Thursday, March 29, 2012

Team Building at ADRA

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

Reviewing the Adventist Review

March 15, 2012
Vol. 189, No. 8

WORD NEWS AND PERSPECTIVES is an important section of each magazine. I do not usually report on its contents because it is available at the online address I provide with every review.

In this issue, I recommend two essays that are informative and inspiring. WHAT A RIDE! by Hyveth Williams is a short biography of her life that begins in a poor Jamaican family. The second, BURDENS TO CARRY by Sudha Khristmukti is her story of bicycling through one of the most horrific slums in the world to bring “two carefully balanced sacks of grain” to a poverty-stricken single mother and her infant daughter.

I recommend reading CHANGING THE DEBATE by Cliff Goldstein because it is a calculating, theologically divisive, destructive, and blatantly misleading Straw Man argument designed to vilify Adventist believers who disagree with him regarding the literal interpretation of Genesis 1 & 2.

The Straw Man fallacy is committed when a person simply ignores a person's actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position. This sort of "reasoning" has the following pattern:

  1. Person A has position X. 
  2. Person B presents position Y (which is a distorted version of X)
  3. Person B attacks position Y. 
  4. Therefore X is false/incorrect/flawed.

This sort of "reasoning" is fallacious because attacking a distorted version of a position simply does not constitute an attack on the position itself. One might as well expect an attack on a poor drawing of a person to hurt the person.

In CHANGING THE DEBATE, Goldstein argues that those of us who believe God created the universe millions of years ago are Darwinists. His Straw Man argument goes like this:

  1. God created the universe millions of years ago
  2. God created the universe in 6 literal days approximately 6000 years ago
  3. People who don’t believe the universe was created in 6 literal days approximately 6000 years ago believe in Darwinian evolution
  4. Therefore, people who believe God created the universe millions of years ago believe in Darwinian evolution.

Cliff, I believe, along with lots of other people, that the universe was created millions of years ago. We do not necessarily believe in Darwinian Evolution. I don’t!

Here’s Cliff’s fallacious attempt to persuade.
“Those fighting Darwinism as a viable interpretation of Genesis are now deemed as narrow, parochial, and closed-minded. That’s a slick move, but a false one. We’re not talking about making things such as the belief that God created spotted owls before whooping cranes or salmon before goldfish tests of faith. We’re talking about an ideology that, at its core, destroys all that we stand for as Seventh-day Adventists…

"Any belief—sacred, secular, whatever—comes with challenges, and that certainly includes our belief in a literal six-day creation as depicted in Genesis 1 and 2. But that’s not the point. The point is the attempt to incorporate a radically alien theology into Adventism. And one of the latest tactics in that attempt is to change the debate in order to make those who reject this theology look narrow-minded, dogmatic, and parochial. Fortunately, the church isn’t close to falling for it.”

The First Marital Difficulty

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

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Media Evangelism Unmasked

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

Reviewing Adventist World, NAD Edition

February, 2012
Vol. 8, No. 3

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.

This issue of World has a lot to commend it. SOMETHING’S FISHY by Drs. Handysides and Landless talks “fish” and “fish oil” in their usual intelligent and informative way.

THE WITCH DOCTOR AND THE PREACHER by Wellesley Muir is a MUST READ mission story which features two of Adventism must famous missionaries, Ferdinand and Ana Stahl.

CHRIST’S HEALING TOUCH is a report about our church’s disabilities ministry that should make every member proud to be an Adventist.

MALAMULO: GOD’S OUTPOST is the inspiring story of two youthful graduates from Loma Linda’s School of Medicine, Drs. Adrienne James and Sandy Mattison, who participated with other national and foreign medical personnel in staffing Malamulo Adventist Hospital in Malawi.

THE VISION LIVES ON by Humberto M. Rasi clearly articulates Adventist educational philosophy. He also includes the following troubling statistic: “The global ratio of baptized members to students in our schools continues to decline to the point that in 2008 there were only nine students per 100 members—an ominous trend in a growing, youthful church such as ours.”

In Ted N. C. Wilson’s FOLLOWING THE WAY OF THE WORD: A GREAT OBLIGATION, his expressed concern is “how to keep youth and young adults in the church”. Unfortunately, he suggests the same old bromides that he believes will “inoculate” Adventist young people against worldly pursuits. He goes on to opine “that there is a worldly culture and that there is a biblical/heavenly culture that is applicable around the world”. The reference here is to music and worship.

