Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, March 28, 2009

It's Okay Not to be a Seventh-day Adventist Part 5

This is the final segment in the review of It’s Okay not to be a Seventh-day Adventist. The book ends with much of the same antagonism and misinformation that it began with. It was set under the guise of Transitioning out of Adventism. Of course it would be irrational of me to think that something that began poorly was going to get better with more researched and honest information. But I do confess that I had some hope in that regard. As it stands I don’t think this book should be published or circulated regardless of the occasional good arguments used. The book should be revised but clearly the authors have no interest in doing that. They rather keep claiming that two dozen editors went though the book. Teresa wrote on Bill Cork’s blog :

We had almost two dozen copy editors and people who volunteered to help do “checks” on the book (many were SDA) who said the book was copiously documented–even when they disagreed with my conclusions.

You won’t find attributions to those people in the book, not even in the thanks section which makes me think that these were simply people who were asked to look over the manuscript. As some of you know if a friend asks you to do that you usually say nice things to them about how well they did, few people really spend much time critically analyzing such tasks. Before I get to the part of the book about Transitioning out I am going to cover a few more of those areas where a little research would have helped them and where even some of those copious notes are simply wrong. Yes I have done this before but these really demonstrate the writer’s attitude and sloppy methodology, and remember the authors claim that they aren’t sloppy or inaccurate that it is just over sensitive Adventists. The subject of transitioning out of Adventism is very important so I will deal with my thoughts on the subject in a forthcoming article. Before I move on I see Bill Cork had quite a dialog with Teresa on his blog. There we find that the authors transitioned into the Roman Catholic church.

On page 236-7 under the heading Theological Dissonance the authors write:

An example is the pro-life controversy. Many believe that speaking against abortion will lead to enacting laws to protect unborn humans. They fear that involvement in this political issue will break open the floodgates of morality legislation and lead to blue laws fulfilling the prophecy of their demise. Because this fear is so strong, all attempts at legislating morality are taken as a sign of the end and must be condemned. According to this thought pattern, all legislation that protects their beliefs (and them) is constitutional, but any attempt at laws to protect unborn children would be oppressive and conspiratorial.

So the General Conference has in the past been aligned with the pro-choice movement. 431 [footnote 431 states: George Reid, former head of the Biblical Research Institute, theological arm of the G.C. once told us that Adventists are pro-choice under certain guidelines. Some Adventist-run hospitals perform abortion-on demand.] They will agree that abortion is a terrible offense to God, but cannot agree that there should be laws against it in America. However if this line of reasoning is carried out thoughtfully, we shall reach a very ominous and confusing conclusion. Adventists believe that God would have us sacrifice the lives of unborn children in order to preserve their freedom to go to church on Saturday. It comes down to this – their lives or others’ lives. This is in direct opposition to scripture that says there is no greater love than this, that a man should give his life to save his brother.

Unless you have close connections to Adventism, this may be a difficult concept to grasp. Although there may be some legitimate arguments made against enacting legislation to regulate abortion, to Adventists the reasoning is purely self-centered. They place their potential suffering above all attempts at alleviating the suffering and wholesale slaughter of the unborn. This is but one of countless theological dichotomies Adventists find themselves in.

This is one of the clear examples where the authors inject their ideas into Adventism. The denomination has for many years published it official statement entitled Guidelines on Abortion you can read it here. What perhaps could George Reid have meant when he said Adventists are pro-choice under certain guidelines? If the authors had done their research they would have seen the following from the Guidelines on Abortion article:

4) The Church does not serve as conscience for individuals; however, it should provide moral guidance. Abortions for reasons of birth control, gender selection, or convenience are not condoned by the Church. Women, at times however, may face exceptional circumstances that present serious moral or medical dilemmas, such as significant threats to the pregnant woman's life, serious jeopardy to her health, severe congenital defects carefully diagnosed in the fetus, and pregnancy resulting from rape or incest. The final decision whether to terminate the pregnancy or not should be made by the pregnant woman after appropriate consultation. She should be aided in her decision by accurate information, biblical principles, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, these decisions are best made within the context of healthy family relationships.

Now I don’t care if the Beems agree or disagree with that statement the fact is abortion is not simply about some fear Adventists have of losing religious liberty. We have a whole statement on the subject yet the Beems offer us nothing, no statement to back up their assertion, nothing to corroborate their opinion. Note even a footnote to direct the reader to what the Adventist denomination actually says.

So is the above example just a chance mistake? Well let’s continue with the next paragraph and see if they become more accurate as they change subjects.

Page 237 under the heading Pride and Separatism:

Recently, SDA General Conference President Jan Paulsen used the idea of Adventism being the zenith of religious knowledge to encourage young people not to leave the church and equated it with abandoning Christ: “Just don’t walk away from it. For walking away, that is the worst possible thing you can do. Look, it’s Christ we are talking about. Don’t turn your back on Him. For if you do, all you are left with is Peter’s haunting question, ‘to whom can we then go?’”432

[Footnote 432 says: Newly re-elected Paulsen in his address to the assembly, General Conference 2005, St. Louis.]

