Post 21, Diversification: Engaging With Adventist Studies Since 2005

The writing of the past seven years has been driven by circumstances that I did not foresee well in 2004. Within the early months of 2005, several new books about Ellen White entered circulation. For authors and presses to invest time and money in that way demonstrated that ninety years after her death Ellen White retained a unique significance amongst Seventh-day Adventists. Two of the volumes presented the research of an Australian medical specialist: Acquired or Inspired? Exploring the Origins of the Adventist Lifestyle (Warburton, Victoria, Australia: Signs Publishing Company, 2005) and The Prophet and Her Critics (Nampa, Idaho, United States of America: Pacific Press, 2005).

The Prophet and Her Critics was co-authored by Dr Leonard Brand of Loma Linda University and Dr Don S. McMahon of Melbourne, Australia. Brand sought to intensify the appeal of McMahon’s research for North American readers, providing a context for re-evaluating the earlier research of Ronald L. Numbers on health (1976), Jon Butler on prophetic fulfilment (1979) and Walter Rea on literary relationships (1982) in particular, proposing that the “quality of their research” should be examined to see “(1) whether their logic meets an acceptable scholarly standard, avoiding serious logical errors; (2) whether their data support the conclusions they reach; and (3) whether their research design adequately supports their conclusions” (page 14). Then Chapter 5, entitled “The Test,” summarised McMahon’s research and suggested the value of the CD included with McMahon’s volume, making available the data from which his conclusions were formed.

The core issue treated in both these books was the doctrine of inspiration as illumined by a study of Ellen White’s writings on health. In 1976, Numbers published the first edition of Prophetess of Health, demonstrating the value of careful historical research in the primary sources of Adventist history. Numbers frankly stated that he “refrained from using divine inspiration as an historical explanation” (Preface, page xi), a somewhat understandable stance since neither his familial upbringing nor his church nurture had offered him a doctrine of inspiration that was adequate in view of his discoveries. Since then, other studies have enlarged the church’s understanding of Ellen White’s contribution with reference to health and the benefits of the Adventist lifestyle, as in a doctoral dissertation by George Reid and a volume by Gary Fraser. In addition, the doctrine of inspiration has been explored in greater depth.

Enter Don S. McMahon, M.B., B.S., F.R.A.C.S., D.L.O. McMahon’s Adventist lifestyle as a young medical student in the late 1950s was deemed by then current medical opinion as either “irrelevant” or “dangerous,” hence the labelling he experienced from a lecturer in the University of Melbourne and the “friendly ridicule” of fellow students (page 1). However, at the 25-year reunion of his class, McMahon found that many of his colleagues remembered his “humiliation” at their hands, but also by that time a lot of them had adopted important features of his lifestyle and were advocating the same for their patients (page 2).

By 1987 McMahon was re-reading The Ministry of Healing, testing his hunch “that most—if not all—modern, health/lifestyle risk factors were covered by Ellen White” (page 139). A long engagement with the historical and scientific issues followed, as he identified “health and medical statements” that implied what should be done by the individual and why it should be done. Finally, with the help of a CD-ROM that enabled him to search Ellen White’s writings on computer and date any given statement, he was ready to compare her writings with those of five other nineteenth-century health advocates. Three of his medical colleagues checked McMahon’s analyses; a statistician contributed a probability study that gave him his greatest surprise: “The chances were astronomically against random chance” (page 141). Or, as Brand expresses the outcome:

After study of his findings, I find it difficult to see how it would be possible to explain Ellen White’s health principles without a definite input of information from a non-human source, since her health principles of how we should live reveal an accuracy level far above anything available anywhere in human health concepts anytime in the 19th century. McMahon’s work also gives fascinating insight into the nature and limits of the communication Ellen White received regarding health and the reasons for these health principles (Foreword, page iv).

I suggested at the time that there may well be extended discussion amongst medicos and others about the specifics within McMahon’s analyses of the whats and the whys enunciated by Ellen White, and the ways in which these transcend or compare with the recommendations of Graham, Alcott, Coles, Jackson and Kellogg. I deemed that mathematicians and statisticians would pore over the issues of probability and variance that McMahon proposed. But the big issue seemed clear: whereas most nineteenth-century medical writers wilt under scrutiny, Ellen White is exceptional. McMahon concludes: “When the knowledge of the mid-19th century is taken into consideration, it is impossible to exclude inspiration from Ellen White’s writings”; indeed, these writings “should not be rejected; it is essential they be carefully studied and appreciatively implemented” (page 142).

McMahon’s research was widely interpreted as reinforcing the contemporary relevance of the Adventist health message. Further, bolsted by Brand’s contextual framework and prescriptions for research design, it seemed to offer a compelling case study in the process of inspiration. This appeared to make it of profound significance for historians, students of Scripture and, indeed, for everyone interested in Adventist thought, lifestyle and mission. No single finding under the rubric of Adventist Studies during the past two decades seemed to offer such potential to enrich the ongoing conversation about Ellen White and how to understand and apply her spiritual gift.

However, I soon found myself located between McMahon and a highly-skilled neuorscientist in California, Dr T. Joe Willey. The caveats outlined in the paragraph above were discussed with unsubdued energy, especially McMahon’s distinction between Ellen White’s whats and the whys, and his statistical analyses in relation to the doctrine of inspiration. A complicating factor was that many of McMahon’s affirmations were sustainable on historical grounds, but Willey’s cautions were cogent as statistical considerations. A vast quantum of data accumulated rapidly. I attempted a preliminary review of the McMahon/Brand volumes and three others in Spectrum, but the dialectic remained vigorous for years.

The other volumes that I reviewed for Spectrum were by Graeme Bradford, Alden Thompson and the Standish brothers. I was deeply concerned by the negative reactions that Bradford’s books encountered, in that for two decades he had proved one of the most believable apologists for a sustainable understanding of Ellen White and her role within Adventism. Alden Thompson’s book accorded with his well-known stance as a staunch believer who capably examines all the data and lets it speak coherently. Russel R. Standish and Colin D. Standish, friends since we were at Avondale together in the early 1950s, rated my attempts at being faithful to the evidence as producing the most “disingenuous” material ever to blight a Seventh-day Adventist publication.

However, soon even more arresting condemnations were on my desk. Twenty-five years after the Sanctuary Review Committee met in 1980 at Glacier View Ranch in Colorado, the Sydney Adventist Forum invited me and others to offer historical perspectives on that effervescent event. I was glad to be able to participate, since four years earlier, as chairman of a committee appointed by the College Church, I had spent perhaps 500 hours reviewing the literature and interviewing people who maintained an interest in Glacier View and its aftermath. Part of my presentation at the Forum was summarised in Spectrum. Our interpretations failed to accord with the mind of an Australian employed at Adventist world headquarters, who wrote on official stationery suggesting that in view of my expressed opinions, I was no longer a Seventh-day Adventist. Other criticims came to me for writing a series of articles on Righteousness by Faith that was published by Good News for Adventists.

