Thursday, October 25, 2012

Taken For a Ride

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

Reviewing Spectrum

Summer, 2012
Volume 40, Issue 3

I’m tired of listening to defenders of women’s ordination, LGBT rights, and higher criticism, ruthlessly parse biblical texts and explain historical perspectives. If you aren’t, then this issue might be a page-turner. For me, getting through it was a chore.

There were two articles that justified time spent: LOOKING FOR LESSONS IN THE ADRA LEADERSHIP CHANGE by Alltia Byrd and “WE WISH TO INFORM YOU”: BAPTISM AND GENOCIDE IN RWANDA by Andrew Howe.

On the other hand, Ivan T. Blazen’s BIBLICAL TEXTS AND HOMOSEXUAL PRACTICES was eight excruciating pages of muddy homiletics, punctuated by Greek vocabulary, references to anal sex, and mention of a vertical exchange with the true God [that] is mirrored in the horizontal exchange of their (?) true sexuality.


As long as I’m at it, I’ll mention an ongoing pet peeve. Comments following blog articles, such as ADVENTISM AND THE INTERSEX PROBLEM by Rich Hannon, are set in such tiny font size that they are almost unreadable.


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

Thursday, October 18, 2012


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

Reviewing the Adventist Review

September 27, 2012
Vol. 189, No.27

This is the revival issue. It’s not often I quote an author as extensively as I am about to do. Ted Wilson’s notion of current “revival” could be lifted out of a 19th century Adventist pamphlet describing the Second Coming, a description of the righteous saved, and the magical power bestowed upon those who uncritically read and contemplate the Word in light of the Sacred 28. Ted’s long quote will be followed by excerpts from other contributors who echo Wilson’s sentiments and a story about how a CD of Christian songs expelled an evil spirit.

Finally, I’ll include a quote from Ellen White that seems to me to provide a cautionary historical footnote to these current proclamations about end-time events. (Since she wrote those words, there have been World Wars I & II, Korea, Viet Nam, Rwanda, and various other horrific genocides.)

The Truth as It Is in Jesus
As we live in this momentous time of earth’s history it is particularly important that we understand how all of our doctrines are centered in Jesus.

Soon end-time events will be upon us. Soon Christ will return and ultimately place the final penalty on Satan. The blood of Jesus Christ, our sacrifice, on the cross and the ministry of our high priest, Jesus Christ, in the heavenly sanctuary have one purpose—that you and I and all who submit to Him, confessing our sins and accepting Him as our Savior, may be made right with God and have eternal life through Christ’s all-encompassing ministry. We do not have to fear the judgment if we know the Lamb—if we know the High Priest and our coming King.

The Coming King
It is important to understand the sequence of what will happen in the near future. When Christ comes at His second coming, all eyes shall see Him. This will be the blessed hope that we are waiting for and that I believe is to take place very soon. We see even now that things around us are falling apart. Matthew 24 tells us of the signs of His coming. We have only to look around us at the economic upheaval, political instability, devastating illnesses, and social and moral decay to see these signs being fulfilled. There already are ecumenical movements aimed at creating a unified religious system that will oppose the worship of God on the seventh-day Sabbath and ultimately eliminate religious liberty and promote a substitute day of worship.

When He does come that second time, His feet will not touch this earth, but we will rise up into the heavenly cloud “to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess. 4:17). Prior to His glorious return, however, Satan will seek to “deceive the very elect,” as the King James Version of Matthew 24:24 tells us. Satan will attempt to transform himself into an “angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14) and will try to impersonate Christ. How will you and I know this impostor from the real Christ? Imagine the frenzied media coverage that will supposedly “prove” to all that this “christ” is real. “Satan, surrounded by evil angels, and claiming to be God, will work miracles of all kinds, to deceive, if possible, the very elect.”4 We will not be able to trust our physical senses. We will have to have our spiritual eyes renewed by the Holy Spirit. We will need to be so in tune with our Savior, so familiar with His voice in the Word, that we will be able to “live by faith” (Rom. 1:17) in earth’s darkest hour.

Near the Finish Line
I believe that God’s dream of a finished work will soon be realized. I am confident that as we seek to know Jesus better, God will pour out His Holy Spirit without measure. He will use us to proclaim His truth, and “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:14, NKJV). The work of God on earth will be completed. Jesus will come as the Mighty Deliverer. He will come as the King of kings and Lord of lords to take His children home.

Angel Manuel Rodríguez: MAKING GOD’S WORD OUR OWN
God’s Word and Me
We are the addressed of the Word of God. He speaks to us as Creator and Redeemer because we have to know His plan and His will for us. We have to come out of our existential darkness into the light of a meaningful life.

