Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A really bad article on AToday by Monte Sahlin

Sometimes over at I read the most stupid arguments...and that includes the article writers. I think, how can anyone publish this stuff and not realize that one stupid paragraph actually destroys the credibility of their entire article. Because if someone is so biased why would anyone believe the rest of their analysis has any reliability. It seems it must come from a thought process that is so encased by only talking to people of their own political beliefs that they don't even see their statement as complete prejudice masquerading as fact.

Here is what Monte Sahlin writes in his article The Problem with a Fundamentalist World View:
The true believers in the pro-life movement—who I largely agree with on moral grounds, despite their widespread hypocrisy on capital punishment and feeding babies once they are born—believe that if Roe v Wade is rescinded or restrictive laws such as recently voted in Texas are adopted that it will impose moral order on a society where traditional ideas about sexuality have been discarded by most Americans. They simply don’t get the fact that it will change nothing about the sexual behavior of most people and it will create unanticipated outcomes, possibly more terrible than the present situation.   
The pro-life movement is involved in wide spread hypocrisy because it allows and accepts capital punishment of criminals. Really that is somehow connected to the right of a baby to be born? Innocent unborn life should have a right to exist therefore to not be a hypocrite guilty adults should not be executed after due process. By that reasoning the pro-choice movement must be hypocritical when anyone is sent to jail being then their choices are taken away. 

What about the second line, are pro-life people against feeding babies once they are born? Is there some kind of protests going on that I have not heard about where the pro-lifers are marching against giving babies food? Well probably to a political liberal mind welfare reform is taking food out of a babies mouth even though that is generally not what happens since the reform is found in making sure that the monies go to people who really need it and not fraud and waste. 

As for Roe v. Wade it should be rescinded and sent to the states. Surely by now we all should know that Roe was never a rape victim as the case was presented. So a case law was made based upon a trial where one of the prime principals in the case lied. see Do You Know the Fascinating and Troubling Story About the Woman Behind the Roe v. Wade Case? 

Is the Texas Law limiting abortions so that late term abortions are not allowed really that bad, as the Daily Caller writes:
Every modern poll on the issue shows the same thing: Large majorities say babies should not be aborted in the later stages of pregnancy. Looking at Gallup over the years, opposition to abortion after six months has never dropped below 80 percent. Even at three months, the numbers are still impressive: Over 60 percent of Americans consistently oppose abortions after the first trimester, and in 2011 they rose to 71 percent.

If these were election results, you’d call it a landslide.
But to Monte Sahlin such widespread agreement on limiting late term abortions is a method to change people sexual behavior! Or even worse if  states like Texas limit late term abortions it may make things  "possibly more terrible than the present situation."  It is really troubling to me that people can be so thoughtless and yet pretend to be thought leaders. 

Ultimately his fictional paragraph leads to his conclusion:
 Fundamentalists believe that they can control society’s sinfulness. Jesus knows otherwise. He says, Peter put away your sword. "He who is without sin, cast the first stone." Love your enemies. Turn the other cheek. Go the second mile."
Actually every religious and social organization likes to think they can limit society's sinfulness and fundamentalists at least Christian Fundamentalist are not trying to limit society's sinfulness with a sword. That might be true of Muslim Fundamentalists but it really has no application to Christian Fundamentalism. But as with the other facts Monte Sahlin conflates Fundamentalism as well pretending there is some major similarity between the Christian Fundamentalism and what is been much less accurately called as Muslim Fundamentalism ( remember the Muslim's in question don't even call themselves fundamentalist, it is quite different from the beginnings of Christiain fundamentalism where they wrote and expressed what their fundamentals were. See: Christian Fundamentalism on Wikipedia

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Upsetting the Apple Cart

A couple of things I have been reading have led me to wonder just how much the Adventist church cares about meeting people's spiritual needs vs. how much they want to dictate people's beliefs. Most of us by now have heard that about half of the Adventists in North America will leave the Adventist church, some come back most do not. Some estimates I have heard have former Adventists as numbering 3 million and current Adventists in North America at 1 million. Let's be more optimistic and only say the number of former to current Adventists is 2:1. Would not such numbers indicate that we are doing something wrong?

I have never been a big fan of sermons so the church service portion of the Adventist church never really appealed to me. I was usually able to find an interesting and challenging Sabbath School class however. At least until recently when my friend ceased his once a month facilitation of a class at the church I was attending. Though to be fair we were weaned off his class as the more traditional folks began leading more of the sessions until it was just down to once a month. Which is a good cautionary tale that the divided philosophy of a Sabbath School class is not likely to work. Theoretically it might still work if there were two leaders in attendance who agreed to disagree on things and lead together. But that is likely a hard thing to happen.

