Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The problem of 19th century prophets

The August 2013 issue of Adventist World includes an article by Ellen White which they entitle Infidelity in Disguise. It appears to be some kind of edited work with most sentences ending in ellipses and reported to have
“The secret things belong unto the Lord our God; but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever.” Men professing to be ministers of God raise their voices against the investigation of prophecy, and tell the people that the prophecies, especially of Daniel and John, are obscure, and that we cannot understand them. Yet some of these very men eagerly receive the suppositions of geologists, which dispute the Mosaic record. But if God’s revealed will is so difficult to be understood, certainly men should not rest their faith upon mere suppositions in regard to that which He has not revealed. . . . In [God’s] providence men, beasts, and trees, many times larger than those now upon the earth, were buried at the time of the flood, and thus preserved to prove to man that the inhabitants of the old world perished by a flood. God designed that the discovery of these things in the earth should establish faith in inspired history. But men, with their vain reasoning, make a wrong use of these things which God designed should lead them to exalt Him. They fall into the same error as did the people before the flood—those things which God gave them as a benefit, they turned into a curse, by making a wrong use of them."
 She begins by quoting Deut 29:29 which is Moses recitation of the covenant with Israel, about being brought out of Egypt etc. It is most certainly not a statement about scientific understanding. As we learned about germs and viruses we were not learning of the secret things of God. It would be foolish to think that when we learn about geology we are again trying to learn the secret things of God. I don't know of any scientific discipline that God revealed to his children, this is simply a statement of absurdity put in to make the whole thing seem somehow more deep and religious.

Then she moves on to those of us...most everyone really who find the prophecies of Daniel and John the Revelator to be obscure. About the only people that don't think the apocalyptic books are obscure are those who have their own version of interpretation. And so far of those not one has predicted anything to occur based upon the writings of Daniel and the book of Revelation. Those predictions that have been made have all be disproved, which caused some like the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Seventh-day Adventists to make some of their incorrect predictions appear to be fulfilled in spiritual or heavenly realms where we have no access.

The Mosaic record which she finds to be disputed by geologists is but a tiny part of what is by tradition attributed to be the writing of Moses but that tradition is not based upon any facts. But still it is only a tiny fragment of the Genesis story concerning Genesis 1 and 2 and the account of the flood. None of which is written in anything close to a record of geology. In fact the practice of testing theories and ideas is far less supposition then the supposition that Moses even wrote the book of Genesis.

But what really made me want to write this article is this part:
In [God’s] providence men, beasts, and trees, many times larger than those now upon the earth, were buried at the time of the flood, and thus preserved to prove to man that the inhabitants of the old world perished by a flood. 
Really!? Why would finding them indicate the reality of a world wide flood? She earlier referred to "Bones of men and animals are found . . . showing that much larger men and beasts once existed. . . ." Actually there have never been bones of men that have been found to be larger then men today. And the larger animals besides the dinosaurs are usually of the era of the ice age. In fact if you look we have evidence of Wooly Mammoths who appear to have been quickly frozen in place and covered with ice. If that was to show that they died in a flood of water they would be far different in the contents of their stomachs then what we have.These ice age giants are much more recent in the geological column then dinosaurs so there is little reason to think that they are the evidence of some world wide flood.

It really is time to realize that our 19th century prophet was a person of her time. With a limited understanding and limited knowledge. She may well have believed in the hoaxes of the late 1800's such as Cardiff Giant. It is likely that she did believe it as she did come out of the Methodist movement as Wikipedia says:
 The giant was the creation of a New York tobacconist named George Hull. Hull, an atheist, decided to create the giant after an argument at a Methodist revival meeting about the passage in Genesis 6:4 stating that there were giants who once lived on Earth.[1]
She likely incorporated that into her thinking about Adam and Eve as she wrote: "Adam's height was much greater than that of men who now inhabit the earth. Eve was somewhat less in stature; Patriarchs and Prophets, pg. 45 "He was more than twice as tall as men now living upon the earth... Eve was not quite as tall as Adam. Her head reached a little above his shoulders." -- Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 3, pg. 34
We can do better and we must do better. Not only must we be more critical in understanding the Bible but we must be more critical in our assumptions about people who claim to speak for God. Once we understand that even sincere people can be confused about the facts we can see that such confusion is not limited to modern times. That we must use more then just accepted traditions as our evidence and reason for believing.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Adventist Media Must Change

I just got my annual fund-raising letter from Adventist Today. Most of the letter is about Adventist Publishing houses. The fire at Battle Creek in the early 1900's when the church had one publishing house and then the move to have a couple publishing houses and now some proposal to consolidate publishing houses again.

