Thursday, May 31, 2012

Retired But Still Plugging Away

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

Reviewing the Adventist Review

May 10, 2012
Vol. 189, No.12

WORLD NEWS AND PERSPECTIVES is an important section of each magazine. I don’t usually report on its contents because it is available at the online address I provide with every review. However, this issue proves the exception.

This issue is awarded a B+. A high percentage of writing is interesting and well written. If you usually skim the Review, pause long enough to check out MISSION TO CITIES and the five articles I review.

Ansel Oliver reports: Adventist leaders identify 24 global cities for evangelism efforts.

“Top regional Seventh-day Adventist Church leaders identified 24 cities that will receive targeted outreach efforts, the next step of a plan voted by church officials last year to focus on urban area ministry worldwide.”

Cities Identified for Urban Ministry Emphasis by Division:
East-Central Africa Division: Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo
Euro-Africa Division: Prague, Czech Republic; Geneva, Switzerland; Hamburg and Munich, Germany; Vienna, Austria
Euro-Asia Division: Kiev, Ukraine;  Moscow, Russia
Inter-American Division: Mexico City, Mexico; Caracas, Venezuela; 
Bogotá, Colombia
North American Division: New York City, United States
Northern Asia-Pacific Division: Tokyo, Japan
South American Division: Buenos Aires, Argentina
South Pacific Division: Sydney, Australia; Christchurch, New Zealand
Southern Africa-Indian Division: Ocean Division: Luanda, Angola
Southern Asia Division:  Mumbai, India
Southern Asia-Pacific Division: Manila, Philippines
Trans-European Division: London, United Kingdom
West-Central Africa Division: Lagos, Nigeria

Women and their words by Gina Wahlen is a MUST READ. It is a well-written history of the women who were and are in administrative and editorial positions on the Review. Includes their pictures.

LIVER HEALTH by Allan R. Handysides And Peter N. Landless is also a MUST READ, especially for those of us who are overweight.

I keep thinking that Dixil Rodríguez’s writing can’t get any better, but it does! TIMING IS EVERYTHING is another gem and another MUST READ. The occasion: a trip to a very special grocery store with a very special lady. Dixil’s work is worth the subscription price!

Kristin Smith’s THE RESET BUTTON is the story of a ”life changing epiphany” and “supernatural intervention” orchestrated by her washing machine.

Monte Sahlin’s new monthly contribution has a new, and more appropriate name: TOOLS OF THE TRADE. He suggests two new lesson helps, Jesus: The Journey Begins and A Deeper Look at Your Church. I was particularly impressed with his third recommendation, 13 Weeks to Peace: “an excellent tool to help the ‘walking wounded’ and those who need to find emotional maturity.”

Information Gathering in Preparation for Major Evangelistic Campaign in Major World Cities

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

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Rx For The Literally Minded Adventist

Modified from the comic Bizarro by Dan Piraro.
(click to enlarge)

Reviewing Adventist World, NAD Edition

May, 2012
Vol. 8, No. 5

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.

WORLD REPORT and WORLD VISTA should not be skipped over in this issue. Scholars, Leaders To Meet In Israel is a Bible conference that combines tourism with meetings. Sacred sites will be visited, and a good time should be had by all. Tithe money well spent? One juicy bit surfaced as Mark Keller described the itinerary. This comment, regarding the “Jesus Boat” exhibition, seems to have validated carbon dating! (It must have just slipped by the censors, because the accuracy of carbon dating has long been attacked by those insisting on a short-earth chronology!)

“Carbon dating authenticated the boat’s history: it really is from the first century. No one can prove who owned the boat, or who sailed in it. But there is one interesting fact: there are 12 different kinds of wood used in this boat, a number that corresponds to the 12 tribes of Israel.”

Reaching An Ancient Region In A New Way, authored by Ted N. C. Wilson, is a declaration that from now on, selected countries in the Middle East are his baby. Check the map then read the words.

“Prior to this action administrative oversight of these countries was divided between two world divisions, Trans-European and Euro Africa. While the church is grateful for the positive ways in which these divisions helped to foster and nurture Seventh-day Adventist activities in the Middle East, (faint praise?) the survey commission reported that having this region united directly under the world headquarters would be conducive for church growth in the region, as well as provide certain logistical advantages. It would also group countries together that have similar cultures.”