Ted, the must fundamental problem isn’t providing young people with social outlets approved by the church or integrating “youth into the daily responsibilities and activities of the church” or encouraging them to sing hymns without electronic accompaniment. The problem is rigid formulistic church creeds and, most glaringly, official pronouncements regarding biblical literalism and the misogynistic and homophobic attitudes embraced in church doctrine and policy.

Angel Manuel Rodriguez describes the significance of THE ARK OF THE COVENANT in the following ways. It was “God’s residence among the Israelites”, it symbolizes “that God’s last word for us is mercy in the form of atonement through blood”, and it is a sign that Jesus is now interceding “for us before the ark of the Lord in the heavenly temple, in the presence of the King of the universe”.

Angel, a little humility wouldn’t hurt. I suggest a trip outside on a clear night before there is even a sliver of a moon. Look up and check out the universe.

ADRA Leadership Battles Morale Problem

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

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Adventist Clerics Viewed from the Midwest

From Non Sequitur, by Wiley 
(click image to enlarge)

Reviewing the Adventist Review

February 16, 2012
Vol. 189, No.7

WORD NEWS AND PERSPECTIVES is an important section of each magazine. I do not usually report on its contents because it is available at the online address I provide with every review.

This issue is not one I would share with nonAdventists for reasons that will soon be apparent. That’s not to say it’s without informative and inspirational content.

Kidoes to Elizabeth Lechleitner for her report that ABUSE PREVENTION [IS] A PRIORITY FOR ADVENTIST RISK MANAGEMENT. While it is unsettling to note that “ARM routinely handles a couple dozen cases of child abuse every year”, it is gratifying to know that child abuse cases that involve church personnel are dealt with openly and that church leaders are working with Shield the Vulnerable, a proactive program “to better protect children”.

Dixil Rodriguez’s SHOE BOXES AND PRAYERS is a reminder that God’s messengers of comfort and encouragement sometimes arrive when we least expect them bearing gifts in shoe boxes.

Monte Sahlin can be counted on to provide important information on CHURCH TRENDS gleaned from the Internet.

And Robin Erwin has nine suggestions for KEEPING “YOU COOL” DURING HOT COMMITTEE MEETINGS.

It’s three letters in the INBOX that deserve comments. The first, buy Kevin D. Paulson is the most disturbing.

“Anyone who knows and understands the biblical claims of the Sabbath, yet chooses to set these claims aside, has forfeited salvation as surely has the racist, the adulterer, the liar, or the spousal abuser…”

Kevin, your language is reprehensible. May I suggest a quote from the Apostle Paul. “So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves.” Romans 14:22.

Editors, your decision to publish Kevin’s declaration of “the biblical claims of the Sabbath” is an invitation to doctrinal ridicule. The Apostle Paul refused to be sidetracked in this discussion of the Gospel by such distracting and divisive pronouncements. “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

Then there’s Mildred White who uses an Ellen White quote to assert, “He who is imbued with the spirit of Christ abides in Christ....whatever comes to him comes from Christ…nothing can touch him except by our Lord's permission.” This sounds a lot like the notion that we Christians have Christ to thank for our troubles. It's the Devil that torments the wicked.

Sterling Cox takes Hyveth Williams to task for suggesting that professional athletes might be effective Adventist spokespersons. He claims that their lifestyle and “oversized salaries”, not to mention participation in sports on the Sabbath render them unfit.

Sterling, last time I checked, plenty of Adventists work on the Sabbath. And lots of other people work on the Sabbath with our tacit approval. Janitors mop the floors in hospitals and members of the armed forces are at their posts. Telephone company employees keep us connected and members of the police force protect our property. We eat vegetables that were picked on the Sabbath and purchase cars without asking if they were assembled on Saturday.

A devout Seventh-day Adventist, the internationally acclaimed conductor Herbert Blomstedt, does not rehearse on Friday nights or Saturdays. He does, however, conduct concerts on the Sabbath, since he considers actual performances to be an expression of his religious devotion rather than work.

Couldn’t this disclaimer work for a professional athlete like Grace Daley. Her beauty and skill are celebrated on the cover of this issue as a professional athlete in action, not in her present job, counseling clients at a health fairs. What if it was known that she didn’t practice on Sabbath, but considered her game performances during the Sabbath hours as an expression of her God-given talent? (Tim Tebow might be cited as an example of Christian humility and lifestyle.)

