Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Meaning of Christ’s Death

That is the subject of this week’s Sabbath School Lesson. It is probably the most important part of Christianity and in the last couple hundred years it has become the strangest doctrine of Christianity. The lesson introduction says:

So, this week we will seek to try to answer the important question of why Jesus died, what purpose was accomplished by His death, and what it means for us many centuries after the fact. Did Christ, as some assert, die merely to show us God’s love and thus to change our feelings about God; or did Christ’s death, in fact, do something that changed how God relates to us? These are all topics worthy of our deepest interest.
[All lesson study quotes are taken from the Teacher’s Guide PDF found here]

I like that beginning. Did Christ’s show us God’s love and change us as Paul asks in his rhetorical question:

(Rom 2:4 NIV) Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?

Or Does Christ who is God, do something that changed how God relates to us?

(Phil 2:6-8 NIV) Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!

Does God need to change or do we need to change? Honestly how long will we have to wrestle with that question? But I bet we will have to wrestle with it because tradition has placed such a hold on Christianity and the SDA church that what is obvious will appear hazy.

The Lesson for Sunday continues:

What do the following passages tell us about the death of Jesus? Was it something that had to happen? Matt. 16:21, 26:52–54, Mark 10:45, Luke 18:31–33, John 3:14, Heb. 9:25–28.

The consistent note here is that Jesus was born to die; His death was not an accident. It had to happen. Why did it have to? Well, that is not a matter that can be explained fully by rational processes, not because

it is irrational but because it is suprarational, above human reason. It falls in the realm of Divine revelation, part of that “mystery . . . kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints”

(Col. 1:26, NIV). The Bible does not go into any long attempt to justify it or to explain it, maybe because it is not something subject to human logic. We do not have other instances elsewhere by which to judge or compare it. Biblical atonement represents a solo occurrence in the history of the universe. And our task is to seek to understand what the Bible says about it and to apply what it means to our own lives.

Is that the consistent note that Jesus was born to die. He could have accomplished that moments after his birth. No those verses tell us that Jesus knew that He would die, it is the nature of sin…it kills it results in death.

Now how far do you get when you tell your children I can’t explain that, it simply can’t be explained by rational processes just believe me. Well you would not get very far other then that your child will think you don’t know and can’t admit it. How much worse if you tried to explain something like the lesson author by saying it is beyond human reason but we must seek to understand what the Bible says about what is beyond human reason and apply the meaning to our lives. That is nonsensical but it is the standard that people who believe in the Penal/Substitution Atonement theory will use. That is why I am using this point counter point style for this article. It is easy to express the love and forgiveness and acceptance that Jesus showed on the cross people eagerly and willingly accept it. But tradition has incorporated other things into the atonement things which are very big problems and because they are big problems they hide from them by saying we can’t logically understand the problems we created. So just accept what we have said and our tradition and ignore the problems.

As we move into Monday’s lesson we see where tradition over the Bible takes precedence:

Read Matthew 26:38. What was it that hung so heavy on the Savior during this crushing agony? How did He manage to survive the ordeal? (See Luke 22:43.) “Having made the [final] decision,” wrote Ellen G. White, “He fell dying to the ground [there in the garden].”—The Desire of Ages, p. 693. This means that although He later was killed by Roman hands, the fatal blow had come much earlier, delivered by one giant, collective hand, ours. How does it make you feel, knowing that your own guilt caused the death of Jesus? More important, how should you respond to those feelings?

Matthew 26:38 says that Jesus soul was filled with sorrow. Not guilt, not sins but sorrow. Sorrow for Himself or sorrow for humanity? We don’t know as it does not say. But my conception is that it is both. Sorrow for the people and for Himself because He was going to be rejected by the very people He came to save the people of His creation. To think about that in human terms it would be the sorrow of coming to your children who are living in the streets and offering the opportunity to return and live with you and having them spit on you beat, torture and kill you.

