Monday, October 30, 2006

Religious freedom

From before birth I, as an Adventist, was taught that the other churches were gonna get me someday because "kept" the Sabbath. Further, the implication was that Adventists alone were fighting back the coming onslaught through Liberty magazine and other channels.

Their efforts are commendable, and religious freedom should always be defended - not just for the Adventist, but the Jew, the Catholic and (yes) for the Atheist. This article reports on Southern Baptist representative who testified recently at congressional hearings about the need for laws to protect workplace religious liberty. Search it for "Adventist". Everyone's religious and even cultural liberty should be preserved so long as their religious expression is within the boundaries of common decency. No, blowing me up is not a freedom I want to preserve. But a Muslim's right to prayer in the workplace should not only be defended, but facilitated. And if we can wear our dumb neckties let Muslims wear their headscarf.

Vatican COMUNICATO

My Italian is a little rusty. I was just flipping through a variety of websites one of which is the Vatican's. I like to keep up with what's going on. I even occassionally visit (shhh) CNN.com.

Anyway, the title of this news item caught my eye:
COMUNICATO: QUARTA RIUNIONE DELL’XI CONSIGLIO ORDINARIO DELLA SEGRETERIA GENERALE DEL SINODO DEI VESCOVI (10-11 OTTOBRE 2006) , 24.10.2006
See it? Looks like the Vatican is buying Dell's. Ordinary Dells by the sound of it. Quick, run out and buy Dell stock. I've gotta brush up on my Italian... (Babelfish for the curious)

Well, if some people do theology that way, why can't I surf the web that way?

Friday, October 27, 2006

2Peter 3:9

"The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance."

I'm glad God didn't come in, say 1986. As an Atheist I'd have been pretty shocked at the sudden and cataclysmic change to my world view. I praise Him that He kept working for another 4 years trying to get through my thick skull. Why does He wait? He knows, and we who are in Christ have the privilege to listen to His heart and in a small way to reflect the light of Christ.

Is this *really* the purpose of Adventism? Really?

I stumbled across this paragraph while researching who a preacher was. It is under the heading "Our Reason For Existence" and can be found here. He was a guest preacher at an Adventist church in California. The mystery is solved - here is their purpose:

The Day of Atonement and the final atonement is the reason for our existence as Seventh-day Adventists. God's name is in jeopardy until He can demonstrate that His grace can produce people who will love Him completely, all of the time, with no questions or reservations, and no quibbling or rationalizing. They just love Him, because He first loved them. And they will prove, once and for all, that love always produces obedience, and for once, this love and obedience will be continuous… Satan constantly throws our disobedience in God's face as evidence of the impossibility of complete obedience, but this has got to come to an end. The final atonement is God's method of destroying Satan's lies. First He will cleanse our soul temples, and then He will cleanse the heavenly temple of all sin. When that is accomplished, Adventism will have "finished the work" and we can all go home. (Emphasis mine)

God’s name was never in jeopardy, and especially on the Cross His name was established above all other names. This paragraph, dripping with arrogance and malice, suggests that Peter, Paul and yes, even John failed to prove that God’s love and grace can produce a loving obedience.

Is the Adventist god so weak that He and the entire universe are on hold until Adventists finally vindicate the character of God? Is He sitting on the edge of His throne with hope upon hope that Adventists will finally vindicate Him so that He can come back? I think not.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Luther's spirit and historic Adventism

I was watching the interviews on the Luther movie and something that Sir Peter Ustinov (Frederick the Wise) said struck me. He said that Luther was too good a Catholic to remain Catholic. This is profound to me, because I feel that many of us were just too Adventist to have remained Adventist. Huh? Yes. Adventists were reformers. We were searching the Word for truth. We were known as a people of the Word and boldly declared that we had no creed except the Bible (oh that we had remembered that one). We were zealous for truth and fervent in our desire to grow and to know.

Adventists ostensibly threw out everything and started over allowing the Scriptures to speak truth to us. Unfortunately, we too quickly calcified our beliefs and stopped studying. And we had a “voice” that once it had offered support to an idea, that idea became a fundamental belief.

In the 1950’s our scholars at the Adventist colleges admitted that the peculiar doctrines under the umbrella of the Sanctuary doctrine could not be fully sustained from Scripture alone – doubtless an idea that the modern inquisitor Clifford Goldstein would object to. Yet they were unanimous in the thought: the doctrine simply could not be sustained by Scripture. True, this is not to say that they all denied the veracity of our Daniel 8:14 ideas. I personally heard ministers say that they had no idea how to support from Scripture our doctrines, yet they knew them to be true because God had approved them and had sustained this church all these years.

