Thursday, January 12, 2012

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.

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