Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Friday, January 29, 2010

Brad Cole's fanciful explaination for Haiti's disaster

Both Adventist Today and the Spectrum Website referenced an article by Brad Cole in regard to Haiti and Steven Wohlberg’s recent comments so I finally got around to reading Dr. Cole’s article. It is to say the least a sad commentary upon the way some Adventists use and misuse Ellen White and the Bible to support themselves and negate others. A very interesting case study because of how Dr. Cole edited out Wohlberg’s reference to the Ellen White quote which Wohlberg used as his supporting idea. Notice what Dr. Cole says:

The fact is that more than half of Haiti’s 9 million inhabitants practice Voodoo, Haiti’s dominant religion, and that some of the grossest forms of immorality are rampant. Significantly, much of Haiti’s dark Voodoo previously migrated to New Orleans--a city mostly destroyed by Hurricane Katrina….Evidence indicates that Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, fits the category of a city ‘full of transgression, and sinful in the extreme.’ On January 12, at 4:53 pm, it was virtually ‘destroyed’ by an earthquake. On the morning of August 29, 2005, New Orleans experienced its own disaster from the sky.

Dr. Cole makes no attempt to cite the quotation that Wohlberg uses when he says: ‘full of transgression, and sinful in the extreme.’ He linked to the Adventist Today news article which used the Ellen White quote but in his response he seems to have forgotten why Wohlberg says what he says. It is because Ellen White says God will destroy things:

"I am bidden to declare the message that cities full of transgression, and sinful in the extreme, will be destroyed by earthquakes, by fire, by flood. All the world will be warned that there is a God who will display His authority as God. His unseen agencies will cause destruction, devastation, and death." Evangelism, p. 27

Dr. Cole continues:

Should we be concerned with this statement? I believe so. One of the fundamental beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists is the concept of a great controversy between God and Satan, and that this controversy revolves around God’s character. Ellen White’s “Conflict of the Ages” series highlights the actions of God and Satan from the beginning of the rebellion in heaven, to the events of Gethsemane and the Cross, and to the final end of sin and sinners. It seems to me that to leave Satan entirely out of the equation in an event that ended the lives of so many is a sad omission and puts God in a very bad light.

It seems that our natural instinct is to believe that bad things happen as a result of God’s punishment for sin. Several years ago I heard the story of an entire family who was killed in a car accident while on their way to church. At the funeral people were discussing how something like this could happen until finally it was suggested, “There must have been an Achan in the car.”

Our natural instinct? Wohlberg introduced it not with our natural instinct but with reference to his authoritative prophet. Wohlberg is aside from following Ellen White following the Old Testament concept of God as destroyer. After all if you are of the presupposition to take the Bible literally as so many fundamentalists and traditional Adventists do then God does a lot of punishing with death disobedient or non Israelite people.

Dr. Cole then writes:

This concept is frequently addressed in the Bible as well. When Satan left God’s presence to punish Job and his family, the servant who witnessed the destructive event (that we know was caused by Satan) exclaimed, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them” (Job 1:16). When the “friends” of Job came along, they also could only make sense of his fate by invoking God as the punisher for some sin that Job had committed. It isn’t until the end of the book that God comes on the scene to direct Job’s attention to a beast called Leviathan who had these descriptive attributes:

It is striking how many people get their theology from the book of Job. Satan there is not used about the person we later came to call as Satan and the satan in Job is not seeking to punish Job but to test him to see if he can remain righteous. Satan in Job is acting not on his own but on the authority of God:

But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face." The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger." Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD. (Job 1:11-12 NIV)

Dr. Cole then takes a page from the colorful early Christian Father Origen to whom much of the credit for the Lucifer myth goes, by trying to pretend that Leviathan of Job 41 is Satan. The idea that Origen held but even though the Christian church accepted the Lucifer as Satan part they generally did not accept Leviathan as Satan.

Cole continues:

Elsewhere in scripture, this same beast is described with these words: “On that day the LORD will use his fierce and powerful sword to punish Leviathan, that slippery snake, Leviathan, that twisting snake. He will kill that monster which lives in the sea” (Isaiah 27:1 GW).

How many other “slippery” and “twisting” snakes does the Bible describe? What we see in the book of Job, one of the earliest writings in scripture, is God beginning to paint the picture of a proud enemy who is responsible for suffering.

