Thursday, January 26, 2012

Prophetic Vision

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

Reviewing Spectrum

Fall, 2011
Volume 39, Issue 4

Spectrum, the magazine, was a pleasant surprise. As you might recall, after reviewing the last issue, I declared it was on life support. I’m happy to report the patient is recovering nicely!

I HEAR ADVENTISM SINGING by Bonnie Dwyer is a reflection of her positive attitude with regard to the future of Adventism.

“Obviously, the latest reports from the annual Council session show that the denomination is paying increased attention to what the numbers say… Wherever the people, in whatever church, in whichever form of praise that used worship, my musical wish is for the power in addressing to again be felt as in the days of James White and that, like the psalmist, we will sing praises to God with all our being.”

GOING FORWARD WHILE GOING BACKWARD by Charles Scriven is a paean of hope as well.

“Adventism, like all things good and beautiful, stands on the razor edge of danger… But there are shining moments when movement forward faces backward movement down.”

RE-ARRANGING THE WORLD CHURCH is required reading for anyone who is interested in church politics and current organizational activities. Of particular interest is Ted Wilson's unsuccessful attempt to standardize worship practices and define doctrinal orthodoxy in Germany, as evidenced by his five trips to the country in the first year of his presidency.

FALLING OUT OF THE CHURCH WINDOW by Kent Hansen is an essay on the compelling necessity of a Christian community.

The purpose of our gathering together is to encourage each other… What we all need and want from our community is a brother or sister who will come to our aid, embrace us in our brokenness, bring us back to life and fellowship, share a meal with us, converse in encouragement and help us home in healing grace.”

ADVENTIST CHURCH: MEMBERSHIP AUDITS PLANNED, REVISED FIGURES CONTEMPLATED is a report by Mark A. Kellner that David Trim, Director of the Archives, Statistics and Research Department, has called for the denomination to reassess its membership records. Church mortality rates have been found in some regions to be vastly lower than mortality rates of the general population. “On October 7, Jairyong Lee, president of the Northern Asia Pacific Division, acknowledge the loss of tens of thousands of names from the roles during a recent audit.”

ADVENTIST CHURCHES--THE VIEW FROM THE ROAD: QUESTIONS FOR MOTORCYCLIST, AND PASTOR MARVIN WRAY is an interview by Bonnie Dwyer that challenges the official evangelistic practices of the church.

Dwyer: Journeys is your book about a motorcycle trip across the US visiting Adventist churches. Why did you go?

Wray: I thought [a sabbatical of up to 3 months] would be a great opportunity to do what I have wanted to do for some time--visit churches all across the country.

Dwyer:  In the preface of your book you say the changes (in opinion) are the hope of the church for the future. Have you seen recent changes in the church that give you hope for the future?

Wray: No, not really. I early on coin the phrase, ‘pockets of hope.’ I saw precious few places that showed me much hope for real growth. I saw some places where they could do some significant things and grow. But for the church as a whole, am I seeing things that will lead us to growth? No I'm seeing the opposite. I'm seeing more attempts to do the same things we've been doing for the past many decades.

WHO IS THE AVERAGE AMERICAN ADVENTIST? by Ronald E. Osborne reveals that:

“The gap between the rich and poor within Adventism is greater than for any other group in the survey with the exception of the historically black Protestant churches… Adventists are by far the most ethnically diverse religious community of any kind in the United States today with the exception of Muslims…They are the only Christian group in which no single ethnicity comprises 50% or more of the membership. More than a quarter of all Adventists in the US today are Latino and more than 20% black. A smaller number are Asian or are of mixed race. Whites comprise 43% of the denomination…

 Adventists are slightly younger than the general adult population in America and younger still than Catholics as well as most other Protestants… Adventist demographics are very poorly reflected in church governance structures. While 60% of Adventists in the United States are female, only 20% (3 out of 15) of its officials in the North American division are female… Adventism in the United States today is a faith of the poor, the uneducated, and quite possibly the undocumented and these trends will probably increase in the future.”

THE POLITICS OF THE PROPHETIC GIFT is a review of Gilbert M. Valentine’s book, The Prophet And The Presidents, by Douglas Morgan.

