Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Deconstruction of Adventism and Christianity

Paul Whiting who also writes a blog asked the following question:

Thank you for this post. I agree so much with what you say. This is one part of "traditional" Adventist theology that makes me cringe. Actually, too much of it makes me cringe! But for some reason, I have become a part of SDAism and feel that is right presently for me to stay.

I would like you to post on why you chose to continue to be identified with Adventism. What positive aim lies behind the deconstruction you engage in on this blog? --from comment on Our Context Regardless of Context

My deconstruction is not limited to Adventism, there needs to be serious changes in the attitudes and philosophy of Christianity itself. Adventism is just the starting point for me because that is the denomination I am most familiar with. This is why I choose the name for my website. The Reformation was a call to return to reason over tradition and we are very much in need of another Reformation. I would hope that with Adventism’s history of going against traditions that we would be a good place to start a reformation of Christianity. Some Adventists have felt that the church is a continuation of the Reformation. In many ways this is a self serving idea but there is still the possibility within the denomination to really be a reformation movement

Deconstruction tends to be the most effective way to arrive at any type of reform. As we can see in this C.S. Lewis quote:

“We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turn, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man. . .There is nothing progressive about being pigheaded and refusing to admit a mistake." C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan, 1952), Book I, Chap. 5, p. 22.

Deconstruction is the process whereby we acknowledge our mistakes and make a change in the path we take. The deconstruction would have to take place in any denomination in existence today. If I became a member of some other denomination it is likely they would say that I don’t understand the denominations position enough to deconstruct it and lay out a path toward a more reasonable theology. Adventism can’t say that because I was raised and schooled within it. While I could choose a denomination that is more correct on some element say for instance the Atonement there would still be other areas of concern. Trading one problem for another problem is not really the answer, we in Christianity have to change the way we think to really progress.

Unfortunately religion is so intertwined with tradition that deconstruction is a very painful process. Yet it was a very important factor throughout the Judeo-Christian history and it must continue. The Old Testament prophets were reformers, Jesus Christ and the Apostles were reformers and reformers have arisen regularly throughout the Christian era. Today with technology as it is we don’t even need the charismatic leader to lead a reformation just the information and that may make our reformation even more effective because it will not be based upon what a couple of charismatic people think is important it will based upon using our God given reasoning abilities. The scary part for a lot of people is that in some things our reasoning will have to admit that in some things we don’t have answers or there may even be different answers for different people. That maybe there is such a thing as unity in diversity.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Interview with Andy Nash

Re-inventing the Adventist Wheel has a good interview posted with the new editor of Adventist Today, Andy Nash.

As I have suggested to the previous editor of AToday I think the most helpful thing the magazine can do to increase it's circulation and impact is to become a monthly magazine rather then it's current quarterly publication. I do believe there are plenty of writers in the SDA community willing to publish in AToday. Perhaps it would be necessary to decrease the payment to writers in a monthly publication but I don't believe many of the writers wrote their articles for the money anyway.

The satisfaction of being published in AToday is nice but the gratification of posting an article on the Internet is far more immediate. Also far less frustrating then when they tell you they are going to publish an article and you wait for another quarter or two for the publication. Actually that happened to me and they apparently decided not to publish it at all. But thanks to the Internet it is available. The Rise and Fall of Intellectual Christianity

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Our Context Regardless of Context

The Lesson study for this week is on the Bible for daily wisdom. The problem that exists with all of us is that sometimes we insert our presuppositions into the Bible or any other work and create a false wisdom. Often this is because we have taken something out of it’s context or applied a context that is of our own creation. So instead of looking for truth we create our own truth.

Jonathan Gallagher in his lesson study for this week (Lesson #11 for June 16, 2007) at min. 21 says the following:

What’s the Context? Because if you don’t know the context of scripture like if you don’t know the context of any other information you can get it wildly wrong.

