Thank you for making your generous gift. Your donation will help independent Adventist journalism expand across the globe.
David Plotz, editor of Slate, read through the entire Old Testament and blogged about it sans fancy hermeneutics. In his new book chronicling the experience, Good Book: The Bizarre, Hilarious, Disturbing, Marvelous, and Inspiring Things I Learned When I Read Every Single Word of the Bible, Plotz makes fresh Biblical points by leaving the stories alone to speak for themselves. What emerges upon reflection is an awareness of the huge intellectual and moral gap that separates us from the Scriptural context. One of the things that lingers for Plotz is that the stories of humans talking back to God make for some of the most interesting reading.
I grew up playing legos for hours while listening to Arthur S. Maxwell's The Bible Story on (40?) cassettes narrated by Aunt Sue and Uncle Dan. I loved 'em. I also used to have these really cool tapes of one of the Maxwell brothers answering Bible questions from youngsters - they must have been recorded in the early 80s. My family also used to listen to Alexander Scourby read the Bible straight through. And off and on, we'd work our way into and out of whole books - like Acts - for family worship. It's a credit to my parents.
This grounding in the Bible pulled me into reading and subscribing to the Journal of the Adventist Theological Society while in academy and then moving beyond it. As I studied theology at Andrews University it became clearer to me that the adults who actually read the Bible a lot and in context are often the least comfortable with proof-texts and skimming through on top of the Bible Story edits.
In getting past texts and into the stories, I like how Plotz classifies Gideon and Abraham as the most scientific Biblical characters. Too often in sermons their tests of divine apparition are dismissed. Even among Seventh-day Adventists, who have above average Biblical literacy, it always surprises me how little of the "good book" actually makes an appearance in our community discussions. For instance, what sort of morality is taught in Genesis 34? Elsewhere, Plotz points out, Jacob comes off as pretty dishonest, even deceiving his father, while in reality Esau comes off as a pretty good guy. All too often, actual unethical behavior is excused if a person can claim to be a significant player in a God-blessed remnant. Overall, there is a morally deadening clash between the popular salvation history and the ethical as portrayed in Scripture and this sometimes leaks into 21st century rationalizing as well.
In the Bloggingheads discussion above, Plotz exhumes some of these points.
At some point folks who actually read the Bible confront a scientific, historical, and moral gap. And frankly, those who apply verses sans context adjustment reveal how little they actually know about the moral mix and shifting story flow. I believe that actually reading Scripture in toto keeps faith from freezing to history. It takes some work - even a miracle - but there's a God revealed in the Bible who actually transcends time, verses, place.
The Beyond Evandalism Conference began last night in Hollywood with 70-80 people in attendance. It was exciting to see so many of my dear friends from all across the country turn up for this roughly day and a half event.
After an extended clip from the incredible film The Big Kahuna (more on that later, perhaps), Peter Rollins began with this opening talk entitled, "Lessons in Evandalism." It was a fast paced, often disjointed jaunt through philophopy, psychoanalytic theory and theology to essentially make the argument that we have given God away; that in the actual experience of most people in our world, Nietzsche was right, "God is dead." Bonhoeffer, argued Rollins, said essentially the same thing. In his time, Bonhoeffer make the observation that God was always on the retreat, with less and less power, reduced to an idea - simply an explanation for what we cannot explain. We need God to help us face the likelihood that life is meaningless, everyone we love is going to die, that we have come from nothing and will return to nothing. So, God is pushed to the margins, not only of our lives, but also of society, to the point where God has now power at all anymore.
As a result (and this was one of Rollins' main points last night) we become purveyors of irony, not believing in our grounded being but only intellectually. Irony, he suggested, is sitting in Starbucks with your friends critiquing the dominance of corporations in our public life. In a deeper sense, he suggested that the church, therefore, becomes necessary as an "air vent" in our society, allowing the people to let off steam, thereby guaranteeing that nothing changes and the world carries on much as it always has. This happens because, in our practical experience, God is dead and we have killed him. His blood is on our hands.
When we tell people that if they come to our church and believe in God they will find the answers to all the great mysteries of the universe, or even just the troubling questions in their life, we are engaging in an ironic gesture, and the church becomes a fetish which, ironically, prevents us from experiencing the full reality of our situation. People carry on living as they always have, nothing changes except now people have a fetish, called church, that merely masks the reality of people's individual and more importantly, their shared experience.
