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Andy Nash asks:
If I understand correctly, you're saying it's not necessarily an issue of great importance whether Daniel was written (by an actual prophet named Daniel )in 600 BCE or by someone else in 167 BCE--after at least some of the events in question had come to pass. Is that a fair understanding?
Doctorf wrote: "...lets say the later date 167 BCE is correct. Once again what does the date have to do with spiritual meaning of the story?"
Alex wrote: "Recognizing an ex eventu message in Daniel actually shows respect for the Word and God. My faith in God isn't predicated on some sort of magically predicative quality in the Bible. There are deeper stories about the movement of God through the First Testament and self-revelation in Christ. In light of the evidence, this life-affirming truth seems more vital than basing belief on the clearly problematic issue of almost singular prophetic prescience."
Here are my questions--and please accept these as honest inquiries.
1. If a prophet called Daniel wasn't really having these experiences (e.g., "I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, while the men who were with me did not see the vision" Dan. 10:7) and writing about them, then this book called Daniel is obviously lying about the claims it makes--that a prophet, Daniel, was having these experiences and visions. My question is How, in the face of such blatant lies, are you able to still benefit from the "spiritual meaning of the story"? Isn't it hard to do this?
2. In Matt. 24:15, Jesus refers to "the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet." What do you do with this statement from Jesus? It's hard for me to see how Jesus isn't referring to a specific person, Daniel the prophet. And if Daniel is called into question, isn't the omniscience of Jesus then called into question as well? (Not all slopes are slippery, but this one would seem to be.)
Andy, I understand where you’re coming from and your questions raise issues of hermeneutical coherence, in ways similar to what Mrs. Coffin asks Cliff. I don't have it all figured out, but here's my reflections as a believer who wants to be honest about what appears to be good scholarship.
First, the idea of a text lying is an invention of our (Adventist) 19th century historical-critical legacy. However, as a prophet/author in our midst I believe that Adventism’s experience with Ellen White helps us address the “is it true?” questions you raise.
In doing so, I’m going to assume that you’ve read the essential texts such as Prophetess of Health, the White Lie, the discussion at the 1919 Bible Conference and the Estate’s gradual shift on this issue and that much of what she saw in vision, wrote about the life of Christ and wrote as history, came from others. As Ann Taves shows, Ellen White functioned in the "fits, trances, visions" prophetic tradition. To discount Ellen White while embracing an idea that this same prophetic authorial complexity is not evident in Ancient Near Eastern Judaism is an example of the academic 19th century objectivity that makes historical-criticism fail. How Ellen White functioned in Adventism (a religious community exponentially more literate than 165 BCE) shows how questions of authorship don’t actually as much as some would like, outside of the academic community.
I believe that Ellen White is a prophet in this tradition. For those who rush to dismiss her while embracing the Bible as free from this, from John to David, Ezekiel to Samuel we recognize an embodied ecstatic tradition that also manifests itself in other religions.
Was Daniel lying? Was Ellen? As scholars have shown, our very concept of authorial originality has evolved in the last 100 years, not to mention 3000 years. For instance, the separation of fiction and non-fiction literary categories, the use of pseudonyms. Both of the Christian canons and the Jewish canons were committee decisions based on a pre-existing theological points they both wanted to get across. It’s really hard for us to understand, but imposing our idea of textual authority back to a pre-literate society is like a Martian coming across a History Channel documentary on WWII with its mix of a celebrity reading the text of a script writer for a voice over, survivor interviews, archival footage, reenactment footage, the reading of era documents, interviews with current historians and wondering if the whole war was fake just because the actor voice reading a letter home wasn’t actually the soldier.
I just don’t think that we have enough reference points to fully understand (at least to start questioning each others’ faith) how the historical figure, the stories, the authors and redactors and community and God all functioned in a pre-literate society to make meaning. That we go back and take a sentence from one letter, combine it with another in the voice over, connect it to a verse from the background music and some words from one of the soldiers does seems to miss the ethical point of the story. That post-538 CE Europe is divisible into ten toes (what about the fingers and Medo-Persia?) requires incredible creativity.
2. Before we address the NT text, you ask about the omniscience of Jesus. Where is the Biblical evidence that Jesus knew everything while He was on earth? In fact, I believe that there’s much Biblical evidence that Jesus did not know in the garden, or on the cross, if the plan of salvation would work. Furthermore, Jesus asks lots of questions, was he lying about not knowing the answer?
