A Bitter Test of Faith

Astute Pastor Stefan Burton-Schnüll reached out to tell me that this quarter’s Adult Bible Study Guide is actually a reprint of a lesson from 2007. Here is this week’s opening lesson from 15 years ago, and here’s the same study for this week. Other than updating some graphics, it is the same. I checked with the editor, Cliff Goldstein, who explained that when someone fails to complete their ABSG assignment and other options are not available, old lessons get rerun. 

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11885

Most publications will acknowledge previously published material. (In Adventist publishing, the Junior Guide is a good example.) While most of us don’t have memories that would recall an old lesson, it would be interesting to know how often it happens. Did the principal author, in this case Anthony Gavin, sign off on the substitution? After all, it’s only lesson 3, which coincidentally, in the same numbered lesson in 2007. Perhaps there will be future borrowings from 3rd quarter 2007.

It’s interesting that the lesson author is at pains to claim this lesson is not a theodicy. And he is correct. Any other theological discussion on suffering would be a theodicy, but rather than justify God, these lessons justify the unique explanation of suffering by Ellen White.
It’s a shame when so many Adventists have so many deep insights on suffering through experience, theological scholarship (eg. Richard Rice as mentioned above) or clinical management that only this one explanation (that God purifies us through suffering) is explored by the authorised lesson. Though I expect many Sabbath School classes will draw on wider resources.

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As the one, of our three co-teachers, who is responsible for the lesson today, what threw me over was the title and the really disturbing EGW story as the intro for the lesson. What a terrible, Victorian-era story of abuse! And then to ascribe it to God…oh my! It does not correspond to my picture of God. But I had to chuckle, since no one in Clifford Goldstein’s department seems to be aware of the film and stage version of “La Cage aux Folles”! If they had, given the general homophobia in Silver Springs, they might have chosen a different title.


I just went and read the story. For that quote to be attributed to “Ministry of Healing” says a lot.

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Yes…it says we’re stuck in an era of more than 100 years ago, and in no danger of being pried loose. Have SDA theologians and scholars studied, researched and written about this topic in the last 100 years…of course! But do we employ their more contemporary and relevant ideas…certainly not!


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