In Isaiah 14, Satan is described as being unveiled for who he is which prompts the surprised response:

To begin Isaiah 27:1 is a reference to a mythological creature. As the Expositor’s Bible Footnote reads:

1 liveyathan (liwyatan, "Leviathan") appears in several OT passages Job 3:8; Pss 74:14; 104:26), where it is clear that a great sea creature is being described. Most scholars consider the creature described under that name in Job 41:1-9 (40:25-29 MT) to be the crocodile. The implication of a plurality of heads in Ps 74:14, however, certainly suggests a mythical creature; and the term as used here is normally linked with Ugaritic Lotan, the chaos monster destroyed by Baal in the Canaanite creation myth. As indicated in the commentary, the use of such a term does not imply acceptance of Canaanite mythology but simply the knowledge of it, so that the term may be applied figuratively to monstrous enemies of Israel and of God.

Of course Isaiah 14 is not about Satan it is in the series of chapters dealing with the surrounding nations of Israel and is specifically about Babylon: On the day the LORD gives you relief from suffering and turmoil and cruel bondage, you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon: How the oppressor has come to an end! How his fury has ended! (Isa 14:3-4 NIV)

Dr. Cole then tries to show that Satan causes natural disasters, but fails miserably. His best effort is this quote after Jesus heals a woman: Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?" (Luke 13:16 NIV) That diseases were long attributed to demons goes back into the earliest times of humanity and ancient Israel but that still does not indicate that such things as earthquakes and floods etc are caused by Satan.

Returning to the issue at hand Dr. Cole writes:

While we may not be able to say that every disaster is a direct action of Satan, the “powers that rule this world” (1 Corinthians 2:6) are those of Satan’s kingdom, not God’s. When we watch people trying to dig themselves out of rubble, our minds should be repulsed at the nature of Satan’s kingdom rather than reflecting on God as a punisher.

Though he has never made a reasonable case that any natural disaster is caused by Satan he assumes that he has. In fact he moves from the scientific age to the pre-scientific age with his assumption that natural disasters are caused by either God or Satan. Neither of which are true. At best one could argue that the natural laws were set up by God and therefore ultimately they function upon the physics of God’s laws but even that would not attribute such disasters as punishments of God and as Dr. Coles attempts have shown us there is no Biblical reason to grant to Satan the ability to cause a natural disaster, whether it be a rain cloud, flood or earthquake. It is simply not a part of the Biblical record. The stretches that one tries to make it appear that Satan can, appear almost laughable.

Dr. Cole continues:

Satan is the destroyer, not God, and we do great damage to God’s reputation when we label the slaughtered Lamb as the destroyer. It’s true that many see the destructive acts in Revelation as the judgments of God and interpret end time events in that light, but I have greatly appreciated the wisdom of those who see this book not only as a revelation of Christ, but also of the Adversary [he then quotes Sigve Tonstad, Saving God’s Reputation]

This is what is so very interesting. Dr. Cole has completely ignored Ellen White’s statement that Steve Wohlberg built his case upon. He completely ignores the numerous other Ellen White statements of God caused destruction as well as her statements about the plagues and trumpets and seals of the book of Revelation. It is not that he ignores Ellen White for he begins his presentation referencing her and her Great Controversy views. But he has completely ignored the real question which is what do Adventists do with such quotes of Ellen White? After all, the quote that Wohlberg uses is not abnormal for Ellen White. She thought that the 1906 San Francisco was designed by God to close down the Saloons.

In the calamity that befell San Francisco, the Lord designed to wipe out the liquor saloons that have been the cause of so much evil, so much misery and crime; and yet the guardians of the public welfare have proved unfaithful to their trust, by legalizing the sale of liquor. Those who have been placed in positions of official responsibility, and who in the recent past have become thoroughly familiar with the advantages of the closed saloon, now deliberately choose to enact laws sanctioning the carrying on of the liquor traffic. They know that in doing this, they are virtually licensing the commission of crime; and yet their knowledge of this sure result deters them not. (Advent Review and Sabbath Herald 1906-10-25.006)

In fact it was God’s destroying angels that wrecked the city in Ellen White’s view:

Retributive Judgments "While at Loma Linda, Cal., April 16, 1906, there passed before me a most wonderful representation. During a vision of the night, I stood on an eminence, from which I could see houses shaken like a reed in the wind. Buildings, great and small, were falling to the ground. Pleasure resorts, theaters, hotels, and the homes of the wealthy were shaken and shattered. Many lives were blotted out of existence, and the air was filled with the shrieks of the injured and the terrified

"The destroying angels of God were at work. One touch, and buildings so thoroughly constructed that men regarded them as secure against every danger, quickly became heaps of rubbish. There was no assurance of safety in any place. I did not feel in any special peril, but the awfulness of the scenes that passed before me I cannot find words to describe. It seemed that the forbearance of God was exhausted, and that the judgment day had come.