Bonita Joyner Shields: HEART AND SOIL
Good Soil, Good Harvest
What is your heart made of? Do you value God’s Word? Are you rooted in His Word so that you can withstand the temptations of the enemy? Do you want Him to calm your anxious heart? Whatever the condition of your heart, God is willing and able to plant His seeds of life within it.

Pray for a pure heart. Hear, understand, accept, and obey His Word. Abide in Him, looking to Him for growth. He will accomplish it—even in the most unlikely places.

Lessons for the Promised Land
As world history rushes to its end we are standing again as a church at the border of the Promised Land. Sometimes we forget this, especially when the valleys of acacias are in blossom.

Accepting God’s Call 
We are living on the edge of eternity. Solemn and frightening days threaten our safety. How the angels must weep as they see the condition of the Laodicean church—a people who are blind to their needs and the dangerous times.

Voiced With Sincerity
True new light must be distinguished from the so-called new light of heresy. We do this by checking Scripture. The Holy Spirit will not contradict Himself in what He teaches. We also check with the community of true believers. On a personal level, we study broadly and avoid hobby horses.

A Practical Suggestion
Some years ago a pastor received a phone call asking if he could come and pray a blessing of God over someone’s house. Apparently a woman named Glenda had recently been widowed, and the superstition of her culture had taught that her dead husband’s spirit would come to visit the house for 40 days after his death. About a week after his death she began to hear rapping sounds in the part of the house in which he had died. Glenda was an educated woman, but she didn’t know how to handle this supernatural phenomenon. As the pastor prepared to go to Glenda’s house, he was impressed to take a CD of Scripture songs with him. He encouraged Glenda to play it in her home and to hide God’s words in her heart. The next morning Glenda called excitedly: “The rapping is gone!” The evil spirit harassing Glenda had been expelled from her house by the power of the Word of God! Glenda experienced the revitalizing power of God’s Word, and her life was transformed.

Revival Fuels Mission—and Mission Revival
This article has been excerpted from a piece first published in The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, March 13, 1888. Seventh-day Adventists believe that Ellen G. White (1827-1915) exercised the biblical gift of prophecy during more than 70 years of public ministry.

The law of God is being trampled underfoot, the blood of the covenant is being despised; and can we fold our hands and say that we have nothing to do? Let us arouse! The battle is waging. Truth and Error are nearing their final conflict. Let us march under the bloodstained banner of Prince Emmanuel, and fight the good fight of faith, and win eternal honors; for the truth will triumph, and we may be more than conquerors through Him who has loved us. The precious hours of probation are closing. Let us make sure work for eternal life, that we may glorify our heavenly Father, and be the means of saving souls for whom Christ died.

Out of touch with the real world? Consult a theologian.

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

Thursday, October 11, 2012


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

Reviewing the Adventist Review

September 20, 2012
Vol. 189, No.26

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.

This edition of the Review admits that a number of traditional Adventist doctrines and statements of policy are being questioned by members and leaders. The fact that these differences are not condemned out of hand must be seen as a positive step toward unity within a larger “doctrinal tent.” However, this issue also includes articles that make it seem that unity without conformity is an almost impossible dream.

GETTING NOWHERE FAST by Gerald Klingbeil specifically lists some of the major issues that divide members, but he goes on to suggest that these differences need not divide us or impede our efforts to work together.

My wife and I immediately thought about our church with its millions of members, thousands of churches, pastors, teachers, and administrators that face every day the pull of many directions. Think of some of the hot spots in contemporary Seventh-day Adventism. Some feel we should change our stance on creation and definitely tone down our position regarding the remnant; others feel strongly about the ordination of women and justice; there are some (though fewer) who are concerned about our position on homosexuality. What about those who fear that our current engagement with contemporary culture has transformed us into Babylon, or others who feel that we have come to de-emphasize sanctification over justification?

Klingbeil directs the reader to advice from Ellen White.

When self shall be hidden in Christ, it will not be brought to the surface so frequently. . . . It is only when we are careful to carry out the Master’s orders without leaving our stamp and identity upon the work that we work efficiently and harmoniously.

STANDING TOGETHER, by Lael Caesar, is another ray of hope for those of us that believe unity can be achieved without uniformity.

God’s people, engaged in God’s work, need a common, mutual, and respectful faith in who we are and what we all do. This approach doesn’t alter our fundamental commitments to Christ, nor does it disqualify us from what we’re doing. Standing together and working together in the Spirit with Ezra and Nehemiah, we may show how saints of radically different and contrasting mind-sets, temperaments, and methods can finish God’s assignment together and celebrate at last—together—on the walls of the New Jerusalem. 

HOMOSEXUALITY, MARRIAGE, AND THE CHURCH, a book issued by the Andrews University Press, argues that homosexuals have been lured down a dangerous spiritual path by charming but false arguments from Scripture and political history. This is an example of why unity without conformity seems to be an unrealizable dream.

