Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Paradigm Shift in Adventism

There is nothing more uncomfortable then to actually change. To change requires the acknowledgment that what you once thought or did was incorrect in some way. Christian's love to use it in reference to repentance, but they don't ever seem to want to think that it may be something they have to do in their own beliefs and doctrines. Adventist most certainly have a particular paradigm.

The originator of the term paradigm shift wrote of paradigms as:
...paradigms, including many that are far more specialized than those named illustratively above, is what mainly prepares the student for membership in the particular scientific community with which he will later practice.” (Page 11 from the 3rd Edition)

 While Kuhn writes in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions about science his philosophy equates well with many other areas of study including Theology. Each denomination builds up their leaders in their paradigm and thus they all work from within that paradigm. As Kuhn concludes the above paragraph by saying:
Because he there joins men who learned the bases of their field from the same concrete models, his subsequent practice will seldom evoke overt disagreement over fundamentals. Men whose research is based on shared paradigms are committed to the same rules and standards for scientific practice. That commitment and the apparent consensus it produces are prerequisites for normal science, i. e., for the genesis and continuation of a particular research tradition.
Most of us are quite aware of how the traditionalists work in religion. They are not out of step with any other area of study. We all begin with a particular set of principles and we try to fit them with reality.

The blog History and Theology summarizes Kuhn this way:
...In short, Kuhn offers an analysis of how a scientific community accepts, discards and embraces new theories. He argues that a scientific community accepts a theory, which he calls a paradigm, over others, because one paradigm is more successful than the others in solving a few problems that a group believes to be important. However, to this point, he quickly adds that no paradigm is perfect. In fact, it is the imperfections of these paradigms (he actually calls them anomalies) that can lead to paradigm shifts.[2] However, it is important to keep in mind that these changes do not come quickly or easily,[3] but when they occur, Kuhn views them as shifts in worldview.[4] He even more provocatively, at times, calls these changes, conversions. He writes, “The transfer of allegiance from paradigm to paradigm is a conversion experience…”[5] The applicability of Khun’s work is enormous for many different fields of study.”

The above blog then lists some important points for consideration the last being this:
  1. All people should look for anomalies in their worldviews and be honest about them.
The anomalies of a paradigm are always the problem and they are also the spur that moves to new views, to the actual paradigm shifts. If you ignore them and teach others to ignore them then the old paradigm works just fine but of course you are not being honest with yourself if you ignore the anomalies. When it comes to creation vs. evolution we often see the anomalies ignored by the paradigm of the creationists and even when the idea of evolution with God's involvement is used the creationist simply ignores the theistic part of the newer view. Thus they ignore the mountains of scientific data and even ignore those who try and reconcile the science with the mystical.

Paradigm shifts are rarely quick and easy transformations. But for those growing up with more open views toward knowledge and less concrete certitude the paradigm shift is already taking place. For example many Christians have no problem accepting the ideas of evolution with their Christianity while others stuck in the previous paradigm cannot fathom how this can be done. You can't explain it to them because it is outside their particular worldview. But that worldview is theirs, it is what their paradigm has set forth and they don't want to change their worldview even if others have changed.

As Kuhn writes on page 67: “Furthermore, in all these cases except that of Newton the awareness of anomaly had lasted so long and penetrated so deep that one can appropriately describe the fields affected by it as in a state of growing crisis. Because it demands large-scale paradigm destruction and major shifts in the problems and techniques of normal science, the emergence of new theories is generally preceded by a period of pronounced professional insecurity. As one might expect that insecurity is generated by the persistent failure of the puzzles of normal science to come out as they should. Failure of existing rules is the prelude to a search for new ones.”