Finally, Alejandro Medina Villarreal makes an amazing claim IN EXCHANGE FOR YOUR HEALTH.

“God does not have to be comprehensible to be reliable. And we do not have to understand to be faithful. Whether or not we understand, we may know, with Paul, that our heavenly father is in control of our most excruciating experiences, and that despite all the fiery darts of the enemy, our life is hid with Christ in God.”

This kind of cliché driven expression of “faith” defies reason and common sense. It also leaves the reader wondering who is to blame for our suffering. Is it our Heavenly Father who provides “our most excruciating experiences” or the Devil with his “fiery darts”?

“Another Day, Another Dollar”

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

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Lesson in Failure to Contextualize

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

Reviewing Adventist Today: Online Edition

January February, 2012
Vol. 20, No. 1

This edition has substantive and thought provoking ideas that seem to evaporate midway through J. David Newman’s essay, IN REACHING THE LOST, ANYTHING GOES—EXCEPT… Essays by Pichot, Jones, and Bauer should be required reading in Silver Spring! These articles are worth the subscription price. Unfortunately, the last four literary efforts were pretty poor stuff. Editors and contributors, you can do better.

In BREAKING THE RULES, J. David Newman’s advocates the need for “contextualization” of the Gospel and elaborates on the following, widely ignored words of Ellen White. His editorial sets the tone and substance for this issue.

“There are some minds which do not grow with the work but allow the work to grow far beyond them...Those who do not discern and adapt themselves to the increasing demands of the work, should not stand blocking the wheels, and thus hindering the advancement of others.”

“There must be no fixed rules; our work is a progressive work, and there must be room left for methods to be improved upon. But under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, unity must and will be preserved.

“Means will be devised to reach hearts. Some of the methods used in this work will be different from the methods used in this work in the past; but let no one, because of this, block the way by criticism.”

Two pages devoted to seven letters. That’s an improvement, but four pages and fourteen letters would be better. If readers have a good chance of seeing their responses in print, it might even increase subscriptions!


“From the moment I acknowledged contextualization as necessary to any cross-cultural evangelistic work, the barriers to leading Muslims to embrace Biblical truth were gone. I realized that the greatest barriers are our “Christian” attitudes toward Muslims. With contextualization, the Fulani followers of Jesus could remain in Islamic culture. They could reject only the aspects of Islam that were contrary to the Bible. Understood crossculturally, Islam has a lot in common with Adventist faith. With contextualization, we could baptize polygamists who were converted and encourage them to be good husbands to all of their wives—and not to take on any more. The Bible upholds monogamy as an ideal, but it does not call polygamy a sin. We could comply with Ellen White’s counsel in her book Education : “Every true teacher will feel that should he err at all, it is better to err on the side of mercy than on the side of severity.”

Of course, contextualization applies to the “ever increasing cultural diversity that is challenging our traditional American Adventist worldview right here at home…

” Today most children of Seventh-day Adventist church members are growing up in a culture that is different from that of their parents. Their parents and grandparents have a hard time relating to them and accepting the differences. Most Adventists also have a hard time relating to their neighbors and prefer to escape from their communities into the safety of their churches…

“There is no way around contextualization if we are to connect with those who have quit attending our churches—to say nothing of those who have never attended.”

BEAT THE DRUMS FOR JESUS by Phil Jones recounts what happens when intelligent and compassionate evangelism meets the needs of the Indian Lower Casts.

“Revival broke out when prayer warriors began marching around Indian villages, praying daily for the people. The Adventists, though few in number at the time, began to show a genuine concern for the lower castes…

“This sudden personal, Christian caring began to count for something to those formerly labeled “Untouchables.” Revival meetings were held in cloth tents with seating on the ground, Indian style, with the women on one side and the men on the other. Traditional Indian drums were used to call the people for worship, and several drummed-out hymns to Jesus and the Holy Spirit were composed and passed down orally to the people.”

Jim Brauer asks some necessarily disturbing questions in HAVE WE FAILED IN CONTEXTUALIZING THE GOSPEL?

“Has the Adventist Church failed to recognize that what it is preaching and teaching may not be the gospel that Scripture suggests?

