Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Collegedale church controversy actually is good for us

There is an interesting story unfolding at Collegedale Seventh-day Adventist Church on the campus of Southern Adventist University reported on Spectrum Magazine online. Not really the part about  a pastor fainting but about the controversy between Dr. Tim Jennings and his Sabbath School Class and the Pastor’s sermon to refute a rather trivial part of Jennings teachings. Jennings has a website and Pastor Nixon has his sermon posted as audio and in written form.
Just so you know I don’t agree with either of them. Jennings misuses Ellen White and is logically flawed and Nixon is stuck in the Penal theory of atonement and the idea that punishment has to be meted out. I don’t believe an end time judgment of God is about punishment but about giving people what they want, to be with God as their savior and friend or to reject God. God being the source of life to reject God is to reject life and God ceases to sustain their lives. I would also like to thank Pastor Nixon for posting his written sermon if only more Pastors would do that we would all be better off as we could go to what they actually said rather then trying to remember a sermon, but then I covered that subject on a previous blog.

Nixon began his "Wrath of the Lamb" sermon by stating,
"There is a conflict of doctrinal teaching going on in our church, and it has become contentious. Some among us, under the guise of 'unique truth,' are promoting error concerning the character of God and the teaching is very subtle."

Nixon went on to say that he would rather discuss a less controversial topic, but said that "the stakes are too high. One misconception about who God really is leads us down a path fraught with danger, and I cannot stand silently by."
Nixon staked out what he called "the biblical teaching on this topic."
The controversial subject at hand is whether God's wrath includes "active" punishment of sin (i.e. God destroys the wicked) or "passive" punishment of sin (i.e. God withdraws protection, allowing the unrepentant to reap the natural consequences of sin). For Nixon, divine justice demands that God destroy the wicked for the sake of the weak and vulnerable.
Dr. Timothy Jennings, a psychiatrist and creator of, sees things differently. His website advances the idea that if it is unremedied, sin, not God ultimately destroys human beings.
Jennings teaches a popular Sabbath School class that was recently moved from the Collegedale Church to Ackerman Auditorium on Southern's campus across the street. Jennings also authored two books: The Healing of the Mind, and Could it Be This Simple?
Debating God's Character
Without naming Jennings, Nixon in his sermon categorically and emphatically rejected any teaching that does not make room for God's active punishment of evil. Scripture reveals God as the God of mercy and justice, the God of life and death, the God of giving and of taking away, Nixon said.

What seems to be unfolding is that the two sides are attempting to define the character of God not by what He has done or even is doing now but by what each side expects God to do in the future. That would seem to be a fools errand being either way it is tied upon how one interprets a rather symbolic portion of the Bible. It calls for predictions based upon our interpretation and then those predictions dictate to us what the character of God is. Which to put it mildly is a pretty backwards method of doing anything. In this case the ultimate argument is does God kill the wicked actively by what God does or does God kill the wicked passively because they can’t live in the presence of God. If your like me you say big deal the result is the same and neither one says anything about the Character of God.
The real story to me is the controversy between the two. Where a Pastor gives a sermon to deal with what he thinks is a wrong view being taught in their church. I almost said his church but Pastors are not and should not be in charge of churches they are the member’s churches and Pastors should not be the ones to tell everyone what to believe or not believe. The Pastor should give his sermon on the topic and present his best case and then he should open up the same pulpit to his opponent and he should be able to give his best case. In fact I would then like to see at least a third presentation moderated by a neutral party who could open up the subject to questions from the church membership.
Controversies are not bad they are opportunities to dig deeper then people normally would. We have to get away from this idea that there is someone in the church who is there to decide for us what is orthodox and heterodox and act as the gate keeper who stops anything he does not accept from being heard in his church. (I use the pronoun he because it is still predominately a male pastor thing in the SDA church).
I like this example because it is really such a trivial issue but it has overtones which are important to consider. Which is pretty much true of any theological controversy yet in this case it is not something that would split a church…at least not this portion of the topic. But this controversy would be a perfect reason to try a new method of relaying information in the church. Most Christians are too afraid to try anything new or different and thus we end up with irrelevant sermons which try to be as bland and boring and generally worthless as possible as the Pastor seeks to work by dealing with the lowest common denominator.
We as the Adventist church need to get past the idea that there are not other possibilities besides what we have traditionally believed. But our Pastors work as gate keepers to keep new ideas away from the members of the church. They work to keep the church static and wonder why their churches and their denomination do not grow.
So let the Pastor have his say and Jennings have his say and maybe a few other views on the subject and then some congregation involvement. What is the worst that can happen some people will think for themselves and some will object to their traditional ideas being questioned and some will find church service interesting for a change. If we as a denomination can’t compete inside the denomination’s own marketplace of ideas how can we ever deal with the larger marketplace of ideas outside our churches…you know the places we are supposed to go with the good news.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Christ-less Social Justice