The Adventist church is in this painful process right now. The question is can the church look at the anomalies and be honest with itself or ignore them and maintain a concrete but functionally problematic paradigm. In fact this paradigm shift is far from just about young earth creationism, it is about the nature of atonement, the value of our eschatology and the authority of some of our traditional ancestors as well as the meaning and purpose of inspiration. Thus the problems have mounted and the tendency to ignore has lasted a long time. So if Kuhn is correct and he certainly seems to have a good grasp of the issues, then the Adventist church is due for a paradigm shift. But as Kuhn says the next paradigm will likely have its own problems. Unfortunately there is no giant leap to all the answers. But that seems to be the way that progress works, slow steps forward in understanding with new understanding bringing forth new anomalies.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Redefining Theology, Goldstein and Genesis

There was an interesting comment over on the Spectrum Magazine blog concerning Clifford Goldstein's March 2012 article in the Adventist Review, the subject of my previous article. In the comment section one atheist/former (you have to know his history of comments to know this fact it is not present in this comment) Adventist writes:

“All of you seem to have skipped Cliff's challenge: "For years I’ve been asking someone to give me a reinterpretation of the texts, based on the Darwinian worldview, that doesn’t undermine almost everything we believe: the trustworthiness of the Bible, the origin of sin and death, the character of God, and the meaning of the cross."

In the interest of not repeating the same old arguments and posts we've seen so many times before, why not seriously address his point. Cliff's argument is not with science per se; his point is that he is not willing, under any circumstance, to give up on the Christian gospel. If evolution allowed him to keep his faith intact, he would be happy to acknowledge the science behind it, if I read him correctly. The reason I think he is so angry at you is that he believes that you're eroding the ground upon which Christianity is built.”
I think this raises an important observation, Goldstein has not seen anyone produce a theistic evolutionary response that leaves in tact all of Goldstein's theological assumptions. No one really tries to answer Goldstein because it can't be done and contain all of Goldstein's assumptions that make what Goldstein considers the gospel. In brief what does his view of the trustworthiness of the Bible mean. Well he means that the first 11 chapters of Genesis are literal and historically accurate. Something no theistic evolutionary accepting Christian would accept. So to Goldstein to deny the literalness denies the trustworthiness of the Bible. But for those of us who accept theistic evolution trustworthiness is not based upon literalness.

The origin of sin and death is not really the topic of the first chapters of Genesis. Sin is not even mentioned until the story of Cain and Abel. Death is mentioned as a consequence of actions. Because of Adam and Eve's actions the tree of life is removed from their access. The story is hardly about the origin of sin and death, even Adventists seem to acknowledge that sin originated with Satan and Satan is not even mentioned in the Genesis story. He is a later addition to Jewish thought and then attributed to be the serpent of old in the book of Revelation. So even to the Adventist the subject is not the origin of sin.

What Goldstein means by the character of God I don't know, I would guess from his article he is thinking; how can God create through a system of death where animals and plants grow change and die and evolve. Apparently it is OK for God to make animals become predators upon others and virus and plants to attack and kill a host because God is upset by human sin. But he has to draw the line somewhere and he choses the evolution of nature to be somehow contrary to the character of God. Personally I don't see any problem with death before Adam and Eve, the assumption that it is not involved in the Genesis story seems wrong to me as the people in the story eat. So they are destroying cellular material and that is death. This is not a real problem unless you take the perfect world idea to it's logical conclusion, bacteria would grow and exponential rates and cover the earth in less then a week (maybe even 24 hours) if there was no death. The story is not trying to tell us there was no death, that is something people like to read into the story. Goldstein's assumptions are part of the things read into the story and he wants them maintained when they should be let go.

Last is his meaning of the cross. Goldstein is a forensic atonement person. I don't accept the substitutionary atonement, so I really would not find my meaning of the cross to be the same as Goldstein. In fact I think the substitutionary atonement theory speaks terribly about the character of God.

So can anyone do what Goldstein wants done? No, because what he wants is to find his beliefs encompassed with a totally different understanding of theology. His view is traditional but that hardly makes it correct. Traditions come and go, they are constantly adjusted and changed and just because they are traditional does not prevent their evolution. But that is what Goldstein wants; his tradition to be maintained, if not he can't accept anything else. But that really does not leave him in the position of authority in rejecting other views. It only means he won't look at anything other then the way he sees things.

The atheist commenter on Spectrum wants us to admit that the idea of evolution destroys the gospel. It does not, it destroys the fundamentalist or the traditionalists gospel. But is that really a bad thing?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Adventist Review publishes smear terms.

