About Me

My photo
I was born, I'm currently living, and will eventually die. After that I face my judgment, and we'll talk then.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Beliefs of An Adventist Part 3

We continue our examination of Seventh-Day Adventists’ Beliefs with the second Fundamental Belief, which is as follows:

There is one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a unity of three co-eternal Persons. God is immortal, all-powerful, all-knowing, above all, and ever present. He is infinite and beyond human comprehension, yet known through His self-revelation. He is forever worthy of worship, adoration, and service by the whole creation.

I’ll begin our examination of this doctrine with a reference back to the first one, concerning Scripture. As mentioned before, Seventh-Day Adventists, like most Protestant religions, hold to a Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone) theology, in that Scripture is the only true form of Revelation. This does not leave any room for a Magisterium and Tradition, as they are not part of Scripture. This becomes clearer in the discussion of the Second Doctrine (which deals with the nature of God) found in Seventh-Day Adventists Believe. The discussion states the following:

The way we learn to know God from the Bible differs from all other methods of acquiring knowledge. We cannot place ourselves above God and treat Him as an object to be analyzed and quantified. In our search for a knowledge of God we must submit to the authority of His self revelation – the Bible. Since the Bible is its own interpreter, we must subject ourselves to the principles and methods it provides. Without these Biblical guidelines we cannot know God. (p. 18; emphasis added)

This passage places all of the Adventist beliefs in a striking light. If the Bible is its own interpreter, then all men who read the Bible should come to the same conclusion. Everyone would then interpret, for example, Matt. 16 in the same way the Church interprets it. As anyone with half a brain can see, this is not always the case. In fact, this is tragically not the case. The world is divided into a plethora of Christian faiths because men cannot interpret the Bible simply by reading it.

This brings up the next line I highlighted in that quote, namely “Without these Biblical guidelines we cannot know God.” Looking at the declared doctrine, one sees Sola Scriptura at play, particular in the line “He [God] is infinite and beyond human comprehension, yet known through His self-revelation.” Again the belief is that through reading the Bible one comes to a clear understanding of who God is. There is no need for any other help. However, as Seventh-Day Adventists Believe states, “The Bible does not prove God’s existence. It assumes it” (p. 19). In order for one to prove God exists, especially to one who doubts the authenticity of the Scripture, one must turn to reason, to philosophy. This is why St. Thomas Aquinas placed belief in God’s existence as outside the realm of strict theology. One can believe God exists through Faith, but proof of God’s existence must come through observing the natural world. One sees this in the “Intelligent Design vs. Evolution” debate. A scientist who rejects religion in favor of scientific evolution (a dangerous road to follow, since uniting both understandings of our origins holds the strongest support) will not believe in God simply because the Bible says He exists. The scientist needs empirical proof, proof that is extra-Biblical. Seventh-Day Adventists Believe attempts to prove God’s existence by the presence of mystery cults to an Unknown Deity in Greek mythology, as cited in Acts 17. Any scientist seeking to disprove God would dismiss such evidence as proof of the same delusion infecting Mankind since the dawn of time. This skeptic (in the worst form of the word) needs something more than connects derived through St. Paul. He needs proof, proof which the Adventists superlative use of Scripture does not consider valid. Thus the two sides reach an impasse, and we must move on to examine who God is, exactly.

This doctrine concerning God, like the one concerning Scripture discussed earlier, mostly makes sense, especially where it states how God as “immortal, all-powerful, all-knowing, above all, and ever present.” Such are typical descriptions of God found throughout Scripture. God is a personal God, one who loves us and seeks our love. He is life itself, eternal, etc. This is all legitimate, orthodox teaching.

The writers of Seventh-Day Adventists Believe bring up an interesting point: the relationship of God with predestination. Such terminology is found in the letters of St. Paul, and due to the strict scriptural nature of the religion, it is no surprise that predestination arises in Adventist theology. Yet the use of predestination in Adventism is surprising. They wisely reject the Calvinist approach whereby man is either saved or damned through the arbitrary will of God. Rather, the Adventists hold a strikingly Catholic understanding of Paul’s use of predestination, namely that God knows, from all eternity, what man will do. Yet God does not force us to do anything. The writers of Seventh-Day Adventists Believe use two examples to develop this point. First they reference a historian, who looks at the past without effecting it. He knows what happened, but has no power over it. Secondly, the writers put forward the example of a camera, which watches a scene, understanding what happens, but does not change it.

