Best of Comments for the Week of August 30

In order to highlight the great feedback we receive as comments to the articles on the Spectrum Website, the editorial team has introduced the Friday feature, The Best of the Comments. Spectrum editors select comments that exemplify respectful discourse and that further the conversations that begin with Spectrum's articles and news stories. Here are eight comments we especially appreciated this week with links to the articles under which the comments appeared. -Editors

In response to "Unions and the General Conference – What Happens Next?"

Comment by Andre Reis: Thanks for the tour de force analysis. I'm convinced the founder and finisher of our faith never envisioned that his people would be embroiled in such petty disputes. What a terrible waste of energy, funds and human resources to impose authoritarianism on the church. As penitent Christians of old regularly chanted: Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.

Comment by Beth: If only this view had been pursued further under the last administration. I'm sure there are quite a few administrators looking back and lamenting a missed opportunity. Well, hindsight is 20/20 and if you wait for a time when the conditions are better to do what is right, that time might never come. Lesson learned. Those thinking the issue could be punted to the next administration who would preside over a more welcoming environment were quite wrong. Those thinking it can be punted now because another new administration would create better conditions are quite possibly wrong as well. There is no time like the present to do what is right.

Comment by Victor Pilmoor: A few observations: It needs to be acknowledged, that we are first and foremost a voluntary association of people, rather than being of statutory composition. As such, we all want mutual collegial consent. Talk of nuclear legal remedies are not that helpful either way around. The presumption about powers of coercion does violence to our being. This and other conflicts highlight the need for a separate judicial strand since endowing political appointees with such powers is fraught with danger. While many entities follow the model constitution to include hierarchical deference, some have not. Thus generalisations on legal interpretation must be taken with caution. Many national associations have public legal status independent of any canonical association. The GC might struggle to overturn the status of a legally formed Charity where they themselves have little standing. Playing the trademark game - well? At the end: We still depend on the voluntary consent of people to recognise the leaders they choose, and leaders are equally dependent on the good will of those who choose to follow them. We can play hard ball with each other on the WO issue, but no amount of legislation will invoke cooperation on a swathe of other responsive initiatives. You can't force canaries to sing.

Comment by Bevin Brett: (After pasting in comment from another person and from the article). . . This is the attempt to show that the UC's have already agreed to follow GC WP on some point. You then argue, I think correctly, that GC WP does not currently forbid the ordination of women, hence the agreement is not important. On the contrary, Ted Wilson and others are making a big deal out of this because they are trying to get the UC's to agree that the GC and the GC President have control over them. The UC's have not agreed to this. The LC's have not agreed that they are under the control of the UC's or the GC The churches have not agreed that they are under the control of the LC's, the UC's, or the GC The members have not agreed that they are under the control of the church. The issue is three-fold. (1) Who gets to decide whether the action is "in harmony"? Not the GC because the GC has no control over the UC and never has had. (2) Any UC that decides it no longer wishes to be "in harmony" is free to amend its constitution or by-laws to remove this phrase. It is the members that must do that, and the GC can't stop them. (3) As an individual SdA, I was never asked to cede this power to the GC president or his minions, and I never agreed to do it. I was never asked whether I would change my beliefs if the GC president changed hers. I agreed that I currently held a particular set of beliefs and wished to be a church member. I never agreed to letting the denomination control my mind.

In response to "Summer Reading Group: Monsters and Scapegoats"

Comment by David Barrett: I continue to struggle with Beck's argumentation. This chapter, I found his position regarding "scapegoating" over-exaggerated. Your example is excellent in this regard. When we feel anger toward a villain, it may be about many things besides disgust. We might feel rightfully angry because the villain is cruel and/or unjust. We may wish to see him killed (or at least stopped) to remove the very real threat he poses to the hero. We may even feel sympathy for the villain, even as we recognize his death is narratively necessary. These reactions are not about disgust, but about other desires and feelings of in/justice, goodness, love, etc. The villain does not need to disgust us to be hated and/or feared. Fear of harm and death is not the same as disgust, although they may at times overlap. A monster can be beautiful and attractive and still dangerous. (Perhaps like the snake in Eden?) Conflating all these emotions into one basic "disgust psychology" does not deepen the conversation, rather it removes our ability to distinguish gradations and nuances and the complexity of life and emotion.

