ADRA GIVES $1 MILLION TO MARANATHA. According to Ted Wilson, “this move symbolizes cooperation between the world church and lay ministries”. In this Haiti project, Maranatha is in partnership with Missionary Ventures International, another Christian NGO.

ADRA's credibility as a nonsectarian relief organization should now be called into question. It should now be assumed that direct contributions to ADRA will be directed to SDA lay ministries like Maranantha!

THE RELUCTANT SCHOOLTEACHER, by Stanley D. Hickerson is a MUST READ. Alma McKibbin didn't want to be a schoolteacher. But she was the first person to create a school curriculum for Adventist elementary students.

Drs. Landless and Handysides weigh in on the good and the bad about tea and coffee drinking in TEA AND COFFEE REVISITED.

In HEALTHY HEARTS, Molly Geddis introduces us to a community-based health outreach that yields church-based results.

Not to worry, that “someone” is Ted!

Comic from F Minus, by Tony Carrillo.
(Click to enlarge)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Geoscience Research Institute’s Ethical Dilemma

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

Reviewing the Adventist Review

Vol. 188, No. 20
August 11, 2011

Unfortunately, this issue doesn’t have much to recommend it except for “IT’S NOT ABOUT ME”, the story of Patrick Knighton, the senior class president of Enfield High School, who decided his conscience would not allow him to graduate on the Sabbath. However, there are two articles, SERMONS ON SCHOOL WALLS by Conna Bond and “FORMED IN CHRIST”, an interview of three seminarians by Bill Knott, that are alarming, frustrating, and deeply discouraging.


SERMONS ON SCHOOL WALLS is profoundly ignorant and racist. The ASI supported plan to decorate the walls of schoolrooms with permanent paintings of a “white” Jesus on the walls of 1000 One-Day Schools in Africa, Honduras, and Haiti is offensive to modern people of color. It smacks of European colonialism, encourages racial stereotyping, and portrays a cool, northern heaven where young people of color are second-class citizens.

“They aren’t just hanging paper images in fancy frames that will age and disintegrate with time and temperature. McNeilus devised a way to adhere high-quality, easily cleaned decal reproductions of Greene’s paintings directly to steel plates that will permanently be installed on the walls of One-Day Schools. In effect, the art will last as long as the schools do, regardless of weather and wear…When the initial 1,000 schools are completed, about 50,000 children will be exposed on a daily basis to artistic depictions of a loving Savior.”

“FORMED IN CHRIST” begins as follows “Few topics in Adventism have aroused more interest—and passion—during the past 12 months than that of “spiritual formation.” Books, seminars, and sermons have warned that the concept and practice of teaching contemplative spirituality can open minds to Eastern religions and non-Christian philosophies; others have urged that learning how to deepen a relationship with Christ is a foundational premise of the Word of God. One point of the discussion has been the courses in personal spirituality that are part of the curriculum of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University, the primary institution for training pastors for the North American church and scholars for the worldwide denomination.

“Adventist Review editor Bill Knott recently met with the three teaching professors at the seminary—Allan Walshe, Kathy Beagles, and Joseph Kidder—whose courses focus on teaching students to experience and communicate the practices of personal faith and discipleship.”

Bill Knott then grills Walshe, Beagles, and Kidder to determine their orthodoxy. I would like to believe that Knott is making a naïve attempt to defend the seminary by dispelling rumors circulated by powerful, unnamed fundamentalist critics, but his questions suggest a future inquisition and creedal requirements for employment.

One phrase above all others has become the lightning rod of this discussion. Do you use the term spiritual formation, and if so, what do you think it means?

So when you were using the term spiritual formation, what did you perceive it to mean?

“If what you’re teaching has always been part of the core message of Adventism, how did we get to the place where many Adventists think of learning how to have a deeper life with Jesus as a new direction?

You’ve referred to your extensive use of Ellen White’s books in your classes. Are there other Adventist authors you have been drawing on?

What do you say to those who complain that a focus on nurture detracts from the work of evangelism?

You’ve mentioned the significant use of Ellen White in what you do here; and when you create or find other Adventist resources, you’re using those. But you clearly use resources that come from authors in other faiths. How does the biblical imperative “come out of her, my people” [Rev. 18:4] relate to studying the insights and experiences of those from other religious traditions?

Many Adventists have grown wary of what is commonly called contemplative spirituality. Do you use that term, and if you do, what do you mean by it?

When church members tell you that they are wary of contemplation and meditation and similar spiritual practices, what do you understand they’re afraid of?