Earlier Jonathan at minute 10.43 said:

…especially the whole idea of scrutiny. God invites our scrutiny, C.S. Lewis wrote on God in the Dock that God was on trial. And indeed from the Great Controversy perspective that is exactly what’s happening. God is on trial He invites our attention He invites our investigation…

That may sound good but it is totally opposite of what C.S. Lewis meant. Lewis is writing against the idea that we are the judge of God. From Wikipedia:

God in the Dock is a collection of essays and speeches from C. S. Lewis. Its title implies "God on Trial" for those unfamiliar with the British English phrase " in the dock" (defendants are placed in a "dock" - a half height open topped box), and is based on an analogy made by Lewis suggesting that modern human beings, rather than seeing themselves as standing before God in judgment, prefer to place God on trial while acting as his judge.

As this blog has noted before this idea that mankind or anyone else has the ability or knowledge necessary to act as a judge of God is really quite absurd and to hear Gallagher acknowledge that it is the Great Controversy perspective should give all of us pause as to whether such a perspective is true. Strangely it is an outgrowth of the old Investigative Judgment which originally saw the judgment as God judging the righteous dead, then moving on to a judgment of the righteous living. This view being over 150 years old no longer seems to be accurate so many in the SDA church have changed to a view that somehow this is a judgment of God by heavenly beings and supposed beings from unfallen planets. Since this view has absolutely no affect upon anyone on earth it has raised a new view that 1844 and the Investigative Judgment is God raising up the SDA church who presents the Great Controversy perspective to the world (there is also a last generation perfection concept but I won’t get into that today). This perspective is apparently inclusive of the idea that God is on trial.

Here is one of my earlier articles about C.S. Lewis’ statement and our penchant for believing that God is on trial.

Is God On Trial?

As well as a response to a Clifford Goldstein article Judging the Judge.

Here is the quote from Lewis:

The ancient man approached the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man the roles are reversed. He is the judge: God in the dock. He is quite a kindly judge: if God should have a reasonable defense for being the god who permits war, poverty, and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God's acquittal. But the important thing is that man is on the bench and God is in the dock.

Oh! How arrogant we can be! How could we think that we could be more loving than the God, who is love? How could we think that we could be more just than the very Being who defines justice? “

Sunday, June 10, 2007

No More Christians, Videos to Start a Conversation

Community Christian Church has produced a series of fairly humorous videos available on the internet. The first one I was introduced to was the parody of the PC vs. Mac ads. In which the nerdy guy is the Christian with a pile of books and the cool guy is the Christ Follower”. The Christian asks the Christ Follower if he wants to see the Christian’s bumper stickers which he has inside his coat because his car is full. He then asks the Christ follower “so what do you wear to display your Christianity?” Christ Follower answers; “Well, nothing I guess, I don’t know I just try to follow Christ in the way I live my life, I don’t feel I have to wear my heart on my sleeve so to speak”. The Christian then mocks the Christ Follower until the Christian mocking repeats “I am a dork”

The message in the video to me is that what we do is more important then what we say about ourselves. The Video ends with the logo which says “Christian No More.” The problem comes at the explanation of "Christian No More". In simple terms they want to rid the world of the historic term Christian because in many places Christian is merely a cultural word and many people practice their Christian faith without much conviction. From the Website:

The Difference between a Christian and a Christ-follower
By Dave Ferguson

Here are some thought provoking words from the book, Jesus with Dirty Feet. “Jesus was not a Christian. He never asked anyone to become a Christian, never built a steepled building, never drew up a theological treatise, never took an offering, never wore religious garments, never incorporated for tax purposes. He simply called people to follow him.”

When the Barna Research Group did a survey of 152 separate items comparing the general population with those people who called themselves Christians, they found virtually no difference. Ugh! They found no difference in the attitudes of Christians and non-Christians and they found no difference in the actions of Christians and non-Christians. That is the contemporary working definition of the title “Christian”. Do you understand what it means to the rest of the world to call yourself a “Christian”? And, is a “Christian” what you want to describe your willingness to sacrifice everything you have to see God’s dream fulfilled? Not me!

If you call yourself a Christian, I want you to stop! Seriously, I hope you will never again call yourself a Christian. Maybe not what you were expecting? It is exactly what you and the church need – forget ever being a Christian again. And secondly, if you have ever encouraged someone to become a Christian I want to ask you to never do that again! I’m dead serious. I hope you will never again ask a friend, family member, co-worker or neighbor to become a Christian. Why? Because the last thing the mission of Jesus Christ needs are more Christians!