There has been a lot of talk in recent months on Adventist websites like Spectrum and Adventist Today about “social justice”. Unfortunately many Christians have bought into the idea of social justice that is being delivered through Progressive political partisans. What they proclaim is a Christ-less social justice it is in fact Marxism also known as socialism.

We are living in a time when political Progressives are attempting to bring together science and religion and government. The science is derived from what is often called environmental justice which includes the idea that humanity is causing global warming and the more definable problem of pollution. But since most western countries have made great improvements in regards to pollution the global warming/climate change hysteria has largely taken over the pollution concerns.

What happens to the true believer in man made global warming, especially when it can be seen that pursuing the issue of global warming will also help instill their socialist political views upon nations. To fight global warming is to fight for socialism. To fight for environmental justice is to fight against capitalism. To destroy capitalism is to destroy the economic growth of nations which would in effect decrease the greenhouse gases which they feel are causing global warming. They reason how can one be a religious person, how can one be a good Christian if one does not accept these principles, socialism, global warming, environment and social and economic justice?

The following is from Socialist Equality Party Statement of Principles under the heading the Crisis of Capitalism:

6. Capitalism, and the imperialist system that develops upon its economic foundations, is the main cause of human poverty, exploitation, violence and suffering in the modern world…

7. The gigantic scale of the existing productive forces and the extraordinary advances in technology are more than sufficient not only to abolish poverty but also to guarantee every human being on the planet a high standard of living…

9. The irreconcilable conflict between the profit system and the very survival of humanity finds, in a literal sense, its most noxious expression in the crisis of global warming and the natural environment. The cause of this crisis lies not, as is falsely claimed by the bourgeois media, with population growth. Nor is it the result of science and technology – whose development is critical to the advance of human civilization – but, rather, with their misuse by an irrational and obsolete economic order…

10. The solution to the spreading economic crisis and the deteriorating social position of the working class lies not in the reform of capitalism, for it is beyond reform. The crisis is of a systemic and historical character. As feudalism gave way to capitalism, capitalism must give way to socialism...

When you read through the Socialist statement of principles you can quickly see most of the things that people talk about as social, economic and environmental justice are covered as being problems of Capitalism. For instance today we are hearing about the law in Arizona designed to curb illegal immigration. The idea of borders according to the socialist is again part of the effect of Capitalism:

The source of the contradiction between what is and what should be is a global economic system based on private ownership of the means of production, and the irrational division of the world into rival nation-states. (from statement 7 above).

All ills it seems to the socialist are rooted in the United States of America’s Capitalist traditions.

12. The Socialist Equality Party unequivocally condemns the “War on Terror” as a fraudulent pretext for the use of military violence by the American corporate and financial elite in pursuit of its global ambitions.

