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A little over a year ago, Ryan Bolger, associate professor of Church in Contemporary Culture at Fuller Theological Seminary, and an observer and writer on the emerging church, asked if I would write a short piece about how, in my experience, emerging forms of church are taking shape within the Seventh-day Adventist Church. My essay, “From the Margins: Engaging Missional Life in the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” is one of eight recently published in the Fall 2008 issue of Theology News & Notes. In the introduction to this issue, guest editors Ryan Bolger and Eddie Gibbs give an excellent overview of what they see across the world when they talk to emerging church leaders. But a question kept coming up in the United States.
“When we wrote [Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Culture] in 2005, most of the U.S. communities we interviewed were church plants…. Invariably came the question in the United States…, what about emerging churches within American denominations? What is happening there? From what we observed in 2001-2004, very little. What we did find on emerging denominational life we offered in the book. However, much has changed in the last three to four years. We see emerging initiatives within traditional churches as the next horizon for the spread of emerging church practices in the United States.”
My article, which you can read in its entirety here, will not give you definitions of emerging church, Emergent Village, or missional church. You will have to discern those from the context. But it will explain, from my vantage point (which is the only one I have) how the Adventist Church in the U.S. is emerging in our time and how I’ve been a part of that for the past 8 years.
In order to grasp the larger picture of the emerging church landscape I highly recommend Gibbs and Bolger’s introductory essay in this issue of Theology News & Notes, as well as their well-researched 2005 book, Emerging Churches: Creating Community in a Postmodern Culture.
For more about re-church, click here.
Correction: Footnote 4 in my article, “From the Margins,” incorrectly states the publication date. It should be Spring 2005.
Since we have several articles and reviews up on the new Emergent movement, we'll be turning the comments off here and focusing the Emergent discussion in the book review section, click here to comment.
One of the most interesting parts of Conrad Ostwalt’s book, Secular Steeples, is his comparison of secular and sacred apocalyptic films. One of the characteristics of secular apocalyptic films is that humans must and do overcome the apocalyptic threat before them through world unity, technological advancements, military might, etc. Contrary to this, sacred apocalyptic films wait for God to act decisively while humans must endure the violence around them. Lately, I have observed a string of video games that mirror Ostwalt’s secular apocalyptic criteria. Games like Fallout 3 and Resistance 2 might just seem like re-hashed first person shooters, and while Mirror’s Edge abandons weapons for acrobatics, their worlds beg further analysis.
Amid all the election talk last Monday, NPR aired an interview with film critic/historian David Thomson. During the interview, he suggested that some of America’s best films were made during times of great national crisis, like The Great Depression for example. He claimed that during those times, people were starved for truth regarding and firm answers to the problems they faced. Filmmakers, in search of the same, responded with more honest films. Thomson expressed some measured excitement over and hope for the possibility of great filmmaking to emerge during the tough times that our nation currently faces.
I wonder if the same cannot be said of the video game industry. Will creators, faced with the same crises, respond as effectively and as imaginatively? In recent years, creators have focused more intensely on story, seeking out narratives that catch up to graphics in terms of beauty and intrigue. Are games like Fallout 3, Resistance 2, and Mirror’s Edge, all games with some virtual dystopic element, responses to the threat of real world dystopia.
Apocalyptic themes in video games are not unique to the twenty-first century. They can be found throughout the history of video games from the controversial Doom series to the various Terminator film video game remakes. So, in a way, the video games about which I write here are nothing revolutionary. Wikipedia offers a category of post-apocalyptic video games that includes well over 50 titles (and is in need of updating). In fact, the numbers attached to the end of the first two games discussed here should tell us something. Fallout 3 is the third installment in a series of popular apocalyptic video games on the PC. Resistance 2 is a follow up to the surprise success of Resistance: Fall of Man, a first-person shooter exclusively for the PS3.
