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Reviewing the Review: Knott Taking Sides edition

November 12, 2009 – Vol. 186, No. 31

REVIEWS, WORLD NEWS AND PERSPECTIVES is an invaluable source for keeping up with church news. (Unfortunately, this section of the Review is not available to online users.) Of particular interest in this section is information regarding the issues confronting the committee revising the Church Manual and their struggle to determine whether or not to recommend the ordination of women. Official church policy has already been ignored in China.*

Gerald A. Klingbeil and family acquired an African Gray parrot who “settled down nicely” and a “rescue” mutt, Amelia, who has yet to learn not to be afraid. P.O. BOX 1844 by Dan Serns is a story in which that number proved to have modern significance.

In TIMES OF TRANSITION by Richard A Sabuin, the author tells the inside story of what happened during the four days John the Baptist spent in the company of Jesus. The husband and wife team, Ethan and Mardene Fowler are authors of the book, BRUSHED BACK: THE TREVOR BULLOCK STORY, the life-changing account of a minor league baseball player.

STUDENT AID by Brenda Kornblum describes what happens when Christian students confront the world’s harsh realities in Uganda. Valerie N. Phillips learned an important lesson in real estate and life when she decided THIS HOME IS NOT MY WORLD. And Chandler Riley discovered that SUNDAY MORNING blues could be defeated by a prayer request.


IN UNCLE CAIAPHAS’ EYES, Clifford Goldstein produces a letter written to his niece, Judith. Part of Caiaphas’ explanation for turning Jesus over to Pilate are these words. “But leadership is never easy, and so before the God of our fathers I took my stand in defense of the traditions and teachings of the holy prophets and Moses. I could do nothing else.” Cliff, is this some sort of weird Freudian admission that Caiaphas’ decision might well have been yours?

The Cover Feature, CHARTING A DIFFERENT FUTURE by Richard Hart, offers no new or creative solutions to the problems that face Adventist higher education. (The portraits of people portrayed on the cover and scattered around in the article are crude, unattractive, and distracting.)

Finally, Bill Knott’s editorial, THE HIGH AND MIDDLE GROUND, should not have been written. Editorials like this one make me crazy. Here are the words that had me pulling my hair out.

In another time and place, I sat with a group of Adventist professionals as we waited for a meeting to begin. The conversation was light and cheerful, full of the gentle teasing and good-natured wit familiar to a group of colleagues who are comfortable with each other.

One group member, arriving slightly after the others, smilingly offered that he was thinking of applying for membership in an Adventist professional organization to which none of his colleagues belonged.

“The merriment became intense. “But doesn’t belonging to that organization mean that you have to sign a statement that you accept and believe the church’s Statement of Fundamental Beliefs?” one colleague asked incredulously, to the delight of the others present. The laughter rolled around the room, and the latecomer clearly wished he had not volunteered the embarrassing information about his plans. The conversation that had seemed playful took on a decidedly scornful edge, as if to ask, ‘How in the world could any of us do that?’

What makes the story poignant is that all of those Adventist professionals were then teaching theology at some Adventist college or university.

In his misguided attempt to protect a “professional organization” and the names of “colleagues”, Knott has managed to deflect his critique of a theological trend he finds alarming and instead, focus readers’ attention on the alleged disloyalty and scornful behavior of “those Adventist professionals [who] were then teaching theology at some Adventist college or university.”

Knott assumes that a question that “produced laughter that rolled around the room”, meant that everyone present “clearly considered it implausible that a trained and intelligent educator could embrace what the church has repeatedly embraced. To them, and to a small but highly vocal group of critics intent on revising even our recent history, Adventism’s Statement of Fundamental Beliefs is somehow a document of extreme conservatism, a mechanism by which theological reactionaries are supposed to have captured control of the doctrinal life of the denomination.”

Who is included in the “small but highly vocal group of critics” and what “recent history” is this group attempting to “revise”? These questions are not answered, and it’s left to the reader to name the “colleagues”, the “historical revision”, and “professional organization”. This is a dangerous game of Fill in the Blanks!

Bill, have you considered that there might have been other reasons for laughter than the one you assumed to be true?

Aren’t you obligated to name “the Adventist professional organization” and name the place and time in which this incident occurred so that “colleagues” could have the opportunity to challenge your allegations?**

Are you aware that your words make rational conversation and debate more difficult at a time when institutions of Adventist higher learning are facing a difficult future?

Have you spoken to the people you accuse? If you haven’t, how can you truthfully report their supposed disloyalty and cynicism? Isn’t that your Christian responsibility before you make blanket accusations, particularly when your “evidence” is not words but laughter?

Do you understand that your vague accusations have slandered every Adventist theologian and Bible teacher in every Adventist college and university?

As editor of the “Flagship Publication of the Seventh-day Adventist Church”, did it cross your mind that your credibility and the objectivity of the editorial policy of the Adventist Review would be severely damaged by this editorial?

Has it occurred to you to offer your resignation with apologies?


* “North America and Australia have periodically voiced their hope that a plan may emerge that would allow their regions to move forward with ordaining women to ministry. Only in China, where ordination is a function of both the regional Adventist authority and the government–led Three-Self Patriotic Movement, have female Adventist pastors been officially ordained.”

** There was a time in not-so-distant Adventist history when to mention that an Adventist theologian was required to sign a statement that he accepted and believed a Statement of Fundamental Beliefs would qualify that Statement as a creed. This demand would have elicited righteous anger rather than laughter.

Andrew Hanson, Ed.D., blogs at Adventist Perspective.

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