Good News for Seventh-Day Adventists
The Shaking of Adventism
Geoffrey J. Paxton
Adventists: Heirs of the Reformation
Seventh-day Adventists have been very misunderstood. The reasons for this are no doubt complex. But whatever the reasons, the fact remains that most critiques of Adventism have failed to reach the heart of the matter. Adventists have often had trouble recognizing themselves in such analyses.
The impression that Seventh-day Adventism is little better than a non-Christian sect will not stand close examination. Adventists believe in the Holy Trinity, the deity of Christ, the virgin birth, the sinless life and atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross, and His bodily resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Father. This is not the creed of a non-Christian sect. Furthermore, Seventh-day Adventists believe in salvation by grace through faith alone as fervently as do most evangelicals. They believe in sanctification by the indwelling Holy Spirit and in the soon return of Jesus Christ in great power and glory. No, whatever we think of this or that Adventist "distinctive," we have to recognize the movement as being Christian.
It is sometimes said that Seventh-day Adventists claim salvation by Sabbath-keeping. But in my contact with them, I have never once heard this. Adventists do not believe they are accepted by God because they keep the Sabbath any more than they believe they are accepted by God because they practice monogamy!
If Adventists are regarded as Christian, they are often thought of as those who "major on minors." But those Adventists who have given support to this accusation can hardly be seen as faithful to the heartthrob of the Adventist mission. In fact, when viewed in the light of the real Adventist claim, this accusation will be seen as wide of the mark.
The Adventist Claim
What, then, is the real Adventist claim? How does he see his mission here on earth? What does he see as his reason for existence?
The Adventist views himself as standing in the line of the Protestant Reformation. He regards himself as Protestant in the truest sense of the word. Where other Christians would not claim to stand in the line of the sixteenth-century Reformers, the Adventist is in no doubt about it. He is a son of Luther and Calvin.
That, however, is not all. In fact, it is hardly the beginning. At this point some of us evangelical-Reformed Christians might be in for a shock. Yet the fact is that the Seventh-day Adventist sees himself as standing in a unique relation to the Reformation. He believes that God has called him to carry forward the message of the Reformation in such a way as no other Christian or Christian body is able to do. In his opinion the Seventh-day Adventist is God's special heir of the Reformers. Only through the Adventist Church can the work of the Reformation be carried to its God-designed end.
Obviously, the existence of such a stupendous claim will require verification. As far as Adventists are concerned, we could hardly commence with a more prestigious testimony than that of Mrs. Ellen G. White. Mrs. White saw the Adventist movement as standing in the line of Luther and Calvin and, of course, Paul before them.
In her sizeable work, The Great Controversy, Mrs. White views the great battle between Christ and Satan as stretching from the antecedents of the Reformation (in such men as Huss and Wycliffe), through the Reformers themselves and their battle against Rome, to the Puritans and Wesley, and finally to the Seventh-day Adventist movement itself. Mrs. White writes:
Thus the Waldenses witnessed for God centuries before the birth of Luther. Scattered over many lands, they planted the seeds of the Reformation that began in the time of Wycliffe, grew broad and deep in the days of Luther, and is to be carried forward to the close of time by those who also are willing to suffer all things for "the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ." Revelation 1:9. (1)
A frequent theme in Adventist writing and speaking is that of forwarding the Reformation. Mrs. White speaks of this as follows: "The Reformation did not, as many suppose, end with Luther. It is to be continued to the close of this world's history Luther had a great work to do... " (2) Indeed, the Reformation did not end with Luther. It will end with the Adventist movement, however—at least as far as the Seventh-day Adventist is concerned. He believes that the challenge from God to be "willing to suffer all things for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ" has come to his movement with unique force.
Mrs. White saw Luther as teaching the doctrine of justification by faith with brilliant clarity (3) Luther was no inventor or innovator: "Christ was a protestant. ... Luther and his followers did not invent the reformed religion. They simply accepted it as presented by Christ and the apostles." (4) In such statements from Mrs. White it is clear that she saw neither herself nor Adventism in general as a "Johnny-come-lately" religious phenomenon. The movement was to receive and carry forward the torch of the everlasting gospel of the Reformation.