13. The SEP demands the immediate withdrawal of all US military forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, and calls for an end to threats against Iran and other countries, which, for one or another reason, are seen by the White House and Pentagon as obstacles to US imperialism’s global interests…

33. An essential precondition for the forging of this unity is the unconditional defense of the democratic rights of immigrants living in the United States. The Socialist Equality Party stands for the unconditional right of workers of every country to live and work where they choose. We call for full democratic and citizenship rights for all immigrants, including the 12 million or more now classified as undocumented or “illegal.”…

There is no doubt that socialism is on the rise in the United States, Newsweek magazine after Obama’s election produced a cover and the article “we are all socialists now” . The question you might ask is do you see a real difference between the political Progressives, the Liberal Democrats and the ideas of the socialists. They all use the term democracy or democratic rights but honestly with their ideology as expressed above what does democracy mean. Illegal aliens should have democratic rights and there should be no borders and if in democracy I can vote to take away your property since property is equated to imperialism and capitalism and the destruction of the world, what does citizenship even mean.

Ron Osborn a frequent contributor to Spectrum Magazine online says:

“Against the assumptions of laissez-faire capitalism—which posits a world of unlimited human needs, individualism, and competitive rivalry for scarce resources—Jesus declares that we are stewards rather than owners of property, that God’s creation is abundant and our earthly needs limited, and that God’s liberation of Israel from slavery is normative for how we should treat the poor among us.” (The Christ of the Fifth Way: Recovering the Politics of Jesus, Part III: Kingdom Come

Apparently in his mind a steward can’t be an owner, but as we know from other New Testament reference that is not true, compare the parable of the buried treasure.

David Larson produced an article entitled: Capitalism: What Were Its Moral Strengths and Weaknesses? Part 1

“In capitalism, entrepreneurs pay producers as little as possible and charge consumers as much as they can. Over time, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Eventually, neither can afford to buy or sell and the economy “crashes and burns.”

From a capitalist point of view, this is a good thing. Like forest fires that consume the dead and weak, recessions and depressions eliminate sick businesses that should have disappeared much earlier. But these economic downturns also burn people.”

Actually a recent report showed that the rich get poorer and the poor get richer, as Money reported in 2006:

“The evidence is in a new Fed study of family finances, the latest in a triennial series. It shows modest but clear signs of incomes converging rather than diverging. Between 2001 and 2004 (the most recent year for which data are available), incomes of the poorest 20 percent of families increased while incomes of the richest 20 percent fell. Basically, the poorest families' share of total incomes grew, and the richest families' share shrank. Incomes became just a little less unequal.”

In fact through most of the 20th century the poor were getting richer and moving into the middle class rather than the middle class moving into the poor. Most of us don’t need statistics to realize the truth in the above statement as we can remember what we grew up with, how our childhood homes compare to what we live in today. Of course if socialism gets its way the statement the rich get richer and the poor get poorer will actually be true. The rich of course will be those of the ruling socialist government class and the poor being everyone else. (see also the article: An economist looks at the numbers The Myth of the Declining Middle Class Stephen Rose Ph.D, June 9, 2008 )

A wonderfully titled blog article, “The rich get richer, the poor get richer, the New York Times gets outraged”:

Look out world: the rich are getting richer by helping the poor get richer. The New York Times warns us that “Big Banks Draw Profits From Microloans to Poor.”…

But profits aren’t made on anyone’s backs. They are made by creating value and are a sign of mutual gain. Nike profits by making great shoes. profits by running a quality online bookstore. McDonald’s profits by serving delicious food to anyone willing to spend a few bucks. They all profit by making us better off (otherwise we would patronize their competitors). Well, microloan companies profit by providing the poor with a service they desperately need at prices they willingly pay.

It is not a real surprise that the overall emphasis of political liberals/Progressives at Spectrum magazine…since it has been going on for years. But you have to realize that that political view they are using when dealing with the news of the day. Thus they support social justice even though they don’t define it and they refuse to believe that it has anything to do with socialism/Marxism. Their religion is heavily influenced by their politics so they were very opposed to the Christianity of the conservatives and highly supported of the Christian political mix of the liberal democrats AKA political Progressives. (see Obamas Faith based programs pushing global warming climate change, green issues )

