Kenya Election Crisis: Adventists in Key Roles Help Keep the Peace

By Tysan, August 21, 2017:      Ezra Chiloba, the chief executive officer of the Independent Electoral and Boundary Commission (IBEC), the government entity that runs elections for Kenya, has said that his agency is ready to conduct another election should the Supreme Court rule in favor of a petition filed by the party that lost the […]

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The One Project Announces Final Event

August 23, 2017:    Simultaneously one of the most beloved and most misunderstood recent movements within the Adventist community, The One project recently announced that it would hold its final event. In a message posted on its website titled “Not Goodbye, but … Until,” the organizers announced that the final One Project gathering would take […]

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United in What?

by Bill Garber When Michigan Conference President Jay Gallimore accuses the leaders of ten union conferences from four divisions of the Seventh-day Adventist Church of having “surrendered to carnal worldliness” and having placed their regions into a state of “insubordination” and “rebellion” through “witchcraft,” something unusual is happening within the church. Elder Gallimore voiced these […]

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The Authority of Scripture: A Personal Pilgrimage

I am now convinced that the issue of the authority of Scripture is basic to all other issues in the church. The destiny of our church depends on how its members regard the authority of the Bible.

I have not always held the view of Scriptural authority that I now maintain. My personal pilgrimage has, I believe, helped me understand at first hand the major viewpoints now held both outside and within the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Having journeyed through a different perspective on the authority of Scripture and then returned to the position I now hold, I feel that my present convictions are not just a result of what my fathers and pastors and church leaders and the Adventist pioneers taught me. Instead, they are the result of my own wrestling with God and His Word.

I am now convinced that the issue of the authority of Scripture is basic to all other issues in the church. The destiny of our church depends on how its members regard the authority of the Bible.

Please let me share my experience. I was born in a conservative Adventist home and given a solid grounding in historic Adventist teachings and practice under godly parents and academy Bible teachers. But in college I found myself confronted with a crisis over the authority of Scripture. In a class entitled "Old Testament Prophets" the professor (who is no longer teaching Bible in our schools) systematically went through the traditional Messianic passages of the prophets and explained how they really did not foretell the coming of the Messiah. He then went through the passages Adventists have regarded as referring to the end of time, arguing that they really applied only to local situations in the time of the prophets. Then he took the passages in the prophets that are quoted in the New Testament and insisted that the New Testament writers misinterpreted and twisted them.

By the end of that course, my faith in the authority of Scripture was greatly shaken. My teacher had not explained the method by which he had arrived at his conclusions or the presuppositions that underlay his method, and his conclusions were devastating to me. I was confused, and for some time I preached little on the Old Testament.

My seminary experience in the late 1960s served to confirm the conclusions of my college Bible teacher. In an Old Testament course (taught by someone who is no longer teaching in Seventh-day Adventist schools), I was given an assignment that amounted to half of my grade. The assignment consisted of reading a scholarly debate over the proper method of approaching the Bible, and writing a critique that had to reveal my decision as to which side in the debate was right.

This assignment was a watershed in my hermeneutical pilgrimage. I agonized over the two positions for weeks. I was not told in class which way to cast my vote, but the general tenor of the lectures, I now see, was designed to lead me in the direction of the historical-critical method. At last I decided. I cast my lot with what the article called the "descriptive approach," a veiled name for the historical-critical method.

The paper defending this position was written by the dean of the Harvard Divinity School. (How could I argue against Harvard?) It pointed out that the "descriptive method" was free from the subjective bias associated with a "confessional" approach to Scripture. I became convinced that if I sharpened my tools of exegesis enough, I would confidently and dispassionately decide on the correct meaning of any scripture. I could accurately describe what its author meant, I could dissect the biblical text, conjecture about its original form and intent, and reconstruct its life-setting and the process that gave rise to its final form. If I studied hard, learned appropriate languages, and mastered all critical tools, I would be in charge. I could scientifically determine without any "faith bias" what was the most probable meaning, authenticity, and truthfulness of any given Bible passage.

For several years while I served as a pastor, I was an avid proponent of the historical-critical method. It was a heady experience for me. I felt good wielding the critical tools and making decisions on my own as to what I would accept as authoritative in Scripture and what was culturally conditioned and could be overlooked.

Then came the Bible Conference of 1974, sponsored by the Biblical Research Institute of the General Conference. While attending that conference, I awoke as from a dream. I came to realize that my approach to the Scriptures had been much like Eve’s approach to God’s spoken word. She was exhilarated by the experience of exercising autonomy over the Word of God, deciding what to believe and what to discard. She exalted her human reason over divine revelation. When she did so, she opened the floodgates of woe upon the world. Like Eve, I had felt the heady ecstasy of setting myself up as the final norm, as one who could judge the divine Word by my rational criteria. Instead of the Word’s judging me, I judged the Word.

As the basic presupposition from which I had been operating dawned on me, I was jolted to the core of my being. I became eager to understand more deeply the issues in hermeneutics and the proper approach to Scripture. That passion eventually drove me back to the Seminary for doctoral studies. This time at the Seminary I was delighted to find that most of the teachers were coming to the Scriptures from a different perspective from the one I had encountered in the 1960s. The first class I took in the Th.D. program was "Principles of Hermeneutics." Out of it came a settled conviction, one that blossomed into my doctoral dissertation in the field of hermeneutics with special implications for the authority of Scripture, a conviction that has grown more intense as I have myself been teaching the class "Principles of Hermeneutics" for several years.

I have become convinced that on the most fundamental level there are only two major approaches to the authority of the Scriptures in the discipline of biblical studies and in the church. One is the historical-critical method along with its daughter methods which employ similar critical presuppositions. This method arose during the eighteenth-century Enlightenment and is still very much alive and well. The other is the grammatical-historical biblical interpretation which rejects critical presuppositions. Revived by the Reformers after a period of eclipse during medieval times and continuing until the present among conservative Christians, this approach also is alive – but perhaps not so well, for many, even among Evangelical Christians, have recently been rejecting it in favor of a modified form of the historical-critical method.

Conflict in the Adventist Church

In Adventism at the present moment, I believe I can say safely though very regretfully, these two approaches toward Scripture are locked in a life-and-death struggle.

I do not want to be an alarmist, and it is not in my nature to seek to stir up controversy or polarization. But I cannot pretend that the problem does not exist. There are many who feel that a discussion on this issue involves merely semantics, that there really is no clear-cut and radical distinction between the two approaches.

But my own experience, based on my own hermeneutical pilgrimage, has convinced me otherwise. I believe that there is a true division on this issue even within Adventism and that the ultimate authority of Scripture is at stake. The subtle but radical difference between the two approaches can perhaps most graphically be shown by placing the main features side by side, and by giving illustrations from real life as I have personally observed them.

The outline below presents the basic differences between the historical-critical method and the traditional Protestant (and Adventist) approach, which we may call the "grammatical-historical" or "historical-biblical" interpretation.1 This is of course schematic and cannot represent fully every variation.

A Comparison of the Two Methods

Historical-Critical Method

A. Definition

The attempt to verify the truthfulness and understand the meaning of biblical data on the basis of the principles and procedures of secular historical science.

B. Objective

To arrive at the correct meaning of Scripture, which is the human author’s intention as understood by his contemporaries.

C. Basic Presuppositions

1. Secular norm: The principles and procedures of secular historical science constitute the external norm and proper method for evaluating the truthfulness and interpreting the meaning of biblical data.

2. Principle of criticism (methodological doubt): the autonomy of the human investigator to interrogate and evaluate on his own apart from the specific declarations of the biblical text.