W. W. Prescott reinforces this perspective of Mrs. White. In the early years of this century Prescott edited an Adventist publication called The Protestant Magazine. It makes it clear that Adventists are the guardians of the Protestant heritage in a climate of modernism and spiritual declension. The magazine laments:
The departure of Protestantism from its original principles, and the acceptance of human philosophy in place of revealed truth, are giving to Romanism the opportunity to put forward with a greater show of plausibility the claim that the great Reformation was a delusion and that the only stability of truth is found in the Roman communion. (5)
No apology is offered for the magazine's being a Protestant publication. Rather, it is said that the times demand such a magazine. The declaration made by the protesting princes at the Diet of Spires in 1529 is adopted as indicative of the magazine's stance. (6)
Carlyle B. Haynes published a work entitled The Hour of God's Judgment and included a chapter on "Completing the Unfinished Reformation." (7) Haynes carries on the line of reasoning which we found in Mrs. White. The great light of the gospel was given in the Reformation and handed down via the Puritans and Wesley to the little Adventist band in 1844. (8) The mission of the God-chosen torch bearers of 1844 is stated as follows:
... in 1844, the time for the revelation of the fullness of gospel truth came. If the prophecy of Daniel eight be fulfilled, and assuredly it must be, then in 1844, we must confidently look for the beginning of a movement and a message which not only will complete an arrested Reformation, but also will disclose again to the knowledge of mankind all those truths which have been counterfeited during the centuries of the Middle Ages.
Where has this Adventist conviction appeared in critiques of the movement? Has one really plumbed the depths of Adventism if this heart conviction has been bypassed?
To bear this message to the world, it was necessary that God institute another movement and raise up another people, separate from the established churches that had refused to walk in advancing light. (9)
One of the most respected of Adventist scholars was LeRoy Edwin Froom, one-time Professor of Historical Theology at Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan. He wrote some notable volumes which are respected not only in the Adventist movement, but outside the movement as well. (10) Froom smarted under the ignominy of his movement's being classified as a sect, and he labored to show its true catholicity In the publication, Our Firm Foundation, he contributed a paper which was a digest of his much larger four-volume work, Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers. In this paper Dr. Froom sought to show that the Adventist prophetic interpretation is not an innovation but a restoration of the true historical position of the Reformers themselves. He writes as follows:
In these latter days, as God's remnant workmen, we are called upon not only to reconstruct the Reformation edifice but to restore the early Church structure as well, and to bring everything into harmony with the divineBlueprint. We are even to restore original features omitted by the Reformers. And we are likewise to rebuild the parts distorted and rejected by the latter-day perverters of the Reformation positions. Not only are we confronted by this dual task, but we are commissioned to finish this uncompleted structure, carrying it through to consummation with the capstone of the present truth features of these latter days, thus bringing the full structure to completion. (11)
For Froom the bounden commission of the Advent movement is
fundamentally a restoration, not the formation of a new structure. It is tied in inseparably with the efforts of all past builders of prophetic truth..., we shall truly build again the foundations and superstructure of "many generations" into the stately edifice of truth originally designed by God. That is our bounden commission under the Advent movement. (12)
This stupendous consciousness of being special heirs of the historical Reformation position receives heightened expression when Froom says: ..... the floodlight of the world's pitiless scrutiny will soon be turned full upon us.... More is demanded of us than our fathers and much more than our forefathers in generations past." (13) It is no coincidence that Froom concludes with words attributed to Martin Luther: "So, irrespective of others, here we stand, God helping us. We cannot do otherwise." (14)
More support for our thesis covering the fundamental conviction of Adventists would only prove tedious. (15) We will conclude this aspect of our examination with the words of Professor H. K. LaRondelle of Andrews University. (16) In his lectures on justification and sanctification in the fall of 1966, LaRondelle sums up the Adventist position as follows:
Truly it can be said with LeRoy E. Froom, that the Advent movement after 1844 is the second great Reformation, continuing and completing the work of the first Reformation of the sixteenth century The second Reformation, therefore, is not a revoking of the first Reformation, but on the contrary, its consummation, its recognition and perfection! If the first Reformation is the restoration of the Gospel with the saving doctrine of justification by faith alone, then the second Reformation is the restoration of the holy law of God in the doctrine of sanctification by faith and submission. (17)
Adventism and the Reformation Gospel
We have seen that the Seventh-day Adventist claims a unique relation to the Reformation. However, there is an important question to raise at this point: Exactly what is it that Adventists claim in the Reformation? Certainly they are not the only ones who give a positive appraisal of the Reformation or who claim the Reformers as their true parents.