In response to "Who or What is a Missionary?"

Comment by Philip Brantley: Given that there are many Seventh-day Adventists who find the study of hermeneutics to be very much a mystery, I would like to offer some insights from this week's Sabbath School lesson: The story of Phillip and the Ethiopian illustrates that there is no such thing as a "plain meaning" of a text. Words do not declare their own meaning. Ability to read a text does not guarantee ability to understand the text read. A "plain meaning" approach to interpretation of the biblical text was of no help to the Ethiopian and is of no help to Seventh-day Adventists today. Who is Phillip? Luke makes clear that Phillip is Hermes, the messenger of the gods, not in a literal sense of course but in a figurative sense. The word "hermeneutics" is derived from Hermes' name. You cannot understand hermeneutics until you first understand Hermes, as depicted in Greek mythological writings. We see that the Greeks address Paul as Hermes and offer sacrifices to him. Acts 14:8-20. That biblical text demands that its understanding is dependent upon our understanding of who Hermes is. That our understanding of the biblical text is dependent upon a reading about Hermes in Greek mythological writings is illustrative of the "historical" prong of the historical-grammatical hermeneutic. Phillip is just like Paul, and is as deserving of being mistakenly characterized as the literal Hermes. So let's look at some of the characteristics shared by Phillip and Hermes, as set forth in the story of Phillip and the Ethiopian: a. Both Phillip and Hermes are messengers of the gods, as it were, in that they deliver divine messages. b. Phillip, like Hermes, transcends time and space, as illustrated in his mysterious vanishing after his encounter with the Ethiopian. This mysterious vanishing echoes the mysterious vanishing of Jesus, after Jesus interprets the Scriptures to the disciples on the Road to Emmaus. Transcendence of time and space is a prominent motif in Luke's writings. c. Phillip, like Hermes, bridges mortality and the divine. Hermes functions as a bridge in this way, in that he is the son of the divine Zeus and the mortal nymph Maia. Phillip functions as a bridge in this way, in that he is a mortal who has become a temple of the Holy Spirit. d. Hermes bridges the realm of the gods and the underworld, in that he escorts souls to the underworld. Phillip bridges heaven and hell, in that he preaches the Gospel and helps fallen souls secure eternal salvation. e. A hermeneutic is like a bridge that helps us overcome distance that is manifested in so many different ways. The statues of Hermes were placed at boundaries, perimeters, and cross-ways, in recognition of his ability to overcome distance that separates. Phillip helps the Ethiopian overcome distance that separates, distance that prevents the Ethiopian from understanding the text. The Ethiopian is distant from the text by virtue of his culture, race, social standing, geography, language, physicality, sexual orientation, and how he is historically situated. Phillip's interpretation of the text overcomes all of those manifestations of distance. There are many other characteristics shared by Phillip and Hermes I could discuss if I had more time. I reiterate that an understanding of Hermes is vital to an understanding of hermeneutics. One final thought: Who is the Ethiopian? Before Phillip interprets the text, the Ethiopian is nothing. The Ethiopian does not exist in any meaningful way. To be is to understand. His being is dependent upon his understanding. The study of hermeneutics focuses not only upon the text but also upon what and who we are. Our interpretation of a text, especially the biblical text, changes us. The theological/philosophical focus of hermeneutics is just as important, and perhaps more important, than the methodological focus of hermeneutics.

In response to "Authentic Uncertainty"

Comment by Ole-Edvin Utaker: Doubt, often seen as a negative attitude, is an undervalued quality and resource! Faith is always in tension - a Kierkegaardian “leap of faith” - in contrast to Cartesian mathematical certainty.