In addressing your larger point, it’s important to recognize that the Gospels were themselves later written documents and what we have in English are compilations by men working with thousands of fragments with tens of thousands of variations. For instance, the woman caught in adultery does not appear in single copy of any of the Gospels until it appears as marginalia around the 12th century CE and then slips right into the text as we know it.
The text as a closed vehicle for meaning is a human construction, from the inspiration process to the copying process to the translation process to the interpretation process. That doesn’t mean that God’s not present, but God doesn’t override human free will. God is a part of the process, but it is always through humans and no human is perfect, in fact, thousands of humans, with varying relationships with God, over 2000 years means that we are justified in always asking questions about how earlier generations saw the text.
How we read verses in English (sans paraphrase) are translations by committees (everyone knows how well those work) that reach compromises. Thus, often the text as received is what makes sense in their context given what their thinking is at the time, not necessary what Jesus meant. The Gospel of Matthew mimics Mark, but also adds in bits that are First Century Jewish specific. Reading the first part of chapter 24, it’s pretty clear that Jesus is talking about the destruction of Jerusalem.
Perhaps in this example we have Jesus speaking to the assumptions of the people of the times, or at least how the author remembered it or thought how Jesus
Does inspiration give perfect memory? See Ellen White. Sometimes she got history wrong or copied facts that don’t match up.
I believe in Ellen White’s prophetic gift and I’ll always fight to make sure we don’t lose her, in part because it helps us see how prophets and inspired writers actually function in religious communities, particularly in the Judeo-Christian inter-textual tradition. There are books in the Bible that copy whole passages, with contradictory variations from other books right in the canon. Now some extreme apologists for Ellen White will make excuses for the plagiarism by noting the less formal citation conventions of the 19th century. Fair enough. But if we can do that, then let’s drop back to an almost pre-literate era with no concept of originality of authorship.
So no, I don’t think that Jesus would get it wrong, but there’s no doubt that humans, even when inspired, get meanings wrong, and of course, even the meanings in one time don’t always apply through the last 2000 years and in every culture. Not to mention that Christian history is littered with outdated interpretations.
This assumes that you agree with most scholars that Ellen White’s writings are a mix of her own words and the words of others. Also, in the Adventist context we’ve also seen how what Sister White says takes on a variety of meanings in believer oral communication. For instance, immediately after the terrible attacks on 9-11, I heard folks say that she predicted the events in the Testimonies. In the less critically-aware mind, these sorts of textual bits take on outsized meaning, especially after the fact.
In some popular Adventist usage, Sister White the prophet takes on different meanings than Ellen G. White the actual author. If one wanted to avoid some of the big questions about epistemology and religion, one could take the rather conservative approach and talk about how Daniel the prophet vs. the writer of Daniel (note how the books shifts between 1st and 3rd person) might mean different things to the writer of Jesus’ words in Matthew. Separating the historical, the narrative characters of Daniel and the spiritual message of God's presence (remember the Babylon captivity folks. Now under these new oppressors God is in control) is really not that troublesome. The author of Daniel might have some dating problems in similar ways that one might quote the words one heard from General Patton in the aforementioned WWII documentary without presuming that the whole film is by him even though it may open with a first person narrative. No, my example documentary as combine/text doesn't address the inspiration issue, but then, was Ellen White inspired by the God of the Bible?
Thanks to Julius Nam, we're proud to relay a recent audio conversation between:
They discuss the state of the local Adventist church.
Look to the bottom right of the home page or click here.
This week with the news that America is indeed in a recession, added to the already rampant distress over the economic crisis, two bags of groceries mysteriously appeared on my in-laws’ porch. It was a pleasant surprise—an unexpected grace, but it was not an answer to prayer.
My in-laws have experienced plenty of difficulty from this recession, but they aren’t out of food. So when the groceries showed up on their porch, it was not a miracle in the way miracles are often characterized (divine interventions that supernaturally fix earthly calamities).
Miracles are those curious events that reveal God’s unmistakable presence in the world. They have little to do with the glorious discovery of missing car keys after we searched the twentieth time to no avail (as magnificent as those experiences can be). They have much more to do with the often-imperceptible instances of grace breaking into the world, often through very ordinary people.
Jonas Uribe, in his review of the movie Millions for Spectrum, describes Saint Peter’s wonderful, apocryphal retelling of the feeding of the five thousand. It goes something like this:
Jesus takes the loaves and the fishes from the little boy and begins passing them around. The first guy has a little food hidden under his cloak, looking out for Number One. But seeing the scarcity of food compared to the size of the crowd, he sneaks a piece of food onto the plate thinking nobody is looking, and passes it on. The next person, noticing what had happened, also sneaks some food onto the plate and on it goes like that. When the plate comes back around to Jesus, he seems a little taken aback and asks what happened.