HUFFING AND PUFFING ABOUT TOBACCO by Allan R. Handysides and Peter N. Landless contains the following admonition: “It’s vital that we, as Adventists, stop huffing and puffing about tobacco, and do something that will meaningfully curtail the huffing and puffing of tobacco by our youth. Let’s begin by becoming a caring, concerned mentor for some child or youth. Friendship counts more than any advice or preaching.”

HOPE WITHOUT HEALING by Olen Netteburg is a heartbreaking read. More importantly, however, it is a tribute to Adventist physicians and medical teams that serve patients in places the world ignores. This is a MUST READ story about the entire hospital staff at 70-bed Béré Hospital in Tchad.

SINGLE MINDED by Andrea D. Hicks is a reminder that “the percentage of single adults in the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America hovers around 50 percent.” The article doesn’t speculate why this is, but I’m guessing Monte Sahlin knows.

Ted’s Operating Policy

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

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Biblical Flood Story is always good for a laugh!

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

Reviewing Spectrum

Winter, 2012
Volume 40, Issue 1

The takeaways for me in this issue are the quotations: insightful, irritating, inspirational, stimulating, aggravating. I suppose that since I was metaphorically engaged in flag waving or scratching my head and/or gritting my teeth while I read the entire issue on a Sabbath afternoon, the journal achieved its stated goal: “to encourage Seventh-day Adventist participation in the discussion of contemporary issues.”

Bonnie Dwyer confesses in her editorial, SPIRITUAL FORMATION AND THE CULTURE OF ADVENTISM, that “The wonderful technology that brings us together for conversation with fellow church members from around the world also has the effect of dividing us, as individuals lash out in anonymity against ideas and people with whom they disagree. In our Spectrum web team discussions, we regularly ponder how to address the anger within the Adventist community.”

Her prayer is unutterably Christian: that “The Word Made Flesh will tame our criticisms of each other, give us generous, understanding hearts, and turn our denunciations into blessings of love and acceptance.” I wonder how she can put up with the rest of us.

Charles Scriven in his editorial SHOULD REVIVE OLD BEGIN AT THE TOP? Makes an honorable commitment and a guilty disclosure: “Whether I confront an object or a theory, a person or a project, I stretch toward deeper comprehension and better judgment. I do not waive off everyone I think I disagree with. I do not pretend to know what I can't know or don't know.

“Every pastor and church dignitary and all the thoughtful laity know full well that too many of our leaders and to many of the rest of us suffer from arrogance, from incapacity for just assessment of reality."

(In an almost unrelated paragraph, Scriven suggests that Ted Wilson canceled an appointment in Fiji and summoned advisers to an emergency meeting in response to “angry and self-deceived” denunciations. Charles, what went on? Spectrum readers want to know.)

THE SPECTRUM BLOG reported by Sam Nevis, continues to supply some noteworthy quotes. Sam Nevis: “Alex Bryans talk [at the One Project Conference]… proposed the most revolutionary question of the day. He said, ‘stop obsessing over the question, “who are we?” because you will only end up with the differences to others. Instead, ask the real question: “Who is He?”’

Ron Osborn: “You say what the One Project wants to do is ‘simply worship Jesus.’ You say your goal is to ‘do nothing else but celebrate his life.’ You say that what the One Project is striving for is ‘just gathering to worship Jesus. Not for training, preaching, teaching or anything else… But since when does it make any sense at all to talk about Jesus as just Jesus? How do you avoid ending up being just worship as a kind of Rorschach test? A kind of revivalism that everyone can get behind because all that is really being asked of them is the they project their own Jesus onto a blank screen of nice music and rather traditional sounding atonement theology in a progressive key?

Kevin D. Paulson: “I have long nurtured and acute skepticism of the recurring efforts of certain ones to use the name and centrality of our Lord as a means of producing some sort of’ lowest common denominator Christianity. More often than not, whatever the motives of their perpetrators, such efforts generally develop into a construct whereby the love, mercy, and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ are presumably distinguished as God moral issues which seem particularly vexing church members for the time.”

