Post 3, Getting Started with Adventist Studies

If you have read the 3 September 2011 post on this site, you will be aware that it recommends A Brief, Annotated Introduction to the Field of Adventist Studies for Higher Degree Students (available in its printed and electronic forms from Avondale College of Higher Education) as an overview of Adventist Studies and an introduction to basic sources for effective study of the discipline. Therefore, this post does not need to emphasise the importance of general works by capable historians such as Richard W. Schwarz, Floyd Greenleaf, Gary Land and George Knight. You will also be aware of the abiding value of the two-volume Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia.

 Only a few individuals will find this site before its official launch on 22 October 2011, the 167th anniversary of the Great Disappointment and the painful birth of Sabbatarian Adventism. However, those few may expect some examples of the type of material that will be fostered here.  Hence, this post will outline some preliminary options for those who seriously want to get started with satisfying study.

During 2005, a number of well-informed Adventists believed that it may be possible, given the lapse of 25 years, to understand the Glacier View event constructively. The attempt met a ready and warm-hearted response from a great many people. However, one church official wrote a vigorous rebuke to me on General Conference stationery, and even threatened legal action to suppress interpretations that did not meet his mind. After reflecting on the dilemma, I offered a colloquium to Avondale’s academic staff entitled “Adventist Studies: Fractious Adolescent or Maturing Adult.” With the benefit of the feedback received, I then drafted a journal article, “Contextualising Recent Tensions in Seventh-day Adventism: ‘A Constant Process of Struggle and Rebirth’?” The draft was submitted to the Journal of Religious History in November 2006; the editors had it refereed in detail and gave me helpful suggestions that I incorporated before the article was again refereed, accepted for publication and queued for  inclusion in a suitably themed issue. Dr David Hilliard wrote a masterful overview for the selected issue of the Journal, and the article was duly printed last year (Volume 34, Number 3, September 2010, pages 272-288).

That Journal article offers a useful umbrella for the content of this site. The value of primary sources is emphasized, diverse opinions are respected, but a centrist understanding based on the entire body of available evidence is fostered.  The Journal of Religious History is accessible worldwide in good libraries; the article (in its original form, before suggestions were received from the referees and editors) is available on the website of Avondale College of Higher Education.

The value of the said article lies considerably in its copious footnotes that facilitate access to a wealth of material. For instance, some readers will want to follow up the vibrant discussion of the most-controversial book ever published by Seventh-day Adventists, Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine. The paper that I presented, at the 50th anniversary conference of that book’s first printing, is available on the Internet, along with the balancing effect of all the other papers delivered at that historic conference (2007). Surely, with the hindsight of fifty years, and with the help of several penetrating doctoral studies, we can rise above controversy and offer mature understandings of the book and its continuing waves of influence.

It has been my privilege for a number of years to be an Australian asked to participate in what is primarily a North American initiative, “The Ellen White Project” (see GOOGLE, again). The far-sighted aim of this project is to submit a manuscript to a major academic publisher, offering a scholarly introduction to the life and writings of Ellen White.  The twenty-one chapter authors presented their drafts at the Portland (Maine, USA) conference in October 2009, at which time we received the assessments of 41 respondents, half of them scholars from beyond the Adventist community. My chapter on Ellen White as author was commissioned to include a meeting of the issue of plagiarism “head-on.” After many months of editing it is now accepted; I hope the entire book will be published in 2012. In the interim, there is an array of discussion about this exciting project on the Internet.

I will follow up these brief comments with further posts, prior to the official launch of this website next month (October).

Arthur Patrick, 11 September 2011