One immediate response was to offer a staff colloquium at Avondale College under the title “Adventist Studies: Troublesome Adolescent or Maturing Adult?” With the helpful comments of colleagues in mind, I deemed that the basic analyses presented should be in the public arena as a journal article. By November 2006, a first draft was sent to the Journal of Religious History, as a follow-up to my article the Journal had published in 1987 about sources for the effective study of Adventism. The text of the latter piece, before it was twice refereed, is now on the College website; the published article finally appeared in 2010. It seemed important that the issues be discussed responsibly, fully and irenically.

The idea that thorough discussion could constructively illumine Adventist controversies seemed to be established by the outcome of a conference convened at Andrews University in 2007, as a fifty-year review of the volume Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine (1957). The organisers deliberately included high-profile representatives of the contrasting perspectives currently held with reference to the most controversial book ever published by the church. My paper needs to be read critically, in tandem with the other submissions that are available on the official website ( The apparent success of that conference helped pave the way for an even bolder initiative, “The Ellen White Project,” aiming to prepare a manuscript for a major academic publisher, introducing Ellen White to scholarly readers. I was deeply appreciative of the opportunity to be one of 21 chapter authors, an Australian invited to participate in an essentially North American project. My chapter on Ellen White as author was commissioned to confront the issue of plagiarism; I greatly valued the Portland, Maine, conference held during October 2009, and was gratified that in its amended form my chapter was passed to the publishers, along with the others, on 27 October 2011. The outcome will be a book that, for the first time, offers a contextualised introduction to the life and writings of Ellen White for well-informed readers who are beyond the borders of the church.

Meanwhile, it seemed crucial to seek a better understanding of the ground-breaking workshop held in Washington in 1982 when, for the first time, an international group sought to assess the newly-discovered data relating to Ellen White. This endeavour developed two papers that I presented to the Ellen G. White Coordinating Committee of the South Pacific Division, and placed on as “The Inspired and Inspiring Ellen White, Part 1: 1982 in Historical Perspective” (2007), and “The Inspired and Inspiring Ellen White, Part 2: Assessing Five Examples of the Documented Evidence” (2008). A paper presented at the New Perspectives on Christianity conference, held at Avondale College in January 2009, was entitled “Religious History in Century 21: Reflections of the Demand for Credible Historiography.” As a backdrop for reports about the Portland conference of 2009 that I presented at Loma Linda University, La Sierra University and the Dan Diego Forum, I prepared a paper entitled “The Re-parenting of Seventh-day Adventists: Reflections on the Historical Development, Substance, and Potential of Ellen White Studies,” an intem published on the Adventist Today Foundation and Avondale College websites.

During 2006, I wrote a guide for higher degree students who might be contemplating research in the area of Adventist Studies. The content of this pamphlet was revised in 2009, and is now available in printed as well as in electronic form on the Avondale website. Forewords written for the published forms (2007, 2008) of Michael Chamberlain’s and Rick Ferret’s doctoral theses gave me valuable opportunities to assess the ongoing status of Adventist Studies. The documents named above form a major strand of a much larger body of material written since 2005 and published by Signs of the Times in the United States and Australia, Record, Ministry, Teach: Journal of Christian Education, and other sources, including the Internet. An increasing amount of my time has also been devoted to consultation with PhD students for whom the discipline of Adventist Studies/Ellen White Studies is crucial.


Ellen White’s importance for Seventh-day Adventism is illustrated vividly by the discussion about her life and writings that is ongoing and vigorous. It has been my privilege to engage in this dialogue and dialectic increasingly since those effervescent classes in the SDA Theological Seminary four decades ago, but more especially since 1980. The opportunities for fruitful study in 2012 are attractive indeed: the church has developed many excellent resource centres; scholars in various parts of the world have contributed important aspects of the big picture; while major outlines are beyond dispute there are many options for continuing research; we have the amazing support of computer technology. I cherish the Seventh-day Adventist communion and firmly believe in the crucial role Ellen White has for both historic and contemporary Adventism. Whether my writings are seen as problematic or constructive is a matter best left to the judgment of others. For my part, I simply desire to continue walking by faith and pursuing “the truth as it is in Jesus,” with gratitude for grace abounding in the past and vibrant hope for the future.

Arthur Patrick, 9 November 2011

Post 20, A Spotlight on Ellen White: 1980-2004

For some readers this will be an ultimately boring blog, but several readers want a follow-up from yesterday’s post about how I drifted into Ellen White Studies. Therefore, this piece outlines some of what I wrote during the 25 years from 1980 to the end of 2004. All these documents may be accessed in the Ellen G. White/SDA Research Centre at Avondale College; some are available on, and more are available on the compact discs that the Research Centre at Avondale produces, usually each year. Another blog will cover the material written between 2005 and the present.

Various long-standing bulwarks of traditional Adventism, under increasing assault from 1970, seemed within a decade to be crumbling as the “Noonday of Certitude” gave way to open controversy. I have profiled some of this process insofar as it relates to the life and writings of Ellen White in a paper entitled “From Certitude Through Controversy Toward Consensus: An Historical Perspective on Ellen White Studies Since 1950” (2003). A companion paper, “Continuity and Change in Seventh-day Adventist Doctrine and Practice” (2003) offers a wider chronological perspective, whereas a more fully documented account is entitled “Reflections on Unfinished Business: Ellen White Studies in Historical Perspective” (2003). A further paper, delivered at a theological conference in February 2003, is entitled “Learning from Ellen White’s Perception and Use of Scripture: Toward an Adventist Hermeneutic for the Twenty-first Century.” At the Ellen White Summit on 5 February 2004, with the help of physicist Lynden Rogers as reader, I presented a paper entitled “Ellen White in South Pacific Adventism: Retrospect and Prospect,” noting again that until about 1970 Ellen White’s writings were assigned “a unique and growing status as the all-encompassing, definitive encyclopaedia of Adventist thought and practice,” whereas thereafter the church entered a period of controversy and (since about 1990) an era of growing consensus. After a brief, explanatory bibliography on pages 16 to 19, that paper offered a chronological list of over fifty of the documents that I wrote between 1980 and 2004. Of these, perhaps seven of the earlier pieces have prime importance: a paper “Ellen White in the Eighties,” 1980; an M.Litt. thesis, 1984; a Journal of Religious History article, 1987; a Ministry article, 1991; a Lucas article, 1991; a Ph.D. dissertation, 1992; an Adventist Heritage article, 1993.