This is what we see today, a Christ-less social justice, a Christ-less socialism. Socialism has lead to two of the most destructive movements of the 20th century, Communism and Nazism. Yet the basis, the socialist ideals are still being retained and now our fellow Adventists have begun to accept those ideals, the same ideals as we see in the Socialist Principles linked above. Only now clothed in the garments of Christianity because while socialism has never worked, even the socialist democracies of Europe our rapidly failing, the true believers feel that if only they are in charge the ideals will succeed. Yet these Christians are actually supporting the Christ-less socialist of the Progressive movement and Christ-less social justice and Christ-less socialism are the same thing and they cannot produce the freedom that is man’s God given right. The right which through most of history governments have trampled. Yet strangely now those born under those freedoms stand against them and embrace the belief that government will solve the problems of this world.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Herb Douglass is against Emergent Church

Herb Douglas appears to be about to conclude his series of articles entitled New Spirituality Movement, Part II: Emerging/Emergent Church and Spiritual Formation, Part 3: Emerging / Emergent Church, What is the Message of the Emerging Church? (Part 4). As you can tell from the title his articles are about the Emerging church or the Emergent Church movement which he considers a new spirituality movement.. Herb is highly critical of the Emerging church while speaking of it in extremely vague ways.

The first article deals mainly with Seeker Sensitive churches. Dr. Douglas states:

“But in 2007, the mesmerizing balloon busted, at least for Hybels. His pastoral staff quietly and deliberately finished a four-year, self-evaluation as to what their highly acclaimed program was really doing for thirty years. In their book, Reveal: Where Are You?, they were honest enough to broadcast what they learned and it was embarrassing. Hybels said that it "rocked my world"—that the findings were "earth-shaking," "ground breaking," and "mind blowing." They now realized that their seeker-friendly programs were "a mistake." The lesson Hybels and his staff learned is that "growing" a congregation goes beyond "attracting" people to church—they needed to restructure their church program to grow their members in their personal relationship with God. His new program is turning out to be another path into New Spirituality. What will the hundreds of Adventist copycats now say to their congregations?”

His only reference to the actual New Spirituality or Emergent church is found in this paragraph:

“If anyone in the past year has been following Christianity Today, the flagship of Evangelicalism, he or she will have noted that it has become the standard-bearer for the Ancient-Future Movement, otherwise known as New Spirituality. It came out of the closet with the February, 2008 issue [see articles here, here and here]. Our friend, David Neff, is the magazine's editor in chief and a leader in advancing churches everywhere into New Spirituality. I read every issue with great interest, with great appreciation for many of its emphases—but the drift is palpable. More on my next blog.”

That kind of prelude certainly should interest most people into finding out what this New Spirituality is. But Dr. Douglas never fulfills our expectations. What Dr. Douglas provides in the next three articles is his opinions without any substantive evidence. As he continues in article two:

“Spiritualism is the open appeal to find Reality, God, Cosmic Consciousness, whatever, through direct contact with the "other" world. It could be through channeling, ouija boards, séances, certain kinds of extra-sensory perception, etc.”

“New Spirituality, at this point in time, doesn't go in that direction although it has much in common with Spiritualism. Both concepts and movements believe in either the immortal soul or the subjective ability to find God or reality within themselves through any number of modalities. Neither believes in the final authority of Scripture or the exclusivity of Jesus Christ.

What does that really mean? The vast majority of Christians believe in the immortal soul but I am sure it loses some persuasive zest if one says New Spirituality and Spiritualism and Christianity hold to the concept of the immortal soul. The final sentence is more in line with Fundamentalism as opposed to modern Christian thought. The authority of Scripture is usually a Fundamentalist technique used to say their particular interpretation of Scriptures is true, what they say is literal is literal and what they say is symbolic is symbolic and what they say is a metaphor is a metaphor, they become the authority of scriptures. The exclusivity of Jesus Christ also carrying the fundamentalist understanding; meaning that if one does not believe in Jesus Christ whether they ever heard of Christ or not they will not be saved. Something that Ellen White did not even believe. But it is still commonly used to imply that if someone believes God can save people who are members of other religions or never have heard of Christ or don’t believe in the type of Christ that some Christians have taught; that if we believe God can still save them we don’t believe in the exclusivity of Jesus Christ. Herb Douglas is using some very loaded language.