“This construct is problematic for a variety of reasons, the most basic of which is that the fact that this non-doctrinal, morally ambiguous, unconditionally unifying Jesus is most definitely not the Jesus of Scripture.”

Don Leatherman discusses Inclusivity, Exclusivity, and The People Of God in his essay, A NATION WITHOUT A STATE. His conclusion: “As Jesus indicates in his parables of judgment, such as that of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31–46), it is treatment of others, especially personal treatment of the disadvantaged and marginalized, which makes the distinction between citizens of the kingdom and outsiders.”

Stephen Bauer discusses IDENTITY, EXCLUSIVITY, AND INCLUSIVITY. “When a proposed moral norm like inclusiveness or tolerance becomes the litmus test of identity, such an issue becomes invested, not only with the absoluteness of a fixed standard, but also with a quasi-political nature that, like medieval church power, seeks to oppress or eliminate dissidents. A crusade mentality is easily inculcated, fostering a fundamental exclusion of contradictory views, regulating them to inferior status. Therefore, for inclusiveness to achieve its stated purpose, there must be some other basis of identity that allows us to recognize who is not part of our ‘fold’ so that we can reach out inclusively. The paradox, then, is that we must have a clear, exclusive identity based in something other than inclusiveness, in order to be inclusive.”

Rolf J. Pohler advocates A Reappraisal Of Adventist Remnant Theology in his essay THE REMNANT AND THE OTHERS. “Church is something to be believed and confessed, rather than to be debated or proven by conclusive arguments…What is needed, therefore, is neither an apologetic approach to the issue, but rather a dialogue setting where different views can be expressed and evaluated ideally on the basis of mutually agreed criteria.”

Lauren Seybold on THE ANGRY BELIEVERS: “I've come to suspect that most of this anger isn't really about theology at all. I posit a mechanism, facilitated by our church culture and the way we have traditionally related to our distinctive beliefs, that allows a person to transfer his pain within to anger at others.

“It is a startling claim that truth can become a curse. Yet in the phalanx of the self-righteous that is precisely what has happened. Our denomination is home to some of the most knowledgeable Adventists and shallowest followers of Jesus Christ in all of Christendom—which means this is work we must do, and quickly. Because prophecy notwithstanding, North American Seventh-day Adventism is on its way to becoming a footnote in Christian history.”

I agree with David E. Thomas: “Before too long, the realization will strike that this whole disturbance is caused by, and its propagation depends on, just what people think the phrase ‘spiritual formation’ means. It will become known as THE GREAT ‘SPIRITUAL FORMATION’ KERFUFFLE.”

Unfortunately, the Andrews University Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary made the decision to respond to this kerfuffle with A STATEMENT ON BIBLICAL SPIRITUALITY. Such statements can only provide fertile ground for continued even more esoteric and incomprehensible commenting! For example…

Harri Kuhalampi is now on record as COMMENTING ON THE STATEMENT ON BIBLICAL SPIRITUALITY. “To be Christian, authentic spirituality must, indeed, be faithful to biblical teaching, but while doing so it must also have relevance to the contemporary world, it must encompass the whole person, and it must be psychologically sound. Furthermore, achieving and maintaining a dynamic, ongoing interaction between the internal and the external realms of life is a constant task of a different kind…”

John R. Jones describes FOUR SPIRITUAL PATHWAYS for understanding biblical spirituality: logical, emotional, practical, and creative. “And if your own pathway is not answered in your religion or local congregation, this poses a summons not to leave, but to contribute.”

If you survived the “kerfuffle,” Charles Teel, Jr.’s, THE COSMIC “PHEW” will reinvigorate you.

“In place of the claim to ‘have’ The Truth, we [should be] secure enough to recognize that we are pilgrims ‘in search’ of truth. In contrast to those who would make exclusivist boasts of being God's chosen people, we come to recognize that in God's eyes all people are chosen. In contrast to those who claim with full certainty to have God's eternity fully mapped out, we come to recognize that just as ‘in the beginning God…’ calls for a response filled with awe, wonder, and mystery, that eludes our comprehension. God's future is not something that we cannot presume to have all figured out…

“We are part of that whole homo sapien family that recognizes our nakedness, that begs to be soothed by words from the Divine in the cool of the day, that yearns to experience meaning as Word becomes flesh. On this exciting search, may we have the luxury—not once and for all, but from time to time and on a ‘for now’ basis—to breathe in bushels of air and to exhale in hoops of sheer delight as we belt out an unguarded and cosmic ‘Phew!’”

