Thursday, April 26, 2012

Reviewing Adventist Today

March-April, 2012
Vol. 20, No. 2

Let me begin by saying this issue leaves me unsettled and a bit uneasy about AT’s future. (Down to less than 1900 subscriptions?) My unease was heightened when I looked inside the front cover and discovered that what should have been “VOL 20 NO. 2”, was “VAO NO. 2.”

My sense of foreboding was intensified by J. David Newman’s editorial, THE REAL MARK OF GOD’S PEOPLE. The admonition to righteousness is never without merit, but Newman’s words are so “shop worn” that I could hardly finish the page. Here’s a sample:

“Yes, the Bible is clear that the mark of the Christian is how he or she treats others. The Christian is considerate, compassionate, caring, courteous, and charitable. Ellen White reminds us: ‘The badge of Christianity is not an outward sign, not the wearing of a cross or a crown, but it is that which reveals the union of man with God. ... The strongest argument in favor of the gospel is a loving and lovable Christian.’”

Roger N. Trubey’s critique of THE CHINA STUDY: Incredible Science? Or Science That’s Not So Credible? might be important if you are a researcher who contemplates using the China Study to support a veggie and vegan lifestyle. However, the eight pages devoted to the statistical dissection of a book published in 2004 and already dismissed as flawed research by the scientific community, did not make my heart beat faster. (Is it possible that this article was rejected by scientific journals and tweaked a bit to make it attractive to morally conflicted Adventists who eat meat? After all, only 28% of NAD Adventists are lacto-ovovegetarians. (Adventist World, April 2012)

ESTHER AND HER GOD by Roger L. Dudley uses the New English Bible’s apocryphal “portions of Esther that do not occur in the Hebrew Scriptures” to speculate that the Hebrew God, conspicuously missing in the Old Testament story of Esther was actually involved in saving the Jews. (In my opinion, this piece belongs in Spectrum.)

The apocryphal story “contains further insights into the character and dedication of Esther herself. But more than this, it shows that the book is deeply religious. Instead of causing us to puzzle over why a story this rich makes no mention of God or prayer, the narrative is saturated with both. God’s providence and care dominates the tale. We are thrilled to see God working behind the scenes to thwart evil and carry out his benevolent purpose.

Maury Jackson’s SKETCHING AN ADVENTIST VISION FOR GLOBAL MISSION should be required reading at Silver Spring! Jackson argues that “Adventism has conflated and confused the prophetic and apocalyptic visions of the Bible.” What is needed today is a contextualized theology, emphasizing “a preferential option for the marginalized more than society’s elite.” 

“When the church is able to wed personal holiness with social justice, to marry apocalyptic dreams with real prophetic visions, and to link elite power structures with aid for poor, marginalized souls, then in truth this gospel of the kingdom of grace will be preached in all the world as a witness to all nations.”

Alden Thompson’s, “I WANT MY BLESSING” conflates the story of Jacob and his wrestling match with God. The moral of the story? It seems to be that prayers should be demands. Don’t let God off the hook with a wimpy request! Be like Jacob. “At the heart [of this story] lies Jacob’s demand for a blessing. And God gave it.”

A PILGRIM’S PROGRESS is a review of the book, Finding My Way In Christianity: Recollections of a Journey, by Herold Weiss. The reviewer, David A. Pendleton, needs editorial help. He takes far too long to get to the point. Consequently, I’m afraid many readers will give up before he gets to the good stuff. Here’s a sample. This quote is buried on the last half-page of the issue!

“’The gospel is not so much concerned with doctrines, theology, a truth to be extracted from a book,’ concludes Weiss, ‘but with the business of living in God’s world as God’s creatures in peace with each other, loving and supporting each other in the emergencies of practical living.

His practical, living faith included working with and teaching alongside many fine Adventist theologians and Biblical scholars. Yet he was perplexed by the habit of some to ‘avoid as the plague the critical reading of the Bible,’ as if doing so was to enter a Faustian bargain of sorts. For some Adventist scholars, while their training equipped them for a ‘critical study of a Biblical theme or passage,’ their denominational employment inclined them to ‘teach theology using the Bible uncritically as the resource of choice for proof texts.’ Indeed, it was a ‘tragedy when intelligent believers return to a denominational ghetto to deny what they learned while in graduate school.’”

While I’m delighted to see women’s faces in any Adventist publication, 7 QUESTIONS FOR LISABETH DOLWIG AND PEACH KNITTEL was a bust. First of all, the women aren’t identified individually! Which is Liz and which is Peach? Second, James Stirling asks two fascinating women the most boring questions imaginable!

ADVENTIST MAN manages to insult old people without being funny enough to make us old folk smile. I’m pulling for you Adventist Man, but you really need to up your game.

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