3. Principle of analogy present experience is the criterion for evaluating the probability of biblical events to have occurred, since all events are in principle similar.

4. Principle of correlation (or causation): a closed system of cause and effect with no room for the supernatural intervention of God in history.

5. Disunity of Scripture, since its production involved many human authors or redactors, Scripture cannot therefore be compared with Scripture ("proof-texts") to arrive at a unified biblical teaching.

6. “Time-conditioned” or "culturally-conditioned" nature of Scripture; the historical context is responsible for the production of Scripture.

7. The human and divine elements of Scripture must be distinguished and separated: the Bible contains but does not equal the Word of God.

D. Basic Hermeneutical Procedures

1. Historical Context (Sitz im Leben): Attempt to understand the reconstructed hypothetical life setting which produced (gave rise to, shaped) the biblical text (often quite apart from the setting specifically stated by the text).

2. Literary (source) criticism: The attempt to hypothetically reconstruct and understand the process of literary development leading to the present form of the text, based on the assumption that sources are a product of the life setting of the community which produced them (often in opposition to specific Scriptural statements regarding the origin and nature of the sources.)

3. Form criticism: The attempt to provide a conjectured reconstruction of the process of pre-literary (oral) development behind the various literary forms, based upon the assumption that the biblical material has an oral pre-history like conventional folk-literature and like folk-literature arises on the basis of traditions which are formed according to the laws inherent in the development of folk traditions.

4. Redaction criticism. The attempt to discover and describe the life setting, sociological and theological motivations which determined the basis upon which the redactor selected, modified, reconstructed, edited, altered or added to traditional materials in order to make them say what was appropriated within his new life setting according to new theological concerns; assumes that each redactor had a unique theology and life setting which differed from (and may have contradicted) his sources and other redactors.

5. Tradition history: The attempt to trace the precompositional history of traditions from stage to stage and passed down by word of mouth from generation to generation to the final written form; based upon the assumption that each generation interpretively reshaped the material.

Historical-Biblical Approach

A. Definition

The attempt to understand the meaning of biblical data by means of methodological considerations arising from Scripture alone.

B. Objective

To arrive at the correct meaning of Scripture, which is what God intended to communicate, whether or not it was fully known by the human author or his contemporaries (1 Pet 1:10-12)

C. Basic Presuppositions

1. Sola Scriptura: The authority and unity of Scripture are such that Scripture is the final norm with regard to content and method of interpretation (Isa 8:20).

2. The Bible is the ultimate authority and is not amenable to the principle of criticism. Biblical data are accepted at face value and not subjected to an external norm to determine truthfulness, adequacy, intelligibility, etc. (Isa 66:2).

3. Suspension of the compelling principles of analogy to allow for the unique activity of God as described in Scripture and in the process of the formation of Scripture (2 Pet. 1:19-21).

4. Suspension of the principle of correlation (or natural cause and effect) to allow for the divine intervention in history as described in Scripture (Heb. 1).

5. Unity of Scripture, since the many human authors are superintended by one divine author; therefore Scripture can be compared with Scripture to arrive at biblical doctrine (Lk 24:27; 1 Cor 2:13).

6. Timeless nature of Scripture: God speaks through the prophet to a specific culture, yet the message transcends cultural backgrounds as timeless truth (John 10:35).

7. The divine and human elements in Scripture cannot be distinguished or separated; the Bible equals the Word of God (2 Tim 3:16, 17).

D. Basic Hermeneutical Procedures

1. Historical Context (Sitz im Leben): Attempt to understand the contemporary historical background in which God revealed Himself (with Scripture as a whole the final context and norm for application of historical background to the text).

2. Literary Analysis: Examination of the literary characteristics of the biblical materials in their canonical form.

3. Form analysis: An attempt to describe and classify the various types of literature found in (the canonical form of) Scripture.

4. Theological analysis of Biblical books: a study of the particular theological emphasis of each Bible writer (according to his own mind set and capacity to understand), seen within the larger context of the unity of the whole Scripture that allows the Bible to be its own interpreter and the various theological emphases to be in harmony with one another.

5. Diachronic (thematic) analysis: The attempt to trace the development of various themes and motives chronologically through the Bible in its canonical form; based on the Scriptural position that God gives added (progressive) revelation to later generations, which, however, is in full harmony with all previous revelation.

Contrasting Definitions

Edgar Krentz, in his recent but classical treatment, The Historical-Critical Method, clearly indicates how the historical-critical method is "based on a secular understanding of history"2 which approaches Scripture "critically with the same methods used on all ancient literature."3 "The methods are secular."4

We must ask, is secular historical science with its accompanying presuppositions, appropriate for the study of Scripture? Can we approach Scripture solely from "below," from the naturalistic level, in light of the Bible’s own claim that it originated from "above," from divine revelation. Can the scientific method dictate how to approach Scripture, or should the method of studying Scripture come from principles found in Scripture alone?

Contrasting Sets of Objectives

In the contrast between the two sets of objectives outlined above, we see a radical divergence between historical-critical studies and historical-biblical ones. The objective of the historical-critical method in ascertaining the correct meaning of Scripture is to arrive at the human author’s intent as it was understood by his contemporaries in relation to their local setting.

On the other hand, the objective of historical-biblical interpretation (the classical approach of Adventists and the Reformers) is to determine the correct meaning of Scripture as a message sent by God, whether or not it was fully understood by its human writer or his contemporaries. According to 1 Pet 1:10-11 NIV, "The prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the suffering of Christ and the glories that would follow." The prophets did not always understand fully. They searched intently. They tried to understand the import and the fullness, but it was only as Jesus came and explained the Scriptures that the full light of what had been prophesied was understood. They, or rather, Christ is still unfolding their meaning today.

There is a growing tendency even within Adventism to go along with the stated objective of the historical-critical method. Recently I was discussing the appropriate objective of exegesis with an Adventist doctoral student at a secular university He was quite candid with me. He argued vociferously that exegesis has as its goal an understanding of what the human author’s intention was, as understood by his contemporaries.

I replied, "But what about 1 Peter 1:10-12?" My friend was quite aware of the passage but answered, “Well, that particular writing – and I don’t believe it’s Peter’s – is culturally conditioned by the time when it was written; therefore, I can no longer go along with Peter’s particular understanding."

I’m not trying to say that every historical-critical scholar would use this student’s evasive maneuvering. But I find a trend in our circles to see the meaning of the Scriptures only as they were interpreted and understood by the human authors’ contemporaries in relation to their immediate setting.

At a recent meeting of Seventh-day Adventist scholars a lecture was presented on the book of Revelation. The major thrust of the lecture was that the book of Revelation can only be understood in the light of its first-century context, and that it refers only to a first-century situation. The book was intended to bring comfort to those being persecuted or oppressed at that time. Although we may make some later reapplications, these are not the accurate and true meaning of the text.

At another session I heard Adventist scholars discuss the Messianic psalms. The thrust of the discussion was that there are no Messianic psalms. New Testament writers misinterpreted certain psalms as Messianic. But, I ask, how does this square with the specific declarations of New Testament writers concerning the original Messianic intent of their authors (as, e.g., in Acts 2:25-35)?

The Role of Basic Presuppositions

Above I list seven presuppositions underlying each approach to Scripture. Number one is the basic orientation point; two, three, and four are crucial principles, and five, six, and seven are the outworking of these principles. Let’s begin with the first and most basic presupposition underlying each approach.