I may have been too hard on the editors of Liberty Magazine and Adventist Today online. It could be that Adventists are simply incapable of being sensible editors of any publication. Consider this from the March 15 2012 Adventist Review:
No question, Genesis 1 and 2 present challenges. Bible students have been trying to work their way through the Creation account for thousands of years. The issue isn’t that the texts aren’t without difficulties; everyone knows that they are. The issue is the “solution” Seventh-day Darwinians want to impose upon them.

So who are the Seventh-day Darwinians? Is there a definition in the article by Clifford Goldstein? No, no definition. Can we find it in the dictionary or Wikipedia. Not listed there either. Maybe there is an organization called “seventh-day Darwinians” Again no.

But we can search the internet and see that the Adventist Review and Clifford Goldstein has published articles using the term before. In 2003 Goldstein wrote an article entitled Seventh-day Darwinians. No definition there either, in fact the title is the only mention in the article of Seventh-day Darwinians. Then Again in the Adventist Review again in an article by Clifford Goldstein we read another article entitled Seventh-Day Darwinians,Redux. Again I suppose that is what the Redux means, the term Seventh-Day Darwinians is only found in the title of the article, again no definition, no reference to the group known as Seventh-day Darwinians, it appears to be some kind of smear or code language. 

Should the editors be publishing articles with terms that have no definition? Or should opponents of an idea be free to title someone of a different view as with prejudicial terms. For instance should I refer to Goldstein’s articles as information geared toward Seventh-day Totalitarians? 

It is rather sad that in Adventism Darwinian has this biased negative view put forth by people like Goldstein. Darwinism actually has a dictionary definition. And it is perfectly acceptable within the bounds of Christian theology as well as science. defines Darwinism as:

the Darwinian theory that species originate by descent, with variation, from parent forms, through the natural selection of those individuals best adapted for the reproductive success of their kind.
Or the American Heritage Science Dictionary as:

A theory of biological evolution developed by Charles Darwin and others, stating that all species of organisms arise and develop through the natural selection of small, inherited variations that increase the individual's ability to compete, survive, and reproduce. Darwin's ideas have been refined and modified by subsequent researchers, but his theories still form the foundation of the scientific understanding of the evolution of life. Darwinism is often contrasted with another theory of biological evolution called Lamarckism,  based on the now-discredited ideas of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck.  See Note at evolution.
The acceptance of natural selection is pretty universal among biologists, not just atheist but also Christians, numerous examples of this type of natural selection have been produced. In fact I know of one Adventist who wrote book on Dinosaurs (though not a scientifically viable opinion on dinosaurs) who uses natural selection (Darwinism) to explain the immense diversity of animal life which he asserted to occur after the world wide flood since clearly that many animals would not fit on the ark of such recorded dimensions. He is a supporter of the six literal, consecutive, contiguous, 24-hour days of recent origin creation theory as well. Would a belief in natural selection actually place him in the Seventh-day Darwinian label? I suppose it depends upon who you ask and why do you think you should even respect their answer or ability to define a term that has no definition.

So who is more foolish the writer that uses a prejudicial but meaningless term or the editor that just passes on the prejudicial but meaningless term? They seem to both be doing it multiple times, so it is difficult to say. Perhaps they are equal in their prejudice and poor reasoning capabilities. It seems The Adventist Review editors simply pass on the biases that they agree with. When editors can’t be objective then they fail at their jobs and they fail to maintain a standard of trust of the magazine. This seems to be a theme in Adventism today.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

More foolish predictions from AToday colunmist

As some of you know who follow this blog the Atoday Columnist Stephen Foster is one of my favorite targets. He is to me one of the greatest examples of myopic traditional Adventism. He presents false information as if it were true and true information as if it were false. Well yes that later could be said of numerous political leftists but since Foster embodies both myopic traditional Adventism and ill informed political progressivism he strikes just the perfect cord of absolute silliness. Unfortunately absolute silliness is becoming all to common in Adventism.