Here are the brutal facts (and it pains me to say this because I really don’t like being this negative…but the truth hurts.): 85% of the people in the United States call themselves Christians. Now, let’s pause long enough to realize that’s a whole lot of people: 247 million people to be exact. But how are those 85% doing in accomplishing the Jesus mission?

  • Research tells us among people in North America who call themselves Christians that a Christian is no more likely to give money to a homeless person on the street than a non-Christian.
  • Those who call themselves Christians are no more likely to correct a mistake if the cashier gives them too much change than a non-Christian.
  • A Christian is just as likely to have an elective abortion as non-Christian.
  • A Christian divorces at the same rate as those who consider themselves non-Christians.
  • Even though there are more, big churches than ever before filled with people who proudly wear the title Christian, 50% of Christian churches didn’t help one single person find salvation.

I no longer call myself a Christian. I no longer try to convert people to Christianity. I’m done with that. The word “Christian” has been tarnished. It’s not so much because the title is wrong, but because as a label it has now come to mean something far different than what it means to follow Jesus. Being a “Christian” has been reduced to the expectation of nice-ness. How pathetic. How boring. How easy. How insignificant. And even that expectation of nice-ness doesn’t have to be fulfilled because the greater expectation is hypocrisy – the practice of professing beliefs, feelings, or virtues that one does not live out. Who would want to be that!?!

I am a Christ Follower. I follow Jesus. And I follow Jesus step for step as His Spirit moves me and His community called the Church. When Jesus steps, I follow. When Jesus speeds up – I increase my pace. When Jesus slows down – I slow down. The direction; the speed and the entire velocity of my life are determined by moving at the speed of Jesus’ Spirit. Simple. Clear. Not easy!

The concept of abandoning a historic word which means follower of Christ for a new term which means “Christ Follower” is the height of absurdity. What this campaign is probably about is that the media has portrayed Christians as mainly a political entity that is hypocritical and forces the country to follow their political agenda. That is certainly the emphasis for quite some time for some examples you can read my article Election Enlightenment and the World to Come The use of statistics as most of us know is often problematic. For instance note the first bulleted statement where Christians are no more likely to give money to homeless people as non Christians. This really means nothing because there are so many frauds who beg for money that it is unwise for most people to give beggars money. Since there is no way of knowing if you are simply giving money to be wasted on drugs or alcohol, two of the major reasons for homelessness, giving money may not be doing anyone any good. What the statistics don’t note is that Christians do give more to charities and those organizations in turn help the homeless etc.

From the Barna Group Article: American Lifestyles Mix Compassion and Self-Oriented Behavior

The Role of Faith

Faith commitments sometimes play a role in what people do - but less often than might be assumed. In comparing the lifestyle choices of born again Christians to the national norms, there were more areas of similarity than distinction. (Note that in Barna surveys, the born again segment is not based upon whether a person uses that label, but based upon their profession of faith in Christ and confession of personal sin.) Born again Christians are more likely to volunteer for their church; however, they are no more likely than average to help the poor and homeless. Born again Christians were also among the least likely groups to recycle.

In evaluating 15 moral behaviors, born again Christians are statistically indistinguishable from non-born again adults on most of the behaviors studied. They are less likely to view sexually explicit movies and magazines, to use profanity in public, and to buy a lottery ticket. However, even in these cases, the gap between born agains and the norm is not wide - roughly one-third of the non-born again audience say they had engaged in the three activities compared to one-quarter of born again Christians.

The fourth area of difference is the lower rate of music piracy among born again Christians (2% versus 9% among non-born agains).

What is interesting is just how perceptions play such a large part in any poll. Speaking of the recycling issue Barna Group wrote in the article that the "Americans think of themselves as recyclers. The most commonly practiced of the 20 activities is recycling some used product or material. Three-quarters of Americans have done this in the past month (74%)." Most of us a quite aware of how few things we really recycle yet because most Garbage Disposal companies provide recycle bins with the garbage service Americans feel they are recyclers. I have little doubt that the most sincere environmentalists would not class these people as recyclers. This is a similar concept that we see in the Community Christian Churches article about Christians.

The answer is not to discard the word Christian but to practice the concepts of Christianity. Never cave into the secular media’s propaganda that Christians are hypocrites and uneducated buffoons. As Bill O’Reilly has well stated we are in a culture war with “Secular Progressives” and if you allow them to define the terms it matters little what you believe because it will be reinterpreted for other purposes.