In the historical-critical method the principles and procedures of secular science constitute the external norm for evaluating the truthfulness and interpreting the meaning of biblical data. We recognize at once that the ultimate issue here is: Who has the final word? What is the ultimate norm? Is Scripture to be judged by the principles of a secular historical method or is the method to be judged by Scripture? Do we still believe in sola scriptura? – in the Bible only? (I must say I have been shocked to find that this belief seems to be waning in the Seventh-day Adventist church.)

A few years ago, while on a sabbatical study leave, I was invited to a seminar at which Adventist professors discussed inspiration. They asked me what I thought. When I mentioned something about sola scriptura, a colleague sitting next to me, who had once been a classmate of mine at the Seminary and had since taken doctoral studies elsewhere, responded, "Do you still believe in sola scriptura? That’s passé. We no longer take it as our norm." He added, "I believe in inspiration, of course. I believe that the Bible is inspired. So was Mahatma Ghandi. So was Martin Luther King. So is Mother Theresa. If they all were inspired, how can we determine what is true and what is not true among writings that claim to be inspired? We have to develop certain rational criteria which we can apply to each text to determine its truthfulness and authenticity"

Edgar McKnight clearly points out the rationalistic basis of the historical-critical method: "The basic postulate [of the historical-critical method] is that of human reason and the supremacy of reason as the ultimate criterion for truth."5

To me the response to this position is plain: "To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isa 8:20). The Bible and the Bible only is the ultimate authority Yes, we have other "authorities," but the Bible is the only supreme authority. In the historical-biblical approach the authority and unity of Scripture are such that Scripture is its own final norm rather than secular science or human reason or experience.

The Principle of Criticism

The principle of criticism is the heart of the historical-critical method, even in its modified forms. Edgar Krentz acknowledges that "this principle [of criticism] is affirmed by all modern historical study."6

When critical scholars talk about biblical "criticism" and the historical-critical method, they do not mean critical in the sense of examining a thing rigorously, neither do they intend to connote the negative idea of fault-finding, nor do they mean "crucial," as in the expression "this is a critical issue." The technical meaning of "criticism" in the historical-critical method is that "historical sources are like witnesses in a court of law: they must be interrogated and their answers evaluated. The art of interrogation and evaluation is called criticism." In this process "the historian examines the credentials of a witness to determine the person’s credibility (authenticity) and whether the evidence has come down unimpaired (integrity)."7

In its essence, such criticism is the Cartesian principle of methodological doubt.8 Nothing is accepted at face value, but everything must be verified or corrected by reexamining evidence. In everything there is an "openness to correction" which "implies that historical research produces only probabilities."9

In effect, this principle makes "me" the final determiner of truth and exalts "my" reason as the final test of the authenticity of a passage. "I" judge Scripture; Scripture doesn’t judge "me."

The heart of the matter as I see it is this: Criticism is appropriate for everything in the world except the Scriptures. God asks us to develop our critical powers so that we will not accept anything we hear, see, or experience unless it is in accordance with what He tells us in the Bible. I am not opposed to the critical spirit; I just refuse to use it on the Word of God, which is the critical authority by which I am to be judged. The proper approach, I believe, is found in the grammatical-historical biblical interpretation, which claims that the Bible is the ultimate authority and is not amenable to the principle of criticism. Biblical data are to be accepted at face value and not subjected to an external norm that determines their truthfulness, adequacy, validity, or intelligibility.

Gerhard Maier, a noted European biblical scholar who broke with the historical-critical method, writes in his book The End of the Historical-Critical Method that "a critical method must fail, because it presents an inner impossibility. For the correlative or counterpart to revelation is not critique, but obedience; it is not correction of the text – not even on the basis of a partially recognized and applied revelation – but a let me be corrected."10 The proper stance toward Scripture is captured by the prophet Isaiah: "This is the man to whom I will look: he that is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word’ (Isa 66:2).

Ellen White clearly rejects the principle of criticism in approaching Scripture:

“In our day, as of old, the vital truths of God’s Word are set aside for human theories and speculations. Many professed ministers of the gospel do not accept the whole Bible as the inspired word. One wise man rejects one portion; another questions another part. They set up their judgment as superior to the word; and the Scripture which they do teach rests upon their own authority. Its divine authenticity is destroyed. Thus the seeds of infidelity are sown broadcast; for the people become confused and know not what to believe… Christ rebuked these practices in His day He taught that the word of God was to be understood by all. He pointed to the Scriptures as of unquestionable authority, and we should do the same. The Bible is to be presented as the word of the infinite God, as the end if all controversy and the foundation of all faith.”11

The presence or absence of the fundamental principle of criticism is really the litmus test of whether or not the historical-critical methodology is being employed. For this reason I rejoice that the Methods of Bible Study Committee Report rejects the classical historical-critical method and warns that "even a modified use of this method that retains the principle of criticism which subordinates the Bible to human reason is unacceptable to Adventists."12

The Principle of Analogy

In close relation to the principle of criticism is the principle of analogy. Edgar Krantz observes that "all historians also accept Troeltsch’s principle of analogy"13 The principle of analogy is simple: Present experience is the criterion for evaluating the probability that events mentioned in Scripture actually occurred, inasmuch as all events are in principle similar.

In other words, we are to judge what happened in biblical times by what is happening today; and if we do not see a given thing happening today, in all probability it could not have happened then. The implication has been felt in Adventist circles. Some Adventists say that because we do not see special creation taking place now, but only micro-evolution, we therefore have to adopt some theistic macro-evolution to explain the past. We do not see universal floods today, so there cannot have been a universal flood in the past. We do not see miracles, so we have to find natural explanations for the so-called miracles reported in the Bible. We do not see resurrections, so we have to explain away the resurrections recorded in the Bible.

The advocates of historical-biblical interpretation, on the other hand, suspend the principle of analogy in order to allow for the unique activity of God as described in Scripture.

The Principle of Correlation

The principle of correlation is somewhat similar to the principle of analogy. It states that there is a closed system of cause and effect with no room for supernatural intervention. Events are so correlated and interrelated that a change in any given phenomenon necessitates a change also in its cause and effect. Historical explanations rest on a chain of natural causes and effects. A recent article argued, "If the divine cause plays a role then it can’t be explained or analyzed historically, and therefore we must assume that any divine cause has made use of only this worldly means."14

This is not to say that Seventh-day Adventists who employ the historical-critical method do not believe at all in the supernatural. Indeed the historical-critical method as such does not necessarily deny the supernatural. But it involves a willingness to use a method that has no room for the supernatural. Scholars using it are required to bracket out the supernatural and seek natural causes and effects. So they look for natural explanations for the Exodus, for the Red Sea, for Sinai, and for how the Scriptures came into being. They look at the way folk literature came into existence in Germanic and other cultures and decide that the Bible came into existence in the same way, through a natural process of oral development, editing, correction, manipulation, and redaction.

Some Adventist teachers currently teach the "JEDP hypothesis" of how the Pentateuch came into being. They show their students how to dissect the Pentateuch and describe the stories of Genesis as simply mythological and poetic rather than historical. Some parents have come to me weeping and have said, “We’ve set aside thousands of dollars for years to send our children to an Adventist institution and now, as a result of their Adventist education, they have become agnostic. They no longer believe in Christianity, let alone the Adventist church. They no longer accept the authority of the Bible. What can we do?"

What we can do is to suspend the principle of correlation and allow for divine intervention in history as described in the Scriptures. When the Bible speaks of a divine event, we will not bracket it out and try to seek for merely natural and human causes.

Resultant Principles

There are several resultant presuppositions that follow as corollaries from the basic ones we have looked at so far. One result is the conclusion that Scripture is not basically a unity, because it is the product of different human authors. Consequently scripture cannot be compared with scripture to arrive at a unified biblical teaching.