“Miracle,” Peter says, thinking he’s fooled Jesus. But then he sees that it was a miracle and one of Jesus’ best.
My wife’s coworker got evicted recently, unable to make her rent payments. After losing the apartment, she also had to quit her job at the hospital to move with her three children to live with a friend. Her first husband died and the second was unfaithful. When my wife and her coworkers heard the story, they immediately began devising a plan to take Christmas to the family that probably does not expect much cheer this season.
That is a miracle. It is an instance of grace breaking into the world through very ordinary people, and evidence of God’s unmistakable presence amid the mundane. It’s the word becoming flesh again, a re-incarnation of the God of heaven in a feed trough.
Christmastime is a miraculous time of year, not because of sparkling strings of lights or people singing carols; not because of the holly and the ivy or the coziness of a crackling fire (though I enjoy all those things). Rather it is miraculous because during this chaotic season, with crazed crowds paying homage to Almighty Bargain, people prone to looking out for Number One enact grace instead. Bags of food on a porch, Christmas for a struggling family—ordinary events involving ordinary people doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly.
In those miraculous, mundane moments, for just a brief instant it seems as though the sky gets brighter and I can hear echoes of heavenly hosts singing, “Glory to God in the highest heights, and on the earth, Peace and Goodwill.” And even though the sky goes dark again, I am aware of Immanuel, and that is why I believe in miracles.
A local paper in the Shenandoah Valley reports:
Frozen gravy, boxed stuffing and whole turkeys seemed to fly out of the Seventh-day Adventist Church on Tuesday as volunteers continued their annual holiday food distribution.
In just two hours, the church's volunteers cleared 127 turkeys, about 300 apples and more than 500 pounds of canned fruits and vegetables from the building, their largest distribution ever.
"I've been a volunteer here for three years, and I've never seen a church that's done more for this community than Seventh-day Adventist church," said volunteer Tom Finch.
Pastor Tara VinCross joins the Adventist Environmental Advocacy team. She talks about how her church implements creation care.
The most recent way of incorporating environmental stewardship took place as we were finishing up our nomination/election process of church leaders. As a committee we decided to commission a "Green Team" for our church, a group of individuals dedicated two goals: 1) to bringing our church behavior in line with our beliefs about Christian stewardship of the environment and 2) to educating our members about the action steps they can take in their own homes. We are beginning the process of increasing understanding in our church community, and I know it will continue to unfold in the coming years.
I also speak to care for people and planet in my sermons, and in our own lifestyle choices, which leads people to ask questions about why we do what we do. Every time I turn down a plastic bag in a store, there is an opportunity to answer the question, "why?" In fact, just the other week, I commented to a church member how great it was to see them using a reusable water container instead of plastic bottles. "I got it from you!" they exclaimed. Apparently, they had seen me carrying around my water container and they thought, hey, I can do that too. You never know what is going to spread and change in the church! Another church member is also passionate about environmental stewardship, and as the leader for fellowship meals, makes sure that we do not buy any Styrofoam products for our potluck buffet meals. Each of these decisions fosters a spirit of care and awareness for all that God has made.
Speaking of buildings, an Adventist congregation in Maryland wins a lawsuit over religious discrimination in Prince George's County.
Oakwood University hosts Jan Paulsen, an AME pastor and 1000 ministers for evangelism conference.
Speaking of Oakwood, someone blogs a very brief history of Little Richard, an alum.
In Maryland, the Washington Post reports: Adventist HealthCare and the Catholic Holy Cross Hospital battle over hospital building plans.
The global AIDS pandemic usually escapes mention in Adventist congregations. Perhaps in part because Adventists shy away from discussion of sexuality and sexually-transmitted diseases, or perhaps because affluent churches in North America and Europe do not feel the effects of AIDS first hand, Adventists often overlook HIV/AIDS.
One Southern California church hopes to change that.
In commemoration of World AIDS Day, the Kansas Avenue Adventist Church , together with the Grove Community Church in Riverside, California, hosted two days of AIDS awareness and prevention.
On Saturday, November 29, Jeanne White-Ginder spoke in the Kansas Avenue church about her son, Ryan White, who died of AIDS. In 1984, Ryan’s struggle for acceptance and fair treatment made national headlines after Western Middle School (Russiaville, Indiana) barred him from attending. A lengthy legal battle eventually resulted in Congress passing the Ryan White CARE Act four months after Ryan’s death.
