December 3, 2017

Stories From Sunnyside & Baptizing the Devil

A book about a dynamic, powerful movement & the apparent contradiction between inspiration/revelation and reason/science.

Stephen Chavez

66 1 5Stories From Sunnyside

Stories From Sunnyside: Ellen White in Australia 1891-1900, Marian de Berg,Signs Publishing, Warburton, Victoria, Australia, 2017, 308 pages. Softcover, US$16.99. Reviewed by Stephen Chavez, Adventist Review.

Those of us who live in North America have a fairly well-defined understanding of Ellen White and her ministry to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. We know how God called her as a teenager; how she and her husband, James, were instrumental in forming the Adventist movement; and how her prophetic voice is mainly responsible for a worldwide system of education, health care, and publishing.

But not many people in North America know that Ellen White spent nine years in Australia; and even fewer know the stories of the people she met and the way she influenced the Adventist Church there.

In Stories From Sunnyside Marian de Berg, an administrative assistant at the Ellen G. White/Seventh-day Adventist Research Centre in Cooranbong, Australia, tells a story unfamiliar to all but the most well-informed Adventist historians. In nearly 50 short, readable chapters de Berg tells how Ellen White came to Australia, describes the places she lived, and introduces us to the family members and friends who surrounded Ellen White during her sojourn “down under.”

A remarkable feature of the book is not only the narrative provided, most in Ellen White’s own words, but also the photographs that accompany the volume, most of which will be unfamiliar to Adventists in North America. Who knew, for example, that Ellen White kept a dog named Tiglath Pileser, named after a ruthless ancient Assyrian king and described as “a terror to evildoers” (the dog, that is). A photo of the dog next to his house is one of the many photographs that illustrate the book.

In addition to the story of Ellen White’s influence in Australia, de Berg tells the stories of many of the Adventist pioneers who helped build the institutions that have served generations of people throughout the world. This is more than a book about an individual. It’s a book about a dynamic, powerful movement.

66 2 1Baptizing the Devil

Baptizing the Devil: Evolution and the Seduction of Christianity, by Clifford Goldstein, Pacific Press Publishing Association, Nampa, Idaho, 2017, 256 pages. Hardcover, US$24.95; Kindle, $9.99. Reviewed by Stephen Chavez, Adventist Review.

66 2 1

You don’t have to wonder what’s on Cliff Goldstein’s mind. Ask a simple question, and you’ll get a response that won’t stop.

Baptizing the Devil reveals Goldstein’s study, reflection, and rumination over the past five years about the apparent contradiction between inspiration/revelation and reason/science. The result is like drinking from a fire hose. In 11 chapters, using illustrations and applications that range from contemporary and well known to ancient and obscure, the author deconstructs many popular evolutionary theories and explains why the biblical account is more credible than any theories connected with evolutionistic thinking and logic.

The burden of the book is revealed in the subtitle: “Evolution and the Seduction of Christianity.” The author contends that many Christians are abandoning the literal reading of the Genesis creation account and attempting to marry evolutionistic theories with inspired accounts. To those who find it increasingly difficult to defend the biblical account of Creation against the popular perception that we just evolved, reading Baptizing the Devil will do a lot to erase feelings of inferiority.

For Goldstein, no theory, no science is valid unless it points people back to a God who “created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). The story of origins is as much about inspiration, salvation, and destiny as it is about Christian belief that “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (verse 31). Baptizing the Devil is not a simplistic book with simple, trite answers. It’s a book for those who value their Christian foundation as a solid platform on which to stand while grappling with hard questions that have confounded so many for so long.

Baptizing the Devil has a wealth of documentation; each chapter is carefully and thoroughly footnoted. One thing that would have added to the value of the book is an index. The author cites so many authors—scientists, philosophers, and theologians—that it would be helpful to see how often, and in what contexts, they appear in the book.

In Baptizing the Devil Clifford Goldstein, editor of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide, andone of the church’s most prolific and thought-provoking writers and thinkers, has provided readers with a substantial and formidable defense of biblical inspiration as it relates to the earth’s origins.