Thursday, May 17, 2012

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.

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