Herb Douglas concludes his second article with a list of seven reasons non-Adventist churches are leaping into new spirituality. I will paraphrase them as: 1. Churches using new names rather then just saying Baptist or Methodist. 2. Churches not appealing to “absolute truth” and trying to converse with others who are not even Christians. 3. Churches looking for spiritual healing, meaning physical healing, the use of alternative medicine and stories of miracles. 4. Different ways of experiencing the holy. 5. Mystical rituals and Retreat Centers. 6. Saying that traditional Christianity is not reaching the post modern world. 7. Tolerance of other religions.

Now most of these are fairly reasonable. But like most things these can be taken to extreme just as traditionalism can be taken to an extreme. Most all churches have mystical rituals and stories of miracles, those that appeal to themselves as having absolute truth are self deceived and most are concerned that Christianity is in decline in the western world. If the church has any sense they will pay attention and try to reach this now post modern world. So I don’t find Herb’s list any too impressive.

In part 3 Herbert Douglas asks why are Adventists attracted to emergent churches. The answer it appears is that Adventists have lost their winsome messages because of the publication of the divisive book Questions on Doctrines, producing “whirlwind of fifty years of theological muddle”. That led to Dr. Douglas’ favorite topic last generation perfection as he notes in his article:

* Bull and Lockhart, two English historians, in their remarkable book, Seeking a Sanctuary (second edition, 2007) summed up the theological fork in the road that our seminary began to take as a consequence of the 1957 drift of Questions on Doctrine: "The focus on the crucifixion encouraged by Questions on Doctrine was taken further by the Adventist theologian Edward Heppenstall. . . . His solution to the difficulty of explaining how the sinner could reach perfection was to argue that perfection was neither necessary nor possible. . . . (that) sinlessness cannot be realized here and now." (86-87).

Thus the problem with the Emergent church is that it is not working on the pre 1950’s Adventist orthodoxy. So our pastors find that youth pastors seek techniques involving mimes or clowns “pulpit bands (with their accents on the second beat)” dramatic skits etc. When we should be looking at the GYC conventions where dedicated traditionalist Adventist youth listen to powerful talks by traditionalist Adventists. In other words there is a fork in the road and that fork is traditionalism with its fundamentalist view of absolute truth and everything else on the other fork. Emergent church being part of the everything else, it should be avoided. Simple enough.

In part 4 Dr. Douglas perhaps gives us the reason he does not give any examples of what Emergent churches believe, thus he gave no validation to his assertions aside from they are not traditional Adventists, he writes:

“If anyone tries to define what Emergents or Emerging Church or New Spirituality believes, it is like trying to nail Jello against the wall. And that seems to be exactly what the various Emergents want. The lack of a common belief system is intentional; that is precisely why "conversation" is their chosen word for what they do/think. Their ideas are exploring, and experimenting, but not defining in any way. I find that refreshing in a way, but surely frustrating.”

I found it extremely frustrating that someone would condemn something that he can’t define and can’t document aside from saying that is not what I believe. He then spent a good deal of space with extreme statements, he is against this extreme and that extreme, rather a waste of time but his final line indicates he is not done with his series as I had originally thought. He writes:

“Next time we will let the Emergent leaders speak for themselves.”

I really don’t think he will, I think he will choose a few quotes that make some Emergent Church leaders look like they are contrary to Traditional Adventism and Traditional Adventist methods. Which they naturally are, not being SDA’s . Spending no time on areas where they may even agree with his traditionalism. After all one of the Emergent church leaders he mentions is Rob Bell, someone who does a lot of short Videos. So as I close and wait for Herb’s final chapter spend a few minutes watching one of Rob Bell’s videos.

Resurrection: Rob Bell from The Work of Rob Bell on Vimeo.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Ryan Bell's radio interview on Social Justice

I was just visiting Ryan Bell's blog Intersections and saw that he and some of his friends from the little video which basically repeated shows people saying they are "social justice Christians" and I noticed that they were interviewed by a Pacifica radio network affiliate on the subject of social justice Christians. For those of you who don't know Pacifica is a politically Progressive radio network. Possibly the last one remaining. What is interesting about this interview other then the amazing factual distortions the host and his guests make is that this is a Progressive host who is unable to quote Glenn Beck but fails to even acknowledge that his own political view is what Glenn Beck is calling attention to. Here is what Glenn Beck said:

"What is that? It seems like such an innocuous phrase. It paints a picture of fairness — many churches use the term as a substitute for "outreach to the poor." Who could possibly be against that? Well, if you've read the news lately: I am. In fact, I even learned from TIME magazine recently that I hate Jesus.

