August 20, 2009 - Vol. 168, No. 23
REVIEWS The cover feature, SINGING OUR SONGS, by Roy Adams along with Page 7's, A TUNEFUL TRADITION, (1) are a MUST READ. ANSWERING TOUGH QUESTIONS provides important information regarding depression and coronary risk thanks to Neil Medley, Hans Diehl, and John Kelly. Carlos Medley chronicles A NEW MILESTONE in giving. (2) Check the SPECTRUM blog for the information about STUDENT UNREST in Bugema Secondary School, an Adventist boarding school in Uganda, where two students were shot during a riot.
COMMENTS One book review and one editorial require comments. Cindy Tutsh reviews THE SHACK by Wm. Paul Young. "In this postmodern novel Mac—who has experienced unspeakable personal tragedy—is invited by papa (god) to spend the weekend with him in a remote shack in the mountains. There Mac encounters a triune god composed of an African-American woman, a Middle Eastern carpenter-type, and an esoteric Asian named Sarayu. Mac discovers a god who is seeking relationship, who has answers to the perennial question of 'Why does God allow suffering and pain?' and who is eager to communicate theological commentary in twenty-first-century language. So what's not to like?"
Tisch chronicles 17 ways in which the triune god of the Shack is "vastly dissimilar" to the God of the Bible. She goes on to state that these "dissensions could wreak havoc with our relationship to the real God of the Scriptures and ultimately affect our eternal destiny."
At this point it is important to point out that this is a novel not a theological treatise. I have read the book, as have dozens of my Adventist and nonAdventist friends and at least a hundred of my acquaintances, and I'm confident that they have exhibited the "spiritual discernment. . . to distinguish truth from falsehood, even when that falsehood is woven into an emotionally compelling narrative". In fact, everyone I know that has read the book recommends it!
However, there is a book far more dangerous for "some. . .less prepared to resist” a distorted god. The god described at the beginning of this book is arbitrary, severe, exacting, vengeful, and unforgiving. (It is the belief in this "distorted god" that has made the depiction of the loving god of the SHACK so appealing and comforting.) "Spiritual discernment" must be intensively employed to discern truth about the character of this god after his Old Testament introduction. (3)
Clifford Goldstein's editorial, ONE LORD OR THE OTHER, (4) calls to mind an observation by the eminent psychologist Dorothy Satir. She believed that human beings can’t be loved enough or be powerful enough. She argued that when a person devotes her life to attaining one at the expense the other, she loses both.
The same can be said for belief and inquiry. Human beings require evidence to temper and inform belief if they are to live lives that are fully human, fully Christian, fully Adventist. In this editorial, Goldstein asks the reader to be a “believer”, to disregard or at least discount evidence that calls into question what he believes to be the Truth. For him the question is “either or”, belief or the evidence of our senses. My reply is that inquiry informs belief, and belief makes inquiry possible. In other words, Cliff, I want both. Life without love and trust and compassion and a generous spirit is not worth living, as is life without awareness and reason and curiosity and evidence. ____________________________________________
(1) Caveats and Observations 1. “Singing our songs” is not meant to convey the idea that we should individually like each song in the hymnal. 2. The “our” in the article’s title does not refer only to North America (where I happen to live). The hymnal we use here is also used in other places, but it’s not universal. 3. A factor to consider in using the word “our” for North America (and other places with the same hymnal) is that most of the songs in that hymnbook originated from a single culture. This should raise an alert for anyone concerned about the future of a multicultural, multiethnic, global church. 4. Those who’re into contemporary music of one form or another should remember that our brains are big enough to hold both the “classical” and the “modern.” We should not become narrow by restricting ourselves to a single genre of music.”
(2) General Conference Treasurer Robert Lemon announced, “For the first time in the 146-year history of the Adventist Church, gross tithe from the denomination’s 12 international divisions exceeded the gross tithe from North America. In 2008 international tithe totaled $1,040,330,853 as compared to $894,234,155 for North America, a difference of nearly $150 million. These numbers represent a quantum shift in church funding that has principally come from North America.”
(3) The following 17 biblical “dissensions” might also present a picture of god that "could affect our relationship to the real God of the Scriptures and ultimately affect our eternal destiny”. In this book, god: GENESIS 3:16 caused pain in childbirth; 3:17 cursed the soil; 3:21 killed the first animal; 6:13 wiped out almost “all living things” with a universal flood; 10:25 introduced the institution of slavery; 19:26 turned Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt EXODUS 7:14-12:34 created 10 plagues; 14:28 drowned Pharaoh’s army; 20:5 decreed that children would be punished to the third generation for the sins of their parents; 32:25-28 commanded Levites to kill brothers, friends, and neighbors LEVITICUS 26:14-39 promised to terrorize the Israelites if they didn’t put His commandments into practice NUMBERS 11:31-33 sent a plague for collecting too many quail; 15:32-36 ordered a man executed for collecting sticks on the Sabbath; 16:27-32 caused the ground to swallow Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and their families; 17:6-8 killed 14,700 for approaching the Tent of Meeting; 25:6-9 sent a plague that killed 24,000 for immoral behavior and worshiping Baal; 31:1-24 ordered “holy war” against the Midianites DEUTERONOMY 20;16-18 commanded the Israelites to kill every Hittite, Amorite, Canaanite, Perizzite, Hivites, and Jebusite.
(4) “Choose the God you’re going to serve: the one who raised up Darwin, or the One who raised up Ellen White. But let’s end the farce of thinking you [as an Adventist] can do both.”
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/1854