Thursday, September 8, 2011

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."

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