Popular radio commentator Paul Harvey died over the weekend in a Phoenix, Arizona hospital. Harvey's "The Rest of the Story" made him a mainstay of American radio journalism and endeared him to the public. Harvey was 90 years old.
According to Adherents.com, Harvey joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 2000, and attended services at the Camelback Adventist Church in Scottsdale, Arizona. He occasionally quoted from Ellen G. White during broadcasts.
(See Update Below)
Harvey received numerous accolades during his 70 years in radio, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush in 2005. Dr. Benjamin Carson, an Adventist neurosurgeon, received the award in 2008.
Harvey's right-leaning remarks envisiaged and engendered the hidebound commentary of outlets like Fox News. Occasionally, Harvey's comments drew criticism.
In 2005, Harvey made the following contentious remarks in his radio broadcast:
But we didn't come this far because we are made of sugar candy. Once upon a time, we elbowed our way onto and into this continent by giving smallpox-infected blankets to Native Americans. Yes, that was biological warfare. And we used every other weapon we could get our hands on, to grab this land from whomever, and we grew prosperous. And yes, we greased the skids with the sweat of slaves.
And so it goes with most great nation-states, which feeling guilty about their savage pasts, eventually civilize themselves out of business, and wind up invaded and ultimately dominated by the lean, hungry, up-and-coming who are not made of sugar candy.
UPDATE: In response to numerous queries about Paul Harvey's being an Adventist, Pastor Charles White of the Saddleback SDA Church shares this message:
Their connection to the church was through Angel’s sister who was a baptized SDA member. I understand that a couple of aunts were also SDA. The rumor that he was Adventist got started on the web with erroneous information that has been passed on and perpetuated. Doug Bachelor stated it on one of his telecasts and that also gave it further believability. I spoke with him a few days ago and he said he read it on the web. Please do all you can to clarify this error. Thank you for your interest.
Charles White, senior pastor Camelback
Watch: Paul Harvey's "The Rest of the Story"
Over the last thirty days, (according to Google Analytics) this site has received:
That puts us at about 80% growth in visitors, 116% growth in visits and 41% growth in pageviews from the same time last year.
Thank you for reading!
And yes, nothing makes us (and many of our readers) happier than seeing a new name in the "Comment" scroll.
But the solid numbers don't tell the larger story. And it's not just that the fine juice-making Curtice family at Draper Valley Vineyards got a good response from many of you to their Valetine's Day ad. (Keep an eye out, another one is coming soon.)
Beyond the stats and fine advertising, the essays, reviews and conversations - the ideas - don't just stay on Spectrum or even within Adventism.
Here is a partial list of blogs that have linked to some posts on this site in the last thirty days.
+The good folks at Seventh-day Adventist to Roman Catholic appreciated this quote "We spent $40,000 [on a prophecy seminar] to baptize our children, and send scary brochures to the community" from What the Public Really Says about Adventist Evangelism.
+In reviewing the film, Religulous Supermassive Bloghole wrote: One of my favorite quotes from Seventh-day Adventist theologian, David Larson, “The best medicine for bad religion is not no religion but good religion.”
Spectrum, the Seventh Day Adventist magazine (sic), reviews three books today on the Kitzmiller v. Dover case -- the modern-day Scopes Monkey Trial that found the teaching of intelligent design to be an unconstitutional introduction of religion into public schools. . . . Spectrum praises all three, and implicitly takes ID advocates to task.
I am impressed by the perspective that this evangelical Christian publication takes here, embracing as ingenious America's unique take of religious freedom -- that it is designed to protect worshippers from secular interference, and the country at large from the tyranny of theocracy.
We couldn't agree with you more, Mr. Humes!
Thus, a juice toast is in order - and a round of blogging applause (I don't know, maybe tap, golf clap-esque, your keyboard approvingly) to our fine contributors who engage their traditions and provoke wider note.
Let us take this moment to open up a conversation we haven't had in awhile.
What blogs/sites are you reading these days that folks might enjoy?
“I believe” must be etched in every classroom, the screensaver on every computer and cell phone, it must be internalized in the heart of every student until dreams are born as to whom they can become and the contribution they can make to the development of their nation. It must be the theme in the morning papers and the optimism of the evening news until the waves wash away our shame and we evolve into a nation destined for greatness.”
So spoke Dr. Patrick Linton Allen, the immediate past president of the West Indies Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, in his inaugural address as the sixth Governor General of Jamaica. The occasion was his inauguration as Governor General of Jamaica on the grounds of Kings House, yesterday, February 26, 2009. It is a moment that will be long remembered by the thousands who braved the inclement weather to attend.