It bears mention that a new phase of my engagement with Ellen White Studies began in 1997. At the time, as a visiting associate professor at La Sierra University in California, I was acutely disturbed by the way trusted colleagues throughout the Adventist world were either misunderstood or misrepresented by forthright presenters like Samuel Koranteng-Pipim. It appeared to me that a realistic appreciation of Ellen White’s spiritual gift might be a way to draw the church into more trustful fellowship and toward a better fulfilment of its mission; hence I delivered in San Francisco to the annual conference of the Adventist Society of Religious Studies a paper entitled “Re-Visioning the Role of Ellen White for Seventh-day Adventists Beyond 2000.” Fortunately, many members of the Adventist Theological Society were also present. Input or assessments from scores of thought leaders in Ellen White Studies, including Herbert Douglass and Kenneth Wood, was most helpful for my understanding. This discussion widened from North America to other parts of the world when placed a cluster of my papers on its website. The major 1997 presentation was updated at the request of Gary Chartier for inclusion in a symposium he hoped to edit from the Great Disappointment, Greater Hope lecture series that Paul Landa organised.

The documents cited above, especially those completed since 2002, may be read fruitfully in association with other presentations that offer brief comment upon or a context for the ongoing discussion. A paper entitled “Ellen White Yesterday and Today: Understanding and Affirming the Ministry of the Most Creative Sabbatarian Adventist” (2002) suggested why Ellen White is the Adventist transformationist par excellence. In reviews of books or dissertations by Douglas Morgan, Philip Jenkins, Rolf Poehler, Gary Land/Calvin Edwards, Merlin Burt, Michael Chamberlain, Bruce Manners, Alden Thompson and others I tried to portray issues important for Ellen White Studies within the context of 21st century Adventism. With the Ellen White Summit of 2004, the publication of a book by Graeme Bradford and the lively discussion following four interviews published in Record during February 2004, I felt the substance of my writings during the previous quarter century was either sufficiently understood or the issues were being taken care of effectively by others, as sugegsted in my report, “The Summit, the Book and the Record: Ellen White in the Ongoing Adventist Conversation” (2004).

By 2005, I wanted to more consistently apply Ellen White’s writings to the great themes of Seventh-day Adventism like, for instance, Christian education. I had begun that process with several presentations: “Does Ellen White Have a Crucial Testimony for Avondale in 1995?”; the Murdoch Memorial Lecture “Visioning and Re-Visioning Seventh-day Adventist Tertiary Education in Australia: A Centennial Assessment of Avondale College” (1997); “The Essence of Avondale: ‘A View from the Ridge’” (2003). I had also attempted a similar process with reference to the Holy Spirit (see the summation of that endeavour in two articles in Record, 4 December 1999) and in relation to the Adventist health message in a presentation entitled “Ellen Gould White: Pioneer of Adventist Health Emphases” (2004). It seemed appropriate to devote more energy toward fostering an inclusive concept of Adventist Studies as the major rubric within which Ellen White’s life and writings could best be interpreted and applied.

Arthur Patrick, 9 November 2011

Post 19, How I Drifted Into Adventist Studies/Ellen White Studies

Adventist Studies crucially informs the ongoing life and global witness of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. As an academic discipline, Adventist Studies has experienced remarkable maturation during the past forty years. My perceptions of this development, derived from personal experience and research, need to be checked against the understandings of many others. However, the following somewhat autobiographical account may stimulate the memories or illumine the research of individuals who wish to understand Adventist Studies in general and Ellen White Studies in particular.

From 1970-72 as a graduate student at Andrews University, I took a deep interest in the scintillating lectures of Dr Mervyn Maxwell and in due course eagerly purchased the essence of Maxwell’s classroom presentations in the form of a popular book. However, I was simultaneously aware of quite different discussions in the corridors of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, especially about issues raised in a newly established journal offering fresh research by Adventist biblical scholars, theologians, historians and others. Covert conversations of the 1960s became public debates in the 1970s and explosive controversies in the 1980s. As a deepening sense of crisis enveloped Adventism, a sorting process began to occur as many members, teachers, ministers and administrators adopted one of three options: reversion, rejection or transformation.

A Bit of Historical Background Since 1944

In 1944, celebrations in the Avondale Village Church marking the first century of Sabbatarian Adventism fired my childish imagination, as did narratives of the interactions three of my grandparents had with Ellen Gould White (1827-1915) during the founding years of the Australasian Missionary College, now known as Avondale College of Higher Education. As a Theology student at Avondale (1954-7) my youthful interest in the study of Adventist history and thought was nurtured; soon thereafter it was galvanised by the controversy surrounding Robert Brinsmead and his colleagues. As a young pastor in South New Zealand, I found my congregations were encouraged and stabilised by the study of “the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history.”

The greatest problem of those years was finding adequate resources for effective research. Two of my guides at the time were Francis D. Nichol and LeRoy Edwin Froom, editors and authors based in Washington, D.C., whose oral discourses riveted my attention during their visits to Australia. R. A. Anderson’s guest lectures and his memorable book, The Shepherd Evangelist (1950) impacted my ministerial endeavours; the preaching of E. Lennard Minchin was an important stimulus for my spiritual life. Two Seminary Extension Schools (1957-8, 1965-6) intensified my engagement with Adventist heritage as I soaked up the lectures of (amongst others) Pastor Arthur L. White (Prophetic Guidance), Dr Edward Heppenstall (Law, Grace and the Covenants; Doctrine of the Sanctuary), Dr Desmond Ford (Biblical Eschatology), Dr Siegfried Horn (Biblical Archaeolgy).

At last, at Andrews University from 1970 to 1972, I delighted in access to the primary sources relating to Adventism generally and Ellen White’s life and writings particularly. The completion there of an M.A. in Systematic Theology and a Master of Divinity (Pastoral Ministry), building on earlier Seminary Extension Schools and other events, such as classes offered in Chicago by Dr Gottfried Oosterwal, made me confident in the integrity of Adventism yet aware of its maturing status. Since Andrews was not then accredited to offer doctoral studies, with the sage advice of the Seminary Dean, Dr W.G.C. Murdoch, I undertook a D.Min. (Biblical Studies, but including Clinical Pastoral Education) in Indianapolis at Christian Theological Seminary. So, by late 1973, I was back in Australia with a passion to evangelise an area of Sydney that had only one small Adventist congregation amongst a million people. However, after five days of residence in Sydney, I was appointed to Avondale College, the geographical location for my endeavours during the next eighteen years.