Adventism has not adopted many aspects of the Reformation. Indeed, it would not wish to adopt many aspects. It has not adopted the Reformation mode of baptism, it has not adopted the Reformed form of church government, and it has not embraced the Lutheran view of the Supper. So again we ask, What is it to which Adventists lay claim in the Reformation?
We believe that the best way to answer this question is to ask and answer another question—a question of immense importance as far as the Seventh-day Adventist is concerned. It is a question which concerns the very heart of the movement. What is it that Adventism believes it has to offer to the world? What is the contribution which, for one reason or another, it feels it is peculiarly equipped to make? For the Adventist there can be but one answer: the gospel! Such an answer, of course, is deceptive in its simplicity The answer may even be expressed in different ways. For example, it may be said that "righteousness by faith" is that which the Adventist has to offer to the world, or the "third angel's message." (18) But whatever terminology is used, the task which he believes he has received from God is to continue and to consummate the recovery of the gospel that began in earnest in the sixteenth-century Reformation.
For the Adventist, his movement is a "movement of destiny" (Froom). He sees it as destined to climax in what is called, in apocalyptic imagery, the "loud cry" (Rev. 14:7, 9; 18:1-2). This loud cry is viewed as a climactic gospel proclamation attended by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in "latter-rain" power. All will have forced upon them a decision for or against Christ. After such a confrontation, the Lord will come again.
Notwithstanding the correctness or otherwise of this claim, it is nothing short of astounding. The Adventist believes that his movement and no other movement is God's chosen "remnant," especially commissioned by God to give the message of the gospel and so usher in the return of Christ.
At this point an evangelical churchman must pause and confess his shame. In so many of our "investigations" into Adventism this astounding conviction has received little or no elucidation. We have so often given the impression that Adventists are concerned about anything but the gospel and that the movement is characterized by a sectarian majoring on minors in matters of theology. We must apologize to Adventists for this terrible oversight. Let it be understood once and for all: any critique of Adventism which hopes to penetrate to the heart of the movement must come to grips with its concept of the gospel and its biblical and theological support for that concept. To fail here is to be wide of the (Adventist) mark.
From its own literature, we must now substantiate the existence of the Advent movement's astounding claim. We begin with Mrs. White: "The message of Christ's righteousness is to sound from one end of the earth to the other.... This is the glory of God, which closes the work of the third angel." (19) The need of Adventists is to "become exponents of the efficacy of the blood of Christ, by which our own sins have been forgiven. Only thus can we reach the higher classes." (20) The "third angel's message" (i.e., the gospel of justification by faith) is that which Adventists should be preaching:
When the third angel's message is preached as it should be, power attends its proclamation, and it becomes an abiding influence. It must be attended with divine power, or it will accomplish nothing....
Some of Mrs. White's statements concerning the center of Adventist preaching are so fine that we shall take the liberty of indulging ourselves somewhat:
The sacrifice of Christ is sufficient; he made a whole, efficacious offering to God; and human effort without the merit of Christ, is worthless. (22)
Ministers are to present Christ in His fullness both in the churches and in new fields.... It is Satan's studied purpose to keep souls from believing in Christ as their only hope. . . . (23)
In language too clear to be misunderstood Mrs. White says, "Justification by faith and the righteousness of Christ are the themes to be presented to a perishing world." (29) One subject will swallow up every other:
Of all professing Christians, Seventh-day Adventists should be foremost in uplifting Christ before the world. ... the great center of attraction, Christ Jesus, must not be left out. (24)
The message of the gospel of His grace was to be given to the church in clear and distinct lines, that the world should no longer say that Seventh-day Adventists talk the law, the law, but do not teach or believe Christ. (25)
The sacrifice of Christ as an atonement for sin is the great truth around which all other truths cluster.... This is to be the foundation of every discourse given by our ministers. (26)
Let the science of salvation be the burden of every sermon.... B ring nothing into your preaching to supplement Christ... (27)
Lift up Jesus, you that teach the people, lift Him up in sermon, in song, in prayer. Let all your powers be directed to pointing souls, confused, bewildered, lost, to "the Lamb of God." (28)
If through the grace of Christ his people will become new bottles, he will fill them with the new wine. God will give additional light, and old truths will be recovered, and replaced in the frame-work of truth; and wherever the laborers go, they will triumph. As Christ's ambassadors, they are to search the Scriptures, to seek for the truths that have been hidden beneath the rubbish of error. And every ray of light received is to be communicated to others. One interest will prevail, one subject will swallow up every other— Christ our righteousness. (30)
In Selected Messages, Book One, Mrs. White makes it clear that the message of Adventism is the gospel of justification by faith alone:
Some of our brethren have expressed fears that we shall dwell too much upon the subject of justification by faith, but I hope and pray that none will be needlessly alarmed; for there is no danger in presenting this doctrine as it is set forth in the Scriptures. If there had not been a remissness in the past to properly instruct the people of God, there would not now be a necessity of calling special attention to it. ... The exceeding great and precious promises given us in the Holy Scriptures have been lost sight of to a great extent, just as the enemy of all righteousness designed that they should be. He has cast his own dark shadow between us and our God, that we may not see the true character of God. The Lord has proclaimed Himself to be "merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth."