In the past Foster has declared in his comment section of one of his articles that “arbitrary” means making a decision. Therefore since God makes decisions He is arbitrary. It did not matter if I showed him the dictionary meaning as well as the synonyms for arbitrary he would not be moved. So I said he was being disingenuous and he was a mixed up guy. That got me banned from posting comments on Atoday. Well there is no way to educate the editor/moderator at Atoday, so I don't post there anymore as a columnist or commentor. Actually quite happy to no longer have to try and write articles that the editor has to approve, because frankly it is hard to do when the editor knows so little.

For instance in Stephen Foster's latest article he mentions Rick Santorum's statement about nearly throwing up after reading JFK's speech. Foster then quotes a statement from Santorum the day after he made the throw up comment. Yet Foster ignored the Santorum statement that his throw up comment was an over reaction. So it stands in Foster's article as if Santorum had never corrected himself, even if you don't believe him why would you not offer the reader the facts in the matter. Well the reason is because information is not the purpose of the article it is propaganda. And propaganda cares little for the facts. Propaganda is one of the specialties of the political left. I suppose the right will use it to some extent but it appears not to be used nearly as much as the political left. The Editor at Atoday probably did not even know that Santorum had corrected his statement the next day. Because another unfortunate problem of the Traditional Adventists and the political left is that they are poorly informed about current events. Their sources of information are often restricted to those that agree with their ideology, and they rarely hear anything to the contrary.

So Foster puts forth his opinion and his selected retelling of the facts carefully omitting things that don't work toward his preordained conclusions. Though he did kindly note in the first part of his article that if you don't hold to his view of Traditional Adventist Eschatology you will not likely agree with him. Apparently if you agree with him then you will agree with his article. You see how the myopic views work. Their information is not intended to be persuasive to those who may differ but to be persuasive to those who already agree with them. Again something very common in Traditional Adventism and political progressives.

The main import of his article however was put forth in his opening line: “Does anybody continue to believe that things are not lining up according to prophecy?” Prophecy to Foster being his traditional Adventist Eschatology where in the Roman Catholic church rises up and takes over in both church and state relations. Santorum is a Roman Catholic running for President, and Santorum does not think that Religious people should be silent as to the affairs of state. Thus to fulfill the prediction of the 19th century Foster produces another prediction for what is happening now, even though Santorum has little chance of becoming the Republican candidate and even though Santorum says he will not enforce his religious ideas in the political realm just as he did not do so when he was a Senator. But the prophecy lines up, because the prediction in each case is the same and to most Traditional Adventists prediction is prophecy. But predictions are not prophecy they are interpretations someone has placed upon a prophecy. They are consistently proven wrong. Yet consistently trotted out again and again, because they are at least to the believer never proven wrong because they can always still happen just around the corner.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Bill Maher, stranger to reason

Here is a good view into the mind of a political liberal. It is sad and disturbing but likely thought of by those with limited thinking capabilities to be funny.  Bill Maher said the following on his HBO show:

BILL MAHER: But I bring up the old tale of the poisoned apple -- no, not "Snow White," that's a fairy tale - because the Adam and Eve story is taken literally by half the country and it's no coincidence that the type of tree which god forbade Adam and Eve eating from was the Tree of Knowledge. Rick Santorum homeschools his children because he does not want them eating that f--king apple. He wants them locked up in the Christian madrassa that is the family living room not out in public where they could be infected by the virus of reason. If you're a kid and the only adults you've ever met are mom and dad, and then they're also the smartest adults you've met, why not keep it that way? Why mess up paradise with a lot knowledge? After all, a mind is a terrible thing to open.

You could read that and think it was just an attempt by a mediocre comedian to make a joke. Until you see he includes reason into the equation and ends with a call for an open mind afterall. For what he thinks is reason is simply misinformation. He begins the account by mentioning a poison apple, no poison apple is in the Biblical story; in fact no specific fruit is mentioned at all. Then he intentionally misnames the name of the tree. The name  of the tree in Genesis being the tree of knowledge of good and evil. To him it is the tree of knowledge. God simply did not want Adam and Eve to have knowledge any knowledge apparently. But of course the story is much more relevant than Maher’s misinformation. God did not want them to eat of the fruit and learn what evil was.