Of course there is an illegitimate proof-text method that takes the work of the human authors, there must be a basic unity to Scripture. Therefore, scripture can be compared with scripture in order to arrive at biblical doctrine. Jesus did this on the way to Emmaus. "Beginning with Moses and the prophets He expounded to them from all the Scriptures those things concerning Himself" (Lk 24:27). That was the proof-text method at its best. Unfortunately, there is a trend within Adventism to pit Paul against Peter, Old Testament against New Testament, etc., positing major divergences and contradictions in theological positions. This historical-critical principle is opposed to the Bible’s own claim to unity and harmony of teaching.

Cultural Conditioning

This leads us to our next corollary, that Scripture is time conditioned and culture-conditioned, and therefore many of its statements have no universal or timeless validity. Many, even within Adventism, argue that in the first chapters of Genesis we find simply a time-conditioned, cultural statement of mythological/poetic/theological understanding but not a detailed statement of how creation actually took place. The details of cosmology can be expunged as long as the basic truth, the kerygma, of the passage, is preserved, namely that God created. The rest is culture-conditioned.

Recently an Adventist professor talked with me about angels. He said that the very mention of angels in the Bible bothers him. "In fact," he stated, ”I’m beginning to conclude that the mention of angels in Scripture is simply a time-conditioned way to get something across to people who believed in such beings in Bible times. Now we live in a secular world in which we no longer have a society that believes in such beings, so we can move away from those time-conditioned statements to the simple fact that God is present."

It is true that God does speak through the prophet to a specific culture. We must understand the prophet’s times. Yet God’s message transcends cultural backgrounds as timeless truth. "Scripture cannot be broken" (Jn 10:35).

Can the Human and the Divine Be Separated?

A final corollary in the historical-critical method is that the human element can be separated and distinguished from the divine, inspired element.

I listened recently to a tape of a public lecture by an Adventist scholar who argued that the Bible picture of the wrath of God reflects the human element of the writer. Such a picture of God’s wrath was not a part of divine revelation, but God allowed it to come into Scripture. The lecturer proposed that as we move from the Old to the New Testament, we see the teaching about the wrath of God counteracted by the picture of God revealed in Jesus Christ.

But, to the contrary, I find as we move to the New Testament that the understanding of the wrath of God deepens. The wrath of God is just as real as the love of God, if we understand fully what the Bible means by the wrath of God.

Can we pick and choose? Can we separate the human from the divine in the Bible? Ellen White spoke forcefully to this point:

“There are some that may think they are fully capable with their finite judgment to take the Word of God, and to state what are the words of inspiration, and what are not the words of inspiration. I want to warn you off that ground, my brethren in the ministry. "Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground." There is no finite man that lives, I care not who he is or whatever is his position, that God has authorized to pick and choose in His Word…I would have both arms taken off at my shoulders before I would ever make the statement or set my judgment upon the Word of God as to what is inspired and what is not inspired.15

Do not let any living man come to you and begin to dissect God’s Word, telling what is revelation, what is inspiration and what is not, without a rebuke… We call on you to take your Bible, but do not put a sacrilegious hand upon it and say, "That is not inspired," simply because somebody else has said so. Not a jot or tittle is ever to be taken from that Word. Hands off brethren. Do not touch the ark…When men begin to meddle with God’s Word, I want to tell them to take their hands off, for they do not know what they are doing.”16

Hermeneutical Procedures

We cannot comment in detail on each, but we observe that the same study tools are used in the latter as in the former: the same careful attention is given to historical, linguistic, grammatical-syntactical, and literary details. There is no intention in the historical-grammatical approach of lowering the standard of excellence or de-emphasizing the diligent and accurate study of the Scriptures. But there is an intent in historical-biblical study to eliminate the critical element that stands as judge upon the Word.

As one examines various procedures of the historical-critical method – historical criticism, literary criticism, form criticism, redaction criticism, and tradition criticism – three basic steps in each procedure emerge. First, there is a dissection of the Word into various sources, oral traditions, and smaller units. Then there is a conjecture about the life setting and original source were. Finally, there is a reconstruction of what the scholar decides the original must have been like.

In light of these three common procedural steps in historical criticism, a statement by Ellen White is very much to the point. It seems Ellen White knew quite well what was involved in the historical-critical method. In her day it was called "higher criticism." Note her pointed indictment:

As in the days of the apostles, men tried by tradition and philosophy to destroy faith in the Scriptures, so today by the pleasing sentiments of higher criticism, evolution, spiritualism, theosophy; and pantheism, the enemy of righteousness is seeking to lead souls into forbidden paths.

She continues, focusing on higher criticism:

To many the Bible is a lamp without oil, because they have turned their minds into channels of speculative belief that brings misunderstanding and confusion. The work of higher criticism, in dissecting, conjecturing, reconstructing, is destroying faith in the Bible as a divine revelation. It is robbing God’s word of power to control, uplift, and inspire human lives.17

Ellen White put her finger on the method, and upon the three basic steps in its application, and revealed the baleful results.

Providentially; a growing number of Bible students who were once convinced of the validity of the historical-critical method are awakening, as I did, as from a dream to learn what they have been doing. Many have shared with me how Scripture had lost its vitality in their lives, how they no longer were able to preach with power from the whole Word. They always had to stop and think, "Is this portion of Scripture really authoritative?" With joy they have rediscovered the power of the Word as they have renewed their confidence in its full authority. I would like to see every Seventh-day Adventist, every Christian, possess absolute confidence in the Word!

Conclusion

This critique and discussion of the two conflicting approaches to Scripture should not be regarded as an attempt to slander or impugn sinister motives to any of my colleagues inside or outside the Seventh-day Adventist church who practice the historical-critical method. Although I have considered it crucial to indicate by concrete examples the inextricable link between the historical-critical method and its methodological presuppositions, I have sought to preserve the integrity and the anonymity of those whose views I have used for illustration.

It must be recognized that virtually every non-Seventh-day Adventist institution of higher learning which teaches biblical studies (except for a few evangelical seminaries and the fundamentalist Bible colleges) is steeped in the historical-critical method. Exposure exclusively to this method on a day-in-day-out basis in every class and from every professor is likely to produce its effect, even if only subtly. I believe that some who have been trained solely in the historical-critical method and have not had an opportunity to hear a fair presentation of both sides, may be open to a clarification of the issues. This is why I have shared my personal pilgrimage toward a clearer understanding of the full authority of the Scriptures.

Endnotes

1. Conservative biblical scholars have usually called this approach the "grammatical-historical method," more recently (and accurately) the "grammatical-historical-literary method" (see William Larkin, Jr., Culture and BiblicaPHermeneutics [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988], p. 96). I prefer to avoid referring to this approach as a single unified "method"; instead, I refer more generally to the basic "historical-biblical interpretation" that rejects critical presuppositions.

2. Edgar Krentz, The Historical-Critical Method, Guides to Biblical Scholarship (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976), p. 1.

3. Ibid., p. 4.

4 . Ibid., p. 48.

5. Edgar V. McKnight, Post-Modern Use if the Bible: The Emergence if Reader-Oriented Criticism (Nashville: Abingdon, 1988), p. 45.

6. Krentz, p. 56.

7. Ibid., p. 42.

8. See McKnight, p. 45.

9. Krentz, pp. 56, 57.

10. Gerhard Maier, The End if the Historical-Critical Method, trans. Edwin W Leverenz and Rudolph F Norden (St. Louis: Concordia, 1977), p. 23.

11 . Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 329. Italics supplied.