"The angel that stood by my side then instructed me that but few have any conception of the wickedness existing in our world to-day, and especially the wickedness in the large cities. He declared that the Lord has appointed a time when He will visit transgressors in wrath for persistent disregard of His law. (Life Sketches of Ellen White 1915 page 407)

As long as Adventists like Brad Cole refuse to deal with the real problem that Ellen White presents they will end up the losers in the battle for a rational religion.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Is Adventist Great Controversy Unique?

There is a fairly persistent idea that I hear Adventists say. It is about how unique Adventist's Great Controversy theme is. Here are a couple examples:

From a poster on Heavenly

One doctrine that is unique to the SDA faith is the great controversy theme (fundamental belief #8).

From the book MORE THAN A PROPHET ... by Graeme Bradford

The Great Controversy theme. An understanding of this theme is unique to Adventists.

What I had not really noticed before was that in our fundamental belief #8 we have defined this supposedly unique Adventist idea. But strangely enough there is nothing really unique in it.

8. Great Controversy:

All humanity is now involved in a great controversy between Christ and Satan regarding the character of God, His law, and His sovereignty over the universe. This conflict originated in heaven when a created being, endowed with freedom of choice, in self-exaltation became Satan, God's adversary, and led into rebellion a portion of the angels. He introduced the spirit of rebellion into this world when he led Adam and Eve into sin. This human sin resulted in the distortion of the image of God in humanity, the disordering of the created world, and its eventual devastation at the time of the worldwide flood. Observed by the whole creation, this world became the arena of the universal conflict, out of which the God of love will ultimately be vindicated. To assist His people in this controversy, Christ sends the Holy Spirit and the loyal angels to guide, protect, and sustain them in the way of salvation. (Rev. 12:4-9; Isa. 14:12-14; Eze. 28:12-18; Gen. 3; Rom. 1:19-32; 5:12-21; 8:19-22; Gen. 6-8; 2 Peter 3:6; 1 Cor. 4:9; Heb. 1:14.)

It begins with the standard Christian Lucifer myth which began with Origen and Tertullian about 300 AD and is widely accepted throughout Christianity. About the only thing that is unique to Adventism is the line which says: “Observed by the whole creation, this world became the arena of the universal conflict,” which implies that there are unfallen worlds watching the conflict here. At least it is implied in the fundamental belief we know that the concept of unfallen worlds watching is provided in the writings of Ellen White. The idea that we are a spectacle to men and angels is however related in the Bible and again widely accepted in Christianity.

Some examples of other Christians writing depicting the same things as the major portions of Fundamental belief 8.

Charles Spurgen Christ the Conqueror of Satan

World Wide Church of God Satan: God’s Defeated Adversary

A Journal of Reformed Fellowship Inc. Looking Above

John Milton Paradise Lost

Spiritual Warfare: A Biblical Study on the Raging War Between Light and Darkness

Catachism of the Catholic church ARTICLE I "I BELIEVE IN GOD THE FATHER ALMIGHTY, CREATOR OF HEAVEN AND EARTH" Paragraph 7. The Fall

Latter day Saints The War in Heaven on Earth Today

I could go on an on with this but the point is that if this is really what Adventists believe about the great controversy then there is very little that is unique to the idea. In my opinion what most Adventists mean by the phrase Great Controversy theme is all the extra material that Ellen White adds about Lucifer before the fall, the Adam and Eve story, the story of Job and the crucifixion of Christ. Because it is only her additions that make anything unique and those things are not even included in the Fundamental belief.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Haiti and Wohlberg et al and their God

Adventist Today Website has a good article on one of the problems that haunt many traditional Adventists. Some excerpts from the article:

Television producer, radio host and author Steve Wohlberg directs White Horse Media—an independent Adventist media ministry based in Newport, Washington. In his most recent newsletter sent by e-mail, Wohlberg made comments that has drawn comparisons to Pat Robertson's now infamous quote, in which he blames the recent earthquake on a pact Haiti made with the devil centuries ago.

