Thursday, November 29, 2007

Cliff, the New "Mr. McDreamy"

Modified from a cartoon by Richard Guindon from his book, "Together Again".

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Most Essential Difference

Hi Andy,

Just read your letter to the editor in the new issue of Adventist Today [in which you basically said we need to "abandon the god of the Old Testament."]

Good timing! For I have told you I would one day like to discuss the essential differences between left and right in America.

So, I think the time may be now! I see your letter there as going to the heart of what I believe to be the most essential difference between political left-leaners and political right-leaners in this country. That is, I believe most left-leaners either do not take the Bible to originate from God at all or they have a less orthodox view of its origination than do right-leaners. Just to be clear: I do not mean to say that right-leaners are all believers in literal, word-for-word Scriptural inspiration--or necessarily believers in the Bible at all, nor do I mean that all left-leaners are secularists or agnostics. I'm saying that the more solidly one believes in the divine origin of the Bible (if you are a Jew, the Old Testament; if you are a Christian, both the New and Old Testaments), the more likely one is to lean right; the less solidly one believes in the divine origin of the Bible, the more likely one is to lean left.

This is not my own epiphane. I followed Dennis Prager over several years of thinking this through on his radio program, and that is the conclusion he finally came to, a year or two ago. I was not so sure for a long time, but I am increasingly a believer in his thesis, with a few modifications perhaps in his phrasing.

I realize now there are probably very few Leftist Christians who look at the Bible in the same way I do. Meaning, that it is all divinely inspired, probably thought-inspired rather than word-inspired, but nonetheless very reliable as written. How this inspiration works, and how literally the Bible is to be taken in any given divinely-inspired passage, is not, I think, the point. The point is more the firmness with which one believes the Bible to be of divine origin (OT for Jews, OT-NT for Christians).

I think most, if not all, of the seeming contradictions in the Bible can be explained by a theology which is well versed in historical-contextual studies and general Biblical exegesis. I believe this in part because it has been my privilege to know several such theologians, one of whom, a well-known scholar in our church, has been a very close friend and go-to person on Biblical questions for many years. I am always amazed at how he can explain Scripture out of most any hole! And very credibly.

I also find I am a lover of paradox. If I could understand everything about God and His Word, I would be God. I do not care to be God. I prefer to be His creature, and my Biblical questionings--railings, even, at times--delightfully confirm to me my smallness, my human limitations. On one level I find it deeply satisfying that I am not fully satisfied.

So, I think the kernel of the differences you and I have encountered in our discussions lies in this, our differing view of the Bible. How this facet of a person pushes them in either direction politically is a fascinating topic. I think it likely has something to do with the following: The more seriously you take the (whole) Bible, the more you will see and understand--really understand, from your head to your gut--that human nature is not basically good. It's not basically evil, either; it has inclinations in both directions, with the inclination toward the bad being stronger.

Once you realize that human nature is not basically good, there is a cascade of changes in your priorities and in to your approach to human problems. You will care more about ethical training in the young. You will lean more toward tough-love approaches than enabling approaches. (The Old Testament is full of examples of these, in God's seeming incomprehensibly harsh dealings with Man. In the NT tough love seems, on the surface, somewhat harder to find, but especially if read in the light of the OT, I think it is possible--just as I think God's immense love and mercy is visible all through the Old Testament.)

You will recognize real evil earlier, with fewer illusions as to how to approach it. You will more easily grasp the importance of a belief in objective right and wrong. You will be more concerned about global, totalitarian Islamist aspirations than about global warming, which you may suspect is more a product of pervasive political demagoguery than of too many SUV's. You will worry more about soul pollution (bad language, incivility) than about air pollution (second-hand smoke). You will concern yourself more with the molding of children's characters than with ensuring they get early sex education. You will detest and oppose the producers of MTV more than you detest and oppose the producers of cigarettes.

You will better understand the intrinsic connection of widespread, decent, freely-chosen and openly-practiced religion to a decent society. You will see more clearly the dangers in too much power devolving to central authorities, and therefore of too much money flowing into those coffers. You will understand that humans are not re-moldable into perfect creatures, and that any utopian attempt to steer society toward perfection through egalitarian schemes is not only doomed to failure, but is almost certainly going to end in disaster--ship-wrecked on the rocks of human corruption.

In short, you will be what we call today "conservative."