12. "Methods of Bible Study Committee (GCC-A): Report," Adventist Review, January 22, 1987, p. 18.

13. Krentz, p. 57.

14 . Seth Erlandsson, "Is There Ever Biblical Research Without Presuppositions?" Themelios 7 (1978):24.

15. Ellen G. White comment, Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, 7:920. Italics supplied.

16. Ibid. Italics supplied.

17. Ellen G. White, Acts if the Apostles, p. 474.

 

This article appeared in Spectrum, Vol. 34, No. 3 (Summer 2006). (It was reprinted by Spectrum with permission from the Journal of the Adventist Theological Society where it first appeared in issue I, no. I (1990):39–56).It was written by Richard M. Davidson who currently serves as the J. N. Andrews Professor of Old Testament Interpretation at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan.

 

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Why ADU’s New President is Bullish on Adventist Education

In this exclusive and wide-ranging interview, the new president of Adventist University for Health Sciences in Florida, Dr. Edwin Hernández, discusses his philosphy of education, his own life-transforming experiences as a student, and the difficulty of filling David Greenlaw’s shoes.

In this exclusive and wide-ranging interview, the new president of Adventist University for Health Sciences in Florida, Dr. Edwin Hernández, discusses his philosphy of education, his own life-transforming experiences as a student, and the difficulty of filling David Greenlaw’s shoes.

Question: You served as provost of Adventist University for Health Sciences before being announced in June as the new president, taking over this month from the university’s founder David Greenlaw. What part of the job are you most excited about as you take over the president’s chair? 

Answer: The part of the job that most excites me is reminding myself and the campus daily, on the why of our existence.  A special mission brings us together — to develop skilled professionals who live the healing values of Christ.  They are then equipped to extend the healing ministry of Christ — a noble endeavor that excites me every day.

My father was a hospital chaplain, a pastor, and a church leader, so I grew up with an understanding that Christ’s presence is often most deeply felt in times of illness and suffering.

I am also excited about building on the strong foundation established by Dr. Greenlaw and planning a robust and compelling vision for the future of the University.  

What do you think will be the hardest part of the job?

So far, the limitation of 24 hours in a day is the most difficult constraint. There is much to do and too few hours in the day — so pacing oneself is critical.  Adopting a new role and understanding its demands takes time and getting used to the rhythm and expectations.  But I am a learner and enthusiastically embrace the challenges of my new role.  

You are only the second leader of ADU, succeeding the founder — aren’t those rather difficult shoes to fill?

Dr. David Greenlaw is a legendary leader with an extraordinary legacy. Rather than trying to fill his shoes, I hope to honor his steps by staying on the path he laid and building a promising future.  ADU grew from very humble beginnings to what it is now: a full-fledged university, offering undergraduate and graduate degrees and our first doctoral program in Physical Therapy. Expansion and opportunity are what lie ahead.

What plans and goals will you focus on as you settle into your new role?

We are beginning with a strong focus on mission, culture, and excellence. ADU has so many talented people and amazing assets — I want to help everyone work at their highest level and achieve their highest potential.  

We also want to work closely with our parent organization, Adventist Health System and Florida Hospital, to support, align, and enhance our shared vision and mission.  Our culture defines how we work together. At ADU we have many vibrant threads: education, scholarship, clinical practice, mentoring, facilities, faith, worship, learning, research and clinical labs, technology, communications, and resources. While each thread is bright on its own, it is also just a single thread, a portion of the whole. As we weave our separate threads together, we can create a beautiful tapestry of culture… of collaboration and mutual respect, of open communication and trust. My hope is that we will create a vibrant, Christ-like culture at ADU.

Excellence in education is what we strive for, not as a goal but rather as our standard. We must achieve excellence in all we do —  in terms of educating, clinical practice, research, technology and innovation, academic administration, department management, student support services —  but also in terms of honoring and valuing one another’s work, respecting and upholding one another’s human dignity, and maintaining the highest standards for personal integrity, both on and off the job. At ADU, these are not aspirations. They are requirements.

There are many exciting opportunities for the future.  As I mentioned, first and foremost is mission.  As an Adventist Christian institution of higher learning, ADU’s added value is squarely related to our ability to shape the hearts and minds of our students. I want them to see themselves as healthcare professionals who live the healing values of Christ, and extend His ministry in a way that measurably improves the health and vitality of the communities we serve. We want our graduates to be individuals of extraordinary character that bring purpose and hope to others.  Thinking and planning carefully about the educational experiences that are necessary to produce such individuals is a priority in the coming years. 

Related to this is making ADU a preeminent institution that advances our research knowledge on the relationship between spirituality and health and how best to train healthcare professionals who are spiritual ambassadors.  ADU, together with Adventist Health System, is uniquely positioned to demonstrate scientifically the added value and contributions that a faith-based mission brings to the wellbeing of individuals and communities. In addition, I would like to see ADU develop robust interprofessional learning experiences where each profession learns and collaborates with others — to see faculty and students across the disciplines be part of healthcare teams. 

Finally, the increasing complexities of the healthcare environment requires that we be innovative in our practice, thinking, and execution of healthcare education.

What are the major challenges facing the university?

Like most universities, we are always working to attract students that fit the mission, keep education affordable, expand opportunities for our graduates, and maintain high standards.

What makes ADU different than other Adventist colleges and universities? How are you different than other universities focused on healthcare?

Like all Adventist colleges and universities, ADU is a special place. It is unique in its exclusive focus on health professions, its close relationship with Florida Hospital and the career opportunities there, its small but modern and well-equipped campus, and its culture of collaboration and family feel. 

We are also different because we are primarily a community regional campus.  About 80 percent of our student body come from the central Florida region.  

And finally, we have been pioneers in online education.  

Despite these differences, we are united in the common mission of leading young people to Christ — shaping their characters to embrace their academic and professional skills as an extension of Christ’s ministry here on earth.  

What’s it like to be head of a college that is really new among its Adventist sister institutions, having only opened its doors in 1992?

That’s a difficult question just three weeks in! Yet, our newness presents mostly opportunities for growth and expansion, including building a robust alumni organization, now that we have enough alumni (close to 8,000) to rally around future growth. 

Is ADU continuing to expand? Are you continuing to add programs? Is your enrollment still growing?

Growth will be part of our five-year plan!  Like other institutions, we have experienced the ebb and flow of enrollment patterns, but are still anticipating solid projections into the future.  The healthcare world is constantly changing, demanding professionals who are skilled, innovative in their thinking, leaders, compassionate, and loving people.  That is what we are about and why students come to us.

Your PhD is in sociology with a specialty in religion. How does this give you a unique perspective as leader of a university focused on healthcare?

Both education and healthcare are about people working in relationship, so sociology gives me a strong academic foundation from which to draw to understand systems and the role of culture in shaping people’s lives and motivations.

My research and experience will also help guide our growing expectations around scholarship by engaging faculty and students in advancing their fields of study through educational practices and research that improves health outcomes.

How does your previous work experience, and student experience, inform your philosophy of education?

My career has been dedicated to improving education in different ways: through study, research, grant making, writing, teaching, and more. My philosophy of education can be summed up quite simply: I believe everyone is born with unlimited, God-given potential to learn, and unlimited, God-given desire to contribute. Education is one of the most powerful catalysts we have for unleashing potential and equipping people to contribute to God’s mission of spreading a message of hope, forgiveness, and unconditional love.

Although you are the president now, do you feel like you still identify with the student experience?

