Sunday, December 30, 2007

'Mankind is more than the janitor of planet earth' (Brendan O'Neill)

Now here is something interesting: Brendan O’Neill, an avowed atheist, writes that, given some of the sermons he has heard from Christian bishops around this Christmas season, Christians need to ’Bring back God!’ In other words, Christians should become more Christian rather than reducing their message to an indistinguishable cloning of contemporary New Age ecopolitics. You can read the whole article here.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Book Review: It's All About Jesus

It’s All About Jesus: Observations of a Former Seventh-Day AdventistThe latest book to critique Seventh-day Adventism comes from Edith Fairman Cooper entitled It’s All About Jesus: Observations of a Former Seventh-day Adventist. There are a number of things about this book that make it particularly interesting and important. Firstly, there is Cooper’s personal history. It would appear that she has no "axe to grind". One of the criticisms frequently made by those within the SDA denomination is that ex-Adventists must be so critical because they have been mistreated and are expressing their anger against the church. This may or may not be the case for some, but it doesn’t appear to be the case for Cooper. From what she says, she seems to have had a very positive experience of Adventism and left it with sadness and considerable grieving. She claims that the only reason she left is because of the evidence she examined. In the preface of her book, she explicitly states that her aim is not to present her findings ’in a critical, unkind spirit that does not reflect Christ.’ Instead, she wanted to write ’with a concern and a hope that what [she] present[s] will serve as a witness to the risen Savior and will help someone understand clearly the saving grace of Christ.’ This, in fact, becomes her "compass" as she writes. Her essential thesis is that the problematic doctrines of SDAism obscure the gospel about Jesus. Secondly, Cooper has some highly relevant skills that she has brought to the task. For approximately 35 years she worked as a social science analyst for the ’...[US] Library of Congress’ Congressional Research Service, authoring numerous reports for Congress.’ Her journey out of her 27 years of Adventism began when a friend of hers remarked to her, ’You know what they say about Adventists.’ She didn’t know what her friend was referring to so decided to go on the internet and do some research. She came across a heading Seventh-day Adventism Reexamined. She found what to her was ’astonishing information’ but wondered whether it was the product of ’disgruntled former SDAs criticizing the church, or whether the concerns were valid.’ She decided to bring her research skills to bear on the issue and so she eventually came to her decision to leave Adventism. The third thing that is significant is that she writes with considerable balance. Not only does she critique what she understands to be non-biblical doctrines, but she surveys important denominational or individual responses to the criticisms made of the church. For example, F D Nichol’s book E G White and Her Critics is discussed. She also makes the point that much of the denomination’s official doctrines are quite orthodox, e.g., on the Trinity (despite the early history of anti-Trinitarian theology) and creationism (a literalist interpretation of Genesis consistent with fundamentalist evangelicalism). Cooper and her family continue to believe these orthodox doctrines and, to some extent, practice the lifestyle of Adventism. Fourthly, Cooper is a woman and black. This provides her with two important perspectives leading her to discuss the relationship of Adventism to race and gender over the course of its history - two areas a lot of critics overlook with their focus on doctrines. Fifthly, It’s All About Jesus contains most of the important criticisms of Adventist doctrine and lifestyle concerns in one book. Cooper has clearly used her research skills to draw together a wide range of sources and summarised the major problems with Adventism. It would be difficult to find a better general introduction to the criticisms of Adventism so clearly presented and in one place. The book also has the benefit of being heavily referenced with all sources clearly identified - a great help for those who wish to do further investigation. There are also a number of extended footnotes with extra information or discussion on various issues. Before turning to some criticisms of the book, let me indicate the overall structure. There are four main parts to the book covering the major areas of criticism. The first deals with Ellen G White, the church’s prophetess and one of the founders of the movement. In this section, Cooper argues, on the basis of Hebrews 1:1-2, that Jesus is the prophet for the last days. In contrast, SDAism teaches that Ellen White and her writings, often referred to by Adventists as the ’Spirit of Prophecy’, constitute a mark of the true church of the last days on the basis of the denomination’s interpretation of certain passages in Revelation. Cooper believes that this has resulted in a displacement of Jesus Christ as the ultimate authority for Christians. In this section, she also considers Ellen White’s plagiarism, the nature of her claimed visions, and the influence she had over almost every aspect of life - many teachings of which, it is claimed, Ellen White herself did not manage to live up to. Part 2 surveys the ’questionable’ doctrines and teachings of SDAism. These include the Cleansing of the Heavenly Sanctuary-Investigative Judgment doctrine; the Sabbath as it relates to the covenants of Scripture; the Adventist understanding of the Law; and Remnant Church theology. In Part 3, Cooper turns to some other concerns including the way that Ellen White allegedly abused her power and influence in relation to people; the way the denomination has treated individuals; and the issue of tithing. Cooper concludes with an epilogue in Part 4 where she summarises her experience and her findings, concluding that SDAism obscures Christ, the center of the gospel. At the back of the book, an Appendix contains a brief description of the ’various theological factions within Adventism’ as described by Dale Ratzlaff - another ex-Adventist critic; a discussion of the nature of man [sic] arguing for the conscious existence of the soul in the intermediate state between death and resurrection; information on Ellen White’s literary assistants; and a brief critique of the Clear Word Bible - a paraphrased version of the Bible heavily promoted by Adventist Book Centres. Now I turn to my evaluation of the book. Cooper must be complimented on her rigorous research. For anyone who has kept in touch with the controversies within SDAism, there will be few surprises. Cooper describes/summarises these well and presents them persuasively in a mostly balanced approach. The book is easy to read and the extensive footnotes are invaluable for doing further research. There is some very useful historical material included. Not only does Cooper critique the doctrines and teachings of the denomination; she also includes social history related to those who disagreed with the doctrines, e.g. Dudley M Canright, Albion Fox Ballenger, Desmond Ford, Dale Ratzlaff, and Raymond Cotrell. The book is very up-to-date. There are some "problems" with the book. Firstly, Cooper is clearly not a theologian. A good deal of her writing repeats the arguments of others. For example, in the discussion of the biblical covenants, she draws on Dale Ratzlaff’s writings. Cooper’s summaries are useful, but do not always do justice to the detail and rigour of Ratzlaff’s arguments. The reader of Cooper’s book may well wish to read further in the original sources - something the footnotes make easier to do. The fact that Cooper is not a theologian shows up most obviously, in my view, when she discusses the ’nature of man’ in the Appendix. Actually, ’discusses’ is not the right term. Cooper reproduces a lengthy excerpt from Dudley M Canright’s book Seventh-day Adventism Renounced. This is a very old publication (although it has recently returned to print) so there has been a great deal of theological discussion in the intervening years within the general Christian community on this topic. Scholars such as Clark Pinnock, and others, have increasingly come to see the SDA doctrine of annihilationism and unconsciousness of the person in the intermediate state as more consistent with the holistic view of Hebrew thought about the person. Because Cooper is not a theologian and most of her theology is, therefore, "second-hand", I would encourage readers of her book to investigate the theology in much more depth, reading arguments both for and against any particular position. The investigation of any position should include this, anyway. Overall, It’s All About Jesus: Observations of a Former Seventh-day Adventist is an engaging, informative introduction to the problems with Seventh-day Adventist doctrine and culture which should be read with the same caution one exercises with any controversial piece of literature. The overarching thesis of the book, that ’it’s all about Jesus’ is an excellent criterion for all Christians to use when evaluating doctrine. Anything which obscures the gospel about Jesus Christ should be seen as highly suspect. Click on this link to purchase It’s All About Jesus: Observations of a Former Seventh-Day Adventist or click on the image of the book at the start of this post. Related Links

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Movie Review: 3:10 to Yuma (2007)

yumaAll Westerns are about the war between good and evil. And in the "good old days" it was pretty clear who were the good and who were the bad. But the best Westerns are when the black-and-white divisions are blurred and characters are portrayed as more realistic - people who sometimes do good and sometimes do bad - to varying degrees, of course.

3:10 to Yuma is a remake of the 1957 film of the same name. I haven’t seen the original so can’t comment on the relative quality (although others have said it improves on the original); but the contemporary version is a great movie with some very significant themes.

Dan Evans (Christian Bale) is a rancher living on drought-stricken land outside the town of Bisbee with his wife and two boys. In the eyes of his eldest son, Dan is a weak man. Dan has a prosthetic leg after losing his own during the Civil War; he is in debt; his barn has been burnt down by the henchmen of a powerful neighbouring landowner who wants to force Dan of his land. His son can’t understand why he doesn’t go after those who have harmed him and use violence for violence. His father refuses.

The movie actually opens with a stagecoach robbery by the notorious Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) and his gang of murderers and thieves. Ben is caught and Dan, a witness to the robbery, ends up volunteering to escort Wade to the town of Contention where the 3:10 train (which has a prison cell on board) will transport Wade to Yuma for trial. The journey is fraught with dangers from Indians and Ben Wade’s highly devoted gang who want to rescue him before he arrives in Yuma.

But the greatest struggles are internal ones for Dan and his eldest son. What makes the story so interesting are these internal struggles going on in even the "evil" characters in the film. Russell Crowe is excellent as Ben Wade and portrays the nuances of character that make Wade a complex protaganist. I’m not really a Christian Bale fan, but he does a great job of Dan Evans - a man torn between his past, his values, and what his wife and children think of him.

3:10 to Yuma is often a very violent film - as one would expect from a modern Western. But the violence is a necessary counterpoint to the human conflicts that are going on within each person in the story.

Catch the 3:10 to Yuma - it will take you places that will have you thinking deeply about what is really important in relationships; what it means to be strong; the nature of respect; and subvert your stereotypes of good and evil.

My Rating: ****1/2 (out of 5)

Positive Review
’James Mangold’s 3:10 to Yuma restores the wounded heart of the Western and rescues it from the morass of pointless violence.’ - Roger Ebert/Chicago Sun-Times

Negative Review
’The remake adds 24 minutes and subtracts most of the suspense.’ - Stephen Hunter/Washington Post

Content Advice
Violence and some language


21st Century Celebration of an Old Story

The Christmas story is an old one. But check out this very contemporary expression of it by a householder in Perth (Australia) using Christmas lights and sound. It's awesome!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The problem of women's ordination - solved!

Last weekend I heard a 17-year-old girl deliver the sermon at church. It was excellent! In fact, it was one of the best sermons I had heard in the last 12 months. Her sermon was about the fact that God can use anyone for good - even a young person. I have heard that this young person is interested in studying theology and I can imagine she would make a very good pastor. But, of course, the organisation she most probably would end up working for wouldn’t ordain her - after all, she is a woman.

During a conversation about this girl’s future, I made the comment that, by the time she gets to the age where she might complete her study and want to be employed as a pastor, we are going to have to do something about the discriminatory practice of not permitting women to be ordained, even though they may be functioning in exactly the same capacity and with the same gifts (given by God!) as men.

In response, the person I was discussing this with said something like, ’I don’t think she would worry about being ordained. She will just get on and do what she wants to do, working around the issue of ordination. Not being ordained won’t stop her.’

This conversation reminded me of one of the most irritating things I hear said about women’s ordination. It usually comes from those who disagree with it. I’m particularly irritated when I hear it from ordained men. They say: ’It is not necessary to be ordained for a woman to still engage in ministry. They can still serve God with their gifts - so why worry about ordination? Just get on with their ministry. Why make trouble fighting for women to be ordained? It only distracts from the real task that needs to be done.’

If this is true that women can minister without ordination (and, of course, I agree that it is), then I think there is a way of solving the whole "problem" of women’s ordination. I suggest that we stop ordaining men as well! After all, if women can serve God just as well without being ordained, surely men can, too. It would give those who perpetuate the discrimination against women an opportunity to prove that, indeed, they can minister just as well without the recognition that comes from ordination. And we could stop the debate over women’s ordination overnight. Everyone would be treated the same and we could move on with ministry without the issue of ordination distracting us from the main task.

Now - I wonder how that would be accepted. Maybe we’d discover all of a sudden that ordination is "essential" for a whole host of reasons -- but only for men, of course!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Movie Review: Hunting & Gathering

huntingandgatheringHunting and Gathering (Ensemble, c’est tout) is a gentle, amusing, put-your-feet-up-and-relax French romantic comedy from Claude Berri.

Camille Fauque (Audrey Tautou) is a cleaning woman living alone in a shoe-box of an apartment. She befriends an eccentric young man with a stutter, Philibert Marquet de la Tubelière (Laurent Stocker) who she invites to a meal on the spur of the moment. As their friendship develops, a love relationship forms unexpectedly between Camille and Philibert’s housemate, Franck (Guillame Canet). A subplot explores the relationship between Franck and his aging mother.

The French title, Ensemble, c’est tout literally means, Together, It Is All and more accurately represents the themes of the story. The three main characters are, indeed, going about their lives "hunting and gathering" in ordinary ways. But they are all living lives that are mundane and lonely in varying degrees. But as the relationships form and challenges test them, they discover that friendship and love are what really matters in life - togetherness means strength.

I enjoyed Hunting and Gathering. It is charming, the characters are likeable, and the story is simple but engaging. Hunting and Gathering opens in Australia on 13 December 2007.

My Rating: ***1/2


Official Site

Friday, December 07, 2007

Willow Creek Confesses: 'We got it wrong'

Willow Creek Church has influenced thousands of churches around the globe to change its approach to church and worship. Now, the leaders of Willow Creek, after carrying out research of their own congregation over a number of years, are admitting they got it wrong. Read more about this here at Christianity Today. At least they have the integrity to examine what they are doing and be open about their mistakes. There will probably be a lot to learn from their experience.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Movie Review: Atonement

AtonementAtonement. It means to be reconciled with someone after a rift in a relationship. But when the fracture is large, how can it be healed? Joe Wright’s new movie, Atonement, based on the Ian McEwan novel of the same name, is all about the wide relational chasm that forms between two sisters, Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan) and Cecilia Tallis (Keira Knightly). Briony, the younger of the two, accuses Cecilia’s lover, Robbie Turner (James McAvoy), of a crime he didn’t commit. Their lives are changed forever as a result.

Atonement is a powerful story of love, guilt, self-deception, and the desperate need for reconciliation that seems impossible. The film is superbly structured as we see certain events from multiple perspectives and times. The narrative moves forward and backward, revealing different nuances as it approaches significant moments, retreats, and re-engages.

The cinematography is beautiful. One notable scene is the 4.5 minute long shot on the Dunkirk Beach. The soundtrack uses wisely selected classical music and is frequently overlaid with the sound of an old typewriter clacking - symbolic of power of words to affect us deeply.

The performances are excellent and Keira Knightley shows she really can act. James McEvoy is also excellent as Robbie, the falsely accused lover. And Saoirse Ronan, who plays the 13-year-old Briony is superb. These three characters are the backbone of the film, but even the supporting roles are well executed.

It is wonderful to see a movie with deep themes, great direction, good acting, and an intriguing and profound narrative. This one is most definitely an Oscar contender in my book! It opens here in Australia on Boxing Day (26 December). Don’t miss it!

