The beliefs and sentiments expressed by those whose letters appear here are not necessarily shared by the Adventist Review or its editorial staff. These letters have been edited for clarity and length. -- Editors


Training Technology
I read the article, “Taming Technology” (Aug. 9, 2007), with interest. I am a technogeek. The portable computer, multiple flash drives, BlackBerry, wireless network, and cell phones all contribute to the mix of electronics in my life.
 
I think the point was missed, however. It’s not the technology that’s the problem; lifestyle choices are the problem, and sometimes the expectations of life.
 
Our house is a hub for the “non-vacation” activities we do. Since my wife is a teacher/principal, that includes preparation for school and school-related activities. I can work from home, so there are days when my work takes many hours beyond the “normal” eight.
 
Then there are the church volunteers we coordinate. That means e-mails and instant messages from overseas, sometimes coming at inconvenient times. When the push is on to get passports updated, visas obtained, and airline tickets coordinated, significant time is consumed in the wee hours of the morning.
 
But a larger issue for us is: If we don’t do these things that God has given us now, when will they get done? We have eternity to go on “vacation.”
 
Sure, we grab a couple days of vacation here and there. But for us, a traditional vacation is a thing of the past. Seeing a group of children respond to a volunteer and make significant progress in their education as a result is as good as two days under palm trees sipping pina coladas.
 
Watching a young person from a far-away country standing and looking at Niagara Falls, and seeing the wonder in their eyes, is worth every hour we spend getting them here.
 
To put this into just a thought, I’d have to say that many folks don’t find meaning in their work, so they look for release in some sort of vacation spot. Neither the work, nor the vacation will fill the void. Each is as meaningless as the other.
 
We need to find what provides meaning. In the article it was the woman’s family. Developing meaningful and lasting relationship with your family is critical. Our family does it by adding new members each year from other countries.
 
I challenge each reader to look for some way to bring meaning into their lives through some avenue of service to humanity. It may mean that your use of technology has to increase, but it’s worth it!
 
David Herdman

 
Understanding Others
Thank you for the informative piece by Lincoln Steed, “Notes from a Papal Observer” (Jul. 26, 2007). Though I had not heard or read the entire speech by Pope Benedict, I was amazed at the time that the Muslims who went on various rampages seemed to illustrate exactly what they inferred from his speech. What irony!
 
I cannot visualize Christians rioting and burning buildings just because some “pagans” misuse the Bible in some irreverent way.
 
Ken Albertsen
Scottsdale, Arizona

 
Their Culture, and Ours
Roy Adams’ editorial, “Coarsening of the Culture” (Jul. 26, 2007), should be expanded into our Adventist culture.
 
Our church members may not use the same four-letter words as secular people use, but look around in the sanctuary during the Sabbath worship hour.
 
I many times wonder if our fellow church-goers really know the purpose of coming to church on the Sabbath. Is it to worship God and pay our utmost respect to our heavenly Father, or to socialize with fellow believers? I hope it is the former. If this is the case we should pay more our attention to what we wear and do.
 
Ellen White stated that we should have special clothes set aside for the Sabbath. Are we too poor to do this? Look around and see how many dress down. Would they be as comfortable attending a wedding the way they are dressed as they are going to the church? Would they attend a White House dinner party with the clothes they wear to the sanctuary on the Sabbath morning? Surely, God is not a respecter of what we wear, but we should show our respect to our heavenly Father by dressing our best to His spiritual dinner party. Is this too much to ask?
 
God gave up His only begotten son so we can live. Is it too much for us to be uncomfortable for a couple of hours if the church is not air conditioned?
 
Can’t people refrain for an hour or so from chewing gum? It is disgusting to see gum chewing, especially in the sanctuary. Would someone die of thirst if he or she doesn’t drink bottled water during the worship service?
 
And clapping; it’s getting more popular to clap for those who perform in church. Are we glorifying the people, or the creator? Are we in a concert hall, or the House of God?
 