[After quoting Ellen White]

Evidence indicates that Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, fits the category of a city "full of transgression, and sinful in the extreme." On January 12, at 4:53 pm, it was virtually "destroyed" by an earthquake. On the morning of August 29, 2005, New Orleans experienced its own disaster from the sky. Now notice how Jesus Christ puts both earthquakes and sky events together as clear "signs" of His approaching return. …

Yes, God is speaking to His world through these disasters. Whether He directly causes them, or merely allows them, nevertheless, they can be biblically classified as divine "judgments" to be taken seriously. No one knows how much longer God will continue to tolerate sin on planet Earth. Soon, "the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night" (2 Peter 3:10), and Jesus Christ will come suddenly to rescue those who have repented of their sins, have accepted His gospel, and become loyal to their Maker.

It does seem that Wohlberg and Robertson have a similar view of God. Robertson believes that Haiti made a pact with the Devil and has been cursed ever since and the earthquake is another manifestation of the curses. Wohlberg that the earthquake is biblically classified divine judgment. The difference it appears to be only in the semantics divine judgment vs. curse. But of course it is not only the fundamentalist Christians who seem to hold such ideas. Famed actor Danny Glover said of the Haiti earthquake:

“And I hope we seize this particular moment because the threat of what happens in Haiti is the threat that can happen anywhere in the Caribbean to these island nations, you know?

They're all in peril because of global warming; they're all in peril because of climate change. When we see what we did at the climate summit in Copenhagen, this is the response, this is what happens, you know what I'm saying?”

I am not sure if the climate summit results which caused the response of the earthquake is from God or from Gia or Mother Nature apparently the concept is still the same. A powerful knowledgeable force punishing people for their actions through an earthquake.

That leads us to the problem of why this powerful force…this deity, would use such indiscriminant force to cause such destruction. Rather haphazardly destroying the bad people and the good people; the servants of voodoo and the servants of God, the voodoo priest and the Christian missionary. What about all those Traditionalists who use (actually misuse) this quote from Amos: Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets. (Amos 3:7 KJV) Wouldn’t it be nice if God was to inform somebody about such a judgment as an earthquake, maybe like a location and a date or maybe just a specific reason announced so that maybe like Nineveh some could repent? Wohlberg of course seems to think that if Ellen White said a hundred years ago that “…cities full of transgression, and sinful in the extreme, will be destroyed by earthquakes, by fire, by flood, that is all we need to know. That pretty well covers them all however, so the question is when and where and what size makes a city. Not particularly helpful in any way without some real specifics, it is rather like the false prophets that Jeremiah had to deal with: The prophets that have been before me and before thee of old prophesied both against many countries, and against great kingdoms, of war, and of evil, and of pestilence. (Jer 28:8 KJV) Because so far on this world if you predict there will be a war, or evil, or pestilence you will always be right. It always happens at some time and if you don’t have to say when or where or what type of evil or what type of pestilence or who will be at war with whom your prophecy is useless but always correct. But to attribute that prophecy to God is the error.

The good news is that we don’t have to listen to the foolishness of the Pat Robertson’s, Danny Glover’s and Steve Wohlberg’s of this world. There are far more sensible voices such as these people who spoke on the subject of the Haiti earthquake, they may be wrong in other things but at least here they have it right:

. . . if God merely hated Haiti, there would be no missionaries there; there would be no aid streaming to the nation; there would be no rescue efforts -- there would be no hope. . . .

Everything about the tragedy in Haiti points to our need for redemption. This tragedy may lead to a new openness to the Gospel among the Haitian people. That will be to the glory of God. In the meantime, Christ's people must do everything we can to alleviate the suffering, bind up the wounded and comfort the grieving. If Christ's people are called to do this, how can we say that God hates Haiti?

-- R. Albert Mohler Jr., president, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

I am a believer in God, and that God exists independent of the natural world. I do not believe in a petty god who chooses random moments to selectively lash out at individuals or groups who have transgressed. . . .

-- Jack Moline, director of public policy for the Rabbinical Assembly

Dispensationalists believe that God favors some countries and people over others and that he rewards and punishes those who please or displease Him. That false belief is the source of the outrageous Pat Robertson statement. . . . God sent His Son to die for us. If God could commit such a gracious act for our redemption when we had no concern for Him, why would he rain down judgment on Haitians and not on Saudi Arabians, whose extreme religion supports terrorism around the world?