Fallout 3 takes place in a post-apocalyptic Washington, D.C., and, as the main character, you are one of the survivors. Born in a large, sophisticated bomb shelter, you have never seen the outside world until now. As a young adult, you manage to escape and find the outside world ravaged by what was surely an atomic bomb. Survivors have huddled together in shanty towns (villages). The monuments of D.C. off in the horizon are ashen husks of their former glory. You are in search of your father and can find him by interacting with other survivors, helping them with various tasks in return for information. All the while, you have to battle fearsome mutants and gigantic cockroaches (they really do survive nuclear holocaust). Oh, and along the way, you will decide the fate of more than one city through your actions. In the vein of the Grand Theft Auto series, the world is very much open for exploration. You are free to explore as you please, although acquiring certain items, weapons, and skills will make further exploration much more manageable. (I paid dearly for crossing the river to check out the monuments straight out of the bomb shelter). The ways in which you interact with others affects your character’s attributes and just how trusting of you future acquaintances will be. Virtual karma.
In Resistance 2, the alien Chimera virus that plagued Europe in Resistance: Fall of Man has now spread to the United States. As the main character, Nathan Hale, you find yourself in the midst of the apocalyptic battle with the mutant invaders across the country. Far from waiting on some divine assistance, you arm yourself to the teeth with massively over-sized weapons, a la Gears of War, and meet the enemy head on. Apparently the game’s only shortcoming, according to critics, is its weak story line. The creators have downplayed narrative and clearly emphasized non-stop action with everything larger than life. This too is an apparent short-coming of it’s XBOX 360 counterpart, Gears of War. One of Resistance 2’s many strengths, however, is its massive online functionality which boasts competitive and cooperative modes that will keep players engaged well beyond the completion of the campaign mode.
Mirror’s Edge is simply unlike any other game out there. It takes place in a world that is much more beautiful and attractive, and much less explicitly violent, than Fallout 3 or Resistance 2. Set in the not-too-distant future, the game’s glossy, pristine city is a veneer for a much more disturbing reality. The government watches everyone and everything. Behave, and you are fine…step out of line, and you are finished. As the main character, Faith, you operate as a runner transmitting packages and information for your clients. With the police mildly interested in your work, at least enough to shoot at you or pursue you, you get the sense that you are not only serving criminals, but revolutionaries that would seek to overthrow a pseudo-fascist government. The game encourages non-lethal combat to disarm the police as the focus is on the completion of missions as fast as possible. (There will be online competitions and rankings to see who is the fastest at completing each level). Mirror’s Edge draws on the growing popularity of parkour and free running which see cities as giant playgrounds with limitless potential for injury (death?)-defying stunts and movement.
There is no one explanation for the release of these films and their use of (post) apocalyptic, dystopic worlds. Certainly money is an issue, especially where sequels are involved. In the case of Mirror’s Edge, we have a fresh idea and gameplay on our hands. But what of the audience reaction to these films? Their financial viability signals an enthusiastic, eager audience. Perhaps these games simply allow us the ability to literally play out these critical scenarios. Like watching horror films, we can live out, or play out, our fears, or at least these scenarios. Terror does play a crucial role in Fallout 3 and Resistance 2, while the adrenaline from being pursued or shot at in Mirror’s Edge boosts your character’s performance.
These games are violent to varying degrees, with Resistance 2’s blood-and-guts-shoot-em-up the most over-the-top of the three. You can minimize violent contact in Fallout 3, but if you do engage enemies, you can target heads and limbs for gruesomely explosive shots. In fact, the new combat system and visuals in the game heighten your actions and their consequences. So these games, despite their varying compelling story lines and settings, will still find themselves in the on-going discussion of video game violence and gamers’ obsession with violent product.
Yet these settings and their story lines are no doubt responsible for the overwhelmingly positive reviews that they have garnered thus far. Perhaps these stories and settings provide a welcome break from the World War II re-hashes that have made the Call of Duty war video game series so popular. In fact, this series has quickly and virtually responded to changes in real life warfare and how we fight terrorism. One of the most recent installments, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, has you playing as a team up of British and American special forces in a hunt from Baghdad to Russia for a terrorist mastermind. Perhaps the games discussed here are an extension of that transition and an expression not of how we fight, but of our fears of war and the results of it.
Ryan Parker is a Ph.D. student at the Graduate Theological Union and blogs at Pop Theology.
Simon Webbe - Grace
h/t Jared Wright
LOMA LINDA – A panel of distinguished Adventist professionals convened Saturday, November 9, at the Loma Linda University Church to discuss whether gay rights trump doctors’ religious liberties.
In a decision filed on August 18, 2008, the California Supreme Court decided that the rights of religious freedom and free speech do not exempt a medical clinic’s physicians from complying with the California Unruh Civil Rights Act’s prohibition against discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation.