After a couple of years as a lecturer in the Department of Theology at Avondale, I was concurrently appointed curator (later the job title was changed to director) of the newly established Ellen G. White/Seventh-day Adventist Research Centre located on the Avondale campus but serving the Australasian Division (now called the South Pacific Division). This was a time of comparative peace in Australasian Adventism, following the tumult of the 1960s, despite new and vigorous debates that were escalating within the church. The issues raised in Spectrum from 1970, like the shock waves emanating from the Ronald L. Numbers volume Prophetess of Health (1976), were little known or felt in Australasia at the time, even though the approaches of such groups as the Concerned Brethren were eliciting a vigorous response from the Biblical Research Committee of which I was a member. However, by 1980, the researches of Numbers, Don McAdams, Jon Butler, Walter Rea, Ron Graybill, Desmond Ford and many others were becoming better known. During the early 1980s, I formed and tested the impression that my ministry and teaching, illumined by attendance at study conferences in Washington during 1978 and 1982, might best focus on the life and writings of Ellen White in the context of the history and thought of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This focus persisted after my employment changed in 1984 to academic administration and later to chaplaincy and other roles.

Therefore, between 1980 and 2004, well over a hundred items that I wrote (brief reports, book reviews, occasional lectures, magazine and journal articles, book chapters, a thesis, a dissertation, a book and such) principally relate to Ellen White and her symbiotic relationship with the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

In another blog I will offer an overview of some of the documents I wrote between 1980 and 2004. Later, in yet another blog, I’ll address the period from 2005 to the present.

Arthur Patrick, 8 November 2011

Post 18, Poetry and Religion: Josef Greig, Henry Lawson, John Donne and More

Graeme Sharrock epitomises something that is so good about the Divinity School of the University of Chicago. Oh yes, he is passionate about “religion” in the widest sense. Or should that be faith? Or the “Divinity” that is implied in the name of “his” part of the University of Chicago? Or all of the above and much, much more?

For over a quarter-century Graeme has been a “people-helper” in Chicago, listening to human beings in distress and journeying with them in their search for meaning. But he is as omnivorous as the Divinity School: he is “into” literature, social science, photography, as well as theology, history, and poetry. Why mention Graeme Sharrock in a blog about Adventist Studies?

Because Graeme is well along in writing a PhD dissertation about Ellen White and her “testimonies.” How does this genre of writing resonate with American culture in the mid-nineteenth century? What form does it adopt and develop? To whom are the testimonies addressed? When I read his draft of a chapter on this theme for “The Ellen White Project” (see the earlier blog about that subject) I was thrilled by its insights. Now I hope that Graeme will let me read and review his dissertation on the testimonies, when it is complete.

But the real reason why I am hurrying off this blog on a glorious Spring morning is that in an e-mail just received from Graeme, he has alerted me (and others) to a website ( that makes available some of the poetry written by Dr A. Josef Greig, not long retired as a professor of Old Testament at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan.

Some of my readers will remember Joe as an insightful member of the Adventist Society for Religious Studies, as a writer of articles (not least in Spectrum), and as a teacher capable of thinking outside the square. During all the years that I have known Joe and cherished his biblical exegesis, I was unaware of his skill with poetry.

Anyway, I have just read Greig’s fourteen verses entitled “Day Break on the Jabbock: Talking to Myself.” It starts this way:

I am an old man now, beyond three score years 
and ten, if that counts for anything. Have I not 
entered the circle of the wise? I can take my hand 
off my mouth and speak. I have a history with God.
 The journey was first paternal, then stormy, 
at last seismic. The model that I first took 
for God was my earthly father. He was loving,
 dependable, fair, faithful, self-sacrificing, 
though not a professed believer; a difficult 
act for God to follow. I would not have been
 so disappointed had the roles been reversed.

The poem speaks to me because its author is a highly-skilled biblical scholar so, like the Book of Revelation, his verses are a mosaic that presents Scripture in a new and arresting way. There is a starkness about the lines that reminds one of Psalm 22, or the poetry of Dr John Knight of “Post Pressed” and universities in Queensland, Australia. Yet there is more. “Day Break on the Jabbock” refers to “The Latter Rain, “The Time of Trouble,” and numerous other terms known only to Adventists, or at least narrowly-defined by us.

Earlier this year I presented a sermon on the religious verse of Henry Lawson (1867-1922), an Australian balladist much loved by common people. Lawson’s life was an unmitigated disaster, but he could look into the souls of his fellows in ways that most others found impossible. Often Lawson is totally wrong theologically, but so “true” biblically. (Ever read Dr Gottfried Oosterwal on the significance of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ?) In his poem, “Saint Peter” Lawson declares:

When I reach the great head-station⎯Which is somewhere “off the track”⎯
I won’t want to talk with angels Who have never been Out Back;
They might bother me with offers Of a banjo⎯meanin’ well⎯
And a pair of wings to fly with, When I only want a spell.

Lawson’s desire to be understood is a powerful application of the biblical doctrine of the Incarnation. I admit a far greater depth in the sublime poetry of John Donne. There is, for instance, majestic meaning in his expression, “in his purple wrapped receive me Lord.” Or in his “A Hymn to God the Father.” We Adventists define the theology of such works-of-art as “Righteousness by Faith.”

So, thank God for Graeme Sharrock, Josef Greig, John Knight, Henry Lawson and Alexander Carpenter (who facilitated the posting of Greig’s poetry).

Arthur Patrick, 6 November 2011

Post 17, The Ordination of Women: Toward an Historical Perspective

With Adventist Review, Adventist Today and other official and unofficial news services reporting the recent General Conference and North American Division discussions about the role of women, we may need a tidy historical perspective. Thus I am posting this presentation that I made last year, in hope that it may provide useful background for the contemporary conversation.

F.D. Nichol contends that Seventh-day Adventism, as “a distinct religious body,” was born on the morning of 23 October 1844. If so, in 2011 we celebrated our 167th birthday. That is a long time for the church to fail to fully engage the spiritual gifts of the majority of the its membership in its life and mission. Put bluntly, of our 16 million members, about nine million are blocked from full participation in the affairs and witness of the church. We Adventists say only ordained persons are eligible for certain roles and, in the same breath, we acknowledge we do not officially ordain women as ministers.

On 28 June 2010, our lack of gender inclusiveness was expressed clearly during the Seventh Business Meeting of the Fifty-ninth General Conference session, by delegate, Jurrien den Hollander:

Mr Chairman, I appreciate the work of the Nomination Committee because it is a huge task to get all the work done. Yet with regard to the names that have been presented to us as a body, I have noticed something that worries me greatly. In past division officer groups that have been elected and approved by the body, there were few women. And now again I hear 16 names being mentioned, and it appears to me that 14 of the 16 persons are men.