What makes your classes distinctively Adventist? How do your classes differ from what I might find at Wheaton College or at Hope College or some other Protestant seminary?

Some people don’t seem to know that you’re doing those things. Have any of those who have been critical of the seminary’s classes about spirituality asked to sit down with you or have conversations about these issues?

The unequivocal response to the following statement by Knott undermines Walshe’s defense of the seminary and reveals these professors’ anxiety about being included in some unnamed heretical faction.

You sound as though you have a lot in common with some of the seminary’s critics.
Walshe: "Absolutely. We also strongly believe that people should be warned about the subtle and not-so-subtle dangers in New Age philosophies and Eastern religion practices. We don’t want these things infiltrating our church."

Reminder, Jim: you know nothing about the LLU lawsuit.

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

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Lesson Learned from the LLU Lawsuit

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

Reviewing Adventist World, NAD Edition

August, 2011
Vol. 7, No. 8

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. Usually, this disclaimer introduces my review of Adventist World. However, the most important article in this issue, WHY THE CHURCH NEEDS AN ABUSE PREVENTION EMPHASIS DAY is only available in the print edition. Consequently, I’ve provided some quotations from the article up front. It’s definitely a MUST READ.

WHY THE CHURCH NEEDS AN ABUSE PREVENTION EMPHASIS DAY by Carla Baker is a chilling reminder that abuse happens in the Adventist Church.

“Abuse is defined as intentionally or unconsciously injuring or damaging someone physically, psychologically/emotionally, or sexually for the purpose of intimidating, dominating, or controlling that person. Abuse is wrong for the following reasons: abuse can damage or destroy the body, abuse deprives children of their innocence, abuse robs individuals of their self-esteem, which is essential for correctly relating to God and to others, abuse is not part of God's plan for families,

“Perhaps the most compelling reason that we should be concerned about abuse is that it distorts the victim's perception of God…Victims often find it virtually impossible to conceive of a loving God, one who loves them unconditionally. They reasoned that if He loved them, he would have protected them from the abuse. They leave the church when their cries for help are ignored and when they are abused by members. The reality is that the way we as a corporate body respond to abuse in the church can have eternal consequences.”

HIROSHIMA by Ryoko Suzuki; PARTNERS IN SERVICE: Reflections on the Marriage of James & Ellen White; LIGHT-HEADEDNESS by Alan R Handysides and Peter landless; THE HUMAN MIND by Floyd A. Sayler.

In REDISCOVERING A TRUE WORSHIP, Ted Wilson tells Bill Knott that “the Lord has laid a burden on my heart about reviving biblical worship among his people, and I won’t lay it down until He tells me to”. Ted now speaks for God when it comes to righteous prayer and music! Why am I not surprised?

“Do you believe that worldly culture has been making inroads into Seventh-day Adventist worship in recent years?”
“It pains me to say so, Bill, but yes, I do. In my travels around the world, through conversations with many church leaders, and through the letters and notes I receive from faithful Seventh-day Adventists, I’ve grown concerned that we are in urgent need of a “renewing of our minds” about public worship.

“Many practices that have seemed innocent on the surface have crept into Seventh-day Adventist worship, especially in the areas of prayer and music. As Paul warned us 2,000 years ago, we have to be especially vigilant to “not be conformed to this world.” Prayer practices, including what are sometimes known as “centering prayer” and “labyrinths,” and “contemplative prayer,” frequently draw on non-Christian philosophies that encourage the emptying of the mind. Biblical prayer, instead, draws us into a quiet and focused rational contemplation of God’s Word and His faithfulness that yields in “the mind of Christ.”

“Music, certainly one of God’s greatest gifts to human beings, has similarly become a vehicle for incorporating styles and performances that too frequently forget that the great God of the universe, our Savior Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are the real audience. Simple questions will help all of us underline the true and biblical principles of both prayer and music in worship: “ ‘Would I pray this way in the very presence of Jesus?’ ‘Would I sing this song—this way—in the presence of the Holy One?’ ”

“Are you planning to keep talking and preaching about these themes in the months ahead?”
“You and the millions of readers of Adventist World can count on that! The Lord has laid a burden on my heart about reviving biblical worship among us as His people, and I won’t lay it down until He tells me to.”

In RAINY-DAY REFLECTIONS, “God does it!” is the conclusion reached at the end of Angel Manual Rodriguez’ 800-word attempt to answer a question that only he would consider significant: “According to the Bible, what is the origin of rain?”

More Entertainment

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