I like the video’s and will probably try to use some of them in our Youth department. Videos are an art form and as such subject to various interpretations so they can very legitimately be used even if the ideas behind them are shortsighted. Take some time to check out their other videos.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Our Puritan Sabbatarian Roots

Recently when discussing our purposed youth group social activity the subject of what type of activities could be allowed if the gathering were to occur on the Sabbath day. The concept being to encourage the youth to get to know each other in small groups using games as tools to generate conversation between people and thus getting to know people that they normally would not get to know in a non threatening casual environment. See the article here.

What struck me about the conversation were the four areas that the Pastor mentioned as the Biblical purposes of the Sabbath. They can be summed up as: a day set apart for rest, a day for ministry, a day to worship God, and a day for fellowship. The website lists these four areas with their Biblical verses (see below). They also add one more called a day to be prepared for. Preparation day was important because of the strict rules such as no kindling of a fire along with no work. What is interesting is just how much tradition we as Adventists have placed into the Sabbath. When you think about it the only certain meaning that the Bible gives for the Sabbath is that it is a day to rest from work. Most everything else is the insertion of Puritan or Sabbatarian concepts that we have incorporated in to our Adventist traditions though certainly predicated upon the incredibly strict Jewish rules.

The Following is from the article From Sunday to Sabbath The Puritan Origins of Modern Seventh-day Sabbatarianism:

Although Christians practiced Sabbatarianism throughout pre-Civil War America, New England Christianity exemplified this tradition more than any other region.

The New England Sabbath always began at sunset on Saturday night and ended at the next sunset.... [Activities] prohibited on Saturday evening... were allowed on Sunday evening. (Ibid., 181-2)

All the New England clergymen were rigid in the prolonged observance of Sunday. From sunset on Saturday until Sunday night they would not shave, have rooms swept, nor beds made, have food prepared, nor cooking utensils and table-ware washed. As soon as their Sabbath began they gathered their families and servants around them...and read the Bible and exhorted and prayed and recited the catechism until nine o'clock, usually by the light of one small "dip candle" only.... Sweet to the Pilgrims and to their descendants was the hush of their calm Saturday night, and their still, tranquil Sabbath, — sign and token to them, not only of the weekly rest ordained in the creation, but of the eternal rest to come. (Alice Morse Earle, The Sabbath in Puritan New England [New York: Scribner, 1909], 254, 257)

This is reflective of the Jewish rest, characterized by not working but the Puritan tradition went further. They determined what types of recreation were to be allowed on the Sabbath. The above article writes:

When James I ascended the English throne, everyone concerned about the proper observance of Sunday thought they had a king who would restore some respect for church practice. In fact, James gave every indication that he was also concerned about the need to reform the English people's Sunday habits. Thus, in 1603 and 1604, he decreed reforms to restrict some forms of Sunday entertainments.

The Puritans were heartened. Yet the Puritans would eventually learn that his views were more in line with the established church's position than with theirs, for he appealed to church and state tradition rather than Scripture.

In August 1617, as James traveled through Lancashire, a group of workers petitioned him. They complained that the local authorities had denied them their lawful participation in Sunday recreations. In their defense, James issued his "Declaration of Lawful Sports." Dancing, archery, athletic events and Whitsun-ales were not to be prohibited after the time of church services. Note that the king did not encourage these activities at just any time on Sunday. He permitted them only after church services. He believed that everyone should be in church on Sunday. But to require more than this he felt would be unnecessary and harmful.

The following year, in 1618, he issued the same decree for the entire nation in his Book of Sports. In essence, James repudiated strict Sunday observance for a more recreation-oriented day. His view was the law of the land.

The Puritans were dismayed. They complained that the Book of Sports abrogated the progress made with James' previous decrees, and they felt he had usurped authority reserved for local magistrates. To the Puritans, the nation had taken a dangerous step backward into immorality and a harmful expansion of royal authority.

