While this book is entitled “The Adventists’ Dilemma,” and indeed, very much geared to the various Adventists groups, at the heart of the matter is not so much a dilemma applied to one group, but indeed, to so-called literalists across the board. Vick has written to Adventists, a group he is intimately familiar with, but his book encompasses all of those who, without applying a consistent logic throughout, continue to misread Scripture “literally.” Much like his previous work, Vick offers an apologetic of logical reasoning which is done not in fire but in love. His writing style is a little dry, but not so tedious as to make the book unreadable or unenjoyable. Indeed, at times, the dryness allows the reader to disengage herself from the rise of emotion which necessarily will come to light upon reading Vick’s work. By this, I mean that when the reader who is of a literalist persuasion, Adventist or not, begins to read the methods in which Vick uses theological reasoning to combat the areas of wrongly-placed emphasis and poorly drawn conclusions due to a more literalist interpretation of Scripture, it will be natural for the reader to react. Vick’s writing style, then, becomes an asset in that he is not betraying emotion, but sticks to one logical principle after another. There are no polemics in this work; only a calculation of words which should enable to reader to begin to accept the premise of Vick’s work.
This short book (148 pages) is divided into 18 chapters and a postscript. It is a neatly ordered structure, moving from the problem to the examination of what the idea of a ‘soon’ advent is indeed a problem. Following this are a few chapters on how to fix the issue, and simply put, it is about returning to the Text itself. As those familiar with Adventism know, the writings of Ellen White have a predominant place among the group, so much so, that the author suggests in several places that White’s book is often, and I am paraphrasing, seeing them as the Urim and Thummim for biblical interpretation. We don’t see this in other fundamentalist groups, although there is the constant use of the King James (another hold over from the Adventist movement) as well as pseudo-scientific writings deems essential in assuring a questioner that Genesis means what someone else says it means. He calls attention to this fact, which is necessary to confront within themselves first of all, so that later, he can attempt to move the reader back to the New Testament – back to what the Text says – back to Scriptural Authority. Throughout is the master philosopher’s skill made evident. There aren’t giant leaps, but careful steps taken to show the actual dilemma.
The dilemma is simple: the physical return of Jesus is always declared soon. This is the judgment where millions of those alive today will live forever. This is the basic premise of the Adventists’ theology. And, as one can suspect, since 1844, they’ve been wrong. Vick makes the case that by using the word ‘soon’ in such a way, this makes that portion of their theology nonsensical. He’s much softer on this point, more reasoned, than I am, but the point nevertheless, is that once you continue to redefine your words, they will eventually become meaningless. Again, this is where the inclusion of a wider swath of fundamentalism could have been addressed. For instance, in Creation in which some continually redefine what is meant by ‘literal history’ (and by this, I mean, those who add to the days something that they must be able to explain). Again, this book, while written to specifically to the Adventist could easily be addressed to those who take the Scriptures ‘literally,’ without actual study, or who has in many instances, adopted stances previously established by the Adventists. The dilemma, then, is not just the flawed notion of the ‘soon coming of Jesus,’ but a faulty view and use of Scripture.
Vick’s work is measured well for answering Adventists and pushing the non-Adventist into thinking about proper theology. For those interesting in logic and reason as regards to particular theological discussions, Adventist or not, I would urge you to pick up this book.