Did Jesus fall dying in the garden of Gethsemane? Not according to the Bible which asserts that even with His sorrow and regret for what He had to go through He was not abandoned as an messenger of God strengthened Him. (Luke 22:43 NIV) An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. Certainly as Peter tells the story it is not a fatal blow that fell before the cross.

(Acts 3:13-15 NIV) The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.

Peter goes on to comfort them that their actions were out of ignorance but what can the excuse be for those who rewrite the story so incorrectly.

The lesson begins in earnest to teach Substitutionary atonement on the Tuesday lesson:

1. The Concept of Sacrifice, Offering, Substitute—Ephesians 5:2: Christ “gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering [prosphoran] and sacrifice [thusian] to God” (NIV). Hebrews 9:26: He came “to do

away with sin by the sacrifice [thusias] of himself ” (NIV). Hebrews 10:14: By means of “one sacrifice [prosphora] he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (NIV). The idea in all these passages is that of vicarious death, death in our place, death as our Substitute. Vicarious suffering is suffering endured by one person in the stead of another. In 1 Corinthians 15:3, Paul says that “Christ died for our sins” (NIV); Romans 5:8 says that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (NIV); and 1 Peter 2:24 says that Christ “bore our sins in his body on the tree” (NIV).

Although the Christian Church had the New Testament since it’s inception the Substitutionary theory of atonement was quite late in development. See the history of the atonement. Sacrifice and offering are clearly in the verses presented but the sacrifice is of God and by God not to God.

(Rom 3:25 NIV) God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—

The sacrifice was a fragrant offering because it the work of God, when you read the context you see that: (Eph 5:1-2 NIV) Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

He “gave Himself for us” the demonstration of God in love. The Greek has no inclusion of “sacrifice to God” it could just as easily be “sacrifice of God” the sweet-smelling savor of God. There is no doubt that Jesus suffered because of sin, He bore the results of sin, the hatred and cruelty the injustice that marks and mares our sin filled lives. But that is not substitution. Even the oft quoted verse (2 Cor 5:21 NIV) God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Is used as a paradoxical statement to sum up how the love of God compels us. (2 Cor 5:14-15 NIV) For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

The idea being that we die to our old ways and live again for the one who died for us all as His love compels us to do, raised to a new way of life just as Christ was raised to life. We do a great disservice to God by taking difficult statements away from their context. None of the lesson verses presents, “death in our place, death as our Substitute”.

The lesson goes on about ransom, thinking that paying a price is the same as substitution. It is of course not. If it was who was the ransom paid to. Certainly not God as Jesus is God. The ransom is the idea that God had to pay a price to reconcile us, just as to ransom a captive relative required giving up something, usually money. As it says: (1 Cor 6:19-20 NIV) Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

(1 Cor 7:22-23 NIV) For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord's freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ's slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.

The cost of God becoming like one of His creation would be huge in itself similar perhaps to a man becoming an ant. But on top of that God allowed Himself to be abused tortured and killed and there is clearly a large price God paid to reconcile us back to Him. The price paid is the sacrifice God made, the giving up of something important, this is the type of ransom that God paid, not to Himself or to Satan or even to man but the cost of His actions. But then that is what love does, it is not self interested, it is other centered and the cost becomes minor compared with the joy of reconciliation.

(Heb 12:2-4 NIV) Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

Wednesday’s lesson tries to begin well then becomes as bad as what it denies:

The Concept of Propitiation (or Expiation) (hilasterion): In regard to the mission of Christ, the word is found in Hebrews 2:17, where it speaks of Christ making “propitiation for the sins of the people” (NKJV). “Propitiation” has the sense of pacifying someone. The belief was that when a god was angry, the people should make a gesture of appeasement (hilasterion) in order to render the god hilaros (happy, joyous) once more. What students of the New Testament repeatedly have noted, however, is that its authors, though borrowing vocabulary from classical Greek and elsewhere, nevertheless fill that vocabulary with brand-new content and meaning.