My Rating: ****1/2 (out of 5)

Positive Review

’Rarely has a book sprung so vividly to life, but also worked so enthrallingly in pure movie terms, as with Atonement, Brit helmer Joe Wright’s smart, dazzlingly upholstered adaptation of Ian McEwan’s celebrated 2001 novel.’ - Derek Elley/Variety

Negative Review
’You have to admire it, when so much of the competition seems inane and slack, but you can’t help wondering, with some impatience, what happened to its heart.’ - Anthony Lane/The New Yorker

Content Advice
Disturbing war images, language and some sexuality


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Book Review: Amazing Journey, Amazing Grace

Amazing Journey, Amazing GraceKen and Nancy Eirich, in their book Amazing Journey, Amazing Grace: The Incredible Story of How God Led Two Pentecostal Pastors Into the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, tell the story of their lives from childhood, to their marriage, up until their becoming members of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. Their is no doubt that they have both been on an amazing journey. Both come from dysfunctional families with all the psychological trauma that brings. Nancy was constantly abused as a child in almost every way imaginable. Her story is heartrending. Ken’s story is also deeply affecting as he describes his childhood rejection and consequent self-destructive behaviour as he moved into adulthood. It is wonderful to see that both of these people have escaped from the prisons of their past and found love and security in God. My comments below are not intended to detract from that in any way. However, there are some disturbing aspects of their story. An over-reliance on "miracles" The Eirichs constantly claim miraculous intervention in their lives to such an extent that, by the end of the book, the miraculous becomes trivialised. Almost everything good that happens to them is attributed to miraculous intervention by God and anything bad the work of Satan trying to frustrate God’s detailed plan for them. This overemphasis on the miraculous leads to a number of concerns:
  1. Dependence on miracles - throughout the Eirichs’s story, their faith in God rises and falls depending on what happens to them. At times, they question God’s love for them because they can’t see God working miracles for them. On a number of occasions, they describe how they ’needed’ a miracle from God to cope with events in their lives. When people rely on "miracles" to cope, faith will inevitably be fragile. The Bible warns about seeking miracles and, despite the fact that God can work miracles, makes the point that they can be counterfeited. In addition, there are times when the miraculous is used as evidence of truth. Although the Eirichs describe how they studied the Bible when considering SDA doctrine, they make the point that 15 miracles they believe they can list makes them certain that God had led them to the SDA denomination. Most Christians will want to affirm that God is capable of working miracles. But making miracles a central feature of everyday life is bound to end in disappointment eventually. The authors of this book experience disappointment frequently, but they seem very capable of rationalising all events to be either miraculous signs or satanic interference.
  2. Trivialisation of the miraculous - the authors claim they can ’identify 15 indisputable miracles from the Lord that surrounded [them] becoming Seventh-day Adventists’ (p. 207) One was God impressing one of the elders of the Lethbridge Church to put a sandwich sign on the sidewalk advertising the Net ’99 meeting. They write that, unless this person had been obedient to the Lord’s impressing him to do this, it wouldn’t have been there for them to see when they drove down the street. Another alleged miracle is said to be the timing of the Net ’99 program which was delayed at the Lethbridge Church and had to be recorded from the satellite and shown later. They write, ’after a two week delay, things settled down and they decided to go ahead with the series. Interestingly enough, we had not even moved to Lethbridge when the series had been originally scheduled to begin. That two week delay gave the Lord the time necessary to get us moved and lead us to see the sign. Had the church been able to start the series on time, we would have missed the seminar completely!’ (p. 207) One has to wonder why God couldn’t have miraculously got them there on time for the original starting time rather than putting the organisers through so much frustration trying to plan the program! According to the authors, Ken remembering that the Net ’99 program was on was a miracle. And God knew exactly which session they needed to go to because Ken was particularly interested in the topic for that session. And on and on it goes. For a sensitive reader, the question inevitably arises: Why is it that God spends so much time working these trivial miracles (which, admittedly, are important to the authors) when miracles don’t seem to occur in situations where they would seem to be more urgent - war torn areas; people dying from HIV/AIDS; children being abducted from their homes and raped; kids being killed by trees in church yards falling on them (these last two were real events in my local city); women being sold as sex slaves; wives victimised by violent husbands; etc etc etc. That God should spend so much time getting two people to a Net ’99 meeting to persuade them that the SDA Church is the right church seems to be completely unfair when miracles are desperately needed in life and death situations. This leads to the next point.