My wife Pauline and I arrived on the grounds at about 3:45 PM for the 5:30 event. Thousands of seats were laid out on the expansive grounds, but none was occupied. Instead hundreds of persons huddled together for safety under a few tents, and the many voluminous mango trees which dot the grounds in some profusion. Rain was pouring down with such energy as if to say, ‘no inauguration here today’. Dark clouds had blotted out any semblance of sunshine, but at about 4.45PM the rain suddenly stopped, the skies quickly cleared and the sun shone forth in its glorious evening splendor. It was as though a hand had wiped the heavens clear of clouds, and banished them to the deep horizons.
Everyone then went to the voluntary task of drying the chairs. As one surveyed the scene, one quickly saw that Seventh-day Adventists of every class was the dominant presence in the crowd. Presidents, officers, departmental directors, pastors, teachers, elders and hundreds of ordinary church members were there in such numbers that one got the impression it was a ‘homecoming’ event.
At 5:29PM Dr. Allen and his wife Patricia was led to the platform.
At precisely 5:30 the group rose to the singing of the national anthem played by the Jamaica Military Band. The President of the Jamaica Council of Churches, The Reverend Karl Johnson, prayed a stirring prayer. Immediately thereafter, the Governor General’s Secretary read the Royal Commission appointing Dr. Patrick Allen as Governor General of Jamaica. The retiring Governor General, His Excellency The Most Honourable Professor Kenneth Hall, then invited Dr. Allen to take and subscribe to the Solemn Declaration and Affirmation of Allegiance and the Solemn Declaration and Affirmation of Office, which he did.
On completion of this affirmation he was presented with Her Majesty’s Royal Commission, confirming him in his new role as the Governor General of Jamaica. There was a lot of cheering as this humble man from Fruitful Vale, in Portland, Jamaica rose to the highest office in the land.
It was a most opportune time for the Northern Caribbean University concert choir to lead the audience in the singing of Jamaica’s national song:
I pledge my heart forever
To serve with humble pride
This shining homeland, ever
So long as earth abide.
I pledge my heart, this island
As God and faith shall live
My work, my strength, my love and
My loyally to give.
O green isle of the indies
Jamaica, strong and free
Our vows and loyal promises
O heartland, tis to thee.
At the close of the singing, His Excellency Dr. Patrick Allen was invested by the Chief Justice with the Insignia of the Order of the Nation.
It was now time for speeches. The outgoing Governor General assured Dr. Allen, that “based on experience, . . .the bonds between the Office of the Governor General and the Jamaican people are sufficiently secure and you will find this new post both exciting and satisfying’. The Prime Minister emphasized that the new Governor General had been selected after the most careful consideration. He pointed that the GG is no figurehead. Jamaica had crafted various pieces of legislation requiring the judgment of the GG. “This practice”, he says, “of relying on the judgment of the Governor General in sensitive decision-making is a significant innovation toward good governance unknown to most other commonwealth jurisdictions but an innovation that has served well, and is an illustration of the political maturity of the nation”.
Then it was Dr. Allen’s turn. Coming out of the presidency of an administration, his tone was that of a man in charge. “There is nothing wrong with Jamaica that cannot be fixed by what is right with Jamaica”, he said to exuberant applause. “My commitment is clear and without equivocation. I will set forth to stir the people of Jamaica, inspire them to greatness and see their recommitment to building a great society. . . . I believe in Jamaica. I believe in the people of Jamaica. I am committed to doing my best as I carry out my responsibilities. . . . "I believe” must be etched in every classroom, the screensaver on every computer and cell phone, it must be internalized in the heart of every student until dreams are born as to whom they can become and the contribution they can make to the development of their nation. It must be the theme in the morning papers and the optimism of the evening news until the waves wash away our shame and we evolve into a nation destined for greatness.”
The audience erupted into thunderous applause. It was an inspiring speech. It was obvious that the very numerous Adventists were proud of the new GG. The new president of The West Indies Union Conference, Pastor Derek Bignall, gave the benediction. Northern Caribbean University’s concert choir which had led in previous items of vocal music did themselves well in bringing the evening to a close with the singing of Jamaica’s national anthem.
The inauguration of the new G.G was at an end and all left for their separate homes feeling pleased.