WRITING YOUR SPIRITUAL STORY is, as Mary McIntosh argues, A Key To Spiritual Health.

Bruce Forbes’ poem BABEL/BABBLE, while beautifully written and evocative, isn’t based on a realistic premise, namely, “Once we spoke with one voice…An entire world breathed the same syllables/instinctively/from birth/without gender or ambiguity". If you believe that, Bruce, see me about an undervalued bridge that can be yours for just about what you can afford.

GC Litigates Religious Liberty

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

Thursday, May 10, 2012


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

Reviewing the Adventist Review

April 26, 2012
Vol. 189, No.12

WORLD NEWS AND PERSPECTIVES is an important section of each magazine. I don’t usually report on its contents because it is available at the online address I provide with every review. However, this issue proves the exception.

This issue is one you can share with nonAdventist friends and family. While I have a comment or two, the content is Christian rather than Adventist. Larry Blackmer’s four pages of twenty-two nature photographs celebrate spring, and provides a reminder that THIS IS MY FATHER’S WORLD.

The report, IS THE WORLD CHURCH MISSING OUT ON $12 BILLION IN TITHE? tackles the elephant in the room when it comes to the accurate reporting of church membership. GTI accounting promotes increased accuracy.

“Claude Richli, associate publisher 
of Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines, publishes the GTI as a 
personal venture. Though not an official publication of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the annual ranking can help administrators compare countries in similar regions and uncover trends.

"This year’s GTI introduced a new measurement called the total tithe potential, which shows the total tithe that should theoretically be received in a country if all Adventist Church members were faithful in tithing 10 percent of their income. 

“This year’s edition also offers stark evidence of how an audit of membership rolls reveals a more accurate gauge of members’ financial support. Nations that had big gains in ranking on the index this year—including Togo and Bolivia—were areas in which Adventist Church leaders have recently conducted membership audits.

“Togo jumped to number seven on the ranking, up from the thirty-eighth spot last year. Richli attributed the jump entirely ‘to the courageous decision on the part of its leadership to drop all missing members,’ he wrote in the report.

“In 2010 Togo reported 5,343 members, a 52 percent drop from 11,028 the previous year.

“That move, Richli said, showed that active members in Togo were as faithful as their counterparts in affluent countries. The church’s action in Togo, however, puts a spotlight on the ‘obvious need’ for membership audits in many countries.

“Unfortunately, Richli said, about one third of countries surveyed contribute less than 10 percent of total tithe potential. He said that figure ‘clearly shows that in those countries, church rolls are vastly inflated.’”

Good news! HUNGARY’S ADVENTIST CHURCH GETS OFFICIAL NOD. “John Graz, Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Department director for the Adventist world church, said Seventh-day Adventists in Hungary and around the world have reason to give thanks. “’My hope,’ he added, ‘is that the government of Hungary will continue to reassess the way it deals with religious minorities. Religious freedom is best served when a government makes no legal distinction between religions, and extends the same protections and privileges to all.’”

I guess it’s one thing for a government to advocate religious freedom, and another when the General Conference acts to obliterate the tiny Creation Seventh Day Adventist church in Guys, Tennessee, in a trademark dispute.

The inspiration for TITANIC LESSONS by Delbert W. Baker is Proverbs, and he reminds us “that we are all seriously sinkable and ultimately dependent on factors outside ourselves”. That said, the following are five lessons to be learned from the wreck of the Titanic: delete pride, expect challenges, be cautious, take leadership responsibilities seriously, and don’t be so preoccupied with your own problems that you forget to help others.

Andrew McChesney benefited from an oddity in Russian law that saved him a 200-euro fee and provided a lesson in UNMERITED GRACE, RUSSIAN-STYLE.

A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS by Martin G. Klingbeil and NOTHING TO BE AFRAID OF by Marcos Paseggi are worth a thoughtful reading. Klingbeil’s piece is grounded in Biblical archeology and Paseggi’s makes an important point about friends and enemies.

