Seeing the Hand of God in the Bones
ATS scholar and Southwestern Adventist University (SWAU) professor Arthur Chadwick delivers Adventist theology in an unusual way — through digging for bones in the ground.
For one month each year, Chadwick and fellow professor Jared Wood lead the Dinosaur Excavation and Taphonomic Research Project on an 8,000-acre ranch in eastern Wyoming, United States. The 2019 dig brought 120 students, researchers, and hobbyists to help find and preserve dinosaur fossils. During that month, they discovered more than 2,300 fossil bones.
“One of the highlights of the trip for many students is the spiritual aspect,” Chadwick said. “We pray together, we have worships. In our course lectures, we emphasize not only the nature of the dinosaurs but also the aspects of Creation that are important to us all; because if Creation is not a valid account of origins, then neither is the sacrifice of Christ a valid account of salvation.”
A total of 10 international educators joined the dig in 2019, representing the Philippines, Romania, Argentina, Peru, Italy, Brazil, Nigeria, Japan, and South Korea.
Specimens collected at the Wyoming site end up in the growing collection at the Dinosaur Science Museum at SWAU, a Seventh-day Adventist school in Keene, Texas. With more than 25,000 bones now stored there, the museum has drawn attention in the field of paleontology, including recognition in a recent article in the Journal of Paleontological Sciences as the most outstanding dinosaur bone database among 65 institutions with such collections. “SWAU in particular, provided photographs, historical and geologic context for just about every specimen in the large and mostly complete database,” the journal stated.
Hope Channel International has partnered with SWAU and the Dinosaur Science Museum to create a documentary mini-series, The Dig, that portrays the experience of Chadwick and Wood’s field research. The series shows the personal drive, cutting-edge research, and the many challenges faced by the most committed members of the group, some of whom have been involved for 20 years. SWAU communication professor Paul Kim directed the show, which premieres on Hope Channel television on January 3, 2020.
The Dig reveals what Chadwick thinks is one of the most important points of his work. Christians do not need to be afraid of good science and allowing the data to speak for themselves.
SWAU students who participated in the 2019 dig and attended evening lectures by Chadwick and other scholars earned college credit for the summer program. The program will offer five scholarships for students studying at SWAU as well as students from other schools. Wood said that the 2020 dig season welcomes people of all ages and skill levels.
Partially adapted from a report by Lindsey Gendke for North American Division News.
Social Media Outreach Returns to ATS
The ATS Executive Committee voted to create a new social media outreach effort in 2020. After discussion at the committee meeting November 20, 2019, in San Diego, California, United States, the committee approved president-elect Rahel Wells’s proposal to hire a part-time social media director and set up several social media accounts in the ATS name.
Nathaniel Gibbs, a doctoral student at Andrews University, will be establishing new Facebook and Instagram accounts. The first step will be to open a public Facebook page, to be possibly followed later by a private group page for the society to share internal information among members.
The Instagram strategy is to open two accounts, one for formal professional information and another for appropriate memes. Both accounts would incorporate static images and video clips of ATS content.
Later developments may include accounts on Twitter, Snapchat, and other media. A public Google calendar for events is also on the tentative list.
One of the eventual benefits of the social media reach will be promotion of local and national events and targeted Facebook advertising to communities, Wells said. “There will be focus on chapters having events to get more church community involvement,” she said. It will also be a convenient platform to announce video series, books, and other publications.
The committee voted to allow six months of development, with a report due at the next Executive Committee meeting in April 2020, and a budget to be produced by the ATS Finance Committee.
“Christ in All Scripture”: The 2019 ATS Annual Conference
The 2019 ATS annual meetings were held in San Diego, California, United States in conjunction with the ETS conference and the AAR/SBL annual meetings. The ETS meetings were held November 20-22 and the AAR/SBL meetings November 23-26, with the ATS annual conference bridging the two, November 20-23. More than 14,000 attended these conferences.
Wednesday afternoon and Thursday afternoon sessions featured ATS papers on the conference theme, “Christ in All Scripture,” and Friday evening the annual dinner and worship meeting of ATS and the Adventist Society for Religious Studies (ASRS) convened at the Paradise Valley Seventh-day Adventist Church in nearby National City.
Three tracks of presentations were available on Sabbath afternoon at the Paradise Valley church — ATS Bible Bites, Biblical Studies, and Theology/Practics. The Bible Bites option offered six short “TED Talk”-type presentations in the main sanctuary, including, for example, “Finding God in the Silence” by Katrina Blue of Pacific Union College and “The Invitation to the Banquet Based on Luke 14” by Lena Toews from Union College. The Biblical Studies track consisted of three papers from scholars at the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies in the Philippines.
The conference closed with the Sabbath evening banquet and ATS general business meeting. The annual conference will take place in November 2020 at Providence, Rhode Island, United States, with the theme of “Islam and Christianity."
Jack Blanco: The Feature Film
Retired professor Jack Blanco was the first president of ATS. Longtime friend and filmmaker Christopher Beason wanted to make a docu-drama about Jack’s fascinating life and testimony. After Jolena Taylor King published Jack: An Incredible Life in 1999, a film seemed the next logical step to tell the story to a wider audience.
Beason had proposed a narrative-style documentary that included dramatic reenactment. Blanco was hesitant, but Beason convinced him it was important to share his story with today’s media-inundated youth.
