March 11, 2010 Vol. 187, No. 7
GENERAL COMMENTS This issue was, as advertised, A TIME FOR JOY, not because I agreed with the theology of Bill Knott and Clifford Goldstein, which I don’t, but because every piece was well written, thoughtful, and interesting. However, most of my joy was generated by Janine Goffar’s reflection, EMPTY COTTAGE CHEESE CARTONS. Janine was a fifth grade student in my combination 5/6 language arts classroom at Santa Monica Junior Academy. I had a year of teaching under my belt when she walked through the door, and I was better prepared to appreciate writing talent. Janine wrote well then; she writes beautifully today.
WORLD NEWS AND PERSPECTIVES Mikhail Kulakov, Sr. died on February 10. His autobiography, Though the Heaven’s Fall (Review and Herald Publishing) described his imprisonment for his faith under Joseph Stalin and his leadership in established the Euro-Asia Division and the Zaokski Adventist Seminary in Zaokski, Russia. He later became that Division’s President. This short biographical tribute is a MUST READ, as is his autobiography.
ADRA and other Adventist groups continue their lifesaving work in Hati, the Herald of Health, India’s oldest existing health magazine, has begun its second century of publication, and the Finns are on the verge of banning smoking in cars with underage children and prohibiting stores from displaying tobacco products. The goal to is to eventually prohibit smoking entirely!
REVIEWS In the WATCHFIRES OF A HUNDRED CIRCLING CAMPS, Bill Knott implies that white flags are “deadly”.
“Emissaries, some with smiles, recommend that we surrender things distinctive about which Adventists have rallied for a century and a half. The flag proposed to us is not some scarlet banner decked with mystic symbols: no, it is simple, white, and deadly.”
Bill, white flags are carried by people who don’t want to be shot. They may only be innocent bystanders; folks who just want to provide convincing evidence that they are no threat; or, just possibly, friends and reinforcements who treasure our Adventist fellowship because it has loved, healed, and educated worldwide. This is the Gospel that Jesus lived and died to make real. This is the solid foundation upon which Christian Adventists can light up the world and glorify the Great God of the Universe.
Bill, there are real enemies to oppose and real battles that must be fought. Don’t be distracted by petty, legalistic, and dogmatic assertions. And in the future, don’t shoot at the white flag! It’s against the rules.
Gerald Klingbeil makes a lot of COMMON SENSE. “God often (though not always) works closely with our common sense or common everyday duties. He wants His followers to follow with open eyes, open hearts, and the desire to discover God’s handiwork, as mundane as it may be. When you ask God to lead the way today, enjoy the scenery and do not forget to use and enjoy your God-given common sense—even as He is rerouting your life.”
In UNITY IN FELLOWSHIP Richard W. Medina champions “unity”, a word not to be mistaken for uniformity.
“[Unity] challenges us to develop creative practices that can build such a warm fellowship among church members that visitors feel part of a community of faith. Fellowship nurtures our unity in faith, hope, and witness. It creates, or re-creates, a family-oriented church and an inspiring atmosphere for worship. It not only brings spiritual revival, care, and support, but also constitutes a public affirmation that we—the other, you, and I—belong to a triune God. I would like to be part of such a community.”
A TIME FOR JOY is a MUST READ. Skip Bell delivers. He creates a joyful read and a brilliant definition of faith.
“But yielding to faith also requires that I allow the seriousness and limitations of life to be transformed by an awareness that God’s grace is complete, for Jesus lives! The world, for all its ugliness and pain, no longer appears a dreary place, but one filled with God’s presence, and in His presence I still find “fullness of joy.” The Creator draws me to Himself, and standing in the safety of His power, joy emerges from its hiding place. I begin to celebrate with laughter.”
BIBLICAL LITERALISTS by Clifford Goldstein is a beautifully crafted argument for a literal interpretation of the Bible. Unfortunately, his argument is based on literary allusions. Bare with me while I demonstrate the fallacy that underlies Cliff’s argument (1) by using his own words, (2) providing a few literary allusions provided by Jesus in Matthew 5, (3) supplying the definition elucidated in A Handbook to Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama by X. J. Kennedy, (4) generating a few literal words of my own, and (5) citing an editorial comment from St. Augustine.
