Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Gandhi's famous quote

There is a popular quote attributed to Mohandas Gandhi: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Searching the internet I could not find any reference for the quote so I can’t say if it is accurate or what the context is. However from Gandhi’s autobiography we can see how it is possibly intended. It appears that Gandhi preferred the idea of self purification. The Christians he thought most highly, as he says of Mr. Coates below: “His heart was pure, and he believed in the possibility of self-purification.” The fact is that Christians are not Christ-like and they never will be Paul who arguably was the most influential Christian of all time did not assert that he was Christ like, in fact he acknowledged himself to be the chief of sinners. That the things he does he does not want to do etc. I find most of the Christians who use this quote of Gandhi do so with about as much misunderstanding of Christianity as Gandhi had. It is easy to criticize Christians, easy to criticize any and every religion in fact. After all they are all made up of the same kind of people; sinners.

Here is a bit of Gandhi’s history with Christians found in his autobiography. The first mention of Christians is not terribly nice, he states:

“Only Christianity was at the time an exception. I developed a sort of dislike for it. And for a reason. In those days Christian missionaries used to stand in a corner near the high school and hold forth, pouring abuse on Hindus and their gods. I could not endure this. I must have stood there to hear them once only, but that was enough to dissuade me from repeating the experiment. About the same time, I heard of a well known Hindu having been converted to Christianity. It was the talk of the town that, when he was baptized, he had to eat beef and drink liquor, that he also had to change his clothes, and that thenceforth he began to go about in European costume including a hat. These things got on my nerves. Surely, thought I, a religion that compelled one to eat beef, drink liquor, and change one's own clothes did not deserve the name. I also heard that the new convert had already begun abusing the religion of his ancestors, their customs and their country. All these things created in me a dislike for Christianity.

“But the fact that I had learnt to be tolerant to other religions did not mean that I had any living faith in God. I happened, about this time, to come across Manusmriti which was amongst my father's collection. The story of the creation and similar things in it did not impress me very much, but on the contrary made me incline somewhat towards atheism.”

Most of us would find this a kind of trivial criticisms of Christianity. Probably a big deal to a Hindu however when a person converts and can eat beef, compelled as Gandhi put it at the time though later in the book he discovered that there is nothing in Christianity that compels a Christian to eat beef or drink liquor.

“About the same time I met a good Christian from Manchester in a vegetarian boarding house. He talked to me about Christianity. I narrated to him my Rajkot recollections. He was pained to hear them. He said, 'I am a vegetarian. I do not drink. Many Christians are meat- eaters and drink, no doubt; but neither meat-eating not drinking is enjoined by scripture. Do please read the Bible.' I accepted his advice, and he got me a copy. I have a faint recollection that he himself used to sell copies of the Bible, and I purchased from him an edition containing maps, concordance, and other aids. I began reading it, but I could not possibly read through the Old Testament. I read the book of Genesis, and the chapters that followed invariably sent me to sleep. But just for the sake of being able to say that I had read it, I plodded through the other books with much difficulty and without the least interest or understanding. I disliked reading the book of Numbers.”

He found the New Testament a bit better particularly the Sermon on the Mount:

“But the New Testament produced a different impression, especially the Sermon on the Mount which went straight to my heart. I compared it with the Gita. The verses, 'But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man take away thy coat let him have thy cloke too,' delighted me beyond measure and put me in mind of Shamal Bhatt's 'For a bowl of water, give a goodly meal' etc. My young mind tried to unify the teaching of the Gita, The Light of Asia and the Sermon on the Mount. That renunciation was the highest form of religion appealed to me greatly.”

Later Gandhi took up with some Christian friends who supplied him with numerous books, books designed to support the concept of proof in the reality of the Christian faith, by this time Gandhi had left his atheism:

“I read a number of such books in 1893. I do not remember the names of them all, but they included the Commentary of Dr. Parker of the City Temple, Pearson's Many Infallible Proofs and Butler's Analogy. Parts of these were unintelligible to me. I liked some things in them, while I did not like others. Many Infallible Proofs were proofs in support of the religion of the Bible, as the author understood it. The book had no effect on me. Parker's Commentary was morally stimulating, but it could not be of any help to one who had no faith in the prevalent Christian beliefs. Butler's Analogy struck me to be a very profound and difficult book, which should be read four or five times to be understood properly. It seemed to me to be written with a view to converting atheists to theism. The arguments advanced in it regarding the existence of God were unnecessary for me, as I had then passed the stage of unbelief; but the arguments in proof of Jesus being the only incarnation of God and the mediator between God and man left me unmoved.”

