Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Review It's Ok Not to be a Seventh-day Adventist part 1

The authors of a new book entitled It's Ok Not to be a Seventh-Day Adventist by Teresa and Arthur Beem asked me to review their book. They were kind enough to send me a copy, which is kind of a prerequisite for me as I don’t buy a lot of books and certainly I don’t buy them to review. After reading this you may realize why I don’t review a lot of books. In fact I am going to have to review this book in sections because I have several things to say about it and instead of waiting to finish the book I am going to start while things are fresh in my mind.


Right now my opinion is that this could be an important book after it is revised. I would probably think up a new title also.


To begin with there is such clear animosity against Adventism in the Preface that the book is going to be difficult for any Adventist to read further. On the cover above the title the book says “the untold history”, surely the authors don’t want only non Adventists or Ex-Adventists to hear the untold history, so why make the book’s Preface so antagonistic? On page xii of the preface the book states:


The Seventh-day Adventist church is becoming more than just an inconsequential heterodox group. Adventism is quietly cutting a wide swath across believers, causing many people to fall prey to its false teachings.


In Seventh-day Adventism evangelism, the church seeks mainstream status yet its doctrine is not mainstream. The overall thrust of their mission is aimed at people who are already Christians and their ministry is not simply gospel-oriented but focuses on obscure biblical prophecy. Adventism can be confusing because the people can be generous and charitable, so their dogma is assumed to be benign. Unfortunately, the kindness of the members does not reflect the kindness of the doctrines. This church has an eccentric history and culture based in strange, even disturbing doctrines.


So Adventism is not mainstream, ok that is fine but is there something that set’s mainstream apart, does the designation mainstream mean that mainstream churches have no false teachings, no disturbing doctrines or strange beginnings, no personality cults? In the front of the book the authors thank an Assemblies of God Pastor for his inspiration. Their beginning is about as fanatical as the Adventist church, from Brief History of the Assemblies of God:


Seymour had been a student of Charles Parham, who provided the doctrinal framework for the young Pentecostal movement. Parham’s identification in scripture of speaking in tongues as the “Bible evidence” (later called the “initial evidence”) of Spirit baptism became a defining mark of the emerging Pentecostal movement. After students at his Bethel Bible School in Topeka, Kansas, began speaking in tongues at a prayer meeting on January 1, 1901, Parham, through his Apostolic Faith Movement, had some success in promoting the restoration of the gift of tongues. While the Apostolic Faith Movement was largely confined to the south central United States, the revival at Azusa Street catapulted Pentecostalism before a worldwide audience.


If you don’t think Azusa street was an excess of fanaticism then you need to read up on the event as well as Charles Parham. For more see Christianity without a Cross on google books. The sad fact is that Christianity has a lot of fanaticism that smooth out into denominations. Martin Luther was not all that peace loving to those who disagreed with him, nor was Calvin and certainly the Wesley’s moved into Holiness movements that probably rivaled the depression that Millerites suffered with their Great Disappointment in 1844. Methodism’s views no doubt stimulated much of the Millerites understanding just as it does Adventist’s understanding. Those are just some of the recent denominations they don’t deal with the fanaticism that preceded them.


So the preface sets up an “us against them” perspective that carries over in the book. Not really a wise method in my opinion. If you are going to deal with something as emotional as religion you had better write as objectively as possible, if you object to a position as you go through the subject objectively deal with it and present what and why you think something is wrong. Some portions of the book do this within the context of reporting the history and that is good.


The book is heavily footnoted which is incredibly important again when dealing with religion, you have to know who said what and be able to check the context since it is so easy to distort statements on religion. The problem here is the book is not footnoted sufficiently. One of the really big problems with this book is that they confusingly use “ibid”. “Ibid. all by itself means that the footnote comes from the same source and the same page as the footnote that precedes it.” The authors use of ibid while technically correct for a small document does not work for a book for example they have a work cited by author and title and page number and then the next footnote says, ibid Knight p. 190-1, the previous footnote is not to Knight, and if you look back you have to go back chapters to find what they are referring to. I still don’t know as I don’t want to waste that much time reading every footnote to find where that book is fully cited. It would be better to cite fully once in each chapter.


