Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Lessons from Tim Jennings blog

I just read Tim Jennings blog and I wanted to point out the selective nature of people like Dr. Jennings. Their tendency to pull Ellen White quotes to make it appear she thought differently then the reality of what she wrote. He begin well by pointing out the idea that the Lesson study guide promotes as truth some rather nasty ideas about God. Here are some excerpts of his article.

Jesus - Angry Executioner or Baby of Bethlehem?

Friday, December 25 2009 11:25

Last weekend our class started the Lesson Guide for the New Year, The Fruit of the Spirit. I was so shocked by one paragraph from Thursday, December 31 that I had to blog about it. Here is the paragraph:

Between 1730 and 1745 the American colonies from Maine to Georgia experienced a religious revival known as the Great Awakening. Jonathan Edwards was a leader in this movement of spiritual renewal. In July of 1741 he preached a sermon entitled, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” which for some has become a symbol of the bleak, cruel, and hell-bent outlook of many Christians. However polemical, this sermon did express the truth about the awful weight of sin, the attitude of an infinitely holy God toward sin, and the surety of the day of judgment. [emphasis mine].

In case you are not familiar with the specific sermon cited above, here is an excerpt from Jonathan Edwards Sermon preached July 8, 1741:

[cut some of the Edward's quote]

It is everlasting wrath. It would be dreadful to suffer this fierceness and wrath of Almighty God one moment; but you must suffer it to all eternity. There will be no end to this exquisite horrible misery. When you look forward, you shall see a long for ever, a boundless duration before you, which will swallow up your thoughts, and amaze your soul; and you will absolutely despair of ever having any deliverance, any end, any mitigation, any rest at all. You will know certainly that you must wear out long ages, millions of millions of ages, in wrestling and conflicting with this almighty merciless vengeance; and then when you have so done, when so many ages have actually been spent by you in this manner, you will know that all is but a point to what remains. So that your punishment will indeed be infinite.

Do you find this sermon presents the “truth about the awful weight of sin, the attitude of an infinitely holy God toward sin, and the surety of a day of judgment”?

Let’s consider another Christian writer and speaker who came about 100 years after Jonathan Edwards. Below is Ellen White’s perspective on sin and God and judgment:

We are not to regard God as waiting to punish the sinner for his sin. The sinner brings the punishment upon himself. His own actions start a train of circumstances that bring the sure result. Every act of transgression reacts upon the sinner, works in him a change of character, and makes it more easy for him to transgress again. By choosing to sin, men separate themselves from God, cut themselves off from the channel of blessing, and the sure result is ruin and death. {1SM 235.2} [emphasis mine]

Does this sound like the same God that Jonathan Edwards was describing?

Jonathan Edwards describes a universe in which God is angry, wrathful, without mercy or pity and inflicts pain and immeasurable suffering upon His creatures. It is absolutely mind boggling that our Study Guide would quote such a grossly distorted representation of God as a “source of truth” about Him.

The Bible teaches that the wages of sin is death and sin, if unremedied results in death (Romans 6:23, James 1:15). But Jonathan Edwards describes an existence in which God is the source of death, the cause of suffering, the inflictor of torment. Nothing could be further from the truth. Satan is the father of lies and his primary lies are about God. If we believe Satan’s lies about God then we distrust God, fear Him and remain separated from Him.

While Jennings is correct in taking to task the lesson study guide he is in error with his use of Ellen White. Ellen White’s quote is not about end time judgment it is in fact talking about the consequences of sin in this life not in the Judgment after life which is what Edwards is talking about. Ellen White is writing about the 10 commandments. In context the Selected Messages quote says:

The law of ten commandments is not to be looked upon as much from the prohibitory side, as from the mercy side. Its prohibitions are the sure guarantee of happiness in obedience. As received in Christ, it works in us the purity of character that will bring joy to us through eternal ages. To the obedient it is a wall of protection. We behold in it the goodness of God, who by revealing to men the immutable principles of righteousness, seeks to shield them from the evils that result from transgression. {1SM 235.1}