Gandhi then relates a theological discussion with a Plymouth Brethren member:

“Many of the contacts for which Mr. Coates was responsible were good. Most struck me as being God fearing. But during my contact with this family, one of the Plymouth Brethren confronted me with an argument for which I was not prepared:

'You cannot understand the beauty of our religion. From what you say it appears that you must be brooding over your transgressions every moment of your life, always mending them and atoning for them. How can this ceaseless cycle of action bring you redemption? You can never have peace. You admit that we are all sinners. Now look at the perfection of our belief. Our attempts at improvement and atonement are futile. And yet redemption we must have. How can we bear the burden of sin? We can out throw it on Jesus. He is the only sinless Son of God. It is His word that those who believe in Him shall have everlasting life. Therein lies God's infinite mercy. And as we believe in the atonement of Jesus, our own sins do not bind us. Sin we must, It is impossible to live in this world sinless. And therefore Jesus suffered and atoned for all the sins of mankind.

Only he who accepts His great redemption can have eternal peace. Think what a life of restlessness is yours, and what a promise of peace we have.'

The argument utterly failed to convince me. I humbly replied:

'If this be the Christianity acknowledged by all Christians, I cannot accept it. I do not seek redemption from the consequences of my sin. I seek to be redeemed from sin itself, or rather from the very thought of sin. Until I have attained that end, I shall be content to be restless.'

To which the Plymouth Brother rejoined: I assure you, your attempt is fruitless. Think again over what I have said.'

And the brother proved as good as his word. he knowingly committed transgressions, and showed me that he was undisturbed by the thought of them.
But I already knew before meeting with these friends that all Christians did not believe in such a theory of atonement. Mr. Coates himself walked in the fear of God, His heart was pure, and he believed in the possibility of self-purification. The two ladies also shared this belief. Some of the books that came into my hands were full of devotion, So, although Mr. Coates was very much disturbed by this latest experience of mine. I was able to reassure him and tell him that the distorted belief of a Plymouth Brother could not prejudice me against Christianity.
“My difficulties lay elsewhere. They were with regard to the Bible and its accepted interpretation”

Ultimately Gandhi could not accept the incarnation of Christ:

“My difficulties lay deeper. It was more than I could believe that Jesus was the only incarnate son of God, and that only he who believed in him would have everlasting life. If God could have sons, all of us were His sons. If Jesus was like God, or God Himself, then all men were like God and could be God Himself. My reason was not ready to believe literally that Jesus by his death and by his blood redeemed the sins of the world. Metaphorically there might be some truth in it. Again, according to Christianity only human beings had souls, and not other living beings, for whom death meant complete extinction; while I held a contrary belief. I could accept Jesus as a martyr, an embodiment of sacrifice, and a divine teacher, but not as the most perfect man ever born. His death on the Cross was a great example to the world, but that there was anything like a mysterious or miraculous virtue in it my heart could not accept. The pious lives of Christians did not give me anything that the lives of men of other faiths had failed to give. I had seen in other lives just the same reformation that I had heard of among Christian principles. From the point of view of sacrifice, it seemed to me that the Hindus greatly surpassed the Christians. It was impossible for me to regard Christianity as a perfect religion or the greatest of all religions.”

He ends the major reference to Christianity by recounting the boredom and worldly appearing members of a Wesleyan church he attended and often fell asleep in. Something that is all to common an experience for all of us.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

General Conference Book Ban

Not too long ago the news staff of Adventist Today posted this news article:

Adventist Today received a letter from the General Conference official responsible for the administration of the 2010 Seventh-day Adventist General Conference session in Atlanta, Georgia asking that Adventist Today not "stock, sell, promote, or advertise" three books at its booth during the week of the Atlanta General Conference session.