The Puritan tradition continued in America:

Not until 1667 did Connecticut prohibit Indians within English territory from working orplaying on the Sabbath at risk of a fine or time in the stocks, a law that reappeared inthe colony's codification of 1672."Puritan Statutory Law and the Indians: A Comparative Analysis" by Alden Vaughan, Columbia University

 In 1786 Boston passed an ordinance that prohibited swimming on the Sabbath.
Contested Waters

The Bible makes no mention of restrictions of recreation on the Sabbath however. In the Biblical world it is not too likely that since most everyone had to walk to get to work or market or do most anything the concept of recreational physical walking is not dealt with, the Jews had their understanding of a Sabbath days journey (about eleven hundred meters, [1.1 km]; see Mishnah Sotah 5:3), walking over that amount would be considered work as well as a multitude of other commentary on restrictions on Sabbath activity which from swimming to games is likely have inspired the Puritans.

Here is the listing of scriptures used to define what many Adventists today see as keys to how to keep the Sabbath. (From the website mentioned above)

How to keep the Sabbath

The Sabbath is our anniversary of becoming a child of God. It is the day our Lord spends with us. God love us so much He has given us permission to put aside the cares of this word and spend one day a week with Him.

A day to rest from the work we do on the other six days.

"Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it." Exo 20:8-11

"And he said unto them, This is that which the LORD hath said, To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the LORD: bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning." Exo 16:23

'Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.
Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.
Wherefore the children of
Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant.
It is a sign between me and the children of
Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.
And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God." Exo 31:14-18

Mark 16:1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.

"And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid.
And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment." Luke 23:55+56

A day to Worship God

"A Psalm or Song for the sabbath day. It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High." Psa 92:1

Isa 56:4 For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant;

Acts 13:14 But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down.

A day to Fellowship

"Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the LORD, speak, saying, The LORD hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree.
For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant;
Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off." Isa 56:3-5

Acts 13:14 But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down.

Luke 4:16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.

A Day to do Good

"Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil." Isa 56:2

"If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:
Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it." Isa 58:13,14

And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him.

"And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out?
How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.
Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other." Mat 12:10-13

"And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day.
The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering?
And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?" Luke 13:14-16

"And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace." Mark 3:4

A Day to prepare for

"And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath," Mark 15:42

Clearly the idea of not working is abundantly clear for those who hold to the continuing observance of the Sabbath day, but what about the other three issues. The Bible does not indicate that the people only came to together to worship God on the Sabbath; in fact the ceremonial system of sacrifices was carried out every day of the week. Later when the Synagogue system was established people would meet on the Sabbath but they would meet on other days as well.

More numerous than the Sadducees and more influential among the people was the religious group known as Pharisees. They were dominant in the synagogue, which in many ways was more important than the Temple, especially in daily and weekly instruction and worship. The Temple was too remote for most Jews to visit except for the major feast days, but synagogues were close by wherever Jews lived, whether in Palestine or beyond. Ten male adult Jews constituted a quorum. The synagogue was essentially a gathering of the Jewish community for study and interpretation of the Law, though worship was becoming a prominent part of synagogue life, with prayers, chanting of psalms, the recitation of the shema‘ (Deuteronomy 6:4-5), and some type of edifying discourse. While our sources are somewhat limited for reconstructing pre-70 C.E. Pharisaism, we are probably correct in the view that the Pharisees were the dominant force in the synagogue. The History of Palestine in New Testament Times

Worship of God was not restricted to the Sabbath, nor should we ever restrict our worship of God to one day of the week either. There are many references to the synagogue in the New Testament only a few mention people present on a particular day such as the Sabbath. The synagogue was not only the area for prayer, instruction and reading the Torah but also the center of judicial Jewish activity. See the article The Nature and Origins of the 1st-Century Synagogue

The Old Testament also included special Sabbaths which were holy convocations or assemblies. These worship assemblies included Sabbath, New Moons and Festivals.

(2 Chr 2:4 NIV) Now I am about to build a temple for the Name of the LORD my God and to dedicate it to him for burning fragrant incense before him, for setting out the consecrated bread regularly, and for making burnt offerings every morning and evening and on Sabbaths and New Moons and at the appointed feasts of the LORD our God. This is a lasting ordinance for Israel.

(Ezek 46:3 NIV) On the Sabbaths and New Moons the people of the land are to worship in the presence of the LORD at the entrance to that gateway.