We are not to regard God as waiting to punish the sinner for his sin. The sinner brings the punishment upon himself. His own actions start a train of circumstances that bring the sure result. Every act of transgression reacts upon the sinner, works in him a change of character, and makes it more easy for him to transgress again. By choosing to sin, men separate themselves from God, cut themselves off from the channel of blessing, and the sure result is ruin and death. {1SM 235.2}

The law is an expression of God's idea. When we receive it in Christ, it becomes our idea. It lifts us above the power of natural desires and tendencies, above temptations that lead to sin. "Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them" (Ps. 119: 165)-- cause them to stumble. {1SM 235.3}

There is no peace in unrighteousness; the wicked are at war with God. But he who receives the righteousness of the law in Christ is in harmony with heaven. "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other" (Ps. 85: 10).--Letter 96, 1896. {1SM 235.4}

To properly compare Ellen White to Edwards on the subject of torment after judgment Jennings should have used statements which address that subject.

Then I saw thrones, and Jesus and the redeemed saints sat upon them; and the saints reigned as kings [ 291 ] and priests unto God. Christ, in union with His people, judged the wicked dead, comparing their acts with the statute book, the Word of God, and deciding every case according to the deeds done in the body. Then they meted out to the wicked the portion which they must suffer, according to their works; and it was written against their names in the book of death. Satan also and his angels were judged by Jesus and the saints. Satan's punishment was to be far greater than that of those whom he had deceived. His suffering would so far exceed theirs as to bear no comparison with it. After all those whom he had deceived had perished, Satan was still to live and suffer on much longer. {Early Writings 290.3}

Satan rushes into the midst of his followers and tries to stir up the multitude to action. But fire from God out of heaven is rained upon them, and the great men, and mighty men, the noble, the poor and miserable, are all consumed together. I saw that some were quickly destroyed, while others suffered longer. They were punished according to the deeds done in the body. Some were many days consuming, and just as long as there was a portion of them unconsumed, all the sense of suffering remained. Said the angel, "The worm of life shall not die; their fire shall not be quenched as long as there is the least particle for it to prey upon." {Early Writings 294.1}

There is certainly still a considerable difference between Edwards and White here. A difference in duration of the torture but does either one of them present an intelligent view of God? Edwards make little sense with God tormenting people for all eternity, a truly miraculous event but to what purpose? Then Ellen White presents a view of a shortened torture but again for what purpose? I am going to hurt you and then kill you, will that teach you a lesson or will that act as simple revenge? It won’t teach a lesson because you are going to be dead and if God is in the business of revenge then saying He is love would be false.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Modern Worship Christmas

I was thinking how we Adventists generally don't do anything for Christmas Eve or Christmas day. So I thought I would propose something. It is probably not too late to try it this Christmas if someone's church feels they would like to try something different or they can take the idea and prepare for next year. Of course most people don't want to have some big program on Christmas Eve so they can spend most of their time with their families. So my idea is to have pretty much an automated program that could be simply run hourly (think how shocked the neighbors would be to see the Adventist church open on Christmas Eve).

So what I did was set modern Worship Music into the Luke nativity account. You can download it here. Use Winrar to uncompress the file you can download it here(though hopefully you all have the program by now.) As it turns out I think the music has a far more important message then the Biblical text but that is because the music can take all kinds of Bible information and but it in the song but the text just has to read in a linear fashion. Ideally I would want to combine the sound with visuals but that would take a lot of time and pictures. A simple decorated church could act nicely with lights and candles.

Now this is not meant to replace the traditional Christmas programs that many churches present. There will likely be some Christian church in the community that does have a special Christmas eve presentation and many others that have a presentation weeks before Christmas. This idea is more for the neighbors of the church. Possibly those who are going out to look at the lights. Perhaps the church could offer hot chocolate to people outside or inside if they have a fellowship hall before and after each hourly presentation.

