A Brief History of Seventh-day Adventists by George Knight (2004)
F (Special note: except for one large error, this book would rate a “B“)
George Knight has brought together in one short, easy-to-understand volume, the entire history of the Seventh-day Adventist church, with a focus on the early development. The layout is logical and very informative, and except for the one large error near the end of the book, could be recommended to everyone with an interest in the hows and whats of Seventh-day Adventist history.
Personally, i have typed in several William Miller books, and have read all the early Adventist material that i know of available, so have a pretty good picture of the history of our church, but was pleasantly surprised to find things mentioned that are not only important, but in the correct framework, without too much “philosophising” that is so prevalent in most written works of today.
The “Millerite Roots” section deals with of course William Miller, but also details Joshua Himes, who was the great promoter for the Advent message. “More important, however, Himes also had a forceful role in developing the Adventist camp meeting.” He then goes on to show how the camp meeting was prominent in pulling together the early Adventists.
Charles Fitch started preaching the Fall of Babylon in the summer of 1843, placing the 2nd Angel’s Message to having started by at least 1843. Josiah Litch’s prediction of the fall of the Ottoman empire is not mentioned, and the electrifying influence of the fall of the stars in 1833 etc. is not mentioned, but all in all, the high points are covered very well, showing how God has been leading this one little band of the 3 that originally carried on the Adventist faith after the Great Disappointment in 1844.
The early days with the fanaticism and publishing work starting and move to Battle Creek etc. is all covered very well. The way the distinctive doctrines of the SDA church – the present truth – is described, giving a good explanation of the influence of Ellen White in the process. God did not have her come up with the doctrines herself, but instead, after long, hard study of the Bible by the church leaders, God would often give a vision showing the validity of the positions taken. In the case of when to start Sabbath worship, there was difference of opinion, with even Ellen White herself opting for the 6pm position, until God showed her in vision that it starts at sunset, the position of the majority at that time. But in the area of lifestyle, such as foods and dress etc., God often gave her visions showing things to her first, and then she relating it on to others.
The debacle with the Minneapolis conference in 1888 is covered well, and Ellen White’s role in the affairs. Unexpectedly, Knight shows that the main leaders at that time were against Ellen White, and rejected the message. Then the book goes mostly into the SDA educational work and missionary work, highlighting the rapid progress of spreading the message and the acceptance by more and more people.
But it is also in this time frame that the book starts to show a bias towards making events happening in the SDA church be an expression of what is happening in society as a large. He doesn’t say it in so many words, but the impression i recevied, is that things were done at certain times and in certain ways because that was what the norm of society was then. Yes, i do understand the idea that for example dress and food and lifestyles etc. reflect the outward society to a large degree, but the impression he leaves – that society is driving the church, and not that the church is being pulled by Jesus – is troubling to me.
Starting in the next section about the turn of the century and the church’s reorganization and Battle Creek Sanitarium loss with Kellogg etc., his tone seems to change a bit from historian to critiquer, losing some of the focus of the book.
With the quote on page 129 tho, he loses all credibility as a historian. This quote forces me give this book a “F”.
“Of particular importance to Adventism was the showdown between Protestant liberalism and fundamentalism. The core of the struggle between the liberals and the fundamentalists involved the nature of inspiration and revelation. Adventism at its best tended to follow the lead of Ellen White, who argued for thought inspiration rather than verbal inspiration and thus led Adventism away from ideas of inerrancy and infallibility. The Bible, she held, was infallible in the realm of salvation, but it was not infallible or inerrant in the radical sense of being beyond any possibility of factual difficulties or errors.”
“…..A. G. Daniells and W. C. White, who continually pressed for a reasonalbe and not overly rigid view of the inspiration of the Bible and Ellen White’s writings. Jones eventually rejected Ellen White because of her commonsense flexibility on inspiration – a position that conflicted with his doctrinaire rigidity.
“Unfortunately, the force and magnitude of the struggles in American Protestantism during the 1920s destroyed the careful balance advocated by the Whites and Daniells. That decade saw the polarization on the topics of verbalism and inerrancy between the fundamentalists and the liberals. While the liberals explained away the divinity of Scripture, the fundamentalists made their definitions so rigid that they are still warring over them three quarters of a century later.
“Adventism found itself caught in the midst of the crisis over inspiration and, in the process, unfortunately, lost its balanced position. Events sidelined Daniells, Prescott, W. C. White, and other moderates on the topic of inspiration during the 1920s, as the church, in a fearful and reactionary mood, even went so far as to publish a General Conference-sponsored textbook for Adventist colleges that explicitly denied Ellen White’s moderate postition on thought inspiration and argued for inerrancy and the verbal inspiration of every word.”
Yes, even tho all the scholars in the land say otherwise, may we follow Jesus and do what he did when tempted, in saying to the devil: “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by evey word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” How many words? Just the ones we like? Just the ones we think are inspired? Or EVERY WORD that proceeds from the mouth of God?
Let’s be balanced on the great High-Beam called the Word of God.