These three books are (1) Fatal Accounts: The Audacity of an Adventist Auditor's Quest for Transparency by David Dennis, (2) Truth Decay: A Call for Accountability and Transparency in the Adventist Church by Albert C. Koppel, DDS, and, (3) Who Watches? Who Cares: Misadventures in Stewardship by Douglas Hackleman.

The letter asked that Adventist Today withdraw as an exhibitor should it be unwilling to comply with the request. After careful deliberation, the Executive Committee of the Adventist Foundation Board decided that it would accede and not display these three books at its booth during the GC session.

These books are available for purchase in our store or by calling 1-800-236-3641.

As the GC session has the right to censor material present at it’s functions the folks at Adventist Today really had no other choice but to agree to the removal of the three books in question.

The troubling aspect of this is that the GC has never addressed the subject of these three books. The Adventist Review has been silent on all three of these books, there are no reviews to these books no references to the fact that these books point out some rather glaring problems in the SDA church. Of course the Adventist News Network is as equally silent on the request that Adventist Today not show these books at their booth either.

Hopefully the booth will at least offer a sign that says something to the effect of:

“Adventist Today Offering You Important Books That The GC Will Not Allow Us To Show You Here”

Here are some links to information about some of this material that the gatekeepers of the Denomination are afraid you will see should you attend the GC session in Atlanta.

Who Watches, Who Cares book description “from the Members for Church Accountability (MCA) is a group of Seventh-day Adventist church members concerned about improving accountability within the SDA church. We are working together using responsible and constructive means to improve church accountability.”

Who Watches Who Cares, Adventist Today article which preceded the book

"Who Watches, Who Cares" a 22 page teaser of several book chapters

Church Accountability: Seven Cautionary Narratives "Spectrum"

Adventist Today Book Commentary: Who Watches? Who Cares? Misadventures in Stewardship

Filthy Lucre a later chapter in Who Watches, Who Cares

On a some what related subject is James Coffin’s account of Justice Denied Because after all Church cover ups and attempts to ignore problems are attempts to deny justice and hardly worthy of a church that is seeking truth.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Doug Batchelor opposes women as pastors and elders

It is always for me at least a humorous experience to fact check Doug Batchelor. I sometimes think that is why he calls his ministry “Amazing Facts” because half of his so called facts are incorrect and the other half we are amazed he got right. He does however carry on the Adventist tradition of evangelists whose information is usually biased to develop a particular response in the audience rather then really make the audience think or give them accurate information.

So going through a transcribed copy of one of his sermons provided by Adventist Today is simply too hard to resist. I also think that for many Adventists there is a convoluted view of tradition intertwined in the Genesis story that makes it difficult for Adventists to know what is actually from the Bible and what is not. In this article I will only use the King James Version of the Bible so that the Bible version will be acceptable to even the most fundamentalist of Adventists.

From the Second paragraph (Batchelor’s quotes in blue):

…But God named Adam. God brought Adam’s wife from his side. Adam named Eve. Adam was looking among all the creatures, he noticed they all had their pairs, but there was something missing. So woman came to be the help mate for man to really be the completeness of God’s creation of man in his own image.

Actually there is no record of God naming Adam. Adam is actually not intended as a proper name but means red or earth. From the Jewish Encyclopedia:

The etymology of the word "Adam" is of importance. The writer of Gen. ii. 7 gives his own explanation when he says: "God formed man of dust of the ground." That is to say, the man was called "Man" or "Adam" because he was formed from the ground (adamah). Compare Gen. iii. 19…

A closer examination of the narrative will show that the word is primarily used in a generic sense, and not as the name of an individual. In Gen. i. its use is wholly generic. In Gen. ii. and iii. the writer weaves together the generic and the personal senses of the word. In all that pertains to the first man as the passive subject of creative and providential action the reference is exclusively generic. Indeed, it is doubtful whether "Adam" as a proper name is used at all before Gen. iv. 25 (J) and v. 3 (P). Here the same usage is manifest: for in the two opening verses of chap. v. the word is used generically. It may also be observed that the writer in Gen. ii., iii. always says "the man" instead of "Adam," even when the personal reference is intended, except after a preposition, where, however, a vowel has probably been dropped from the text.