This is the second time in the Caribbean that a Seventh-day Adventist has been so appointed to the position of governor general. This appointment speaks not only to the measure of the man, but also to the strong and increasing number of Seventh-day Adventists, who are now approaching twelve percent of the Jamaican population. I wish him well.
In this (finally edited) Spectrum Podcast, three young guys discuss what some of Barack Obama's approaches to change might mean for Adventism.
Reading: N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, Chapters 7-9.
"He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead." N.T. Wright's task, throughout Surprised by Hope but most specifically in the chapters for this week (7,8 and 9), is to call the Christian world to renewed understanding of this central teaching of the faith and its world-shaking signficance. The task is necessary because, despite frequent recitation as part of the creed, its biblical meaning has been lost in large sectors of Christianity by way of neglect and reduction to vague symbolism, and destroyed in other sectors by misguided interpretations, amplified by zealous proclamation.
The challenge, similar in important ways to that undertaken by heralds of the Adventist message in nineteenth-century America such as Charles Fitch (right), is not an easy one. Both parts of the message - "the coming" and "the judging," says Wright, face formidable antagonism. The concept of Jesus coming again from the sky "like a spaceman" looks to many like the literalistic, supernaturalist interventionism that everyone but rank fundamentalists have rejected. And anything having to do with "judgment," "punishment," or the "wrath of God" is most definitely out of fashion....
In my view, the most important thing about these chapters is how Wright's presention of the Biblical message about Christ's second coming dovetails with historic Adventist insights and opens possibilties for extending those insights in ways that are even more deeply biblical and speak in a more telling way to today's world. This may surprise some who, in reading the same chapters, encountered ideas that appear at odds with traditional Adventist teaching. Discussion of these apparent differences is important, but only in the context of firm recognition of the following points.
First, with regard to "the coming," Wright, in Chapter 8, takes the reader through a richly-detailed yet accessible study of key New Testament passages associated with the second coming of Jesus. He helps us sort out the various dimensions and usages of the key term parousia ("coming" or "presence") along with passages in which "appearing" is the operative word. When the whole picture is put together, the clear and defining features are:
Wright's emphasis on the personal presence of Jesus - indeed his royal presence (parousia) as the one whom believers all along affirmed as the true Lord of the world, despite Caesar's claims, now returned to put his sovereign rule over the earth into full effect, reminds me of the landmark sermon in 1843 by Fitch, the Millerite Adventist preacher, entitled "Come Out of Her, Me People." In this sermon, which Adventists came to idenity with the sounding of the "second angel's message" (Rev. 14:8), Fitch's refrain was the imminent arrival of Jesus Christ to reign in person over the world, in contrast to spiritualized conceptions of the millennium and second coming that left the currently dominant ecclesiastical and political powers in actual charge of the world.
And now away forever with your miserable transcendental philosophy, that would make the throne of David a spiritual throne, and the coming of Christ to sit upon it as a spiritual coming, and his reign a spiritual reign. Thanks be to God, His kingdom cannot be blown up into such spiritual bubbles as these, for a thousand, or even 365 thousand years, and then blown for ever away into some etherial something, which some sneering infidel has defined, to be sitting on a cloud and singing Psalms to all eternity. No, no. Jesus Christ has been raised up in David's flesh immortalized, and he shall come in that flesh glorified, "and there shall be given Him dominion and glory, and a kingdom that all people, nations, and languages shall serve Him...." (20).
Second, with regard to "the judging," Wright, in Chapter 9, observes, as some of the post-1844 Adventists did in seeking renewed understanding after the "Great Disappointment," that the "son of man" in Daniel 7 moves upward to the "Ancient of Days," not downward to the earth to receive dominion and authority.
...There [Dan. 7] the Gentile nations are depicted as huge, powerful monsters while Israel, or the righteous within Israel, is depicted as an apparently defenseless human being, "one like a son of man." The scene is a great court setting whose climax comes when the judge, the Ancient of Days, takes his seat and rules in favor of the son of man against the monsters, in favor of Israel against the pagan empires. The son of man is then given authority and dominion over all the nations, in a deliberate echo of Adadm being given authority over the animals in Genesis 1 and 2.
What happens when this is transposed to the New Testament? Answer: we find Jesus himself taking on the role of the son of man, suffering then vindicated. Then, as in Daniel, he receives from the Supreme Judge the task of bringing this judgment to bear on the world. This accords with many biblical and postbiblical passages in which Israel's Messiah, the one who represents Israel in person, is given the task of judgment....Again and again the Messiah is stated to be God's agent to bring the whole world, not just Israel, back into the state of justice and truth for which God longs as much as we do....(138-39).