That's the view from here! Subject to modification, as always... ;)

Ever your friend,
Janine Goffar

Editor's note: To read my review of Escape from the Flames, click here.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Reviewing Adventist World

November 2007

Before I write another word, I want to celebrate three wonderful editorials that make me proud to subscribe to “Adventist World”. They are “Beyond Stereotypes” by Jan Paulsen, “Children of Abraham” by William Johnsson, and “Behave Yourself” by Ray Roennfeldt. These guys are fellow Followers of Christ, and are truly my Adventist brothers. Now for the “Rest of the Story”

GENERAL COMMENTS: This is an above average issue. The “World Reports” and “Window” were informative and interesting. I was particularly impressed by our Church’s proactive entry into the information age via the Internet. Readers can really find out for themselves what the World Church is doing by simply artfully assembling a few keystrokes.

The continued use of fear as a motivational ploy is unfortunate, as is Velda Nelson’s “Devotional” LEST WE BE FOUND SLEEPING. In addition, labeling us as members of an “end-time” church, make it easy for nonAdventists to dismiss us as foolish at best and possibly dangerous. The scary quote from The Great Controversy at the end of this article made me want to skip the Ellen White’s THE JOY SET BEFORE US later in the issue. I’m glad I didn’t. The words are timeless and inspiring.

HANDYSIDES and LANDLESS’s words were of particular interest to me in that my mother suffered from undiagnosed Pernicious Anemia. It destroyed a brilliant mind and made impossible our intellectual and emotional companionship. These two MD’s are a wonderful gift to your subscribers.

Schneider’s FORGET WORLD PEACE—USE YOUR TURN SIGNAL was one of his best efforts. However, when he uses the phrase, “Have you led your neighbor to Jesus?” to identify an “issue that really grabs him”, my visceral reaction was instantaneous and negative. Don, how about changing that issue statement to, “Has your neighbor seen Jesus in you”?

OUT OF THE COMMON ORDER by Thomas Riederer had three concluding quotations. My favorites were quotes from “Special “Testimonies to Ministers, series A, No, 6, pp. 59, 60; and “Ellen White, Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, July 9, 1895”. “ Order, yes; but let us not be among those ‘who will always want to control the work of God’ because this ‘leaves so many forces of the church unused’ and ‘closes up the way so that the Holy Spirit cannot use men.’”

Since I have spent some time in Fiji and Jonathan Gallagher has spoken at Grace Connection, MAKING HIS CALLING AND ELECTION SURE was a must read. While I, as an SDA, am impressed by Semesa Karavaki’s decision not to work at his job as Supervisor of Elections on the Sabbath, I am reminded that lots of non-SDAs provide “Sabbath services” that make possible our comfortable and safe lives. As a boy attending Lynwood California Camp Meeting, I was shocked when ministers collected the garbage on Sabbath. One of them explained that someone had to do that necessary work.

My Christmas present to my son is a generous contribution to ADRA.

GOOD NEWS FOR NATIVE AMERICANS describes a mission work that, until I read this article, I knew very little about. Impressive! NAD NEWS was informational and heartwarming.

THE LOMA LINDA REPORT was as remarkable as usual, and in addition to news about the newly refurbished cardiothoracic surgery wing, I also discovered that Stephen Dunbar, a Professor of Biology, is saving the sea turtles in Bay Islands, Honduras. Way cool!

Shawn Boonstra’s new DAILY DEVOTIONAL thought for November 19 at is Mark 9:41. Highly recommend!

The stories of the children chronicled in GATEWAY TO THE FUTURE: ADVENTISTS IN INDIA ARE USING EDUCATION TO BUILD THE CHURCH reminded me how our Church should be built—from the children up. Wonderful stories.

Angel Manuel Rodriguez was in top form this edition. CHRISTIANITY’S GREAT MYSTERY is a welcome change from his theological hairsplitting.

Only evangelist MARK A. FINLEY would ask the world audience, “What does God want to accomplish in us ‘through the blood of the everlasting covenant’?”

