Thursday, November 17, 2011

Reviewing Adventist Today

Fall, 2011
Vol. 19, No. 4

I’m happy to report that this issue justifies the cover price. That’s not saying that every contribution is noteworthy, but the improvement over previous issues is obvious and significant. The graphic design elements are impressive, and contribute to a thoughtful understanding of the text. However, editorial judgment continues to be a problem.

In his editorial, IS THERE A MYSTERY ABOUT THE SABBATH WE HAVEN’T YET DISCOVERED? J. David Newman makes the following request.

“Why, after Adventists have been preaching the Sabbath for some 160 years, have there been no converts from the ranks of large church pastors and theologians? Have they all been rejecting the convicting power of the Holy Spirit? Please, I would like to hear your answers to these perplexing questions. What do you think?”

I sent an email to Newman with the following answer:

“It is for the following reasons: factual, biblical, reasoned, and fundamentally Christian, that there “have been no converts from the ranks of large church pastors and theologians”.

“For most Christian theologians “The Lord’s Day”, Sunday, rather than the Jewish “Feast of Creation, is the Christian Sabbath.

‘Sunday… was adopted by the early Christians as a day of worship.. . Sunday was emphatically the weekly feast of the resurrection of Christ, as the Jewish Sabbath was the feast of creation. It was called the Lords day, and upon it the primitive church assembled to break bread. No regulations for its observance are laid down in the New Testament nor, indeed, is its observance even enjoined. Yet Christian feeling led to the universal adoption of the day, in imitation of the apostolic precedence. In the second century its observance was universal.’ (Schaff- Herzog Encyclopedia of religious knowledge 1891 Ed., vol.4 Article on Sunday)*

“There is a biblical reason why ‘no prominent no-Adventists pastors or theologians have supported a seventh day Sabbath’.

‘One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord.’ (Romans 14: 5 & 6)

“There are rational reasons why ‘no prominent no-Adventists pastors or theologians have supported a seventh day Sabbath’.

We live on a round planet. Consequently, a man-made dateline determines days of the week. In addition, days must be determined by arbitrary 24-hour periods in places near the North and South poles. In these localities, the Sabbath, of necessity, is an arbitrarily determined 24 hours.

“There are profoundly Christian reasons why ‘no prominent non-Adventists pastors or theologians have supported a seventh day Sabbath’.

The attempt by Adventists to persuade other Christians to become ‘Sabbath-keepers’ upon threat of eternal condemnation is anathema. The Christian community must ‘stop passing judgment on one another’, must ‘not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister’, must ‘make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification’. (from Romans 14)

* Didache 80-90 A.D. "And on the day of our lords resurrection, which is the Lord’s day meet more diligently."

Ignatius 110 A.D. wrote in his epistle to the Magnesians 9…" If they who were concerned in old things, arrived at a newness of hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living according to the Lord’s day, by which our life sprung from him and by his death (whom certain persons deny)…we have been made his disciples, let us live according to Christianity."

Barnabas 120A..D. "Wherefore, also, we keep the eighth day with joyfulness, the day, also, on which Jesus rose again from the dead"

Justin Martyr 140 A..D. "Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness, made the world; and Jesus Christ our savior, on the same day rose from the dead."

Note: Scholarly references from

In HOW DO WE KNOW? John McClarty questions the official Adventist claim to know “the whole truth”, morally and scientifically.

“Continuing to insist that our doctrines and public theology are shaped by the Bible and Bible only implies that all of our present doctrine and public theology is as infallible as the Bible itself. Thus any change would be a denial of the authority of the Bible. This fixity of doctrine, however, is contradicted by the preamble of our statement of beliefs and the history of our theological development.

“It’s time to recognize the variety of authorities and influences that shape our doctrine. It’s time for a serious exploration of the proper role of church authority in defining truth. How do we properly account for the different roles of formal church structures and the whole people of God? What is the proper role of pastors, scientists, and historians in correcting the work of theologians and exegetes? What should the church do when the Bible and experience contradict?”

Note to Editors: The RESPONSE FROM A NITPICKER by Richard Coffen is longer than McClarty’s essay and aptly named

HOMOSEXUALITY IN THE FIRST THREE CENTURIES by David W. T. Brattston raises thoughtful questions and provides some interesting information. Unfortunately, this piece needs a great deal of editorial help. To present such a controversial subject in such a linguistic muddle does a disservice to the author and readers. However, one paragraph managed to escape the verbal chaos.

“In addition to how restrictive an interpretation is to be given to “men lying with men as with a woman,” there is the issue of whether this prohibition is binding in our day. It would not apply if its sinful nature were rooted in social/ cultural factors rather than eternal anatomical differences. In the world of the Bible and the early Church, women occupied a position subordinate to males, with a status little different from slaves or animals. Thus, treating a man sexually as if he were a woman may have been forbidden only because it meant subjecting him to an inferior status, thus abusing and defiling him psychologically and socially in that culture. If so, the ban was not aimed at same-gender sensual gratification as an evil in itself and thus might not apply in an age of equality between the sexes.”

The thesis of Nathan Brown’s essay, THE CREATOR DIED, is summed up in the following words:

“Contrary to what has been assumed throughout much of Christian history and theology, the Bible is clear that the ultimate purpose of salvation is re-creation. God’s plan is for the world to be restored to its original goodness…This has significant implications for how we understand our role in God’s salvation and our relationship to the created world in which we have been created and re-created: ‘We are not saved from the world of creation, but saved for the world of creation (Rom. 8:18-26). Humans were made to take care of God’s wonderful world, and it is not too strong to say that the reason God saves humans is not simply that he loves them for themselves but that he loves them for what they truly are—his pro-creators, his stewards, his vice-regents over creation.’”

Bob Erwin believes that Adventists should regard ADVENTIST DIVERSITY AS AN ASSET. The following chart is his take on our different views of reality. Whether or not all of us can abide “Living Under The Big Tent Of Adventism” remains to be seen.

HOLDING THE GENERAL CONFERENCE PRESIDENT ACCOUNTABLE for his isolationist position regarding other Christian fellowships is a tall order, but Eric Webster makes a strong case for “prayerfully and discreetly bringing our attitude toward other Christians into harmony with Fundamental Belief No. 12 and with our practice of the Lord’s Supper”.

Jim Brauer reminds readers that fundamental values need not be abandoned in his prose poem, HOW TO MANAGE IF THE CHURCH SPLITS.

CONDITIONAL PROPHECY AND LAST-DAY EVENTS by Alden Thompson is a rambling, disjointed essay, that, in his own words, “is supposed to be about ‘conditional prophecy’. But it’s such a scary topic that we will ease into it with a much-too-long preamble.”

Editors, this preamble preceding The Preamble is a plea for help. I know that Alden is an SDA icon and a regular contributor, but he’s asking IN PRINT for editorial guidance that wasn’t forthcoming. Consequently, the piece ends with a plea to “honor it (the Sabbath) when all around us people are eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage”.

Kenley D. Hall reviews THE OMEGA REBELLION: WHAT EVERY ADVENTIST NEEDS TO KNOW…NOW. Editors, why you chose to review a book by Rick Howard is a mystery to me. Why the reviewer, Kenley D. Hall, was allocated 10% of the contents of the magazine is another mystery.

Adventist Man’s contribution to the issue is as advertised: a funny, satirical look at Adventist life.

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