Despite our aversion to divine "judgment" and "punishment," we are in fact "a very moralistic, very judgmental, generation," says Wright. "We have judged apartheid and found it wanting. We judge child abusers and find them guilty. We judge genocide and find it outrageous" (121).
From this standpoint, the message about Jesus as coming judge is indeed good news:
In a world of systematic injustice, bullying, violence, arrogance, and oppression, the thought that there might come a day when the wicked are firmly put in their place and the poor and weak are given their due is the best news there can be. Faced with a world in rebellion, a world full of exploitation and wickedness, a good God must be a God of judgment (137).
To we who claim to be believers, Wright puts the challenge, What would happen if we took these beliefs seriously in relating to the principalities and powers of the present age? "People who believe that Jesus is already Lord and that he will appear again as judge of the world are called and equipped (to put it mildly) to think and act quite differently in the world from those who don't" (144).
In this regard, Wright critiques the "rapture theology" which is "the daily bread of man in the American religious right" and "not unconnected to the agenda of some of America's leading politicians" (120). Despite its preoccupation with very literal end-time expectations, this theology, says Wright, actually avoids the confrontation with political authorities that grew out the New Testament proclamation of Jesus as Lord
because it suggests that Christians will be miraculously be removed from this wicked world. Perhaps this is is why such theology is often Gnostic in its tendency toward private dualistic spirituality and toward a political laissez-faire quietism. And perhaps that is partly why such theology, with its dreams of Armageddon, has quietly supported the political status quo in a way that Paul would never have done (133-134).
Is it just my imagination, or does seem to describe Seventh-day Adventists even more accurately than the right-wing evangelicals? Are our differences with the dispensationalists mere quibbles over just how to arrange the texts and time periods on the end-time chart that make no critical difference on how we relate to matters of militarism, poverty, and environmental destruction?
By the way, it is in dealing with the major "rapture" passage of the New Testament, 1 Thess. 4:13-18, that Wright proposes concepts that will be highly controversial, to say the least, among Adventists. While he makes most emphatically clear his belief that the second coming of Jesus will be a physical, visible event, and that the dead will be raised and the living transformed to embodied and eternal life, he does not believe the New Testament language of vertical ascent and descent amidst clouds should be taken with wooden literalism. Here, his "relational" view of space as opposed to a "receptacle" view is critical. He sees, in fact believes the Bible teaches that heaven is a different dimension of the cosmos rather than a "different location within the same continuum of space or matter" (110-111). I cannot go further into this in this already overly-long post, though it is an important matter to grapple with in evaluating Wright's contribution.
But not the most important matter. On the question of what belief in the soon return of Jesus as judge and ruler of the world means for life in the present order, I want to return to Charles Fitch, not as an authority or model in every detail, but as a stimulus to thought on this all-important question.
Fitch was a radical abolitionist who, in 1837, co-authored a tract criticizing William Lloyd Garrison for, among other things, undermining support for observance of Sunday as the Christian Sabbath. Two years later, though, Fitch repented of this attack on the abolitionist leader, moved to do so by the thought of "Jesus Christ in the clouds of heaven, coming to judge the world, and to establish His reign of holiness and righteousness and blessedness over the pure in heart" (George Knight, Millennial Fever [Pacific Press, 1993], 107-109). Then, in 1843, as fellow radicals advocated the secession of the free states from the slaveholding union, Fitch called for the secession of true followers of Christ from the churches of American Protestant Christendom, which had become "Anti-Christ" through unwillingness to "submit to Christ's personal reign," and had shown that they did "not love his appearing, and especially not at present."
The term "Babylon" could thus be accurately applied to Protestant Christendom.
Is she not engaged, for her own aggrandizement, in every species of merchandise ascribed to Babylon, even to slaves and the souls of men? The spirit of oppression reigns, in greater or less portions of the leading sects, unrebuked; and a man may sell or buy his fellow-man, and then sit at the communion table, or even minister at the altar of God, and by the mass of Protestant Christendom go unreproved. Lust for power is seen among all the sects, and lust for gold is practically regarded by the multitude of Christ's professed disciples as a virtue... (16).
Did Fitch take this business about the soon-coming, personal reign of Jesus, and the prophetic stand against the oppressive powers of the present age that it requires a little too seriously? Do we take it seriously at all?