“We attempt to convert people to our modern Western linear, didactic (28 statements of truth) worldview rather than introducing all nations, kindred, tongues, and peoples to the
gospel of a relationship with Jesus, who is the truth. Instead of a near- Eastern relational, Biblical, story-based church culture, we have sadly transmitted our linear, hierarchical, positivist culture…

“God also speaks to those who aren’t like us in their own worldview, and he calls them to a life of discipleship in their  context, which can be very, very different from ours!”

IN REACHING THE LOST, ANYTHING GOES—EXCEPT… Editor Newman first pushes the traditional Adventist envelope…
“[Contextualization] for Adventists, can be rather scary. It means getting out of our comfort zones. It means listening to and playing music that is not what we are used to. It means participating in sports and recreational activities that have often been seen as “off limits” to Adventists. It may mean going to places such as movie theaters, bowling alleys, skating rinks, dance halls, and even bars—if that is where we must find the people we are trying to reach. Paul said: “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel.”

…then, inexplicably, J. D. turns gold into straw when he attempts to describe the Universal, Local, and Temporal Absolutes of the Gospel and provides six guides for acceptable evangelistic behavior! J. D., weren’t you the guy who wrote, “There must be no fixed rules” back there in your editorial?

Uili Solofa explains why SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISTS [IN SAMOA] ARE TOLD TO KEEP SUNDAY after Samoa’s decision to bend the International Time Line at midnight, December 29, 2011. Milton Hook argues that this theological decision “remains a tad hypocritical” in his DISSENTING VIEW of the official action.

Gary Prout’s circus metaphor fails to “offer insights into our sometimes-murky world”. Poetic language is not a substitute for substance in THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH.

In LIVING STONES by Aletha Gruzensky, a stone jumps all over the ground, trying to knock off its own rough edges, and screams “No,no! I’m not perfect yet!”  Unfortunately, this “building a beautiful wall” metaphor belongs in a book for very young children.

And then there’s Alden Thompson’s take on CONTEXTUALIZATION: A GENTLE TWIST ON THE TERRORS OF SANAI. Alden, that was no gentle twist! And your essay is no example of the contextualization of scripture, either!

“So let’s sample a biblical illustration of contextualization, remembering at the outset that gentle Jesus, the God who came to die on Golgotha, is the same God who came to kill at Sinai. Is that language too strong? Read on. And if you’re brave, read the story from the book of Exodus, too.”

For Derel J. Morris, author of Radical Protection, memorizing short scripture verses is an effective way of FIGHTING SUPERNATURAL FORCES. Rajkumar Dixit, the reviewer, promotes the book as “peppered with fantastic prayer promises and Bible references”.

Adventist Man, it may have been because I read your CONTEXTUALIZING THE MESSAGE FOR DIFFERENT CULTURAL GROUPS immediately after reading Alden Thompson’s essay, but your verbal antics failed to produce even a contextualized grin.

A Present from Alden Thompson

Comic from Pearls Before Swine, by Stephan Pastis.
(click to enlarge)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Ted, this is SoCal, and that’s Pointe Pomerol not Postum!

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

Reviewing the Adventist Review

Reader, this “review “is a twofer.

WORD NEWS AND PERSPECTIVES is an important section of each magazine. I do not usually report on its contents because it is available at the online address I provide with every review.

February 16, 2012
Vol. 189, No. 5

Stephen Chavez continues to some through with original devotional editorials. Don’t miss CHRIME SCENE INVESTIGATIONS.

Although I don't usually comment on individual WORLD NEWS & PERSPECTIVES articles, SUPER-HEALTHY CITY FLIPPING OVER BURGERS by Nick Allen, a Daily Telegraph reporter is a scoop!

While I almost always have something critical to say about a Cliff Goldstein essay, DAILY TRANSITIONS is a thoughtful, well written piece on the two realities a Christian assumes to exist every day—the religious and the secular—revealed by something as ordinary as saying Grace before eating a bowl of Cheerios. However, his closing sentence saddens me. Cliff, as Christian Adventists, shouldn’t our present lives be filled with of hope and happiness as well?

“We live in two realities, and it’s the desperation of the first that makes the second our only hope.”

February 23, 2012
Vol. 189, No. 6

This issue was the best one so far this year. I have only one critical comment that I’ll save for later. Enjoy!