From there the writers of Seventh-Day Adventists Believe present the Adventist understanding of the Divine Oneness, that God is One, with three persons. They explain the truth well, yet one wonders if they realize from where this clear formulation comes. The writers explain that, “While the Godhead is not one in person, God is one in purpose, mind, and character. This oneness does not obliterate the distinct personalities of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” (23). They say elsewhere, “the Incarnation beautifully demonstrated the working relationship of the three persons” (24). Such wording is reminiscent of the wording used in the early Ecumenical Councils of the Church (namely Nicea I, Constantinople I, and Calcedon), though Adventists do not accept the authority of such councils. Perhaps some Catholic theology seeped into the Adventist theology by mistake, a chemical leak in the water purifier, thus allowing a conversion of Adventist water into the sweet wine of the Church.

Does such Catholic Tradition find itself in other aspects of Adventist theology? We’ll have to find out next time, as we examine in detail the Adventist belief concerning the first person of the Holy Trinity: God the Father.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

HIST 610 Test Essay - The Fourth Crusade

In an effort to keep a steady supply of blog posts (at least for now), I will be posting several essays from my HIST classes' tests. As mentioned earlier, I am working on getting a MA in Systematic Theology from NDGS. It is a challenge, to be sure, but I am proud to announce that I have, as of now, a 3.8 GPA at the school, the highest GPA I have ever had. I'm pretty excited.

So yes. Below is the first of the test questions I will post. It is from my final for my HIST 610 class (Church History I). I don't remember the exact question, but I think you can figure out what it asked.

The Fourth Crusade was one of the most embarrassing moments in Church history. The crusading army, rather than attacking the Muslims in the Holy Land, instead attacked two Christian cities: Zara and Constantinople. Who is at fault? It disaster was more the fault of men’s pride and greed than the Church, as the events of the crusade show.

The Fourth Crusade was called by Innocent III at the end of the 12th century. The failure of the Third Crusade left the Holy Land in the hands of the Muslims, and the pope hoped for the success of the First Crusade. He called together men to fight the Muslims, and a war council met, deciding to attack the Holy Land by sea, rather than by land. The easiest place to get ships was Venice, and so the crusaders enlisted the help of the Venetian Doge (Duke) Enrico Dondalo. The crusaders ordered a huge amount of ships, and Dondalo promised the product. When the time came to launch the expedition, the Venetians had the ships, but the crusaders didn’t have the money, nor the manpower to sail the ships. Venice had spent most of its wealth in making these ships for the crusade, and the city needed some recompense. Dondalo made a deal. If the crusaders would attack the city of Zara, which was once under Venetian control, then he would forgive them the money owed for the ships. The leaders of the crusade agreed (with a few notable exceptions, such as Simon de Montfort) and headed for the city. The pope, upon hearing of this, immediately condemned such action, pronouncing excommunication on those who would attack a Christian city while on crusade (it didn’t help that Zara was owned by the King of Hungry who was also crusading at that time, though not with the Venetian crusaders. Attacking the land of a crusader carried with it an automatic excommunication). But the crusaders attacked anyway, taking the city, relieving their debts. The normal men were excited to head out to take the Holy Land

Then a visitor came to the camp. He was Alexius Angelus, prince of Byzantium, and he wanted the crusaders’ help in retaking Constantinople from his uncle, Alexius III, who had taken the throne from his father, Isaac II. He promised great wealth and men for the crusade, assuring the crusaders that the people of the city would welcome him, that the coup would be easy, and that he himself would provide for their every need. This sounded great, so the crusaders followed Alexius to Constantinople. Pope Innocent was, again, furious and again excommunicated anyone involved in attacking Constantinople. The crusaders, for the most part, ignored the pope and headed towards Byzantium.

When they arrived, they were met not with cheers from the city’s inhabitants but with garbage (apparently Alexius didn’t have the fan base he claimed he had). The crusaders took the city, an easy feat considering that Uncle Alexius III had fled with the empire’s treasury. Alexius Angelus promised the crusaders wealth; instead, he gave them almost half of what he promised. The result was the destruction of holy items and relics in a frantic attempt to pay back the crusaders. Then, due to popular unrest, Alexius Angelus (now called Alexius IV) is killed by his sergeant, who takes the name Alexius V. The empire is now in the hands of an enemy of the crusaders’ ally (the now deceased Alexius IV), and the crusaders decide to attack the city. They do so, sacking Constantinople in 1204. Easterners remember the year and hate the West because of it.

But was the Church to blame? It seems not, since the pope and his bishops tried in vain to prevent the atrocities. When the crusaders returned they found themselves excommunicated. Would the Church have carried out such a punishment if she had supported the sack? Of course not. If anything, the Church should receive blame for poor management, since the Fourth Crusade got so out of control.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

10 most stressful jobs

I heard once that teaching is one of the most stressful jobs in America, up there with SWAT people and EMTs. That makes sense to me, since students can be a real pain in the butt. So I decided to look up a list of the most stressful jobs in America. I originally wanted to compare different lists, but they all kept referencing the one from CNBC. I figured it would work. So here they are, the 10 most stressful jobs in America, with a little bit about why they are so stressful.