First the footnote is wrong Paulsen was not the newly re-elected President, this is from the opening presentation given on the opening day. Second I can find nothing that indicates that Paulsen ever asserted that Adventism was the zenith of religious knowledge. Here is what the Adventist News Network reported on the speech (the words in red are those the Beem’s quoted):

But it was Pastor Paulsen's report that was the main feature of the evening. After paying tribute to his wife, Kari, for support during 50 years of marriage, the Paulsens presented stories of church members serving their communities in various parts of the globe. A question for church members, he said, was "is your city, your community, your country a better place because you [as an Adventist] are there?"

To the youth of the church - members between 15 and 30 - Paulsen said, "I want you to come in and to partner with the rest of us. I want to make room for you, for you have energies and ideas which no one can quite match. If you don't find the church interesting, you can make it interesting.
Just don't walk away. That would be the worst possible thing you can do: It is Christ we are talking about. Don't turn your back on him, for if you do, all you then all you are left with is Peter's haunting question: "To whom shall we then go?" (John 6:68)

Lay members, youth and women each and all need "to claim and accept a much greater share of ownership in our church," Paulsen said. "The church is not defined by election nor is it by who pays your salary. The church is defined by faith. Do you have faith? OK, you're the church."

The Edge Blog reports what follows the reference to John 6:

"They [young people] represent in large measure the future of this church," he says. "There must be a more intentional dialogue with young people, and a greater recognition of the contribution that they can and do make within the church. I recognize that many, many of our young people feel distanced from the church—they feel as if they don't have a voice, they don't feel that they have been heard, they don't feel that they have been understood," says Pastor Paulsen. "But I want them to know that the church cannot be defined and cannot survive without them."

What a difference between the context of the speech and how it is presented in the Beem’s book. If Paulsen had actually said that Adventism was the zenith of religious knowledge I would be right with the authors. But that can’t be found, I don’t think they were at the G.C. session and again they offered nothing to support their statement. The book is largely a self indulgent vent against Adventism. I admit Adventism has a lot of problems, there are a lot of insensitive people and a lot of trivia in place of gospel and a lot people who would lie to get their way. But that is the same thing I could say of the authors of this book. Over these past 5 articles I trust I have offered sufficient evidence as to why I can make that statement.

I had hoped the book would offer some salient information about transitioning from the Adventist church but what it offers is not to relevant to my perspective. One paragraph I thought was interesting. On page 249 under heading We Are Family:

Don’t expect too much from other Christian denominations. They may have healthier theology, but they are just people with more foibles than merits – like all of us. Mainstream churches can be cold and unfriendly too. Go in with the idea that you are going to love them and accept them. These are the new brothers and sisters in Christ that God has given you. You are going to spend eternity with them, so enjoy getting to know them now. If you don’t learn to accept other Christians, you will end up in lonely isolation. Find a church that spiritually uplifts you in both worship and doctrine. They can be hard to find but don’t give up.

Before we think of transitioning out maybe we should think about what is happening in Christianity that makes finding a church so hard. Why are practically all the denominations shrinking? Why is Christianity which is built upon love and acceptance of God to the human race so filled with lack of love and lack of acceptance? Why is it that if I think about transitioning out of Adventism I can’t think of any church or denomination to go to.

There was one noticeable area of Adventist theology that the book never mentioned, that is the idea of eternal torment in hell. If you don’t believe that doctrine you will find it very hard to transition out of the Adventist church. The book chapter 17, Conclusion on page 259 by saying:

Ellen was wrong. The great controversy between Christ and Satan was not how to rid the cosmos of sin. It was to reveal that Satan was a liar about God. God’s (sic) is not foremost a lawgiver. The mystery of iniquity, the mystery of redemption was to show that that (sic) God is love.

God is love but He is going to torment you in hell for all eternity, well at least that is what the Roman Catholic Church and most mainline denominations believe. So yes it is going to be hard to find a church where you can be uplifted in both worship and doctrines.

To transition or change that is the question that we will deal with in the next article and we will leave behind this book and once again try to use our God given intelligence for some useful task. Because frankly if it is hard to find a good Christian church something, is terribly wrong. Certainly God can save us in our numerous misunderstandings but maybe we could help God just a bit and be real ambassadors to help others rather than to be so concerned with losing or gaining our own salvation. I am with Jan Paulsen, you (we) are the church where ever you (we) are, so now what are you (we) going to do?

The following links will take you to the previous reviews.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Judged by the Ten Commandments connected to part 4

Part 4


Anonymous said...

Thank you for not only a well thought out critique but for showing a God who works with us even in our most dismal efforts to follow Him. Your conclusions were a real blessing to me. Thank you.

There is much work to do in this church but we can do it. It must be reformed within, will it take time? Yes, but we have the Holy Spirit, that is a powerful partner.

Do you think the church is changing? I think it is, too slowly but it is changing.


Herb Douglass said...

Ron: Another crisp, well-thought out review of fog. You and I do not mind spending time relating to honest concerns--that happens daily, it seems. And it takes extra patience to relate to hidden presuppositions that drive others to their unreasoned charges--but we do it to show that they are not ignored. Thanks for your patience and your verbal felicity. Herb

Hugo Mendez said...

"We have a whole statement on the subject yet the Beems offer us nothing, no statement to back up their assertion, nothing to corroborate their opinion. Note even a footnote to direct the reader to what the Adventist denomination actually says. "

That is odd, considering the fact that (I may be wrong), Teresa Beem was on the committee that drafted that statement.

JesusOverIsrael said...

see my comments above

JesusOverIsrael said...

through the following comment: