Joanna Darby, Nathan Brown, Lisa Diller, and Jeff Boyd discuss Lesson 1 (Creation) of the SDA Quarterly (June 29-July 5).Read More
(The Well in Chattanooga is one of five Adventist congregations currently working toward certification as an "Adventist Peace Church". Lisa Clark Diller, a professor of history at Southern Adventist University and the APF coordinator for the The Well, shares this update of recent Well activities focused on racial and economic justice as well care for creation.) One of the Well’s (wellonthesouthside.org) core values is that it must strive to be an incarnational community. This means the Well is very intentional about being present in the physical space of our immediate neighborhood.
When the community is celebrating, mourning, building, or dialoging, we at the Well want to be there alongside our neighbors. We host the local Jefferson Heights Neighborhood Association meetings at our facility. Our once-a-month Deep Well Sabbaths take our worship into the neighborhood through fellowship, education, service, or small group worship.
It is this commitment to being part of the Kingdom of God in the Southside of Chattanooga that leads us to connect with the mission of the Adventist Peace Fellowship. Becoming an Adventist Peace Church, when we discovered this network, was a very obvious move for us to make. The APF campaigns that we are most deeply involved with as a natural part of our life and ministry on the Southside are racial reconciliation, care for creation and economic justice.
We appreciate the vocabulary and the language of APF in helping us root our peacemaking activities in the theology and history of the Adventist Church and its local congregations around the world. Thinking intentionally about what we are doing helps give greater meaning to it. It is also true that being part of the network of Peace Churches helps us stay accountable to what we are doing.
For instance, in the months of November and December we helped the Cowart Place Neighborhood Association plant dozens of trees in the industrial landscape of the Southside as they turned an empty lot into a park. Our children/family group collected quarters and handed out Christmas greetings with rolls of quarters and small quantities of laundry detergent at local laundromats on the Southside. While this small activity does not go far towards achieving lasting economic justice, it does educate our children and families about the realities of many people in the urban core and the challenges they face in going about the most mundane elements of everyday life, such as doing laundry.
Finally, members from the Well joined several urban peace workers and the Chattanooga Police Department on a march for peace and reconciliation in one of the most challenged of our Southside Communities, Alton Park. This was a way of recognizing, in a peaceful way, the national conversation we are having in the U.S. about the police violence and racial reconciliation. The march consisted of a very diverse group of people, and it was an educational experience for the Well members who participated.
We look forward to more inspiration from our sister churches and for more ways to be part of the Kingdom of God and as we grow the followers of Jesus in Chattanooga.
"Christians and Creation Care," is the lead article in the November/December edition of the Lake Union Herald. In this article, Jo Ann Davidson, professor of theology at the Andrews University seminary, expands the notion of stewardship to include all of the earth. She writes:
It seems curious, even ironic, that Christians who believe in the Divine creation of this planet, and who maintain the importance of good stewardship of money, such as tithing, have been mostly silent about stewardship of anything else, even as critical issues concerning the environment gather more and more attention.... Our definition of stewardship needs to become more comprehensive. (p. 14)
After highlighting a number of key verses on creation care from both the Old and New Testaments, Davidson looks ahead to the age to come.
The Apocalypse...concludes with the resplendent restoration Old Testament prophets promised earlier, reminding again that redemption involves the renewal of creation with the material world participating! Salvation is never depicted as escaping from the Earth but, rather, reclaiming it! Jesus comes again to restore this damaged planet--not annihilate it. When he destroys sin and evil, the material world...will be reestablished in its original glory! (p. 17)
Moving to application of theology, Davidson instructs:
Seventh-day Adventists could, thereby, be honoring the Creator by recycling, preserving water and composting, etc., and exhibiting the link of the plant-based diet to environmental issues (p. 17)
Davidson then concludes,
Resurrection day will begin to erase all that has been lost because of sin. We await the future kingdom of peace when all creation will be restored with us. In the meantime, thankfully, there are now many helpful resources that can inform our stewardship. Each person can make a difference. Creation care is a significant way we can show appreciation to the Creator for the gift of life. (p. 17)
The two pages following Davidson's article are also dedicated to creation care. Page 18 has two extended quotes from Ellen White on the topic, and page 19 describes ways to recycle aluminum, electronics, glass paper, plastics and steel (PDF).
[Blog feature photo credit: By Mark6davies (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons]
In the September installment of his Engage series, Nathan Brown calls for an active creationism (Adventist World). Brown writes:
Yes, I believe taking action to conserve and protect our natural world is important. We should be using our voice, influence, choices, and actions to protect natural habitats, change our economies and practices in response to global warming, seek to prevent and reverse pollution, reduce waste, and so much more. But this is more motivated by theology than ecology.
From “God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good” (Gen. 1:31 ), to “Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and all the springs of water” (Rev. 14:7), and many places in between, the Bible is filled with God’s justifiable pride in the world He created, and His concern that we should honor Him by working with Him to care for it. Creationism is not so much about scientific argument as a call to celebrate and serve God’s good creation.
The complete article can be read here.
As noted previously (link), the Adventist Review has been posting updates on the International Conference on the Bible and Science. News editor Andrew McChesney reports on two presentations regarding environmentalism or creation care. Steve Dunbar, a marine biologist at Loma Linda University and co-editor of Entrusted, asked the group, "Should Seventh-day Adventists care for the environment more than the rest of the world?" Dunbar continued:
“It’s interesting that some research has been done, and what it has found is Christians are measurably less interested in caring for the environment.”
Dunbar said he was reminded of the Israelites’ complete apathy toward the environment as described by God in Jeremiah 12:10, 11: “Many rulers have ravaged My vineyard, trampling down the vines and turning all its beauty into a barren wilderness. They have made it an empty wasteland; I hear its mournful cry. The whole land is desolate. And no one even cares” (NLT).
“No one cares,” Dunbar said. “What a statement for God to say about Israel, His chosen people. Not even one cares.”
He said Adventists more than anyone have reason to care about the environment because they should understand the biblical teaching that the Earth is owned not by humans but by God.
The second presenter to address environmental issues was Jo Ann Davidson, a professor at Andrews University Theological Seminary. Davidson shared "that the Bible contains a 'robust doctrine' in support of the environment from the first pages of Genesis to the last pages of Revelation, and she said that Adventists needed to adopt 'a more worldly attitude.'" She continued, "It seems curious to me and even remarkable that Seventh-day Adventist Christians who believe in the divine creation of this world … have rarely acknowledged that the biblical parameters of stewardship involve more than money.”
The entire article can be read online here.
Chris Blake uses the language of central and peripheral when discussing the priorities of faith (see "In Christ There Is Neither Conservative Nor Liberal," Adventist Review). In the past few weeks, two communications from Ted Wilson (Seventh-day Adventist world church president) have hinted at what is central and peripheral to Adventism, at least as Wilson envisions it.
First, in the August 2014 edition of Adventist World, Wilson considers noncombatancy in Adventist history ("The Battle: Should Adventists Serve in the Military?"). Wilson briefly describes the early roots of the position:
As with other difficult questions, the pioneer leaders studied the issues using the Bible as their guide, and concluded that the position most consistent with biblical principles was noncombatancy (the conscientious objection to bearing arms). The primary reason for this position was that Adventists serving in the U.S. military would be forced to compromise their loyalty to God if they obeyed the commands of their officers. The two Bible commandments most directly involved were the fourth—to keep the Sabbath holy, and the sixth—not to kill.
This short overview omits that those who enlisted were disfellowshiped, but there certainly isn't room to cover every detail of this early period in such a short article. After considering various aspects of Adventist practice and history, Wilson addresses the question of the church's stance today:
Gary Councell, director of Adventist Chaplaincy Ministries, addresses this question in his book, Seventh-day Adventists in Military Service: “Though the Seventh-day Adventist Church advocates a noncombatant position, pacifism, military service, or noncombatancy are not tests of church membership. The denomination does not act as the conscience for any member or military commander, but it does seek to inform the conscience and behavior of both, so decisions can be made with a maximum of understanding and thought.” [Gary R. Councell, Seventh-day Adventists and Military Service (Adventist Chaplaincy Ministries, 2011), pp. 30, 31.]