-- Cal Thomas, syndicated political columnist

[Quotes taken from the Washington Post “On the Panel”]

Friday, January 15, 2010

GYC2009 Hope for Traditionals Dispair to Progressives as we watch reason die

If you are wondering what the future of is for Progressive Seventh-day Adventists is consider the recent Generation of Youth for Christ (GYC), formerly General Youth Conference 2009. When you first click on the following link to the video you will be treated to a song service out of yesterday. Possibly pre 1970’s considering even my Academy Worship programs were a bit more modern than this song service. In any case it is the Seventh-day Adventist traditionalists youth that make up this organization. At the question and answer session a who’s who of Adventist leadership were empanelled. Many General Conference Vice Presidents,two Division Presidents as well as Bill Knott the editor of the Adventist Review. Dr. Mike Ryan, Ted Wilson, Mark Finley, Dr. Ella Simmons, Don Schneider, Paul Ratsara,

GYC 2009 Questions and answers session beginning at 52 minutes (after a period of blank video). Here are a few excerpts that I transcribed from the video. To keep the flow of the event I have footnoted my comments at the end

The first question:

As leaders of the General Conference would you speak to the commitment level of the GC leadership as well as the global leadership to the authority of Scripture even when it cuts across cultural practices?

Mark Finley replies: Culture should never dictate scripture. John 17 verse 17 Jesus said they word is truth the general conference of seventh-day Adventists is clear on the authority of scripture. Scripture always transcends culture. Now there can be cultural aspects in which Paul says I become all things to all men so the methods can be adapted but not theology.


The Second question dealt with net evangelism. Mark Finley defended Net Evangelism by asking how many had attended and by saying that for those who were baptized through the Net Evangelism how much was it worth to them.

The Third question (1:01 min.) dealt with explaining the organization of the Adventist church. I won’t bother with transcribing the question and answer except to note that the explanation by Paul Ratsara President SID began with this statement:

“Our God is a God of order and He has given us a wonderful structure to support the mission of the church.”

He then goes on to explain the levels of the church organization. Concluding with:

“This is a wonderful structure that the Lord has given us.”


Fourth question: (1:03) We understand that the church exists to protect our fundamental beliefs…Some not all of our colleges and Universities continue to hire and protect professors who do not believe in our core beliefs such as creation, many youth have lost their faith under such teachers how can this be stopped?

Dr. Ella Simmons responds:

…[F]irst of all my personal stand and the stand of the church is that Seventh-day Adventist schools at all levels including colleges and universities exist for one purpose. In most countries of the world today there are excellent systems of education but we operate Seventh-day Adventist education institutions to pass on to teach Seventh-day Adventist world perspective, Spiritual understanding scriptural knowledge and so forth. Ellen White says, that we must hold onto this, that education and redemption are one. If our schools are not thoroughly and uniquely Seventh-day Adventist they should not exist. We have no reason for them other than that they are thoroughly Seventh-day Adventist. Then that indicates that in order to give Seventh-day Adventist education we need, have an imperative for Seventh-day Adventist committed practicing Seventh-day Adventist faculty leadership and staff. We have all been in a position in which individuals have been hired into our schools who have not been Seventh-day Adventist we appreciate our colleagues but either they will betray themselves as Christians by teaching what we believe if they are not Seventh-day Adventist or they betray us by teaching something other than Seventh-day Adventist believe in our schools. It is clear from Genesis to Revelation that Academics and spirituality are one, the divisions that you hear about that we read about are false they are work a tool of the devil, clearly. I could go on and on…


So what can we do as young people?

Ted Wilson responds (1:07): It is so important to have leadership at colleges and universities who are absolutely committed to the 28 fundamentals of beliefs, to the word of God, to the three angels messages …


Question 6 (1:08): How do we work through the system what are ways we can stand for truth?

Dr. Ella Simmons responds:

For example I would always say when called upon to answer those questions evolution lets just go right there. I believe that as a scholar I needed to know the theories of evolution but never to accept it as facts. So I would always have to say in class and on my test papers according to you this is what has happened although I still believe that in 6 days God created the heaven and earth and so forth, and there’s a way to do it without creating a problem and people will respect you even while they continue to disagree with you.