The Loma Linda University School of Religion Humanities Program hosted the Sabbath afternoon panel discussion featuring Alan Reinach, president of the North American Religious Liberty Association; Douglas Welebir, Redlands attorney; Danielle Sawyer, LLUMC OB/GYN; and David Larson, LLU ethics professor. Jim Walters, LLU professor of Christian Ethics moderated the discussion.
In the case under consideration, North Coast Women's Care Medical Group Inc. v. San Diego County, California justices unanimously sided with Guadalupe Benitez, a lesbian. Benitez received over a year of treatment for polycystic ovary syndrome in order to become pregnant through artificial insemination. After completing treatment, Benitez was affronted by a physician who refused to assist with artificial insemination citing religious reasons.
Benitez’ primary physician, Dr. Christine Brody, went on vacation and referred Benitez to colleague Dr. Douglas Fenton. When Fenton refused to perform artificial insemination on religious grounds, Benitez sued for discrimination as outlined in the Unruh Civil Rights Act and ultimately won her case.
Listed among the attorneys for the appellant in North Coast v. San Diego as a friend of the court: Alan J. Reinach; Alan E. Brownstein; Bassi, Martini & Blum and Fred Blum for Seventh-day Adventist Church State Council.
Adventist panelists at the forum Saturday discussed the implications of the court’s decision against discrimination on religious grounds. Alan Reinach—who recently championed California Proposition 8, framing the measure as a protection of religious liberties—argued vigorously that the California court essentially nullified freedom of conscience, making homosexuals a protected class whose rights outweigh religious liberty and free exercise of religion.
Danielle Sawyer, a practicing gynecologist, worries that a series of small steps by courts may limit the rights of physicians like her to exercise their religious convictions with impunity. Sawyer said that she is not like a fast food chain or retail store to provide service for any who come to her. When the floor opened for audience interaction, LLU ethicist Mark Carr noted that because medicine today is also a business, in a sense physicians are like McDonalds with the obligation to serve all comers. Sawyer retorted that she was not trained in business; she was trained as a servant, though at times it seems as though she might become a slave.
David Larson discussed the ethical ramifications of providing health care. Professional, philosophical and Christian theological ethics all agree: to accept or reject patients solely on the basis of gender, race, color, religion, national origin or sexual orientation is patently wrong. When an audience member suggested that infertility differs in gravity from saving a human life, Larson thanked the commenter for the distinction while adding that the hottest topic in the guild is whether to classify infertility as a disease and treat it as such. Larson concluded his prepared remarks by saying, “I agree with the court, and Jesus does too.”
Amid several serious inquiries from audience members came a few moments of levity. One disgruntled, elderly gentleman complained at length that he was the victim of discrimination by his church, which had forbidden him from distributing religious tracts. Moderator Jim Walters managed to placate the man with an invitation to discuss his case with Mr. Reinach following the presentation.
The audience member who followed proved less comedic, saying that the church has a biblical mandate to oppose homosexuals, and if that means being barred from practicing medicine or another profession, so be it!
[Because I arrived late at the discussion, I did not hear Douglas Welebir’s opening statements. I hope that someone will be able to summarize his arguments for our benefit here.]
More on North Coast v. San Diego:
In press reports this weekend and in the 2008 Blood Coltan documentary Gen. Laurent Nkunda, the Tutsi warlord who recently displaced 250,000 Congolese and killed and raped hundreds more identifies himself as a Seventh-day Adventist and a one-time pastor. [I've asked the General Conference for details and will post them as they come in.]
Before folks comment there is an essential larger context to this story that includes the Coltan trade, religious syncretism, globalization, and ethnic violence. These fascinating angles are covered in the 50 min. documentary Blood Coltan embedded at the bottom which also includes a filmed interview and the most direct statements about Adventism by Gen. Laurent Nkunda.
On Nov. 8, the Associate Press reported:
The first sound we heard climbing through mud and curtains of rain to Nkunda's camp was a monotonous hum: It was the sound of prayer emanating from a darkened room — a makeshift chapel in one of several brick structures scattered around the jungle.
A drummer started to beat a rhythm, and the congregation of uniformed young men started to sing.
Hours later, when Nkunda finally appeared, he held forth on his religious faith.
