April 6, 2007

Web Letters

About Global Warming

The Adventist Review provides a News Commentary in most editions as a way to highlight believers’ response to world and national events, current issues, and developments in religion. Viewpoints expressed are those of the authors: the Adventist Review seeks to identify and print commentaries that illustrate a responsible and faithful approach to the issues considered.
A number of readers have responded to the News Commentary, “Climate Change, or Just Hot Air (Feb. 22, 2007), with the assumption that the Adventist Review has taken an editorial position endorsing the science that points toward human activity as responsible for global warming. This is not the case. We believe, however, that the viewpoint expressed by the author is a responsible one, based on a credible understanding of the relevant data.
Similarly, when we feature letters from readers in either the print or Online editions, we are not endorsing all the claims the authors of those letters make, nor the facts they assert.--Editors

Since the Review is the official paper of the Adventist Church, I am concerned that the church may be taking an official position about global warming.

While this topic has received much political fanfare, the jury is still out. One could present logical views on either side of the issue. For example, William Van Scheik cites heat and drought as evidence of global warming. There was a time in our not-too-distant past called the “dust bowl.” If that is too recent, what about the drought that hit Eqypt during the time of Joseph? A mere 30 years ago scientists were talking about global cooling.
While not science, is it a stretch to think that maybe God kept the United States a little warmer over the past year to alleviate some of the suffering caused by high energy prices? Genesis 8:22 says that while the earth remains there will be cold, heat, and seasons.
Certainly Christians should be good stewards of resources, and much needs to be accomplished to protect the air we breathe; but let’s not go into panic mode.
I appreciate articles on current issues, so don’t stop printing them. But please, take a balanced perspective.
Charles Holmes
Tewksbury, Massachusetts
Global warming is not a certainty. Scientists don’t agree. The earth has gone though many hot and cold cycles. In the seventies these same scientists cried, “Ice Age.” They promised 2006 would have many disastrous hurricanes. It didn't. They can’t even give a proper prediction for one year. Some glaciers are melting, others are growing.
Are humans so powerful that we can change the climate on earth? Volcanoes and sun fluctuations are the power behind climate change. Global warming proponents have a political agenda to scare Americans and blame the United States for everything. I don’t think the Review is a place for this.
Paula Nixon
Paso Robles, California
The Pictures on Our Walls
The reasons for racial discrimination in appointments to leadership, as Roy Adams described it in his editorial, “The Pictures on Our Walls” (Feb. 15, 2007), are more complex than those he credits. In fact, there is rarely, if ever, any premeditated intent to discriminate. Those upon whom the duty devolves to make appointments or elections seek the best, most qualified person for the positions. The pool from which they draw consists of those known to them as having suitable experience or educational qualifications.
It’s somewhat the same problem Samuel faced in seeking a candidate for king among Jesse’s sons. Being unaware of David, had God not directed him otherwise, Samuel would have selected one of those in the original lineup.
A couple factors come into play here. Those known to leaders are most likely those of the same ethnic group as themselves, simply because of the truism, “birds of a feather flock together.” Those with suitable experience or educational qualifications have, for most of the history of this church, been largely Caucasian simply because their opportunities to obtain that experience or education has been greater than most other groups; this has nothing to do with innate ability.
So, for both these reasons and perhaps more, the committees that make such decisions (which are frequently selected from among those already in such positions) have been composed largely of Caucasians, so that, by simple majority vote and for no better reason, Caucasians have mostly been voted into open positions.
There is nothing sinister about the process. When most of the candidates put forth, and most of those voting on the committees, are Caucasian, it is a foregone conclusion that most openings will be filled with a Caucasian. It would be equally true of any other group if they were in the majority. Even when the committees consciously try to do otherwise, as there has been more of an attempt to do of late, it is sometimes difficult to make it happen.
The solution to this problem lies not in mandating proportional representation in committees that make these selections, but in truly equal representation, so that all groups have an equal voice in proposing and selecting candidates. If they agree to limit selections according to a proportional formula, well and good. But unless there is equal voice at the outset, there will be unequal representation in the outcome; that’s just a basic fact of life.
Gerald Reynolds
Fresno, California
I am seriously disappointed in Roy Adams’ editorial. Many years ago a black man, Charles Bradford, was president of the North American Division. He was no “token.” Bradford was a God-fearing administrator elected to one the highest positions in the church in North America.
While there is a history of White leadership in our church in North America, that is now in the past, as is slavery. Instead of deciding a glass ceiling exists because of what took place 100 years ago, we need to focus on the positive changes in our church today.
Next time, give us more than one paragraph out of 11 with a positive message. Adams did a disservice to all former and current African-American administrators by dwelling on the numbers of the past. Talk about their contributions, because they are and have been important.
David Herdman
Trenton, Ohio
I appreciated Roy Adams’ editorial, which reveals the church’s “rhetoric” to diversity over the years albeit with less commitment. As a professor of Multicultural Education in a White, Christian liberal arts college, I realize that Christians in general have a long way to go when it comes to issues of race and diversity.
Last week I posed this question to my all-White students: “Does making a racist remark make one a racist?” I particularly like the response of one student. This student used Michael Richards’ remark to argue that Richards was just echoing what was deeply entrenched in his heart.
Surely, only the Lord knows the ideology behind the glass ceiling and the discrimination that manifest itself in filling positions in church institutions.
As a newly minted Ph.D. from University of Toronto, I became excited and happy when I came across many advertised positions in my area on the Adventist Professional Network website. I had worked with the church in my native country and wanted to continue that tradition in North America (I am a Canadian citizen and Green Card holder). I was surprised when I came face-to-face with discrimination and racism in our church institutions in North America. Department leaders in the institutions to which I applied communicated to me that as a native of Africa I was not “qualified” to work in their schools. Two institutions in particular continued to advertise for openings eight to 10 months after I had been offered my present position and moved from Canada to take it.
I continue to serve my newly adopted local church in Pennsylvania as a volunteer preacher and enjoy every minute of the work I do.
Obed Mfum-Mensah
Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania
Roy Adams’ editorial was provocative and read with interest. I was particularly drawn to the paragraph that reads in part, “The scary thing is that if such vitriol could reside in as funny and likable a guy as Michael Richards, who knows what demons lurk in the rest of us! We don’t.”
I am reminded of insistent calls to “corporate repentance” made by some within the church. Adams strikes the nail on the head. The concept of “corporate repentance” is just that--a recognition of our individual sinfulness that is greater than we can begin to imagine. As we see the corporate sin in others, we must recognize that same sin in ourselves and be brought to corporate repentance for those same sins.
A sense of connection with our corporate “man” remains in Christ’s call to Laodicea. His call is not for a superficial repentance of my own visible misdeeds, but those hidden vitriolic sins of the heart. For our beloved church to progress, we must first buy of Him the much-needed eyesalve that will correct our myopic, self-centered vision.
Leslie Walper
Lancaster, Tennessee
Readers responding to Roy Adams’ editorial, “The Pictures on Our Walls” (Feb. 15, 2007), have inquired whether his references to the historic racial profile of General Conference leadership reflects the current situation at the church’s world headquarters. The Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook for 2007 identifies 73 individuals serving either in “Administration” or as “Departmental Directors” for the world church. Of these, 59.7 percent would be identified as “Caucasian,” 19.4 percent of African ancestry, and 8.3 percent of Hispanic ancestry.--Editors
Thank you so much for Lael Caesar’s article, “It’s not About Demetrius” (Feb. 22, 2007). When I read it I felt as if I had found a gold mine. Caesar’s piece is thought provoking and scholarly. I shared my enthusiasm about the article with my husband, and we have both shared it with friends and family members. Standing for something is only as worthwhile as the issue we stand for. May we use our God-given perception to discern what is really worthy of our best efforts!
Bill Knott’s editorial, “Family Trees,” was challenging and inspiring as well.
Louise Corbin
Hamburg Pennsylvania