Saturday morning, Ryan’s mother shared stories and a video of Ryan, inspiring the nearly 120 attendees. A reporter from the Press-Enterprise attended Saturday's gathering and writes:
"Our life drastically changed overnight," White-Ginder said.
Classmates, parents and teachers did not want Ryan in their school. He and his mother fought to get him back in a school where he was not welcome.
People attending the summit watched a videotape that showed anti-Ryan protesters and included an interview with Ryan shot a year before his death in 1990. He did not blame the people for their reaction to the disease.
Read the full story.
On Monday (Dec. 1) Kansas Avenue observed World AIDS day with guest speakers, panel discussions and breakout sessions. In meetings from 9:00AM to 4:00 PM, health care professionals, clinical counselors, public health officials and clergy discussed AIDS and its impact on communities in Southern California.
Dr. Sharon Rabb, an educator, clinical psychologist, and licensed marriage, family therapist, shared a presentation titled “Breaking the Silence.” Dr. Rabb addressed the shame and stigma attached to HIV/AIDS, urging openness and public discussion. Noting that shame prevents people infected with AIDS from speaking out, Rabb said people must get help, not try to go it alone.
Dr. Ann Dew, a public health and preventative medicine expert, described the impact of AIDS on California communities. Riverside and San Bernardino Counties in Southern California rank among the nation’s highest in incidences of AIDS. Treatment of AIDS costs $10 million annually in those counties alone. Dr. Dew noted that HIV impacts African American and Latino communities disproportionately.
A panel discussion of pastors, physicians, and mental health professionals addressed the psychological issues that accompany AIDS, how to stop the AIDS pandemic, and how the community can help. The liveliest moments of discussion revolved around the question of whether abstinence or "safe sex" (i.e. using condoms) ought to be taught.
Afternoon breakout sessions featured three topics: HIV/AIDS 101, an informational presentation; Helping AIDS Survivors Heal, a look at the psychological aspects of AIDS care; and Mark McKay’s discussion of AIDS and death from a mortician’s perspective.
Bill Howe, who helped organize the AIDS Day activities on Saturday and Monday, notes that the Kansas Avenue Church has led Southern California’s Adventist communities in AIDS awareness and prevention for twelve years. In 1996 following the death of three church members, Kansas Avenue pastor Jesse Williams saw the need to address the disease as a congregation. Dozens of parishioners responded to the call for an AIDS ministry.
The result, Howe says, has been over a decade of advocacy and care for AIDS patients. The Church participates in and sponsors an annual AIDS walk fundraising event, provides a support group and resources for victims of HIV/AIDS, and hosts forums to raise awareness among Adventists.
Noting a smaller turnout than expected Monday, Bill Howe wonders why more Adventists have not taken up this cause. The church, he feels, should be at the forefront.
The Adventist Development & Relief Agency (ADRA) provides one step toward broader Adventist involvement. The Adventist News Network reports that ADRA commemorated World AIDS Day by providing an informative packet with statistics on AIDS, testimonies from people suffering from HIV/AIDS, informational posters, bulletin and magazine inserts and much more.
ADRA works in countries around the world to stop the spread of AIDS and invites Adventist participation.
Learn more about ADRA’s initiatives to fight AIDS and find out how you can participate at: http://www.adra.org/site/PageServer?pagename=work_aids_resources
UPDATE: See this morning's GC statement in the comments.
I'm surprised that the Adventist Church has not issued an official statement clarifying the current church standing and Adventist history of the the Congo warlord Laurent Nkunda.
Since Spectrum reported on the Associated Press piece, documentary, and the earlier New York Times item on November 11, hundreds of articles have been published about Gen. Nkunda. They invariably connect him to the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
The Center for Research on Globalization writes:
Nkunda is a long-standing henchman of Rwandan President, US-trained Kagame. All signs point to a heavy, if covert, USA role in the latest Congo killings by Nkunda’s men. Nkunda himself is a former Congolese Army officer, teacher and Seventh Day Adventist pastor. But killing seems to be what he is best at.
Now that's just great.
Just on a messaging note, it might be nice to have official word as to Nkunda's history and current relationship to the church in these news stories. Before we blow millions of dollars sending out "Cosmic Conflict" and "Revelation Offers Hope" mailers during this coming year of Evangelism, we might take advantage of this inexpensive opportunity to clarify our ethics and pastoral image.
Is he a member? Did he attend Adventist schools? Did he really do evangelistic work for the denomination? Is or was he ever a Seventh-day Adventist pastor?
I mean seriously. This guy is a convicted war criminal (2005) and is under investigation by the ICC and yet for awhile now he has been able to claim not just Adventist membership but uncontested pastoral authority in the world media.
