Intrigued by the Court
I read with interest Lincoln Steed’s article, “Court Intrigue
” (Feb. 23, 2006), and I have serious issues. They start when Steed tries to portray the Supreme Court as increasingly conservative, on the basis that the majority of justices were chosen by Republican, and presumably conservative, presidents.
Using that reasoning, Lucifer should be the paragon of righteousness, because God Himself chose him to be the covering cherub. Judges and angels are judged by the decisions they make, rather than how they gained their position. If the Supreme Court has been getting progressively more conservative, there would be no alarm in Christian circles.
The next issue I have with Steed is his misrepresentation of the basic issues swirling around recent judicial appointments. He states they are abortion and gay marriage, when in fact the foundational issue has all along been one of judicial activism--reinterpreting the Constitution to suit ideology. Steed obviously favors liberal judges, even though they have historically interpreted the Constitution much more loosely.
For a century or so the Seventh-day Adventist Church has suffered from the Elijah Syndrome: “I’m the only one left, and now they’re after me.” We have looked with suspicion at all other Christians, thinking we see a Beast, or at least an Image to the Beast lurking behind every bush.
If other Christians are our adversaries, who are our friends? The Bible describes who are left in Revelation 22:15: “Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood” (NIV). Some friends!
Look at Steed’s use of words: “right wing Christian moral agenda,” “right-wing advocacy groups,” “Christian activists,” and “Religious Right.” I looked in vain for some reference to someone on the “left.” These are terms and language used by the irreligious and the antireligious. If you sound like the people in Psalm 1, maybe you need to rethink your position.
Ellen G. White repeatedly warned that eventually this country will repudiate the provisions of our Constitution. As long as we have people whose ideology is to uphold the principles found there, the gospel has a better chance to go forth a little longer.
I am saddened by the tone of Lincoln Steed’s article about religious liberty. We are aligning ourselves with the secularists and the atheists rather than with our Christian friends who care about the moral deterioration in today’s society and public school system. Steed ignores the fact that for more than 150 years religion was respected and its free exercise practiced in the public school system without any denominational religion becoming established in our country. It had a good moral effect on the students.
Our problem is this: Since we believe the time will come when these persecuting actions will happen, we insist on laying that guilt on current concerned Christians, without any reasonable justification for doing so. We are judging their motives and their minds on the basis of our future expectations, rather than their understandable objectives. We have no right to project on them what we believe someone will do in the future.
I would rather be their allies working for the free exercise of religion, as we did for more than a century and have them be our friends when the crunch time comes, than make them our enemies by our unjustified judgments and have no influence or weight in helping them see their error when that time comes.
Junction City, Oregon
Religious liberty and the U. S. Supreme Court is a heavy topic. Thank you for printing the excellent and timely article by Lincoln Steed. He understands well the subject matter. He is balanced and informed regarding the issues without being inflammatory.
As Adventists, we know the tide will turn and moral bearings will shift. As citizens, we want to speak out for truth and justice in a manner that will not bring ridicule or disgrace to our Lord and the church. I appreciate the statement by Ellen White: “We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history” (Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, p. 196).
As a lifelong Adventist, I’ve grown weary of my church’s all too frequent use of scare tactics. The recent article, “Court Intrigue,” followed an all too familiar pattern. Fears of the Supreme Court’s move to the right echo earlier fears of Ronald Reagan’s presidency leading to the end of religious liberty. It didn’t happen then; it’s not happening now.
A conservative court is religious liberty’s best defense. The court is merely moving back to a time when it is doing its job, interpreting the laws, not making the laws. Frankly, my fellow Adventists who are so concerned about having their rights taken away, have much more to worry about from activist judges than they do from conservative ones.
Justice Hugo Black took the Constitution’s simple guarantee of freedom of religion and turned it into a “high and impregnable” wall separating church and state. It doesn’t take much imagination to see an activist judge someday deciding that Seventh-day Adventists cannot be accommodated on the Sabbath, because it would give one religion a preference over another.
Our church has so much fear of religious persecution that it has forced our leaders into some obvious contradictions: The church opposes vouchers for Christian schools. But recently we have been told by church leadership to oppose legislation that would prevent the government from paying for nursing home stays for anyone who gave large donations to the church in the few years prior to their stay. This is a “back handed” way of getting government aid.