"I'm just full of hate and I want to stop justice!

I'm glad to see Time suddenly cares about God... or am I? The other "news" from The New York Times was that I recommended leaving church if those churches help the poor. And I would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn't for those pesky, meddling "journalists"!

I'm not sure why I would expect the media to start searching for the truth now, when they've never let it get in the way before. The truth is this: The term "social justice" has been completely perverted and hijacked by progressives. It doesn't mean simply "help the poor" to them. It does to some people, but not to radical progressives.

And now, just for The New York Times and everyone else who thinks I hate poor people — I know your attention span is about 20 or 30 seconds, but try and pay attention — we'll set the record straight for you here on social justice. The kind I am talking about vs. the kind that they are talking about."

So was Glenn Beck right? Apparently as we see the Progressive radio talk show praise Ryan Bell for his little video. Now to hear the interview you have to go about 2/3 of the way through the program but it begins with a classical Progressive distortion. The host Ian Masters says after the introductions:

And all of you gentlemen are here to rebut I take it Glenn Beck who uh has warned people as to not go to churches who care about social justice (laughs) I must say that struck me as one of the most extraordinary statements and it really hasn't gone its uh largely gone unchallenged I think it is largely because we have such a polarized media first reaction when I heard that him said what a terrible thing churches who preach social justice and hear the word social justice run because it either means you know the Nazi's or the communists...

That pathetic introduction was followed by the agreement of one of the video's sponsors. Ryan Bell goes on to say that it is a testament to how we in America have been co-opted by other interests. Apparently he does not see his part in the co-opting as he falls into lock step with the Progressive movement and distorts the Christian idea of justice into the political concept of social justice.

Glenn Beck actually describes the difference between equal justice and social justice:

"Let's start with equal justice. If I am an illegal alien and I'm stopped by a cop, if I'm here illegally, I pay the fine, go to court; I'm sent home. Under equal justice if somebody else, Canadian, Egyptian, Chinese, Mexican is stopped by the police and they are here illegally, they are get to take it, pay the fine, go see a court and then are sent home. Under social justice, I would be sent home but somebody, because they're somehow or another different than me, they're not. That's the difference between social justice and equal justice."

That is why it is so important to actually understand what the social justice people are saying. Because they attempt to shore up their position by ascribing justice to their social justice. Of course if what they really meant was justice then that is what they would say. But it is not because they are attempting to do politics in the name of religion. Simple the other extreme from the 1980's movement of the moral majority.

I don't mind having a religious perspective influence your politics but the assumption that their politics is the sum total of Christianity and that they have to back up their position with lies and distortions make me have little respect for people like Ryan Bell.

For more see the past articles

Social justice politics and useful idiots

Adventists and Social Justice


I just saw this on the news as they are searching for a new Police Chief in Seattle. I was surprised to see the calls for social justice rather then equal justice:

"Police Search Committee members say the recent controversy over a racially charged incident involving Seattle Police Officers was not a factor in choosing Diaz.

"I don't think the video played a role. We were concerned about ethics and social justice, but we did not discuss the specifics on the video or about the incident," says committee member Charles Rolland.

Mayor McGinn thanked the 26-member committee, co-chaired by Kate Joncas and Rolland, for its work.

"I'm grateful for the hard work and commitment shown by Search Committee members during this important process," McGinn said. "I'm looking forward now to spending time with the finalists, allowing the public to get to know them, and choosing a chief for all of Seattle. I'll be looking for a chief who shares my values of public safety, fairness, and a commitment to racial and social justice."

I wonder does that make Mayor McGinn a social justice Christian or is he referring to his political values?