WORLD EXCHANGE should be given more space. “The Place of Prayer” is heartbreaking. There should be a way for those of us reading those prayers to let those precious souls know that we are praying for and with them. Is there a way for us to help answer those prayers?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

What Can I Say? Wes is One of My Oldest Friends and Influentual Critics

Andy, For many long years I've been checking your old SDA Perspective site and not a creature or culture was stirring, not a peep, bleat or pixel, a still coffin, waiting. Goldstein and E.G.W. moved upon the earth unmolested, in those days. But finally the trumpet soundeth and the dead cometh forth, grave clothes thrown aside and mantle freshened, blogging reviews of the "Review" and recaptioned comics all over the place like daffodils in the spring. Alas, a very miracle. The resurrection. With you and so many other ProgAdvs rising from the ground to apotheosis, the real resurrection yet to come could be anticlimax. Congratulations! It is proper, isn't it, to congratulate one upon his resurrection? I let your recent birthday go by but not your resurrection.


The Guindon cartoon is an affectionate gift to Wes Kime, a brilliant artist, pen and ink master, wonderful cartoonist, talented wordsmith, and friend. Needless to say, I constantly beg him for more material. How about begging him with me?

Our friendship began way back in “Perspective” days when he volunteered his time as an illustrator and poet. We were reunited when Claudia and I visited my son, Jonathan, when he was stationed at Wright Paterson Air Base in Dayton.

He illustrated “The Badge”, an essay I wrote for “Perspective”, and rewrote the first paragraph in the bargain. I photographed his three-dimensional work of art; I refuse to take it out of the frame, picture quality be . . . not withstanding.


The Badge by Wes Kime

A Blogger's Lament. Comment Readers. It Won't Cause Me "Extra Work or Worsen the Result"

From Dilbert, by Scott Adams.


Image from National Geographic Magazine.

My Spiritual Journey: My Wife Is Still Riding Around In Spite of Her Best Instincts

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Just Like Them

Borrowed from Patrick McDonnell's daily comic, Mutts.
(click to enlarge)

Friday, November 2, 2007

Cosmic Crackpot?

by Andy Hanson

The editorial, COSMIC CRACKPOT, in the October 25, Review, is classic Clifford Goldstein—arrogant and in-your-face. Cliff, I’ve been reading your book, “The Mules That Angels Ride”, and the story of your conversion brings to mind Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. That experience changed him from a very traditional Jew into a radically liberal Christian. Your conversion experience was a similarly startling event, but it changed you from a very liberal Jew into a radically traditional Adventist! The Holy Spirit works in amazing ways, and I’m convinced that your ministry is important in ways I have yet to understand. As a potential friend and Adventist brother, I offer this, my own rather arrogant suggestion: hang around with Stephen Chavez and Carlos Medley a little more. You might discover that you can “come in from the cold”.

Reviewing the Review

October 25, 2007
Vol. 184, No. 30

LETTERS A letter from John McConnel makes the comment that Wohlberg and “his ilk are really overreacting to this whole Harry Potter phenomenon”. I agree. See my editorial, “The Pastor Doth Protest Too Much”, posted here. We now know that we can help feed hungry people simply by clicking on A donation is automatically made. You can do it every day, and it doesn't cost you a cent.

Stephen Chavez and Carlos Medley are two of my favorite editorial writers. They write extremely well and are invariably gentle, loving, and inclusive. That doesn’t mean they don’t persuade. They do! Love you guys.

The lead article, “Adventists Join the MOB” Missionaries of the Blind is a local church ministry developed by Christian Record Services that connects blind people to their communities by providing personal services. Adventists across America are working with this organization, demonstrating daily what it means to be a follower of Christ.

Adel Torres lives next door in Corning, California, where her husband in pastor! (I’m going to phone and ask for more stories about Nepal. We might even arrange to have lunch!) “DHANYABADH” (thank you) is a lovely, personal tribute to Adventist medical work around the globe.

Malcolm Max(w)ell died and Adventist World Magazine goes online. (Thanks, Review! When you make a typo, all us bloggers take heart!)

The editorial, COSMIC CRACKPOT, is classic Clifford Goldstein—arrogant and in-your-face. Cliff, I’ve been reading your book, “The Mules That Angels Ride”, and the story of your conversion brings to mind Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. That experience changed him from a very traditional Jew into a radically liberal Christian. Your conversion experience was a similarly startling event, but it changed you from a very liberal Jew into a radically traditional Adventist! The Holy Spirit works in amazing ways, and I’m convinced that your ministry is important in ways I have yet to understand. As a potential friend and fellow Adventist, I offer this, my own rather arrogant suggestion: hang around with Stephen and Charles a little more. You might discover that you can “come in from the cold”.

Douglas Cooper, I’ve had my fill of fire analogies. They are scary, and the accompanying illustration of fire, coupled with the allusion to “the God who answers by fire”, was a “devotion” killer for me. You may be WAITING FOR THE FIRE, but I’m waiting for Christ’s Kingdom of peace and love.

