Thursday, January 5, 2012

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.

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