I believe that in a church where 60 percent of the members are women, there should be a better representation of women in the leadership. This means, Mr Chairman, that if I should consider only this list, with 16 names, nine of them should be women. Therefore, Mr Chairman, I move to refer this list back to the Nominating Committee.

Jurrien den Hollander’s motion was lost but his concern is shared by large numbers of Adventists, especially those in several world divisions who asked (in vain) for the ordination of women to be an agenda item at the 2010 world session of the General Conference. On 29 June 2010, at the said session, an Adventist Today reporter noted that three women activists concerned with the issue of the ordination of women in the Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDA) briefly hung a banner over the wall of a lower level of the arena during a session designed for SDA clergy. Evidently the banner read “The Greatest Want of the World is the Want of Men Who Still Stand for Right and Equality in Adventist Ministry Even If Negatively Impacted.” It stayed up approximately eight minutes before it was taken down voluntarily when a delegate asked the group to “take it down.”

Those close to the group said the banner was intended to call attention to the refusal of the church’s leadership to permit the issue of women’s ordination to be brought up during the General Conference Session. They have also pointed out that while the denomination was cofounded by a woman, Ellen G. White in the 1840s, women are not acknowledged as eligible for the church’s formal authorisation for full ministerial service.

Elizabeth Lechleitner, reporting the world session for the Adventist News Network, stated:

The Seventh-day Adventist Church July 2 committed itself to further study the biblical theology behind the practice of ordination. The action followed a specific request for an official survey of the matter during the just-concluded General Conference session, the highest governing body of the denomination. Delegate Ray Hartwell, president of the Pennsylvania Conference, called for a church-conducted reexamination of ordination from the floor of the Georgia Dome during the session. In comments to session delegates July 2, world church general vice president Michael L. Ryan said the session Steering Committee is “committed” to bringing a comprehensive report on ordination to a church business meeting within the next five years. The report is expected to survey the biblical motivation behind the model of ordination. Ryan said adequate time is needed to deliver a thoughtful, well-researched report with input from each region.

Therefore, it is evident the church we love and serve has problems with the status and role of women that have plagued it for a very long time. Fifty-two years ago, at the marriage altar, my cherished wife revealed her attitude when she promised to “love and honour” me, but refused to permit inclusion of a promise to “obey” me. It is time for millions of women and men to similarly make public their convictions about the vexed issue of womens’ rightful place in our community of faith.

How May We Understand the History of the Problem?

Adventists started rather well, remembering as they did a contested but significant level of participation by women as heralds of “the Advent near” within Millerism, between 1831 and 1844. Their attitudes were helped by the ministry and witness of Ellen Gould Harmon White, best known as a writer, but also a prolific speaker in every form of Adventist gathering from 1844 until near the time of her death in 1915. Of countless events that deserve mention from those seventy years, we shall notice only three.

Uriah Smith, the longest-serving editor of the Second Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, wrote a telling statement about womens’ place in the church as early as 30 July 1861. Smith was clearly of similar mind to other pioneers like James White and J.N. Andrews.

The 1881 General Conference in session discussed with energy the role of women before it Resolved, that females possessing the necessary qualifications to fill that position, may, with perfect propriety, be set apart by ordination to the work of the Christian ministry.

Near the end of the nineteenth-century in Australia, ministers such as William Clarence White, Ellen White’s son and most important interpreter, ordained women as deaconesses in the Sydney church at Ashfield. These practices seemed to accord with the growing clarity of Ellen White’s insistence that the spiritual gifts of women should be recognised with just wages, prayer, and the laying on of hands.

It seems to me that we might profile 167 years of Adventism along the following lines:

1844-1915: cautious inclusion of women in the life and witness of the church.

1915-1970: progressive exclusion of women from the life and witness of the church. Perhaps the patterns of the period from Ellen White’s death until the 1970s are best explained by two powerful realities: Adventism’s retreat into Fundamentalism and Americas’s idealisation of female subservience.

1970 to 2010: commendable study about the status and role of women but the continued partial exclusion of women from the life and witness of the church. We noted above some of the instances that highlighted this reality at the 2010 General Conference session.

Our understanding will potentially be enriched by the proposed study of ordination that is now under way, not least by evidence that may bring a deepened conviction that ordination is the church’s recognition of God’s spiritual gifts poured upon his children. The initiative is Divine, the recognition is human. If we could disentangle our Adventist thinking and doing from twenty centuries during which apostolic succession and sacramentalism were so much cherished by the Christian church, perhaps we would better perceive our sacred responsibility to recognise that when God pours out spiritual gifts upon His people, they are not gender specific.


It is my humble but considered opinion that since the 1970s, Adventists have well explored almost every biblical, historical, theological and sociological fact about the ordination of women. One of the finest of these explorations is reported in the volume Women in Ministry: Biblical and Historical Perspectives. Our church remains essentially at the same point as it was when Jennifer Knight and Gwen Wilkinson edited “Perspectives of Women in the Church: All We’re Meant to Be,” reporting the Namaroo Conference Centre discussion of 20 April 1986. Seventh-day Adventism has well maintained many aspects of its reformist stance, to do with slavery, health and education, for instance. One of its pressing duties is to fulfil the promise of its heritage and the implications of Scripture by the full inclusion of women in its life and witness–by ordination.

Arthur Patrick, summary of a presentation at the College Church Educational Event on the ordination of women in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, co-sponsored by Sydney Adventist Forum, Ladies Chapel, Avondale College of Higher Education, 14 August 2010, edited and posted 5 November 2011

Post 16, The Adventist Concept of Mission: A Preliminary Overview

Adventists are a pilgrim people, journeying from the counterpart of Egypt to the real Canaan. On such a journey through a vast landscape, landmarks are essential. The Bible gives us the significant truths that meet this need.

Some years ago, I was one of a party of four that hiked in the Warrumbungle National Park where volcanoes and time have shaped fantastic mountains. Colourful names for various peaks reflect human perceptions and experience: Crater Bluff, Split Rock, Needle Mountain. And Mount Exmouth, reaching 1206 metres into the clear sky of New South Wales, beyond the Great Dividing Range.

Let’s press Mount Exmouth into service as a symbol of an Adventist teaching, the message of the First Angel. See Revelation, chapter 14, especially verses 6 and 7.

Even though it towers over other impressive tors like the Breadknife and Bluff Mountain, Exmouth cannot be seen from Blackman’s Camp. From that angle, other peaks hide Exmouth.

From part of the walking track Exmouth looks like a single, rounded mass of rock.

When at last we reached its crest, we found Exmouth is a small range with a number of rocky outcrops.

How similar is the “range” we call the First Angel’s message: proclaiming the everlasting gospel for earth-dwellers, announcing judgment in the present tense, calling for worship of the Creator. Each of these “outcrops” is an important truth; our spiritual journey is orientated by all of them.