Today there is a growing sentiment among Adventists that something is wrong with the theologies, and judging by the increase in polemic published by the official houses they sense it also. Many today are approaching the subject with more open minds and are investigating truth for themselves both through the Bible and looking seriously at the objections to their theology and history. We today do not have the barriers to investigation that the Germans had in Luther’s day. Then most theology was written in Latin and the Scriptures were only available in Latin or in the original Greek and Hebrew. Today we have a plethora of versions to choose from. We have searchable version of the Bible, of Ellen White and of many other documents. And we have history available in many forms. There simply is no barrier other than time and energy to the fervent student who searches for truth. So: are our Adventists going to be true Adventists and open the word and become the Bereans that they once were?

Raymond Cottrell

Besides having as a first name my middle name, I've found this guy to be interesting. He was a prominent theologian in the Adventist church, yet he was troubled by what he saw an incorrect method of studying the Bible (amen!). Here is a write up in an Adventist publication of who he was that deserves a read. More on him from ye 'ole Google.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Forget that...the real sin of Adventism is...

While I myself did not agree with many of the fundamental teachings of Adventism, I found the dissenters more objectionable. Much of what they focused on was trivial misunderstandings. They seemed to howl over whether or not the dead are conscious when clearly we have just no idea. I don’t even care. I know that after I die the next thing I will see is my savior. If it happens after I’ve fed a few thousand worms or happens when my “soul” rises to heaven, what do I care? I do wonder, however, how I can enjoy myself in heaven after I die when all my memories are decaying in my body…but that’s food for another thought…or worm…

The tone on many of the websites is bombastic and sensational. This often kept me from reading what they had to say, and meant that I was left to dig up my own evidence or to continue to only hear the side of the Adventist theologians. Though the National Enquirer may from time to time have serious news, because of the general sensationalism it is dismissed as more hoax than news.

The real issue in discussing Adventism is what they have done with Jesus Christ and His Eternal Gospel. Paul said that if anyone – even someone who claims to be a prophet – preaches a different Gospel that person was accursed. That church is accursed. The issue is Jesus. The issue is faith. The issue is peace, assurance, and power.

Read full text.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Sola Scriptura? Sola EGW for many...

Recently I was reading an Adventist document where they were declaring that they base their theology on only the Bible. A personal story came to mind that illustrates how Adventist relate the Bible and Ellen White in practice.

About 4 years ago or so I was leading a Bible study through the book of Luke. We were working chapter by chapter through the book. One of the group had family in town and had brought her mother and father to the study. This family is a prominent Adventist family with a name that would be readily recognized. As we all sat with our Bibles in hand and I started leading the discussion, the mother asked me if I had a Desire of Ages (Ellen White book on the life of Christ. See also here and here on EGW literary sources, however). She used that book for the duration of the study, and even offered input and debate based on what Ellen White had written.

My wife and I have never forgotten that day. It so illustrated how many Adventists view the Bible. Rather than go through the verses a piece at a time and allow them to speak for themselves, and to compare the parallel passages in the other gospels, she had open the words of the Adventist prophet. She listened to everything I said and critiqued every point based on what was written in Desire of Ages rather than examine what the Bible said.

Never believe and Adventist when they say they believe in Sola Scriptura for two reasons. First, most - especially the older members - constantly are reading and referencing Ellen White on every topic. They've read Desire of Ages, Great Controversy and Steps to Christ since they were old enough, and the more conservative have spent a great deal of time in the Testimonies and other writtings. The writings of Ellen White have and continue to mold the theological thought. The second reason is that even if the person has not soaked their mind in her writing, without knowing it much of what they have been taught and heard week after week has been derived directly or indirectly from her writings.

The very categories and questions that the Adventist asks and believes are derived from her writings and from the historical theologies. The fact, for example, that there is a discussion over which apartment Christ went into when he went into the heavenly sanctuary is a question and a category that only the Adventist would ask. They will debate Hebrews 6, 9 and 10 trying to answer this falacy of a question. Yet this is not the point of Hebrews. (See my thoughts.)