Another footnote problem is found with the following quote on Chapter 3 Pillar 1 Ellen G. White pages 81-2:

“Royalties from the sale of Mrs. White’s books began to rise; in fact, she became, as the White estate puts it, “quite prosperous. In terms of today’s money Mrs. White’s income would have been measured in the millions of dollars.” The books footnote then says: “Ellen G. White Published Writings Website”. Just to test that out I Googled “been measured in the millions of dollars” White – and the first citation is an anti Ellen White website entitled. Ellen White Exposed.com . No other citation from any official Ellen White or Adventist site. That is a pretty major error in citation it is also a violation of the statement that began the chapter on Ellen White.


The book introduces the history of Ellen White by saying on page 69:


The following biographical history comes almost exclusively from the Seventh-day Adventist sources, which you can find the information online as the official Ellen White Estate website…” By beginning with such a statement and then quoting from an anti Ellen White site and attributing it to a SDA supported site is pretty sloppy.


In my next post I will continue will some comments about the section of the book on William Miller. I promise to say some more good things about the book before I rip apart some other statements. I am doing this because I want to see this book revised so that it can be effective for the benefit of both Adventists and non Adventists. I think it has potential and communicating with one of the authors, I found they live only 40 miles away from me, so maybe there is a chance.

3 comments:

Teresa Beem said...

Ron,
I think I need to make clear to your readership the intent of the book. "It's Okay NOT to be a Seventh-day Adventist" was primarily written for aprox. I million former and inactive American SDAs (according to GC statistics.) A small number of these people are bitter against God as well as the Adventist church. They have difficulty transitioning into a healthy spiritual relationship with another denomination.

The book is not a discourse on Adventism, but seeks to give former SDAs information they did not receive while going to the church schools. Information that disabuses them of the idea that they are lost if they do not return to the SDA church. While we are very clear that most Adventist doctrine is mainstream, we spend the majority of the book examining doctrines that haunt ex-Adventists.

Our intent is to give historically accurate information to those people who feel traumatized or betrayed by Adventism, so they can start on the road to spiritual recovery.

Just wanted to clear that up.
Thanks,
Teresa Beem

Chris Blake said...

Your readers might be interested in examining the chapter "Fred Flintstone and Joy" from my book Swimming Against the Current (Pacific Press, 2007).

The chapter specifically takes on Dale Ratzlaff's Proclamation magazine and its claims. (To my knowledge, the only "officially sponsored" Adventist book to do so.)

In the chapter are three points I agree with wholeheartedly:

1. Adventism is imperfect.
2. People can find freedom and security and peace outside Adventism.
3. Christians are no longer "under the law."

Also, a discussion on three charges with which I disagree:

1. The new covenant declares that the Ten Commandments (in particular, the Sabbath) are no longer applicable to true Christians.
2. We can celebrate Sabbath rest every day of the week.
3. Every Adventist must leave Adventism to find freedom, security, peace, and joy in Jesus.

Anyway, readers could benefit from assessing the material, which includes some attempts at humor.

Bulworth said...

"The Seventh-day Adventist church is becoming more than just an inconsequential heterodox group. Adventism is quietly cutting a wide swath across believers, causing many people to fall prey to its false teachings.

In Seventh-day Adventism evangelism, the church seeks mainstream status yet its doctrine is NOT MAINSTREAM. The overall thrust of their mission is aimed at people who are already Christians and their ministry is not simply gospel-oriented but focuses on OBSCURE BIBLICAL PROPHECY. Adventism can be confusing because the people can be generous and charitable, so their dogma is assumed to be benign. Unfortunately, the kindness of the members does not reflect the KINDNESS OF THE DOCTRINES. This church has an eccentric history and culture based in STRANGE, even DISTURBING DOCTRINES."

I must say these are rather odd criticisms of the SDA church, assuming the criticiser is a Christian of some other persuasion--which is the case here. There is much of general Christian doctrine (eternal hell fire, predestination, praying to Mary, the substition theory of the atonement, etc) that would charitably be thought of as Unkind, Disturbing or Strange.

I'm also not sure what it means to say the SDA church claims "mainstream" status. They certainly claim mainstream status on doctrines such as the Trinity and tend to align themselves, in their evangelical outreaches, with key fundamentalist creeds (such as Biblical inerrancy). But any denomination that boldly asserts its Remnant status is pretty clearly and unapologetically laying claim to unique, non-mainstream views.

Glenn