“Valentine] is not drawn to stories about clairvoyant phenomena or amazing predictions come true, or claims for 100% accuracy and consistency. Rather, he is impressed whether’ rich tapestry of Adventist experience produced by the interaction of 3 agencies: 1) Ellen White the passionate visionary and risk taker who sometimes got angry, wrote impulsively, questioned herself, and changed her mind; 2) those who found her prophetic voice credible but also sometimes questioned it; and 3) divine providence.”

ELLEN WHITE RE-ENACTORS by Midori Yoshimura is the story of the young writers, actors and actresses, and producers and directors who have brought Ellen White back to life, and turned what it means to be a Seventh-day Adventist into drama.

CREDO by Herbert Blomstedt is a talk delivered at Mountain View Seventh-day Adventist Church, Mountain View. California, on April 2, 2011, in which the world famous conductor offered these suggestions to his listeners:

“Think about Him, pray to Him, worship Him, glorify Him, but don't argue about Him. To the eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, we own nothing but reverence, honor and glory. And to the world around us, all living things, people and animals, we owe compassion and charity.”

 “What use is it to talk to people about subtle details of God's salvation plan when they have no concept of God whatsoever? Our first missionary duty must now be to bring God to people's attention.”
WHAT ADVENTISTS CAN LEARN FROM THE PLAY, THE BOOK OF MORMON by Ron Reece is a review of the Broadway Play in which he opines, “Both Mormons and Seventh-day Adventists suffer from the sin of denominationalism: namely giving their denominations, prophets, and doctrines near divine and unquestioning status.”

IN TUNE WITH GOD by Lilianne Doukhan is a reviewed by Ken Parsons in which he concludes, “In Tune With God is a must-read for those even remotely involved in planning or presenting worship services, and for anyone wishing to learn more about the sometimes turbulent saga of church music.”

A LEADER SHOULD TAKE YOU FORWARD is a review of Jan Paulsen's book, Where Are We Going? By Rajmund Dabrowski. The title itself is a cautionary reminder to the official leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church that “It's impossible to walk backwards into the future with eyes fixed on how things used to be.”

The cover art by Kent Rich does indeed “inspire creativity”.

It’s A Silver Spring Virus

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

Views on the Trumpets

In these “last days”, it is comforting to know that official Adventism is publishing important and relevant Biblical research. ISSUES IN THE INTERPRETATION OF THE SEVEN TRUMPETS OF REVELATION by Angel Manuel Rodriguez, published in He January issue of MINISTRY: The International Journal for Pastors, has been judged important enough to make the cover! The following chart maps his research findings.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Faithful Adventists Make a Disheartening Discovery

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

Reviewing the Review and Adventist World

December 16, 2011
Vol. 188, No. 36

Reviewing Adventist World, NAD Edition
January, 2012
Vol. 8, No. 1

This week is a two-for-one post, the December 22 Review and the January issue of Adventist World. I have a comment or two, but the content of both magazines was devotional and, with one exception, theologically generous.

The Adventist Review
The INBOX is trending toward including letters from readers that are not wholly congratulatory. Norman Yergen is of the opinion that Jesus would be with the protestors in Zuccotti Park.

James Gulley, a Senior Investigator and Director of the Center for Cancer research at the National Cancer Institute, was the recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award.

Rex D. Edwards, author of BECOMING WHAT WE ARE NOT, defined sanctification in the spirit of the New Testament. “Sanctification is not a place in which one arrives, but a way one travels.” In FALSE FLAGS, Gilbert W. Baker defined truth in the spirit of the Old Testament. “Commitment to truth is achieved not by the pursuit of truth, but by a resolve to obey truth.”

If your Christmas spirit is lagging and the new year isn't turning out to be as “new” as you hoped, I suggest reading SUPER-GIFTS AND THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT by Andrew McChesney.

TRANSCENDING TALK WITH TITHE by A. Allan Martin is an open letter to the leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in which he describes a practical way for young Adventists to transition into leadership positions in the church. It's than administrative MUST READ.

Adventist World, NAD Edition
Adventist World is free online. For that reason, I only review or comment on articles that I believe to be of special interest. This includes editorials, special supplements, and NAD features not available online.

In his LETTER TO THE EDITORS, Robert Aaron goes on record for collaboration, not confrontation when it comes to interacting with other Christian denominations.