Thus, while the official church position is that of noncombatancy—conscientious objection to bearing arms—the decision as to whether or not to serve in the military and bear arms is left to the conscience of the individual.
The church supports Y (noncombatancy), but members are allowed to practice X (combatancy) or Z (pacifism).
Compare this openness to disagreement regarding noncombatancy with a second topic--creation. Wilson spoke about creationism to open the International Conference on the Bible and Science in Las Vegas, Nevada (15 Aug 2014, Adventist Review coverage). Wilson supported a 6-day (6 x 24 hours) recent creation. "We believe that the Biblical creation account in Genesis 1 and 2 was a literal event that took place in six literal, consecutive days recently as opposed to deep time." This is the most common view held by Adventists, as I understand our history, so it is not noteworthy in itself. The notable feature of the speech was the boundary-drawing that marks off who is a true Adventist. Wilson stated,
If one does not accept the recent six-day creation understanding then that person is actually not a “Seventh-day” Adventist since the seventh-day Sabbath would become absolutely meaningless historically and theologically and most of our Biblically based doctrines centered in Christ and His authoritative voice would become meaningless as well. The person may claim to be an “Adventist,” but in reality without the clear Biblical understanding of the foundational Sabbath doctrine and God’s authority as Creator and Sovereign of the universe, it is really impossible to arrange a meaningful theological construct that would lead to or be acceptable for a belief in a literal second coming of Christ. ("God's Authoritative Voice," 18 Aug 2014)
To be a true Seventh-day Adventist, one must believe in (1) a literal six-day creation that (2) happened recently (approximately 6,000 years ago; "Wilson: No Room for Evolutionists in Adventist Schools"). To be a true Seventh-day Adventist, one must agree with both features.
Comparing these two stories reveals what is central to Adventism and what is more peripheral, at least as understood by the current president. A recent, 6-day creation is central or fundamental, so there is apparently no room for alternate views, even on how recently this creation occurred. Social constructs of peace and nonviolence are considered more peripheral, so there is significant space to state where the church stands, while leaving room for personal conviction.
What do you think?
1) According to your understanding of Adventist history and biblical ethics, how central is shalom to the church, to God's kingdom?
2) What guides our valuation process of determining what is central and what is peripheral?
3) Is it better for church leaders to lay down absolute boundaries (e.g., creation article) or to state a given position and allow diversity of thought on the topic (e.g., military article)? What are the pros and cons of either approach? What are the useful limits of either approach?
4) Creationism is certainly important to Adventist peacemakers, no matter our various understandings of the details of origins. How do aspects of this doctrine affect our actions, values and lifestyles today (e.g., made in the image of God, creation was "good," God being the source of life, or relationships between humans, between humans and the rest of creation, between humans and God)?
5) The science and faith conference is a 10-day event. If the church were to convene a similar gathering on Adventist peacemaking, what themes would you want covered?
The Adventist Review recently ran a story on Marianne Thieme, the Dutch Politician who co-founded the Party for the Animals. Despite criticism, the party has thrived in the Netherlands and has spread to other countries. "Thieme said her secret for success has been to live what she teaches, stand by her convictions, and determinedly press ahead despite opposition, remembering that heated emotions can be a catalyst for change." Thieme shares, “I have experienced that one can be successful by sticking to your ideals and by practicing what you preach.”
Although she is a Seventh-day Adventist, "never expect to see Thieme preaching on the job. The Party of the Animals is secular, and Thieme keeps matters of church and state strictly separate." A colleague reveals, “She doesn't believe in 'Christian politics'; therefore, she started a secular party. She strongly believes in the separation between church and state.”
Naturally, Thieme is a vegetarian, as is her husband, Jaap Korteweg (aka, The Vegetarian Butcher). The Adventist Review article looks into this part of her story:
While studying vegetarianism a decade ago, Thieme learned about Adventists and began to read books by Ellen White. She said she was struck by White’s message of compassion toward animals and her passionate plea for vegetarianism.