Recently The American Spectator wrote:
Organizing a few thousand ethnically aligned soldiers and convincing them of the legitimacy of their complaints has long been the path to political power in the Congo. Laurent Nkunda, former Congolese Army officer, teacher, psychology student, Seventh Day Adventist pastor, long-time fighter for the rights of the Watutsi is now the commanding general of a Tutsi rebel army of 4,000-6,000 in the northeastern Congo.
Dangerous bloggers like David Hamstra, Sherman Haywood Cox II and the Adventist Caricaturist have all had to remove "Adventist" from their work, but as far as I know there has been no official statement to the media regarding Gen. Nkunda's use of Adventist or pastor.
Is this Congolese war really that important? Is it worth the hassle of some official clarification and a press release?
In today's Guardian, Anna Husarska senior policy analyst at the International Rescue Committee writes:
A mortality survey conducted by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and released earlier this year demonstrates that this conflict is the most deadly crisis since the second world war: an estimated 5.4m people have died as a consequence of the war and its lingering effects in the last decade. Today, a quarter of a million people are on the run, almost half of them on territory under rebel control and with almost no access to aid. They need food and shelter, clean water and latrines, medical care, and education. Women and girls need protection from sexual violence, which flares up when families are forcibly displaced.
I understand that if gayness was mixed in with the sexual violence toward women, lots more Adventist men would get all up in arms about this immorality; but perhaps we might recognize this as an appropriate, even morally warranted place for the Adventist voice. The central figure does claim to be one of us.
And just so that we're clear on the message about us that the world is getting these days, here today's Asia Times echoing the same story:
Nkunda himself is a former Congolese Army officer, teacher and Seventh Day Adventist pastor. But killing seems to be what he is best at.
Why are we silent? Clarifying his Adventist and ministerial credentials as well as the non-combatant Adventist stand against martial violence is not only good PR for us, but it also undercuts some of the character authority that he's using to "religion-wash" this heinous conflict. Saying something is really, seriously, the least we could do.
UPDATE: See GC statement below.
During this month The Spectrum Website will be conducting a fund-raising campaign where we will be more explicit in explaining our financial needs and asking you for assistance. If visitation numbers alone were to equate with success we would certainly consider this a successful year: 140,000 visitors, 302,000 visits, 850,000 page views. And the readership growth curve is moving upward. For Adventist news and commentary oriented websites we presently are second behind the Adventist Review in page views. However, the reasons for this readership – while impossible to infer from raw numbers alone – we believe correlate to the value delivered here. Value to you, our readers and participants. And value we think most of you would like to see maintained and growing.
So, what do we judge that value to be comprised of?
First, and foremost, we want to provide a place where the difficult issues confronting Adventism can be examined, in a thoughtful, respectful but unflinching manner. There is far more diversity of thought within our church than many recognize or perhaps would even wish to admit. Some of those perspectives need to push the church toward change. Others need to ultimately be rejected as mistakes. But there needs to be a safe, open place for this dialog. And this is, practically speaking, nearly impossible to pursue within the communication vehicles of official Adventism. Not because the church, or those vehicles are somehow bad. But they serve a broad constituency that has other needs and sometimes a low tolerance for ‘pushing the envelope’. The Spectrum Website gives service to the church in ways analogous to how a free press serves its city and country.
Second, this website continually speaks to the intersection of Adventism and a broader world culture. We are not unique in this but where else would you go to find the quantity, range and depth of material that has been provided here in the past year? Some has been highly controversial, such as issues surrounding homosexuality, faith and science, and abortion. Others, while more theological, still speak to how an Adventist Christian thinks and lives within the wider culture. We’ve discussed, among others, the role of public evangelism, Open Theism, and God’s character.
Third, a major component of the website is to provide mechanism and opportunity for reader interaction – with the authors, and with each other. Sparks fly at times, to be sure. But there is also community that is alive and growing. Site editors are not always perfect arbitrators but have to provide and enforce a safe yet open environment. At times postings have had to be deleted and a few participants have even been banned. But mostly the level of discourse, while often passionate, is articulate, respectful and open to new ideas.
Finally, this website is free. You do not have to pay a subscription fee to obtain content. This has been a carefully considered decision at the Adventist Forum Board level. We recognize people have radically disparate economic capabilities and we do not wish to impose a monetary ‘firewall’. We are persuaded that this model is right for an internet presence, but of course it also means funding must be raised in other ways. In subsequent articles this month we will talk frankly and in-depth about expenses and future plans. We hope you value what is available here and will consider giving us your support. We truly need your contributions.
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