Men’s hearts failing them for fear” finds itself in the midst of our church in the religion of fear our church leadership espouses. Over the years we’ve been told “the world was going to end” because of the Cold War, the Six Day War, and the Ronald Reagan presidency, to name a few. The Cold War is over, Israel and the Arab countries still clash, and the eastern bloc countries were opened to freedom of religion when Ronald Reagan worked hand in hand with (horrors) the Pope.
Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1). What have we to fear? Signs of the end mean Jesus is coming soon. Hallelujah!
Myths about Mission
Kudos to the editor for drawing our attention to a phenomenon that has affected the mission of the church in the last few years: While our commitment to mission at the corporate level may not have changed, our financial support to that mission from local church on up has been declining [Myths of Adventist Missions
One reason pointed out in the editorial needs to be reinforced: the lack of emphasis of missions abroad by the work done by actual missionaries, and the reporting of this work before the local church through Sabbath School and through local church papers. (I don’t like the term “Inter-division workers”; it sounds as though we run an international company, like IBM.)
In recent times we have tended to forget what historically the word “mission” meant to this church. Instead we have adopted mission statements for almost every entity within the corporate church. While there is nothing wrong with the latter, the challenge of the former, as spelled out in the Great Commission, should never be forgotten. Bring the mission emphasis back to the Sabbath School as it was years ago. Let not Sabbath School be an Athenian forum where a Socrates reigns and great theological issues are debated. Rather, let it be a place where the church studies the Word, learns of the work of the church, and takes on the challenge of supporting missions. Let every child, youth, and adult know that ours is a church filled, not by the comfortable pew, but by men and women daring to go to every part of the world from every other part, taking the gospel to the unheard-of areas, and creating a global community of faith awaiting the return of its Master and Savior. Viewed thus, giving to missions will regain its pre-eminent role once again.
John M. Fowler
Back in 1996 at the General Conference’s Mission Institute, I recall being taught that the Adventist Church had gotten away from sending missionaries who were preachers of the gospel. Indeed, in our group of missionaries, only one was being sent to serve in a ministerial or evangelistic capacity; and he was being sent by a supporting ministry rather than the denomination. The other missionaries were to serve as a treasurer, an ADRA worker, a dentist, and so forth.
Every aspect of missions is important, and every position filled can be made evangelistic, particularly positions in the medical field. Yet it seems that some of the myths of Adventist missions can be more easily dispelled if every group of missionaries trained and sent by the denomination contains at least some individuals who are being sent on overtly evangelistic assignments. Otherwise, some of these myths may persist.
Another thing that might help counter these myths is the publication and promotion by the denomination’s publishing houses of books about missionaries for kids. There seems to have been a decline in the percentage of children’s books that are dedicated to such stories, and this affects how important children and their parents feel that missions are to the Adventist Church.
I’m glad (“overjoyed” is probably a better description) that Adventist Review
is considering giving more visibility of God’s wonderful efforts through our mission programs. The underlying principle is clear: we are church of mission. Very few things we do as a church body unify us as much as when we share mission stories.
Having a unified editorial content among Internet, print, and radio/TV media could deliver a clear message to the global church. A multilingual children’s version of the featured story could be distributed via AROnline to provide a neat monthly twist for family worship. Setting up a schedule, and perhaps speaking about it prior to publication, could build momentum. Given there are more than 900 missionary activities identified, highlighting 12 each year (perhaps with a special column in the world edition taking the lead), would be great. We clearly have a rich reservoir of stories revealing “God@Work
I love Mission Spotlights. Knowing that Jesus is active in other areas of world, and working specifically through the wonderful vessels in our church who are willing and able to do missionary work, resonates deeply. I find comfort knowing that we are collectively advancing the work of God, sharing His joy and peace in unique ways both down the street and around the world.
Thanks for making this very important observation and writing about it. I will keep this area of endeavor in my prayers.
Sensitivity to Jews
The effort by church leadership to connect with Israeli leadership (“Church Leaders Visit Israeli Parliament
,” is laudable and should promote better understanding of Adventist beliefs and practices, with a focus on the commonalties between Adventist and Jewish beliefs.