Many other citations could be given from the writings of Mrs. White. (32) However, the above are more than sufficient to show that, as far as she was concerned, the mission of Adventism, par excellence, is the proclamation of the gospel of righteousness by faith with unprecedented power and glory.
Several have written to me, inquiring if the message of justification by faith is the third angel's message, and I have answered, "It is the third angel's message in verity" (31)
Next we shall return to the late Dr. Froom. In his book, Movement of Destiny, he corroborates the testimony of Mrs. White. In a chapter entitled "Our Bounden Mission and Commission," Dr. Froom writes as follows:
Christ-centered Preaching Marks Radiant Climax
1. Every Doctrine Actualized in Christ. Our Mission involves Christ-centered preaching and teaching in the grand finale, to a degree hitherto unattained. Especially is this to be as we come to the radiant climax of our witness. ...
2. To Be Foremost Preachers of Christ. We are today to become, in all the world, the foremost preachers of Christ in all His fullness. ... A host will respond.
We are called upon to place every aspect of our message in its true Christ-centered setting. ... Then to preach doctrine will always be to preach Christ. (33)
In a section entitled "Christ's Righteousness Our Indispensable Passport," Dr. Froom shows every bit as clearly as does Mrs. White what the heartthrob of the final message to men will be.(34) This glorious provision is to constitute the inner heartthrob, and it is for the world as well as for the church. It will be Christ's perfect life and Christ's perfect commandment-keeping. Dr. Froom says unequivocally that righteousness by faith "in its larger inclusive scope will constitute the core and essence of it all." It will be remembered, he continues, that the everlasting gospel is the essence and the dynamic of our final message to mankind. This constitutes the shape of things that are to come. (35)
Using copious citations from two of the most illustrious exponents of Adventism, we have shown the precise nature of the special commission that Adventists claim has been vouchsafed to them by God. In viewing the sources of this movement, one cannot escape the conclusion that it is a movement bound up with the gospel. And of course, this means that it stands or falls with the legitimacy or otherwise of its gospel.
To conclude this chapter, we make three further comments:
1. In order to treat the Seventh-day Adventist according to the criterion of the movement itself, his well-known negative stance toward Rome has to be seen in the light of the above perspective. (36) Although the Adventist has often conveyed the idea that he is opposed to the mere abuses and excesses of Rome, in actual fact his truest position is from the standpoint of his divine calling to reemphasize and consummate the gospel of the Reformers.
2. The oftentimes puzzling attitude of the Adventist toward Protestants is also to be seen in the same light. He has often given the impression that he is separate on the basis of matters of the law only But this is not his deepest problem. He is committed to the conviction that, in general, Protestants have apostatized from the Reformation gospel and its implications and have thereby begun a landslide toward the papal curia. The Adventist believes that he is called by God to prevent such a landslide as much as possible. He must, as a member of the faithful "remnant," (37) demonstrate to the Protestant world (and indeed to all) the deepest significance of the gospel and the glory of God. This is what motivates his stance toward Rome (38) as well as his stance toward Protestants.
3. We must deal with still another aspect of the Adventist consciousness. A knowledge of this aspect will undoubtedly place the above-mentioned stupendous claim into more correct perspective and substantiate our thesis that the movement is one which is peculiarly bound up with the gospel of the Reformation.