I think the reason for the demise of the more progressive or open Adventist Sabbath School classes has to do with the Adventist church desire to dictate beliefs vs. providing a place to meet spiritual needs. If you toe the more traditional Adventist line you rise in responsibilities and respect in the local church. If you don't you will become marginalized, and if you want to survive in the church as a progressive Adventist you often learn to sit down and shut up. You can only do that for a while usually and according to the statistics you then leave.

The Adventist Today blog has an article entitled: One Step ahead of Personal and Spiritual Annihilation.
By Harry Banks. In the article he writes of someone who started a Saturday, 11 O’clock bible study at the local telephone company education center. He writes:

What? Saturday church? At the phone company? With an IT geek for a leader? Oh, and who also happened to have previously been an atheist, and we are not done yet... The group is purposefully nondenominational to attract persons who feel alienated from religion or formalized religion for whatever reason.

The fist week, Larry, the programmer leader, opened by saying that he felt a need to reach out to the people around him and make a place to engage with them where they are. No pressure to come to a certain position or place of belief, but an exchange of personal spiritual journeys whether in a context of doubt or faith. With Larry's atheist background, the agnostic, Julian Barnes' line, "I don't believe in God, but I miss him," seems to point to a possible point of contact for us all. There is that empty spot in all of us that only God can fill. Regardless of our state of belief or unbelief there is still a place in us only God can fill.

What a concept. Could such a thing happen in an Adventist church? Or would those who were so sure they had the answers...that they were the remnant, end up looking down their noses at such spiritually questioning people. Would they be viewed as wolves in sheep's clothing out to infiltrate and bring uncertainty to the certain? Perhaps they would even think that evolution of life was possible and maybe even a method that God used to create...could that be allowed in the sacred walls of an Adventist church.

I don't know, I suspect the way to find out would be to actually try such an experiment with your local church. I am pretty sure it is not the kind of Revival and Reformation that Ted Wilson (Seventh-day Adventist General Conference President) has envisioned for the Adventist church but maybe it is the kind of Reformation that could lead to a Revival. A Reformation is really about change and perhaps we need a far more radical change then a return to what did not work a hundred years ago. Maybe Ted Wilson's plan to Go Forward by going backwards is not really the answer. The question is it worth upsetting the "frozen chosen". They feel they are spiritually well off...on the right track with the right answers. They don't really want to engage with the questions so that they can maintain their answers but even so that is going to be a comfort to them and they, like the spiritual questing, need comfort in their journey. So the question is can we add more fruit to the apple cart without tipping it over and spilling all the apples. Perhaps the status quo of losing 2 apples for every 1 apple in the cart is the best we can do. It probably is unless one decides to rebuild the cart, and if you do that then you have to transfer the apples from one cart to another.

It does sound like a lot of work!

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Philosophy use and abuse

I just received the new issue of Adventist Today for Summer 2013. I began by reading the editorial by J. David Newman. The issue invited 10  people total  (Alden Thompson is added in reference to his column) to write on the meaning of life, how do we know the meaning of life and what does it mean to be human. Newman writes the following:

There are five basic ways by which we know, and each one has its pluses and minuses. Most of us know because we were taught by someone, and so we appeal to authority. We know because of the testimony of others such as parents, teachers, and friends. Even
after graduation, we rely on the media and on books for much of our knowledge. It is impossible for us to verify everything we are told, so we accept by faith what we are told unless we begin to suspect that not everything is the truth.

There are many challenges in accepting what authority tells us. First, why should we accept any authority? And if we appeal to a second authority for verification, then where do we stop? What do we do when authorities disagree? How do we then decide what is correct?

This is really a poor piece of information or more properly misinformation. "Most of us know because we were taught by someone, and so we appeal to authority." Being taught is not an appeal to authority. For example I was taught how to read. It is not an appeal to authority because I read it is based upon the conventions and standardized interpretation of symbols that create meaning. An appeal to authority is defined as: 

Argument from authority (also known as appeal to authority) is a fallacy of defective induction, where it is argued that a statement is correct because the statement is made by a person or source that is commonly regarded as authoritative. The most general structure of this argument is:
This is a fallacy because the truth or falsity of a claim is not related to the authority of the claimant, and because the premises can be true, and the conclusion false (an authoritative claim can turn out to be false). It is also known as argumentum ad verecundiam (Latin: argument to respect) or ipse dixit (Latin: he himself said it).
On the other hand, arguments from authority are an important part of informal logic. Since we cannot have expert knowledge of many subjects, we often rely on the judgments of those who do. There is no fallacy involved in simply arguing that the assertion made by an authority is true. The fallacy only arises when it is claimed or implied that the authority is infallible in principle and can hence be exempted from 

Just being taught information is not an appeal to authority. In fact it is highly unlikely that your teachers, parents, friends, media and books ever agreed on more then a few points of information. The clear sky appears blue, water feels wet. Those kind of things.