Allan R. Handysides and Peter N. Landless supply invaluable information about URINARY TRACT INFECTIONS.

FAITHFUL UNDER FIRE by Andrew McChesney is the Cover Story and a MUST READ. It is a short biography of Oksana Sergiyenko, “who ascended to the highest government post of any Seventh-day Adventist in Russian history… She fearlessly expressed her love for God while cherishing her country, setting an example for all Adventists that they can faithfully serve God and country at the same time.”

BORN TO CONNECT by Cintia Paseggi is a riff on Fundamental Belief Number 23, Marriage and the Family. Paseggi’s words are loving and generous. There is no mention of the phrase in 23 regarding divorce: “Jesus taught that the person who divorces a spouse, except for fornication, and marries another, commits adultery.”

I think it's about time that official Adventism gets Jesus off the hook. Perhaps some officially sanctioned authority like Angel Manuel Rodriguez can interpret those words in the context of the time and community in which they were expressed.

Comfortable Illusions

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

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Pastoral Preparation 101

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

Reviewing the Adventist Review

December 16, 2011
Vol. 188, No. 35

Christmas is long gone, so ‘nuf said on that subject. Three things claimed my undivided attention in this issue: Letters to the Editor, CLIFF’S EDGE, and GENESIS by Lael Caesar.

My interest in INBOX has picked up. Three of the letters in this issue are less than congratulatory, and one has suggested a more generous approach to evangelism.

Virginia Myers
“Ordination as I have observed it in the Adventist church does not impress me and appears to be an occasion for pride and worldly esteem and the public right of passage.”

George Gibson
“Let’s push for the revival of the action taken at the 1881 business proceedings at the General Conference: ‘Resolved, that females possessing the necessary qualifications to fill that position, may, with perfect propriety, be set apart by ordination to the work of the Christian ministry’ (Adventist Review and Sabbath Herald, December 20, 1881)."

Mary Ann Bailey
“My concern is this: we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars educating our young people to take their place in the working church, then bring individuals from retirement to take positions, and not just in education. I realize these people have a lot of experience and I don't doubt their sincerity or desire to help in the education field--or any other position."

“However, this denomination started with young people. Unless our young people-with degrees in hand are given a chance to work in the church, for the church, dedicated to the Lord and his work, we will lose them, and all their love and ambition and expertise will fade away!”

Lester N. Wright
“I understand God as loving all of his children. For someone to portray God as hating (liars, drunks, fornicators, and sodomists, et al) seems blasphemy to me; people claiming to be His are giving God a bad name… Somehow we need to actively portray the loving, inviting, attractive God we worship.”

WHEN ANGELS WON'T DO is Clifford Goldstein’s rant about sin and the sacredness of “God’s Law”.

“And sin is so bad, so evil, because God’s law is so sacred, so good. The severity of sin is seen best in the infinite sacrifice needed to atone for it; that severity itself speaks to the very sacredness of the law. If the law is so holy that only the sacrifice of God Himself could answer its claims, we have all the proof we need of just how exalted the law is.”

For his text, he cited the Cliff Notes version of Mathew 25:31-46

The Sheep and the Goats
 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the keepers of the law on his right and the sinners on his left.

 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For you kept the law when you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink because the law required it. I was a stranger and you invited me in because that’s what law keepers do. I needed clothes and you clothed me as required. I was sick and you looked after me because My Law is exalted. I was in prison and you came to visit me because My Law is the most important thing in the universe.’

 “Then the law keepers will answer him, ‘Lord, we fed the hungry because if we didn’t, you said you would send us into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. That was why we gave people water when they were thirsty and invited strangers into our homes. We gave people clothes and looked after the sick and prisoners because we don’t want to get on your bad side.’ 

 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it because my law required it.’

 “Then he will say to the sinners on his left, ‘Depart from me, you law breakers who just stumbled along just trying to do what was right. Don’t waste my time talking about love. You broke my laws almost every day. So what if you gave people food and drink, took in strangers and gave clothes to those in need. Do you think it mattered that you looked after the sick and visited people in prison? You are sinners. It’s eternal fire for you guys! You will go away to eternal punishment, but the keepers of My Law are going to Heaven!’”

This is a breathtaking declaration by Lael Ceasar that the universe is 6000 years old, give or take a year or two.