Then Maher moves to Rick Santorum who home schools his children. In Maher’s created world if they go out in public they will be exposed to the virus of reason. Reason really, does he know what reason is. Is reason ever the product of intentional misinformation and lies. Do Santorum’s children never go out in public or hear any other voices? What about the Christian Madrassa? That is clever right, a Christian “Muslim school”, that is what madrassa means a Muslim school. Reasonable?

Possibly to the political liberal it is because they can’t argue from facts so they resort to the type of argument Bill Maher uses. And amazingly enough HBO pays him to produce this kind of material! And even more amazingly people watch him and some people think he has some intelligence. This perhaps is true if one does not look very close at anything he says; but if you actually do use reason. Well he does not do too well.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Prophetic Prognostication

I was prompted to address the subject of the “prophetic prognostication” because of Stephen Foster's recent article The Case Against Secularism - And For Prophecy Here is the line that Stephen wrote that interested me in this topic. “While history is a great teacher, it is difficult to quantify how much better it is, if at all, than is a “prophetic prognostication” on the same topic.”

Is “prophetic prognostication” better then history? Does history repeat itself as we often hear? For some reason this quote from Karl Marx has taken on a meaning that is far from accurate. writes: “Marx never believed that “history repeats itself,” but in a famous quote he said:
“Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” [Marx, 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonapatre, Chapter 1.]”

In fact history does not repeat itself, Napoleon is not the same as Hitler and Hitler was not the same as Stalin and Pol Pot is different then all the other leaders who created mass killing of people. History can teach us lessons that we can apply to our current conditions or movements, it does not repeat itself, whether in reality or in farce. Certainly people will continue to make the same mistakes, usually because they think they can do it right where the others failed but still history does not repeat itself and when we view history we have to interpret the data and analyze it for the best use we can make of it. History like most information is subject to interpretation.

“Prophetic prognostication” is equally subject to interpretation but unlike history there is no reality of actual experience to help with the interpretation. There is no history involved, no reality observed and no data from the occurrences to help the development of an interpretation. This moves prophetic prognostication into the realm of speculation. Speculation can be used to problem solve or run scenarios, such as making “what if” statements. The more variables in a scenario however means there are more possible “what if” statements that could be envisioned. The answers to those “what if” statements then branch like a tree into multiple possible additional “what if” possibilities of actions and reactions. This fact limits the application of “what if” statements or thought problems (thought experiments) to fairly simple options which are often not found in life's open systems (in terms of multitudes of interactions possible). “Prophetic prognostication” is not even in the useful “what if“ category because there are far too many factors then can be considered.

Adventism has seen the difficulties with “prophetic prognostication” in its application of Biblical predictive prophecy. Most famous in this list of  predictions is the of the end of the world in1844 the so called “Great Disappointment”. Adventists have from their beginning practiced prophetic prognostication on various topics. Most were thought to be fulfillments of some or other Biblical prophecy for example:
-- November 1 1755. The great Lisbon earthquake.
-- 1780 May 19. The unexplained dark day over New England
-- 1798 The Vatican fell because of the French Revolution, temporarily ending 1260 years of religious       and political domination
-- 1833 November 12-13. The great Leonid meteor shower
-- 1838 Josiah Litch used Revelation 9 to predict the fall of the Ottoman Empire around August of 1840
All of the above quoted from an Adventist teaching website.

 Adventists have been totally inaccurate in their “Prophetic prognostication” and interpretation of fulfillments. Earthquakes still happen, with more or less death and destruction then Lisbon, Forest fires and storms occasionally cause dark days, such as when Mt. St. Helens erupted. The Vatican did not fall in 1798 just because a Pope was captured once again, it had lost significant power for several hundred years before 1798, remember in just the area of religion there was the Reformation! There have been greater Leonid meteor showers since 1833 and they still come on their regular cycle. The Ottoman Empire did not fall in 1840 though it had been in decline for a hundred years, still nothing of significance even happened to the Ottoman Empire in 1840. Most of these formerly thought of fulfillments are rarely mentioned today in the Western World. The fact is that not only Adventists have failed with“Prophetic prognostication” but numerous other Christians have been completely unsuccessful with their interpretation and application of predictive prophecy from the Bible. Many have tried and all have failed. (Wikipedia even has a page on unfulfilled Christian predictions)