Obviously not everyone likes the same kind of music. I chose Modern Worship music because it is similar to what most popular music is like, that is it is comfortable to the majority of people. Other choices could be made, from Country to jazz, the difficult part is finding music that connects somehow to the text in the narration.

Simply stated the idea is to enable your church to be open to your neighborhood on the most Christian of holiday's without the need for a large portion of the church membership to have to sacrifice their family time and without having to tax the most musically talented of the church. No indoctrination, just some simple Christmas joy to share with your community.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Adventism and Social Justice

Today in an article on the Spectrum Website entitled: Theological Harmony in New Orleans By Bonnie Dwyer, she reports on the joint meeting Adventist Theological Society and the Adventist Society for Religious Studies, the article states in the opening paragraph:

Adventism’s two theological society presidents agreed on the biblical call for social justice and the significance of Scripture on people’s lives during a historic session in which the two societies met to not only share a meal but to present ideas for discussion.

She does not define what “social justice” means and that is a problem. Today it is often a code word for redistribution of wealth through the government. As this article The Scandal of Social Work Education NAS Study says:

Use of the term "social justice" today generally equates with the advocacy of more egalitarian access to income through state-sponsored redistribution. The phrase is also frequently used to justify new entitlement rights for individuals and whole categories of people, i.e., legally enforceable claims of individuals or groups against the state itself. ("Economic justice" is even a stronger term, largely confined to populist and radical rhetoric.)

Here is a University of Wisconsin student newspaper’s definition of social justice in response to an article by Dr. Hansen mentioned who asserted social justice is misleading rhetoric.

Dr. Hansen’s article proposes, “until ‘social justice’ can be precisely and understandably defined, programs to promote this goal cannot hope to succeed.” Well, is it really that difficult to define it? Social justice is a system, a process, and an end result where all members of society have equal access to resources and benefit from them equally without regard to their identity, specifically race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, religion, class and age.

You notice that the student newspaper author describes the goal not the system. Socialism and communism are the two most commonly used systems or processes which claim to end with this utopian goal. We know from experience that neither system ends in the utopian goal however. Notice the newspaper author included “ability” in the list, let us assume that the government had a medical school. By the social justice definition above anyone could go and demand equal access to the resources and the benefit of the medical school education whether they had any ability or not. We could hope that the person with no ability would not graduate from the school…but if you can’t differentiate due to ability everyone needs to graduate. Achievement and ability mean nothing under this type of social justice.

As one comment I read says:

From Sharpton to Wright, social justice has come to mean redressing the wrongs of the past in the form of government benefits or reparations. The expression has a hint of retribution as in “you owe us.” In actuality, the words haven’t any real meaning. There are always those who grieve, and as long as the government attempts to satisfy those with a gripe, the plaintive cry for social justice will have irresistible appeal.

There is one other definition which we need to look at, from Business

Fair and proper administration of laws conforming to the natural law that all persons, irrespective of ethnic origin, gender, possessions, race, religion, etc., are to be treated equally and without prejudice. See also civil rights.

I guess if that is the definition that the two theological societies are agreeing upon that is good. They are agreeing upon the most basic idea or civil rights found in the latter half of the 20th century. Hardly a newsworthy proclamation unless one of those groups had been opposing civil rights. I think common sense tells us that that is not really the meaning of social justice that is intended, but we have to hold out that possibility sense those involved seem unable to define what they mean…thought when you can’t define your meaning the chances become much higher that the use is a code word otherwise why not define your terms.

In conclusion there is this comment from a blog article which is Christian related under the title “what do you mean by Social justice” Which pretty much says all I could want to say on the subject.

"Social justice" is a phrase currently often employed by "emergent church" types who, in their reaction to the Church's nonparticipation (actual or perceived) in the world, suddenly believe they're the only ones interested in helping the poor and feeding the hungry.

