Monday, 4 October 2010

150 Years of Seventh-day Adventism

This month marks the 150th anniversary of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, when the pioneers of the movement, gathered in Battle Creek, first adopted the name by which they are known today. Credit for coining the distinctive name goes to one David Hewitt. The other alternative, Church of God, was left to a small band of schismastics who are - like the larger body - still with us today, though shattered into countless bickering fragments.

The SDAs have changed the world for all of us in the decades since, whether we know it or not, most noticably at the breakfast table with boxed cereals, and to a lesser degree in their crusading zeal with anti-smoking programmes. Arguably the Adventists have left a less healthy legacy in their championship of Young Earth Creationism, which they were early promoters of, and lurid, fantastical interpretations of the apocalyptic parts of the Bible.

The SDAs have also produced a handful of remarkable theologians of which, sadly, few have felt able to remain within their denomination. Desmond Ford springs immediately to mind, but mention has also to be made of fellow Australian Bob Brinsmead, whose journey from Adventism to a form of lower-case lutheranism (in Present Truth), and from there (in Verdict) to "Christian Atheism" and beyond, is a tale I hope he one day might be willing to share with a broader audience.

To Adventist readers, happy birthday.


  1. Psuedoepigraphical Epistles5 October 2010 at 02:36

    Here's an ecumenical thought:
    SDA, GCI, RC, Prot, Muslim leaders all share One FOND HOPE:

    Yes, it's touching:
    They HOPE their dumb followers don't start READING things like science, history, archeology, critical scholarly analysis...

  2. Shouldn't that be 'pseudepigraphical' without the 'o'?

  3. Wow! You mean I have to stop reading?? Some of us in the GCI would be considered experts in some of those fields.....


  4. I read down to "Christian Atheism" and then my head exploded.

    I used to diatribe against these young earth groups expounding on the geology of the planet, etc.

    These days I just mumble, "That must really piss the Chinese off. They think their society is 8000 years old."

  5. "Christian Atheism"

    Bzu-huh? Whuh? Uh...Huh?

    I keep staring at those words like they're some kind of optical illusion, but they still don't make any sense. Anyone got a handy link for the atheist writings of this Brinsmead fellow? (And why does that name sound so familiar?)

  6. Anthropogenically(17) Enlightened5 October 2010 at 16:13

    "Shouldn't that be 'pseudepigraphical' without the 'o'?"

    I wanted to drop an eighteen-letter word bomb but unfortunately psuedepigraphical only had 17, was hoping no one noticed the surgery............................................................... anyone buying this?

  7. Baywolfe and PH, I haven't read Brinsmead, but "Christian Atheism" makes sense to me. Sounds like it could be the same thing as secular (lower-case) christianity, which simply leaves out the supernatural parts and keeps the Beatitudes, the Golden Rule, stuff like that. Poet Miller Williams said that the guy who invented the term (he didn't tell us his name) proclaimed that secular christianity has only two commandments:

    1. Never take up more than one parking space.

    2. Always be kind to drunks.

    If you see the facetiousness as a mnemonic aid and take those rules as examples of larger principles rather than a complete ethical system in themselves, they seem pretty satisfactory to me. The second is a lot harder to fulfill than the first, but still.

    Also, atheist guru Richard Dawkins was given a T-shirt by some of his fans that read "ATHEISTS FOR JESUS." He wore it proudly at the event where it was presented.

  8. "I haven't read Brinsmead, but "Christian Atheism" makes sense to me. Sounds like it could be the same thing as secular (lower-case) christianity, which simply leaves out the supernatural parts and keeps the Beatitudes, the Golden Rule, stuff like that." what are "the Beatitudes"? Wikipedia is spectacularly unhelpful, providing a trip down the rabbit hole and through the looking-glass, as most of their utterly inaccessible articles on professing Christianity are. (What is "the Sermon on the Plain", for instance? Clicking on that article, just gives me a recursive link back to "the Beatitudes". Wikipedian Christianity is about as circularly inerrant, as the fundagelicals' KJV-only crowd....

    As for Dawkins, he's a bit too fundie for me, sorry. Few sandwiches shy of a picnic. Something tells me Brinsmead might be the same. (I thought there was a Brinsmead book making the rounds amongst the ex-WCGers some years ago, but I may be getting him mixed up with Bachiocchhi.)

  9. The Beatitudes take up most of Matthew chapter 5. "Blessed are the poor in spirit," etc.

  10. --Christ Myth Theory--6 October 2010 at 18:11

    I liken Brinsmead to Doherty: both men of keen logic who can achieve breakthru understanding.

    It takes curiosity, like when Doherty, in an aside to his central theme, starts to question the concept of blood atonement: the result is quite a profound little essay on the subject. He remarks the bible doesn't explain the necessity for this (then I'm thinking "yes, we do deserve an explanation")(fact is, it evolved over millennia from superstition in a haphazard synergistic manner)

  11. PH:

    I have links to Brinsmead on my blog:

  12. I attended the SDA's for several months a few years ago, when I took a "leave of absence" from United Church of God.

    They welcomed me nicely, and even let me sing special music and lead a Sabbath song service after about three months.

    But I concluded based on the congregation I attended (and from listening to SDA radio networks such as 3ABN) that they're more reliant on Ellen White than many COG's are on Herbert Armstrong. They quote her more often, to be sure.

  13. "...they're more reliant on Ellen White than many COG's are on Herbert Armstrong. They quote her more often, to be sure."

    So in other words, they never quote the Bible at all? Because every Bible verse that's quoted in a WCG splinter group, Richard, is quoting purely from Herbert Armstrong's own understanding.

    They may not quote from the church literature (they never did that much in the sermons, anyway, as the literature was meant to call people to "the true church", and once they were in, to reinforce the beliefs by being read at home), but every Bible verse ever quoted by any minister who is or was ordained by the Worldwide Church of God, is quoted with the specific "understanding" that Herbert Armstrong imputed to it. Even if that "understanding" went against everything that every other Christian sect in the world believed.

    EG White? Is a bit player in a very small part, in comparison to Herbert Armstrong's continued stranglehold on the former members of "the one true church". (A stranglehold he exerts from beyond the grave, at that!) In my opinion.