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From Our Desk: Goldstein and Wright

From Alexander Carpenter, executive editor:

A few days ago, Clifford Goldstein wrote about another Spectrum article in the Adventist Review. Here are a few points of critique.

Mentioning Brian Bull and Fritz Guy’s books, Goldstein calls the men Neo-Darwinian. They are not because that’s a misuse of the term. Neo-Darwinism is a synthesis of genetic theory with natural selection. This suggests that Goldstein doesn’t concern himself with the details of the issues involved.

Goldstein devotes a total of two sentences to dismissing Bull and Guy’s three-volume work. Later he mentions another book to support a point, but he doesn’t cite its actual arguments. It’s fine that Goldstein doesn’t reference any of the pro-creationism research done by the General Conference’s Geoscience Research Institute to buttress his points. But it again raises the question of how much he cares about the data involved in this debate. Goldstein cites the Bible six times but no scientific evidence. Instead, he compares evolution to a fairy tale and alludes to it being close to flat-earthism.

Yet it’s a fairy tale—a very bad one at that—but made to sound convincing because it comes decorated with all the epistemological gravitas of “science.”

As a Christian, I appreciate the role of faith and hope in my epistemological framework. But the questions around origins require serious engagement with science—particularly its history of methodological change. Based on what Goldstein wrote, that awareness appears to be limited.

Though evolution isn’t in the same category as the flat-earth (but close), it is in the same as the “ether,” which—though a century or two ago was deemed as certain as a scientific theory could be—today sounds as if lifted from astrology.

A static view of the scientific method and time seems to undergird this point. But generations ago, the physical data and the ability to process and test it were not the same as today. Models are constantly changing. Suggesting that because scientists thought something explained phenomena and then changed their minds is not a weakness. It shows strength.

Science has gravitas not because of its heaviness but because, at best, it is a mechanism for lifting human understanding. This dynamism has driven revolutions in every part of our contemporary world. Dismissing science itself because of this corrective flexibility reveals the deeper problems with Goldstein’s approach. To be an Adventist, do we now need to believe that adjustment itself is a flaw? In reality, many biblical literalists, intelligent design adherents, and evolutionary creationists appreciate that knowledge requires adaptation. However, Goldstein seems to stand on a timeless epistemological island. Unfortunately, an ether/or approach leaves little room for the evidentiary weight-lifting this topic requires.


From Carmen Lau, board chair:

People scuttling through debris looking for relatives who may have miraculously escaped being crushed in an earthquake. Panicked faces in the dark speaking quiet, earnest words, while hoping to avoid the fire of an overly armed loner on the prowl for who knows why. Barely clothed folks wandering at the base of elaborate buildings yearning for a warm meal, for shelter. One can see all of this in the palm of one’s hand. Humans were not designed to perceive the sheer volume of pain competing for our attention now. It hurts our souls. It leaves us wondering about our purpose.

N. T. Wright reminds Christians of a basic vocation:

The Christian vocation is to be in prayer, in the Spirit, at the place where the world is in pain, and as we embrace that vocation, we discover it to be the way of following Christ, shaped according to his messianic vocation to the cross, with arms outstretched, holding on simultaneously to the pain of the world and to the love of God. . . . It is likely to be simply a groan, a groan in which the Spirit of God, the Spirit of the crucified and risen Christ, groans within us, so that the achievement of the cross might be implemented afresh at that place of pain. (The Challenge of Easter, 2009)

The phrase “thoughts and prayers” at times is perceived negatively, since people weary of those words being said after mass shootings or any atrocity. For some, it seems to imply a passive acceptance of the status quo. I believe the vocation Wright envisions involves a prayer to seek ways to engage actively with evil powers, laws, and structures and to ameliorate the damage that evil has done. In one of his more recent books, The Day the Revolution Began (2016), Wright examines how culture has impacted the way believers have interpreted scripture. As evidence of a cultural skewing, he points to three errors in Christian belief: 1) a moralized anthropology 2) a paganized soteriology 3) a Platonized eschatology.

Have Adventists been infected by Platonized eschatology? Let’s be a part of a church that is more than an airport holding area for folks who yearn for heavenly afterlife. Let’s be in prayer looking at a crucified savior. Let’s be willing to act, too—prayerfully maneuvering at the space where pain meets people. That is the space for vocation.

Title image: “ADRA emergency response teams at ground zero in Syria.” (Photo courtesy of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency.) ADRA has been active in responding to the February 6 earthquake that has devastated parts of Turkey and Syria. According to a report on February 11, the organization “rescued six people including two children” from collapsed buildings and continues to face “very difficult situations.” Visit to learn more about ADRA’s disaster relief efforts in Turkey, Syria, and other worldwide crises.

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