Thursday, April 26, 2012


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

Reviewing Adventist Today

March-April, 2012
Vol. 20, No. 2

Let me begin by saying this issue leaves me unsettled and a bit uneasy about AT’s future. (Down to less than 1900 subscriptions?) My unease was heightened when I looked inside the front cover and discovered that what should have been “VOL 20 NO. 2”, was “VAO NO. 2.”

My sense of foreboding was intensified by J. David Newman’s editorial, THE REAL MARK OF GOD’S PEOPLE. The admonition to righteousness is never without merit, but Newman’s words are so “shop worn” that I could hardly finish the page. Here’s a sample:

“Yes, the Bible is clear that the mark of the Christian is how he or she treats others. The Christian is considerate, compassionate, caring, courteous, and charitable. Ellen White reminds us: ‘The badge of Christianity is not an outward sign, not the wearing of a cross or a crown, but it is that which reveals the union of man with God. ... The strongest argument in favor of the gospel is a loving and lovable Christian.’”

Roger N. Trubey’s critique of THE CHINA STUDY: Incredible Science? Or Science That’s Not So Credible? might be important if you are a researcher who contemplates using the China Study to support a veggie and vegan lifestyle. However, the eight pages devoted to the statistical dissection of a book published in 2004 and already dismissed as flawed research by the scientific community, did not make my heart beat faster. (Is it possible that this article was rejected by scientific journals and tweaked a bit to make it attractive to morally conflicted Adventists who eat meat? After all, only 28% of NAD Adventists are lacto-ovovegetarians. (Adventist World, April 2012)

ESTHER AND HER GOD by Roger L. Dudley uses the New English Bible’s apocryphal “portions of Esther that do not occur in the Hebrew Scriptures” to speculate that the Hebrew God, conspicuously missing in the Old Testament story of Esther was actually involved in saving the Jews. (In my opinion, this piece belongs in Spectrum.)

The apocryphal story “contains further insights into the character and dedication of Esther herself. But more than this, it shows that the book is deeply religious. Instead of causing us to puzzle over why a story this rich makes no mention of God or prayer, the narrative is saturated with both. God’s providence and care dominates the tale. We are thrilled to see God working behind the scenes to thwart evil and carry out his benevolent purpose.

Maury Jackson’s SKETCHING AN ADVENTIST VISION FOR GLOBAL MISSION should be required reading at Silver Spring! Jackson argues that “Adventism has conflated and confused the prophetic and apocalyptic visions of the Bible.” What is needed today is a contextualized theology, emphasizing “a preferential option for the marginalized more than society’s elite.” 

“When the church is able to wed personal holiness with social justice, to marry apocalyptic dreams with real prophetic visions, and to link elite power structures with aid for poor, marginalized souls, then in truth this gospel of the kingdom of grace will be preached in all the world as a witness to all nations.”

Alden Thompson’s, “I WANT MY BLESSING” conflates the story of Jacob and his wrestling match with God. The moral of the story? It seems to be that prayers should be demands. Don’t let God off the hook with a wimpy request! Be like Jacob. “At the heart [of this story] lies Jacob’s demand for a blessing. And God gave it.”

A PILGRIM’S PROGRESS is a review of the book, Finding My Way In Christianity: Recollections of a Journey, by Herold Weiss. The reviewer, David A. Pendleton, needs editorial help. He takes far too long to get to the point. Consequently, I’m afraid many readers will give up before he gets to the good stuff. Here’s a sample. This quote is buried on the last half-page of the issue!

“’The gospel is not so much concerned with doctrines, theology, a truth to be extracted from a book,’ concludes Weiss, ‘but with the business of living in God’s world as God’s creatures in peace with each other, loving and supporting each other in the emergencies of practical living.

His practical, living faith included working with and teaching alongside many fine Adventist theologians and Biblical scholars. Yet he was perplexed by the habit of some to ‘avoid as the plague the critical reading of the Bible,’ as if doing so was to enter a Faustian bargain of sorts. For some Adventist scholars, while their training equipped them for a ‘critical study of a Biblical theme or passage,’ their denominational employment inclined them to ‘teach theology using the Bible uncritically as the resource of choice for proof texts.’ Indeed, it was a ‘tragedy when intelligent believers return to a denominational ghetto to deny what they learned while in graduate school.’”

While I’m delighted to see women’s faces in any Adventist publication, 7 QUESTIONS FOR LISABETH DOLWIG AND PEACH KNITTEL was a bust. First of all, the women aren’t identified individually! Which is Liz and which is Peach? Second, James Stirling asks two fascinating women the most boring questions imaginable!

ADVENTIST MAN manages to insult old people without being funny enough to make us old folk smile. I’m pulling for you Adventist Man, but you really need to up your game.

A Michigan Conference Job Interview

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

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Last Straw

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

Reviewing the Adventist Review

April 12, 2012
Vol. 189, No.10

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 issue includes a number of essays and stories that are noteworthy. I’ll mention the ones I consider significant. But before I get to the reviews. . .