As regards Eve, Batchelor is a little closer to being accurate as the Bible says
: (Gen 3:20 KJV) And Adam called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living. This is interesting as the name has nothing to do with being a helpmate but is based upon the idea that she was the mother of all living. Though if one were to take the Genesis story in a literal timeline Eve was not the mother of anyone at the time. It is certainly over-reaching to say that a man needs to have a woman to be complete in the image of God (after all that seems to depart from what Paul has to say) I would say that Batchelor there is a bit confused. By the story both male and female are complete in themselves and created after the image of God.

(Gen 1:27 KJV) So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

But you see in the beginning, right after the temptation and sin entered our world that trouble began, when woman wandered from man’s side and then, she instead of listening to the clear instructions she had received from the Lord and from her husband not to take from that forbidden tree, she independently made a different decision.

Wandered from the man’s side? That is not part of the Bible story is it? No it is not there at all in fact in the story Adam was with her.

(Gen 3:6 KJV) And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

Then she brings it to her husband and offers it to him and man now [defers] to his wife; instead

of leading, he submits. And he takes her advice and all the problems that you see in the world today, both in our relationships and in the world, spring from this interruption of God’s design for the relationship between God and man and woman.

Just a bit more reinterpreting the story to have Eve bring Adam the fruit instead of Adam being with her at the tree as the Bible story indicated. Once you have reinterpreted the story in such a way it becomes easy to assume that God’s original order in the story was that woman submit to man even though that is later defined in one of the curses for the sin. But as I have said accuracy is not high on the priority list of evangelists.

(Gen 3:16 KJV) Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

At this point we find that Batchelor is not getting the information from the Bible but from Ellen White:

“…you can read about this by the way in the book Patriarchs and Prophets, page 53 and 54; “The angels had cautioned Eve to beware of separating herself from her husband while occupied in their daily labor in the garden. With him she would be in less danger from temptation than if she were alone. But absorbed in her pleasing task she unconsciously wandered from his side. Sin came into our world as a result of man neglecting and women disregarding the husband’s leadership role.”

What is interesting to me here is that Batchelor has used the Ellen White’s version of the Genesis story instead of the Bible version and yet Ellen White was a woman who according to Adventist tradition was called by God to be a prophet when the first two men God called refused to fulfill the role. Speaking of women and culture Batchelor states:

“And I think what you’re seeing in the church has been a reflection of what’s been happening in our culture. Where because there has been a vacuum of leadership among the men both in society and in the church. That wherever there is a vacuum of leadership something will flow in and take its place. And women have been flowing in to fill the vacuum. Now that has led beyond what the Bible, I believe, teaches us what’s appropriate.”

In effect he is saying what I am telling you happened in Eden is actually taken from the teachings of an inappropriate source. If only he realized what he was saying, but that may be another of the hallmarks of evangelists. Although perhaps I should look at this as Batchelor as a Pastor, since that is how the sermon was intended. It is just that realizing his roots and his main ministry help explain so much of what he says, but I am sure there are numerous Adventist pastors who are just as inattentive to the facts as Doug Batchelor.

Batchelor then says the following but cuts off, though it is really funny to think how his mind must work:

“…By the way, the word seminary comes from the same word as semen. So it’s interesting that you’ve got so many women in the seminary studying for – that’s just where the root of the word is…”

The word comes from the Latin for seed but through that little twist and the context of women in the seminary verses the majority of men in a seminary he distorts the meaning from seed to the fluid from male reproductive organs containing spermatozoa. Technically neither man or woman have seeds in the reproductive tracts and each is required for the process.

Origin of Seminary from
“1400–50; late ME: seed plot, nursery < href="">semen + -ārium -ary

I did find a portion that I actually agree with Batchelor on. That is the labeling of ordained and commissioned pastors. Still it is only limited agreement since the whole concept of ordained pastors is not Biblical anyway as it came out of the Roman Catholic system when they were attempting to have one Bishop per city. Batchelor says:

“They call it commissioned but it’s really the same thing as being ordained as pastors. And it’s… you know you can call it commissioned but in every other way it’s the same as ordination with all the rights, privileges. It’s like Abraham Lincoln used to say, ‘you can call a dog’s tail a leg, but it’s still a tail.’ And so just changing the label of something doesn’t change the definition of it.”