Reviewing the Pacific Union Recorder

November, 2007

General Comment
It drives me crazy to see pictures of people without names. Come on, Editors, require names when fewer than twenty people pose for the camera!

DINNER BENEFITS ADRA’S KEEP GIRLS SAFE PROJECT Readers may not know that Tehachapi is a small community near the summit of the mountains between LA and Bakersfield. More than 90 guests attended a fundraiser that raised more than $10,000! Amazing!

AIDS ORPHANS TO JUMP FOR JOY was an article submitted by the wife of cousin of mine, Linda Fattic. As she says, the faces of her students pictured with the article reflect “the joy of making a small difference to some of those not-forgotten children of the Lord”.

LIVING WATER, INVITING OTHERS TO COME AND DRINK by Jim Pedersen, President of the Northern California Conference, makes the refreshing comment, “There’s enough of His living water for everyone”.

BELLY FAT IS NO LAUGHING MATTER is informative and well written. Thank you, Dynnette and Kenneth Hart.

CALIFORNIA AGENCY REPRESENTS UNDOCUMENTED ADVENTIST IN DISCRIMINATION CASE This legal settlement may upset some readers. An unnamed, undocumented member of an unnamed Hispanic Adventist church, defended by an attorney employed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, won a Sabbath work discrimination case.

PACIFIC UNION CALLS FOR VIDEO UPLOADS Evangelism Outreach, Church Nurture, Unique Support Ministries, and Mission Projects can be uploaded, thanks to services provided by You Tube. Check it out.

My Friday Night Devotional

by Wes Kime

As my Friday night devotional I check all those new liberated ProgAdv blogs dedicated to updating good old Adventist doctrine, even perfectly good old adjectives. "Emerging" is now "emergent." "Missionary" is now "missional." We used to be a missionary church, now we're missional, a nuance I caught. "Attractional methodology"? That one lost me. So how about emergent progressal socially sensitent relevental Adventistal? "Adventistal"? I'd say "Adventistoid."

The Master’s Workshop: All You Need to Know About Evangelizing and Retaining Postmoderns

by Andy Hanson

Last November I was given information regarding “The Masters Workshop, Exploring the Generational Challenge”. It was “Module VII” of a “Spiritual Leadership Training” course.

On page two, “Looking at Youth Ministry”, facts supported this “challenge”. A high percentage of Adventist church members between the ages of 18 and 40 are not active in church life, 60% of teens leave the Adventist Church, and 40% to 50% of Adventists leave the church between the ages of 17 and 27. The cause of these defections is identified as a postmodern “shift on thinking and life choices”.

Unfortunately, the rest of this manual is the most egregious example of “silly science” I have ever encountered. I offer the following as evidence of these words. I have painstakingly used quotation marks so that you won’t think I’m either making this up or making fun of a serious attempt to meet the Adventist Church’s “generational challenge.”

Page three is titled, “Exploring the Postmodern World”. According to the chart on the bottom of the page, the postmodern world began in the year 2000. This world “represents a change in worldview moving from the values and beliefs of the modern era to the new postmodern era, which rejects many modern values and beliefs”.

The chart at the bottom of the page informs the reader that the postmodern world has produced “a self-determined pluralistic view of culture and religion” where there are, “conflicting truths and beliefs”. “Power and faith is in personal experience”. In the “Modern World”, 1500-2000+, “power and faith were in human reasoning, science, and logic, which also helped explain and interpret God”. In the Postmodern World, “Internet and media accelerate an instant global communication. In the Postmodern World, “suspicion of authority” prevails and “the Bible is open to many interpretations and is but one of many religious writings”. “The Theme” of this world is a quote from Sheryl Crow. “If it makes you happy, it can't be that bad” and “ and every viewpoint is a view from a viewpoint”.

Page 4, “Comparing Modern and Postmodern”, makes nine observations about the Modern World. Four are quoted here. “It fit well with many aspects of our [Adventist] faith.” “It believed that all knowledge was good and certain.” “Truth was absolute.” “Thinking, learning, and beliefs were to be determined systematically and logically.” In contrast, seven observations were made about the Postmodern World. Three are quoted here. “It brings back the supernatural view of life.” “All truth is not absolute.” “Thinking, learning, and beliefs can be determined nonlinearly.”

