Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Andrews study Bible now published

The New Andrews Study Bible has been made available for purchase. In a recent Spectrum article there is an interview with General Editor Dr. Jon Dybdahl. Some of his statements deserve comment so here are some of his quotes with my comments:

RD (Rachel Davies): So what makes your Bible different from the NIV Study Bible? What is “Adventist” about it?

JD (Jon Dybdahl): The theme index at the back definitely has an Adventist slant, highlighting parts of the Bible that Adventists have always seen as important. All the contributors are Adventists, so obviously you can see the influence of that particular lens on the themes that are emphasized and in the notes. But this was not an effort to be sectarian. Adventists need to look at the Bible as it is, just like everyone else. 
Here Jon Dybdahl notes the Adventist slant to the study Bible comments. It has an Adventist slant and all contributors are Adventists so it sees things through the Adventist lens but it is not sectarian? What does he think sectarian means, he has pretty much defined the work as sectarian and then says it is not sectarian.

The American Heritage dictonary defines the adjective sectarian as: 
  1. Of, relating to, or characteristic of a sect.
  2. Adhering or confined to the dogmatic limits of a sect or denomination; partisan.
  3. Narrow-minded; parochial. 
Pretty clearly despite Dybdahl's contradiction the work is sectarian after all that is the stated purpose of the Andrews Study Bible.

Another of the questions and answers:
RD: People who hear that a new “Adventist Bible” has come out will naturally think back to The Clear Word. Recently, the NKJV Remnant Study Bible was also released by Remnant Publications. How does the Andrew’s Study Bible compare to these works?

JD: We’re really quite a bit different from those two Bibles. The Clear Word is like a new paraphrase or translation of the Bible text itself. We have notes down below referring to the text, but that’s quite a bit different. We have not touched the text at all.

The unique feature of the Remnant Study Bible is that it highlights Ellen G. White quotes in connection with various biblical texts. Ellen White is not mentioned in the Andrews Study Bible so that people can use it evangelistically while studying with others.

It seems to me a very poor practice to use any sectarian Bible in studying with others. They may not be using Ellen White quotes but Ellen White as a co-founder of Adventism and someone who heavily influenced Adventist doctrinal views, someone who is considered an authority by the Adventist church is naturally going to be a component of the comments of a fully Adventist commentary by only Adventists who view the Bible through the Adventist lens.

In other words this would be a poor Bible because of its sectarian views to use to study with others. For personal study if you don't want to consider ideas outside of Adventism it would be perfectly appropriate. Why anyone would only want to consider Adventist commentary I am not too sure. It strikes me as upholding the incorrect idea that the Adventist church is the remnant and that the church holds all the truth so that we only need to study what other Adventists have said.

The final question and answer I will deal with is:
RD: How would you respond to those uncomfortable with the idea of putting out any kind of “Adventist” Bible? 

JD: The committee deliberately chose the title Andrews Study Bible instead of the "Adventist Study Bible" because they were sensitive to that issue. I suppose some people will start to call it the "Adventist Study Bible," but we were very intentional about not calling it that simply because we didn’t want to have that confusion. As I mentioned before we wanted to be faithful to the text but honest about our Adventist perspective.

As I noted this is a reaffirmation that this is a sectarian commentary but it also notes that the choice of a name which is often an indication of the ideology of the commentary. They don't say Andrews University Study Bible which may make some wonder what Andrews is referred to; is it J.N. Andrews, is it similar to say a Darby Study Bible? Is it some other person by the name of Andrews? I suppose at some place in the introductory pages there is an explanation which I would love to see but I have not seen the Andrews Study Bible yet and there are not preview pages on the Andrews site where you can purchase the Bible. I would love to review the commentary but I don't suppose that will happen any too soon. As I probably won't buy the Bible since I don't particularly like the New King James version in the first place. Though with the sectarian nature of the Bible and certain peculiar Adventist interpretation I understand why they would choose a King James based version.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The State Of Adventism Today?

