Not long ago, a friend gave me a book written by veteran Adventist critic Vance Ferrell. I do not know Mr. Ferrell, but I admire both his persistence and his output—76 book listings on Amazon.com. Our Evangelical Earthquake takes on a story with which at least some readers of Spectrum will be familiar: the origin of the book Questions on Doctrine.
This title apparently sounds like a useless and weird question. In fact nobody would answer it affirmatively. That would be too naive and pretentious. But also the negative answers should awaken suspicion and concern. Because what would be the real value of a theological apparatus that so easily gives up the scientific implications of its own theological declarations and beliefs?
The parables of Jesus are interesting and complex. There was a time when people believed that parables were complete allegories, and every detail of the parable had a corresponding truth in the real world. For example, I always get a nerdy kick out of reading Augustine’s analysis of The Good Samaritan.Throughout the ages theologians have hypothesized about the best way to interpret parables. For a while we thought that parables had to have one central idea that was the main theme of the parable.
This happened to a dear friend of mine. He’s been gone for many years, so I think it’s safe to tell the story.
He had, for almost as long as he could remember, suffered spells of intense depression. He wasn’t an educated man. I’m not sure he even knew what to call his bad feelings. In the community where he lived, among the people he knew, there were two states of mental functioning: normal or crazy. For the latter you went to the state mental hospital. He analyzed his feelings in the only way he knew: it was a spiritual problem.
President Wilson's opening and closing addresses to the ten-day August 2014 “Bible and Science Conference” in St. George, Utah, were the most revelatory and surprising presentations in otherwise rather flat, predictable, repetitive and at times monotonous meetings on Creation. Our president always manages to exceed himself in theological superficiality and recklessness. The opening address was bold and full of strong, personal convictions and at times even theologically insolent and arrogant.
Just in case you missed it, ISIS (aka ISIL) is now IS. This is not the first name change for the political/militant organization that is even too radical and violent for Al Qaeda. Before becoming ISIS (ISIL) the group was known as ISI, but only after abandoning the acronym AQI, which was the name adopted after the organization’s founder decided to drop the original non-acronymic name: al Tawhid wal Jihad.
The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ manifesto – His statement about what is important to Him in the Kingdom of God. Of course it is important that the concept of the law would be central to what Jesus has to say. However Jesus says something that we would not expect – especially after telling everyone how much respect He has for the law that they have known.
To give a homogeneous and definitive profile of Euro-Adventism is risky and may be even unnecessary. We never get to exhaustively know the people we live with, but notwithstanding we can eventually affirm we may know them truly. The same principle can be applied here to Euro-Adventism. I would like to characterize it with three theological traits that can be variously present in the different European countries.
I am a Hebrew born of Hebrews. Let me explain. Both of my parents passed genes to me that they had inherited from forebears who had descended from Abraham. My deoxyribonucleic acid has confirmed that my ancestral mosaic is comprised of members of the Akan, Igbo and Nguni people—African peoples whose Hebraic identities have attracted the interest of many a scholar. And for those skeptics who question the authenticity of African-Hebrews, my genetic make up also contains Ashkenazi traits on my third, eighth, twelfth and eighteenth chromosomes.
Last month, I asked anbut there is more to it than that. It is also important to talk about why a proper definition of the gospel is needed.d answered the question, “What is the Gospel?” As I have thought about this question I realized that it is not only important to talk about what the gospel is, but there is more to it than that. It is also important to talk about why a proper definition of the gospel is needed. Why should we care about how we define the gospel?
Years ago, at North Dakota camp meeting near the village of Harvey, a visiting speaker invited himself to my grandparents’ cabin. My grandmother received this as a tremendous compliment: pastors were always held in high esteem in my family, and this was one of her favorite speakers. As I remember the story, after Grandma served him homemade date bars, he offered to be the broker to sell them a building lot in an isolated housing development somewhere in the mountains of the American southeast.
European Adventism with all its diversity and irreducible heterogeneity represents today a particular and unique kind of Adventism in the world church. According to some this is an atypical and weak type of Adventism, numerically and theologically. Numerically because, compared with non-western or even with other western SDA Divisions, European Adventist membership appears as a small and negligible reality that keeps decreasing.
The first two clauses of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This seems like a simple statement and when read in its historical context the original intent seems quite clear. The European conquerors that were establishing their new outposts on the soil of the Apache and Navaho all came from “Christian” countries where certain brands of Christianity were fused with state identity.
Recently, in response to a statement about the commonality of the gospel amongst different denominations or groups of Christians someone said to me – “To be honest with you I could not disagree more. It is the Gospel that separates us (SDA) from other denomination's "gospel." Our (SDA) doctrines define the Gospel for us, they cannot be separated from the Gospel. Any deviation from sound doctrine is not the Gospel at all it's a false gospel.”
This happened about 25 years ago, when I was still a young pastor. We’d just placed a new member, a Certified Public Accountant, on the congregation’s finance committee. One of the items on the agenda was how we could build up the lagging local church budget. I remember the new committee member said, after his first quick glance at the financial statement, “I don’t know what the problem is. This shows we received a lot of tithe.” The rest of us quickly explained his misunderstanding. “Wait a minute,” he said.
When she spoke, silence overpowered the atmosphere. When she spoke, her spellbound audiences voluntarily surrendered to her hypnotically cadenced and carefully crafted words. When she spoke, sympathizers and critics alike could not help but marvel at her ability to be heard. When she spoke, her probing and penetrating prose proposed powerful potions for improving pressing problems. When she spoke, her unique experience shaped her calm and collected countenance that had countered countless calamities. But she had not always spoken so effectively.
Sticks and Stones
“I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves…. But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. For each one will bear his own load….For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised so that they may boast in your flesh.” Gal 5:12; 6:4, 5, 13