[refer to 3]

Mark Finley (1:11) responds:

To follow up on what Ella has said there is a difference between a teacher who makes a comment in class that I may not fully understand and they may have a different perception of truth then I do and a blatant open statement that violates the tenets of scripture and the Adventist church. A comment on Academic freedom. In a sense Academic freedom is a myth and here is why when I agree to teach in an Seventh-day Adventist college by that very agreement I agree to be supported by Seventh-day Adventist tuition dollars from Seventh-day Adventist parents who want a Seventh-day Adventist education so I voluntarily by choice give up freedom to teach contrary to Seventh-day Adventist values and if I can’t do that the thing to do and be intellectually honest is to say I no longer believe that and go teach someplace else where that can be accepted. So Academic freedom there are Catholic universities whose boards meet who dismissed recently teachers because they weren’t teaching Catholic theology in a Catholic university. There are Presbyterian boards and Lutheran boards who meet and so the issue is yes as Adventists you work together we work in harmony and love but the intellectual honest thing to do for somebody who may no longer believe Adventist theology is to find a place where they can teach in harmony with what they believe.


Question: for Don Schneider (1:14)...A question that is for those professors who may not take that integrity position and remove themselves from that…I think this question is directed that way. Recently there has been an online petition asking the General Conference to tolerate monogamous homosexual relationships some of the signers are ministers and professors of our schools some sit on boards of organizations that teach very divergent doctrines, what should be done when church employees receiving a check from the church openly seeks to undermine the very teachings they endorse?

Don Schneider after saying he would sit down and talk and not act as if it were a trial says:

It has been my job to deal with people some of them I have asked to quit. Very rarely almost always as we visit I can find the time to ask a question are you having a lot of fun doing what you are doing. People who are not supportive of this church are by and large not having fun either. And people who are not enjoying what they are doing are not the doing the good job supporting this church often. And that leads me to another point then, hey if your not having fun and your not really into the mission of this church would you want me to help you find something else? Almost always that has taken care of the issue for me. Almost never have I said okay next Tuesday we go to trial be ready cause we’re coming at ya. That just hasn’t been necessary in my experience.


  1. It is hard to believe he really believes this answer. Culture even during the Biblical times changed and theology changed as well. If not then we would still be stoning to death Sabbath breakers adulterers and rebellious children. We would not allow any women to even speak in our congregational assemblies per some of Paul’s comments even though earlier in Old Testament times there was a female judge, Deborah. Finley’s answer certainly indicates that he would in no way allow a woman to serve as a Pastor in the Adventist church.

Ultimately if you do not consider culture Scripture would be incredibly hard to interpret. So culture actually helps define scripture and our culture also redefines scripture. For example our culture through the aid of Western culture and scripture has grown to see slavery as an evil. Yet much of scripture allows for slavery. We can find racist ideas in scripture but our culture has shown us the problems of racism. In fact throughout Christian history as culture became more enlightened our theology of God also became more enlightened, we moved from the God of wrath and retribution to a God of love. Culture and Scriptural understanding grow, they play off of each other, one does not transcend the other, they are both components of our understanding. Truth may transcend culture but we are still on the road to truth, what we say is truth even as Christians has changed as history has noted. Even in Adventism short history truth has changed, such as the shut door concept of the 1800’s. Saying we have the truth or something is the truth is far different from really having the truth.

  1. I don’t think it is wise to tell such untruths to impressionable youth. I am assuming that he actually knows that God did not give the Adventist church instructions upon how it should be organized. The organization is similar in structure to the Methodists system from which many of Adventist founders came. Since he did not offer to explain where God informed the Adventists of their church organizations structure I can assume that he does know that God really did not give us the organizational structure we employ. The only way to make his statement work is to assume that if the structure was decided by Adventists at some conference to frame the Adventist constitution that action is the same as God giving us the structure. Which really gets us into logical trouble when whatever we decide to do becomes the instruction of God…the Reformation was largely fought to get away from such hubris.

  1. The Ellen White quote is: “In the highest sense the work of education and the work of redemption are one, for in education, as in redemption, "other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." "It was the good pleasure of the Father that in Him should all the fullness dwell." 1 Corinthians 3:11; Colossians 1:19, R.V (Education page 30, 1903)

Of course this is the highest sense and it is expanded upon when she earlier stated: “Love, the basis of creation and of redemption, is the basis of true education.” (Education page 16, 1903) Love as Paul famously said does not always try to get its own way, so education needs to be based upon love rather than traditions or church dictates.

What “thoroughly Seventh-day Adventist” means I don’t really know. Apparently it means that only Adventists can be hired to work at our schools as faculty and staff. Of course the controversy is not about non Adventist faculty teaching evolution it is about Adventists who teach evolution. Because frankly you can’t get anywhere in Science without acknowledging evolution, you can say it is not a fact but for all practical purposes it is a fact. Of course evolution or Darwinism as some critics mistakenly refer to things is not about the first origin it is about change. Those changes are seen, the theory of evolution explains what we see. Saying as Ella Simmons does later that she simply does not believe it because she believes the heavens and earth were created in 6 days is not science, it is not even reasonable it ignores the reality, the evidence, that the theory of evolution is explaining.