I definitely still identify with the student experience.  There is nothing more transformative than developing relationships that have the power to change the life and direction of a student.  I can still remember my undergraduate days at La Sierra University when Dr. Richard Rice invited me to be his “reader” for the last two years of my academic program.  It was transformative and life-altering.  The experience of working alongside an extraordinary talented scholar like Dr. Rice was not only inspiring, but it affirmed my gifts and talents to pursue further academic training and a career as a scholar.

What do you think is the most important part of the job for the leader of an Adventist university?

The most important role of a leader of an Adventist University is inspiring and reminding people continually of our unique mission of restoring God’s image in each of us, of strengthening our walk with God, and making people whole — where our spiritual self is nurtured and allowed to flourish.   

At the end of the day, ADU’s mission is more than just excellent academic and clinical preparation, it is about shaping the heart and mind to develop a worldview that sees others as children of God thus eliciting the highest level of compassionate care and excellence. This is the “why” of Adventist higher education.  

The “how” is by: 1. Leading as a servant, as Christ modeled for us and inspiring people to live out our mission of “living the healing values of Christ”; 2. Assessing every decision in terms of students: will it help them achieve their potential and extend the healing ministry of Christ?; and 3. Building a culture in which everyone feels supported and valued and allowed to contribute at their highest level.

If I accomplish all three, everything else — sustainability, collaboration, excellence, growth — will follow. 

The healthcare field is evolving so rapidly. What do you do to ensure that the training you offer is up-to-date?

Staying up-to-date is a team effort. Our partnership with AHS/Florida Hospital is critically important here, as the constant collaboration with leaders and clinicians there ensures that ADU will never lapse into ivory tower syndrome and fall behind on current evidence-based practices and technologies. 

I am very proud of the faculty at ADU.  They are gifted, well-trained, and highly committed individuals. Over the last year ADU has inaugurated two new centers of excellence to advance the educational and research mission of the university. Being involved in scholarly and research endeavors is part of what it means to be a faculty member at a growing, maturing, and innovative university like ADU.  Yet, ADU will also always be an extraordinary center for teaching and learning.

These two dimensions — teaching and research — are mutually enhancing activities.  Increasingly on campus we talk about our faculty as teacher/scholars — individuals who are passionately gifted in the science and art of teaching while also involved in advancing knowledge in their field of study.  Students benefit greatly when faculty are engaged in scholarly activities, especially when students can participate in the creative process of advancing knowledge in their fields.  In this regard, we hope to increase opportunities for our students to be engaged in research activities.  As the university of Adventist Health Systems, we are increasingly being called to contribute to advancing evidence-based practices and to function as a think-tank for the growing demands in healthcare.   

Where do you see Adventist third-level education in the future, and how do you see it changing?

I think our relevance will continue to grow as we keep pace with the evolving needs of a changing world, a shifting workforce, and increasing globalization. Our faith base, our cultural diversity, our academic standards, and our commitment to excellence will all serve us well in the years and decades ahead.  

Within the context of Adventist higher education, I see greater collaboration — a merging of efforts and talents — in the future.  The greatest challenge is keeping higher education affordable for most of our church members and families that seek a faith-based educational experience.

We can no longer take for granted our value proposition as a faith-based educational system.  We must demonstrate it in real outcomes, the most important of which are transformed lives.  I am reminded of what David Brooks, New York Times Op-ed writer said related to this question:

“You [Christian Colleges] have what everybody else is desperate to have: a way of talking about and educating the human person in a way that integrates faith, emotion and intellect. . . Almost no other set of institutions in American society has that, and everyone wants it.”  

The opportunity for us is harnessing our collective assets, clearly identifying our value, embracing enthusiastically and prophetically the broader culture, creatively and boldly addressing the challenges before us, and convincingly articulating our missional task of restoring God’s image—that is what it will take to thrive into the future.

As you can tell, despite the challenges, I am bullish about the future of Adventist higher education.

What do you like to do when you aren’t working?

Those hours are limited these days, but I love to spend time with my family, play a game of tennis, go for extended walks, get out on the water, and I enjoy my worship experiences in the Florida Hospital Church community.  

I am also still actively (but very selectively) engaged in research with other colleagues, specifically working on a book project on the sociology of Latino congregations.  

To be very candid, I don’t know what I would do if I did not have the blessings of a sabbath day of rest — a 24-hour time off — God’s way of calling me towards balance.  Because I’ll be honest, I am always thinking about my work — it’s hard to turn it off. That is something I must work on: creating the sort of balance that allows me time to enjoy the pleasures of life while keeping a productive professional life.

Read a 2008 Spectrum interview with David Greenlaw, the founder of Adventist University of Health Sciences, then called Florida Hospital College of Health Sciences.

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Jamaican Adventist Church Hosts Domestic Abuse Prevention Event

August 23, 2017:   Andrews Memorial Seventh-day Adventist Church in Kingston, Jamaica hosted a government-led domestic violence intervention event yesterday. The gathering honored over 200 volunteer pastors and police staff were trained as part of the national government’s crime prevention efforts. “Domestic violence is a serious matter and a serious crime. Too many times people […]

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Seventh-day Adventist Congregants Comfort Heather Heyer’s Parents and More News Shorts

In this week’s news roundup, congregants from Charlottesville-area Seventh-day Adventist churches pray with Heather Heyer’s parents at the site of their daughter’s death, a Canadian Adventist church is vandalized with racist graffiti and a local business owner offers to clean it up for free, Adventist churches in Delaware and Florida provide school supplies to needy children, and Pathfinders in the Cayman Islands receive mentoring through drum lessons.

Seventh-day Adventist Congregants Comfort Heather Heyer’s Parents. On August 19, 2017, members from local Charlottesville, Virginia, Seventh-day Adventist churches were returning from the Free Speech Wall, after a day-long peace gathering. Their path intersected with Susan and Kim Bro, Heather Heyer’s parents, who were visiting the site where, exactly one week earlier, their daughter had died. Staring at the flowers, candles, and other tokens left on the pavement to honor Heyer, Susan Bro invited everyone—the churchgoers and anyone standing nearby—to come together, and they talked, hugged, and prayed. “I dreaded it, but I just needed to be here on the moment she died, and I had to come,” Bro said. “Love is what’s keeping me going.” From The Daily Progress, “‘Love is what’s keeping me going:’ Susan Bro visits site of daughter Heather Heyer’s death.”

Canadian Adventist Church Vandalized with Racist Graffiti after Charlottesville; Local Business Owner Offers to Remove Graffitifor Free. The roof of the Guelph Seventh-day Adventist Church in Ontario, Canada, was vandalized with hateful graffiti scrawled in black spray paint. "I was horrified when I saw it,” said Pastor Selburn Fray. The Guelph SDA Church is multi-ethnic, including people of all colors and of all backgrounds. Every Sabbath about 40 members attend worship services, Fray said. In his 24 years as a church leader, he had never seen something like this hit so close to home. "We’re putting people on high alert here,” he said, adding he is concerned that eventually the disturbing violence seen in Charlottesville, Virginia, could end up crossing the border into Canada. “We don’t want to be the first church that is attacked here on a Saturday." Fray said the church head office, the Ontario Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, is now looking at installing cameras at all its churches around the province. He said if the church community ever finds out who vandalized the church, members would not show anger toward them. Instead, the church would welcome the individual or group with love and forgiveness. “Even though someone may do this, we’re open to forgive and to welcome them with open arms.” From the Guelph Mercury Tribune, “Hate-filled graffiti stains roof of Guelph church.”