For almost ninety years Adventists have been preoccupied with the gospel in a way that can only be called remarkable. Adventism has had to face a very serious question which cannot but have been raised within the movement—namely, Why has the "loud cry" not taken place? Why has the Lord not come? One answer is that some forty odd years after the inception of the movement, the Lord graciously sought to give the church a knowledge of the gospel with unprecedented clarity Unfortunately and tragically, she by and large rejected that gracious donation. Since the year 1888, in one way or another and to a greater or lesser degree, the Adventist Church has grappled with precisely what took place regarding her response to the message of 1888. The year 1888 has truly been a "thorn in the flesh" for the Adventist Church. For some ninety years she has been struggling with her relationship to the gospel of the Reformation. No understanding of the movement would scrape beyond the surface if it failed to take this factor into consideration. (See appendix at the end of this chapter for a synopsis of Adventism's struggle with the gospel.)
Therefore, alongside the stupendous claim of the Adventist Church must be placed the fact that she has recognized her failure to carry out the special commission of the Lord. Hence, there is widespread "beating of the breast."
Whatever else the struggle over the church's response to the message of 1888 shows us, it does substantiate our claim that Adventism has been preoccupied with the gospel and with its approach to the gospel for some ninety years of its 133-year existence. We believe that this aspect of the movement justifies in no small way a treatment of the validity of the Adventist claim to maintain the gospel of the Reformation. Perhaps such a critique may even be able to assist the movement in self-clarification.
1888: A Thorn in the Church's Flesh
All Adventists who know their own history will acknowledge that in the year 1888 a revival took place in the church. Two Adventist ministers, Elders E. J. Waggoner and A. T. Jones, became obsessed with the doctrine of justification by faith alone and sought to present it with no small degree of fervor to the church.
A reaction took place—the precise nature of which has never been determined in the Adventist movement. It appears that although some, including Mrs. White, (39) accepted the message, most rejected it.
Things had more or less settled down within the church until 1924, when an ex-President of the General Conference, Elder A. G. Daniells, resurrected the whole question of the 1888 message and the church's response to it. In a publication entitled Christ Our Righteousness, Daniells left no doubt that he believed the message had been rejected. Here are his words:
How sad, how deeply regrettable, it is that this message of righteousness in Christ should, at the time of its coming, have met with opposition on the part of earnest, well-meaning men in the cause of God! The message has never been received, nor proclaimed, nor given free course as it should have been in order to convey to the church the measureless blessings that were wrapped within it. The seriousness of exerting such an influence is indicated through the reproofs that were given. These words of reproof and admonition should receive most thoughtful consideration at this time. ..... (40)
Daniells proceeds to record some scathing indictments from Mrs. White against those who rejected the message at that time. (41) She does not mince words. Mrs. White accuses the church of preaching the law "until we are as dry as the hills of Gilboa, that had neither dew nor rain." What is needed, she goes on to say, is not trust in our own merits, but in the merits of Jesus of Nazareth. (42)
Naturally, such a presentation was destined to bring unrest. There was a demand, not least from the laity, for an explanation. Was Daniells correct, or did the church really embrace the gospel at that time? Was this a clue as to why the "loud cry" had not taken place? Should the church repent, or should she silence those making such unfounded accusations?
A series of defenses took place. In 1947, Lewis H. Christian published The Fruitage of Spiritual Gifts. In this book he declared that although the session in 1888 had been tense, opposition had all but vanished a few years later in a virtually unanimous acceptance of the message of righteousness by faith.
In 1948 another defense appeared. Bruno William Steinweg submitted a thesis to the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary entitled "Developments in the Teaching of Justification and Righteousness by Faith in the Seventh-day Adventist Church after 1900." Steinweg's thesis declared that the church had not rejected the gospel donation from the Lord in 1888. Were not Waggoner and Jones popular convention speakers after 1888? How could it be possible that they had been rejected if this was the case?
Another notable defense to appear was a book entitled Captains of the Host (1949), written by Adventist historian, A.W Spalding. This book acknowledged that a crucial confrontation did take place in 1888 and that there was a divided reception. In the final analysis, however, 1888 was a victory for the church and not a defeat. The message of 1888 was not rejected.