Won Bae
Marlboro, Massachusetts

 
Encouraged and Challenged
I especially appreciated the July 19, 2007, Adventist Review. We were challenged and encouraged by the mission-minded families that moved to an area in West Virginia that was without an Adventist presence, in order to meet the needs of the community and share their faith (“From Acorn to Oak Tree”).
 
Ivan C. Blake’s article, “Does God Get a Lift?” provided thoughtful reflections on worship. There are two ideas worth remembering. The issue of worship is solved when we concentrate on His holiness, His greatness, and His majesty. As the author said, “When a high sense of the holiness of God governs worship, there will be no boredom, cold formality, mere entertainment, or an emphasis on emotionalism.”
 
Natalie Dodd
Centerville, Ohio

 
In Granite, Or Ingrained?
In the Bookmark that critiqued Skip MacCarty’s book, In Granite or Ingrained, I was surprised at MacCarty’s efforts to prove the unity of the various covenants--and he listed quite a number--when there are really only two, the old and the new.
 
The Noahic Covenant is in a class by itself, but the covenants are basically promises. Only the Sinaitic Covenant is humanity’s promise to God: the rest are God’s promises to us. Concerning the former Ellen White wrote: “Feeling that they were able to establish their own righteousness, they declared, ‘All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient’” (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 372). Of course, like us, their promises were like ropes of sand. After breaking it, they were brought to feel their need of the Savior revealed in the Abrahamic covenant.
 
Ellen White wrote: “The ‘new covenant’ was established upon ‘better promises’--the promise of forgiveness of sins and of the grace of God to renew the heart and bring it in to harmony with the principles of God’s law” (Ibid.). This seems clear enough to me.
 
Norwood Smith
Georgetown, Tennessee

 
Who’s Counting?
In the news article, “15 Million Adventists, but Who’s Counting?” (Jul. 12, 2007) one statement cries out to be corrected. It is simply not true, although I hear it said and see it in print time and again: “It’s common for only 30 to 50 percent of a church’s membership to regularly attend services” (p. 20).
 
I have personally directed surveys and membership audits in more than 1,000 local churches over the past decade, and there is absolutely no evidence to support this statement. I think the confusion is this: in most Adventist churches in North America the attendance on a typical Sabbath is a number equivalent to about half the book membership number. But the head count on a given Sabbath is not the same thing as the percentage of members who attend regularly. Don’t confuse “apples” with “oranges.”
 
“Regular” does not mean every Sabbath. In statistical studies it usually means at least once a month. When surveys ask Adventist members how many Sabbaths out of the last four they attended, only about 40 percent say “four.” Another 30 percent say “three” or “two.” When we do membership audits, usually 65 to 75 percent of the persons on the membership roll attend at least once a month. But, there is never a Sabbath when every regularly-attending member is present. Someone is always away, sick, traveling, etc.
 
There are exceptions, of course. I sat in a church board meeting with the leaders of a congregation where a survey was being planned. I had the official report from the conference in my briefcase and it said there were about 1,800 members. The board got into a discussion as to whether the membership was 600 or 800, the lower number reflecting attendance head-counts and the higher number based on a list of active members.
 
This is a vital issue, and it is important to not have foggy, imprecise information about it. It is particularly important that the denomination’s general paper not get confused about the numbers.
 
Monte Sahlin
Director of Research & Special Projects
Ohio Conference
 

I understand the desire of the Adventist Church to have an accurate count of members, but I am disappointed in Pastor Charles White for referring to inactive members as “dead wood.” And I’m even more disappointed that the Adventist Review chose to print that term.
 
Until recently I was one of those known as “dead wood.” While I didn’t attend church, I still held those beliefs I grew up with close to my heart, and I still received and read the Review and conference publications. Seeing myself referred to in those terms certainly wouldn’t have motivated me to want to come back to church; they quite possibly would have pushed me further away. I can’t imagine that is the church’s goal. Please realize that some of us aren’t that far away, and we’d like to come back. Don’t make it harder for us.
 