However, their theological assumptions about God seem to me to be very different. Klingbeil: “God is always in absolute control of the lives of His children.” Paseggi: “The Holy Spirit is ready to impress human hearts. He may not act unless we properly commit to collaboration with Him.”

Can these suppositions be reconciled? If yes, how? If no, why not? And is thinking about the way God acts in the world important?

ALSAYBAR, Josefa—b. Nov. 19, 1921, Philippines; d. Oct. 18, 2011, Avon Park, Fla.
BELCHER, Anna B.—b. Mar. 5, 1920, Norfolk, Va.; d. Feb. 22, 2012, Burtonsville, Md.
BROWN, Mary Marilyn—b. May 1, 1926, Sioux City, Iowa; d. Feb. 13, 2012, Lincoln, Nebr.
BURTON, Wilbur A.—b. Mar. 20, 1931, Okla.; d. Dec. 5, 2011.
DIRKSEN, Michael E.—b. Feb. 1, 1952, Hutchinson, Kans.; d. Jan. 25, 2012, Kans.
HARRIS, Lester E., Jr.—b. June 4, 1922, Washington, D.C.; d. Feb. 1, 2012, King and Queen Court House, Va.
MCMILLAN, Betty Jo.—b. July 22, 1924, Atlanta, Ga.; d. Dec. 11, 2011, Knoxville, Tenn.
PERRAULT, Joanne G.—b. Jan. 4, 1944, St. Paul, Minn.; d. Jan. 1, 2012, Lincoln, Nebr.
RITTENHOUSE, Harvey L.—b. Dec. 8, 1918, Tacoma, Wash.; d. Feb. 11, 2012, Sterling, Mass.
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.

Questions regarding GC Litigation Expense

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

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Complete Text Finally Revealed.

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

Reviewing the Adventist Review

April 19, 2012
Vol. 189, No.11

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

With this issue, I have more comments that reviews. However, Hyveth Williams’ ANOTHER STORY ABOUT MARY is a MUST READ. She suggests some needed changes in the Church Manual and Minister’s Handbook.

“Our Church Manual asserts that “Scripture recognizes adultery and fornication (Matt. 5:32) and abandonment by an unbelieving partner (1 Cor. 7:10-15) as grounds for divorce.” Are we to interpret “adultery” as inclusive of sexual misconduct and domestic violence? For no mention is made there, or in the Minister’s Handbook, regarding the prevalent and pervasive acts of intimate and domestic violence such as spousal, child, sexual, verbal, physical, and spiritual abuse—not to mention rape and other such behaviors as grounds for divorce.”

On a lighter note, Mark A. Kellner reveals how his great-great-grandfather became a “Kellner”, courtesy of a boarder guard.

Kudos to the editors for allowing new young writers to contribute their enthusiasm and ideas. However, editorial assistance is often required before publication. LOST SHEEP? by Addison Hudgins reads like a term paper. Phrases like “Friends creepingly became less interested in church,” are a call for editorial assistance.

In the same vein, a far more egregious piece of writing was THE SINNER’S RIDE by Derrick Nelson.

“I have found that when God becomes the only factor for making a decision, it never negatively affects other factors in my life. However, when I consider other factors along with God, things become confusing. I see it most vividly in situations in which various decisions all seem acceptable to church or society. For example, many young adults, Christian equally with non-Christian, change their cars—their majors, I guess—multiple times through college. Society likes your track—the fact that you are in college; and church or family members may be impressed with the car (the discipline) you chose. But how should youth decide on majors in the light of our definition of sin?”

Nathan Brown’s WHY DO ANGELS COME IN THREES: THE THREE ANGELS’ STORY turned a scary violent event into a gentle call for introspection. The three illustrations featured beautiful young people in spiritual trances.

TAKING REASON ON FAITH is a Cliff Goldstein essay that explicates the obvious. “In all that we know, even that which we are certain of, a level of contingency exists. Not that reality itself is contingent; it’s just that our knowledge of reality is. Which means that whatever we know—or think we know—must be taken, to a certain degree, by faith.”

Readers waiting for Cliff to conclude with a theological homily, like myself, were disappointed. Perhaps “Establishing Faith by Faith” will be an upcoming essay.

Alas, Only a Dream

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