More Bible, Less Philosophy
The prophecy about the future rise and fall of empires in Daniel 2, and a statement about Peter’s future denial of Jesus in Mark 14:30, are the only biblical references among Clifford Goldstein’s Saganesque speculations about “God outside of time,” “transcendence,” “free will,” “now-lists,” and an infinite loaf of bread in his column, “Transcendence in Time” (Feb. 22, 2007).
May I offer some suggestions for future articles on the subject? If a writer wants to argue for the traditional Christian interpretation of God’s omniscience and foreknowledge, he or she should base the article on biblical statements and deductions from the same. Goldstein cites two brief Bible references as little more than an introduction and segue into his topic, then spends most of his space using Albert Einstein’s theories about space and time to justify what was simply assumed in the beginning. But if Goldstein is wrong in his theology, all the Einsteinian fantasy in the world doesn’t make it correct, even if it makes for nice visual images.
Daniel 2 indeed shows that God is able to predict the future. But is that because God is “above” or “outside” time itself, and can see, in some way, what is invisible to our mortal perspectives? Another alternative to consider is that God can make those predictions, not because He sees the future, but because He does, in fact, work to bring those prophecies to fulfillment.
I think the latter idea makes more sense. It is in harmony with explicit statements in Isaiah 46:9-11: “I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure’ . . . I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it” (NKJV).
In that passage the key to God's ability to “declare the end from the beginning” is because He has determined to bring about that which He has predicted.
Mark 14:30 is interesting. Is God really revealing “intimate details” of what someone will freely choose to do? Or could it be a warning, a conditional prophecy that, if heeded, could have spared Peter much anguish?
It is better to discuss this topic with biblical references and reasoning, but if one person can wrap speculations with Einstein’s relativity theories, then another can quote Ellen White. About this prophecy Jesus spoke to Peter, Mrs. White wrote: “Had [Peter] in humility received the warning, he would have appealed to the Shepherd of the flock to keep His sheep. . . . If he had cried to Jesus, Save me from myself, he would have been kept” (The Desire of Ages, p. 673).
Peter might also have found strength to change his course if he had stayed awake in prayer as Jesus requested him to do during that night in Gethsemane. If that had happened, we would probably refer to Peter’s experience as we do to Jonah’s, in which a prophecy turned out to be implicitly conditional, since it wasn’t fulfilled.
I believe in what is usually referred to as “open theism,” in contrast to the traditional view of God’s foreknowledge. I have also found that it eliminates the troublesome “paradoxes” that occur when free will is invoked. But I keep my opinions out of sermons and (usually) Sabbath school because they are needlessly controversial, especially when only one side predominates in denominational publications.
It would be good to see this issue discussed openly in the Review, with thoughtful essays pro and con, and not assumed as orthodoxy in poorly supported, one-sided opinion columns. Be sure you include a photo of the author in a relaxed, casual pose.
Dennis Murphy
Morgantown, West Virginia