Accordingly, many Bible scholars agree that a better English translation of the word is “expiation.” So understood, the idea is that by means of Jesus’ death, God “expiates,” “covers,” “erases” our sin. Any idea of human appeasement of God would be utterly foreign to the New Testament writers. Instead, they wanted to emphasize that the entire human race, threatened by the righteous wrath of God on account of sin, was rescued by Jesus’ death. Jesus became our hilasterion, covering us from the wrath of God (see Heb. 9:5).

Notice how they have moved from the results of sin which has long resulted in death (sin pays a wage...death Rom 6:23) to salvation from the “righteous wrath of God on account of sin” we are now saved from the wrath of God that is just some much better then the idea of appeasing an angry God!

What is funny about the above is they reference Hebrews 2:17 which probably is peculiar among English Bibles that it even uses the word propitiation. As the King James Version does not even use it: (Heb 2:17 KJV) Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.

Most who do use propitiation use if from the King James verses Rom 3:25, 1 John 2:2,1 John 4:10 all of which are translated in modern English as “atoning sacrifice” or “Sacrifice of Atonement”

That really sums it up however, atonement is all about reconciliation the sacrifice is directed at swaying us back to God not changing God to accept us. He is the one making all the moves at reconciliation while we are far off, while we are enemies of God He comes to us. This is not a God of wrath, not a God that is in need of a change, not a God that has to figure out how He can forgive and reconcile by punishing the innocent. Not even a God that we have to say it is beyond human reasoning, because we have seen love and we know the power of love maybe not in full but even in our own ways we know what love is and how love forgives and embraces. It is time we give God the credit for being love and leave behind our foolish traditions.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Great Controversy View

Adventist Today recently started publishing various blogs for their subscribed readers. In one Clifford Goldstein writes:

Then, just as an aside, he said (and I'm paraphrasing him), "Oh, yes, there is one more theodicy. No one takes it seriously any more today but I thought I'd mention it." He called it the Cosmic Free Will Theodicy or something like that. The upshot is that for about three minutes he describes, basically, the great controversy scenario, pretty much how any traditional Adventist would. You know, an angel Lucifer with free will, falls into sin, leads a rebellion in heaven that takes hold on earth, a battle between good and evil, etc. I mean, it was our cosmic world view perfect expressed.

We as Adventists very often refer to the Great Controversy yet in the main we never define it. I once asked a discussion group how they would define the Great Controversy and about the best answer they could produce was to read the first 3 chapters of Ellen White’s book Patriarchs and Prophets.

Recently I came this description of the Great Controversy from the online Google book Historical Dictionary of Seventh-Day Adventists by Gary Land. The online book does not finish this section but what it says is helpful.

Great controversy. Phrase used by Seventh-day Adventists to refer to the cosmic conflict between God and Satan. In the second edition of his pamphlet The seveth-day Sabbath, a Perpetual sign (1846), Joseph Bates introduced the basic sabbatarian Adventist understanding of history when he argued that God’s faithful remnant, who keep the seventh-day Sabbath, are at war with the beast whose mark or sing is Sunday observance. Ellen G. White gradually developed this concept into a theological perspective that encompassed all existence, both physical and spiritual. Based on a vision she experienced on March 14, 1858, she began describing her understanding of history in Spiritual Gifts, vol. 1, The Great Controversy Between Christ and His Angels and Satan and His Angels (1858), Which covered events from the fall of Lucifer in heaven to the recreation of the new earth. In Spiritual Gifts, vol.3, Important Facts of Faith in Connection With the History of Holy Men of Old 91864) she discussed biblical history from the Creation to the giving of the Ten Commandments; volume 4, Important Facts of Faith: Laws of Health and Testimonies (1864), continued her account to the time of Solomon and briefly examined the first advent of Jesus. She later expanded these works in The Spirit of Prophecy, 4 vols. (1870-84), each volume of which carried the phrase “Great Controversy” in its subtitle. Her final reworking of this material appeared in the “Conflict of the Ages Series,” which included Patriarchs and Prophets (1890), The Story of Prophets and Kings (1917), The Desire of Ages (1898), The Acts of the Apostles (1911), and the Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan (1888).