In the August 2010 Issue of the North Pacific Union Conference Gleaner there is a reminder of the fanatical side of Adventism. In the issue are two letters directed to the Gleaner and a specific writer for the Gleaner which are quite upset with the following quote which began the Let's Talk article of June 2010:

"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door. You step into the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to."— Bilbo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings

"Beyond the allegorical pages of Tolkien's ode to the victory of good over evil, the spirit of adventure is the eager, boisterous wind upon which progress is borne. I sit within the comfort of home because those with trailblazing urgency trekked weary and courageous miles over a winding track to settle the Oregon Territory. I join with an apocalyptic movement whose pioneers, few in number, stepped out in faith to answer the call of an end-time message. I am a debtor to these and many others."

 Here are a couple of excerpts from the upset readers, unfortunately their website does not have the August issue on line yet:

In the article "The Next Step" by Steve Vistaunet (Let's Talk, June 2010), the author quotes from the The Lord of the Rings. This was quite unsettling to me and my husband. We don't believe that our church should be dealing with books such as this, especially not in official publications, but also in any other capacity...

In second letter excerpt:

"The first and last paragraphs of your article make reference to a trilogy : The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. The books and movies of the same title are classic science fiction works of the great adversary of Christ..."

It is sad to watch the narrow minded views of the SDA traditionalists as they attempt to take control of the Adventist church. No doubt with recent GC session results they are greatly encouraged at the prospects of their return to dominance in the church. Fortunately the Gleaner did respond with a plea to tolerance, in part writing:

"Along with music and diet, where some see black and white and others see gray, perhaps this is an area in which we can extend to each other a generous helping of Christian grace..."

The issue will of course remain for with the new leadership in the Adventist church and an emphasis upon Ellen White as an authority for Adventism more than devotional we will have to learn how to deal with the traditionalists who freely quote Ellen White and her abhorrence of fiction. She is pretty black and white though she did tolerate Pilgrims Progress. But Ellen White as authority and Ellen White as proponent of principles are two widely separate ideas. For in reality principles are often the product of the reader and thus are far grayer area. While literalism takes far less intellectual effort, maybe the church will do it for them with books describing the historical and personal details to give context to Ellen White's published words. But then even if that happens the traditionalists will still use the quotes regardless, it is part of our proof texting tradition, a part that needs serious overhauling.

Friday, July 09, 2010

The Adventist Myth of the Bible Only

John McLarty has an interesting article on Adventist Today entitled, Answering Fundamentalists. It has a couple of problems however. The first is the definition of fundamentalist. He follows the same definition that the makers of the Last Generation Movie used. His definition is:

“…In this sermon, when I speak of "fundamentalists" or "fundamentalism" I have two dominant characteristics in mind. First, is a radical commitment to a single text as the only source of authority? In Christianity, this is exemplified by the slogan, The Bible and Bible Only. Or the bumper sticker, "God said it. I believe it. That settles it." The second characteristic of fundamentalists is their belief that the best religion is that which is most similar to the pure, authentic religion of their spiritual forebears…”

It is that first characteristic that is the problem. Because no matter how you look at it, it is simply not true. The Bible is not their only source of authority. The second characteristic is however the most revealing of the Fundamentalist. Tradition is the source of the fundamentalist’s authority. That tradition is then read into the Bible and once incorporated it becomes their truth and the truth that they declare they find in the Bible.

There is a simple example that we can use to demonstrate this fact. I wrote about the subject in regards to Jimmy Swaggarts study Bible. Here is the example from that article, (Swaggart’s commentary in red):

“Consider what he says: even though the Lord had explained to the First Family the necessity of the Sacrificial System, that is if they were to have any type of communion with God and Forgiveness of sins. There is nothing in the Genesis account about anyone explaining a sacrificial system to Adam and Eve or Cain and Abel. To back up his false statement or at best his assumption stated as fact he says: There is evidence that Adam, at least for a while, offered up sacrifices. Really? Where is there any such evidence?”

Growing up Adventists it was always assumed that Adam and Eve offered Sacrifices, why we even have paintings on our Sabbath school Quarterly of the offering of Adam and Eve.

We don’t get that from anywhere in the Bible, we do get something similar from John Wesley who was the founder of Methodism and had a major impact upon Adventist theology through Ellen White, a former Methodist, and no doubt other Adventists pioneers. Here is what Wesley notes on the Bible says:

3:21 These coats of skin had a significancy. The beasts whose skins they were, must be slain; slain before their eyes to shew them what death is. And probably 'tis supposed they were slain for sacrifice, to typify the great sacrifice which in the latter end of the world should be offered once for all. Thus the first thing that died was a sacrifice, or Christ in a figure.”