Newman's article begins by falsely asserting that ones education in life is an appeal to authority.

I have no great love for philosophy I find it to be mainly filled with obscuring attacks and redefinitions of what other philosophers have said. In fact Spectrum has a series of articles on philosophy that are very demonstrative of this. Much of the confusion is because they have words which they only use...much like theology but a whole lot more. Consider this section from Newman's editorial:

A third way of knowing is rationalism. We have minds to think and reason, and we have the ability to use logic so that we can search for ultimate truth. This seems, at first glance, the best way to arrive at how we know. But it too has its share of problems. “Several criticisms have been leveled at rationalism. It has been argued by a large body of philosophers that an apodictic starting point can never be the basis for a comprehensive theory of knowledge since it must either be (a) a tautology or (b) incapable of elaboration by deductive techniques. The class of tautological statements would contain propositions such as ‘1+1=2,’ ‘A is A,’ and ‘Bachelors are unmarried males.’ It has been argued that such statements, while true and absolutely certain, are not informative about the world. If this be so, then such propositions can never be the basis of empirical knowledge.”2

Apodictic? When was the last time you used that word. In fact the word just means "necessarily or demonstrably true; incontrovertible." The whole sentence he uses is pretty meaningless. consider that reasoning is actually based upon inductive and deductive reasoning. Both forms are necessary for meaningful reasoning. So to state that one form of reasoning can't be used does not have much meaning as it could be true for either inductive or deductive forms of reasoning. A quick and easy explanation of inductive versus deductive reasoning is found here:

Deductive reasoning is a basic form of valid reasoning. Deductive reasoning, or deduction, starts out with a general statement, or hypothesis, and examines the possibilities to reach a specific, logical conclusion. The scientific method uses deduction to test hypotheses and theories.

In deductive reasoning, if something is true of a class of things in general, it is also true for all members of that class. For example, "All men are mortal. Harold is a man. Therefore, Harold is mortal." For deductive reasoning to be sound, the hypothesis must be correct. It is assumed that the premises, "All men are mortal" and "Harold is a man" are true. Therefore, the conclusion is logical and true.

It's possible to come to a logical conclusion even if the generalization is not true. If the generalization is wrong, the conclusion may be logical, but it may also be untrue. For example, the argument, "All bald men are grandfathers. Harold is bald. Therefore, Harold is a grandfather," is valid logically but it is untrue because the original statement is false.

Inductive reasoning
Inductive reasoning is the opposite of deductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning makes broad generalizations from specific observations. Even if all of the premises are true in a statement, inductive reasoning allows for the conclusion to be false. Here’s an example: "Harold is a grandfather. Harold is bald. Therefore, all grandfathers are bald." The conclusion does not follow logically from the statements.

Inductive reasoning has its place in the scientific method. Scientists use it to form hypotheses and theories. Deductive reasoning allows them to apply the theories to specific situations.

So now I will get to the other articles. But clearly we are not off to a good start by the editorial.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Transcripts of the conversation that led to dismissal at La Sierra University

I have just found out the location of the posting of the Transcripts of the conversation which seems to have led to the dismissal of several people at La Sierra University. I had previously listened to the transcripts and they were pretty hard to listen to due to the quality so the transcripts will help those who are looking to find out what was said in the unintentional recorded conversation. The conversation transcripts are found here.

From Spectrum Online article A Primer on the LSU-3 Lawsuit

Plaintiffs’ Arguments:
The plaintiffs allege, in part, that Kaatz, Beach and Bradley were lifelong employees of La Sierra University who were wrongfully discharged from their employment when they were coerced and forced to resign under threat of public firing by defendant Ricardo Graham. Graham’s action was improper because he made use of secretly-recorded conversations in forcing the resignations, and he lacked authority to seek their resignations or threaten them with termination. They allege that Graham violated numerous due process rights provided by La Sierra University. Jackson, Blackmer and others were complicit due to their listening to, transcribing, distributing and/or discussing the recording, and by their conferring about the dismissal of the plaintiffs.

Defendants’ Arguments:
The defendants argue, in part, that the plaintiffs’ behavior violated Seventh-day Adventist Church policy and La Sierra University policy governing the comportment of faculty and administrative staff. Further, they argue that the court has no jurisdiction in this matter and that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects nonprofit religious institutions like La Sierra University from interference by the government in matters of governance and employment. Civil statutes such as the Unruh Civil Rights Act do not apply to religious nonprofit institutions like La Sierra University, they argue. Counsel for Ricardo Graham argues that Graham cannot be held personally liable for his actions as volunteer executive officer for a nonprofit organization according to state statutes.