As her ideas ultimately developed, White explained history as a trial in which Satan charges that God is unfit to rule the universe. Fallen human beings, as well as unfallen angels and inhabitants of other worlds, comprise the jury that observes how the consequences of Satan’s rebellion work themselves out within earthly [end of page book preview]

The first thing I noticed about the above is that the Great Controversy is developed from two things; Joseph Bates belief that Sunday observance is the Mark of the Beast and then Ellen White’s vision on the fall of Satan who she identifies as Lucifer. The fall of Lucifer goes back to the third century A.D. based upon the interpretations of Tertullian and Origen. For more on the history of the Lucifer myth click here.

Amazing Facts is in the process of creating what they call the Cosmic Conflict Project.

A Christian Documentary

Amazing Facts will be producing a high definition documentary mini-series that will bring to life the great controversy between Christ and Satan. Beginning with the fall of Lucifer in the glorious courts of heaven, viewers will be taken on a journey through time to view highlights in this cosmic struggle. The war between Christ and Satan over the souls of men will be the focus of this ground breaking production.

Unfortunately just as Amazing Facts thinks they are producing a Documentary many Adventists think that the fanciful interpretation we call the Great Controversy is also fact. It is not. As a means of demonstrating the fanciful elements of what is put forward as the Great Controversy take a look at this short presentation For a Large-exciting 24mb view
Or the YouTube version

The Bible certainly presents a conflict between good and evil but much of what we take as the Great Controversy is not present in the Bible. The reference to Lucifer in the Bible is a reference to the prince of Babylon, there is nothing in the Bible about Satan being jealous because God created man but did not invite Satan to be in on it or that Satan (or Lucifer) was upset because the Son (pre-incarnate Jesus) was seemingly raised in authority because he and other angels did not understand that the Son was one in divinity with the Father. You can read the following examples of the Great Controversy view which is heavily influenced by Ellen White’s speculations found in the book Patriarchs and Prophets. Think about where you would find such things in the Bible.

Not content with his position, though honored above the heavenly host, he ventured to covet homage due alone to the Creator.

And coveting the glory with which the infinite Father had invested His Son, this prince of angels aspired to power that was the prerogative of Christ alone.

In heavenly council the angels pleaded with Lucifer.

To dispute the supremacy of the Son of God, thus impeaching the wisdom and love of the Creator, had become the purpose of this prince of angels

Before the assembled inhabitants of heaven the King declared that none but Christ, the Only Begotten of God, could fully enter into His purposes, and to Him it was committed to execute the mighty counsels of His will.

While claiming for himself perfect loyalty to God, he urged that changes in the order and laws of heaven were necessary for the stability of the divine government.

And there are far more examples such as the idea that Satan claimed that no one can keep the law of God, which if you think about it there would have been many angels that would have proved Satan wrong long ago but because the claim is made by the Great Controversy view many Adventists have taken to believe in last generation perfection so that there will be some humans that prove that man can really keep the law of God. So when you hear the Great Controversy view, be sure and ask just what do they mean. Is it merely the struggle between good and evil or do they mean a host of fanciful speculations made by old traditions drawn together by the visions or supposed visions of a nineteenth century prophet. If those things were so important for the Christian church to believe why would they not be relayed in the Bible, why would they wait till 1800 years after the writing of the New Testament?

Friday, May 09, 2008

Adventist Forum Announcement and Hebrew Language

I was originally going to write on another topic but I read the following announcement about the next Adventist Forum meeting and the subject got me thinking.