For Adventists this becomes even a greater problem because many try to use the “prophetic prognostication” of Ellen White as the general Christian community tried to use the Biblical predictive prophecies. Ellen White's predictive prophecies even in her life time also failed. The most famous probably being her statement that some of those at the 1856 conference would be food for worms, some would be subject to the seven last plagues and some would be translated.

"I was shown the company present at the Conference, Said the angel: "Some food for worms, some subjects of the seven last plagues, some will be alive and remain upon the earth to be translated at the coming of Jesus." Ellen G. White, 1 Testimonies, p. 131-132. May 27, 1856

When we look at what the Adventist denomination says itself about Ellen White's fulfilled predictions we see that they cannot really find any to point to with specificity. The book Seventh-day Adventists Believe ...  A Biblical Exposition of 27 Fundamental Doctrines (1988) On page 225 writes of Ellen White
“2. The accuracy of predictions. Ellen White's writings contain a relatively small number of predictions. Some are in the process of being fulfilled, while others still await fulfillment. But those that can be tested have been fulfilled with an amazing accuracy. Two instances that demonstrate her prophetic insights follow.”
“a. The rise of modern spiritualism...”
“b. A close cooperation between Protestants and Roman Catholics...”

Both are actually very questionable, Ellen White wrote about the "mysterious rapping" as a phenomenon caused by Satan, the quote  appears to be a reference to the Fox sisters spiritualism hoax of her time. In her day Abraham Lincoln held séances in the White House. In other words she wrote about the spiritualism which was already popular. To say that what was popular in her day was a prediction of the  rise of modern spiritualism is not even a prediction of significance but even that has not proved itself true.  If you go by those who say they follow or practice spiritualism there would be a decline just as there is a decline in the Theosophists of her day, another brand of spiritualism. But spiritualism is somewhat vague in meaning and could be held to a wide array of interpretations thus it becomes a vague and meaningless prediction, fulfilled by anyone that wants to say it is being fulfilled any time something becomes popular, such trends as Transcendental Meditation or the New Age Movement for example.

The second supposedly fulfilled prediction is cooperation between Protestants and Roman Catholics, again a prediction based upon the current events of her time. In her time there was such animosity by the Protestants against the Roman Catholics (often reciprocated) it would be hard not to see them either come together and get along or become so divisive that they tore the country apart. As this article reports: “In 1850 Catholics made up only five percent of the total U.S. population. By 1906, they made up seventeen percent of the total population (14 million out of 82 million people)—and constituted the single largest religious denomination in the country.” When Ellen White saw this kind of immigration it would not take some kind of divine imagination to see that the anti-catholic hatred and distrust of 19th century America was not going to last. But to be fair we can give her partial fulfillment on this issue as Protestants and Roman Catholics get along more as Christian brothers and sisters despite the rift of the Reformation. That Christians could have been that hateful of other Christians is a scar on Christianity. Still  the two are widely separate on many issues and here again the vague nature of the prediction plays a role, allowing who ever wants to interpret it to see some form of fulfillment.

If we are honest with ourselves we have to admit that the value of “prophetic prognostication” is very close to nil. The vaguer the prediction the more leeway for the interpreter to see what they want as a fulfillment. But due to the wide range of possible fulfillments we are still usually left with nothing of value. Worse yet when other “prophetic prognostications” are added to our view of current events the speculation simply runs wild. Those speculations though (historically based upon the complete failure of Christians to predict anything) are most likely wrong. The speculative interpretations are artificially upheld as truth because of their claim of a prophetic nature. When such speculation is used to prejudice people against other people or organizations, not upon what they have done or said but upon what they are anticipated to do following a “prophetic prognostication” then we practice a most offensive type of chauvinism and a complete misuse of reason. Speculation should never rule the day!