"I was born into a Christian family and I have always believed," he said.
The man blamed for a 10-week offensive that has forced 250,000 people from their homes as his fighters captured great swaths of eastern Congo says he's a born-again Christian and one-time Adventist pastor who'd rather be teaching than soldiering.
He's often seen wearing a lapel button reading: "Rebels for Christ."
The conflict in eastern Congo is fueled by festering ethnic hatred left over from the 1994 slaughter of a half-million Tutsis in Rwanda, and Congo's civil wars from 1996-2002, which drew its neighbors into a rush to plunder Congo's mineral wealth.
Nkunda defected from the army in 2004, saying he needed to protect his tiny Tutsi minority from Rwandan Hutu militias. He has since expanded his mission to "liberating" Congo from an allegedly corrupt government.
New clashes between the army and rebels erupted Friday just outside Goma near Kibati, where about 45,000 refugees have taken refuge. Thousands fled toward the relative safety of Goma.
Nkunda called a unilateral cease-fire last week when his forces reached the outskirts of Goma, but the truce has crumbled.
On Thursday, Nkunda appeared in crisp camouflage and a bush hat, with an expensive hardwood cane topped in silver.
"We will continue fighting and we will fight all the way to (the capital) Kinshasa," he vowed.
According to War News:
Nkunda has been indicted for war crimes in September 2005 and is under investigation by the International Criminal Court.
According to human rights monitors such as Refugees International, Nkunda’s troops have been alleged to have committed acts of murder, rape, and pillaging of civilian villages; a charge which Nkunda denies. Amnesty International says his troops have abducted children as young as 12 and forced them to serve as child soldiers.
The New York Times Two for the Road (with Nick Kristof) blog notes after a visit:
Tall, young in appearance, and good looking, Nkunda was wearing camouflage, tinted glasses, a beret, and a lapel pin that read, “Rebels for Christ.” He is the son of farmers, the father of six children, a psychology major in college, and a former teacher. He considers himself “a soldier and a trainer” and also a “traditional chief.” He speaks with great conviction and glowing excitement, he quotes everyone from Gandhi to Gen. MacArthur. In short, Nkunda is charisma defined.
He proudly sported a pin, “Rebels for Christ.” Before each drink and meal, he and his faithful prayed. “We fight in the name of the Lord,” he told us. “That is what I tell all my troops. When they fight, they have God on their side.”
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency reports:
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is preparing emergency relief for tens of thousands of displaced persons who fled their homes near Goma along the border between Congo and Rwanda. The aid is coming after an outbreak of violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo's North Kivu province.
. . .
"Food prices have soared more than 50 percent in Goma, and food is barely available for purchase," said Romain Kenfack, country director for ADRA in Goma.
. . .
Since November 4, new fighting has broken out between the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), Congolese Tutsi rebels led by General Laurent Nkunda, and the local pro-government Mai-Mai militia. The rebels report that Rwanda Hutu Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR)
rebels, and government forces have fought along with the Mai-Mai at Kiwanja, near Rutshuru, but were pushed back.
Approximately 250,000 persons were displaced during the last two months, resulting in a total of nearly one million refugees in the Congo, the United Nations said.
Watch this 50 min. documentary which makes the connections between the cell-phone Coltan trade, the market-driven inhumanity, liberation theology European Christian activism and rebel leader General Nkunda. Nkunda explains Seventh-day Adventism to the interviewers: "This is a large organization. It started in America. They often come and preach. . . . He adds that "living in the forest doesn't stop me from carrying out my ecclesiastical mission."
It's interesting to see the varieties of religion captured in this documentary - a Catholic liberation theology-trained priest protesting the violence, a pastor war criminal mixing "abundant life" scriptural bromides with his just war theory of being a "rebel for Christ" and a Christian activist pragmatically trying to tackle the root causes of this international tragedy.
Given my recent night and day consuming activities - teaching, blogging, electioneering - I haven't had a chance to step back and reflect on what the last couple of political months and emerging discourses might mean for America and the Adventists who live here.
Providing some religious perspective, John Schmalzbauer writes on the Social Science Research Council's Immanent Frame:
Americans have elected the most theologically astute president since Jimmy Carter. Like his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama is partial to the writings of Paul Tillich and Reinhold Niebuhr. Obama’s Facebook page (the first ever for a president-elect) lists Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead as a favorite novel.