The Pacific Northwest Adventist Forum will hold its next meeting at the Green Lake Seventh-day Adventist on June 7 at 3:00 PM. The speaker will be Brian Bull MD who currently chairs the Department of Pathology at the Loma Linda University School of Medicine. His presentation is entitled "What in Heaven (and Earth) Was the Writer of Genesis Talking About?" Dr. Bull has been active in the affairs of the church including the difficult and controversial topic of integrating faith and science. He is a member of a group in Loma Linda that is carefully studying the Hebrew words of Genesis in an attempt to figure out the intended meaning of the writer of the first chapters of Genesis. At times some translations of the Bible may reflect the beliefs of the translator more than the actual meaning of the manuscripts on which the translation is based. How Dr. Bull reads and examines the Genesis story will of interest to those who care about how God created the heavens and earth. He also is one of the authors of the recently published book, Understanding Genesis. Dr. Bull is a graduate of Walla Walla College and for many years served as Dean of the Loma Linda University School of Medicine. Following the meeting light refreshments will be served.

I thought I would check and see how many words made up the ancient Hebrew language. I did not figure it was nearly as robust as English and thus not nearly as descriptive. You hear people say that Eskimo’s have 7 different words for snow. Well English has hundreds of words for snow because we have adjectives which describe the snow. “light snow, heavy snow, wet snow, sandy snow, coarse snow etc. On top of that we have over 1 million English words. Fortunately we don’t have to use them all but still we use a lot. Now what about using the words of the ancient Hebrew in understanding what the writer of that book intended. First the writer was limited to what his language was, his words and his rather scientifically speaking limited knowledge of the world as well as his limited knowledge of God. So even if we ascertain the most likely meaning the writer had in mind we are left with only that, the meaning he had in his or their mind, depending on if what we have is original or redacted from some other original document. Even with the assumption of God given inspiration we have only the limited vocabulary of the language and the times for which God could work. Limitations which could cause limitations in understanding if one assumes that those limited words must be of ultimate importance.

Which leads us to an interesting new Hebrew translation in the works now. It is called the Mechanical Translation. Here is what the website introduction says:

About the Translation

I will be publishing this project one book at a time beginning with the book of Genesis. Once the first five books of the Bible are completed I will combine them into the Mechanical Translation of the Torah and will then continue with the book of Joshua.

Standard Text Translations

Most all English translations of Genesis
1:24 are translated as "And God said, Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind...' ". Now compare that with Genesis 2:7 which is usually translated as "...and the man became a living soul (some translations have 'living being')". I have often heard it debated that only man has a soul but not animals. This theological assumption can be supported by the two verses quoted above but not in the original Hebrew text. The phrase "living creature" from the first verse and "living soul" in the second verse are identical in Hebrew - nephesh hhayah. If this phrase was translated the same way in both verses the theological idea that only man has a soul (nephesh) would never [sic]

Standard Word Translations

This change in the way Hebrew words are translated does not end with only one or two different translations but the list goes on. The Hebrew word nephesh is translated as soul, life, person, mind, heart, creature, body, dead, desire, man, appetite, lust, thing, self, beast, pleasure, ghost, breath and will in the King James Version. The King James Version also translates the Hebrew word hhayah as live, life, beast, alive, creature, running, living, raw, springing, old, quick, lifetime, troop, appetite, lively, congregation, company and maintenance. The King James Version is not alone in this style of translation as all translations are similar. If one wishes to do a serious study of the Bible and does not know Hebrew how is one to sort through this conglomeration of word translations?

The need for a Mechanical Translation

The Mechanical Translation will provide a consistent translation where each Hebrew word, prefix and suffix are translated exactly the same way every time. This will provide the student of the Bible with a very Hebraic look at the Bible without knowing Hebrew. When the same word is found in two different verses it will be known that they are the same word in the Hebrew text as well and problems such as identified above will disappear. This translation will also translate the Hebrew words into English in the same order as they are in Hebrew. The only problem with this is that if one does not know Hebrew sentence structure the translation will not make sense but instead appear as gibberish. For this reason a second translation (called the 'Revised Mechanical Translation' or RMT) is provided which uses the same English words to translate the Hebrew but will re-arrange the words so that they can be understood by English readers.