In response to "Perspective: Equality, Totalitarianism, and God’s Divine Order"

Comment by Graeme Sharrock: Ole-Edvin's essay is a true gift, and reminder that truth is not contained in religious vessels alone. In my view, theology needs conversation partners in the humanities and sciences such as Arendt (and many others) which keep theology's sense of hegemony at bay and supply the humility that theology is unable to bring to itself. Without such dialogue, theology pretends, totalizes, and disregards the Other. Whether we call it balance, or broadening or deepening--pick your metaphor--the pretensions of (esp. conservative) theologies with their self-aggrandizing sense of the "biblical", do not hold up under experience with the world and are found wanting in the scales of history. This point was made by Niebuhr many decades ago, after the world's experience with Nazism, the thoroughly ideologized theology of person, gender, race and nation. In our time, we see the terrible results of one-sided biblicism without human values in ISIS and radical Islam, yet the Christian versions of fundamentalist thought are only different in degree, not kind. We see it raising its ugly mug in so many places these days.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

This is an interesting comment.

  1. It was not the GC president that decided this issue (WO), but a vote by an agreed to representative body of believers. TW did not determine the vote, nor really even the GC, but the delegates to a convention. Our congress acts similarly, and we are required to abide by its decisions.
    Now, the church is a voluntary organization. So, really, instead of fretting about freedom to do as one wishes and how the representatives voted, it would be better to say, “I disagree with this organization, and therefore withdraw.” Actually, I do no mean better, but more logical. If one wishes to remain, one may continue to agitate for a different view, but should not be surprised at push back from the majority, and the administration who is to uphold the majority’s view. And one would be expected to conform to the vote regardless.
  2. Mind control. Again, this is a voluntary organization. The members may change their minds as a group, which is what WO proponents have been trying to do for years. One who opposes WO could make the same statements as Bevin, if the vote had gone the other way, and could do the same. Bevin seems to believe that when he agreed to a set of beliefs when he became a member that the group has to hold to his beliefs or it is out of bounds. That is not how life is. People change, and so do groups. He is a free man, and can again, leave if he just does not see as the group does. The group is not required to hew to is view, and could even eject him if it felt he was not acting in accordance with its views.

The sound of one hand clapping.

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“Spectrum editors select comments that exemplify respectful discourse and that further the conversations that begin with Spectrum’s articles and news stories…” Editors
Spectrum’s articles and news stories
Where are the comments news or stories about current issues? Another 9-11 and I don’t find hardly any mention or pause in our Adventist literature, including Spectrum, about this tragic anniversary. The plight of the refugees in Europe and elsewhere is not even discussed. We are awash in our own interest and our own parochial issues. If our magazines reflect our culture and priorities we are indeed in a sorry state.
The Adventist Christian, conservative or liberal or otherwise, is in the world but not of it. He is actually the citizen of two cities, the city of God and the city of this world. Although his physical existence is in the city of the world, he is the subject of another state. His heart and thoughts are elsewhere. He is the ambassador from God’s city to earth. His first duty is to be faithful to his Lord. He stands up for the interest of his Master as an ambassador and champion of the interests of his homeland.
The Christian, the citizen of two cities, must plunge into social and political problems in order to have an influence on the world. This action is not in the hope of making the world a paradise. It is simply to help make it a more tolerable place, to help bring order where there is disorder. The Christian in the world can have a profound impact. Where personal righteousness exists, social evils are called into question. Institutional change takes place when Christianity is present. Equity must emerge out of Christianity, slavery must be condemned. Oppression of the poor by the rich should be condemned when Christianity is present. What do our leaders have to say? What does each member think and do about our social problems? Is using these events as an illustration in our prophetic meetings enough?
The power of Christianity, incarnated into human behavior, should give additional impetus for positive changes in our world. It will be a better day for all when we search for ways to show respect for Him through our actions on behalf of our fellow human beings. This is the “sacrifice” that God demands! We need to expect more from ourselves…

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