“Before Genesis 1:1 there was only God. There was no sky, no sea, no flower, no tree, no bird, no you, know me. There was no galaxy or cosmos, no item or atom, no gravity or density. There was only the singularity of eternal God.”

I think I understand why Christian fundamentalists are so fearful and unhappy. They have been told that they have to choose to believe either the story of the creation as found in Genesis (There are actually two radically different stories in the first two chapters, but that doesn’t seem to phase these religious know-nothing authorities.) or an evolutionary story that denies the existence of God. These are the only choices available, and denying the first will keep them out of Heaven.

In times of economic uncertainty, natural calamity, and/or war, fear can override reason in the general population. This fear is intensified if fundamentalist leaders tell their followers that these events are God’s punishment for behavior that demonstrates unbelief.

Imagine trying to believe that the universe was created 6000 years ago.

Imagine trying to believe that the Grand Canyon was created by a universal flood that covered the highest mountain 4500 years ago and all fauna, with the exception of life in the sea, are the descendants of creature pairs that only survived because of their ride in Noah’s ark that ended up on top of Mt. Ararat in Turkey.

Imagine trying to believe that personal unbelief delays the Second Coming of Jesus?

Imagine trying to believe that scientists are used by the Devil to destroy the faith of children.

I believe that the people asked to believe these things can’t do it by themselves. They have to memorize the words of charismatic religious leaders, and can only quiet their common sense by repeating authoritative pronouncements and irrational claims.

Depending on the survey, 50-90% of educated young people from Adventist homes apparently lack the required “imagination” and are currently not attending church. As long as Lael Caesar speaks with organizational authority, that trend will continue.

Muddling Through

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

Thursday, January 5, 2012

What hath Ted wrought?

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

Reviewing the Adventist Review

December 8, 2011
Vol. 188, No. 34

With one glaring and offensive exception, this is the most inspiring and generously Christian issue I have reviewed in the past four years. Kudos to Steohen Chavez, Sandra Blackmer, Jennifer Mae Barizo, Gerald Colvin. Dixil Rodriguez, and Dick Rentfro.

Unfortunately, Mark Kellner’s lead editorial provides the reader with a definition of Adventists and the Adventist message very similar to the one officially endorsed at Silver Spring. It’s not a pretty picture. More about that later.

Fortunately, Stephen Chavez’ editorial, OUR AMAZING, UNPREDICTABLE GOD, is across the page from Kellner’s. It’s tone and generously Christian sentiments calmed me down.

“We are well into the season when we honor a God who came to earth as a baby. And why would that surprise us? He’s demonstrated over the millennia that He will stop at nothing to engage His creatures, demonstrate His love, and ask for their loyalty.

“All we can do is reflect on the many ways He’s surprised His people in the past—then be amazed when He invites us to join Him in surprising others with His amazing, unpredictable love.”

In PENCIL POWER, Sandra Blackmer provides a firsthand report on what’s happening with the Church’s literacy project in India. Amazing!

“’We’re not building big churches; we’re not holding huge evangelistic meetings; but there are 50,000 women who are now able to read and have learned about Jesus, and they take this knowledge out into the community,’ says Ray Tetz, creative director and owner of Mind Over Media and who partners with HFH and SUD to raise awareness of the program. ‘I would say that’s a good investment.’

“The young teachers embody the values they’re inculcating to their students. They’re not just standing on the sidelines of the church; they’re on the front lines in their communities, taking up leadership roles that make them a vital part of this growing ministry.

“But most important, thousands of people are learning of a Savior who loves them unconditionally and cares about their daily struggles and challenges. They’re turning to Him for help and trusting in His guidance, which is altering their lives here and for eternity—one class, one woman, at a time.”

To read more about Blackmer’s experiences in India and to view additional photos, go to To learn more about HFH literacy programs, go to

HER MUSIC CONTINUES by Jennifer Mae Barizo is a brief biography of Virginia-Gene Rittenhouse, a musician, teacher, and director without parallel in Adventist history.

“It is unquestionable that she defined the course of many artists—careers they chose, cities they eventually inhabited, even the people they married. But many musicians I spoke to were most grateful for what she shared with them: an irrepressible love of music. A quote Rittenhouse shared repeatedly at concerts and rehearsals was written by Johann Sebastian Bach: ‘The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.’