Hidden from most of the electorate, Obama’s theological inclinations are well known to scholars of American religion. Heralding a “civil religious revival,” sociologist R. Stephen Warner cites Obama’s belief in the power of ideals to draw Americans “toward their better natures” and the “awesome God that he knows is worshiped in both blue and red states.”
I agree. But we're about to end our time with a president who many called their "Pastor in Chief." Do we really want another?
Or is there a difference in the theological foundations and implementation between 43 and 44 that gives religious libertarians, like me, hope? I first heard Barack Obama speak in person in June of 2006. At the time I wrote:
Today, the man President Bush calls "the pope" delivered an incisive speech articulating a principled way forward in the American debate over faith and public life. I sat four rows away, and it was good.
Speaking at the First National City Church, to a packed audience of mainline, evangelical, and Catholic progressive activists, Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) began with a story familiar to many—having his religious bona fides questioned because he wasn’t conservative enough. Pushing past both the Right’s patently parochial rhetoric and the secular stammer of the left, the senator swung back with a vision for American values rooted in his hopeful prayer that “reconciles the beliefs of each with the good of all."
But Obama's short record and today's speech reveals more than progressive ideals and sharp political timing. He also envisions a way forward that eschews the Right's solipsistic rhetorical grip on American values. He sees that the solutions to gun violence, poverty, war and failed immigration policy lie in our ability to turn personal ideals into broad movements for the common good.
Evoking Kierkegaard's and then moving beyond Fear and Trembling and its treatment of the subjectivity of faith, Obama concludes:
Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God's will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.
It was this lack of non-sectarian reasoning that led Obama and significant numbers of Adventists to oppose the religious right's successful attack on marriage equality in California.
But perhaps there is a way forward. On The Immanent Frame, John Schmalzbauer, continues:
Before and after the election, the religious right has been unrelentingly hostile to an Obama candidacy. In particular, recent statements by Focus on the Family’s James Dobson reveal an unbridgeable chasm between Obama and some conservatives. In October 2008, Dobson released what he called a “Letter from 2012 in Obama’s America.” A fictional letter from the future, it begins with the author lamenting the fact that he “can hardly sing ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ any more.” Downright apocalyptic, it warns that an Obama administration will result in the outlawing of campus ministries, a rise in pornography, the banning of evangelical books, and the outlawing of the Pledge of Allegiance. Along the same lines, Focus on the Family’s Tom Minnery compares Barack Obama to “pagan rulers such as Nebuchadnezzar, Darius, and Cyrus.”
And yet it appears that Obama knows exactly what he is up against. Consistent with his Niebuhrian sensibilities, he has not portrayed the quest for reconciliation as an easy journey. Like Martin Luther King, Jr., Obama believes that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” In The Audacity of Hope, Obama writes that a new kind of politics requires us “to account for the darker aspects of our past.”
On Tuesday night, Obama looked back to a dark time in American history, quoting Abraham Lincoln’s words “to a nation far more divided than ours”: We are not enemies but friends.
That's pastoral. But the emphasis on what we have in common marks a strong difference from the triangulation and Rovian-Palin polemics of the past. As Fritz Guy or Alden Thompson might note: It's less apologetic and more theological.
If the Adventist church and our evangelistic leadership wish to reach more people for Christ, perhaps noting the post-election hunger for this sort of thoughtful commonality might make our church a more inviting refuge from dominant Christendom. That so many Adventist evangelists signed on with the religious right over Prop 8, while the majority of Californians under 30 voted 61% against Prop 8 and Obama doubled Kerry's vote among under 30 evangelicals, should give some pastors and administrators some pause.* Despite the recent promulgation of "hope" on evangelistic signage, are we still really communicating fear? Instead of the old papacy, is it now the gays and secularists?
One reason that Obama won was that throughout the campaign in word and deed, he employed on balance much more unifying rhetoric. One might disagree with his health care proposals, but that didn't make anyone less "real" of an American.
Are there less real Adventists? I conducted an experiment on the Spectrum Blog on the weekend before the election in which I invited folks to take a second from the heated debates and wish each other a Happy Sabbath. Many did, but conspicuously absent were some who are the most prolific on this site in defending Adventism against encroaching "liberalism." In defending truth, sometimes we need to stop and enjoy its presence and affirm the larger ties the bind.
