Reviewing the Review: Vol. 185, No. 2


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Vol. 185, No. 2

GENERAL COMMENTS This is definitely an edition that is worth reading. There is only one article, GOD OF THE PROPHETS, that richly deserves to be panned. As usual, I’m not bashful about doing it. That piece will be reviewed last.

LETTERS It was gratifying to see my November 15 letter included with the others in this issue. What impressed me most, however, was a letter commenting on the Sean Taylor article in the December 27 Review. Timely!

CRITICS ARE WATCHING by Roy Adams is a respectful review of one of the harshest criticisms of religion ever written. Christopher Hitchins "pulls no punches" as he describes Christian demigods and mass murderers. Adams' response is not defensive or mean-spirited. It is a thoughtful reflection. Roy Adams can speak for me as a Seventh-day Adventist anytime, anyplace, and anywhere.

I feel the same way about Stephen Chavez. His editorial, STRING FILES AND SPIRITUAL GROWTH, is not only a metaphorical jewel, it is a practical formula for living a Christian life in chaotic times.

The cover story headlined, 2008, IS GOD THE SILENT CANDIDATE, made me fear the worst until I saw that Mark Kellner was the reporter. The article along with "Of Faith and Freedom" -- its accompanying sampling of speeches by Clinton, McCain, Obama, and Romney -- was informative, balanced, and nonpartisan. (Mark called me once to correct an inaccuracy in my review of an article. I was impressed by his kindness as well as his concern for accurate reporting.)

SPECIAL DELIVERY by Sandra Doran is the story of what it means to give up a child for adoption in the generosity and love of an adoptive family. It is a beautifully written account, and the illustration brings to life the story's subtitle, "You never know what you'll see at the intersection of 'love' and 'providence'.

When ADVENTIST OUTREACH TARGETS PORTLAND, OREGON, the effectiveness of this all-out media blitz should be evaluated by non-Adventist, media consultants. Research findings should include the ethnicity and socioeconomic status of newly evangelized members, and provide a detailed accounting of how much money was spent and for what. This study should also include a five-year follow-up survey of those baptized. The data obtained would assist the Church in evaluating the effectiveness of this type of evangelism. At present this information is virtually nonexistent.

The caption under his picture is a description of Christianity in action. "Buddhist-turned-Adventist pastor Sophat Sorn hands out pamphlets to fellow Cambodian refugees in Stockton, California, warning them of the harmful mercury levels in many delta-area fish, which have been linked to learning and memory problems." ADVENTIST HELPS CAMBODIAN REFUGEES TO HEALTH documents Sorn's work within the Northern California Cambodian community. Elizabeth Lechleitner reports that in addition to earning the trust of the 20,000 Cambodian refugees in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, Sorn founded United Cambodian Families, a local nonprofit organization, and has received recognition for his community service from Blue Cross of California, the United States Congress, and The California Department of Public Health's Environmental Health Investigations Branch.

The title of this World Church report, ADVENTISTS LOOKING FOR JESUS IN 2008, is ambiguous and misleading. The subtitle, "Members also hope to minister more, do more in the community", better communicates Taashi Rowe's report.

O ZION, HASTE by Jerry Stevens is a charming account of Ellen White's first rides in automobiles. Her last reported ride was purely for pleasure. It was in a "snazzy Model T. Ford" with Henry and Herbert, her son Willie's twin boys.

BOOKMARK chronicles the "Changing Lives" of the graduates of Canadian University College from 1907-2007. The publisher is "CUC, Lacombe, Alberta, Canada, 2007; 240 pages: CAN $35; hardcover. Dorothy Minchin-Comm comments, “Perhaps the Canadians have shown us [Americans] how to do it.”

A PEOPLE OF SERVICE: According to Sung Kwon, Director of the North American Adventist Community Services, Jesus took "a servant leadership role, a servant who is hired to do the masters will and to serve others. So as Christians we also are called to serve the welfare of humanity and the church".

The Hollywood Adventist Church is used as an example of this "wholistic (sp?) ministry". According to the article, wholistic ministry is described as a ministry that goes "beyond service to include advocacy and social change", and involves "promoting social justice" which "is a prime example of wholistic ministry in action". Social justice is not defined. Before I use this catchphrase, "wholistic ministry" as a synonym for the Gospel, I need a clearer definition.