Even though I don’t usually feature a World News Report, I have to congratulate the 20,000 ADVENTIST YOUTH WHO TRADED VACATION FOR SERVICE in Lima, Peru as part of a Mission Caleb outreach. That started me thinking, “What if 20,000 Adventist young people and health professionals, generously supported by the North American Division, offered to be part of a coordinated “vacation week” involving the local nonprofits, police and fire departments, community service programs, and citizens living in a poverty area in Detroit or New Orleans or Philadelphia in an effort to make it a better place to live and work?” It boggles the mind. “Oh what a week of revival and reformation that would be!”

Steven Chavez’s brief editorial, THE PERIL OF BEING GLIB, is a straightforward masterpiece of straight talk. His conclusion: “Glib answers to the complex problem of evil and suffering in the world are an affront and a sacrilege to an all-knowing, all-wise, all-powerful God. They do not reflect well on God or His people.”

It’s always reassuring to discover evidence that the younger generation is learning important lessons about evangelism. Jimmy Phillips discovered that he was SELLING THE SABBATH SHORT when he attempted to convince his nondenominational study group that Saturday was the biblical Sabbath.

“I finally had the chance to lead a Bible study about the Sabbath. As I announced the topic on a mid-January Monday, I was immediately met with looks of skepticism. For the next two hours I presented a rigorous defense of Saturday’s sanctity through both the Bible and history. Unfortunately, those skeptical looks became defensive words, and our study grew more contentious by the minute.

“I realized that despite my good intentions, my approach resembled an attorney defending the innocence of his client. And unless I missed something, the Sabbath isn’t on trial.”

Don’t miss Sandra Blackmer’s MIRACLE GREENHOUSE. It’s located at Sunnydale Academy in Missouri. “About 120 students currently attend the Academy. To learn more, go to or call 573-682-2164.”

FAITH IS A PLACE by Harold McGregor, Jr. offers the best definition of faith that I have come across anywhere. “Faith…is seeing reality from God’s perspective.”

Two stories of tragedy and spiritual triumph are WAITING BY THE POOL OF BETHESDA by Edyln Aldridge and RESURRECTED HOPE by Danny R. Chandler.

Dixil Rodríguez has yet to disappoint. Her STANDING ROOM ONLY is a MUST READ story about a sermon preached by a five-year-old boy in a crowded elevator stuck for half-an-hour between the 17th and 18th floors.

CHURCH TRENDS is Monte Sahlin’s continuing attempt to get Adventists to think about practical church problems and how to solve them. Did you know that “the most common area of conflict is the personal behavior of a church member? More than one in four churches reported severe conflict on this topic, and another third reported moderate conflict”.  (2010 Faith Communities Today (FACT) survey conducted in the Adventist Church by Roger Dudley)

Killing time at the Geoscience Research Institute

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

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Ted at the Haberdashers

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

Reviewing Adventist World, NAD Edition

April, 2012
Vol. 8, No. 4

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.

The contents of NEW FEATURES is of most interest to me. I’ll comment after I mention some other items that caught my eye.

Did you know that 28% of Adventists are lacto-ovovegetarian?

I am delighted to acknowledge that WHAT’S LEFT? Angel Manuel Rodríguez’ answer to this reader’s question, is a scholarly and clearly stated! “In many Bible versions the word “remnant” is not found in Revelation 12:17. Is it correct to insist that the passage refers to a remnant?” The answer is “yes”.

WHAT ABOUT VITAMIN SUPPLEMENTS?by Allan R. Handysides and Peter N. Landless answers the following question in their usual authoritative and lucid language. The following is their summary:

So who should receive vitamin and mineral supplementation?

  • Those suffering nutritional deficiencies from an inadequate diet.
  • Pregnant women—folic acid supplementation has been proven to decrease neural tube deformities; also iron supplementation may be needed.
  • Those with dark skin and individuals with fewer than 15 minutes of sun exposure per day may benefit from supplemental vitamin D.
  • Those with gastrointestinal diseases, which cause decreased absorption of nutrients, e.g., celiac disease (gluten sensitivity).
  • Those undergoing cancer treatment (chemotherapy).

It doesn't seem that Mark A. Finley can talk about FAITH with out prefacing the word with END-TIME.

“In response to the action of the 2010 General Conference session, a Fundamental Beliefs Review Committee was established by the church to consider any adjustments that may be deemed necessary in the church’s 28 fundamental beliefs. General Conference vice president Artur Stele chairs that committee, and recently sat down with Adventist World editor Bill Knott and news editor Mark Kellner to talk about how the process will unfold.”

STELE: First of all, the task is not to rewrite the fundamental beliefs. The task is to see if the wording that we have used for a number of years requires a change. Language is dynamic, and in the more than 30 years since the Statement of Fundamental Beliefs was endorsed by the 1980 General Conference session, it’s possible that new language can better express what the church has historically believed on these points. We’re engaged in an editorial revision of the fundamental beliefs, not a rewriting of them.”

KELLNER: “You noted the special task that has been given the committee about Fundamental Belief No. 6, on Creation. How significant is that belief to the life of the Seventh-day Adventist Church? What Do You Think?”