Granted he gets Lincolns quote wrong but the label commissioned vs. ordained is meaningless except for the denominations monetary reimbursements. Oh and Lincoln’s actual quote: “How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.”

A little later he actually gets into his Biblical arguments; which I am not going to deal with. I just wanted to point out the factual errors and assumptions which he uses as his foundations. There is really no controversy that in ancient times the patriarchal society dominated most of the world and that it is reflected in both the Old and New Testaments. The question today is does the methods of the past dictate our future, does the culture of the past represent God determined order or the reality of male dominance in past societies. The other question that should be answered is what does leadership in the New Testament represent? Is it anything like what we practice today by Pastors and Ministers? What has tradition produced in the Christian church? One thing you can be sure of with pastors like Doug Batchelor you will not hear the above questions fairly examined. Though you may hear some amazing false facts used to support his understanding of things, but then when your understanding is based upon false information and interpretations is it really an understanding at all.

Update here is the link to the video since we have mentioned it in the comments section:

Women Pastors: A Biblical Perspective

Saturday, March 13, 2010

How invested are you in a belief?

One of the things I have yet to understand is how someone can become so invested in a belief that evidence to the contrary is ignored. This is particularly troubling in religion but also troubling in the world of political beliefs. I had an interesting experience on Facebook with a political liberal. I won’t go into all of the fallacies that the person believed but I will deal with the final belief in the discussion and his response. What is particularly interesting to me in this account is that his belief is very young. In fact it is probably less than two years old, but it was a part of his culture, the people he talked with and the material he read, so much so that he assumed that if anyone did not believe it they were ignorant. Here are the relevant sections of the conversation so you can get an idea of what I am talking about, as when dealing with political liberals the subject turned to Fox news and then to Sarah Palin.

P: “Are you insinuating that Sarah Palin has ANYTHING to offer the political world? I mean she can see Russia from her house. By golly oh gee EH?”

Me: "I mean she can see Russia from her house" That is funny you think a line from Saturday Night Live is really what Palin said. OK it is not funny just sad.”

P: “Dude are you really this insane or just dont pay attention? She actually SAID THIS and it became a SNL skit. LOL wow. Educate yourself. Do some research or at least read some alternative news sources”

P: “It was in an interview that she said this.”

Me: “P, if only your facts could support you. From Entertainment Weekly: "...and where one deft comment can puncture a national campaign (Fey's impersonation of Sarah Palin — including the phrase ''I can see Russia from my house,'' which Palin never uttered — redefined the 2008 vice presidential candidate). Can we go to there?"

“You have been politically inaccurate in most all of your comments from the very beginning when you claimed I was wrong on Reconciliation of budgets. What makes me wonder is what you are reading that makes you so sure you are right when you are constantly factually wrong.”

Me: “oops forgot the link to the EW article so you can read it for yourself, the article after all is on Tina Fey.”,,20324126,00.html

P: Everything snl did in the skits about her came from Sarah palins mouth. That was the beauty of it is the comedic value was so high they used her words word for word.

Ok so maybe she didnt say that she could see it from her house. I have alot of respect for women and especially women who are in powerful positions but this woman didnt even have a grasp of what was going on in her own state! There are very smart men and women and very stupid men and women and she is one of the dumbest women on earth.

P: “I am innacurate because I disagree with your position. Just be honest about it.”

P: “oh I forgot to mention that entertainment weekly is hardly a credible political source Ron”

What is interesting to see in this conversation is the certainty that P was right, then when he finally did a little research and found that Sarah Palin had not said the quote he was sure was word for word he could not understand how he could be viewed as inaccurate. It could not possibly be that he was wrong and demonstrably wrong it was that I simply disagreed and that if I was honest I could admit the fault was mine. Even after he found the youtube section of the interview of Sarah Palin he still felt the need to criticize the source I used to correct him. If you actually Google the question the first hit directs you to Yahoo Answers Did Sarah Palin really say "I can see Russia from my house" ?

Yahoo Answers provides us with the segment of the interview which sparked Tina Fey’s comedy:

"GIBSON: What insight into Russian actions, particularly in the last couple of weeks, does the proximity of the state give you?

PALIN: They're our next door neighbors and you can actually see
Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.

