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From Our Desk: On Johnsson’s Legacy and Revelation


From Alexander Carpenter, executive editor:

There is a lot happening in Adventism right now. On Sabbath evening, there was peace in the storm as we gathered to review a now-still Adventist life. William “Bill” G. Johnsson died after an illness on March 11 in Loma Linda, California. As the program noted, Johnsson was a “prolific author, respected scholar and long-time editor of the Adventist Review.” I grew up reading his work, and when I took on this current role, I sent each of my journal editorials to Bill ahead of publication for his feedback. I miss him.

Many luminaries spoke in person or via video testifying to Johnsson’s lifelong service to the denomination. Themes of his collegiality and graciousness—theological and interpersonal—intertwined with his family’s stories of a man who loved Jesus and all humanity.

I found the thoughtfully written remembrances by his granddaughters particularly poignant. They connected the public and private man. Jaqueline F. Johnsson recalled how the family “gathered at the table for occasions big and small, but my favorite meals were the simple, home-cooked ones, the ones that include moments of silence we can enjoy together.” She added that “Granddad wrote about this kind of presence in his book Simple Gifts. When you are with someone you love, the words don’t matter very much. You don’t have to say anything at all. Presence fills in the silence.”

An entrepreneur, granddaughter Madelaine M. Johnsson shared that it wasn’t until last year that she realized that he had seven degrees. She writes, “That’s something I’ve always admired about my grandfather: his modesty.” Later she noted, “One thing my grandfather taught me is to think before I speak. I’ve always struggled with writing, so writing this is a feat. I asked my grandfather how he’s able to write so much. What’s his process? He says he thinks about a subject over and over until he sits down and writes it out from start-to-finish. Editing follows.” She continues:

As someone who’s learned to construct essays with rigid outlines, writing something start-to-finish sounded daunting. But that’s what I’ve done with this piece. After thinking about my grandfather, I’ve let the memories come, soaked them in, released them on paper, and spoke them into existence.

When we found out our grandfather was passing, we scheduled a family call. My grandfather was surrounded by my father, aunt Julie, and grandmother, while my sister, mother, and I were on speakerphone. We told him how much we loved him, how much he impacted our lives, and recounted our endless insider jokes, which made him smile. My father could tell he was trying to crack a joke back! 

I wanted to recount something my mother said during that call. She told Bill that he’ll always be with us, because he’s left us with a treasure chest of books and stories. Next time we’re alone or gathered together, we can open up his book and read out loud a memory. That way his legacy will live on forever.”

Indeed. It also continues in the lives molded by his witness—in public and private, from start-to-finish—a legacy of sharing infinite love.

From Carmen Lau, board chair:

I just finished Scot McKnight’s new book, Revelation for the Rest of Us, and I found it a helpful supplement for my Sabbath school class, which has been studying Revelation. McKnight and co-author Cody Matchett contend that “the Apocalypse is not about prediction of the future but perception and interrogation of the present. It provides readers with a new lens to view our contemporary world”(12). The book says Revelation “is a projector that casts archetypal images of good and evil onto a cosmic screen” (12).

Revelation for the Rest of Us asserts that Revelation was written for God’s faithful people who will be dissidents. John did not write Revelation for decoders and speculators, rather he wrote in an art form that invites interactive imagination. Engagement with Revelation will stimulate faith in the Lord of lords who gives hope to people who come from all tribes and nations.    

In agreement with most Adventists, the book names domination as the main trait of evil, in contrast with the self-sacrificial way of the Lamb. McKnight claims the entire book of Revelation is about God’s perspective of public discipleship and laments that “we have not been discipled to think like this. We have not learned to think Christianly about government and political powers. So, we have flattened the world into a game of human power, and we are ‘in’ the game itself” (233).

Fawning over Babylon’s leaders divides the church. Nearly half of the American church votes one way as one half votes the other. If one’s allegiance is to a party, if one thinks one’s party is truly Christian, one has cut off one’s sisters and brothers. . . . The book of Revelation says often, those who worship God, and the Lamb are from every tribe, nation, and tongue. The church is universal—politics and parties are local and national. Any allegiance to Caesar is nothing more than idolatrous worship of the wild things that will create division. (239)

. . .

The strangest words in the church ought to be the words “authority” and “power.” Heresy lurks when the pastor appeals to and exerts power and authority, when the pastor sees leadership as imposing his will on the congregation. There is but one Lord and one authority: Jesus, the Lamb, the Lord. Climbing “up” the church’s hierarchy as a quest for power subverts the Christoform shape of (un)power in the church. (243)

Study Revelation. Read this book.

Revelation for the Rest of Us: A Prophetic Call to Follow Jesus as a Dissident Disciple, by Scot McKnight with Cody Matchett, 2023. 


Title image by Alexander Carpenter. 

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