But each aspect of this teaching has been viewed very differently from various vantage points during the sixteen decades of the Adventist journey. Let’s test that statement with respect to just one feature: the gospel, for everyone.

In 1845 when William Miller read in his King James Version about preaching “the everlasting gospel unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people” he wrote: “We have done our work in warning sinners, and in trying to awake a formal church. God in his providence has shut the door; we can only stir one another up to be patient, and to be diligent in making our calling and election sure.”

No sense of continuing mission there!

When Uriah Smith read those same words in 1859, he wrote that the United States “is composed of people from almost every nation.” He mused that it may not be necessary, then, for Adventists to go everywhere preaching the gospel; and probably there wasn’t time for them to do so, anyway, because Jesus was coming so soon.

That was an improved but short-sighted concept of mission! Jesus declares in Matthew 24:14 (NIV) that “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

The concept of mission that we cherish from Revelation 14:6-7 propelled earnest folk from North America to every continent, beginning with John Andrews and his two motherless children who went to Europe in 1874. By 1885, that message was moving Stephen Haskell and his ten companions past Samoa and Auckland to Melbourne, to begin their Australian mission.

By the 1950s some Adventists were beginning to ask whether our mission should target non-Christians more effectively. Rather than a main emphasis on re-converting believers, shouldn’t we go more intentionally to those who had never heard the name of Jesus? That line of thinking would help to develop research centres focused on how best to present Adventism to Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and so on.

Late in the 1960s a fresh concept of mission was forming in the minds of people like Gottfried Oosterwal of Andrews University, formerly a pioneer missionary in what was called Dutch New Guinea. By the 1980s for Oosterwal and the church the necessity was clear, Adventists must consciously plan what is now named “Global Mission,” a way of reaching every people group within every nation. For instance, it will never do to tell the story of salvation to just Anglo-Saxon Australians: our Aborigines must hear the Good News, as must immigrants from India, China, Cambodia and everywhere else. God is “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance,” 2 Peter 3:9.

The New International Version expresses the task of Adventist mission in unmistakable terms: the gospel must go to “every nation, tribe, language and people.” Currently Adventists are working over 200 of the geographical divisions of the world. The other countries are in their minds, as is every people group in every nation under heaven.

So much for a brief account of 160-plus years of Adventist mission. Of course, like Exmouth, the vital truths of the First Angel’s Message were there even when we failed to see them at all, or when we peered at some of them as through a dark glass. And as our vantage point changed, so did the substance of what we saw.

All of us need to take responsibility for understanding the truths of the Bible in the light of history. Ellen White’s memorable words reassure us: “We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history,” Life Sketches, page 196. One of the deepest problems Adventists face is that we can so easily forget what God has taught us so clearly in the past. That’s like paying for experience but failing to keep the receipt.

To summarise: the concept of world mission was crucial in Millerite Adventism. It was put on hold in the era of transition when Millerites were becoming Sabbatarian Adventists. After the theological foundation of the new movement was laid effectively, Seventh-day Adventists developed an understanding of their mission in several stages, matching the capacity of the movement to engage with an ever-enlarging task. Thus believers were challenged progressively to better perceive and implement the biblical ideal: God’s Good News is for everyone.

Undergraduate students study such conceptual change in classes focused on Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) history and the life and writings of Ellen White. Seminary or graduate students go into it all, in far greater depth, when they study the development of SDA theology. But all of us need to benefit from understanding how God has led Adventists during their pilgrimage. Not all of us can sit in college or seminary classrooms. But all of us can learn a lot about the essentials with the help of books, journals and magazines, plus valuable information we can access at the push of a computer button.

More later, when this website focuses further on the fascinating theme of mission.

Arthur Patrick, posted 3 November 2011

Post 15, Thirty Years of Alden Thompson’s Research

Although I wrote this particular review in 2005, I am posting it today for two reasons. Alden Thompson’s book remains a good read in 2011, and How Ellen White Grew is a good illustration why my readers will enjoy Alden Thompson’s website at Walla Walla University (use GOOGLE, again!), where most of his historic and recent writing is available.

God must love us common people, some wit is reported as saying, because He made so many of us. Six years ago, Pacific Press published a book for all of us (in all our diversity) who call ourselves Adventists.

Written by Old Testament specialist Alden Thompson of Walla Walla University, Escape from the Flames bears a profound message in down-to-earth language. Part of this message is well expressed in its subtitle: How Ellen White grew from fear to joy—and helped me to do it too.

The book has a mere 191 pages, including indexes to the biblical and Ellen White passages cited. Although published in 2005, it had been growing in Thompson’s mind since his first assignment to teach Adventist history in 1979.

Thompson came to that particular class of eighty students fresh from reading nine Ellen White volumes (4,800 pages) entitled Testimonies for the Church. Devout conservative students “rejoiced because they sensed that God’s hand was clearly leading in Ellen White’s growing experience,” whereas left-leaning liberals found “a model that allowed them to be absolutely honest with all the evidence.” Thompson now confesses: “In that class, I glimpsed something that I sensed could work for the entire Adventist family” (page 31).

Only an ardent devotee of Scripture could paint the picture that Thompson’s words portray. It is of a loving God that meets the needs of His people through inspired writings for Israel (Old Testament), the early Christian church (New Testament) and Adventists (Ellen White). The strengths of his book are many, with several standing tall.

First, it has a solid foundation in and a passion for Scripture. The 170 Bible passages cited are used with a scholar’s sensitivity for the meaning of their words, their context and how they illumine the path of the end-time believer.

Second, it is the work of a diligent student of Ellen White’s writings and all things Adventist. The book is fruit from decades of intense study, classroom discussion, seminar interchanges and pulpit reflections. Thompson’s insights in groundbreaking books on the Old Testament and biblical inspiration, plus his many Adventist Review and Ministry articles, reach a new winsomeness and maturity in this volume.

Third, it accentuates the precious nature of the Adventist community of faith. Thompson is a patient, perceptive researcher prepared to listen actively to people who disagree with him vigorously. It is by such open sharing that Adventists can sort out what is reliable evidence and develop a more mature faith.

The theme of inspiration is presented honestly, insightfully, believably. Both the Bible and Ellen White’s writings are thereby illumined; especially do her principal historic statements on inspiration glow with meaning and significance. So here is a book that can draw Adventists into unity of understanding and, therefore, better equip us for life together (fellowship) and witness (mission) to a world that needs to know the love of God and respond to His last-day message.

Those who want to understand Ellen White’s spiritual gift must read this stimulating book if they hope to stay abreast of the vibrant, ongoing conversation.