STELE: Belief No. 6 is crucial, because the whole system of beliefs that we have as a Seventh-day Adventist Church is so interlinked. If you take one out, especially one as central as our belief in special creation, the whole building collapses. And No. 6 is one of the foundational beliefs that really undergird the entire structure of our beliefs. If you don’t believe in Creation, then you definitely will not believe in the biblical account of re-creation, the creation of new heavens and a new earth. If you don’t believe in Creation as described in the Bible, the Sabbath—of which it is the weekly memorial—quickly declines in significance. It’s vitally important that the language we choose to express our belief in Creation clearly articulates what we mean to express about what the Bible teaches.

There are two admissions in the following dialogue that are troubling. First, the Fundamental Beliefs Review Committee is only engaged in an “editorial revision of the fundamental beliefs, not a rewriting of them”. The second is the assertion that any official statement that does not support “Creation as [literally] described in the Bible” undermines and eventually destroys Adventist theology.

This “editorial revision” statement runs counter to the statement on page vii of What Seventh Day Adventists Believe, (Review and Herald Publishing Association, May, 1988.)“We have not written this book to serve as a creed, a statement of beliefs set in theological concrete.” This statement suggests that periodically, all beliefs should undergo a review, not just an “editorial revision”.

The assertion that the literal seven-day creation story found in Genesis is the cornerstone of all Adventist theology seems unwise given historical and scientific evidence to the contrary. Sabbath keeping can be justified using other Bible references and practical considerations.

In addition, if Belief #6 is revised to require Seventh-day Adventists to believe that the creation of the universe happened 6000 years ago, I along with many baptized members who joined the church before such a revision is contemplated will be excluded from membership. (In my case, I was baptized 34 years before all be one of the current 28 fundamental beliefs were written!) Will us old timers be grandfathered in?

“Individuals are invited to make suggestions for integrating the current Fundamental Belief No. 6 and “An Affirmation of Creation”, or for revising the wording of other statements by:

  1. Identifying the change of wording recommended.
  2. Providing a brief rationale of 150-200 words maximum.
  3. Sending suggestions by one of these methods:
    1. Mail: FBRC, Biblical Research Institute, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 12501 Old Columbia Pike, Silver Spring, Maryland 20904-6600, U.S.A.
    2. E-mail:

The Medium Is The Message!

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

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Gospel Or Fear Mongering?

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

Reviewing the Adventist Review

March 22 2012
Vol. 189, No.9

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

Unfortunately, this issue doesn’t have a great deal to recommend it other than CARPE DIEM, the lead editorial by Gerald A. Klingbeil and REFINED FOODS, another excellent treatise on healthy living authored by Handysides and Landless.

I do, however, have something to say about what is glaringly absent from almost all of the Adventist Reviews and Adventist Worlds I have read over the past years—relevancy.

Gerald A. Klingbeil’s inspiration for CARPE DIEM came from “a very engaging program on National Public Radio featuring Dr. Evan Lipson, a young oncologist from Johns Hopkins Hospital…Seize the Days [website] honors cancer patients and the ways they have made their days meaningful; it showcases their courage in order to inspire others; and it provides an avenue that helps family honor the memory of their loved ones.”

Carpe Diem inspired Klingbgeil to look at his priorities to make sure that his “first things” truly remain first. He ends the editorial with the request that readers send him their carpe diem stories at

Handysides and Landless conclude their essay on REFINED FOODS with these sensible words: “Fresh vegetables, lots of fruit, whole grains, legumes, and nuts, along with a little dairy or dairy equivalent, should form the basis of a healthful diet. Excessive texturized protein, processed foods, and ‘created’ complexes need to be viewed with caution. If you do choose to eat them, do so in moderation.”

Today, three print editions of the Review are mailed to fewer than 30,000 subscribers each month. Consequently, its theological impact on the Adventist community is negligible. The NAD edition of Adventist World is mailed to every member whose name appears on “the church books”, free of charge, in the attempt to keep individual Adventists connected to the church in some tenuous way since it has been estimated that only half of the official 1.2 million Adventists on the books attend church at least once a month. * (My brother gets the magazine, and he hasn’t attended church in twenty years.)

Both publications unfailingly canonize official church dogma. Consequently, Adventist young people aren’t motivated to read them, and Adventist professionals and working stiffs “don’t waste their time”. With a few exceptions, the rest of us old-timers venerate these periodicals as if they contain church sanctioned gospel that reflects a united voice.

The failure to elicit and publish opposing viewpoints permits the readership and Adventist hierarchy to persuade themselves that everything in Adventist land is hunky-dory. That everyone’s working hard to reform themselves and revive their commitment to Adventism. That only a few ragtag bloggers and malcontents are unhappy, and Cliff Goldstein can be depended on to defend any official position with supercilious ease.

I would argue that this lack of critical response should be interpreted as a sign of profound disinterest. It masks a growing disaffection created by a rigid formulistic church creed and, most glaringly, official pronouncements regarding biblical literalism and the misogynistic and homophobic attitudes embraced in church doctrine and policy.

* A Passion For Revival: An Interview With Lee Venden in the February 2012, issue of Ministry Magazine.

A Little Help From A Friend

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