(1) Goldstein: “Of course, if anyone knew how to interpret the Bible, it would be Jesus. Was He a biblical literalist, like the ones my young friend so bemoaned? Well, Jesus did say: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man” (Matt. 24:37-39). Jesus not only believed the Noah story; He gave it added theological significance by linking it with the Second Coming, a crucial doctrine that we take in the most literal sense possible.”
“We like to say that the Bible interprets itself, and that through the study of the Bible we can learn to interpret it correctly. And though we always bring some personal baggage, some personal presuppositions, into whatever we do, including biblical hermeneutics, the above examples show that these Bible writers—even Jesus Himself (who comes to us through Bible writers)—interpreted the Scriptures literally.”
(2) Jesus: “Anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”
(3) X. J. Kennedy: Allusions are often used to summarize broad, complex ideas or emotions in one quick, powerful image. For example, to communicate the idea of self-sacrifice one may refer to Jesus, as part of Jesus' story portrays him dying on the cross in order to save mankind (Matthew 27:45-56). In addition, to express righteousness, one might allude to Noah who "had no faults and was the only good man of his time" (Genesis 6:9-22). Furthermore, the idea of fatherhood or patriarchial love can be well understood by alluding to Abraham, who was the ancestor of many nations (Genesis 17:3-6). Finally, Cain is an excellent example to convey banishment, rejection, or evil, for he was cast out of his homeland by God (Genesis 4:12). Thus, allusions serve an important function in writing in that they allow the reader to understand a difficult concept by relating to an already familiar story.
(4) Andy Hanson: The literal interpretation of the Bible* requires literalists to abandon reason in their search for biblical truth. On this fact St. Augustine and I agree. The genealogy of Jesus is recorded twice in Matthew 1:1–17 and Luke 3:23–28. However, the two genealogies are remarkably different. They disagree completely on Jesus’ lineage after his father, Joseph. This is probably the most glaring of the many obviously contradictory accounts of the same event in both the Old and New Testament beginning with the two creation stories in Genesis.
(5) St. Augustine: “Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although ‘they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.’ The Literal Meaning of Genesis, translation by John Hammond Taylor. (The Millennium Project)
THE FEAR FACTOR by Marlon T. Perkins, Sr., reminds us that fear, though it can slow us down, it shouldn't stop us.
“Fear is a snare that the devil uses to trap your (and God’s) plans in a perpetual state of inactivity and thus uselessness. The world is in dire need of your fulfilling your life’s purpose. Untold stories of wonderful developments with eternal results are awaiting your decision to move forward. If you trust God, His purposes will come to pass, and He will exalt you in due time. “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31). Live with purpose.”
In THE PATH OF GRACE AND SERVICE Hyveth Williams takes the reader on a life’s journey filled with beauty, grace, and service.
“I was born in a house, not a hospital. The house was made by my grandfather, with none of today’s tools or technology. He cut the trees and sawed the wood with a handsaw, and put zinc on the roof of a love nest for his beloved wife, who bore 12 children in that humble home.
“This past Christmas, memories of life when adults seemed like giants compelled me to take one last look and recall the sights and sounds of those early years. I took a quick visit to the cradle of my formative years with two aunts, an uncle, and my sister. We drove as close as we could to the barely accessible, muddy, slippery footpath on a hill located in St. Mary parish on my paradise island of Jamaica.”
MANUEL’S PASSION by Manuel's widow, Anita Clay, reminds us that witnessing has an enduring life of its own. This is a MUST READ.
EMPTY COTTAGE CHEESE CARTONS is another MUST READ. Janine Goffar’s Uncle Harold and Aunt Dorothy’s enduring Christian witness involves empty cottage cheese cartons!
*Encyclopedia Britannica Online: “Literal interpretation is often, but not necessarily, associated with the belief in verbal or plenary inspiration, according to which not only the biblical message but also the individual words in which that message was delivered or written down were divinely chosen. In an extreme form this would imply that God dictated the message to the speakers or writers word by word.”
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/2274