I will begin today’s discussion of sources for the study of Adventism by quoting a letter that I wrote to the editor of the magazine Adventist Today, printed in the Spring 2010 issue, page 4. Here is the letter, exactly as it was published:
“Since 1958, I’ve subscribed to Review (under its various titles: Review and Herald, and Adventist Review). For the past forty years, I’ve subscribed to Spectrum. Since 1993, I’ve subscribed to Adventist Today. Today I’m reading recent copies of Adventist Review (often the 36 issues published each year reach Australia in small bundles), along with the Fall 2009 issues of Adventist Today and Spectrum.
“Right now, I’m interrupting my reading to write to you, because I want to shout, ‘Thank God for the dependent and the independent press in the Seventh-day Adventist community!’
“Each of the three magazines I’ve named command my immediate attention the moment they arrive in my postbox. I admit I don’t read every article in the Review; after all, some of them are rather predictable. That is not a criticism; the magazine is for the entire, diverse Adventist family. We expect it to report from the bridge of the Good Ship Adventist.
“The voyage would be much less engaging without Spectrum and Adventist Today. The independent press can probe issues and share perspectives that may never appear on the official radar. It can propose analyses and even solutions that “the bridge” declines to admit or refuses to discuss, even though it quietly accepts some of them in a decade or two. (Note, as one extended example, the hundred best articles Spectrum about the life and writings of Ellen White.)
“Adventist Today (Fall 2009) takes us to the core of the tithe issue, equips us to read George Knight’s most-controversial book, reminds us of the unfinished business we have from 1980, and invites ‘all three kinds of Adventists’ to live in community here, until we ‘revel together before God’s throne, singing his praises through all eternity.’
“Let me add that even the right wing, independent publications have a place: I need to know why my brothers and sisters are so disturbed. Reading their writings may be both depressing and frustrating. But it is essential if I am to relate to my ‘spiritual relatives.’
“I have confidence (established since 1993) that the Adventist Today Foundation will maintain the quality of Adventist Today. I can hardly wait for the ‘fairness, candor, and good taste’ that the next magazine will apply to ‘contemporary issues of importance” for the church we love.”
That is the entire letter. Two years after it was written, I’d like to add two comments.
First, the letter was written before my article, “Contextualising Recent Tensions in Seventh-day Adventism” appeared in the September 2010 issue of Journal of Religious History. That refereed journal is available worldwide in any scholarly library, so my readers can access my article for more detailed comments about the range of magazines and journals that are available to English-speaking researchers who want to understand Seventh-day Adventist history and thought.
Second, magazines and journals are costly to produce and distribute. Especially younger people in Western cultures are relying more-and-more on various forms of electronic communication. It is a pity that famous publications (including my favorite Australian newspaper, The Sydney Morning Herald) are deeply challenged by the technological changes that are occurring in our generation. A downside of the present is that church publications face some of the same stresses; for instance, Adventist Review struggles to maintain its circulation. I hope that we Adventists will keep buying the print copies of our magazines and journals; that way we will all have a part in preserving the heritage that they report and analyse. However, we need to also use the websites that Adventist Review, Spectrum, Adventist Today and other publications maintain, with diligence and at considerable cost. Some of the valuable material on such websites is not available from any other source.
On earlier blogs I have given details of some of the resources that are available, without cost, at the press of a few computer keys. I am continually amazed that by simply entering my name and any one of a multitude of subjects into GOOGLE, I can access so much of what I have written since 1997. The same can be said for many others who are trying to offer reliable data and analysis of interest to “thinking believers.” How deeply privileged we are!
Arthur Patrick, 31 January 2012