She concludes with: “It is clear from Genesis to Revelation that Academics and spirituality are one, the divisions that you hear about that we read about are false they are work a tool of the devil, clearly.” I am reminded of something I learned in College, if someone begins with “it is clear” or “clearly” you are about to hear something that is not clear and is often untrue. You don’t have to say it is clear when something is clear. It is a rhetorical device to try and prop up a weak argument. In this case a gratuitous assertion which is a logical fallacy and really a silly statement as we have great academics who are spiritually not inclined at all.

4. There were several mentions of the desire to have our teachers committed to the 28

Fundamental beliefs during the question and answer period. It appears that contrary to the desires of our church founders and the preamble of the 27/28 fundamentals of belief, Traditional Adventists have taken the fundamental statement as a creed. Wilson also includes the three angels messages which is done with the statement meant as a code word for the doctrines of the Adventist church. Again a very common practice among the Adventist traditionals. (simplified we say the 3 angels message is Present Truth which includes the unique Adventist interpretations of Daniel and Revelation; It encompasses 7th day Sabbath commandment keeping Sunday worship to be the mark of the Beast, Investigative Judgment, Adventist church as the Remnant called out from Babylon the apostate Christian churches, and Ellen White as the Spirit of Prophecy) The goal of all this is to have only church leadership and teachers and staff who are Traditional Adventists. These statements seemed to be met with hardy agreement from the Traditional Adventist young people at the conference.

  1. Academic freedom is a myth if the institution does not hold to such freedom. Not because of the reason Finley gives, a science teacher is not hired to teach the literal 6 days of creation because it is the fundamental belief of the Adventist church, they are hired to teach science. Vague statements like “Adventist values” does not discount the scientific validity of evidence and scientific philosophy to be taught in a Adventist classrooms. In fact one of the biggest Adventist values should be the search for truth and it should demand investigation, including things that may go against the popular beliefs of the Adventist churches leadership or traditions.

I did not find the accounts of Catholic Professors fired for not teaching Catholic theology. I did find some interesting accounts of the misuse of power by Catholic University administrators which amounted to retribution of whistle blowers.

6. Don Schneider presents us with the typical way that happens to whistle blowers or those who go against the power of the leadership elite. That is the retribution that makes their work environment so uncomfortable that they no longer seek to remain employed at their job. Here Schneider attempts to make such things appear as compassionate. When support the church means; do what we say, believe what we say to believe, than indeed who would want to support that church. The church is not God. When it seeks to think of itself as God, as doing what it is doing as being what God wants then the church has sunk to a low from which it will never rise. Well maybe I should not say never. As at one time the Roman Catholic Church behaved that way, it took hundreds of years to correct it’s over reaching dogma and still has a ways to go. But when a church that sees itself as carrying on the Reformation starts acting like the all knowing authority that forced the Reformation rebellion against her abuses; then we have serious problems in the Seventh-day Adventist church.

Monday, January 11, 2010

GC Session Delgates do you know any not employed by the church?

I was listening to and then reading some material today about the upcoming General Conference session coming up this year in Atlanta. I wanted to see what the percentage or number of delegates were that were not employees of the denomination. I could not find any numbers from either this or previous conferences. My guess is that it is very very small. The language in the General Conference Constitution at first glance makes it appear much larger than the reality.

Sec. 9. Division administrations shall consult with unions to ensure that the entire division delegation shall be comprised of Seventh-day Adventists in regular standing, at least 50 percent of whom shall be laypersons, pastors, teachers, and nonadministrative employees, of both genders, and representing a range of age groups and nationalities. The majority of the above 50 percent shall be laypersons. Delegate selections from General Conference and division institutions, and those selected under Sec. 8.d. above, shall not be required to satisfy the quota for laity.

Notice in that list only one is truly a layperson. Pastors and teachers and nonadministrative employees are all employees of the denomination. So If I assumed that each of those 4 categories equally made up the 50% of the session delegates that would give us 301 laypersons to 2108 denominational employee delegates. Even of those 2108 employees 1054 would be administrative denominational employees.