  3. Egocentric supernaturalism - the way these writers speak, God constantly works miracles for them. But they give no consideration to how all of this intervention works when there are other people in the world. On one occasion, when they were feeling particularly down, they discussed how they would love to have a Thanksgiving dinner which they had missed out on because of them moving from one location to another. Lo and behold, some neighbours knock at the door and invite them to a late Thanksgiving dinner. Why were they having Thanksgiving so late? The people they had originally invited had been ill and couldn’t make it until now. Did God make these people ill so that the Eirichs could have their Thanksgiving dinner when he knew they would want it so badly? If God is manipulating events and providing signs for this couple as frequently as they claim, then God must be manipulating events and people long before the miraculous events occur just for them. What the authors describe as miracle raises a host of theological questions about how God interacts with the world and with people.
A naive view of doctrinal truth The Eirich’s are totally convinced on the absolute, 100% truth of SDA doctrine. They write, ’We believe with all our hearts that we have found a pearl of great price here with the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and are convinced that if there is any church on this planet that has correctly interpreted the Bible, it is the Seventh-day Adventist Church.’ (p. 221) There are, undoubtedly, many SDAs who would agree with them. But even within the denomination, there have been theological controversies over such important issues as their doctrine of the investigative judgment; the interpretation of biblical prophecy; the gospel; and others. Many scholars who are also SDAs have repeatedly shown major problems with some of the doctrinal positions the church holds. No denomination can possibly have a perfect understanding of the Bible - not while the membership is made up of imperfect humans! It is clear that the Eirichs subscribe to a highly conservative version of Seventh-day Adventism. I have read widely across a whole range of denominational literature. My conclusion is that some truth can be found in many denominations and some error in all of them. Although the Eirichs claim to have studied the Bible, a large degree of their certainty seems to be based on experience and alleged miracles. If this is the case, and they are convinced that God has miraculously brought them to the beliefs they hold, how will they be open to the possibility of error in their belief system? Evaluating truth claims on the basis of anything other than an examination of the evidence is a very dangerous thing to do. At one point, Nancy Eirich decided to go onto the internet to see what she could find out about the SDA Church. She turned up a number of sites that were critical of Adventism and its doctrines. She is quite disturbed by what she is reading and decides to call Ken to have a look. As she goes to do this, ’... the Lord spoke audibly to me and told me to stop! The voice of the Lord told me not to be afraid, but to trust Him. He then asked, "What is the fruit these teachings are producing in Ken’s and your life?" To this I confessed, "We are closer to you now than we have ever been. We have a peace I never thought possible, and we ’know that we know’ what we are learning is the Truth, and You have performed many miracles to bring us into the Seventh-day Adventist Church." To this the Lord said, "Follow; don’t lead!" And that is exactly what I decided to do--I would trust the Lord and His leading without doubt or questioning.’ (p. 202) Ironically, she goes on to study what the sites said about Seventh-day Adventists in order to ’satisfy [her] own insatiable curiosity...’. But, of course, if you have made a decision to proceed with no doubts and no questions, it could hardly be a careful evaluation. Obscurity of the gospel Although the title of the book contains the phrase ’Amazing Grace’, the grace in the story is primarily about the way the the Eirichs see God has having worked so many miracles on their behalf, rescuing them from their previous lives, and blessing them by bringing them into the SDA Church. As I have previously said, the liberation from the situations they were in during the early parts of their lives are worthy of celebration. And one most certainly would want to thank God for that. But the amazing grace of the gospel is mostly neglected. There is no clear declaration of the freely provided salvation provided by God’s grace through no more than accepting it by faith. Not only is this amazing grace neglected, but is actually obscured by the emphasis on them joining a denomination which, in their eyes, is the ultimate church on earth. Remnant Church theology The Eirichs clearly believe that the SDA denomination is the one true church. In the epilogue to the book they write, ’At this present time, God has many people in many denominations who truly love Him, but unfortunately the vast majority are being deceived by various systems of false religion. That is why--in these end days--God is calling those who truly love Him out of that system of apostate religion into His true church. And that is exactly what happened to us: God called us out of Babylon (false religion) into His Remnant Church.’ (p. 221) For the authors, the SDA Church is that church. They later go on to say that they ’came out of the Pentecostal Church, not the Catholic Church, but I believe that our zeal for the message of Adventism far surpasses that of many of those who were brought up in the rank and file.’ (p. 221) How’s that?! Not only have they come into the one true church, but they are more zealous than those who were brought up in the movement. This is a very elitist posture to take and highly judgmental. They have found the truth, the one true church, and everyone else lacks zeal and knowledge. How can this lead to anything but arrogance and elitism? Old Covenant orientation There is a distinct Old Covenant orientation to the authors’ beliefs. One of the issues they discuss is their being persuaded that the Mosaic food laws are still in force. In one of the seminars they attended, they ’learned the truth about the importance of God’s dietary laws and the health of our bodies.’ (p.203) Ken was particularly impressed with Isaiah 66:15-17 ’...when he realized how God felt about eating pork!’ (p. 204) After they ’...poured over the evening’s lesson with little excitement...’ and with Ken ’... looking for a loop-hole...’ they came to the conclusion that ’ was all true--meats were still clean and unclean...’ (p. 204) Unfortunately, they overlooked passages in Scripture which make it clear that the Old Covenant Mosaic laws are no longer in force (eg, Hebrews; Galatians). They overlooked Acts 15 where the Mosaic laws are specifically said not to apply to Gentile Christians. They overlooked Mark 7:19 where Jesus declares all foods clean. And so on. In coming to their conclusion in regard to the issue of clean and unclean foods they seem to have taken a proof-text approach with no consideration of historical and cultural context and passages of scripture that explicitly state that the food laws of the Old Testament are no longer binding on Christians. Interventionist God At the beginning of the book, Doug Batchelor, the SDA evangelist from whom they first heard the Adventist message, writes a foreword in which he states that, ’[f]or the true believer nothing is a coincidence. But every apparent coincidence is further evidence of our heavenly father’s intervention in our lives.’ This belief is impossible to sustain in real life. If God were to constantly intervene in everyone’s life the world would be in total chaos (at least from our point of view!). The Bible doesn’t teach a constantly intervening God. Believing that every event is determined by God (whether actively or by allowing it) will ultimately lead to despair, frustration, and often loss of faith because of disappointment. And making decisions by trying to read the "signs" of events on the assumption that God is behind every one of them is also unbiblical. This is dangerous theology and the reader would do well to read some of the excellent Christian literature written on this subject by authors such as Phillip Yancey (Disappointment with God) and Gary Friesen (Decision Making and the Will of God: A Biblical Alternative to the Traditional View). In summary, we can celebrate the freedom that the authors of this book have experienced as they have journeyed out of very painful, traumatic circumstances in their lives. This cannot be underestimated. And it may be that God has, in fact, worked some miracles on their behalf. But the book ultimately becomes focused on persuading the reader that the one true church is the Seventh-day Adventist Church. They conclude their story with a quotation from Ellen G White (the prophetess of the Adventist denomination) who wrote that, ’"It is as certain that we have the truth, as that God lives." We wholeheartedly agree!’ (p. 222) We live in an age where absolute certainty has produced great evil. We are experiencing the results of absolute certainty in the fundamentalist extremism of terrorism, racism, and other forms of hatred in the world today. Arrogant claims that we have the whole truth - that we know we are right - need to be abandoned for respectful dialogue where genuine listening occurs and mutual exchange of wisdom takes place. This can only happen if we are intellectually humble about what we think know. There is nothing wrong with feeling confident in what we believe - that is natural and good. But to arrogantly set oneself up as the possessors of truth to the exclusion of others can only lead to isolation and elitist judgmentalism. So let’s thank God for the fact that the Eirichs now live without the oppression and evil of their early lives. But let’s be careful that we use our God-given minds to think wisely, to test all things, and to hold on to what is good. Most of all, let’s celebrate the amazing grace that God demonstrated in Jesus Christ and his provision of salvation for all. Being led to a denomination is not what Christianity is about. Being led to Jesus is everything it is about.