The Dictionary

Even though each Hebrew word is translated exactly the same way every time with an English word or phrase the English words will not be sufficient for understanding the meaning of the Hebrew words. For this reason the Mechanical Translation will be accompanied by a dictionary that will allow the student to look up each English word or phrase to learn the meaning of the word from an Hebraic perspective. The dictionary will also provide the identification number for that word in the "Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible".

Genesis 1:1-5

in the summit “Elohiym [Powers]” fattened the sky and the land, and the land had existed in confusion and was unfilled and darkness was upon the face of the deep sea and the wind of “Elohiym [Powers]” was much fluttering upon the face of the water, and “Elohiym [Powers]” said, light exist and light existed, and “Elohiym [Powers]” saw the light given that it was functional and “Elohiym [Powers]” made a separation between the light and the darkness, and “Elohiym [Powers]” called out to the light day and to the darkness he called out night and evening existed and morning existed one day.

Mech. Trans. of Genesis - Sample
The following from Einhorn Press states some additional problems.

Modern English is often thought to be a difficult language to translate, with its irregular spellings, numerous shades of meanings, variations in pronunciations, incorporation of countless foreign words, difficult idioms, and other peculiarities and inconsistencies. However, none of these could begin to compare with one major translating difficulty found in the biblical language of Israel, especially since Hebrew ceased to be a commonly spoken language hun­dreds of years before Jesus Christ arrived. “In regard to the Old Testament, the Hebrew language, as anciently written, was the most difficult of all languages to translate,” wrote Bible-scholar John E. Remsburg in his work entitled The Bible. In one of thirty weekly installments from his book which began to appear in The Truth Seeker at the beginning of January in 1901 he went on to explain that

Here is the best known passage in the Bible printed in English as the Jews would have written it in Hebrew:"It was written from right to left; the words contained no [written] vowels; there were no intervening spaces between words, and no punctuation marks. Even with the introduction of vowel points [dots or marks below the words that indicate vowel sounds] many words in Hebrew, as in English, have more than one meaning. Without these points, as originally written, the number is increased a hundred fold. The five English words, bag, beg, big, bog, and buy, are quite unlike and easily distinguished. Omit the vowels, as the ancient Jews did, and we have five words exactly alike, or rather, one word with five different meanings. The Hebrew language was thus largely composed of words with several mean­ings. As there were no spaces between words, it was sometimes hard to tell where a word began or where it ended; and as there were no punctuation marks, and no spaces between sentences, paragraphs, or even sections, it was often difficult to determine the meaning of a writer after the words had been deciphered."

vgrfwsstbdrsvgrfdndrbldrdshtsvgnvhnstshtrnnd nkhtsnhtrflvmrfsrvldtbnttpmttntnsdldnsrtbdrn
If you can't figure it out it is the Lord's prayer King James version

From the Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible

In our Modern Western language verbs express action (dynamic) while nouns express inanimate (static) objects. In Hebrew all things are in motion (dynamic) including verbs and nouns. In Hebrew sentences the verbs identify the action of an object while nouns identify an object of action. The verb Malak is “the reign of the king” while the noun melek is the “the king who reigns”. A mountain top is not a static object but the “head lifting up out of the hill”. A good example of action in what appears to be a static passage is the command to “have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). In Hebrew thought this passage is saying “not to bring another one of power in front of my face”.

So what have we learned? Literal isn't really all that literal, so we had better apply all the information we can to the Bible and that means using our God given ability to reason from all the data available.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

God Damn America-What Kind of God do you Serve

Adventist Today offers an opinion piece by John Thomas McLarty entitled Is Jeremiah Wright Right? The article begins:

"God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme." -Rev. Jeremiah Wright, 2003

Jeremiah Wright is right. I do not mean I agree with every fact asserted by Mr. Wright, though most of his assertions are incontrovertible historical facts. I don't even mean that I agree with every moral valuation assigned by Mr. Wright. But Wright is right when he weighs our country, the United States of America, on the scales of justice and finds us wanting. Wright is right to employ the most forceful moral language available to describe our culpability. He is right to speak dramatically in his appeal for divine action in response to America's history of slavery, Jim Crow legislation, deeply embedded social evil and ignoble military actions.