Such outreach should not end with the “leadership,” however. When people of Jewish background and sensibilities visit our churches, what will they find? Do the majority of Adventists have any understanding of Jewish culture, even those things based directly on scriptural commands? Are we aware of Jewish sensibilities, and do we make any effort to avoid blatantly offending such sensibilities? Even today in the Review there are instances of wording things in ways that are offensive to Jewish readers. Such wording is unnecessary and can be avoided.
I encourage “leadership” not only to visit the Knesset, but to embark on an educational program for themselves and church members at large. There are members among us with Jewish backgrounds--we need to listen to them and learn from them if we hope to successfully reach out to Jewish people.
We need to make sure that we are ourselves following scriptural injunctions. It is a sad day if we bring people into the church only to teach them paganism. Such parts of our “Western” culture are not pleasing to God.
We miss a spiritual blessing when we ignore scriptural teachings showing the work and office of the Messiah. I look forward to the day when we can truly teach about the Messiah within a context that recognizes the culture that Jesus Christ established and became part of.
Connie I. Dahlke
Walla Walla, Washington
Making the Most of Marriage
This letter is written partly in response to the excellent article, “Be Ye Equally Yoked” (Feb. 9, 2006), and partly because of the current Adult Sabbath School Lessons. The three most important decisions any person makes are whether to accept Christ as their Savior, whom to marry, and what occupation to choose.
The current divorce rate among Seventh-day Adventists is most distressing. This could be significantly reduced by using the following three measures:
1. A sermon at least once a year by every Adventist pastor on “How to Choose a Mate.”
2. No Seventh-day Adventist should be married by an Adventist pastor without attending a series of marriage counseling classes.
3 The section, “Choosing the Lifetime Partner” in the book The Adventist Home should be required reading for every Seventh-day Adventist, regardless of age, who is married by an Adventist pastor.
Donald E. Casebolt, M. D.
Farmington, New Mexico
Lessons for Our Journey
The article, “The Pilgrim’s Journey
” (Feb. 16, 2006), by our president, Jan Paulsen, was challenging. I read it carefully and highlighted parts of it. In my active years as a pastor, I used to greet my congregations as pilgrims and strangers: “Abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (1 Pet. 2:11). Or, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you in its own mold” (Rom 12:2, Phillips).
As pilgrims, we must have goals, never forget our destination, and cherish hope. But I feel that as such we must prepare to face dangers and perils. Our destination calls us to walk through a foreign land, a desert full of poisonous snakes, scorpions, and an enemy who delights in sidetracking us. In some instances he has had success. Ellen White wrote: “Satan’s snares are laid for us verily as they were laid for the children of Israel just prior to their entrance into the land of Canaan. We are repeating the history of that people” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 160).
Israel’s testing place was Kadesh Barnea. Ours, an antitype of Kadesh Barnea, was the conference at Minneapolis of 1888 (see Testimonies to Ministers, the chapter “Rejecting the Light”).
I have been reading A. G. Daniells’ book, Christ our Righteousness; Arnold V. Wallenkampf’s book, What Every Adventist Should Know About 1888; and Taylor G. Bunch’s book, Exodus and the Advent Movements. They are not too flattering. The merciful God at this conference tried hard to introduce the gospel--the power of God to save--to zealous people who were preaching the commandments and the Sabbath, being labeled as “legalists.” But the message was rejected, the messengers mistreated, and the Holy Spirit grieved.
Tragically, the spirit of 1888 is not dead. I hear many excellent behavioral sermons. Sorry to confess, for too long I did the same. Back then Mrs. White wrote: “There is not one in a hundred who understands for himself the Bible truth on this subject [righteousness by faith] that is so necessary to our present and eternal welfare” (Review and Herald, Sept 3, 1889).
What is justification by faith? Read Testimonies to Ministers, p.456 and Steps to Christ, p. 62
Again, Mrs. White wrote: “The enemy of man and God is not willing that this truth should be clearly presented; for he knows that if people receive it fully, his power will be broken” (Review and Herald, Sept. 3, 1889). And, “Our churches are dying for the want of teaching on this subject” (Gospel Workers, p.301).
Is it not time to get back on track? Without Christ, the true Vine, we can do nothing (John 15:1-5). Without the gospel--Christ--the church He loves so much is still naked, poor, and blind (Rev. 3:14-20).
Spring Lake, Michigan