Sola Scriptura? Don't believe it. They may read the Bible, and may even study it. But ultimately they will directly or indirectly turn to Ellen White as the inspired interpreter and allow her to dictate what a passage means or what a theological point should be. The official stance is "
her writings are a continuing and authoritative source of truth which provide for the church comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction." My experience growing up and pastoring in Adventism is that in basically every debate Ellen White is quoted; if you have your EGW quotes in better order, you win the debate. If you are armed with only Scripture, you lose, because you're interpretation does not match the inspired prophet's.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Adventist prophecy fulfillment

Growing up I heard a lot about the fulfillment of prophecy: Earthquake, darkened sky, and the falling of stars. These were the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel and of the 6th seal. These were generally associated with validating that we were the last day remnant.

Here are some links that talk about these events:
1. Earthquake. We say this is from Revelation 6. Wikipedia, and List of Earthquakes. Why did not the 1556 Chinese earthquake, which killed over 800,000 people, not qualify? Is it because this and others didn't coincide with SDA prophetic time lines?

2.The darkness of 1780. This phenomenon that occurred during the American Revolution is also ascribed to prophecy. Discussion can be found here.

3. Falling stars. I remember this mostly. The stars fell in obvious fulfillment of prophecy. But see discussion here.

Conclusions? There could be many, but just an observation or two. First, at a glance these events seem all to convenient. One picked out from Europe and the others here in the Eastern U.S. Why is prophecy only fulfilled here in New England, and why do Adventists still insist that 1833 was the fulfillment of prophecy. Why not one of the next Leonid showers, and hmm...were there previous ones? Did God need a natural incident to fulfill prophecy? And was the darkness that only occurred in New England the fulfillment of prophecy when there is indications that it was caused by natural causes?

I'm not a skeptic at all. These little events just don't seem all that dramatic of a fulfillment to match Revelation 6. "The kings of the earth and the great men...hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks...'Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne...'" Could it be that we've set the bar a little low for fulfillment of this prophecy? It seems a little too convenient to me.

Little Shop of Horrors



Blake needs to grow an herb for class, so naturally Dad pulls out the overkill tools and we are growing herbs hydroponically. The picture is yellowish because of the HPS lighting. Stay tuned - let's see this sucker grow, er, or melt under those lights... I'm sure, by the way, the neighbors are wondering if I'm trying to supplement my income by growing...herbs...

Update: Added a picture without the lights on.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

A Giant Movie

Wow! What a movie. We went to see Facing the Giants yesterday and I was moved and impressed. The story is tremendous and for being a low budget film it was very well done. We all have giants to face from time to time – some of us have giants that seem to hang around for years. The story is of a coach and a team that finally gets their priorities straight and works for the glory of God rather than for their own selfish reasons, and the not only experience spiritual renewal, but win the state championship. They learn to face up to their giants of fear, self-doubt and a past of average seasons. And, appropriately, they must face the best team in the league in the championships, the undefeated Giants.

This is a must-see movie; it is inspirational and has a message for everyone. Here is the church’s website and here is Yahoo movie page.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Prophecy Discovery Seminary

Oh Goodie! I finally got mine in the mail. Did you get yours? I waited all year for it. No, not this year's Sears catalog, but my prophecy seminar handbill. Hello? The 1950's just called and they want their dramatic Daniel/Revelation pictures back. Sorry BJ, love you dearly, but have you guys not learned anything from visiting Northpoint or Willow Creek? (Sarcasm meter just pegged 120%) I know it makes the saints glow with pride to see this mailed out like the leaves of Autumn, but really now.

There is so much I could say, but it's an issue of perspective. If I say that the brochure is cleverly crafted to attract the naive I'd sound elitist maybe? If I say that when it declares "An Interdenominational Event" that this is just deceptive dribble, then I'd sound accusatory. What they really mean is that they want all denominations to attend so they can tell you your church is part of fallen Babylon and God is calling you out to join the saints in the Adventist church -- God's true church and remnant. Ya ya...

Oh, and when they say "The bible only will be our textbook" they mean that they'll say lots of stuff that you'll never find in the Bible, but we'll fly through a series of proof texts so fast you'll never be able to follow and hope that at least the message overall will stick. No really...that's what happens...really.

My wife and I are here shaking our heads. She says "they haven't learned". I think they have - they've learned that only the sensational will work when their theology is contrary to sound New Testament teaching. But this is a blog...and not a dissertation... Maybe I'll drop by and see if they ask, "Anyone have any questions?" Hmmm...

