Monthly Archives: August 2020


It is early Friday morning in the Netherlands. A few hours ago President Donald Trump was officially elected as a candidate for the Republican party in the presidential elections that will take place on November 3 in the United States. He will, together with Mike Pence, as candidate for the vice-presidency, take on the Democratic Joe Biden, with Kamala Harris as Biden’s “running mate”. It will be extremely exciting andI will follow the battle closely in the coming weeks, and am already looking forward to the first debate between Trump and Biden on September 29th.

One element that plays an important role in this election is age. Again and again, the Republicans insist that Biden is far too old to be president. He is now 77 and he will be 78 (if he wins) when he begins his term as president of the US. Of course, the Republicans have a point. But then honesty demands that they recognize that their Donald also left his youth far behind. He was born on 14 June 1946 and is now 74 years old. If he wins, he will reach the age of 78 years by the end of his second term!

In the United States people look at age in a different way than people do in the Netherlands. We have an official retirement age (currently 66 years and 4 months) and find it normal when people simply retire, or are told to leave their jobs. In the United States the moment people want to stop working is mostly left to their own choice. As a result, many people continue to work well into their seventies, or even considerably longer. (Unfortunately, in “rich America” many people cannot afford to retire earlier).

I can’t deny that I would have liked to continue working for a while, when I had to retire at age 65, and was (I think) mentally and physically able to do so. I would therefore applaud a bit more flexibilityin dealing with the moment when people stop working than we do in the Netherlands. That does not alter the fact that you have to ask yourself whether people at age 78 still should aspire to an incredibly hard job. One would say that among 328 million Americans there must be some suitable younger leaders. By the way, we also have to keep an eye on that aspect when we choose new leaders for the worldwide Adventist Church in 2021. The current president, Ted N.C. Wilson will be 71 when the upcoming church elections take place, and hopefully the question will come up (among a series of other considerations, I hope) whether it is wise to re-elect someone over 70 as the most important leader of the church.

There was a different age issue in the Dutch media last week. Now that the Corona crisis continues and it is feared that a second wave of infections will occur, some are suggesting that the elderly might go into some kind of prolonged light quarantine. After all, they are among the most vulnerable in society, so the argument goes. Young people should be especially careful not to infect grandparents and other older people. If the elderly are willing to withdraw from social life, young people will be able to move and operate more freely. Surely the elderly should be willing to do that for the younger generation.

I can get angry about the fact that the elderly are constantly described as “vulnerable” people. The fact that there was so much mortality in nursing homes was mainly due to how the Corona danger was dealt with in the beginning of the pandemic. Moreover, there are very many elderly people who are vital and much less vulnerable than countless others in other age groups. However, the biggest objection is that we have to do everything we can to prevent a division in society between old and young. A healthy society consists of people of all different ages who can freely interact. Also in the governments and in the boards of organizations (and of the church) there must be a balance between people of different ages.

Whether it is wise to put someone of 78 on the highest post is a reasonable question. But in some cases it might be better to have someone of 78 than of 74.

My books and where to get them

I enjoy writing books. But nowadays authors must also play a role in the marketing of their books. Regularly people ask me what books of mine are currently available and where they can be bought.
Below is a list of recent English and Dutch books that are in print, with information where they can be ordered (in italics}.


I have a future: Christ’s Resurrection and Mine
Stanborough Press, 2019
In USA: Adventist Book Center / amazon
In Europe:

Daily Devotional: Face-to-Face with 365 People from Bible Times
Autumn House Publications Europe, 2018
In USA: Adventist Book Center
In Europe:

In All Humility: Saying “No” to Last Generation Theology
Oak and Acorn, 2018 / /

Facing doubt: A Book for Adventist Believers ‘on the Margins’
Flanko Press, UK, 2016 / /

It’s Time to Stop Rehearsing What We Believe and start Looking at What Difference It Makes
Pacific Press Publishing Association. 2014
In USA: Adventist Book Center /
In Europe:

The Body of Christ: A Biblical Understanding of the Church
Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2009
In USA: Adventist Book Center / amazon
In Europe: /. amazon

Key Words of the Christian Faith
Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2008
In USA: Adventist Book Center / amazon
In Europe: / amazon /


Ik Heb een Toekomst: Over Dood, Opstanding en Eeuwig Leven
Kerk van de Zevende-dags Adventisten, 2019
Service Center van de Adventkerk:

Christelijk denken en doen: Hoe Geloof je Leven Richting Geeft
Uitgeverij Boekscout en Uitgeverij Boekencentrum, 2019
May also be ordered in regular bookshops.