A significant turn of events took place when two missionaries, R. J. Wieland and D. K. Short, presented a manuscript in 1950 to the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The manuscript was called 1888 Re-examined. In no uncertain terms Wieland and Short asserted that the church had rejected the message that the Lord sought to give her at Minneapolis in 1888. She was guilty and should beat her breast and cry to the Lord for forgiveness. There must be corporate repentance. This author had the privilege of spending some time with Mr. Wieland in his home in Chula Vista, California, and it was obvious that, after almost thirty years, he still maintained this deep conviction.
Unprecedented conflict arose in the wake of this presentation by Wieland and Short—a conflict which lasted with a great degree of intensity for more than a decade. This intense dialogue concerning the response of the church to the message of 1888 was gathered up by A. L. Hudson in a publication entitled A Warning and Its Reception. Among other things, this contains Wieland and Short's thesis and its rejection by the leadership of the church.
Not long after, in 1962, another publication, By Faith Alone — originally a thesis submitted to the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary by Norval F Pease — appeared in defense of the church. There was ample evidence to show that the light of the gospel was not extinct in the Adventist history before 1900. But Mr. Wieland was not impressed. To him there was a vast difference between some gospel and the gospel in "loud-cry" dimensions.
Still the church was protected—this time by the publication in 1966 of a book by A.V Olson called Through Crisis to Victory: 1888-1901. The title speaks for itself. Though there was a crisis, by 1901 victory had been gained for the church. Olson concluded his book by observing that wherever he traveled throughout the world among Adventists, he found a ready acceptance of the doctrine of righteousness by faith. Adventists believed it and indeed cherished it. Those who would suggest that the church rejected it were simply not correct.
A theological heavyweight then appeared on the scene to finally lay the question of 1888 to rest. In 1971, Dr. LeRoy Edwin Froom published his influential Movement of Destiny In a characteristic manner he defended the church and delivered an offensive against those who would seek to cast her in a bad light over the 1888 message. Dr. Froom called for an explicit confession of wrong from all who would assert otherwise. But notwithstanding the magnitude and method of approach, the good doctor failed to lay the ghost of 1888 to rest.
In 1973 there was the first official acknowledgment of guilt since A. G. Daniells first resurrected the 1888 question. Reporting on the annual fall conference, the General Conference leaders admitted that 1888 occupied considerable attention at their gathering:
One question, therefore, has overshadowed all other subjects at this 1973 Annual Council: What has happened to the message and experience that by 1892 had brought the beginning of earth's final message of warning and appeal? (43)
The admissions made in answer to this question must have brought deep gratification to the heart of Mr. Wieland:
As a body the Church still is in the Laodicean condition as set forth by the true Witness in Rev. 3:14-19. Therefore, in attempting to find the specific present causes for failure and delay, the council has noted three main factors:
While it is obvious that the above would bring gratification to the heart of a man who has been calling his church to corporate repentance for over twenty years, the fact remains that repentance has not been forthcoming. Even the above statement is couched in language designed to soften the beating on the church's breast.
1. Leaders and people have not fully accepted as a personal message Christ's analysis and appeal to the Laodiceans (Rev. 3:14-22).
2. Leaders and people are in some ways disobedient to divine directives, both in personal experience and in the conduct of the church's commission.
3. Leaders and people have not yet finished the church's task. (44)
Still that is not the end of the drama. Agitation over the church's approach to the gospel of justification by faith alone reached an unprecedented high in May of 1976. A group of leaders and theologians met at Palmdale, California, to see if some agreement could be gained on the meaning of the gospel of righteousness by faith. The center of attention was the Professor of Systematic Theology at Avondale College, New South Wales, Australia — Dr. Desmond Ford. A statement was prepared (known as the Palmdale statement) which included a section on the meaning of righteousness by faith. There was also a section dealing with the 1888 era. The portion on 1888 is worth quoting in full:
In reviewing the history of the 1888 era, we are led to the conclusion that it was a time of unparalleled opportunity for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The Lord actually gave His people the "beginning" of the latter rain and the loud cry in "the revelation of the righteousness of Christ, the sin-pardoning Redeemer." The attitudes and spirit manifested by too many at that time made it necessary for God to withdraw this special blessing.