It is now a common belief among Christians particularly Fundamentalists. Yet it can not be found in the Bible at all. It is inserted into the story and used from there on as evidence for several other subsequent ideas.

A similar example can be illustrated in Isaiah 14 and the funeral dirge of the Prince of Babylon called Lucifer in the Latin and carried over into the King James Bible. Lucifer through  teachings of some early Christian leaders in the 2nd and 3rd century became equated with Satan, but that is not found in the Bible and it is not found in the beliefs of the Jews. (see Who is Lucifer or Satan Mis-identified).

As you can see those are simply two examples where non-biblical ideas are accepted and inserted into the Bible.

The rest of John McLarty’s article deals with the idea of the Bible and the Bible only. Because this is what Fundamentalist have told themselves that they believe. McLarty shows some examples where people from Adventist backgrounds hold to some differing beliefs while each one claims that they accept and follow the Bible and the Bible only. The truth is that in the cases and the people he mentions not one is really following the Bible and the Bible only. Because it is a fiction, it does not exist. We simply cannot tear ourselves away from all the traditions that infiltrate the Christian religion. Some of us have tried for years to remove from our thoughts the ideas that previous traditions have inflicted upon us only to learn of some more hiding in our interpretations or in the interpretations of people we listen to or read. It is a constant noise in Christianity and it magnifies with each passing generation.

Within Adventism itself the problem is amplified because we have incorporated a vast amount of additional writings that we refer to as the “Spirit of Prophecy”. As one Anti-Adventist fundamentalist website says:

“… The proper scriptural rule is: "The Bible, and the Bible only, as the rule of faith and practice." Seventh-day Adventists do not abide by this rule, but add to the Bible the writings of Mrs. White, and make them superior to the Bible;”

Some may argue that Adventists don’t make the Spirit of Prophecy superior to the Bible but that it is an authoritative addition to the Bible cannot be argued. Hence if you do a Google search of the term "Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy" you get 31,800 hits. We heard it recently from the new President of the Adventist church Ted Wilson who said:

“When we are transformed by His grace, we will preach, teach, and witness to
the straight message from the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy in a humble, loving, winsome manner.”

“I praise the Lord that Nancy and I were both raised by godly parents. In neither of our homes did we ever hear one disparaging word about the Bible or the Spirit of Prophecy. We were both brought up to fear the Lord and reverence His Word.”

It is such a common term in Adventism I don’t even see why an Adventist would make the claim that we find in this Adventist World article by Kwabena Donkor

At a time when creeds had a strong hold on churches, Ellen White was instrumental in encouraging the church to stand by the Bible as the only source of faith and practice. She was firm on the principle of “the Bible, and the Bible only, as the standard of all doctrines, and the basis of all reforms.”2 This commitment to the primacy of Scripture that permeated the thinking of the pioneers continues to be emphasized in Adventist thinking today.”

If you think of some of those reforms of the nineteenth century, Health Reform (Alcohol Temperance, Tobacco Temperance), Dress Reform even Abolition of slavery; are these really ideas that are from the Bible and the Bible only? The answer of course is no they are not reforms predicated on the Bible they are reforms that one can find a few texts that may say something that the reformer will use but they are not developed from the Bible and the Bible only. Remember also that these reforms though we connect them to Ellen White were common among the reformers of the nineteenth century.

Adventist still hold to a lot of the old Puritan beliefs, some of which some of us grew up with. The idea that one should not go to theaters, the idea that one should not play a game or go swimming on the Sabbath. These were Puritan beliefs established hundreds of years before Adventists even existed and none of which are Bible and Bible only beliefs.

The problem is that we can and people do read all kinds of things into the Bible and then pretend that they have gotten their ideas out of the Bible. Fundamentalists deceive themselves and deceive others by proclaiming that their accepted views are the truth and their accepted views are the products of the Bible and the Bible only. It is this deception that produces the intolerance and the absurdities that predominate the religious thinking of Fundamentalists. It is not their respect for the Bible that is the problem it is their disrespect of the Bible, their ability to shape the Bible to their traditions that is the problem.

