Thursday, October 4, 2012

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.

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