I cite the book, however, merely as a telling illustration of Thompson’s literary corpus. He made his mark in the chaos of the early 1980 with an Adventist Review series entitled “Sinai to Golgotha.” You will be rewarded by reading that series and a wealth of other writing that includes what Alden Thompson is doing with his Bible and Adventist Studies in 2011.

Arthur Patrick, 6 April 2005 updated 2 November 2011

Post 14, Fresh Analysis of the Controversial 1919 Bible Conference

Two lectures at Avondale College four years ago (on 15 November 2008) invited Adventists to replace decades of controversy with effective understanding. The lecturer, Dr Michael W. Campbell, was pastoring three churches in Montrose, Colorado (USA). The lectures focused on the context, content and results of a conference held by Adventists in Washington, D.C. (USA), during 1919.

Three years of coursework helped Michael Campbell assemble the kit of scholarly tools he used during another three years to research and write “The 1919 Bible Conference and Its Significance for Seventh-day Adventist History and Theology,” a PhD dissertation. His 305 pages of historical analysis were completed during July 2008 for the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, Andrews University, under a supervisory committee that included Drs Jerry Moon, Gary Land and George Knight.

The first printed copy of the dissertation, displayed and summarised at the November 15 lectures, reached Dr Campbell days before he flew with it to Australia. This report refers to both the lectures and the dissertation.

The 1919 Bible Conference was set in a watershed era as Fundamentalism was rising and its prophetic conferences were impacting North American Christianity and Adventism. The 1919 event was epochal for Adventists, coming as it did soon after the end of Ellen White’s 70-year ministry and the crises of World War I. Dr Campbell’s third chapter summarises an important component of the conference.

Finally, several speakers, most notably W. W. Prescott, emphasized the importance of progressive revelation. Truth is progressive and Adventists needed a Bible Conference to continue to mine the depths of God’s word, they argued. Adventist thinkers were feeling the pressure of a number of doctrinal conflicts that made it advantageous to discuss theological issues candidly yet behind closed doors. The 1919 Bible Conference was ultimately an opportunity for leading thinkers in the church to seek both theological unity and spiritual revival (page 101).

To read such a comment is to activate important questions. Who were the participants and what did they say? What were the “truth” issues, then and now? Were theological unity and revival achieved? After ninety years, does the conference agenda still matter, anyway? Why has 1919 been so incendiary?

The first answer to the last question is simple: two stalwart believers who probably did not participate in the conference (there is some ambiguity in the extant evidence!) soon waged a pamphlet war, claiming the 1919 discussions compromised Adventism and led it toward the deadly “omega of apostasy.” The second answer concerns the present. Similar charges have for a long time been levelled by stentorian voices. For instance, in a series of books and many magazine articles published in the United States and Australia by Russell R. Standish and Colin D. Standish, the 1919 conference is presented as an illustration of “doubt” to the extent that they declare simply, “The 1919 Bible Conference was a disgrace to our church.” See their volume The Greatest of All the Prophets (2004), 162-172, plus their comment on Daniells in Half a Century of Apostasy (2006), 237.

Campbell’s Appendix A (222-3) identifies 65 attendees, their job descriptions and ages at the time they met between 1 July and 1 August 1919. He helpfully separates the main conference, at which theoretically all 65 attendees participated, from the smaller group of about 18 administrators, Bible and history teachers who conferred after the close of the main event. In an earlier footnote, Campbell states: “The 1919 Bible Conference was actually composed of two concurrent conferences. The primary conference was the 1919 Bible Conference which extended from July 1 to 19, 1919. During the evening there was an additional series of teachers’ meetings that extended beyond the Bible Conference until August 1, 1919. Both will be collectively referred to in this dissertation as the ‘1919 Bible Conference’” (xiii).

During the discussions, the physical temperature was at times either “sizzling” or “stifling”; the human engagements were spirited, often frank but never malicious. Perhaps nine stenographers, including three women, attempted to record the proceedings. The stenographers could not always hear the remarks made from where they were sitting and some entire discussions (in one instance, a block of sixty pages) were deleted from the conference records at the direction of the chairperson (the General Conference president). Campbell laments on page 94: “It is regrettable that only a fraction of what could have been recorded has been preserved.” But any historian is likely to be excited by the fact that more than 1,300 pages of transcripts are available for study, as well as a consensus statement, articles and books written by participants, plus a growing number of historical reflections. A set of the existing transcripts is available, neatly bound in five volumes, on the shelves of the Ellen G. White/SDA Research Centre at Avondale College. Since similar copies are located on the Internet and in Adventist research entities around the world, Campbell’s oral and written reports can be read in the light of unusually-rich primary documentation.

The dissertation is part of the extensive resources in the Avondale College Library used by undergraduate and graduate (including PhD) students whose interest is in the discipline of Adventist Studies. The two lectures are available from the Research Centre ( as a compact disc and offer a succinct introduction to Fundamentalism and its impact on Adventism, as well as the 1919 Bible Conference and its outcomes. The dissertation is reviewed more fully on

Four years after I heard and reviewed Campbell’s lecture at Avondale College, I believe its message is more important now that it was back in 2008.

Arthur Patrick, 17 November 2008, edited 28 October 2011

Post 13, “The Ellen White Project”

In a blog on this website dated 25 October 2011, I mentioned that “The Ellen White Project” editors intend to pass a book manuscript to a major academic publisher this month. This brief comment evoked questions from as far away as Russia, so in response I will seek to answer some of the main questions that are in my readers’ minds.

The manuscript hopes to provide a scholarly introduction to Ellen White in the context of American religious history. I feel deeply privileged to have been chosen as one of 21 chapter authors, in that I am an Australian. Oh yes, Joan and I have lived for almost eight years in such states as Illinois, Michigan and California, and I know many of the other authors personally. But the project looks at Ellen White as “an American prophet”; my special interests are illustrated by the content of my MLitt and PhD theses completed for Australian universities. In other words, Ellen White spent the years 1891-1900 in New Zealand and Australia; I am interested in her entire life (1827-1915), but I want to explore the 87 years with special reference to her nine years “Down Under.”

This American project is an exciting one in both conception and execution. The most controversial book ever published by our church came from the press in 1957, and a group of brave scholars decided that after almost fifty years it may be appropriate to try to understand the book and its reception. The result: a landmark conference at Andrews University marking the first fifty years of Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine. I had long wanted to say what was in my paper; now my perspectives can be interpreted within the balancing opinions of the other presenters. All the papers are conveniently available on the Andrews University site: Why mention this project here? Because it encouraged the editors of The Ellen White Project to plan an exploration of Ellen White’s life and thought in a similarly open manner.