Unfortunately it appears that the fundamentalist deception is in the midst of resurgence in Adventism today if the appointment of our new President is any indication and I am certain it is a pretty accurate indication.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Time to take back the Adventist Church

A while ago the following article was submitted to Adventist Today who appear to have rejected the article for publication so in fairness I thought I would publish it here as it almost seems prophetic when we consider the events of the recent General Conference selection of President and his sermon this last week.

Time to take back the Adventist Church

We have all noticed it, the diverse opinions, views and beliefs that have found there way into the Seventh-day Adventist church. People calling themselves “progressive” or “liberal” or “moderates” or “evangelical” Adventists. Why there are even “cultural” Adventists and a few “agnostic” Adventists, don’t ask what that one means. It is all actually just an abundance of terms for “apostate” Adventists. The time has come for us to admit the fact that inside our church are vast numbers of confused Adventists who are in need of conversion and who have become stumbling blocks to real Adventists.

Because of this abundance of confusion within Adventism real Adventists have had to term themselves as “Traditional” Adventists (some may say “historic,” substantially the same, however, unless you get to talking about the Trinity). Traditional Adventists are the only Adventists that still hold to the pillars of our church. The Pillars that Ellen White warned us to never leave behind[1]. Traditionals are the Adventists who hold to the 28 Fundamental beliefs[2] (formerly 27 but with time more fundamental ideas occurred to us). Let’s be clear as President Obama is found of saying; “Traditional” Adventists are the only real Adventists and it is time we took our church back from the Adventists in name only.

Does that sound radical? It should not; traditional (real) Adventism remains normative in all official areas of the church.  The church in its formal, duly constituted General Conference Session established the 28 Fundamental beliefs and refers to them in both short and long forms of our baptismal vows. Under the term fundamental Bible principles or fundamental beliefs the vow will include all additional fundamental beliefs we may find or devise in the future as well. The long form:

11. Do you know and understand the fundamental Bible principles as taught by the Seventh-day Adventist Church? Do you purpose, by the grace of God, to fulfill His will by ordering your life in harmony with these principles?[3]

The short (alternate) form:

2. Do you accept the teachings of the Bible as expressed in the Statement of Fundamental Beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and do you pledge by God’s grace to live your life in harmony with these teachings?[4] (2005 SDA church manual page 33)

Notice that there is no proviso in either of these vows for the exercise of ones individual interpretation of, or understanding of the Bible. The vow is to understand and to live your life in harmony with the Adventist statement of Fundamental Beliefs. Fundamental Beliefs established by the General Conference in session, God’s highest authority on earth.[5]

One of those Fundamental Beliefs is that Ellen White is; “the Lord's messenger, and her writings are a continuing and authoritative source of truth which provide for the church comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction.” If Ellen White whose writings are a continuing and authoritative source of truth tells us not to abandon the historic pillars of the Adventist church we are left with no choice but to follow the traditional form of Adventism as the only group which adheres to those historic pillars as she taught them. The only group of Adventists who willing maintain that “private independence and private judgment must not be maintained” against the highest authority of the Lord on earth.[6]

It is a small sacrifice to give up one’s individual beliefs when there is a God given institution proclaiming the truth. It would be both folly and arrogance of the highest order to doubt either the church’s organizational structure or its decisions, Traditional Adventist have always allowed the questioning of the churches belief however they insist the members acknowledge the answers that Traditional Adventism supplies as truth.  To that end God has blest our church with publications which officially represent His chosen movement on earth for these times. With such resources at hand there is little excuse to go to the apostate Christian world for additional insight, and no reason to ignore the answers which the church leadership has supplied. “Doubt, and even disbelief of the testimonies of the Spirit of God, is leavening our churches everywhere.”[7]

Some might suggest that there were indeed times past when the individual was right and perhaps even had a duty to question the established mother church. Martin Luther rightly questioned the Roman Catholic Church.  Our own Adventist Pioneers questioned their respective churches and were often cast out from their apostate protestant denominations.  But, those times are past. Today the apostates have taken up residence inside our own denomination.

