This past spring Navy chaplain Lieutenant Commander Nathan Solomon learned that the Taliban had convinced local Afghani citizens that the Afghan soldiers deployed alongside Americans on a base in Helmand province weren’t Muslims. It wasn’t true, of course. But the rumor was destabilizing, for the purpose of the joint deployment is to build the citizens’ trust in the Afghan military so they can eventually be left in charge.
The prophets of Israel gave to Western Civilization its orientation toward the future. They were the ones who diagnosed the need for a radical change from the status quo, and predicted that this change would come in the future. Traditional societies were anchored in the annual natural cycle. Life was to be lived in conformity with the constant repetition of the vital cycle in nature.
Back when I was a boy it was a fashion in the Adventist press to embed Bible studies in stories. Pacific Press badged theirs “Stories that Win.” And they did. Perhaps you remember The Marked Bible by Charles Lindsay Taylor, still in print in the millions of copies, or Frank Steunenberg’s Greater Love, about assassin-turned-Adventist Harry Orchard.
The temptation the serpent confronted Eve with was to make herself equal to God (Gen 3: 5). The temptation that the pre-existent Christ confronted and rejected was to make himself equal to God (Phil. 2: 6). In the gospel According to John, Jesus explicitly accepts as accurate the accusation of making himself equal to God (5: 18). This affirmation is at the center of its theology.
The word that we generally use to describe a gathering of Christians comes from kuriakē oikia—in Greek, “house of the Lord.” The first word of the phrase, kuriakē, through a series of linguistic evolutions whose intermediate you can spot in the Scottish “kirk”, eventually became the English “church”.
The prologue of According to John concludes by presenting the basis of the whole gospel: “No one has ever seen God” (1: 18). The Old Testament tells us that Adam and Eve saw and conversed with God in Eden, and Ex. 24: 9 – 11 says that Moses, Nadab, Abihu and seventy Israelites saw and ate with God on the top of Mount Sinai.
With election year around the corner and licking fresh wounds from the upsetting loss of a “safe” congressional seat, nervous Republicans in the New York State Assembly abandoned allegiance to DOMA* and joined their Democratic colleagues in making New York the sixth state of the Union to legalize gay marriage. The elected representatives in the state of Anthony Weiner have demonstrated to the rest of the nation that certain expressions of previously sexually taboo behavior have been sanitized in the whimsical font of political correctness.
The Adventist church’s position on the nature of Christ has been ambiguous to say the least. An official position would be hard to pin down as the church since its inception has had no formal creed. In my naivety I had previously assumed that this was because as a people we believed truth to be progressive, that we were to be open to walking in increasing light. Recent historical studies belie that notion.
Satan’s manifesting himself in extraordinary ways isn’t a new idea to those of us who grew up in the Seventh-day Adventist church. When I was a teenager there was a brisk traffic in stories about Satan’s activity, usually involving Ouija boards and seances. Some foolish boarding academy teachers even read them to us for vespers (remember the Ouija board that wouldn’t burn and kept reappearing in the closet?) resulting in sleepless Friday nights among children for whom life was challenging enough just being away from home without anything else to frighten them.
Already in antiquity it was recognized that the Gospel According to John is different from the other three canonical gospels. The narratives in According to Matthew, According to Mark and According to Luke tell a single congruent story, while containing elements peculiar to each In them, the life and ministry of Jesus consist, basically, of a short period spent in Galilee of the Gentiles during which Jesus distinguishes himself by his miracles and his controversies with Pharisees.
Here in the United States, it seems as if the election cycle never ends. No sooner than an elected official is sworn in, his or her opponents begin their nasty usurpation quest. They and their supporters seem to do everything in their power to thwart the plans of the person in office, as they seek every opportunity to pounce on trivial shortcomings–whether real or imagined. For those of us who have become frustrated with the constant political posturing and endless campaigning, this is more than a “silly season” it is a pilotless runaway train.
“If we truly want a less violent society, not hitting our children is a good place to start,” was Paul Holinger’s response to the editor of the New York Times following a recent article on the status of “paddling” in the nation’s school systems. Dr. Holinger went on to say, “I see the carnage of physical punishment every day in the office. Physical punishment is a major public health problem in this country.”
I believe most Seventh-day Adventists welcome the call to revival and reformation. Most of us feel our spiritual deficiency—personal and collective—and would like to do something about it.
Last Sunday, as bemused citizens in scattered areas of Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee faced the reality of a seriously devastating multiple tornado attack, the President of the United States made a surprise “mission accomplished” speech. During the elections, the resilient rookie Senator from Illinois had promised to hunt down and kill the man whom the Bush administration blamed for the unnatural disaster that shook New York on September 11, 2001.
The most satisfying accession to the church I’ve ever experienced was with a young family with no Seventh-day Adventist connections that just showed up at church one day, and after a few months of attending came to me after services and said, “We love this church. Everyone is so nice. The worship services are a blessing. We’d like to become members.” I gave them some basic instruction (they’d gotten a good background to our central beliefs just through sermons and Sabbath School) and baptized them. It was, to me, the perfect way for someone to come into our church.