Melody Mason searches for resources to help people understand the Bible, and she recently found numerous articles in the archive of Perspective Digest, the Adventist Theological Society’s quarterly online publication. Mason is the resource coordinator for the Revival and Reformation ministry website. She reads widely in church materials in order to discover and post inspirational articles and videos.
“One of the goals of the Adventist Theological Society is to serve as a positive, relevant, faith-affirming theological voice in the church,” says PD editor Gary Swanson, “and our hope is that this utilization of one of its resources will be a blessing to the church at study.”
Mason came across Perspective Digest articles by Gerhard Pfandl, which led her to other ATS scholars and authors. “I’m looking for things that are more deep to add to our collection” in Revival and Reformation, she says, “things that will feed the lay people.” She posted recently, for example, a Felix Cortez piece, “The Literal, Simple Use of Scripture.”
Since it began in 2010, the Revival and Reformation initiative has helped people to grow their Bible study, grow their relationship with God in prayer, and grow their witness and evangelistic skills. The site also has some leadership tools.
“It’s about, ‘How do we make our Bible study real?’ ” Mason says. “How do we connect in God’s Word—not just reading, but how can it be deep and real and practical?”
The Revival and Reformation site is under the direction of the General Conference Ministerial Association and has about 5,000 visitors a day. Readers have downloaded files about 100,000 times in the past year. Mason sees the growing interest in the site as a direct result of GC Ministerial’s commitment to gathering and sharing new and helpful articles like those from Perspective Digest.
Videos from ATS presenters are also represented in the R&R lineup, such as Larry Lichtenwalter’s presentations to the 2017 General Conference Week of Prayer. Among the ATS scholars featured in a variety of media are Frank Hasel, Joseph Kidder, Gerald Klingbeil, Angel Manuel Rodriguez, and Clinton Wahlen.
Besides leading the R&R site, Mason is coordinator of the church’s worldwide United in Prayer initiative.
In 2015, Rahel Wells had a terrible accident in which she almost died. Through a series of miracles she survived, but she almost lost a leg in the accident.
Wells is associate professor of biblical studies at Andrews University, and she recently spoke with Dr. Peter Landless, director of General Conference Health Ministries, on health and the Bible for a video program in ATS Academy’s Faith and Life series.
In the interview, Wells tells her story and then addresses difficult questions about faith and health that arise in times of great trial. She addresses myths about suffering to which humans fall prey. Among them is bargaining with God in a version of the prosperity gospel. A person may mistakenly think, I have done everything right health-wise, so I will never be sick or have an accident.
Because of her own experience, Wells discusses a question that troubles some concerning God’s direct healing versus His provision of doctors and medicine. Her drastic need after the accident showed her how God works through medical professionals and hospitals.
In the video, Wells touches on James 5 and the issue of faith in intercession and anointing. Does the Bible say that if a person has enough faith, they will always be physically healed? “The original language uses a different word for ‘sick’ in James 5:15 than in James 5:14, a word implying spiritual ‘sickness,’ indicating that God will heal the person spiritually and raise him or her up in the resurrection,” says Wells. God will always do this when He finds faith. “It’s really a salvation verse, not a physical healing verse,” she adds. “Not that God doesn’t heal physically, but it’s not necessarily about whether you have enough faith or not.”
Wells and Dr. Landless discuss the great controversy and the fact that suffering does not come from God but from the devil, and also from genetics and from human choices. They talk about why disease happens.
Other topics in the program include the healing properties of Sabbath, the benefits of choosing joy and a positive outlook, a healthy life balance, and God’s ideal of a plant-based diet.
Suffering can be redemptive, Wells concludes, not because God causes it but because He brings good from it, though the devil meant it to destroy.
Rahel Wells is a member of ATS and a presenting scholar at ATS conferences. She has been published twice in the Journal of the Adventist Theological Society (JATS). The new Faith and Life video series will be broadcast on Hope Channel later in 2018, and all of the programs in the series will be available online.
Two new books on the topic of salvation are making a major contribution to Seventh-day Adventist understanding. God's Character and the Last Generation (Jiří Moskala and John C. Peckham, eds., Pacific Press, 2018) has been released, and Salvation: Contours of Adventist Soteriology (Martin F. Hanna, Darius W. Jankiewicz, and John W. Reeve, eds., Andrews University Press, 2018) is slated for release June 1.
The book edited by Moskala (who is global evangelism vice-president for ATS) and Peckham is a substantial exposé of a particular misunderstanding of salvation: what Christ did on the cross is good, but then human beings must, on their own, reflect the character of God in order for atonement to be complete. While Christians will indeed reflect the character of God, this view amounts to legalism, since it requires that salvation depends in part on the human being’s accomplishment.
That misunderstanding was taught by some in the church in the mid-twentieth century and was perpetuated in Adventist colleges in later decades. The perception among adherents is that these views represent “historic” Adventism, but Last Generation theology is a recent phenomenon and is not Adventist theology.
The twelve contributors delve into issues related to Last Generation theology, including the history of this view; a biblical definition of sin; the meaning of justification; the nature and role of sanctification in this life; the psychology of perfection; the nature of Jesus as both Savior and example; the biblical meaning of atonement; Ellen White on the last generation; and myths and truths about the end time. The book corrects earlier distortions of God’s character and Jesus’ nature and reveals the working of God’s love.
The AUP book on soteriology compiled by Hanna, Jankiewicz, and Reeve (ATS president-elect) extends, in a sense, from the Last Generation compilation. It goes into the biblical definition of salvation in great depth. The nineteen contributors answer questions about predestination, total depravity, the timing and mechanism of atonement, the nature and action of God’s grace, and assurance of salvation.
