8 September 2021  |

Read this essay in preparation for the class.

Excerpts of the four points:

1. The enemy

Some Christian leaders rushed to Islam’s defense. Yet I also received an email written by a clergyman, that was just short of Hitlerian in its bigotry and willful misinterpretation of the theology and social system of Islam. It advised us not to believe a word we heard from moderate Islamic leaders or their Christian defenders. In this man’s assessment, Islam was fundamentally hateful, its whole agenda the destruction of Western civilization.

Let us admit it is probably impossible for us to understand the Islamic faith from the outside with much accuracy. I can make a few assumptions, though, based on what I know about human beings. I can assume that some Moslems are liars, others honest. Some are angry, some peace-loving. Some bigoted, some thoughtful. Some sincerely wrong, others angrily right. In short, they are quite like us.

2. Understanding war

That countries may have to fight to prevent terrorism is clear. That we ought to honor and encourage soldiers who risk their lives in such a cause is also clear. Yet it is equally clear that we should find the entire enterprise of war thoroughly regrettable.

Let us be painfully, startlingly aware of one thing: War will always result in innocent people suffering. When faced with war, the best we can do is to choose the slightly better of bad options, which will result in nothing more than the slightly better of bad outcomes. So let us be sure that we do not spend a moment engaging in a sentimental glorification of war or of our fighting capabilities. The only thing that makes it possible for a fully-aware Christian to fight a war is the hope that the sum total of tears that will be shed because of fighting the war will be fewer than the sum total of tears that would have been shed had we not fought. And those are sums that, short of heaven, we shall never possess the ability to calculate accurately.

3. Calming fears

Even on 9/11, the average American was not in immediate danger from terrorism. Even on 9/11, the terrorist threat to our lives diminished beside the overall statistical threat of death in an auto accident. Yet there need be no actual danger in order for us to feel afraid. Supposing ourselves in danger will suffice.

The proper pastoral response to such widespread anxiety, it seems to me, is to offer people not external, but internal comfort. Not comfort they must purchase, or manage by their own judgment, strength and reflexes, but comfort that comes from gaining a deeply spiritual perspective on how one handles the matter of living on a troubled earth resting in the hand of God Himself. Let us begin with the proposition that God still answers prayers that plead for His comforting presence. “Let not your hearts be troubled” still applies.

As does the rest of the passage: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30). Note that the burden Jesus has been carrying (and that He offers to us) is a light burden! Clearly, Jesus is not as worried about the future (or, for that matter, war, the stock market, or the time of the end) as we are! That is because Jesus knows that by the mercy of His Father all things will ultimately redound to the good of those who love God. After all, Jesus Himself lived with the knowledge that He was going to die a violent death and trusted His Father to carry Him through.

4. A truthful eschatology

Shortly after last 9/11 I heard a radio preacher explain a passage in Revelation that he supposed specifically fitted the World Trade Center disaster into Bible prophecy. He spoke with great assurance, and I suspect some listeners found immediate comfort in his words. Whether or not he is right is something we’ll only be able to evaluate in the future (though it is unlikely that we will, for by then we’ll all have moved on to a new crisis and 9/11 will fade into history). Yet I was concerned about his presentation. He was interpreting complex Bible passages in order to predict the details of world events and politics. By extending himself so far from the text and being so specific, he was indulging in the kind of imaginative speculation with God’s Word that others do with Nostradamus or tarot cards.

Lost in the details was the foundational message of all eschatology: that God is in charge of the ultimate fate of this earth. An honest eschatology assures of God’s jurisdiction over earthly and political affairs, without taking liberties with God’s Word. Eschatology succeeds if it teaches people to trust our Lord to keep His eyes on world events, while we “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). There is little in this broken world, and even less in its political and social structures, that we can repair ourselves.

The most helpful principle I have found for interpreting prophecy is from the words of Jesus in John 16:4 when He warned His disciples about the future troubles they could expect to come to them: “‘I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you’” (NIV).


Panel:

Today’s program will be a panel of friends remembering 9/11/2001. Panel members: Christopher Thompson, Jonathan Butler, Frank Merendino, Raj Attiken, Stephen Ferguson, Lindsey Abston Painter, Loren Seibold, John McLarty.

Moderator:

Loren Seibold is the Executive Editor of Adventist Today.

How to join:

This presentation is over.

When:

ATSS starting time depends on where you are. If you’re on the west coast of the United States, it’ll be 10:30 AM. On the east coast, 1:30 PM.

Times around the world:

  • Reykjavík: 5:30 PM
  • College Place: 10:30 AM
  • Lincoln: 12:30 PM
  • Denver: 11:30 AM
  • Bracknell: 6:30 PM
  • Loma Linda: 10:30 AM
  • Nairobi: 8:30 PM
  • Gackle: 12:30 PM
  • Hosur: 11:00 PM
  • Waco: 12:30 PM
  • Tulsa: 12:30 PM
  • Helsinki: 8:30 PM
  • Stockholm: 7:30 PM
  • Hamburg: 7:30 PM
  • Capetown: 7:30 PM
  • Madrid: 7:30 PM
  • Paris: 7:30 PM
  • Honolulu: 7:30 AM
  • Cooranbong: 3:30 AM (Sunday)
  • Perth: 1:30 AM (Sunday)

The class is intended to last about 2 hours, though the conversation often continues to 4 PM.

About our class:

  • The AT Sabbath Seminar is intended to be a courteous forum. We discuss and ask questions politely. We don’t accuse, get angry, or put people down.
  • Make your comments and questions short—don’t dominate.
  • Keep your microphones muted unless you are called upon to make your comment or ask your question.
  • Indicate your interest in speaking by raising your electronic hand—under the “reactions” button.
  • Those who make accusations or unkind statements will be muted or removed.
  • Please use your name when you sign in! Not your phone number, not your initials. This will help us differentiate you from unwelcome guests who want to disrupt us. You can set your name after signing on by clicking on the 3 dots next to your picture, which drops down a menu.
  • If it should happen that we are attacked so that we have to stop the meeting, we’ll quickly post a new meeting link on our AT Facebook page.

We look forward to getting acquainted with you!

Coming up:

  • 11 September: Remembering September 11, 2001
  • 18 September: Julius Nam
  • 25 September: John Mclarty
  • October: Laura Wibberding
  • Denis Fortin on Ecumenism
  • Stanley Patterson

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