Update: My wife points out that nowhere on the brochure and on the website FAQ does it mention that the Seventh-day Adventists are the ones holding it. Check out #7, for example in the FAQ. What the heck! At least the Mormon's end their TV commercials identifying themselves.

Book Review

Every once in awhile I stumble into a book that no one has recommended and I've never heard of, but that is incredible. What's funny is in the past I'll read a book, loved it, and started telling people about it only to have them all agree that the book is great. Guess I missed the memo about the book that everyone else was already enjoying.

This one is incredible: Uprising: A Revolution of the Soul. I almost don't want to say anything but, "read it" it's that good. I'm only on the second chapter and it's straight to my heart, and I love his writing style:

Is it possible that Eden had no boundaries? Certainly there was no command to just hang around the tree [of knowledge of good and evil]. Why didn't Adam take some wood, build a raft, sweep Eve off her feed, and say, "Baby, this is the love boat and we're going on a cruise"? Is it possible that Adam and Eve fell into the same trap that we have -- a view that freedom is to go and experience all that which God has forbidden rather than to fully experience all that God created for our pleasure?
See what I mean? And: "While we strive to fill ourselves and remain empty, Jesus emptied Himself and lived fully."

If I revealed the many observations and points that he has made in just the first couple of chapters that went straight to my heart in conviction, you may seriously wonder about me - if a person is convicted by the simpliest of observations we may be tempted to think less and to think that they are not "mature" (whatever that means). But in fact, I feel that all of us are wandering around this world not living one 1,000,000th of what God plans for us or wishes for us, and mostly due to our lack of understanding and discipline, and our desperate avoidance to submit to the One who can create in us and for us a paradise on Earth and to make us actually useful to His cause and those who also desperately desire for more meaning and direction in life.

I'll follow up on this book as I progress through it, but definately I would recommend it.
John Ortberg
did which is why I bought it. So if you feel "hey, who the heck are you that I'd buy on your recommendation?", well no one. But Ortberg, John Maxwell, and Sheila Walsh all like it, so go on: give it a read.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Be a good steward - click here to donate

Sometimes I just have to chuckle. Christian pastors and churches are often accused of only wanting your money. "Give God your heart, but give us your money."

I was browsing Hope International's website -- which I must say has a very nice design and layout these days -- and was scrolling down the list of What We Believe points. Item #21 is on Stewardship. Right after the nicely written bla bla bla about being entrusted with God's money is...A Donate button? Oh good grief...

I guess this is why they can afford such a nice website?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Hope you're in good standing, or spiff up the resume

The SDA Church recently voted a measure that is suggests a policy to legally allow them to prune dissenters. Reminds me of Richard Tinker's story as told in the July/Aug issue of Proclamation magazine. The Adventist church has a long history of discrediting and pruning leaders that are not in step with the organization, and unfortunately this is another example of positioning their power in order to defend their cause.

On the one hand some would suggest that the Church has every right to do this since it is an organization with a charter and a mission. However, I am ever mindful of what happened to teachers and pastors during the Ford controversy and know that this "inquisition" style of defense can and will happen again. Dissenters beware - the tanks are rolling your way :)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Hebrews 9 Articles

A few years ago I sat down to study Hebrews 9 in order to understand for myself what it really said. As is often the case, as I discussed what I was finding with people they wanted more details. I wrote this series of articles, but have never finished them. Here are the first5 in PDF format. Soon I will finish the series.

Hebrews 9 is one of the pivotal passages for Adventists. It is part of how they attempt to sustain their doctrine that Christ entered the holy place - first sanctuary apartment - in heaven, but in 1844 moved into the Most Holy Place to begin the antitypical Day of Atonement ministry and the pre-advent judgment. I know: if you are not an Adventist you just recoiled and said "What!?"...ya... In conjunction with an interpretation of Daniel 8:14, Daniel 7 and an application of Leviticus 16 they teach that in 1844 Christ began the second phase of his heavenly ministry.