If this is the case, what about the prior charges made against those who have asserted that the church has been culpable and needs to repent, especially the charges contained in such an influential publication as Froom's Movement of Destiny? This has not been overlooked. In The Ministry magazine of August, 1976, the following "apology" appeared:
While nothing is gained by disputing over the actual number of those who accepted or rejected this blessing in 1888, we recognize that those who then heard the message of righteousness by faith were divided in their response. It is clear that the fullness of the marvelous blessing God wanted to bestow upon the church was not received at that time nor subsequently In the light of these facts of history, our special concern now must be to remove every barrier that holds back the promised power, and by repentance, faith, revival, and reformation clear the way so that the Lord can do His special work for us and through us. We recognize that a primary responsibility in this respect lies with the leadership of the church. (45)
We sincerely regret that that element of the book Movement of Destiny which so publicly demanded an "explicit confession" from those who saw the 1888 experience in a different light from that in which the leadership of the church viewed it was allowed to slip into print. We would recommend that this element be removed from any future printings of the book.
The drama of the church's response to 1888 is not yet finished. Many would like to see it finished. There are those within the church and on the edge of the church that have pledged themselves to keep agitating until corporate repentance is a reality and the gospel of justification by faith alone comes from the lips of Adventists in "latter-rain" power. Then, it is believed, the Lord will come, and 1888 may finally be laid to rest, or rather be given its full resurrection status.
1. Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 78.
2. Ibid., p. 148.
3. Ibid., p. 253.
4. Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, 1 June 1886.
5. The Protestant Magazine 1, no. 1 (2nd quarter, 1909): 1.
6. Ibid., pp. 32-6. The magazine carries an article entitled "The Rediscovery of a Vital Doctrine: Justification by Faith the Mainspring of the Great Reformation." In one place it says: "But this great doctrine of salvation proceeding from God and not from man, was not only the power of God to save Luther's soul; it became in a still greater degree the power of God to reform the Church, an effectual weapon wielded by the Apostles,—a weapon too long neglected, but taken at last, in all its primitive brightness, from the arsenal of the Omnipotent God.... It was in Rome that God gave him [Luther] this clear view of the fundamental doctrine of Christianity ... he brought away [from Rome] in his heart the salvation of the Church" (pp. 34, 36).
7. Carlyle B. Haynes, The Hour of God's Judgment, pp. 67-82.
8. See ibid., pp. 83-91. Here Haynes includes a chapter entitled "The Remnant Church and Its Message," which follows his chapter, "Completing the Unfinished Reformation."
9. Ibid., p. 78.
10. Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers, The Coming of the Comforter, and Movement of Destiny.
11. LeRoy Edwin Froom, "The Advent Message Built upon the Foundations of Many Generations," in Our Firm Foundation, 2:81.
12. Ibid., p. 82.
13. Ibid., p. 83. One cannot fail to get the point when Froom says: "Herein lies our supreme opportunity of now stepping into our rightful place as the avowed restorers of the true Protestant positions of the founding fathers of all branches of Protestantism as it formerly obtained in all Protestant lands in both hemispheres. Instead of meekly accepting an unjust consignment to the ranks of modern heretics, as concerns our prophetic faith, we should humbly but effectively assert and establish, by sound reasoning and irrefutable evidence, our actual position as the champions and sustainers of the true, historical interpretations now regrettably abandoned by most of Protestantism's spiritual descendants. We should now rise to our full and allotted place as the revivers and continuers of the true Protestant interpretation of the Reformation. This is our rightful heritage. We are simply the last segment in God's sevenfold true church of the centuries. These former expositors of the true interpretations were of God's true church and were true expositors in their time. We are in the line of true succession" (pp. 99-100).
14. Ibid., p. 182.
15. E.g., "Is There a Relationship between Luther and Seventh-day Adventists," The Ministry, June 1955, pp. 39f. The article claims that both Lutheranism and Adventism are reform movements, both having been announced in Bible prophecy Of Luther it says: "Justification by faith was to him the breath of life. It shaped his thinking." The article continues: "To Seventh-day Adventists this teaching of justification by faith is just as important."
16. Hans K. LaRondelle is Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Andrews University He studied for his doctorate under the famous Reformed theologian, G. C. Berkouwer, at the Free University of Amsterdam. LaRondelle received his doctorate for the dissertation, Perfection and Perfectionism: A Dogmatic-Ethical Study of Biblical Perfection and Phenomenal Perfectionism.
