Monthly Archives: July 2018

Update on some of my activities

I want to use this week’s blog to tell my readers about the status of some of the projects I am working on. I look forward to spending two weeks of vacation in Sweden in early August. It will be good to see our son and our two grandchildren again. Then, following this break, I will embark on a busy program that will take me to Dublin in Ireland, Belgrade in Serbia, Vienna in Austria, Brisbane in Australia, Riga in Latvia, and then to Sweden again. In all these places I will preach, give lectures, do workshops, and hopefully I will also have some time to see a few things and, of course, I hope to meet old friends and meet new friends.

In the past three months I have spent a lot of time in preparing for sermons, lectures and power point presentations.  My aim is to have everything done before we fly to Sweden. It looks like this will happen. But while I have been busy with all these preparations for future events, some writing projects of the recent past are becoming real books!

During the European Pastors’ Council (in Belgrade in the last week of August), the Stanborough Press (the Adventist Publishing House in Great Britain) will launch the English language edition of my last devotional with 366 short portraits of as many men and women in the Bible. Its title will be: Face to Face.  I wrote it originally in Dutch and then translated it also into English. I look forward to soon holding a first copy in my hands.

Last week my newest book saw the light of day. Its topic is Last Generation Theology. I believe that the theories that are found under that umbrella pose a real danger to the individual believer as well as to the church. I have tried to take a pastoral approach and hope many people will read the book and will find my arguments convincing. The book is entitled: In All Humility: Saying No to Last Generation Theology. The English language edition has been published by Oak and Acorn in the USA, which also plans a Spanish edition. I hope there will also be a French and a German version.  The English edition may be ordered from It has about 200 pages and sells for $ 12,99.

I expect that within days the (Brazilian) Portuguese edition of my book FACING DOUBT: A Book for Adventist Believers ‘on the Margins’ will also be ready. Its Portuguese title is: Sair our Permanecer?Um livro para Adventistas que lidam com a dúvida. Some people in Brazil (and In Europe) felt that many Adventists in their country could benefit from this book and they have assisted with the translation, corrections, proofreading, etc.). The book can soon be ordered through and, no doubt, other internet book sellers will also carry it. However, one huge problem remains: How do we promote the book in Brazil and in the Brazilian/Portuguese diaspora?  We hope that we can use the social media, but further suggestions are most welcome!

And then there is a brochure with the title: Basic Alphabet Theology.  The word “alphabet” refers to the capitals that are often used in connection with people who have a non-hetero sexual orientation: LGBTI or LGBTQ. It is an attempt to help my fellow-Adventists believers to better understand what it means to be ‘different’, and to consider what the Bible says about this topic. The brochure is published and distributed by The Coracle Project—(Building Safe Places for Everyone), and is already available (or will soon be) in English, Dutch, French, German, and Swedish.  For more information:

I realize that not everyone is always happy with the stuff that I produce. However, it gives me great satisfaction to contribute to various discussions and I am truly thankful for the fact that many do appreciate my work and tell me that it has helped them on the pilgrimage.

Finally, I suspect that at some point during my vacation and travels there will be a moment of inspiration pointing me to the next book that should be written!


Searching the archive

The Adventist Church has recently embarked on a number of ambitious projects. A group of theological scholars is working on the Seventh-day Adventist International Bible Commentary. The first volume (Genesis) has appeared, so that people may have a taste of what is to come. All the other volumes will be published at the same time. Work has also begun on a new SDA Bible Dictionary and on a new SDA Encyclopedia. I have been asked to write a number of articles for both the Dictionary and the Encyclopedia. Last week I submitted three of my five articles for the Dictionary, and this week I have been working on six of the articles that I have promised to contribute to the Encyclopedia.