Something to consider when you hear that our church has a representative form of governance. Or as I heard to today the church is seeking to give even more delegates to young people. As the ANN second line in their report said:

More than 2,400 voting members expected to gather in Atlanta in 2010; push for younger delegates

Thus it appears the denomination has succeeded in creating a form of government which is functionally set up to serve the churches hierarchy or better said a bureaucracy which serves to continue the bureaucracy. As Ronald Lawson is professor of sociology in the urban studies department at Queens College, the City University of New York. wrote in 1990:

The General Conference’s structure is arranged in geographically based administrative layers, with churches grouped in conferences, the conferences in unions (which comprise several states or a smaller nation) , and the unions in 11 divisions (the North American Division includes the U.S., Canada and Bermuda) These administrative units, together with the medical, educational, publishing and food-processing institutions whose boards they control, employ more than 111,000 people. Tithes are not retained at the congregational level, but are passed up the structure, giving the hierarchy considerable flexibility to redistribute funds from wealthier parts of the world church to newer and poorer segments, and thus to orchestrate expansion. The hierarchy’s control over finances and its voice in the choice of leaders at lower levels also enables it to exercise considerable influence over the whole church. This is so in spite of a system of representation, in which delegates from the constituent bodies choose the committee members who select the officers and department heads at each level. However, constituency meetings, especially those at the higher levels of the organizational pyramid, have proved unlikely to act independently because the system for choosing delegates (who are appointed rather than elected) has ensured that the vast majority hold leadership positions in the church or other church-paid positions.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

No Theocracy

Driving home yesterday I saw a bumper sticker that said “No Theocracy”. It is kind of interesting to consider that idea. After all the two main religions that might have had Theocracies are Christianity and Islam. Both of those religions hold that their God is loving, in Christianity “God is love” in Islam “Allah is merciful” both are said to be merciful and forgiving and seeking repentance from humans. So why is the idea of no theocracy so popular?

For those of us in the Western world if we were asked to name some theocracies from history there are likely only three that we could name. The first because of Islamic turmoil in the world would be Islamic nations that held to or still hold to Sharia Law. The second would be the Roman Catholic Churches dominance in the Middle Ages. A time when such things as church Inquisitions, burning heretics and condemning certain areas of scientific thinking took place. The final and perhaps the first thing some would think of is the theocracy of ancient Israel recounted in the Old Testament Bible.

Merely reflecting on the history of theocracy answers our question pretty well. Theocracy is a word first popularized by Josephus:

“a word first used by Josephus to denote that the Jews were under the direct government of God himself. The nation was in all things subject to the will of their invisible King. All the people were the servants of Jehovah, who ruled over their public and private affairs, communicating to them his will through the medium of the prophets. They were the subjects of a heavenly, not of an earthly, king. They were Jehovah's own subjects, ruled directly by him (comp. 1 Sam. 8:6-9).

The word though is more properly understood as:

1. a form of government in which God or a deity is recognized as the supreme civil ruler, the God's or deity's laws being interpreted by the ecclesiastical authorities.

2. a system of government by priests claiming a divine commission.

The reality it seems, is that the nations were never really run by God, they were run by people who claimed to either speak for God or claimed to receive their instructions from God. Because these nations were never really ruled by God they never really presented an attractive nation or government to the rest of the world. Few modern people who read their history will say, “I sure wish I could have lived then”.

What I often find interesting is how people knowing full well the atrocities that occurred within the theocracy of ancient Israel think that those atrocities were the result of God. Rather than the results of those people speaking for God; or perhaps they were recorded as the people, those religious authorities wanted, attributing to God things that God would actually be very opposed to.

For whatever reasons they assumed that something is what God wanted to happen whether a result of a battle or an earthquake or some other natural occurrence. It is not hard to see such things; certainly other nation’s religious leaders were behaving in similar ways. It has been a trend in all other examples of theocracy we can think of, leaders doing what they want and attributing it to God, so perhaps it is something to consider when we read the stories in the Old Testament. We can still learn lessons from such things and isn’t that what the main functions of the Bible is, to teach us, to lead us to Christ who shows us the character of God. If that character does not match the God of the theocracy…perhaps it is because as is often the case someone was usurping the role of God and not doing too good a job of it.

So I say a hardy amen to “No Theocracy” at least until we see God face to face, because those middle men and women, those prophets, priests and kings have done a terrible job of revealing an accurate picture of God. Maybe for some it is the best they could do, but for many it is simply the corrupting nature of power. We therefore have to be a bit more careful before repeating everything as true just because it was a part of our religious tradition.