Gaan of Blijven: Een Boek voor Adventisten aan de Zijlijn, 2016
Flanko Press, UK, 2016 / /

Bijbels Dagboek: 366 Ontmoetingen met God en met Mensen zoals wij
Kerk van de Zevende-dags Adventisten, 2015
Service Center van de Adventkerk:

Bijbels Dagboek: Een Kwestie van Kiezen
Kerk van de Zevende-dags Adventisten, 2012
Service Center van de Adventkerk:

Kerk van de Zevende-dags Adventisten, 2009
Service Center van de Adventkerk:

Het Avontuur van je Leven: Op Zoek naar God en Jezelf
Kerk van de Zevende-dags Adventisten, 2006
Service Center van de Adventkerk:

Dr. Phil and loneliness

Yesterday I happened to see a Dr. Phil show on one of the Dutch commercial channels. This is not a channel I often watch. And Dr. Phil’s show isn’t at the top of my list of “favorites.” A few years ago my wife and I got a tour of the Paramount studios in Los Angeles and we saw, among other things, the studio where Dr. Phil’s program is recorded. It is a very popular program of which there have been about 2700 episodes since 2002. Dr. Phil McGraw (as his full name is) became famous from the moment he regularly appeared on the Opra Winfrey show. Since then he got his own program, in which relational and lifestyle problems are central. I continue to be amazed that people are willing to have their most intimate problems analyzed by Dr. Phil in front of the cameras, with an adiene of tens of millions of people.

Yesterday I saw an episode in which a (American) woman of (I guess) 60-plus was the main person. She had, I understood, become a widow and had subsequently tried to find a friend via a dating site. In this way she had come into contact with three different men. She enjoyed the contacts she had gotten with these men. She was addressed with all kinds of affectionate names, and she enjoyed the constant assurances that she was an extraordinarily sweet and special woman. But none of these men lived in the U.S., and while these online “relationships” had now flourished for a few years, she had not met any of these men in person. What these men had in common was that they (according to what they said) went from one hardship to the next, and needed urgent help to get out of their acute financial problems. Their “sweetheart” in the U.S. was sensitive to such pleas and wired them in the last three years a total of no less than $266,000.

The sad story showed that this was not a rich lady. On the contrary. She had taken out an extra mortgage on her house, sold valuables, took out loans, etcetera. Now, during Dr. Phil’s program, she finally realized she’d been swindled in a sophisticated way. During the conversation, it also became clear what had made her so susceptible to the scams of her three friends. It can be summed up in one word: LONELINESS

(We have seen all too often also in the world of religion that people with modest financial means fall victim to swindlers who cleverly exploit others (often older women). Televangelists, but also leaders of other so called “independent ministries,” are often masters in relieving their victims’ of their last bit of savings).

But, back to the lady in Dr. Phil’s program. Unfortunately, loneliness is a great problem that leads many (especially, but not exclusively) elderly people to desperation. Most of them don’t appear in talk shows. Of some we suspect that they are lonely, but many try to keep it hidden that they are lonely. During the past few months it has been extra hard for many people to see and talk to others. Now that social life is starting up again, it is obvious that our priority is to visit (or receive visits from) family and friends. But, unfortunately, there are too many people who can’t expect a family visit and don’t have any kind of social network. They are people who are lonely. Couldn’t we decide that we also regularly visit someone who doesn’t belong to our immediate family or our circle of friends, but of whom we know (or suspect) that he/she is lonely and would enjoy a little personal attention? Surely that shouldn’t be too difficult. . .?!

Farewell to fundamentalism – 2.0

During the academic year 1965/1966 I studied at Andrews University in Berrien Springs (MI, USA), with the aim of obtaining a master’s degree in theology. I succeeded and after a little more than a year I got my MA degree with the mention cum laude. I always look back on that period in a very positive way. It was hard work, and financially very tough. That we survived depended to a large extent on my wife, who had found a job in the book bindery of the university.

The study during that year was very important for my theological development. One could say that I left for America as a fundamentalist and came back as a liberal-thinking theologian. The person I will always be grateful to in this context is Dr. Sakae Kubo, who is now in his 90s, and with whom I still have occasional mail contact. Through his lectures Introduction to the New Testament I was for the first time confronted with all kinds of critical questions about the origin of the Bible. During a conversation I had with him in his office he advised me to read James Barr’s book Fundamentalism. This is still recommended reading for anyone who has questions about the inspiration of the Bible. How did the Bible originate? Is everything in it historically accurate? Do you have to take everything literally? Or is there another way of reading the Scriptures? And so on. Reading this book was a turning point in my thinking. It’s still in my library and every now and then I browse through it and remember my conversations with Dr. Kubo.