In preparation for my Encyclopedia articles I spent a considerable amount of time in the archives of the Netherlands Union. I needed to find certain details of the history of the (now no longer existing) Netherlands theological seminary and secondary school “Oud Zandbergen”, of the history of the publishing activities in the Netherlands, and of the biographies of a number of past union presidents. Some of the things I was looking for were easy to find. In recent years a lot has been done to preserve and catalogue the documents of the past, but some details were not so easy to discover. I decided to go through all the issues of the official Dutch church paper (Advent, formerly Adventbode) of a few decades, looking for some obituaries and for reports of specific events, etc.   I made significant progress but still have some work to do.

Going through the issues of the church paper of the 1960’s 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s was an interesting exercise. During part of this period I served as the editor of this journal. I was rather surprised to see how many articles I had actually written over the years. Some of them I remembered, of some of them I have copies in my own private “archive”, but some I had completely forgotten. It was a special experience to see the names of many people I had known, but who are no longer with us. Suddenly I saw the short obituary for my mother, reminding me that I had given a short biographical sketch of her at her funeral.

What struck me as I went through the months, years, and decades, was to see how many things have remained the same. Some problems tend to stay with us without ever being solved. But, on the other hand, it is startling to see how much has actually changed. New local churches have been  organized, while other churches disappeared. Institutions grew and prospered, but also faced challenges and in some cases ceased to operate. Leaders came and moved off the scene. I read the reports of ordinations of colleagues who are now dead or long retired. Period of financial strengths were followed by periods of financial drought. From time to time theological unrest—either homebred or imported—caused confusion, but eventually the focus shifted again to other matters. New slogans for evangelism and new initiatives found support, but usually only had a limited lifespan.

In some ways, this exercise made me sad. In spite of all the hard work of so many people; in spite of the tens of millions of guilders and euros that were invested; in spite of the many publications; in spite of all the energy invested by clergy and lay members—the church in the Netherlands is still a small community that, after all these years, continues to struggle with many issues, and has not really made a significant impact on Dutch society. On the other hand, this exercise encourages me and gives me hope. The church has survived countless difficulties. Thousands of men and women found a spiritual haven in our, admittedly far from perfect, spiritual community. And though change has often been difficult and slow, many things did changed over time. Perhaps (so I said to myself) I need a bit more patience. Things do change. I am committed to my church, even though there are quite a few things I do not like in my church, but change is possible. That is one of the lessons the history of my church teaches me.

The eternal gospel

Matthew 24:14 is perhaps one of the best known Bible texts for Seventh-day Adventists: ‘And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come’ (NIV). It is a texts that seems to give us a clear direction. Just persevere a little longer and remain active! Then, when people everywhere have heard the message of Christ, He will return!

Yes, it seems straightforward, and yet it raises a number of questions. I will mention just a few of them:

  1. What is the gospel (the good news) that is to be preached everywhere? Is the ‘eternal gospel’ to be identified with the messages of the three angels that fly towards us in Revelation 14? And are those of my fellow-Adventists right who maintain that ‘the gospel’ must be defined as the specific Adventist interpretation of the biblical message?
  2. The question that follows directly from the previous one is: Is the task to preach the gospel to the world the exclusive assignment of Seventh-day Adventists? Or is it a common project for all Christians? I am glad that already almost a century ago my church stated its position in this regard. In the thick tome with all the policies of the worldwide Adventist Church (Working Pollicy) it is said quite clearly:  ‘We recognize those agencies that lift up Christ before men as a part of the divine plan for evangelization of the world, and we hold in high esteem Christian men and women in other communions who are engaged in winning souls to Christ. (Policy O 75). This is the official position of the Adventist Church. Unfortunately, many Adventist church members seem not to be aware of this.
  3. How far have we progressed with preaching the gospel? The strong growth of the membership of the Adventist Church (now almost twenty million baptized members) seems to indicate that things are going quite well. But other statistics give much reason for concern. The world’s population is increasing at an alarming rate. This is also true of the number of men and women who take leave of the Christian faith. Missiologists tell us that a century ago about thirty percent of the people in the world had in some way or another been ‘reached’ with the gospel. They also tell us that, one century later, the total population of the world has dramatically increased, and so has the number of Christians. But the percentage of people that have been ‘reached’ in a meaningful way in today’s world has static at the level of about thirty percent.
  4. The mission mandate is: ‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you’ (Matthew 28:19). ‘All nations’—this phrase is not to be interpreted as referring to the just over 220 nation states that the United Nations recognize, but it refers to the many thousands of ethnic groups that are spread over the globe. God’s people consists of men and women ‘from every nation, tribe, people, and language’ (Rev. 7:9). This means that all barriers of culture and languages must be superseded. How well are we doing in this regard? Just look nearby. Dot we effectively communicate the gospel in the language of asylum seekers and refugees? And in the language of the millennials, for the matter?
  5. Will the job ever be completed? Even if the proclamation of the gospel would suddenly accelerate in a miraculous manner, we are still faced with the problem that on every single day some 300.000 children are born into this world. This amounts to some 110 million annually. How will we ever reach the point that all people on earth have heard the gospel?