The two other churches identified in the article as "promoting wholistic ministry", the Des Moines, Iowa Adventist Church and Summerville Adventist Church in West Virginia, don't seem to fit the Hollywood model. They serve the communities in which they exist without actively "promoting social justice". Why they are mentioned in this article is unclear.

RESOURCES TO "TOOL" US FOR MINISTRY by Monte Salin is "my review of a review in the Review! (That quote is credited to my friend, Doug Snider, who thought it was funny.) "The Bible for iPod Users" and "Teenagers and Religion" can be purchased from the Adventist Book Center.

IT'S ALL IN A NAME by Gordon E. Pifher is a reminder that a Christian witness may be simply remembering a name or performing an almost unthinking act of kindness.

GOD OF THE PROPHETS by Elijah Mvundura raises some very serious questions. The most serious question must be directed to the editor or editors who decided that this essay should be published. “Why?” If one of my university students had submitted this essay in fulfillment of an assignment, it would have occasioned a long and serious conference in my office. Had I accepted this paper, my professional qualifications could and should be seriously questioned.

The factual information contained in this essay is called into question in the first paragraph. Nietzsche’s madman does not run into the square shouting, “God is dead!”.(1) The poet Thomas Hardy, while perhaps imagining God's funeral, was not an atheist.(2) Mvundura should have checked out Exodus 24:9-11 before he used Exodus 33:18,20 and 1 Timothy 6:15,16 as proof texts.(3) These careless citations are ones that I could easily document. They call into question every other statement of fact in the piece. The grammar and syntax are confusing.(4) The organization is chaotic.(5) And in his summary statement, Mvundura misinterprets and misuses Hebrews:

To look for Him [God] anywhere else is to search in vain. For the Bible is clear: the sanctuary is God's dwelling place. Accordingly, the books of Daniel and Revelation portray demonic attacks concentrated on the sanctuary. The sanctuary message, embedded as it is in the time prophecies of Daniel and Revelation, tells of God's deep yearning to dwell among us. But it also reminds us that the time is not far off when the proclamation will be made: Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

Every reader of the Adventist Review, The Flagship Journal of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, deserves better.

*********** 1. “Have you ever heard of the madman who on a bright morning lighted a lantern and ran to the market-place calling out unceasingly: "I seek God! I seek God!" As there were many people standing about who did not believe in God, he caused a great deal of amusement. Why? is he lost? said one. Has he strayed away like a child? said another. Or does he keep himself hidden? Is he afraid of us? Has he taken a sea voyage? Has he emigrated? - the people cried out laughingly, all in a hubbub. The insane man jumped into their midst and transfixed them with his glances. "Where is God gone?" he called out. "I mean to tell you! We have killed him, you and I! We are all his murderers!

“It is further stated that the madman made his way into different churches on the same day, and there intoned his Requiem aeternam deo. When led out and called to account, he always gave the reply: ‘What are these churches now, if they are not the tombs and monuments of God?’ (Internet source, Google, Friedrich Nietzsche Gay Science)

2. The name of the poem was not given, and I could not find it in my “Selected Poems”. Hardy “never rested in his search for the Unknown God”. (John Crowe Ransom) Selected Poems of Thomas Hardy, edited by John Crowe Ransom, p.xxxii, The MacMillian Company, New York, 1961.

3. Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and seventy elders of Israel then went up, and they saw the God of Israel beneath whose feet there was what looked like a sapphire pavement pure as the heavens themselves, but he did no harm to the Israelite notables; they actually gazed on God and then ate and drank. Exodus 24:9-11.

4. “But if the normalness of modern atheism seems to prove the ‘death of God’, it is equally true that many millions still believe in Him. A 1998 Harris poll, for example, revealed that 94 percent of adult Americans believe in God. Which begs the question: Is God really dead? Or to put it differently, is the God declared dead by the philosophers the same as the God of the prophets?”

5. Mvundura begins with the pernicious effects of Greek thought “on the biblical view of God”. He then refers to the prophetic hope of the second coming; the philosophical views of Aristotle, Aquinas, Darwin, and Nietzsche; “the response of the prophets after encountering the living God of Israel”; and the Israelite sanctuary message.

Andy Hanson is a professor of Education at California State University, Chico.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/294