Ronald Knott, director of Andrews University Press, notes that along with the biblical and religious liberty issues, the book makes a passionate case for the highest level of pastoral love and support for those Christians who, he said, “may have been lured down a dangerous spiritual path by charming but false arguments from Scripture and political history, coming from outside and inside the church.”

THE FUNDAMENTALIST, Cliff Goldstein’s review of Alex Rosenbergs’s book, “The Atheist’s Guide to Reality,” is illuminating and thoughtful, and should be required reading for anyone who is an atheist or thinking about adopting that philosophical position.

HEALING OLD WOUNDS provides practical advice about successful human relationships. It also includes lists of supporting books and web sites.

Charlos Medley’s STARK REMINDER, argues that religious freedom is a fundamental Adventist tenant, and cites Todd McFarland, a GC attorney, as an admirable advocate for this position. In my view, McFarland is more hired gun than idealistic defender of religious freedom. Case in point:

MORE THAN A NAME by Benjamin D. Schoun, a General VP of the GC, rationalizes the persecution of the Creation Seventh Day Adventist Church because more than anything, when people hear the name Seventh-day Adventist we hope they think of good neighbors—kind, helpful, loving people who are an asset to their communities.

It is important to know something about the Creation Seventh Day Adventist Church before judging the validity of Schoun’s protection of copyright argument. First, note that the church title includes “Creation” and the unhyphenated “Day.” In addition, the CSDA church never advertised itself as an SDA church, and by all accounts it was a Christian influence in the small town of Guys, Tennessee, and in a village in Rwanda where it sponsored a school and medical clinic.

CSDA lost the legal case to keep their name by a two to one opinion in an appellate court, and the case would have been argued in the US Supreme Court if CSDA’s final appeal had been granted.

In an attempt to discover the cost of this copyright infringement case, I contacted Todd McFarland, the lead GC attorney in this litigation. I received the following email response:

It was good to talk to you earlier today.  During our conversation you asked what the total expenditures in the Creation SDA trademark case.  As I indicated on the phone, I did not have that number at my immediate disposal.  Further I was not authorized to release it.  After discussions with leadership that is not a figure we are ready to release publicly.  While the church strives to be transparent in its dealings, there are some topics such as litigation that we do not discuss in detail.  This request falls within that category.  

During our call you intimated that if not given the cost figure you would have to estimate and that the estimate would be in the "millions of dollars."  While you are free to use any estimate you would like.

The legal estimate I received from an attorney friend was $500,000 minimum.

I am far from convinced that whatever it cost for the GC to litigate this case, it was a waste of money and a refutation of the church’s position on religious freedom. Furthermore, it resulted in the imprisonment of Walter McGill and Lucan Chartier, peace-loving men of principle. The negative publicity generated was embarrassing enough to require Schoun’s defense in this issue of the Adventist Review.

For the record, here is an authorized brief history of the CSDA Church and the beliefs of its members.

The Creation Seventh Day Adventists broke away from the official Adventist Church in 1988, because of doctrinal disagreements; specifically, as a response to the acquisition and enforcing of a trademark regarding the name "Seventh-day Adventist" on other believers outside of the denominational umbrella. The United States congregation is pastored by Walter McGill, and located in Guys, Tennessee. In 2003, McGill opened a school on the Guys property.

The taking of that name “Creation Seventh Day Adventist” was based upon a divine revelation received by both Brother Danny Smith and Pastor Walter McGill. Then, in the Fall, at a meeting held in Plant City, Florida, the official Creation Seventh Day Adventist Church was organized as an association of like believers.

The group holds to certain mainstream beliefs, such as the observance of the seventh day Sabbath, avoiding unclean meats, the investigative judgment, and an imminent Second Coming of Christ. 

However, The CSDA Church rejects the doctrine of the Trinity as an extra-Biblical error. They believe that the Father and Son are two distinct and separate beings which each may be referred to by the Hebrew term “El,” translated as “God” in the Old Testament, or collectively by the plural term “Elohim,” also translated as “God.” They reject the idea of the Holy Spirit as a person in the same sense as the Father and Son, believing it to be the shared essence, power, characteristics, presence, and life of those two. 

The CSDA Church believes in a complete separation of Church and State (i.e., a rejection of the idea that governmental agencies possess the authority to intrude upon freedom of religion), and religious accountability for a church's actions. 

The CSDA Church believes that the name Seventh-day Adventist was given by God to describe the faith of Seventh-day Adventism, and that as a result, those who accept the beliefs of Adventism must use the name in identifying themselves and their organizations. They consider this to be a matter of conscience equivalent to denying or affirming the name “Christian” based on several quotes from Ellen G. White regarding the adoption and use of the name being Divinely commissioned. 