Name Withheld
 

War and Peace
I read with interest Elizabeth Lechleitner’s article, “Young Adventists in a World of War”; as well as Douglas Morgan’s, “Following the Prince of Peace in a Time of War” (Jun. 14, 2007). The articles were exceptionally well-written.
 
I wonder if those who advocate taking up arms on behalf of earthly governments realize that taking the life of another person in face-to-face combat is something seared in the memory forever. I have spoken to veterans who acknowledge this. There may be exceptions among those “whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron” (1 Tim. 4:3), but this is not the rule. The fact that in modern warfare soldiers usually don’t see the one they kill is beside the point. The impression may not be as deep, but those events produce psychological scars that last a lifetime.
 
I am well aware that some justify their stand for combatancy by arguing the Israelites killed and were killed in wars in Old Testament times; and that even David, “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22), “shed much blood on the earth” (1 Chron.22:8). But this was not God’s original plan for His people.
 
When Israel came out of Egypt, God made a covenant with them: “The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace” (Ex. 14:14). But almost immediately Israel wanted to be “like all the nations” (see 1 Sam. 8:5). They chose not to “heed . . . [God’s] voice. . . . So . . . [He] gave them over to their stubborn heart, to walk in their own counsels.” And, although God didn’t reject them forthwith, He lamented, “Oh, that my people would but listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways/I would soon subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their adversaries” (Ps. 81:11-14, NKJV).
 
Old Testament history records that the course of the chosen people was generally downhill until they rejected the Messiah and declared they had “no king but Caesar” (John 19: 15). In answer to Pilate’s question, “‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ . . . . [Jesus] said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews’” (John 18:33, 36). When Peter slashed off Malchus’ ear, “Jesus commanded . . . . ‘Put your sword away’” (John 18:10, 11), then He “touched the man’s ear and healed him” (Luke 22:50, 51). What an example for His followers to copy!
 
The principle of healing rather than hurting is basic to the new covenant. This is why post-apostolic fathers record that early Christians refused to serve in the Roman army. After apostasy set in, the Christian church went down the same road as Israel and eventually Christians fought other Christians. This was true during the American Civil War. Christians on both sides of the conflict took up arms because they were fighting a “just war,” and each side implored heaven for victory!
 
Seventh-day Adventists, in harmony with Christ’s teachings of saving life, rather than taking it, took a stand and asked the American government to allow those of their number drafted into military service be allowed to minister to the wounded rather than bearing arms to kill. And in the providence of God they were granted an exemption.
 
I feel that our church as a whole has backslid since 1974 when we gave up this stand. The Medical Cadet Corps, or something like it, should be revived, and Adventist youth should be instructed in the principles Christ taught and exemplified.
 
Donald E. Mansell
Nampa, Idaho
 

More About Worship
Bill Knott’s editorial, “Consistency, Anyone?” (Jun. 14, 2007) about saying “amen” and applauding ditties with misleading lyrics, should awaken us to the effect of post-modernism’s crass individualism on our worship of God. Unquestionably, Adventism has been adrift in its worship of our God of mercy and justice, love and wrath.
 
I recall as a child in the late 1920s listening to a scrupulously dressed congregation sitting in their pews and softly singing, “Be silent, be silent, a whisper is heard, Be silent, be silent, and cherish each Word.” All brought Bibles. Rustling pages and “amens” were heard as the pastor forcefully preached the Word of God from the pulpit. Are we like Paul’s Galatians, “turning away so soon . . . to a different gospel . . . to pervert the gospel of Christ?
 
“Come as you are,” we are told. Skip Sabbath school. Chatter in the pews as the service starts. Chat in the lobby during the service. Inside, we might hear a quiet amen or two for God and the truth, but vigorous applause for human performances--especially if they deliver an emotional kick. Is this worship? An awesome reverence toward a God of judgment and hellfire is old stuff to postmoderns.
 
But our status is not unique! Christ’s apostle James admonished his covetous, warring hearers, “Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God . . . Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 4:4, 9). Will we respond? Time will tell. Meantime, keep your eye on the fig tree.
 
Norm Meager
Dayton, Ohio



 
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