GIBSON: What insight does that give you into what they're doing in

PALIN: Well, I'm giving you that perspective of how small our world is and how important it is that we work with our allies to keep good relation with all of these countries, especially
Russia. We will not repeat a Cold War. We must have good relationship with our allies, pressuring, also, helping us to remind Russia that it's in their benefit, also, a mutually beneficial relationship for us all to be getting along. "

Now think how simple this incorrect understanding of current events is. Based upon recently acquired ideas but they fit the template of the believer…how much more difficult is it to get people to think about religious ideas, things held to for tens or hundreds of years. When a fact can be shown to be wrong the believer in a particular idea will remain wedded to the idea because it is a part of their template of understanding.

That is what we in the Adventist church have to deal with when we deal with Traditional/historic Adventists and that is what many of my fellow Progressive Adventists have to deal with Adventists and other Christians when we ask them to rethink their Atonement theory. So that they don’t have God pouring out His wrath upon Christ who is God as a method for Christ to pay a penalty to God so that God can forgive people. That is probably a 300 year old tradition that came out of a tradition that is 800 years old known as the Satisfaction theory.

The answer I think we most often use is baby steps but how well do baby steps work with those who refuse to question their own beliefs? Somehow we have to teach people how to think critically to actually follow Thomas Jefferson’s advice: “Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.” A critical thinker is not only critical of other beliefs but willing to think critically about their own beliefs. If your church or school is not teaching you to think critically they are not really doing their job.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

The Decline of Christianity

I just read an interesting article entitled: Mainline Churches: The Real Reason for Decline

Benton Johnson, Dean R. Hoge & Donald A. Luidens. I encourage you all to take the time to read the article. It is from the archive of First Things magazine. While the research is predominately from the Presbyterian Church I think it can be more broadly applied to most main line churches and also the Adventist Church as well.

After listing two common ideas for the decline in Main line Christian Churches, a shift to greater individual autonomy and as a protest against the churches perceived lack of care for the poor and political issues like abortion, the article states:

A third intra-religious theory was advanced by Dean M. Kelley in his controversial book, Why Conservative Churches Are Growing, published in 1972. Kelly argued that the mainline denominations have lost members because they have become weak as religious bodies. Strong religions provide clear-cut, compelling answers to questions concerning the meaning of life, mobilize their members' energies for shared purposes, require a distinctive code of conduct, and discipline their members for failure to live up to it. Weak religions allow a diversity of theological viewpoints, do not and can not command much of their members' time or effort, promote few if any distinctive rules of conduct, and discipline no one for violating them. In short, strong religions foster a level of commitment that binds members to the group; weak religions have low levels of commitment and are unable to resist influences that lower it even further.

Since careful tests of these theories have never been made, no consensus has emerged as to which, if any, of them best explains why mainline churches have lost members. To gain new insights into the reasons for the decline, the three of us decided to interview a national sample of baby boomers who had been confirmed in mainline Protestant churches during the 1960s. To simplify our task, we concentrated on a single denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), formed in 1983 by merger of the nation's two largest Presbyterian bodies. In 1989, with a grant from the Lilly Endowment, we drew samples of names from confirmation lists of churches in six states and located as many people in the samples as we could. We completed 500 Gallup-style telephone interviews and forty face-to-face follow-up interviews.

What they found is interesting:

…In short, our baby boom drop-outs did not leave the Presbyterian church in search of salvation or enlightenment; they left because religion itself had become low on their list of personal priorities. They pray occasionally, they hold Jesus in high esteem, and they have some interest in such questions as the purpose of existence and the fate of the soul after death, but they do not consider it necessary to attend church in order to nourish what faith they have.