I like a good fight, but there is a dangerous tendency, a sort of reactionary nihilism among some that see in minor changes The End. And they jump in to do a little shaking of their own. Change has been happening for thousands of years and yet, somehow, folks still find God and a common moral good. In fact, it's a fact that the more we focus on our shared meanings, the less threatening some of the other stuff becomes.
From noting the same God in Red and Blue States to encouraging non-sectarian reasoning, under a new President (perhaps a professor in chief?), it will be interesting to see if this emphasis on the common good continues. And more importantly for pastors, evangelists, professors and all Adventists, will we bend our aching discourse of community and moral goodness toward justice for all?
Adventist Gothic illustration by Adventist Caricaturist.
*Original wording mixed the young and evangelical stats.
October 16, 2008 - Vol. 185, No. 29
I am a committed supporter of the Adventist Review, but all too often the theology included in its pages leaves me shaking my head. The cover piece by Cliff Goldstein is, in my opinion, an egregious example of pseudo intellectual confabulation, and I have awarded him and the editors of the Review a Black Eye. I’ll make the case and give you the opportunity to disagree with me. One Bouquet has also been awarded.
This issue does an admirable job of informing members of the activities of the worldwide church. The graphics are a marked improvement over those of the “old” Review.
In the Kari and Julia Story by Sandra Blackmer, both girls died untimely deaths in spite of devout parents and fervent prayers. That doesn’t square with the naive assertion by Patty Frose Nthemuka that, “Although we can’t see Him, God is always standing outside the ‘cleft in the rock,’ with his hand protectively over us so we will be safe.”
Ms. Nthemuka uses the Mt. Sinai ‘cleft in the rock’ story in which God covers Moses with His hand “so the glory of God would not kill him” as an example of God’s protecting power. Another Sinai story in Exodus 24:9-11 illustrates God’s desire to fellowship with human beings on a more personal basis. Moses, along with Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and seventy elders of Israel, “gazed on God and then ate and drank” with Him on their visit to the mountain.
I’ll Tell the World That I’m a Christian by Fredrick A. Russell
“When I’m Adventist first and not Christian first, I can become exclusive and territorial when it comes to the message of God’s Word. When I’m Christian first, it doesn’t matter who tells the message as long as it gets out.”
Reason, Faith, and Hope: Revisiting Daniel 2 by Clifford Goldstein purports to tell “the truth about the grand sweep of history” from a prophetic interpretation of the great statue described in Daniel 2.
While I honor the conversion experience of Cliff Goldstein, his tears and exclamation, “It’s all true! It’s all true!” when experiencing his “first ever” Bible study does not constitute a “proof” that his interpretation of Daniel 2 is the correct one. His conversion experience immediately preceding this Bible study is unique, bordering on the bizarre, and I am convinced that it has influenced Cliff’s attempt to create a prophetic reality that is not supported by biblical evidence. Here is his conversion story, as recounted in the first five paragraphs of this article.
“In the fall of 1979, under the looming shadow of my twenty-fourth birthday, I had a dramatic, life-changing experience. For two and a half years I had been writing a novel. The book consumed me, controlling my life outside the pages more than I controlled the lives I had created on them. Then, that evening, the Lord Jesus spoke to me in my room: “Cliff, you have been playing with Me long enough,” He said. “If you want Me tonight, burn the novel.”
“The novel was my god. And because we must have “no other gods before” the true One (Ex. 20:3), the book had to go if I wanted the true One, which by then I did. After hours of divine-human wrestling, knowing nothing about salvation, nothing about the three angels of Revelation 14, and nothing about myself as a sinner, I took the manuscript—two and a half years of my existence—and burned it on a small hotplate. That night in Gainesville, Florida, just after sunset, I became a born-again believer in Jesus.
“Now, my experience that night was just that—an experience—personal, subjective, interior. No one standing in the room that evening would have heard the Lord speaking to me. Nothing logical, nothing scientific, nothing from the common academic disciplines could have explained the moment. What happened was mystical, supernatural, beyond rationality, perhaps like Saul’s overwhelming experience on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-9).