10. Real Estate Agent – Its not just about location, location, location. Real Estate Agents have to deal with not only the annoying home buyers, who can be particularly annoying if they don’t know what the heck they are talking about, but also other agents, who might sneak in and steal a buy. It’s a highly competitive field, with varied hours and other fun things to make it stressful.

9. Advertising Executive – Highly competitive, long hours, and a high risk at loosing your job if you mess up makes this one pretty stressful. Its not just about sitting behind your desk and thinking of slogans. Its like working for the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland: You mess up, you loose your head, except by head we mean your job. Bosses aren’t that evil. . .

8. Public Relations Officer – Not only do you have to deal with the maddening crowd of people who want to kill you, you also have to deal with the media, who wants to strip you naked and take your picture. Your hours are pretty set, but you might still work long hours, trying to tie up loose ends. Plus you could mess up and ruin a company.

7. Highway Patrol Officer – You know all those movies/shows where the cop pulls over some guy, who then blows the cop’s head off with a shotgun? That’s a real threat to these roadway men in blue/brown. They might be annoying when they pull you over for speeding, but they are putting their lives on the line each time they pull onto the freeway. Crazy hours, plus limited weekends and holidays, make for a nasty stress cocktail.

6. Commercial Pilot – Least of his worries is crashing the plane. If he goes down in a fiery blast, he won’t be alive to worry about the people complaining about uncomfortable seats, delays, terrorists, etc. If he survives, he’ll probably be sued for something. Yeah, being a pilot isn’t fun. Plus the hours are hell.

5. Police Officers – This one goes without saying. Any job that involves running after crazy people, getting shot/shot at, or just dealing with all the things cops deal with deserves a place on this list. It’s a dirty, rotten job, but somebody’s got to do it.

4. Surgeon – As any episode of House, ER, or Grey’s Anatomy shows, Surgeons have much more to worry about than not killing their patients. Having to run into the operating room in an emergency, in the middle of the night is hard enough, but when millimeters divide life and death, the pressure is on. Plus, if you mess up, that’s it. You’ll be sued faster than, well, it’ll be pretty fast.

3. Taxi Driver – You talkin’ to me? I drive around all day picking up sketchy businessmen and you’re talking to me? I risk my a** all day driving in a city with more crack heads than chalk to feed their addictions. I’m like a rolling ATM for those guys. Plus I drive around on the nights, weekends, holidays. And half the guys then are wasted like trash. There’s no one else here, you must be talkin’ to me.

2. Corporate Executive – Long hours, enormous pressure to succeed or leave, and the fact that, again, if you mess up the whole company goes down. Think all the pressure from Wall Street, but just in a company. Again, not that fun.

1. Firefighter – No duh. I’m pretty sure if firefighter wasn’t at the top of this list, it would be rejected by pretty much everyone. Firefighters jump into burning building for crying out-loud. People die when they mess up. Not loose their jobs. Die. That’s pretty darn stressful. Add onto that risk of life and limb to themselves and everyone they work with. And if they don’t put out the fire, well, there goes the neighborhood. Plus having to be on-call constantly is pretty stressful too.

So that’s the list. No teachers. L Oh well. Maybe we’re number 11. Or not. Maybe the stress is just imaginary. Just like the excuses for why the students don’t have their homework.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Beliefs of An Adventist Part 2

We begin our examination of the Seventh-Day Adventist beliefs with the first Fundamental Doctrine, which is as follows:

The Holy Scriptures, Old and New Testaments, are the written Word of God, given by divine inspiration through holy men of God who spoke and wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. In this Word, God has committed to man the knowledge necessary for salvation. The Holy Scriptures are the infallible revelation of His will. They are the standard of character, the test of experience, the authoritative revealer of doctrines, and the trustworthy record of God's acts in history.

At first glance, there is nothing wrong with this statement. Indeed, all Catholic should agree with the heart of the statement, namely that the Scriptures are both Human and Divine, the Word of God through human words, phrases, cultural circumstances, etc. Most aggravating about the Scriptures is that they are what God chose to reveal to us, not what we necessarily want to know. Scripture is what we need, not always what we want. How many of us wish for an account of Jesus’ life between his birth and his public ministry (minus the crucial passage concerning His finding in the Temple)? There would be no debate over creation and evolution if Genesis was more exact. God did not see such details as necessary for salvation. There will always be debate over the particulars, and yet we still have the Scriptures, the Divine Revelation of God. Revelation ceased with the death of the last Apostle (John the Evangelist). On this point, Catholics, Seventh-Day Adventists, and all Christians for that matter, agree.