Addressing the need of these books in Adventism, John Reeve said, “What was missing in the Adventism of the 1960s and 70s was prevenient grace. It was not acknowledged, not talked about.” A true biblical understanding reveals that, while we are “part of the final atonement in that it is relational and involves us, we are not the cause of it; we are the effect of it,” he added. The two books develop a much more balanced view of salvation, helping to keep Christians from, on the one hand, believing they somehow accomplish part of their salvation, and on the other, that they are not involved at all. Humans are involved through the power of choice, but only as empowered by God.
ATS president-elect John Reeve participated in the second Faith and Science (F&S) conference in early May, this one held in southeast India. Ed Zinke, ATS treasurer, also presented. The Southern Asia Division hosted two conferences back to back, one in north India and another in the south. The conferences are aimed at pastors and K-12 teachers. About 300 attended the southern event on the Peace Garden campus in Goa province.
At the F&S conferences, ATS scholars teach the biblical basis of Creation along with methods of biblical interpretation. They also cover the challenges to faith and science from the theology side.
Instructors from the Geoscience Research Institute teach seminars on geology, flood dynamics, challenges to short-earth-life creation from the geology side, and recent breakthroughs in scientific discovery.
Reeve notes, “It’s a spiritual high for people as well. There’s time for prayer several times a day, and singing before most of the programs. It’s a spiritual benefit as well.”
The next F&S conference is scheduled for Rwanda in the East-Central Africa Division in December 2018. Events already planned for 2019 include conferences in Peru, the Ukraine, the Philippines, and a yet-to-be-determined location in the Inter-American Division.
The ATS chapter at the Adventist University of Africa (AUA) held its second annual theological symposium May 3–5, 2018, with the theme of “The Trinity and the Bible.”
Eriks Galenieks, AUA chapter president, says the topic of the trinity was chosen because understanding this doctrine will affect, in one way or other, one’s beliefs in regard to all of the dynamics of salvation and the great controversy. A lingering group within the church has questioned the validity of the trinity doctrine.
The goal of the papers presented was to clarify such questions as the deity and pre-existence of Christ, the personality and deity of the Holy Spirit, the trinity concept in both Old and New Testaments, and why the doctrine of the Godhead was resisted by some leading Adventist pioneers.
Among ATS scholars who read papers were Clinton Wahlen (“The Trinity and Incarnation”); Frank Hasel (“The Divinity and Personality of the Holy Spirit”); Ron Du Preez (“Jesus, as the ‘Son of God’ in Scripture: Proof of Descent, Dependence, or Deity?”); and Anna Galeniece (“The Heavenly Trio in Ellen White’s Writings”). Michael Campbell spoke on “The Trinity Debate at the 1919 Bible Conference” and “The Trinity of Adventist Hymnody.”
Kelvin Onongha presented “The Trinity, Missio Dei and the Task of Missions,” while Sampson Nwaomah’s paper dealt with “The Trinity in the Gospel of Luke.” Davidson Razafiarivony presented an elaborate Greek syntactical-grammatical analysis on “The Deity of Jesus Christ in the New Testament.” Galenieks’s paper focused on seven passages of the Bible that, in their immediate, intertextual, and grammatical context, deal with the trinity concept. The symposium concluded with a panel discussion moderated by Peter Kereri.
Attendees included AUA students, members from neighboring Adventist churches, and visitors from the surrounding community.
Galenieks expects that the AUA chapter will produce a book later in 2018 on the trinity doctrine from the papers and sermons presented at the conference.
Taping has wrapped up for the second batch of programs in ATS Academy’s Faith and Life series, with videos on practical Christian living, including how to read the Bible, spiritual gifts, stewardship, marriage, health, the Holy Spirit, and the Second Coming. The four-person discussion panel format continues in this series, hosted by Felix Cortez and Andrea Jakobsons. Guests included Richard Davidson, Larry Lichtenwalter, John Reeve, Teresa Reeve, Darius Jankiewicz, and Jiří Moskala. Another series is in the planning stage that will deal with history through the eyes of faith. Future programs will be produced in a documentary format.
The Adventist Theological Society (ATS) has made available eleven continuing education courses in the Adventist Learning Community. The courses are selected from the ATS Academy video series called Faithful to the Scriptures. Students can study Revelation, Daniel, the Major Prophets, the Gospels, hermeneutics, and other topics with Dr. Félix H. Cortez and his colleagues as they explore the images and symbols that reveal Jesus. Each course is 0.2 CEU.
Hope Channel will release a new app that allows for quick linking to ATS Academy videos. The app will be available for mobile devices but also on streaming devices like Roku, Chromecast, and Apple TV. The app is forthcoming, but a release date has not been set. In conjunction with the app, Hope Channel will create a dedicated web page that hosts the full series of programs.
ATS will have a booth at the 2018 Adventist teachers’ convention. The event runs August 6–9, 2018 at McCormick Place in downtown Chicago. If you plan to attend, stop by and visit with your ATS representative.
The fourth International Bible Conference will be held in Rome in mid-June by the Biblical Research Institute. ATS is sponsoring a live streaming feed of the plenary sessions and possibly devotional meetings. Attendance at the conference is by invitation only, but the live stream will be available to all. The conference begins June 11 and continues through June 20. ATS News will email a link to the streaming page when it becomes available.
Editor Randy Younker reports that the next issue of the Journal of the Adventist Theological Society should be ready for a mid-summer release, possibly in June.
Make plans to attend the ATS annual symposium, November 14-17, 2018, in Denver, Colorado, USA. The theme is the Holy Spirit. A Friday evening banquet and all-day Sabbath meetings at an Adventist church are planned. Find the initial announcement on the ATS website. More details to come as the arrangements become set.
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