We cannot allow individual interpretations or application of present truth because the Adventist church unlike every other denomination is a prophetic movement of God -- the last true Remnant church of Revelation.[8] As

Those three defining characteristics describe Adventists as the only people who find their:

1. prophetic roots, or history, predicted in Revelation 10. 
2. prophetic identity defined in Revelation 12. 
3. prophetic message and mission given in Revelation 14.”[9]

That fact that we see ourselves as the fulfillment of certain passages of the book of Revelation is incontrovertible proof of the Adventist prophetic movement. It is evident then that when those in the Adventist church question our interpretation of the book of Revelation they are questioning our whole reason for existence.[10] They are questioning every doctrine we hold as true because they question our unique and distinctive nature. Thus, they are stumbling blocks, in the way of every truly believing Adventist because they deny the Fundamental beliefs which the Adventist leadership holds as being what the Bible teaches.

Individuals who question any of our fundamental beliefs of necessity end up questioning every one of our beliefs.  For instance, challenging the Substitutionary nature of the atonement whereby  Jesus had to pay a blood price to his Father for our sins would lead to the denial that God killed the first animal in Eden to give us the symbol of that Substitutionary future death. That might lead them to question the literal nature of the Genesis story and the weekly cycle on which the Sabbath rests and also open the door to the vast age of the earth as taught by worldly science with its death and predation before the fall of man. 

The Adventist church stands upon a precious if somewhat precarious chain of truth. The links in that chain dare not be disturbed.   They can never be doubted.  They must be accepted as they were first hammered out for us by those young people, led by the Spirit, 200 years ago in the farm houses of New England.  Or codified 30 years ago by the General Conference session in Dallas Texas.

To abandon a reliance on those truths as once delivered to those founders, as we stand on the verge of the Lord’s return would be to risk pushing Adventism into a whole new age of serious individual Bible study, to risk original individual interpretations or applications. Especially dangerous is the non traditional thinking among the young and inexperienced, the problems of excess enthusiasm are well known; Particularly among the young and inexperienced, people similar to those who founded our church.

Clearly our only protection is found in a universal commitment to our current traditional Adventist understanding – in thought and in action.  Those incapable of such commitment should flee their apostasy or flee their connection with the Adventist church.  As a stop gap measure it is now necessary for the organized church in each congregation to form boards of inquiry to lovingly investigate and seek to educate and motivate change in those who may have become confused as to their loyalties to God’s one true remnant church.  If necessary such guilty individuals who remain unrepentant would be remanded to similar bodies at the local Conference level for final review and disposition.  The time has come to develop an oath of allegiance to the Adventist church so that ultimately the board of inquiries could be dissolved and replaced by annual oath days filled with powerful sermons that recount our churches establishment as God’s remnant church and repeat our Fundamental beliefs. Oath Day services to be concluded with the solemn and moving recitation of the oath of allegiance and the signing of the written oath of allegiance.

It is well past time that the Seventh-day Adventist church prepare herself, pure and spotless, to be the bride of her Lord.  It is time we take up this issue this summer in Atlanta. Even so, Come Lord Jesus.  

[1]  Vol.4 Testimonies For the Church page 211 1875
[4] Ibid
[5] Vol.4 Testimonies For the Church page 492 1875
[6] Ibid
[7] Vol. 5 Testimonies For the Church page 217 1889
[10] The Remnant and the Adventist Church Ángel Manuel Rodríguez

Saturday, July 03, 2010

GC Prez says worship right

Adventist Today posted a transcript of the newly appointed GC president Ted Wilson’s press conference.  It looks even less promising then I had originally thought. Then of course I heard and you can read Wilson’s Sermon and see that the future does not look bright. Much of this post was composed a few days ago and I had not finished it before hearing Wilson’s sermon which pretty much verified Wilson’s traditional/historic Adventism and his now clearly active opposition to Progressive Adventism.  But since the interviewed contained something that was very important and overlooked so far I am going to still post this article dealing with his press conference statements.

Early on Wilson reflects on the mission of the Adventist church which he feels is somehow found in Revelation 14. He states:
“…that message is found in Revelation 14, verses 6 through 12, which announces, really,
the righteousness of God, the righteousness of Christ, the everlasting gospel, and God’s
call to his people around the world who truly worship him in the right way.”