The way the editors followed through with their objective is impressive, to say the least. One of their early tasks was to define the project and select 21 authors to draft chapters. Then they selected two respondents to read each chapter: one an Adventist, the other a competent scholar in North American religious history from beyond the borders of our church. At the conference in Portland, Maine, held during October 2009, each author was given several minutes to profile their chapter (it was already in the hands of all the attendees) before the respondents delivered their assessment. Then the chapter and the responses were discussed in an open forum. After that, the editors and authors had almost two years of dialogue to refine the text ready for presentation to a major academic publisher.

I don’t need to go into more detail about all this, since blogs by both Adventist and non-Adventist participants are freely available on the Internet (Google “The Ellen White Project”). I sincerely believe that the book will meet its primary purpose, to introduce Ellen White to intelligent, non-Adventist readers.

During the turmoil of 1980, our Adventist co-founder was in the eye of a violent storm. I decided to enroll in a public university to write a thesis about her. I already had a couple of master degrees and a doctorate, but they were in areas like Systematic Theology, Ministry and Biblical Studies. Now I was starting again, in another discipline, history. So I had to attend undergraduate lectures and write papers in historical studies before I could even start graduate research. Then, one of the requirements at the time for the course I chose (MLitt) was for each student to present their project to a combined gathering of history lecturers and graduate students. That day stands out clearly in my memory. I was amazed at the level of interest that hard-nosed historians and graduate students had in Ellen Gould White.

I was under pressure in that first post-graduate degree in historical studies, in that a Distinction was required in order to gain entry into the PhD research that I wanted to undertake. Yesterday I had occasion to review my papers and articles that Bille Burdick has so efficiently placed on, between 1998 and 2009. It is obvious that in those pieces of writing I am trying to function as a believer who is also an historian.

That is why some readers are deeply upset with what I write. On one side, some want only expressions of faith. On the other side, some want only the perspectives of history. I have tried to offer both. I will, in due course review The Ellen White Project through both those lenses. That, I know, is unacceptable to some friends that I cherish, but I must be true to my convictions. Ellen White assures us that “we have nothing to fear” with reference to the future, except as we forget how the Lord has led and taught us in the past.

Arthur Patrick, 26 October 2011

Post 12, Understanding Daniel 8:14 and the Judgment

Click on these links to view the articles on “assumptions” relating to 1844 and the interpretation of Daniel 8:14:

Assumptions re 1844 AT version

Assumptions re 1844 Full Text

However did we keep abreast of the thinking of the worldwide Adventist family before the miracle of e-mail was invented? In my lifetime, there has been dynamic change from the mimeograph, ham radio and the photocopier to the wonders of the computer.

A friend from Africa wrote to me on 23 October 2011 (167 years after the dramatic morning of the Great Disappointment), in part: “I also meant to ask you about the response to your questions around the key assumptions on 44 and the IJ. I think you mentioned that you had several constructive responses?”

This friend, a scientist skilled in research, is a thorough and deeply committed Bible student. We have exchanged a lot of e-mails. In fact, one reason why I launched this modest website on 22 October 2011 is that I no longer have the time and health to engage in depth with the valid and interesting questions that are in the minds of “thinking believers” all over the world. A blog can offer responses to questions, posed by one friend, that are in the minds of thousands.

In his e-mail, my friend is reflecting on an earlier discussion about an article published by Adventist Today, in its Summer 2011 issue, entitled “The Assumptions of the Daniel and Revelation Committee in Defending 1844.” Here are a few facts that may help my readers assess the article.

First, the magazine Adventist Today (AT) is, in my view, acting responsibly in publishing this piece by a pastor who has long served the church⎯in parishes that include believers who hold a diversity of opinions about 1844 and the Investigative Judgment. The editor of AT is also an experienced pastor in full time employment; he edits the independent magazine AT as a volunteer. Incidentally, J. David Newman was for many years an esteemed editor of Ministry, the worldwide journal for pastors, founded in the 1920s by LeRoy Edwin Froom. To protect the identity of the “Assumptions” author, Newman assigned him the name “Roy Ingram”; hence the content of the piece can be evaluated without praise or blame being attached to the person who wrote it.

Second, since the early 1990s when it began publication, AT has constructively grasped quite a few Adventist nettles. It aims to bring “contemporary issues of importance to Adventist church members,” and to follow “the basic principles of ethics and canons of journalism,” as a publication that “strives for fairness, candor, and good taste.” I will on occasion refer to AT in the same respectful way I will refer to polar-opposite publications. In fact, I applaud the way in which AT includes authors that represent perspectives quite other than those held by the generous people who are on the Adventist Today Foundation. These dedicated Adventists make available to us all, free electronic access to a wealth of data, and access to the magazine itself at a price that almost anyone can afford. Check out the website:

Third, what should I do about the article that interests my friend in Africa? He is clearly interested in “constructive responses.” Yes, I have some significant ones already. A very well-informed scholar, before he read the article, cautioned that readers of “Assumptions” needed to be aware of the frank way in which competent scholars may express tentativeness. Often the people who know least about a given subject are loudest in proclaiming their certainties. God’s people walk by faith and, as we do so, we need to be humble in the way we express the church’s teachings. Another scholar who is known worldwide for his studies in the fields of systematic theology and ethics, carefully read Ingram’s article and commended the way it presented the evidence that supports its contentions. I would like to see an irenic, worldwide consideration of the basic idea that Ingram propounds. AT was not able to publish the long study on which Ingram spent years, so I have placed Ingram’s full text along with the shortened version above, so AT readers can click on either or both.

If Ingram’s basic thesis is sustained, we Adventists need to be gentler than some of us have been in our dealings with each other. We all need to thoroughly explore the long history of the interpretation of Daniel 8:14 in both Millerism and Sabbatarian Adventism. (Yes, I plan to post my short, documented history of that matter in the foreseeable future, to offer a bit of help to those who may not have ready access to all the crucial sources.) Ingram’s articles can alert us to the need to nurture those in the church who find it difficult to make all the leaps of faith that some us seem to find so easy to make.

That raises the important question of how evidence should be used to form and sustain faith. After the 1919 Bible Conference, the church pretty much decided that with reference to Ellen White, it could lay important pieces of evidence to one side. A magnificent tome, Ellen G. White and Her Critics (1951) illustrated the high point of that process. This month the editors of “The Ellen White Project” pass to an academic publisher the manuscript of a volume that offers the first scholarly introduction to the life and writings of Ellen White. If our lives are hid with Christ in God we will not fear fuller understandings of aspects of Adventist history and thought. “Present truth” was a vivid term that Ellen White cherished; we need to understand it and value it as we press forward with our contemporary mission.

Oops, I try to keep a blog like this around 750 words; this one is well over 900! So, more clarity in due course.

Arthur Patrick, 24 October 2011; edited 1 November 2011