Monthly Archives: May 2022

The week that was . . .

I was somewhat hesitant to start on this blog, because my laptop is not behaving as it should. From time to time there are days or weeks when the letter “r” does not appear on the screen. The only way I can write something during such a period is to copy the letter “r” and then keep pasting it where it is needed. It’s tremendously annoying. By the way, it seems that Apple knows about the problem and is fixing this flaw for free for part of their MacBook Air production. My device is eligible for it, but then I’ll be without my computer for a week. That has kept me from availing me of this service until now. However, just when I am about ready to throw my laptop out of the window, the problem suddenly stops, only to reappear a few weeks later. And that’s the situation right now . . . I think it is really time to go to an Apple-store and trade in my computer. Especially since the quality of the battery has also seriously deteriorated

However, life is not all doom and gloom. Earlier than I expected, the Dutch version of my book on the Second Coming of Christ appeared last week. In a few days it will be available through the webshop of the Dutch Adventist Church: I hope it will get a good reception and that many readers may find answers to questions they have about this subject. The original English version was published last year by Stanborough Press, the Adventist publishing house in the United Kingdom. It is available through their webshop:

Unfortunately, the books of Stanborough Press are not available through Amazon and other online stores. Normally, Pacific Press in the United States distributes, through the Adventist Book Center network, the books published by Stanborough Press. However, I am getting the impression that, somewhere, someone is blocking the promotion of my book in the US. Too bad. The good news is that there are a number of Adventist publishers in other countries who want to translate the book and release an edition.

Anyone who writes books knows the feeling of euphoria when you finally have the ready-made product in your hands. And even though this is by no means my first book–the total now stands at about thirty–that feeling of satisfaction does not diminish! But satisfaction is also still there when I see an article appear on a popular website. This week Spectrum posted on their website my review of Michael Campbell’s latest book: 1922–the Rise of Adventist Fundamentalism. I hope we will see many more books from his hand. Campbell is developing into a new George Knight, who led the way in Adventist historiography in recent decades.

But, as we stand at the eve of the 61st World Congress of the Church, which will be held in St. Louis (USA) starting June 6, there are omens that are not at all positive. A few days ago an article appeared in the Review, the official journal of the Church, in which Laurel Damsteegt defends the principle of “male headship” as biblical. Laurel is the wife of Gerard Damsteegt, a theologian hails from the Netherlands, who recently retired and is one of the most ardent opponents of ordaining women to the ministry. His wife fully agrees with him. Why this article appears so shortly before the start of the General Conference sessions raises many questions. Is it a regrettable decision on the part of the editor-in-chief? Or has he been pushed by higher powers to publish this article just now?

Something else that raised my eyebrows–to put it carefully–was the announcement that staffers traveling to St. Louis are being called upon to hand out, led by Ted Wilson, 90,000 copies of The Great Controversy to the public in St., Louis just before they begin their work. Well, . . . the members of the nominating committee, and then the delegates, must decide whether they want this kind of activity to continue . . .

Some thoughts about St. Louis

In 1966, I attended a World Congress (a so-called “General Conference”) of our church for the first time. I was a student at Andrews University (Michigan, USA) and drove the 200 miles to Detroit in my rickety Pontiac Tempest on Sabbath to attend a massive meeting of delegates and guests. In 1975, the Dutch Adventist Church arranged for me to attend the General Conference as a guest in Vienna. After that I was, because of my job in the church, five times an official delegate to a world congress: New Orleans (1985); Indianapolis (1990); Utrecht (1995); Toronto (2000) and St. Louis (2005). And in 2010 I was in Atlanta at the invitation of our church journal Review and Herald, to assist in the daily reporting of the proceedings. It was always a pleasure to be part of our quinquennial international celebration.

Two weeks from now, the 61st World Congress, postponed by Covid for two years, will take place in St. Louis, in the American state of Missouri–albeit in a slimmed-down form. I won’t be there, and actually I don’t mind at all. To be honest, I don’t expect much from this General Conference session. And communicating about it with friends and others in my network, I get the feeling that my lack of enthusiasm is shared by many. Why? I think mainly of the following two reasons.

In our postmodern society (which has also greatly impacted on Adventist church life), interest in the church as an institution has gradually significantly declined. This is especially true of the role of the higher echelons of the church’s administration. Especially in the Western world, a large proportion of church members increasingly feel that the church is primarily about the local congregation, and perhaps also somewhat about elements in the church’s organization that have a direct influence on what happens lovally (“conferences” and-sometimes-”unions”). But “divisions” and the “general conference” are a “far from my bed”-show. This tendency, I believe, was clearly reinforced during the Corona period. Therefore, the upcoming World Congress “lives” much less among “ordinary” church members than previous congresses did.

But there is, I think, also another reason why interest in what is about to happen in St. Louis is very limited. Of course, the election of leaders in the church headquarters in Silver Spring and in the regional offices (divisions) is an important item. But, quite generally, there is an expectation (or concern?) that there will be no major personnel shifts, and that therefore the direction of the church will remain largely the same over the next few years. (I hope I am a poor prophet on this point and that we will be faced with pleasant surprises, but I am not very optimistic on that point.)

Other than the elections, the agenda (which has been publicly released) is extremely boring. No major new initiatives are announced, as far as I can see. Perhaps that is, however, a reason to be grateful. I’m glad I don’t find a separate item on the agenda about the ill-fated idea of distributing hundreds of millions of copies of the Great Controversy worldwide, although I do wonder what is hidden under the cryptic agenda item no. 123: Three Angels’ Messages Report.

Unfortunately, there are also hints in the agenda document that the current church leaders do want to give us another push in the orthodox direction Traditionally, delegates are asked to express their confidence in the Bible and in the “spirit of prophecy.” Why this has to be done every five years is beyond me, but aside from that, it is interesting to see how the accompanying documents sometimes undergo changes.

In 2015, the Bible was described as a “reliable record of God’s acts in history from creation to re-creation,” but now the wording is being tightened considerably: “The Bible is reliable in what it affirms. Its record of creation in six literal days, the fall of human beings, a global flood to destroy wickedness and preserve a remnant, Christ’s earthly life, death, and resurrection, as well as God’s numerous interventions in history for the salvation of human beings are trustworthy reports of God’s acts in history (Luke 24:27; Heb 1:1,17 2; 2 Pet 1:21). Prophetically, the fulfillment of predicted events in accordance with prophetic time periods establishes confidence in the Bible as a unique witness to divine truth unlike any other religious book (Isa 46:9, 10; Dan 2, 7, 8; Luke 24:44; 2 Pet 1:19, 20).” (Italics added by me).

Apparently, it is found necessary to make clear at every opportunity exactly what we are to believe regarding the inspiration of the Bible, and which interpretation of the first chapters of Genesis is “truth.”

The statement about the value of the “spirit of prophecy” (read: of the writings of Ellen White) is very disappointing. Not a word is said about the problems surrounding the person and work of Ellen White that have been raised by researchers over the last few decades. When is the church going to get serious about responding to these?

Of course, I will be following the deliberations in St. Louis. For I hope and pray, in spite of everything, that I will see signs of a new momentum in my church and of efforts to make what the church says and does more relevant to the world of today and also to my everyday life.