The Sabbath as the name implies is related to cessation of work and these Sabbaths included worship upon other special days with corporate worship. (From Strong’s Lexicon 7673 shabath (shaw-bath'); a primitive root; to repose, i.e. desist from exertion; used in many implied relations (causative, figurative or specific): KJV-- (cause to, let, make to) cease, celebrate, cause (make) to fail, keep (sabbath), suffer to be lacking, leave, put away (down), (make to) rest, rid, still, take away.)

Gathering on the Sabbath for our corporate worship does have a long history, it is not only restricted to Sabbath however and we have to acknowledge the actual history, see Acts 19:9, Acts 2:47, Acts 12:12, Hebrews 3:13. Corporate worship is not the only method of worship mentioned in the Bible. Nor is the seventh day Sabbath the only time people assembled to worship in either the Old or New Testament. In fact of all those listed ways to keep the Sabbath, all would be appropriate on any other day of the week also and we can find Biblical examples of each being carried out on other days of the week. So with the exception of one day of the week set a side for a rest as in the Sabbath, or the festival or New Moon the other’s in the Lord’s Day list (and my Pastor’s list) are all appropriate on any day. In other words ministry, worship and fellowship are expected to occur on any given day, they are not restricted to a Sabbath day.

The Bible gives examples but there is no reason to assume that their activities are the only acceptable or even the best techniques. We have to apply reason to the situations as well as our own cultural concerns. So it is more appropriate to take a well defined Biblical story and draw a principle from the story rather then limit yourself to the actions contained in that story. For instance David when his men were hungry took the showbread from the temple to feed themselves and Jesus likens their actions to his own actions of shelling some grain to eat on the Sabbath. Leaving us with a principle also expressed in Matthew 12:7-8 If you had known what these words mean, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." (NIV)

There is nothing in that verse that restricts the Son of Man to Jesus Christ. Neither context nor the actual words connote any other meaning then humanity. For as the other gospel says Mark 2:27 Then he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. (NIV). The Sabbath was meant to benefit man not to subject man to Sabbath rules and rituals. If the Sabbath restricts our good fellowship, our attempts to become friends with our neighbors whether inside or outside of the church we have lost the meaning of the Sabbath. The Puritans may have thought they had good reasons for their many Sabbath restrictions or they may have simply overstretched themselves to work their way to heaven. Whatever their reasons in the post modern world we have to find our own reasons as simply appealing to their traditions will not satisfy our own minds. Because very frankly, tradition is often wrong and often has long ago become obsolete. But a tradition which has good reason behind it can be maintained and defended

Related reading:


List of Rules and Regulations Set forth by Ellen White

SDA Guidelines for Sabbath Observance

Monday, June 04, 2007

A Simple Turn of a Phrase

Karl Haffner writes in the June 2007 issue of the North Pacific Union Gleaner:

Ever wonder if you're good enough to be saved?

Oh, you're working at it all right. You volunteer at the soup kitchen. You go to Sabbath School. You don't drink or swear or chew or date those who do. But in your honest moments maybe you wonder if you'll ever be good enough. Perhaps you have no real assurance of salvation.

In "Gospel Issues in Adventism," Pastor Jack Sequeira writes, "Since we are still struggling with the sin problem, no matter how hard we try, many Adventists question whether their repentance has been genuine. This, in turn, has robbed our people of the assurance of salvation. Hence, most Adventists are very insecure about their salvation. Value Genesis confirmed this fact, when the majority of our youth admitted they had no assurance of salvation because their conduct was not meeting God's high standard."*

If this describes you, take heart. God does not want you to be fuzzy about being saved. The apostle Paul explains, "just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men" (Romans 5:18, NIV).

In other words, because of what Jesus did on the cross, if you accept Him as your Savior, you are saved. PERIOD.

The article continues in that vein which in itself is often refreshing in Adventism but the above idea is a misunderstanding. We are not saved because of what Jesus did on the cross we are saved because of who God is and that was revealed to us through the life, death and resurrection which Paul symbolized as “the cross”. The Redeemer who set free the nation of Israel from Egyptian slavery is the same Redeemer who sets us free from the bondage of sin. The Patriarchs were saved not because at some future point in time Jesus would make it possible for them to be saved. No, God was able to save them even when they had no idea of a resurrection. Because that is the kind of God He is; the kind of person who would come to live as a man and show love so profound that even when evil men tortured and killed Him He offered forgiveness and hope.