The Adventist sanctuary doctrine is an extra-Biblical teaching that only with great feats of theological footwork and mental conditioning is established from Scripture. Rather I should say, it can not be established, but that's all academic... Here are the first articles:
  1. Overall Context of Hebrews 9
  2. Theme and Context of Hebrews 9 – part 2
  3. Structure of Hebrews 9 and Surrounding Context
  4. Message and Content of Hebrews 9
  5. What is the Old Covenant?
Also, here is a web-article on how SDA's seem to focus on the shadow and not on the reality in Christ.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

On EllenWhite.org

Recently a friend mentioned that they don't like the site EllenWhite.org. I chuckled as they referred to the site as an accumulation of trivial objections to insignificant Adventist ridiculousness - well, my words not theirs. But it is true: some of the items appear to be insignificant.

While I do have a variety of opinions of some of the content a couple of points need to be made. First, the site has a wide variety of content. Some of it is rather trivial and I found myself in a state of perpetual yawn while reading some of it. Other of the content is rather bombastic and not at all scholarly. But there are points made on the site that need to be heard. One such article entitled "The Arrest and Trial of Israel Dammon". This was very striking to me especially since I'd heard the traditional Adventist accounting of this miraculous episode from childhood and here was an alternative accounting that did not match Ellen White's own. I've written my observations here. To me this involved the credibility of Adventists and of Ellen White.

The other observation about the content on the site is that it gives another voice about many subjects that Adventists have heard but one side of -- the official polemic Adventist side. Rather you believe that Ellen White was a plagiarist or not, honest scholarship requires that other voices be heard rather than the traditional defenses. In fact, as a student I was only presented with a watered-down version of the accusation and a standard paper-doll version of the rebuttal. It was only many years after that I fully understood the nature of the accusations and what has been discovered on the subject both by Adventists themselves and other researchers. So, the site, while at times dipping into the sensational, at least gives content and a voice that needs to be heard.

Oh, and the official site is here. Caution: you're entering in to a spin zone...

YAB - Yet Another Blog

This represents my 3rd blog that I've started - none of which said much of importance. So keeping with tradition I'll try to keep this blog fairly trite and hopefully full of meaningless clich├ęs.

Or, just maybe I'll have something important to say. You'll need to be the judge. This blog, however, does have a theme. It has a purpose. It has intent. My primary focus will be on Christian theology, and mostly as pertains to the Seventh-day Adventist church. I am a former licensed SDA minister who over time has come to the conclusion that many of the peculiar SDA fundamentals could not be sustained by scripture. Though I asked many questions while a student, and was often outspoken on the subject of Justification by Faith while a pastor, I have generally avoided the clamorous arguments about who is right and what is wrong. The din surrounding the book of Hebrews and the sanctuary doctrines starting with the Ford era have been distasteful to me; reviewing the history of how the Church treated those who had questions in that era is like reading about the Spanish Inquisition – it is deplorable, despicable, and fully contrary to Christ-like decorum. Both sides shouted and shot arrows and the periods of seeming quietude were simply a time of sharpening arrows and filling quivers.

And yet: the SDA sanctuary doctrine, in my view, is fatally flawed. The traditional presentation about Ellen White is filled with deception and conflicting positions. The focus on the Law and on the Sabbath is spiritually lethal. The prominent placement of standards and the pervasive focus on prophetic timelines and interpretations has replaced what should be a focus on Christ as our Righteousness. While the mainstream denomination appears to be attempting to reform and present Christ and a more positive, grace-oriented message, the miasma from our heritage has steamed up through publications from the likes of Firm Foundation and Colin Standish to loudly attempt to re-interject the Law, standards, and “historic Adventism” back into the collective consciousness. Many Adventist leaders visit churches such as Willow Creek or the one that I attend, Northpoint Community Church in Atlanta in order to discover what techniques we use and to try to tap into our growth strategies, yet these Adventist churches still are built on their poisonous past and will never be able to enjoy the same growth and power while still teaching their subtle form of modern legalism.

Over time I have come to understand that my not speaking out about some of these issues is to quietly provide my voice of approval. Though some of my friends suspect that I do not approve of certain theologies, yet since I have not “gone on the record” my lack of objection could be misconstrued as approval. As you will discover: on many topics, I do not approve. It will never be my primary goal to get you to agree with me, or to defend my position. Quite frankly, my dear, I … er, could care less if you agree with me. But if you read my position on a subject you are forced to either carefully consider and adjust your position, or you will need to study deeply in order to refute my position in your own mind and sustain your Adventist position.

It is my hope that I will be able to share my enthusiasm for Christ and for the Gospel and to allow you to understand why I say that the Good news is better than we were brought up to think - it is incredibly awesome because it is focused on Christ 100%.