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In defending his early dating of Daniel, Cliff dismisses the historical-critical method, which he rightly recognizes has been problematized in recent scholarship.
But he completely misses what these contemporary “text-immanent” scholars actually critique. What they now dismiss of the historical-critical method is its claim to value-neutral interpretations - the idea that we could actually ascertain what the texts meant “originally” without our piety, culture or ideology influencing our hermeneutic. And in so doing, Cliff reveals the underlying and all around discredited historical-critical philosophical frame upon which his "Daniel 2 statue foretells Europe" interpretation hangs.
"Pomo" text-immanent scholars don’t attack the dating done by their historical-critical fore-bearers. In fact, Cliff deconstructs his own “Daniel meant 1844 arguments” via his attacks on the historical-critical method and its concurrent assumption about timeless textual meaning. What the former Deist (as were many hist-crit. scholars, Wm. Miller passed on to Adventism (to which Cliff still clings) is the idea that the text contain this sort of objective meaning.
This indebtedness to historical-critical ideology should not be lost on the close observers of Adventism’s apologists, who champion their own “historical-grammatical method.” Hasel was steeped in this wissenschaftlich approach. Note how even in the titular rhetoric, not to mention their methodology, Adventist apologists are indebted to the 19th century historical critic’s belief that meaning can be objectively unlocked and transmitted if only we use the correct tools. (The day for a year principle, for instance.) They replaced metaphysical doubt with defense, but the methodology was/is essentially the same.
One will notice this anxiety in the theories some Adventist scholars spin out such as each text has an inherent meaning for the “original readers” and for us today. (Sorry 5th century Jews and Christians.) Since Cliff has already falsely questioned my belief on other matters, I’ll add that I do believe that Scripture has meanings for readers in every age, granted, in part, by the Holy Spirit, but let’s not kid ourselves about it being “inherent” and “unlockable” from the text without our own leanings playing a role.
While Cliff is making a 60s argument that he learned in the 80s and is still parroting in 2008, the rest of the Biblical studies world is having really interesting discussions as revealed in John Barton’s Cambridge Companion to Biblical Interpretation, Walter Brueggemann’s riveting discussion of the political and poetic function of the prophets or as someone already mentioned, the ubiquitous N. T. Wright. As you state Cliff, you got it all figured out awhile back, but apparently there are some big thinkers who didn’t get the memo.
While shattering the myth that questions of dating are motivated by unbelievers, (in fact, most have been believers) Barton incisively traces that tradition of Biblical criticism to the Reformation. In rooting authority in the text vs. the Church, the Protestant principle is that believers “have the right to ask whether the Bible really means what the Church says it means. In that sentence lies the whole development of Biblical criticism in germ. Faced with an ecclesiastical interpretation of this or that text, the biblical critic does not automatically accept that the magisterium of the Church (or its “you’re not a real Adventist” defenders) guarantees that the meaning proposed is the true one, but reserves the right to apply rational principles of criticism.
This further reveals Cliff’s lack of theological understanding (and lack of wide reading in our denomination) because it’s on these imminent value and ethics points that most young Adventist Spectrum contributors have disagreed with Elaine Nelson’s popular reductionism, which is mirrored inversely by Cliff. It’s not clear that he’s read Nancey Murphy (Fuller), Lamin Sanneh (Yale), Richard Jenkins (Penn State), Bull and Lockhart (Seeking a Sanctuary) all of whom have headlined recent Adventist Forum | Spectrum conferences and have made very significant contributions to helping at least me think of my faith and religious community in antifoundational and wholistic ways.
In the first article this month, we considered our financial needs in general and discussed what value we feel we provide to you, our readers.
In this article we will consider our costs more closely.
What does it take to produce a website such as this one? Three things: technology, content and interaction. The third – interaction – is free and mostly provided by you, the readers. And it certainly is a major contributor to the overall value of the site. But the interaction ‘sits’ on top of the content – the original articles – provided by authors either from within the Spectrum Web Team or solicited by the team. And this content ‘sits’ on top of technology – a hardware / software mix that drives the website. These last two categories cost money. Let’s examine these costs more closely.
More than a year ago Spectrum magazine had a simple website which is still visible, but unmaintained, here: http://old.spectrummagazine.org. During 2007 Spectrum also ran a blog website, moderated by Alex Carpenter, still visible but unmaintained, here: http://spectrummagazine.typepad.com. Costs for these two ventures were quite modest, both for technology and staffing. But during 2007 Adventist Forum received a substantial grant that was used to develop the website you now see. This effort was not trivial or cheap. PingVision was retained to do the design and part of the grant was used to pay them to create the organization and administrative flexibility now being used. The remainder of the grant was used to hire and provide initial stipends for a small staff to provide oversight and content to the site. So the Spectrum Blog, Collegiate Blog, Book/Film Reviews, Interviews, and Café Hispano are coordinated by individuals receiving modest stipends. Additional staff is either volunteer or obtained from time-sharing by Spectrum Magazine editor Bonnie Dwyer and Associate Editor Leigh Johnson.
After launching the current website readership took off and is still climbing. And in February 2008 our web hosting provider told us the traffic levels were too high for a shared machine and the website was moved to a more costly, but also more expandable and stable stand-alone machine. Since then traffic increases have necessitated adding both more memory and disk.
So what are current costs?
Equipment rental ~ $1200/year
Technical support ~ $6000/year
Web Team stipends ~ $21,500/year
Total: $28,700/year (or $76.63/day!)
Note that this doesn’t include the cost of an advertising coordinator, presently $6000/year. The ads are sold both for the magazine and website so, if this stipend were divided evenly, it would increase the website budget to $31,700.
You can obviously see that the majority of cost is to produce content rather than provide technical support, although both are substantial for us. Adventist Forum is not a ‘fat’ organization. If you look at the financial data from our 2008 Annual Report – posted on our website here: http://spectrummagazine.org/blog/2008/10/05/adventist_forum_20072008_ann..., you will see that total income for fiscal 2008 (ended June 30, 2008) was $184,500, which was fairly flat against the previous year when there were no recurring expenses for a website.
And, up to the present, very little income has come from donations by website participants – you the readers. Partly this is because we have not been very direct in asking you. Partly this is no doubt because many readers cannot afford to contribute at all. Partly this is because we have not explained the financial background, our needs and placed the case before you. That is what this month’s fund-raising campaign is intended to begin doing. We do not want to be ‘in your face’ about our financial needs – some Spectrum equivalent of the too-familiar PBS TV ‘whining for dollars’ campaigns that intrude and detract from your experience. But still, we want to be forthright in asking you to help. If you have appreciated the articles and interaction of this venture, and if you have the means, we want to be totally clear – your financial support is very much needed. Have you received value from this website? If so, please consider contributing.
In the next article, we’ll discuss how Adventist Forum as an organization has historically been funded and how the website fits into that picture.
Chairman - Adventist Forum Revenue/Finance Committee
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.