The cover story, “I GIVE YOU MY LIFE” reported by Lael Caesar is a MUST READ. Whitney Phipps is a shining example of what every member, regardless of political conviction or theological orientation, can be proud. I particularly enjoyed the following anecdote:

“Phipps once sang at a large function in Washington where President Clinton spoke, then rushed across town to sing at a major meeting of the Grand Old Party. Once there, he announced that he had just come from singing for the president of the United States. There was some booing and mumbling. ‘Wait a minute,’ he said. ‘Wait a minute. I always go where people really need the Lord.’ There was polite applause. Then he continued, ‘And that’s why I’m here!’ It’s the attitude he has always taken, that ministry, not politics and party affiliation, defines his purpose. “And sometimes,” he admits, ‘it causes me to tremble…because you end up ministering to people who see each other as mortal or political enemies.’”

If only Ted Wilson had Whitney’s sense if humor and his generous spirit.

A PEARL FOR AN IDIOT by Jeff Scoggins was a parable worth remembering. My only problem was deciphering the title. The swirly “Little Mermaid” title script had me guessing “A Beant for an Idiot” instead of “A Pearl for an Idiot”! (I had to turn to the Title Page to decipher the word!)

I particularly appreciated DOES COLOSSIANS 2:16, 17 ABOLISH THE SABBATH. Kim Papaioannou and Michael Mxolisi Sokupa present a scholarly and convincing argument. What follows is their conclusion.

“Colossians 2:16, 17 neither abolishes nor establishes either the Sabbath or any other feast. It simply does not address their continuity or discontinuity. The five pieces of evidence outlined above demonstrate persuasively that the only thing the text establishes is that we no longer need to offer sacrifices.”

Docs Handysides and Landless do their excellent job of defining and discussing CHRONIC COUGH and what it might mean. This is a MUST READ for every reader.

Andrew McChesney’s LUCKY BEING ME is a thoughtful tribute to his humanity and the Adventist lifestyle.

And the KID’S VIEW insert was impressive. Kudos to Karimabadi, Luste Maran, and Poirer

E. Edward Zinke’s lead editorial, DOES THE DEVIL CARE? was distressing because it demonizes those of us who think Bible study requires that we “test God’s Word by our minds (How else can this be done?), rather than testing our minds by God’s Word” . Here is the quote:

“Does the devil care whether we have faith? Satan tempts us to act independent of God, to establish our minds as the absolute determiner of truth, rather than relying upon God’s Word to guide us to His truth as the foundation of our faith. He tempts us to test God’s Word by our minds, rather than testing our minds by God’s Word. To doubt God’s Word is the means by which Satan hopes to lead us to stray from God.”

Zinke goes on to say:

“The devil was in the Garden of Eden tempting Adam and Eve to trust their own judgment rather than the Word of God.”

Ed, you can’t have it both ways. You claim that it was the Devil that tempted Adam and Eve when the Bible clearly identifies the creature who did the tempting as a snake. How do you believe we should “test God’s Word” in this instance?

CHALKER, Byron K., Sr.—b. Feb. 14, 1922, Parkersburg, W.Va.; d. Sept. 24, 2011, Chattanooga, Tenn.
COMBES, Vivian E.—b. Jan. 6, 1933, Guthrie, Okla.; d. Sept. 27, 2011, Greencastle, Ind.
FESLER, Bob L.—b. May 14, 1930, Genoa, Colo.; d. Feb. 5, 2011, Highlands Ranch, Colo.
GAY, Phyllis J.—b. Jan. 12, 1936, Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada; d. Aug. 11, 2011, Orlando, Fla.
NICOLA, Darrell A.—b. Apr. 19, 1929, Los Angeles, Calif.; d. Aug. 26, 2011, Fallbrook, Calif.
PETTY, Frederick C.—b. Feb. 2, 1913, Dozier, Ala.; d. Sept. 16, 2011, Altamonte Springs, Fla.
RAMSAY, Lillian J.—b. June 2, 1919, Bradwardine, Manitoba, Canada; d. Nov, 5, 2011, Boise, Idaho.
WATTS, Lois May (Shepherdson)—b. May 25, 1919, Kirksville, Mo.; d. Nov. 13, 2011, Loma Linda, Calif.
WRIGHT, Kenneth A., Jr.—b. Union Springs, N.Y.; d. Sept. 11, 2011, Winchester, Va.

Ego vs. Ego

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