It is an amazing piece of propaganda which though mainly uniformed is the traditional viewpoint found in the Seattle area. To say that Wright uses incontrovertible historical facts is strange to say the least. It is similar to saying that the towers destroyed in the 9-11 attack was the result of the Jewish conspiracy. Yes it is an historical fact that the towers were destroyed on 9-11 but the conclusion about the Jewish conspiracy is baseless. That is what Wright does. HIV was created by the US government to kill black people. “The government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color. The government lied.”

Feel free to listen to one of Wright’s sermons; listen here. You will hear numerous political fantasies of the type that Bush lied about WMD’s or that the Supreme Court gave the election to Bush in 2000. The connection to Barack Obama is something every voter has to decide for themselves but the statement that Wright is Right is so wrong on so many levels.

The main level I want to write about here is that first line quoted in McLarty’s article with a little more context:

"The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America.' No, no, no, God damn America, that's in the Bible for killing innocent people," he said in a 2003 sermon. "God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme."

How can any Pastor resort to calls for the all powerful and loving God to damn a country? Is God against the idea of building prisons or passing laws extending prison sentences for three time offenders? The part about the government giving them drugs is more factual nonsense whether John McLarty thinks it is incontrovertible or not. Is it in the Bible that God damns countries, does He damn anyone? What kind of God does Rev. Wright and according to this article, John McLarty, serve?

I did a search of three Bible versions, the NRSV, NIV and KJV and could not find one instance of “damn”. Where does this idea of God damning people come from? To explain where Rev. Wright gets his authority to say that God damns America he explains a few sentences later.

"Tell your neighbor he's (going to) help us one last time. Turn back and say forgive him for the God Damn, that's in the Bible though. Blessings and curses is in the Bible. It's in the Bible."

So we realize that to people like Wright and extension McLarty God is still blessing and cursing nations. Because there is a reference to blessing and cursing Israel as well as curses for some of Israel’s neighbors. After all the argument goes God destroyed the world with the flood isn’t that a good God Damn. Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed by fire and left desolate. That must be the way God acts right? God can kill the innocent by flood and fire, think of all those children destroyed by the flood or in Sodom, but we as America are damned for destroying Japanese cities to end their war of aggression with us. Collateral damage is acceptable when God destroys everything but not acceptable when it happens in a war where an aggressor attacks and kills people of another nation and that nation fights back. Do you see the problem here? The Almighty God destroys the whole earth to kill wicked people. Why not just destroy the people and individual lightning strike for each sinner that should not be too hard. No collateral damage, instead God destroys plants and animals just to get at the wicked except a few in the ark.

The story does not add up with God it does not add up with a normal intelligent human. But it becomes the pretext for making God as the one who makes everything better by destroying it. Of course the earth was not any better after the flood in the story. It just went back to wickedness. God learned a lesson so He did not kill them again at least not wholesale. Then the prophets come along and we find that the rise and fall of nations has a whole lot to do with what a particular nation’s people chose to do; that there are consequences to actions. Finally Jesus arrives and when asked why a man is blind, “who sinned”, the man or his parents Jesus says neither.

The Bible as it progresses in its revelation is trying to tell us that God does not damn people or nations. We are not under the blessing and curses given to Israel. The days of a chosen nation are gone, if they ever really existed, now it is based upon individuals who listen to God.

Every nation has made mistakes, every person sins against God and man; even the best of intentions often fail us individually and politically or internationally. Something good can contribute to something bad happening and something bad can contribute to something good happening. It is how we react to things that are important.

The cry God damn them, is not the cry of Jesus, not even when He was tortured on the Cross. It is why Reverend Wright is so very wrong and those who follow his example also so very wrong.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Adventist offshoot makes news.

15 years after the Branch Davidian's Waco standoff another Adventist splinter groups gets some national attention. The following is from ABC News :

Three teenagers have been removed from a remote New Mexico compound run by a self-described messiah in a new case involving a religious sect and allegations of sex abuse.