That effort resulted in The Jack Blanco Story, a 98-minute DVD that tells of the fatherless boy who escaped labor camps in Germany during World War II, enlisted in the US Air Force, and met God while stationed in Guam, going on to be a pastor, theologian, missionary, and author of The Clear Word Bible paraphrase and many other books.
Beason also had in mind to create a feature film that focused on Jack’s childhood escapes from the labor camps and being reunited with his mother after the war. While filming the documentary in Germany, he and Blanco were able to locate the exact spot where Jack had miraculously escaped a labor camp. The film follows Jack from a small boy in America to a family farm in Germany and through the nightmare of the war.
“It begins in 1938,” Beason said. “He [Jack] was in Chicago, a little boy in Catholic school. The sisters have to protect him from the bullies. It begins there with his experience, looked down on for having no father, and his mother says, ‘Let’s go visit your grandparents.’” That fateful decision took Jack to Germany, where, because he was an American, he ended up alone in a labor camp and was not able to escape until 1945. The film closes with his liberation and return to the United States.
Now that a script is ready, creation of the film is dependent on a decision, Beason said, about keeping the project within his own Network 7 production company or involving a film studio, with a potential release date of 2021 through 2023.
ATS VP Presents Keynote at WAU
Jiří Moskala, dean of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary and ATS vice president for global evangelism, presented two keynote speeches at Washington Adventist University’s Keogh Conference 2019. The conference, billed as “Re-Examining Church Identity, Unity, and Authority,” took place on the WAU campus in Takoma Park, Maryland, United States, on September 20 and 21.
ATS Sponsors Publication of Holy Spirit Book
As noted in the previous newsletter (ATS Contributes to 13th Annual SAD Biblical Symposium in Peru), a comprehensive book on the topic of the Holy Spirit, published in Portuguese, came out of the South American Division. The 2015 Holy Spirit conference in Brazil produced the most complete book on pneumatology in the history of Adventism, according to ATS president John Reeve. That book is now to be published in English and Spanish under ATS sponsorship. Inter-American Division Publishing Association (IADPA) produced the Spanish edition, and details of the English version have yet to be decided. Release of the book is expected to be before the General Conference Session in June 2020.
New ATS website
A vote at the November 20, 2019, ATS Executive Committee meeting in San Diego, California, United States authorized Michael Younker to explore a new web platform for the atsjats.org site. A more dynamic management system is needed to handle memberships, publications and archives, and event data, the committee decided. Younker’s report is due in January 2020.
Perspective Digest 25th Anniversary
The first quarter 2020 issue of Perspective Digest will introduce its twenty-fifth year of publication, according to editor Gary B. Swanson. This quarterly periodical, produced by the Adventist Theological Society (ATS) for popular readership, appeared in print through 2005. Since then it has been published online, read by more than a thousand monthly visitors in the current year. Fifty percent of the readership is in the United States; the other half represent more than 190 other countries. “We are noticing appreciable growth in readers, some 48 percent,” Swanson said, “who access the publication on their tablets and mobile phones. And we’re grateful for the role that Perspective Digest has played in the mission of ATS.”
Sanctuary Weekend at Walla Walla U
Former president Carl Cosaert is organizing an ATS conference on the doctrine of the sanctuary at Walla Walla University for February 20-22, 2020. Felix Cortez will be the keynote speaker. Cosaert said this will be the first in what he would like to establish as an annual event focusing on the distinctive elements of Adventist beliefs.
Michael Campbell Books
ATS scholar Michael Campbell’s book, 1919: The Untold Story of Adventism’s Struggle with Fundamentalism (Pacific Press, 2019) was released last January. Campbell reports that he completed a sequel titled The Pocket Dictionary of Adventist Beliefs and Lifestyle to be released by Pacific Press in 2020. He is currently writing a book on the story of the Adventist pastor and also a study guide on the sanctuary doctrine.
ATS Chapters Are Growing
A discussion about ATS chapters around the world at the April 2019 executive committee meeting has led officers to begin the process of gathering a worldwide directory of society chapters and contact information.
The November 2019 Executive Committee meeting produced a plan for the next steps in supporting ATS chapters and establishing new ones. A number of ATS leaders, including past presidents, may be asked to oversee a section of the world field, maintain contact with ATS chapters in their territory, and help to develop new chapters.
The overall goal, said ATS president John Reeve, is to build up bilateral conversations among Adventist scholars around the world, helping them to “converse in the world conversations,” “to know and be known,” and create more opportunity for building relationships and trust. This approach is not new to ATS, he pointed out, but is a little more intentional and will likely move Adventist scholarship both more strongly and more quickly.
While this approach will not follow a strict schedule, the guideline would be for ATS representatives to visit chapters every 2-3 years and maintain contact in between. One of the biggest needs, Reeve pointed out, is to reduce the isolation of scholars in some parts of the world. Upcoming chapter development will possibly take place in Indonesia, Colombia, Australia, Italy, Romania, and other countries.
Having active ATS chapters will also prompt symposia and conferences in the future, Reeve said. As an example, the recently established chapter in Papua New Guinea will be the site of a conference in 2020 that begins a series of at least six, and possibly more, conferences around the world on Adventist identities. The conferences will lead to a book compilation on the topic, another frequent positive consequence of chapters that become involved in conferences.
Since it was established in February 2019, the ATS chapter at Southwestern Adventist University, Keene, Texas, United States, has become active with a lecture series about once a month through the school year, according to chapter director Michael Campbell. “We’re planning a conference on the development of Adventist lifestyle in October 2020,” he added.