The owner of a Guelph restoration business offered to clean the roof of the church marred by theracist graffiti at no charge.Paul Schmidt, who owns WinMar franchises in Guelph and Orangeville, said he made the offer to the pastor of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Guelph. “What bothered me, is it’s a congregation of 40—so money is tight. There’s no way they could afford (the cleanup). The funds that they take in are not to clean up (graffiti),” said Schmidt. Paster Fray accepted the offer, and Schmidtexpects to complete the work next week. From Guelph Today, “Business owner makes offer to clean racist church graffiti for free.”

Adventist Churches Provide School Supplies to Needy Children. Two Seventh-day Adventist churches are providing school supplies to children in their communities. Volunteers from the Macedonia Seventh-day Adventist Church in Chester, Delaware, will be handing out 1,000 book bags filled with school supplies to help area families prepare for the upcoming school year. Better Living Center, a community organization, provided the bags worth $36,000. “The Better Living Center is dedicated to empowering the community,” said event coordinator Blane Stoddart. “So the community can empower themselves to better their lives.” Sponsors for the event include Keystone First, Cradles to Crayons, Andrew L. Hicks Jr. Foundation, UPS, Chester Community Charter School, the Brookhaven Shop Rite, Genesis Health Care, and Adventist Community Services. From the Daily Times News, “Better Living Center to give away 1,000 filled bookbags today.”

Daughter of Zion Seventh-day Adventist Church in Delray Beach, Florida, provided school supplies and groceries to local children and their families following a community March For Hope. Community members marched side by side with Delray Beach police officers. Organizers say the rally was not only about creating change but about joining together as a community. From WPTV, “2nd annual March for Hope held in Delray Beach.”

Cayman Island Pathfinders Continue Drumming Tradition through Mentoring. The Savannah Seventh-day Adventist Church yard in the Cayman Islands provides space for drum practice when the Pathfinder drummers, ages 10 to 15, gather. The group is part of the church’s youth program, aimed at keeping youngsters together and out of trouble; to do something positive and wholesome; and to prepare them for upcoming events, said Merle Watkins, director of the Pathfinders Club. There are currently 22 members in the band. Its membership changes every few years as some go off to college, Watkins said. “The teens build their own beats and learn from each other,” Watkins said. She explained that the group mostly plays songs that are sung at church, during Pathfinder program events, and occasional church marches. Students completing university often return to the band and assist in teaching others. From the Cayman Compass, “Drum practice ends with a bang.”

 

Pam Dietrich taught English at Loma Linda Academy for 26 years and served there eight more years as the 7-12 librarian. She lives in Redlands, California.

Image Credit: Ryan M. Kelly / The Daily Progress

 

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Make sure your comments are germane to the topic; be concise in your reply; demonstrate respect for people and ideas whether you agree or disagree with them; and limit yourself to one comment per article, unless the author of the article directly engages you in further conversation. Comments that meet these criteria are welcome on the Spectrum Website. Comments that fail to meet these criteria will be removed.

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Seventh-day Adventist Congregants Comfort Heather Heyer’s Parents and More News Shorts

In this week’s news roundup, congregants from Charlottesville-area Seventh-day Adventist churches pray with Heather Heyer’s parents at the site of their daughter’s death, a Canadian Adventist church is vandalized with racist graffiti and a local business owner offers to clean it up for free, Adventist churches in Delaware and Florida provide school supplies to needy children, and Pathfinders in the Cayman Islands receive mentoring through drum lessons.

Seventh-day Adventist Congregants Comfort Heather Heyer’s Parents. On August 19, 2017, members from local Charlottesville, Virginia, Seventh-day Adventist churches were returning from the Free Speech Wall, after a day-long peace gathering. Their path intersected with Susan and Kim Bro, Heather Heyer’s parents, who were visiting the site where, exactly one week earlier, their daughter had died. Staring at the flowers, candles, and other tokens left on the pavement to honor Heyer, Susan Bro invited everyone—the churchgoers and anyone standing nearby—to come together, and they talked, hugged, and prayed. “I dreaded it, but I just needed to be here on the moment she died, and I had to come,” Bro said. “Love is what’s keeping me going.” From The Daily Progress, “‘Love is what’s keeping me going:’ Susan Bro visits site of daughter Heather Heyer’s death.”

Canadian Adventist Church Vandalized with Racist Graffiti after Charlottesville; Local Business Owner Offers to Remove Graffitifor Free. The roof of the Guelph Seventh-day Adventist Church in Ontario, Canada, was vandalized with hateful graffiti scrawled in black spray paint. "I was horrified when I saw it,” said Pastor Selburn Fray. The Guelph SDA Church is multi-ethnic, including people of all colors and of all backgrounds. Every Sabbath about 40 members attend worship services, Fray said. In his 24 years as a church leader, he had never seen something like this hit so close to home. "We’re putting people on high alert here,” he said, adding he is concerned that eventually the disturbing violence seen in Charlottesville, Virginia, could end up crossing the border into Canada. “We don’t want to be the first church that is attacked here on a Saturday." Fray said the church head office, the Ontario Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, is now looking at installing cameras at all its churches around the province. He said if the church community ever finds out who vandalized the church, members would not show anger toward them. Instead, the church would welcome the individual or group with love and forgiveness. “Even though someone may do this, we’re open to forgive and to welcome them with open arms.” From the Guelph Mercury Tribune, “Hate-filled graffiti stains roof of Guelph church.”

The owner of a Guelph restoration business offered to clean the roof of the church marred by theracist graffiti at no charge.Paul Schmidt, who owns WinMar franchises in Guelph and Orangeville, said he made the offer to the pastor of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Guelph. “What bothered me, is it’s a congregation of 40—so money is tight. There’s no way they could afford (the cleanup). The funds that they take in are not to clean up (graffiti),” said Schmidt. Paster Fray accepted the offer, and Schmidtexpects to complete the work next week. From Guelph Today, “Business owner makes offer to clean racist church graffiti for free.”

Adventist Churches Provide School Supplies to Needy Children. Two Seventh-day Adventist churches are providing school supplies to children in their communities. Volunteers from the Macedonia Seventh-day Adventist Church in Chester, Delaware, will be handing out 1,000 book bags filled with school supplies to help area families prepare for the upcoming school year. Better Living Center, a community organization, provided the bags worth $36,000. “The Better Living Center is dedicated to empowering the community,” said event coordinator Blane Stoddart. “So the community can empower themselves to better their lives.” Sponsors for the event include Keystone First, Cradles to Crayons, Andrew L. Hicks Jr. Foundation, UPS, Chester Community Charter School, the Brookhaven Shop Rite, Genesis Health Care, and Adventist Community Services. From the Daily Times News, “Better Living Center to give away 1,000 filled bookbags today.”

Daughter of Zion Seventh-day Adventist Church in Delray Beach, Florida, provided school supplies and groceries to local children and their families following a community March For Hope. Community members marched side by side with Delray Beach police officers. Organizers say the rally was not only about creating change but about joining together as a community. From WPTV, “2nd annual March for Hope held in Delray Beach.”

Cayman Island Pathfinders Continue Drumming Tradition through Mentoring. The Savannah Seventh-day Adventist Church yard in the Cayman Islands provides space for drum practice when the Pathfinder drummers, ages 10 to 15, gather. The group is part of the church’s youth program, aimed at keeping youngsters together and out of trouble; to do something positive and wholesome; and to prepare them for upcoming events, said Merle Watkins, director of the Pathfinders Club. There are currently 22 members in the band. Its membership changes every few years as some go off to college, Watkins said. “The teens build their own beats and learn from each other,” Watkins said. She explained that the group mostly plays songs that are sung at church, during Pathfinder program events, and occasional church marches. Students completing university often return to the band and assist in teaching others. From the Cayman Compass, “Drum practice ends with a bang.”