Adventist Today as an alternative publication sees itself as an important source of needed information and analysis.

At the same day that I received the letter from Adventist Today I heard of the report on media usage in the United States. To sum up the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism’s “State of the News Media” report writes:
Overall, digital news channels are growing (vs. traditional media). Digital has surpassed radio and print in terms of audience size and engagement frequency. Digital will soon overtake TV as the primary news platform.
If anyone pays attention to the magazine and book publishing business they would likely question whether doing anything aside from trying to save money with your publishing costs would be the thing to do while you retool to prepare to transition to a digital format.

I have no idea what the Adventist church will do, they are in most ways far behind the curve so I imagine they will end up falling farther behind as well. But I would like to make some recommendations for Adventist Today.

That would be to spend their money on updating their digital presence to actually use the internet to their advantage. Certainly they already have a digital version of their print magazine which is a good idea but it really keeps them from the most advantages methods of the new digital age which is social networking.

The Pew report says:
Hearing about things in the news from friends and family, whether via social media or actual word of mouth, leads to deeper news consumption. A majority of Americans seek out a full news story after hearing about an event or issue from friends and family, a new Pew Research survey released here finds. For nearly three-quarters of adults (72%), the most common way to get news from friends and family is by having someone talk to them—either in person or over the phone. And among that group, close to two-thirds (63%) somewhat or very often seek out a news story about that event or issue. Social networking is now a part of this process as well: 15% of U.S. adults get most of their news from friends and family this way, and the vast majority of them (77%) follow links to full news stories. Among 18-to-29 year-olds, the percentage that primarily relies on social media for this kind of news already reaches nearly one-quarter. And the growing practice of dual-screening major news events adds more opportunity to share news electronically. Friends and family are still just one part of most consumers’ news diets –and a smaller part than going directly to news outlet themselves, as an earlier Pew Research study revealed.
But if you look over at you can read their blogs and their articles posted and rarely will you see them link to anyone or anything even when they directly mention a story. As an example here is a recent news article headline: Forbes Magazine Includes Andrews University in list of Top Schools

Now it would have been easy to link to the Forbes article. I found it at this address from which you can see the entire list etc. In the digital world it is easy to link to an article so that people can verify the information or use it to forward on a social media site. The case is similar for their opinion pieces rarely linking to anything they talk about. Take for example this from Stephen Foster's The Mini Great Controversy:
It makes about as much sense (to me) for a Seventh-day Adventist Christian to challenge the inspiration and authority of Ellen White as it does for a Calvinist to challenge the theological authority/bona fides of John Calvin, or a Lutheran of Luther. Yet some members of the voluntary Christian sect or denomination which was co-founded by White—whose commentary on the Bible and whose exegeses and interpretation of the Bible are the result of a prophetic gifting of God—routinely reject her messages (and/or reject the reality of her gifting).

Contradictorily and ironically,
some of these individuals believe that they have been given the same or similar gifting; and that, since they live in the present, their gifting is representative of present truth—even though their “truth” may deny or contradict some of what White wrote in great detail.
Some of who? Would not it be nice to link to such people so we know what the author is even talking about? Or at least know who in contemporary Adventism feel they have the gifting of present truth?

One of the most popular news sites visited according to the Pew report is the Huffington Post Second only to Yahoo news which gets more hits most likely because it is a common browser opening page and they write headlines to gather hits but give little information. For example today they have the headline “Oprah Winfrey Finally Comments on Paula Deen's N-Word Controversy, which amounted to
When asked to comment about Deen during an interview with Extra, Winfrey laughed but declined to say anything more about the disgraced TV personality. "Oh my god! I don't have anything to do with Paula Deen," she insisted. "She is not the first white lady to use the N-word! Good lord!"
When you read the Huffington Post you see numerous links inside practically all of their articles. That is the same with all of the top sites as well. They send you to someone who wrote something more specific to a particular part of their own article. In doing that you can quickly get far more information then footnotes and you don't have to try and figure out what the person was trying to reference who did not even include a footnote or even a reference as in Stephen Foster's article.

When you realize how this simple communication technique opens up information and expand the resources for researching a fact or idea you see why print media will be dead in the near future. It simply cannot compete. It also makes certain that the writer of an article actually knows more about the subject. Something that when I read some of the opinion pieces on AToday I often wonder do they even know what they are talking about.

In the world people are becoming far more critical of the media they receive. They are skeptical of the news they hear and they should be. That has reflected itself in the decline of the traditional news media and the rise in the new media. It would be hard to assume that such will not be the case with religious media as well. Particularly with the alternative denomination media. It is time that Adventist Today begins to catch up with the times.