Apparently among many, these problems -- and the world entirely? -- are viewed to have begun yesterday. There's no perspective of history, the fact that people in both the Church and governments have been aware and trying to alleviate poverty before -- especially when it comes to the failed attempts of federal governments to overextend their constitutional (and worse, Biblical) bounds and take the place of the citizenry and religious institutions in terms of charity.

Among such "social justice" advocates, there's also very little perspective of the actual Scripture in these quasi-utopian visions, which indirectly contradict the Bible's portrayal of the rest of human history.

Christ-followers certainly disagree on what end-times events occur when, but there is (or was) an overall consensus against the notion that people would eradicate poverty, hunger, all that sort of thing, without Christ or at least before He comes back to take a look at our planetary renovations.

But now we're back to the same stuff -- and while it's very, very true that Christ-followers are to be a means of "common grace" toward the poor and abused among nonbelievers, this is not the be-all-and-end-all of the Gospel. "Social justice" is only an outgrowth: at the center should be the actual truths of God as Creator, humans as rebels against Him, and Christ as redeemed. Are these professing evangelicals using "social justice" as a means toward proclaiming the Gospel? Or do they operate completely the opposite?

As it is, many of them are advocating a clone religion of Christianity And, as His Utter Subliminity Screwtape (from C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters) said is such an effective strategy. In this case, the "new" idea is Christianity And Social Justice -- and it's not so new, either; it's a mere strain of "liberation theology" liberalism that's somehow been accepted as legitimately evangelical. (10 Dr. Ransom at 10:52 AM on Jul 22:)

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Alarmist Adventist Blogs

Sometimes I stumble upon really foolish Adventist blogs. Today I found a real case for remedial reading. The Blog entitled Theirmanygods which seems to have articles praising David Asscherick and Walter Veith has an article on Southern Adventist University. Here is what they say:

Southern Accent’s” issue for February 12 contained an article titled “Jesus is dead” which claimed to show that the teaching of the physical and tangible resurrection of Jesus was a rather late addition to Christian belief, one which was not shared by the earliest witnesses of Christianity, whose (possibly hallucinatory) belief was only of a spiritual and insubstantial resurrection." (Donn Leatherman School of Religion, Letters To Editor, Southern Accent,

Wow! The Adventist university's student paper put out a "proclamation" that "Jesus is dead".

When I first read this I thought they were saying that Donn Leatherman of the School of Theology was the one who wrote the article. In fact he wrote the article in response which pointed out several flaws in the Jesus is dead article. When we look at the Jesus is dead article in the online archives we see the following disclaimer.

Jesus is dead

Filed Under Religion

DISCLAIMER: This is not the official view of Southern Adventist University or The Southern Accent.
Look for the School of Religion’s response in next week’s Accent.

Shane Akerman | Contributor

The following submission is simply an expression of my personal views.

The intention is not to offend but to provoke thought and discussion. My hope is that this campus can be a safe place for tough questions and the sharing of ideas.

The link that was included in the Theirmanygods blog is the link to the School of religion’s response to the Shane Akerman article. Yet that somehow to the apparently unbalanced or at least severely prejudiced mind became a proclamation that Jesus is dead by the Adventist University’s student paper.

There is a serious question here besides the obvious one about alarmists blogs and that is how could anyone take Shane Akerman seriously when he spends that much money to go to a private Christian school when he believes Christianity is a based upon a lie (e.g. all the New Testament books hold to the idea of the resurrection and continued life of Christ). It does appear that the article did stimulate some thought which is important because some of these issues don’t get enough attention even at Christian schools and students should know what the arguments and presuppositions of atheist and agnostics are. Having an article written by someone who actually believes what he is saying is often more memorable than just reciting the standard atheist and agnostic objections. I don’t think we have to believe everything the Bible says, but if the religion’s core is false, if there is no resurrection, if there is no Jesus Christ who is God than Christianity has nothing.