Page five of this course guide informs the reader that “postmodernism teaches that even language cannot have fixed or certain meaning but should be deconstructed—pulled apart and rearranged. There can be many interpretations of a word or text, not just one meaning. Postmodernism impacts values, ethics, sexuality, and even in our view of religion and spirituality. Postmoderns can have a mixture of religious beliefs which may come from contradictory sources. Postmoderns can fully embrace the contradictory mixing of world faiths. It is assumed that Leonard Sweet is a postmodern authority. He defines Postmoderns as “experiential, participatory, image driven, and connected”.

The “General Impact” of the Postmodern World can be summed up in just one of the nine bulleted statements of impact. “It is a different world out there,” but more specific information is provided. There is a greater interest in spirituality and openness to mystery and an increased search for the divine. Some young people are still modern in their thinking, and some older people are postmodern.

On page six, “Implications for Ministry”, we are told that people born on and before 1946 are Builders who are “often confused and wondering”. People born during the years 1947 to 1964 are Boomers. Members of this generation are an “influenced and contradictory mixture”. Busters or Xers were born between 1965 and 1983, are “influenced and shaped”. Folks born after 1983 are either “Nexters, Mosaics, Millennials, or Emerging—dominated and controlled.”

This page also asserts that Christian postmoderns see Jesus as “attractive”, and believe Christianity to be “a man-made organized religion”. Christians are “seen as close minded, judgmental”, and arrogant. “Ministry [to postmoderns] has become a cross-cultural mission” in which “We cannot presume acceptance of methodology or absolutes; everyone is not going to learn relate and think the same way; we cannot expect postmoderns to become modern” However, “postmoderns are open to hearing about Jesus and to an authentic life with him”.

Page Seven provides space for “Reflections and Ideas”.

On page 8 under the heading, “Studying the Impact on Youth”, the reader is informed of that “few adults are listening to teens, youth are searching and fighting for meaning and they are not alone, many youth are experiencing and results of relational breakdown”. And “we [members of the Adventist Church] are not meeting teens’ need to be heard and understood”. Teens are saying, “we're changing, confused, and vulnerable, our support systems aren't working, and it's stressing us out. We need a place to belong. We're hurting and hurting deeply. Will you be here for us?”

The “Unique Marks” of the emerging generation are as follows: they are “without a moral compass, culturally diverse, pluralistic and tolerant”, products of “broken relationships, media saturated, experience and feeling driven, suspicious of truth” have “overwhelming options”. They are part of “a globalized youth culture pervaded by violence, pushed, hurried and frazzled, materialistic, streetwise, concerned with appearance, despairing and hopeless, deeply spiritual, and crying out for redemption”.

“Ministry Applications” are the concerns of page nine. Here we are informed that humans are “hardwired to connect” and have “two primary connections: other people, moral meaning and openness to the transcendent”. Ministers are reminded that “the desire for human and divine connections is undeniably present”, and “before we speak for Jesus, we must live among our young people—like Jesus. We must participate in their lives—like Jesus”, and “we must listen—like Jesus. Ministry also includes a reeducation task for all age groups.”

The following are “Points to Remember”: “God is still God! Conversion is a supernatural process. It is the Holy Spirit's role to convict and convince. Our greatest weapon is prayer. Our best starting point is radical Christianity. We can look at this as an impossible task or an exciting adventure with God. This is our future.”

Page 10 provides a “Ministry Model”, a five-tiered triangle. Love for God is the base, followed by Love of Others, Accepting Others, and Walking With Others. Discipling is the capstone.

“Module VII” of the Adventist church's “Spiritual Leadership Training” manual is a pseudoscientific insult to pseudoscience. Our problems cannot be solved by “postmodern” gibberish.

If the generational challenge to our church is to be met, we must rethink and reevaluate our 28 Doctrinal Beliefs. They are a creed that would be rejected offhand by the pioneers of the Advent Movement. Many do not represent the teachings of Christ; they are not in harmony with fundamental Christian tenants; and as such define us as a sect. In addition they are so specific that they are almost designed to promote dissension in the church and provide reasons for thoughtful members to leave.

I am fully aware a doctrinal change is extremely risky. Lots of jobs and pensions, not to mention mission work, would be put at risk. But if we continue as we are, the church in North America and Europe is “a dead man walking”. Our demise will result in a Third World church without a leadership structure that will sustain us as a worldwide Adventist community of believers.