“The next day, in a health food store, I had my first-ever Bible study: Daniel 2. When our study came to the part of the prophecy describing the great statue’s feet and the toes of iron and clay, I read the text that said: “They shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay” (Dan. 2:43), symbolic of modern Europe. I burst into tears, looked up, and exclaimed, “It’s all true! It’s all true!”
“There in my hands for the first time was powerful confirmation, not only of God’s existence but of His foreknowledge and sovereignty. There on the page before me in that health food store was logical, objective, and publicly available evidence for belief. With Daniel 2, my experience of the night before was now underpinned by a firm platform for faith, a platform that remains as solid, as affirming, and as rational now as it was nearly 30 years ago.”
NOW DECIDE THE MERITS OF THE ARTICLE FOR YOURSELF
1. Read the entire Goldstein article.
2,. Read Daniel 2, 7 and 8.
3. Read the following scholarly reference.
“The date of composition [of the book of Daniel] is decided by clear evidence in Chapter 11. The wars between the Seleucids and the Ptolemies and a portion of the reign of and Antiochus Epiphanes are described with a wealth of detail quite unnecessary for the author's purpose. This account bears no resemblance to any of the Old Testament prophecies and, despite its prophetic style, refers to events already past. . . The book must therefore have been written during the persecution under Antiochus Epiphanes and before his death, even before the success of the Maccabaean Revolt; that is to say between 167 and 164.
“There is nothing in the rest of the book to contradict this dating. The narratives of the first section are set in the Chaldaean period, but there are indications that the author is writing a long time after the events. Belshazzar was the son of Nabonidus and not, as the book says, of Nebuchadnezzar; nor was he ever king. Darius the Mede is unknown to historians, nor is there room for him between the last Chaldaean king and Cyrus the Persian who had already conquered the Medes. The neo-Babylonian background is described in words of Persian origin; the instruments in Nebuchadnezzar's orchestra are given names transliterated from the Greek. The dates given in the book agree neither among themselves nor with history as we know it, for chronology. The author has made use of oral and written traditions still current in his own times.
“The late composition of the book explains its position in the Hebrew Bible. It was admitted after the Canon of the Prophets had already been fixed, and the place to between Esther and Ezra among the very the group of 'other writings' forming the last section of the Hebrew Canon.”
The new Jerusalem Bible, Leather Deluxe Edition, Introduction to the Prophets: Daniel, pages 1177 & 1178.
4. Ask yourself the following questions:
Is current Daniel 2 scholarship based on a “false hypothesis”?
Do the aspects of the image foretell the eventual dismantling of the Roman Empire?
Is the iron imbedded in the clay of the feet “symbolic of the transition from pagan to papal Rome . . . that remains until the end of time?
Is the following statement true? “Daniel 8 not only describes the [prophetic] empires, but in verses 20 and 21 names two of them—Media-Persia and Greece. Between Daniel 2 and 8, then, three of the four earthly kingdoms are identified by name: Babylon in Daniel 2 (verse 38), and Media-Persia and Greece in Daniel 8 (verses 20, 21)”.
Andy Hanson is Emeritus Professor of Education at Cal State University, Chico and a member of Grace Connection Adventist Church. He blogs at Adventist Perspective.
Dream gives way to awareness, and awareness soon tells me I'm conscious. There are voices in the distance, lots of them. How many are far-away dreams, and how many are real? And what is the difference between a person far away and one who is yelling in my ear?
The vociferous crowd begins to resolve, and I can start to make our the dichotomy between gospel-preaching evangelists and Islamic prayer calls. I'm fully awake now, and though the foreign culture is highly creepy in the misty mornings, I'm determined to absorb it entirely. Nietzsche will not find me "insufficiently earnest" for experience [see my last post].
"Ina kwana, Sheik," I greet my host across the smoldering fire pit. "Lafia kalau," he responds, handing me a bowl of porridge. "What are they saying?" I ask the Arabic scholar, pulling out a cheap ball-point pen and notebook. He begins to explain to me the meaning and origins of the ancient dawn prayer traditions. Our lesson is cut short, however, as he must get to the school to instruct the children under his care. I walk with him to the fork in the road, notebook in my rucksack, and then set off towards the mountain. I saw a Fulani cattleherder out there yesterday who I'd like to meet.
This is how I envision the trip to Nigeria I'm tentatively planning for this summer. An adventure and, more importantly, an experience.