From there, however, one notices a troubling line in the Adventist Belief, particularly in light of their other beliefs, concerning the Scriptures, as noted in the closing sentences: “The Holy Scriptures are the infallible revelation of His will. They are the standard of character, the test of experience, the authoritative revealer of doctrines, and the trustworthy record of God's acts in history.” Adventists, like most Protestant groups, hold that Scripture is the sole source of Revelation. They do not provide a place for any sort of Magisterium, or even Sacred Tradition. Why go through an interpreter, the belief goes, when you have the original before you? All one needs to do is read. The Fathers of the Church and the Magisterium might give interesting insights into some passages, but that does not mean God somehow safeguards their teachings. One needs only oneself to understand the Bible. This approach, unfortunately, is extremely dangerous. If there isn’t a set authority who says what is and isn’t a legitimate interpretation of Scripture, then erroneous and contradictory interpretations result. One might hold one belief about the story of the Good Samaritan that is the polar opposite of someone else’s belief; the two beliefs contradict, yet are both held as correct. Can such a scenario be true? No. It is similar to saying that something is both alive and dead, sinful yet sanctifying. Worse, such an understanding does not provide for correction. A man could persist in his problematic understanding of the Good Samaritan without any correction or redirection.

Yet at its core, the first belief of the Adventists is orthodox, compatible with the Church. On the importance and centrality of Divine Revelation we both agree. From this firm ground, we depart into deeper, more controversial facets of Adventist theology, namely their doctrinal beliefs about God. As we will see in the next few parts of this series, the Adventists devote four fundamental doctrines to God and the Trinity, each based solely on interpreting the Scriptures. Whether it is a correct interpretation will be discussed in the next part of this series.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Epiphany poem

As a follow up to my Advent/Christmas poems, I have composed a poem in honor of today's feast (traditionally) of the Epiphany. Below is the text of the poem. It's no T. S. Eliot, but I'm proud of it.

Comments are welcome.

“Three Wise Men”


My body aches from this long journey,

And yet, though tired, I see the light.

Ahead, I tell them, and on we ride,

Chasing a dream through dim-lit night.

South, they said, from the capital city,

On we ride. Where to tonight?

Beth-something, he had said.

I hope my gold is worth enough.

I hope my gilded gift gives grace enough.

I hope He grows in strength enough.

Enough to rule, enough to guide,

With wiser men then me beside

His throne, his holy pedestal.

He’ll rule for sure,

O’er rich and poor.

He’ll rule for sure

Someday soon.

For now here sits His royal treasure,

His future glory etern’ly sure.


It smells so sweet, my hanging bag,

The scent of incense wafting up,

Like Heaven swinging by my side.

I hope that Heaven accepts its prize.

This king, this Lord, it is of Him,

The one I read of, the one I sung of,

The one for whom we longed for years.

And now we journey towards time stood still

To stop

To come to a castle grand,

Standing strong through shifting sign.

God Himself! Lord! Amen!

The King of Kings! And here we come,

A cave refined, a sanctuary of God.

I bring for you, sweet Lord, sweet scent for prayer,

That thoughts and hopes might fill sweet air.

He smiles, He smirks, He kingly grins.

Now Heaven’s earthbound reign begins.


I know Him who has come to die.

Life to bring, death to wring

Out of any moisture,

Any blood, any water.

I felt He needed this gift of sorrow,

For who knows what will come tomorrow.

Will His life be filled with joy?

Or will that life be Satan’s soft toy,

To rip, to tear, to eat alive.

Death from life, Life to die.

So myrrh I bring, a gift so solemn,

For such a joyful happy occasion.

Yet I know to bring it, with faith I do so,

For death will die at this one’s command.

If He is He who we have sought,

Then any foul word will be for naught,

And any foul deed will be as air,

Nothing at all, no structure, nothing.

I come to a baby, an infant king,

I leave, no normal king, for sure,

No sir. It’s He who came

for all who live,

For all who lived,

And all who shall;

I give my morbid gift to Him,

Perhaps, of course, regarding them all,

A useless gift, worthless, small.

If He accepts what I bring for Him,

Then all is not for naught again,

Then all is light and joy and cheer,

Then all is kingdom, glory,

Power and blessing, honorable singing,

Prayers rejoicing, echoing through

A land recalled by men so few.

This babe, as man, likewise ignored,

And myrrh he’ll need,

For what’s in store.