That statement truly worship Him the right way? Is an interesting turn of phrase. It reminds me of the Chris Lizotte song “Hard Enough” that says:

 “All I want to do is grow in the love of Jesus Christ/ I don’t want to be one to say You don’t worship right/But you know that it’s hard enough, hard enough to keep our feet walking the straight and narrow/well it’s hard enough, hard enough we all were called to carry the same cross”

Sort of different philosophy from Ted Wilson but a philosophy I agree with much more than Wilson’s emphasis on “truly worshiping right”.

Here is the full quote I referenced in my last blog article:

Newman: David Newman, Adventist Today. During the next five years, what would be
your main priorities, as President?
Wilson: Well, I am sure they will develop a little further, as I think about them, even
more. But definitely, as I have already mentioned, a very high priority will be on the
Bible reformation—on an understanding of Scripture from a historical biblical
perspective; not a historical critical or higher critical approach. I think—really the
authority of scripture is going to become the most critical areas of contention within, I
don’t think only the Adventist church, but in Christianity itself. The word of God is
relevant, is pertinent for us, and that, I think, is an extremely important thing. Within the
Adventist Church, we must place strong emphasis on the Spirit of Prophecy, not just as a
devotional reading, but as instructional counsel for every facet of life.”
Asked about bringing unity to the church Wilson noted that unity is based upon our beliefs and he concluded:

“I will bring unity in every possible way we can, but I want
us to understand that we are going to remain faithful to the Word and to what Spirit of
Prophecy indicates. Some people may find that archaic—not in tune with the times. I
think it’s eternal”

The problem with this statement is we don’t know what being faithful to the word means. Of course we do know that with his statement about his opposition to historical criticism he means that being faithful to the Word is a form of literalism and traditionalism when literalism does not work. And we know that the reference to the Spirit of Prophecy indicates that Ellen White is meant to be used as the interpreter of Scriptures.

All in all I think Wilson’s statement “truly worship him in the right way”. Will define the Ted Wilson era of the Adventist church; the right way of course being what the Traditional Adventist bureaucracy determines to be the right way. It is a return to the works era righteousness of Adventism expressed once by Ellen White  in Early Writings page 55-56 1882 when she said:

  I saw the Father rise from the throne, and in a flaming chariot go into the holy of holies within the veil, and sit down. Then Jesus rose up from the throne, and the most of those who were bowed down arose with Him. I did not see one ray of light pass from Jesus to the careless multitude after He arose, and they were left in perfect darkness. Those who arose when Jesus did, kept their eyes fixed on Him as He left the throne and led them out a little way. Then He raised His right arm, and we heard His lovely voice saying, "Wait here; I am going to My Father to receive the kingdom; keep your garments spotless, and in a little while I will return from the wedding and receive you to Myself." Then a cloudy chariot, with wheels like flaming fire, surrounded by angels, came to where Jesus was. He stepped into the chariot and was borne to the holiest, where the Father sat. There I beheld Jesus, a great High Priest, standing before the Father. On the hem of His garment was a bell and a pomegranate, a bell and a pomegranate. Those who rose up with Jesus would send up their faith to Him in the holiest, and pray, "My Father, give us Thy Spirit." Then Jesus would breathe upon them the Holy Ghost. In that breath was light, power, and much love, joy, and peace. 56

      I turned to look at the company who were still bowed before the throne; they did not know that Jesus had left it. Satan appeared to be by the throne, trying to carry on the work of God. I saw them look up to the throne, and pray, "Father, give us Thy Spirit." Satan would then breathe upon them an unholy influence; in it there was light and much power, but no sweet love, joy, and peace. Satan's object was to keep them deceived and to draw back and deceive God's children.   
Worshipping God is not enough when it has to be done so specifically that to Worship Christ and not realize he left a portion of the heavenly sanctuary which no one sees of course and will be hijacked by Satan will lead to God’s children’s destruction. Ted Wilson wants to interpret the Bible by Ellen White; he is condemning the Adventist church to irrelevancy and ultimate cult status. The sad thing is he is not alone but the product of the leadership of the SDA church.