“I dare say she was an animal rights activist,” Thieme said.
One passage that particularly impressed her came from a chapter titled “Flesh as Food” in White’s book “Ministry of Health”: “Animals are often transported long distances and subjected to great suffering in reaching a market. Taken from the green pastures, and traveling for weary miles over the hot, dusty roads, or crowded into filthy cars, feverish and exhausted, often for many hours deprived of food and water, the poor creatures are driven to their death, that human beings may feast on the carcasses.”
“Together with my beliefs and my animal advocacy, the Adventist Church appealed to me and I became an Adventist in 2006,” Thieme said.
Her joy was short-lived, however. As she began to talk with other Adventists, she found that some downplayed White’s writings as old-fashioned.
“Old-fashioned? I was so surprised,” she said.
Thieme said she saw nothing 19th century in White’s writings about a healthier life with no animal products, her compassion toward animals, her advice not to smoke cigarettes, and the fact that Adventists were the first religious group with health programs to stop smoking and provide vegetarian products.
“Right now, at this moment, it’s a most relevant and current message,” she said.
She said Adventists should be more visible in ongoing global discussions about the impact of meat on climate change, obesity, animal welfare and a looming food crisis.
Read the entire story here. Note the additional resources at the end of that article, as well as these three:
- Marianne Thieme — Party for the Animals (Adventist Activism, 3 May 2013)
- Sabbath at the Spectrum Café: Marianne Thieme (Spectrum, 1 May 2013)
- A Platform of Compassion (Spectrum, 18 February 2008)
- - -
, "Dutch Politician Finds Success in Practicing What She Preaches," Adventist Review (24 July 2014); http://www.adventistreview.org/church-news/pioneering-dutch-politician-finds-success-in-practicing-what-she-preaches.
NOTE: See other APF articles about Thieme here.
Spectrum reports that Gary Roberts was included in a Smithsonian article on elephant conservation--"Christians and Conservation" (Sterling Spence, 21 July 2014). Roberts "flew to the aid of local conservationists to investigate reports of a mass killing and attempted to save the life of a single 9-month old calf."
Spence concludes, "As followers of Christ, we have a responsibility to look at the world through the lens of the gospel. What conversations do you think the community should have when addressed with issues of conservation, consumption, and climate change?"
Joanna Darby recorded a short video on creation care for Brad Rea's YouTube channel, Seventh-day Adventist Fans of Jesus--Toward an Adventist perspective on Christian Environmental Ethics. Brad asked Joanna to share her thoughts on camera because she often preaches about a Christian approach to sustainable living and because he values her belief that Christians should be Environmental activists in their own way.
Here is the video's YouTube description:
Published on Jan 31, 2014
"Creation Care" - An Adventist's perspective on Christian Environmental ethics, and the need to look after God's natural creation - the world around us.
Popular SDA speaker Joanna Darby talks about a Christian environmental ethic in light of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Joanna Darby (Jo Darby) is a popular Seventh-day Adventist speaker at youth rallies, church services, SDA Summer Camps, The One Project, and church retreats. Joanna is also a writer and artist.
Visit Joanna Darby's website at - http://www.joannadarby.com
Video title: Toward an Adventist perspective on Christian Environmental ethics - Joanna Darby "Creation Care" Music by Mark Robinson.
A Loma Linda study finds a beneficial connection between a vegetarian diet and climate change, reports the Adventist Review ("Vegetarian Diet Is Effective Tool Against Climate Change, Study Finds," June 26, 2014, link).
The research, published in the upcoming July issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that a vegetarian diet results in nearly a third less greenhouse gas emissions than a diet with animal products.
"To our knowledge, no studies have yet used a single non-simulated data set to independently assess the climate change mitigation potential and actual health outcomes for the same dietary patterns," said Joan Sabaté, a study co-author and a nutrition professor at Loma Linda University School of Public Health.
The study argues that a global shift toward plant-based diets would help protect people against food shortages by increasing food security and sustainability.
The complete article is available on the Adventist Review website.