When I was growing up in the church there were various expressions used by Adventists for self-definition. Two common ones were “people of the Book” and “we have the Truth”. Over the course of my (now somewhat lengthy) adulthood I’ve concluded these two phrases intersect in the understanding of those using them. “Truth” was mostly intended as a label for correct Biblical doctrine. Thus such truths would be more applicable to answering a religious question in the American game show Jeopardy than something embedded deeply in one’s ethics.
I haven’t been married that long, but in the short time I have been I think I have learned a thing or two. That doesn’t mean my marriage is in any way perfect, but as I strive to be the husband that I believe God would want me to be, I have spent some time thinking about just how to accomplish that goal. Ephesians 5:22 just might be the most famous text on marriage and family – “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.” It seems like men have been using this verse to subjugate women since it was written.
Many years ago, my wife and a friend decided they’d hold a cooking school. As they were gathering recipes and presenters, one laywoman gave them a bowl of gray glop that she insisted she should demonstrate. It conformed, she said, to Seventh-day Adventist nutritional standards, as she saw them: no fat, no sugar, minimal salt, no spices, no eggs or dairy. “This just disappears at my house,” she said. Carmen’s friend took a taste, and after choking it down, said, tactfully, “I’m pretty sure it will disappear at ours, too.” Which it did later that night, into her garbage disposal.
With the idiosyncratic and classical protestant European theme of “Ecclesia reformata semper reformanda”, the 2015 ETTC (European Theology Teachers Convention) took place March 25-29 at Newbold College, England. What does the word “reform” mean today? This is easier to proclaim than to understand and implement, which is often the reason self-proclaimed “reforming” movements have paradoxically behaved as reactionary and nostalgic. European Adventism should remember and learn this from its own past history.
Whenever there is discussion about ending racially segregated conferences, there will inevitably be individuals wondering if that will mean having state conferences absorb the regional conferences. During one such conversation someone stated that, in his recent sermon on the topic, Dwight Nelson should have suggested state conferences being absorbed by regional conferences as a possible solution instead. I noted that there were already many prominent black ministers who have proposed that course before.
I’ll admit it – church attendance is hard for me sometimes. Even on Sabbaths when I have not had a tiring week, or haven’t stayed up late the night before, or have prepared properly, I still wake up and feel the desire to not attend church. Sometimes I just can’t make myself go. In those moments when I feel that way I always end up asking the same question – why do we go to church anyway?
Every discourse on Origins is necessarily indirect and a posteriori. And in order to appear believable it paradoxically needs to be both partial and inclusive. Consequently we need to integrate the various existing perspectives on Origins if we want to have a meaningful reflection on this topic. Creation has both a Biblical and scientific-naturalistic approach. But these are only two expressions of a more universal quest.
•A young academic moves to another city for a position in a major state university. “Do you attend a church there?” I ask. “There’s a church not far from me, but it reminded me too much of the small depressing churches I've previously survived,” he replies. “I’ve never gone back.”
•A retired pastor and wife live in Loma Linda, where there are dozens of congregations. “We go to church twice every Sabbath,” they tell me. “We watch two church services on TV, and we don’t even have to get dressed.”
Suffering is the subjective experience of evil. Not merely a threatening external presence in nature, it is a disturbing challenge that touches us in our primordial foundations and certainties. It cruelly becomes an eroding event from within. Its universality doesn't respect age, gender, religion or ethnicity. This compels us to try to understand and make some sense of it, knowing in advance that whatever the resulting interpretation, it will always remain a precarious, fragmented and insufficient belief in the unexpected and weary path of life.