It is not difficult to add a few more questions. To most questions I do not know the answers. But I try to simply hang on to the firm promise of the Lord that He will return! There is no question about that. And I am convinced that we must continue with telling others about what Christ can do for them.

And then? It is a matter of living the gospel. And trusting that God will somehow solve the problems that we struggle with. And who knows: He may have some interesting surprises for us.

Black and White

On September 22, 1943 the 66-year old Lucille Byard was brought by her husband to Washington, DC. She was suffering from liver cancer in a terminal phase. Through her pastor contact had been made with the Washington Adventist Hospital. The response had been positive: Lucille could be admitted. However, the request that Lucille would be admitted to the hospital had not indicated that she was black, and the rules of the (Adventist) hospital did not allow for admittance of black patients. When James Byard and his wife Lucille arrived at the doors of the hospital, after a long and tiring journey by train, the color of Lucille’s skin proved to be a insurmountable barrier and they had to find another hospital where Lucille would be welcome.

In his recent book about the history of racial issues in the Adventist Church[1]. Dr. Calvin B. Rock mentions this sad occurrence as one of the incidents that stirred the emotions among the steadily growing number of black Adventists in the United States. Dr. Rock (now retired) was a prominent black church leader, who served from 1985 to 2002 as a General Conference vice-president. As no one else Rock was able to acquaint us with the equally fascinating as tragic black (in a double sense) pages of Adventist History—the record of the struggle for equal treatment in and by the church and to have a fair share in the governance of the church.

I feel deeply ashamed to know that my church was much slower than most other Christian denominations in correcting the flagrant injustices Black members were subjected to, just because they were not White. Several of the earliest leaders of the church were ahead of their times regarding the issue of racial equality, but later generations of leaders tended to walk to a very different tune. Unfortunately, we discover time and again that all forms of racial inequality in the Adventist Church do not yet belong to the past.

Did we learn our lessons from this sad state of affairs in the past? In answering this question we much be careful not to fall into generalizations. However, sadly enough, once again the Adventist Church is slower than most other Christian faith communities with regard to discrimination. Today we still see discrimination in particular on the basis of gender. Even today men and women are not treated as fully equal in many parts of our church. The issue whether women, just like men, can be ordained as pastors hides the underlying refusal to fully emancipate women. As a member of the Adventist Church and as a (male) pastor this fills me with shame. The Bible texts that are usually cited fail to impress me. They were written in a very different social context. And those who refused to admit Lucille Byard and those who were against black leadership were also able to quote their Bible texts.

I have long ago concluded that such a use (or abuse) of the Bible is squarely condemned by the third of the Ten Commandments. It is a ‘taking of the name of the Lord in vain’ or: a scandalous misuse of the Word of God!  This commandment is not just about swearing but about linking the name of God to things that are utterly wrong and indefensible.

[1] Protest and Progress: Black Seventh-day Adventist Leadership and the Push for Parity(Berrien Springs, ML: Andrews University Press, 2018).