Thursday, March 8, 2012

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.

1 comment:

J David Newman said...

Andy, David Newman here. I always appreciate your reviews of AT even when I disagree. Some of my challenges. I print all the letters I receive. I don't get many letters. Second there will be no letters in the Mar April issue because I only received one at time of publication. Online only is an experiment.
Third, I am always short on articles, that is why I print some that are not up to the highest standards. I am retiring July 1 this year and will have more time to solicit articles.
Fourth, I am sorry you did not like everything in my article. I should have made it clearer that there are tensions in how we contextualize and my six points were not meant to be absolutes. Anyway, thank you for being a regular contributor to AT