 

Pam Dietrich taught English at Loma Linda Academy for 26 years and served there eight more years as the 7-12 librarian. She lives in Redlands, California.

Image Credit: Ryan M. Kelly / The Daily Progress

 

If you respond to this article, please:

Make sure your comments are germane to the topic; be concise in your reply; demonstrate respect for people and ideas whether you agree or disagree with them; and limit yourself to one comment per article, unless the author of the article directly engages you in further conversation. Comments that meet these criteria are welcome on the Spectrum Website. Comments that fail to meet these criteria will be removed.

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Toward a Theology of Solace: Healing post-San Antonio Wounds

Responding to human casualties with words of assurance and hope are fundamental ethics in theology. God spoke through Isaiah with manifold words of solace to the children of Israel. And God himself, in spite of their continual disobedience, identified Himself with Israel as “My people.” God shows the way, leads the way, and we should follow suit.

Comfort, O comfort My people," says your God.

     "Speak kindly to Jerusalem;

          And call out to her, that her warfare has ended,

          That her iniquity has been removed,

          That she has received of the Lord’s hand

          Double for all her sins.[i]

In this article, I intend to prompt a theological reflection on solace as a deliberate response to distressing situations in church-based organizations, especially the political struggle between the General Conference (GC) and the so-called deviant Unions.

Solace is a word that has beautiful connotations and denotations. According to the Cambridge dictionary, to offer solace implies giving “comfort to someone when they are feeling sad or worried.”[ii] Broadly, solace involves support, sympathy, empathy, help, hope, tolerance, love, patience, counseling, consoling, guidance, direction, relief, unity, etc. The elixir of solace is essential to numerous distressing human circumstances. I think of solace as a deliberate theological tool to healing diverse issues in the Church.

Following the 2015 GC Session vote in San Antonio that denied Church divisions autonomous authority on the decision to ordain women as pastors, many sustained emotional injury, for a variety of reasons, when the vote turned out against their desired expectations or hopes. Jon Paulien (1949 – present), expressed his disappointment in the following words:

[T]he denial of the TOSC [Theology of Ordination Study Committee] conclusion and process in San Antonio was heart-breaking for many of us. I was heartbroken for the many women who felt the action showed disrespect to their perception of a call from God to do ministry. I was disappointed for those parts of the world who felt distrusted when their local judgment on the matter was rejected. I felt distrusted and disrespected when my earnest attempts to bring reason into the discussion were summarily dismissed with assertions and condemnation, rather than collegial debate.[iii]

In other words, the fact that the theological enterprise was not given proper eminence by their conclusion, while the World Church turned to popular authority from delegates (populism), accompanied by derogatory remarks, betrayed the dissenting views of some theologians within the Adventist theological enterprise.

Since San Antonio, wounds continue to bleed. Following last year’s vote on the GC document, "Unity in Mission: Procedures in Church Reconciliation," Reidar Kvinge (1959 – present), the recently resigned president of the Norwegian Union said:

In order to be inline with GC policy, we have been asking for help and guidance from the GC for more than a year. Sorry to say but we have not received any help…the help we needed.

 

 

Another year with threats of sanctions from the GC will damage the Church utterly. The Norwegian Union has sent a proposal to the GC that could solve the problem…the dilemma we’re facing, but we have had no reply. Now we’re accused of being non-compliant.[iv]

Kvinge’s remark challenges the GC to have first taken a deliberate attempt to heal the political divide, the broken heartedness, and to have ensured unity of the body; after all that’s what our Lord Jesus came to offer miserable humanity (Lk 4:18, Heb 4:15). But when inflammatory words and phrases such as “non-compliant” and “deviant unions,” combined with threats of sanction were the responses in the midst of the situation, the Church showed its concern for denominational authority at the expense of its wounded members. This is what has given way to prolonged emotional agony. In such situations, people begin to thirst after solace. How can theology respond to this emotional tragedy with the assurance that God is still in control?

The Bible teaches us how to open our mouths (Pr. 15: 1, Col. 4: 6). Responding to human casualties with words of assurance and hope are fundamental ethics in theology. God spoke through Isaiah with manifold words of solace to the children of Israel. And God himself, in spite of their continual disobedience, identified Himself with Israel as “My people.” God shows the way, leads the way, and we should follow suit. Therefore, a theology of solace should take into consideration a positivistic approach that offers comfort and help in any form of distress by suppressing all negativity and ill feeling, which only intensifies suffering and anger.

In the ongoing reconciliation process between the World Church and so-called noncompliant Unions (and probably subsequent ones to come in the future), I propose that the GC turns the tables and offers comfort rather than political protocol. Instead of forcing obedience, the GC must consider Gamaliel’s advice:

… Leave these men alone. Let them go! For if their purpose or endeavor is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God (Acts 5: 39).

 

Notes & References:


[i]Isaiah 40:1,2

[iv]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHu2dOh-3R0

 

Clifford Owusu-Gyamfi, originally from Ghana, is pursuing a Master’s of Theology degree from the inter-faculty universities of Lausanne and Geneva, Switzerland.

Image Credit: SpectrumMagazine.org

 

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You Are What You Eat

Have you heard the old saying ‘You are what you eat’? (As a kid we used to joke around especially when a friend was eating beef or chicken, laughing “You’re a cow” or “You’re chicken!!”) Well perhaps some people will think this applies to me today because the topic of this post is nuts.

Yes, it’s true. I am nuts…for nuts that is. Cashews and almonds (great in stir-fries, sweet and savoury creams and sauces), pecans and almonds (high in Omega-3s and a yummy addition to cakes and meat-free patties), pine nuts (a complete source of amino acids and a delightful add-in for tomato-based pastas) and more. I love them. Full of calcium, iron, protein and fibre, nuts are one of the healthiest, plant-based, protein alternatives you can find. Nuts are so versitile. You can eat them raw, roasted or pan-fried. You can grind them into a meal as a gluten-free flour alternative. You can combine them with gluten flour to create a meat-free pattie. You can blend them with water and sweetener for homemade vegan milk, or prepare a delicious, dairy-free sour cream or sweet cake topping.

Best of all, Ellen White’s counsels on diet and health stress that grains, fruits, nuts and vegetables are not only nourishing and but also appetizing (see CG 384.1 & 3). Healthy and delicious! Yay 😀 Here’s my most recent Not Only Carrots cooking show episode – Raw Cashew Mayonnaise. Take a look and see just how easy it is to create dairy and egg-free mayonnaise alternatives.

https://youtu.be/mTuVHN5Ooz0

And learn more about the incredible health-benefits of nuts here. http://ift.tt/2v4DO02

~Leah Jones

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Saint Kitts and Nevis Government Asks Adventists to Fight Crime

August 22, 2017: The government of the two-island country of Saint Kitts and Nevis has reached out to the Adventist church as well as a number of other denominations to help fight crime in the country. The country’s Ecclesiastical Affairs Ministry is in charge of putting in motion a list of recommendations made by the […]

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Election Crisis in Kenya Puts Adventist who is Chief Justice in Central Role

By Tysan, August 20, 2017:      The opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition filed a case Friday evening (August 18) against President-elect Uhuru Kenyata, claiming the recent national election was rigged. Media around the globe has been covering the August 8 election in Kenya because of the political violence in the African country in 2007 and […]

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Daniel Xisto: Standing Against Hate in Charlottesville

Daniel Xisto is the pastor of the Charlottesville, Virginia Adventist church. In this interview, he tells about how he and his congregation got involved in the events that led up to the “Unite the Right” rally, August 11-12. An excellent testimony of how a pastor can make a difference in matters of peace, and stand […]

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