The underlying cause it appears is what they call “lay liberalism”:

…We have named this pattern the theology of lay liberalism. It is “liberal” because its defining characteristic is the rejection of the view that Christianity is the only religion with a valid claim to truth…

…Most lay liberals “prefer” Christianity to other faiths, but they are unable to ground their preference in strong truth claims. A few simply told us that Christianity is “true for me,” whereas Buddhism or Islam may be true for others, and some explained that they preferred Christianity because they were raised in that faith. But most lay liberals we talked to were uneasy with the nihilistic implications of this line of thought, and they proposed some universal grounding for their religious preference. Some believe that a common thread of truth runs through all the world's major religions and that at base all religions teach the same thing…

…If God helped write all the world's scriptures, there is no harm in belonging to any religion that one finds congenial. Lay liberals have a much broader notion of what is religiously respectable than old-time Presbyterians had. They are hard put to offer theological reasons why anyone should remain a Presbyterian, or even a Christian…

Ultimately the reason for the decline is:

Orthodox Christian belief of one variety or other, which the fundamentalists and other conservatives in our sample espouse, seems to impel people to commit their time and other resources to a distinctively Christian regimen of witness and obedience in the company of other believers. Lay liberalism, on the other hand, is not an empowering system of belief but rather a set of conjectures concerning religious matters. It supports honesty and other moral virtues, and it encourages tolerance and civility in a pluralistic society, but it does not inspire the kind of conviction that creates strong religious communities.

It seems to me that the answer is found somewhere between the foolish certainty of fundamentalism and worthless all roads lead home of the “lay liberalism”. Fundamentalism encourages the idea that they have the truth and that all other ideas are wrong but it is largely based upon fictional interpretations and beliefs which cannot be maintained under questioning. Both sides are based upon unreasonable methods of interpretation. To say that all sacred books are inspired by the same God even though they contradict each other makes no sense unless God is terribly confused. That does not mean that there cannot be good things in all the different sacred writings we know that there are, but they all carry an underlying goal or principle to which the various religions aspire. Having some good parts does not make the overall document all good or all inspired by God. Neither is the fundamentalist dismissal of all other religious ideas feasible either. Which is why we need to enlist our minds in the analysis of religious ideas. What has happened however is that we have become scared to discuss religion. Not just different religions but even religion in our own faith traditions. One more quote from the article:

Given the reluctance of so many baby boomers to talk about religion or to instill their own views in their children, the prospects that their offspring will make a serious Christian commitment are even dimmer than their own prospects turned out to be. And among the “religious” dropouts the prospects are dimmer still. They are virtually unanimous in wanting their children to have a religious education, but less than a third with children at home have actually enrolled them in Sunday School. Many hesitate to do so for fear of getting “roped in” to a round of church activities themselves. They are “too busy,” and they have a myriad of other commitments. Above all, they see no real point in getting involved.

Modern Christianity has become afraid to deal with “God talk”. This is just as true in the Adventist church as any other church. The fundamentalist style of God talk is largely the reason I think that Christianity has lost the ability to do what it was called to do. The fear most Christians have of looking like an intolerant uneducated narrow minded bigot. The fundamentalist camps have created their own internal support but they have poisoned the water of everyone else. Their ranks are not really growing they are just not shrinking as fast as the rest of Christianity. (see: Most religious groups in USA have lost ground, survey finds )

Adventism needs to pull itself out of this guilt by association predicament. We need to be willing to engage in God talk without the enraging insistence that our interpretation is the only correct view or it is our truth or nothing. We must learn how to engage in the market place of ideas with respect and knowledge and make the case for Christ upon an intelligent argument from history and we must learn to include a new understanding of the information that science provides us. Faith does not simply believe in traditions, faith is believing in a God of grace and goodness who we can share as a relevant part of human life. God is not destroyed by evolution any more than He is destroyed by fundamentalism or legalism; somewhere in between there is something worth holding on to.

If our church can’t find that balance then some other church will most certainly find the balance and continue the work of God despite our pollution. Because certainly God has never given up because people misunderstood Him, at least that is something that history always makes clear.

Some Music to listen as you read

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I saw this on the artists MySpace Page and thought it was nice:

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Update on Auburn Teacher charged with Rape

A religion teacher accused of raping a teenage student pleaded not guilty Wednesday morning.

Scott Spies, a teacher at the Auburn Adventist Academy, has been charged with third-degree child rape and sexual misconduct with a minor.

At the Regional Justice Center, Spies was surrounded by family and a fellow teacher when he arrived for his arraignment.

Spies, 49, taught Bible study classes at the school and was fired after the allegations came to light.

Investigators said the relationship allegedly started in February 2009, when the girl was 15 years old, and became sexual last fall.

The article continues at KOMO news