It is a simple turn of phrase but it will totally change your theological view.

3ABN on Dish Network

The following is from Abundent Rest Blog:

We just received an e-mail update from Sky Angel notifying us of two major events for 3ABN:

1. It is now available in the regular DISH network line-up! After years of prayer and petitions, DISH has picked up 3ABN on their normal secular satellite feed for North America. It is included in the basic package, and is available to all DISH network subscribers on channel 9710.

2. For Sky Angel users, 3ABN is back in it’s slot on channel 9710! This means that those of us who have asked the question “where did 3ABN go?” now have it back! If you’ve already purchased another Adventist satellite system to replace your Sky Angel system, then consider donating your Sky Angel system to a friend or relative that may not know the three angel’s messages! It is a great witnessing opportunity with 3ABN, Safe TV, and other Adventist ministries reaching out with programming on a variety of channels now on Sky Angel.

Pass the word on to anyone you know who is interested in watching 3ABN or sharing 3ABN with their neighbors, friends, and relatives. With inclusion into the DISH line-up, it is now easier than ever for North American viewers to hear and see the three angel’s messages in action!

While it is true that 3ABN is on Dish Network the channel is not on popular Dish Network Satellites. As one Satellite discussion site post says:
My bother has DISH Programming off from 110. Would he be able to get 3ABN?
Currently, the only way to get 3ABN with E* or SA is using a dish at 129W and/or 61.5W. Right now it is not on the core slots at 110W/119W or the west coast at 148W.
It is apparently not on SkyAngel but will be available to SkyAngel subscribers. As the discussion on the above site continues:
"I am sorry if the title of this thread is a little misleading. 3ABN is not returning to SkyAngel but since it is returning to 61.5, SkyAngel subscribers will be able to receive it."
I just wanted to point this out in case someone heard it was available and tried to find it, odds are it is not on your Dish network system satellites if you have the most common entertainment packages.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Implementing Change in the Church

As this is the time of year when graduations are part of many people’s lives I thought I would join in with those celebrating their freedom if only for a short while. At a recent honors/scholarship assembly one of the presenters who had read bio’s and essays noted that these students were out to change the world. You will hear that a lot at graduations but in general the world will change them.

At a recent Sabbath school class the leader wanted to know how we can go about changing the way we do “Church”. In general I think he is in agreement that we should rearrange how things are done at church more in line with my previous articles on Sermons and the post modern church. In other words more time to discuss things in small groups and less time listening to a sermon.

Lets so for instance a group of people wanted to try different things for church, say Sabbath school classes of different types from 9:45-11 then gathering for song service for 20 minutes, 10 minutes of announcements etc. followed by a 15 minute sermon and then 30 minutes of small discussion groups dealing with the sermon topics. How would we go about changing our Adventist Church world?

How do ideas get implemented past the traditional crowd? Frankly that is where so many of our plans fall apart. We can’t please everyone so we stick to what is our tradition and we often don’t even try anything new. For example there are many Adventist churches that have two morning services because the facilities are overcrowded, but rarely do you see our churches utilize the afternoon and evenings. I would say the major reason is that our tradition is going to church on Sabbath morning and we often can’t imagine changing that routine. So what do we do to change something in our churches?

That is your assignment.

Here is what my recommendations are. First get together some people who want to see the change and gather together to formulate strategies. The idea has to be sold to the congregation as well as to the church leadership. Since many of our churches are still heavily dominated by the Pastor it will almost certainly involve getting him on board with the plan. So the group gets together with each other and works out the schedule of events and arguments as to the benefits and costs of change. They then invite the pastor to meet with the group, it may be necessary to do this will board members or Elders also though possibly not all at once. From there the pastor needs to become an advocate of change and also a facilitator who allows his sermon time to members of the group to express their concepts and prepare the congregation for a change. After a few presentations it should be possible to see if the congregation is ready for or against the proposed changes.

If change was easy all those graduating seniors would have changed the world many times over. But victories only come to those willing to work for them.

What are your ideas for bringing on change?