The CSDA Church holds strict views on church membership, claiming that once one has come into unity with Christ, unity with His Church (which they hold to be themselves) will be the natural result, with one not being valid while rejecting the other. 

The CSDA church observes New Moons monthly during the conjunction phase of the lunar cycle. Also referred to in their writings as the “New Moon Festival of Humility,” it is the day on which they partake of the communion meal, foot washing, and a meal called the agape feast in which they eat fresh fruits and nuts in anticipation of the marriage supper of the lamb after the return of Christ. They observe New Moons in a similar fashion to weekly Sabbaths in that secular work and trade are prohibited.

Timing is everything!

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

Thursday, October 4, 2012

World travel can be dangerous!

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

Reviewing the Adventist Review

September 13, 2012
Vol. 189, No.25

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.

Bill Knott’s editorial, HOLLY DISAGREEMENTS, is his best effort in a long time. It would be exciting if Adventist traditions, and even practical theology, were discussed, even debated, in ye goode olde Review. Here’s hoping for that bright new day!

Fortunately, the disagreements between believers are usually over more substantial things than chocolate. Though we are loath to admit it, we read the Word through the lens of our own experiences with God; we tell our stories of how grace works with grateful enthusiasm, even as we listen to another’s very different story and wonder how it came to be. The most vital facts of the life we are called to live together are the respect we show to those who “know” differently and our mutual surrender to the authority of God’s Word that ought to be more important than our own life stories and opinions…

In the coming weeks this magazine will highlight numerous articles and insights under the banner “Called Together.” These interviews, letters, features, and editorials are specifically designed “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14, NKJV), a time when the vigor of our disagreements over the appropriateness of ordaining women to gospel ministry and the process to follow in making that decision have threatened our ability to stay in civil conversation with each other. 

I am encouraged by the report in “World News & Perspectives” that THOUSANDS OF NEW ADVENTISTS BAPTIZED IN A SINGLE DAY. That means that lots of people believe that membership in the Adventist Church is a good thing. I also like the fact that membership in our Christian fellowship, at least in Papua New Guinea is not limited to those whose theological purity regarding the 28 Fundamental Beliefs is a determining factor in church membership. It would be thrilling if such were the case in North America and Europe. Sabbath school and church services might then be devoted to an open discussion of doctrinal issues.

There were two things that bother me in Sandra Blackmer’s report of the events that transpired at the North American Division’s Teacher’s Convention. MOVING HEARTS AND MINDS UPWARD is an admirable goal. However, Carlton Byrd’s remark,  “If you don’t believe in the Adventist message, you shouldn’t be teaching in the Adventist school system” sounded scary to me. My question: “Who is it that decides what the ‘Adventist message’ is?” This comment leaves the door open for individual teacher persecution by church members whose definition of the “Adventist message” is in conflict with the teacher’s.

In addition, the photograph and caption identifying NAD Prayer Ministry’s Stanley Ponniah as walking past all 6,800 chairs in the auditorium and praying for the people who will be sitting in them smacks of an irrational, almost occult, notion of spiritual influence.

Dixil Rodriquez does not disappoint. In GOD’S STARS she watches early morning stars with a little girl from a cancer ward and reflects that we are all patients of sorts. Jesus identified Himself with the suffering of humanity to provide the final solution. Looking after one another, this we do as we witness the consummation of the work of deliverance He has initiated.

MEMORIES AND LESSONS FROM SEPTEMBER 11 is a MUST READ. Darold Digger was a Chaplain who was at his desk in the Navy Annex near the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. His story is easily worth the price of a Review subscription.

CAN HUMANS KNOW THE FUTURE? is a schizophrenic piece that cautions members not to get hooked on predictions of the end. But then, Ranko Stefanovic predicts it anyway!

Christ’s second coming will be biblical prophecy’s ultimate fulfillment. But although this event opens the door to the end of sin and the beginning of God’s eternal kingdom of wholeness, joy, and justice, we must shun speculations about its date, and the sequential events preceding it. At the same time, Jesus identified signs that will show He is near (Matt. 24:4-14), signs that will be evident in all spheres: natural, political/social, moral, and religious (see Rev. 13-16).

The intensification of these signs in today’s physically, morally, and religiously deteriorating conditions, in context of the astonishing advance of worldwide proclamation of the gospel, are a clear indication of the imminence of Christ’s coming.

Monte Sahlin reports on Adventist CHURCH TRENDS. Did you know that the 2010 U.S. Religion Census shows that 88 percent of Adventists belong to a church located in a metropolitan area? Other research suggests that as many as one fifth of these may actually live outside the boundaries of the metro area and commute to church, but that would still mean that 70 percent of Adventists live in metro areas and that fewer than one third live in small towns and rural areas. This is a very significant shift over the past quarter century.

Alternate Science

From the comic Doonesbury, by Gary Trudeau
(click to enlarge)