During this past week I read a book that I will from now onwards consider as a sequel to James Barr’s book. It will have a place on the shelf next to Barr’s book. During a Zoom meeting of an American Sabbath school someone referred to this book. What I heard caught my attention, and I decided to order it through Amazon. The book is called The Human Faces of God, and was written by a certain Thom Stark (of whom I had never heard before).

I have to say that the content of this book is rather heavy-going, not so much because the author uses difficult language or presents complicated arguments, but because he deals with problems that most Bible readers prefer to avoid. And it’s not just about contradictions in the biblical stories, such as (to give just one example) whether it was David or a certain Elhanan who killed Goliath. No, it is mainly about much more worrisome matters, e.g. about texts that seem to indicate that also in Israel children were sacrificed (with God’s approval!), and that monotheism was only slowly replacing polytheism. For me the most confrontational part was the chapter on the conquest of the promised land, which the author describes as outright genocide.

Many other topics are also discussed, but in the end the crucial question is: Can a book like the Bible, which has so many problems, if you look at it critically, still have value for us as Christians today? Can it still be authoritative? Yes, says Thom Stark. The Bible doesn’t have to be perfect to have great value for us. He compares it with the authority we have as parents over our children. That authority doesn’t presuppose that we never make mistakes. For the author of this book, the Bible remains an extremely important resource for our life of faith. He is convinced that we can still hear God’s voice in the Bible, even though there are many things in it that will continue to bother us.

On one of the last pages of the book I was struck by a short paragraph that I underlined. It will give me food for though for some time to come.
God is not confined to the pages of a book. God has the power to speak to us, and always chooses to speak to us, only to the extent that we are willing to listen. Listening to God means being willing to listen to the wholly Other—to the alien, to the stranger, to the enemy, to the heretic, to the fundamentalist. If God can speak to Balaam through an ass, God can speak to a Baptist [and to an Adventist; RB] through an atheist. The key is knowing how to listen for God’s voice, and that takes practice, and that takes community (p. 237).

The mask and the necktie

Since the coronavirus disrupted our every-day life, I have not used the train. I missed it, because I like to travel by train. I allow myself a certain luxury, because as long as I can remember I have opted for first class. That gives peace and quiet and makes it easier to enjoy a good book. As a senior citizen I can travel with a discount card, which also gives me the pleasure of six free train journeys a year, within the Dutch borders. Since a few weeks we are allowed to take the train again, also for non-essential journeys. And, as an e-mail from the Dutch Railways informed me a few days ago, there is a free trip waiting for me in the next two months. It’s just a matter of a few simple actions at the vending machine at the entrance of the station, and I can get on the train for free – to Maastricht or Groningen, or anywhere else, and of course the return fare is also free!

But… if I’m going to take advantage of my free train ride in the next week or so, I’ll have to wear a mask. Although it’s still not scientifically established whether masks are really effective to prevent the spread of this terrible Corona-virus, the Dutch government has made it compulsory to wear masks in public transport. So, I will have to comply. By the way, my wife and I have already had a supply of masks for a few weeks, and yesterday my wife brought another box of 50 masks home from the supermarket. After all, you don’t know, whether at some point, a Corona flare-up will be discovered in our village, with the result that we will have to wear a mask when going to the supermarket.

In the meantime, according to several experts, it is doubtful whether making masks compulsory is completely legal. A little over a year ago a law came into effect in the Netherlands that forbids the wearing of a nikab in public transport, in schools and in government institutions. The most important argument was public safety: one should be able to look other persons in the eye and recognize them quickly! The new law also applied to integral helmets and balaclavas, but it mainly affected Muslim women who insisted on wearing a nikab (which was also the intention of the initiators of the law). However, a problem presents itself: According to several prominent lawyers, the government is going against the law it introduced a year ago, by making it compulsory to wear masks, since these also cover most of the face. Undoubtedly extended legal battles will follow.

In the meantime, some wonder whether the Corona-mask will become so common that it will soon be a permanent part of how we dress. Fashion designers are already busy turning the mask into a “fashion statement”. And let’s face it, fashion changes and certain garments come and go. Both the bra and the necktie only became generally accepted in our western world from the end of the nineteenth century onwards. In any case, the necktie is now clearly on its way out. It hasn’t been that long ago that I didn’t want to appear anywhere without a tie. Now there are about fifty ties hanging aimlessly in my closet. Actually, nowadays I only wear a necktie when I’m preaching or attend a funeral.

Will, before too long, the necktie disappear forever and will the mask become a permanent part of our outfit? Who knows? By the way, we can just wait for inventive people to use this new “garment” as an evangelistic tool – to communicate a religious symbol or a pious slogan. But be reassured, the specimens we have purchased are completely neutral.