A History of Adventist Lifestyles

Seventh-day Adventists formed their doctrines[1] and organizational structure[2] before developing their lifestyle.[3] An American-born sect,[4] Adventism nevertheless had roots in the Radical Reformation[5] and Methodism.[6] Its blend of Apocalypticism,[7] Primitivism,[8] and Holiness strains[9] created four distinct streams of Adventism[10] that influenced its adherents’ lifestyles in the Burned-Over District when numerous reforms[11] swept Antebellum America. While two of its founders — Joseph Bates and James White — shaped its doctrines and organizational structure, Ellen White[12] played a formative role in creating an ideal Adventist lifestyle.[13] Following the Millerite Great Disappointment,[14] these three founders inculcated a reformist ideology[15] into the Adventist lifestyle.[16] If at times this mindset engendered fanaticism,[17] infighting,[18] and legalism,[19] at other times it brought positive change as this essay will show.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://spectrummagazine.org/news/2020/history-adventist-lifestyles

After reading this extensively researched article, it backs up my opinion that having the number of fundamental beliefs we currently have, and the possibility of adding more, is totally lacking in any consistent foundation . Our church, from beginning to now, has flexed and still has not reached an overwhelming world wide agreement or consensus on HOW to keep the Sabbath, HOW to live our daily lives and what SDA’s all agree we should do as a world wide church. One thing we seem to mostly agree on is 7th day Sabbath (but even all members don’t agree with that point either). If our church has such a varied worldwide membership maybe we should settle on 1-5 items of common consensus and leave it at that? Leaving the minutia up to individual choices and God’s leading for each of us.


I marvel at Brian’s prowess in grappling with such a large and diffuse subject matter and writing this informative and insightful essay. This essay is very clean. There are no smudge marks anywhere.

We need a distinctive Seventh-day Adventist lifestyle for our historical context. Too many Seventh-day Adventists urge a return to our nineteenth century mores, but we cannot live in the past. Those days are over. And too many Seventh-day Adventists think that culture is a bad thing, and consequently, are oblivious to the reality that Scripture and the writings of Ellen White are historically (culturally) conditioned. Our distinctiveness needs to be relevant in order for it to be meaningful and effective. We have either been pushing for too long an irrelevant distinctiveness that is off-putting or ignoring the matter altogether. I hope that Brian’s essay can catalyze a fresh look.


What a fascinating topic! Very well documented and researched. Thank-you.

I have to say that it both brought back memories and taught me some history that I did not know. The article did an outstanding job of showing that there always has been great diversity of thought and practice within Adventism. The “evolution” of Adventist thought and practice is still on-going.


Globally, there are three parameters or constants to the Adventist lifestyle
Time: Seventh-day Sabbath observance from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday.
Treasure: Tithing and support of world mission
Talent: Christian education that shapes our career choices and social mobility

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Quite an enlightening essay with a lot of references to back up the facts. Thanks for sharing. It helps to explain a lot about our corporate church.

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