The three teens, a 16-year-old boy, a 16-year-old girl and a 13-year-old girl, were taken into custody over a three-day period starting April 22. They had been living at a compound called Strong City, home to the Lord of Our Righteousness Church.

"The state police are investigating what has happened there,"…

Travesser, who also goes by the name Wayne Bent, broke from the Seven Day Adventist church in 1987 to form his Lord of Our Righteousness Church. On the group's Web site, Travesser, 66, describes being annointed the messiah by God in 2000, shortly after moving to the New Mexico property in the state's northeastern corner.

The Lord Our Righteousness Church

* This undated photo, supplied by the The Lord Our Righteousness Church, shows group leader Wayne Bent This undated photo, supplied by the The Lord Our Righteousness Church, shows group leader Wayne Bent, 66, who is also identified on the church's Web site as Michael Travesser. New Mexico state police have removed three children from the church compound following an April 22, 2008, investigation. Collapse

Apparently this group is made up of many former SDA’s at least according to their website which says.


During the 1980's, a Seventh-day Adventist minister by the name of Wayne Curtis Bent created and conducted a seminar called LifeSupports. The intent of these seminars was to present practical illustrations and training of how the laws of life function, and how individuals create their lives to be precisely what they are. The seminar was based on Scripture and the writings of Ellen G. White, a founder and prophet of the Adventist church.

In 1987 Bent and a number of people who were associated with him through his ministry formally separated from the Seventh-day Adventist church, founding the aforementioned The Lord Our Righteousness, using the Scriptural authority found in Jeremiah 33:16: "... and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The Lord our righteousness."


  • 1987 - The Lord Our Righteousness separates from Adventism.
  • 1988 - 300 baptized at Hat Creek, near Redding, California.
  • 1989 - The church split. One third of the membership leaves.
  • 1990 - 320 acre ranch property purchased near of Sandpoint, Idaho.
  • 1993 - Entire church congregates at Castle Dome near Yuma, Arizona, for the winter.
  • 1994 - Church begins to study the hidden hand controlling the world through money.
  • 1995 - Tax issue with Bonner County, Idaho. Shillum published. Booklet distributed around the country.
  • 1996 - Church focuses on Internet outreach. WINDS website established.
  • 1999 - WINDS work completed. Church prepares to leave Sandpoint.
  • 2000 - After wintering in Safford, Arizona, church relocates to Travesser Creek in New Mexico. Messiah appears in Wayne Bent, and Two Witnesses are anointed.
  • 2001 - Michael Travesser writes prophecy on September 10 regarding destruction of the Twin Towers the following day.
  • 2002 - In June, FBI and State Police visit Strong City. KOB-TV runs sensationalized broadcast about Strong City in November.
  • 2003 - Michael Travesser Family website launched.
  • 2004 - State Police raid Strong City. Messiah "cut off" in the "midst of the week" according to prophecy of Daniel 9. Work of teaching and intercession ends. Judgment begins.
  • 2006 - Seven last plagues announced on Shillum website.
  • 2007 - Plagues poured out. Church awaits final fulfillment of seventh plague and the end of the 490 year prophecy.

The group became known among Adventists as the L.O.R. or more pejoratively as "LOR-ites", and were widely regarded as an off-shoot of Adventism. Members of the L.O.R. view the Seventh-day Adventist denomination as one of the daughters of the great harlot of Revelation 17, exhibiting the worldly corruption pervasively found in other Christian denominations that constitute Babylon.

Churches of The Lord Our Righteousness were located mostly throughout the Pacific northwestern United States, with one congregation in southern California. At first, services were conducted in public parks, rented halls and private homes, with Wayne Bent providing spiritual leadership from his residence in Sandpoint, Idaho, which served also as the church's administrative headquarters.

In August of 1988 the church gathered outside Redding, California at Hat Creek Campground for its first general meeting. Approximately 300 people were baptized into the faith near the conclusion of that camp meeting.