17. Hans K. LaRondelle, "Righteousness by Faith," p. 144.
18. The "third angel's message" is taken from the apocalyptic imagery of Rev. 14:9-12. Sometimes it is simply a "threefold message" (White, Great Controversy, p. 311). The first message is the everlasting gospel of the judgment of God (Rev. 14:6-7; idem, Great Controversy, pp. 453-54; idem, Selected Messages, 1:372). The second message announces the fall of Babylon (Rev. 14:8; idem, Prophets and Kings, pp. 677-78, 713-15). The third message warns against false worship (Rev. 14:9-12; idem, Great Controversy, pp. 453-54, 435-36). The "third angel's message" is really the marching orders of the Adventist movement and acts as a succinct summary of the movement's message when it says, ... the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus."
19. Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, 6:19. Statement written in 1890.
20. Ibid., p. 82. Statement written in 1890.
21. "Several have written to me, inquiring if the message of justification by faith is the third angel's message, and I have answered, 'It is the third angel's message in verity'" (Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, 1 Apr. 1890; quoted in idem, Selected Messages, 1:372).
22. Ellen G. White, "The Righteousness of Christ," Review and Herald, 19 Aug. 1890.
23. Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers, p. 162
24. Ibid., p. 156
25. Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 92. Statement written in 1890's.
26. White, Gospel Workers, p. 315.
27. Ibid., p. 160
29. Ellen G. White, Letter 24, 1892.
30. Ellen G. White, "Be Zealous and Repent," Review and Herald Extra, 23 Dec. 1890.
31. White, Selected Messages, 1:372. Statement written in 1890.
32. E.g.: Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, 29 Nov. 1892; idem, Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 91-2 (Here Mrs. White says, "This [the mesage of justification by faith] is the message that God commanded to be given to the world."); idem, Gospel Workers, p. 161.
33. Froom, Movement of Destiny, p. 649. Emphasis in original.
34. Ibid., pp. 650-51.
35. Ibid., p. 660.
36. This aspect of Adventism was humorously expressed when a little boy on a TV quiz program was asked the question, "What is a Seventh-day Adventist?" He replied, "A Seventh-day Adventist does not eat meat, and he hates Catholics!"
37. The "remnant" idea is a major motif in Adventist thinking, but it is by no means without diversity of interpretation. For further information on the "remnant" motif in Adventism, see Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, 7:812-15, and the numerous "Ellen G. White Comments" references on p. 815; Robert H. Pierson, We Still Believe, pp. 171f.; Kenneth H. Wood, "The Role of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the End Time," pp. 26f., in Biblical Research Committee of the General Conference, ed., North American Bible Conference, 1974; Froom, Movement of Destiny, the entire book.
38. For examples from more modern writers expressing the anti-Roman Catholic stance of Seventh-day Adventism, see Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, esp. vols. 4 and 7. In volume 4 there is a commentary on the book of Daniel (see esp. pp. 819-47). In volume 7 there are a history of the interpretation of the Apocalypse (see pp. 118-30) and comments on Rev. 13 (see pp. 816-24). Froom, Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, is important as an indication of the essentially unchanging position of the movement concerning Roman Catholicism. Froom contends that Adventism stands in the historicist line of interpreters down the ages and that Protestants with their futurism, etc., have departed from that tradition. Rome is the antichrist. See also George McCready Price, The Greatest of the Prophets. For Price's comments on Dan. 7 and 8, see pp. 133-216. When Adventism speaks of Rome as the antichrist, this does not refer simply or even primarily to the "abominable excesses" of Rome. The reference is to the doctrinal heart of Rome—namely her view of the gospel.
39. It appears that 1888 had a decisive influence on Mrs. White's appreciation of justification by faith. The doctrine receives much more extensive and explicit treatment by her after 1888 than before.
40. Arthur G. Daniells, Christ Our Righteousness, p. 47. Cf. esp. pp. 40f.
41. Ibid., pp. 47-52.
42. See Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, 13 Aug. 1889; 11 Mar. 1890.
43. Review and Herald, 6 Dec. 1973. The significance of the reference to 1892 is that Mrs.
White said in that year that the "loud cry" was here in the 1888 message if accepted (White,
Selected Messages, 1: 363).
45. "Christ Our Righteousness," Review and Herald, 27 May 1976, p. 6.