“’The most beautiful thing about Dr. Rittenhouse was that she believed that the ability to perform such music itself was a gift from God,’ said Wolfram Koessel, cellist of the world-renowned American String Quartet. ‘She prayed before every Carnegie concert. Even for the New York musicians who did not believe in God, it was moving to see.’

“Amid the adulatory public narratives of other individuals who held her in the same love and esteem is the undeniable fact that a woman who changed the face of Adventist mission and education has passed her blazing energy to generations and generations of young people.

“‘She was fearless and brave, very smart, funny, and kind,’ Rutter shared. ‘She expected plenty of those who worked with her, but never any more than she was prepared to give herself. I shall miss her terribly.’”

KNOWING VERSUS LEARNING: BLUEBIRDS AND BEYOND by Gerald F. Colvin is a cautionary tale of the effects of environment on bluebirds and young human minds.

“Human epigenetic imprinting reveals that a gene’s function can change without altering the sequence of its DNA. Such imprinted or altered genes are unusually susceptible to what we eat, drink, and breathe. Unfortunately, epigenetic changes can be inherited!

“As a parent and grandparent, let me highlight a number of worthy points in review: (1) the importance of listening, (2) the value of practice, (3) the need for early exposure to great themes, (4) the recognition of our need for partnership with the Divine, and (5) an acknowledgment that God delights in occasionally surprising us with unschooled prodigies. But an even more crucial point is our need as parents to ‘seek after righteousness’ that we might reinforce our children and grandchildren against the challenges awaiting them.”

In MISSING PERSON Dixil Rodriguez tells the story of Diane, an armed forces veteran, who tells her “that after all she has seen, it is difficult to retain faith, and she no longer believes there is any real kindness or justice in this world”. The conversation begins when this former Adventist notices that Dixil is reading Steps to Christ on a park bench. What happens next is a story within the story that changes both lives.

AN EVER-PRESENT HELP by Dick Rentfro is a love letter.

“God deems each one of us as having immeasurable value, regardless of our troubles, conflicts, doubts, and uncertainties. Even with our less-than-perfect characters or short tempers, we are the objects of His compassion. No matter what is happening in our lives, God still loves us. At this very moment He is right beside us, ready to help and strengthen us…

“Our salvation is based upon our relationship with God, a relationship that strengthens by spending time with Him. The better we know our loving Lord, the more in sync our hearts will beat with His.”

IF THE CREATION ACCOUNT ISN’T TRUE… by Mark A. Kellner is a screed guaranteed to offend all but the most legalistic Adventist. He assumes that a Christian core belief that does not include a literal six-day creation story is an attack on the idea of “Creation and the sanctity of marriage”.

“If there’s no Creation . . .
. . . where, and how, did sin enter the world?
. . . why do we need a Savior?
. . . from what did God, if He even exists, rest?
. . . why should we rest if, absent Creation, there’s nothing from which God rested?
. . . how can we believe anything else in the Bible?

“One of the more popular fallacies being floated these days is that the Creation account found in Genesis is an allegory, a ‘celebration,’ much in the way the ancient Hebrews took seven days to mark the inauguration of a temple.

“Nonsense. Either the Creation account is true, or we can all sleep in next Saturday morning. As one speaker recently put it: “’If God did not create man in His own image . . . how can we truly believe that He can re-create us for a new heaven and a new earth?’

“The only surprise is that we expect anything different from those who seem to hold conformity to the world’s standards above allegiance to the Lord of hosts.”

Mark, I don’t believe in a recent six-day creation of the universe. That doesn’t mean I believe in evolution, don’t believe in God or a Savior, or question the sanctity of marriage. I believe the Bible writers wrote for our edification in all things. However, I’m not sure if God gets tired, or if Sabbath keeping is a sign of the Lord’s remnant. I am sure that killing a man for gathering sticks on the seventh day, in this or in another time zone, is murder, and the parable, The Rich Man and Lazarus, involves a literary illusion, rather than a proof that Hell exists.

However, the most off-putting aspect of your editorial is its arrogant tone. My prayer is that readers will forgive your hubris, be inspired by the love, joy, and compassion expressed elsewhere in this issue, and remember your thoughtful reporting in previous publications.

Just Checking

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