What Has Our History Taught Us?

One of the classes I teach at the seminary where I am the professor of Historical Theology is “Creating the Hermeneutic of African American Christianity in the 21st Century: Cultural, Biblical, and Historical Perspectives.” In this class, the students and I read and analyze the writings of African American Christian writers from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries that touch on culture, biblical studies, and historical contexts. Then, given those texts and our discussions, the final question for the class, and the one on which their final paper is based is this: What are the trajectories of African American Christianity in the 21st century? Can anything be projected, given the history of the past 300+ years?

I have been thinking about that question this week for Adventism as we approach what many consider to be monumental Fall Council. In other words: Given where Adventism has come since 1843 (or 1863, if you prefer), can anything be said about where we are headed as a denomination in the 21st century.

Of course, being raised an Adventist from the age of five, I am well aware of our 19th century eschatological zeitgeist of the soon return of our Lord, so for many this is an exercise in futility. I, myself, never expected to find myself this deep into the 21st century on this side of the cataclysmic parousia, nor, even, did my children. Yet here we are.

Other than in broad outlines, I am not an Adventist historian, but like many Adventists I have picked up here and there, mostly from mentors and other “elders,” bits and pieces of how we have handled theological, biblical, and cultural questions that have arisen. And here I am speaking about Trinitarian issues; stances on slavery; women’s rights in the late 19th and early 20th century; racism in different parts of the world as we became a worldwide denomination, including our role in the engulfing of Europe in the genocidal “final solution” of the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s; our engagement of peoples whose cultural traditions were seen as unacceptable by western societies; questions of our traditional interpretation(s) of biblical (and E.G. White’s) prophecies. And here we are in 2017. The years 1843, 1844, 1863, 1888, 1901, and many other years were turning points in Adventist history. 2015 will be added to that list, and probably 2017. And the question is: How will history see 2017 within Adventism?

When asked a few days ago by some Adventist friends if I believed God had led us to where we are, I had to confess that I did not know. I only know, from experience, that whatever happens at the Fall Council, God will not wash His hands of us.

Dr. Roger S. Evans is Professor of Historical Theology and Chair of the Department of History at Payne Theological Seminary.

Image Credit: ellenwhite.org / Ellen G. White addressing the 1901 General Conference Session, Battle Creek, Michigan, April 12, 1901

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8281
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this is just how i feel…my favorite verse in all of scripture is:

“I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Heb 13:5 (Josh 1:5).

as i see it, god has made too big an investment to dump us now - think the crucifixion, think christ’s 24-hr mediation…this kind of love isn’t going to stop unless we make it stop…i think god is just letting us suffer the consequences of our own mistakes so we’ll turn to him with even more resolve in the future…

but in terms of our vantage point right now, there’s just no getting around the fact that san antonio was a massive mistake…our leaders underestimated the conviction of the WO side, and probably didn’t suspect how vitriolic the call for punishment from the anti-WO side would be…no doubt they expected that all would rally around a GC vote, regardless of which side won, and that we’d be strongly unified moving forward…in retrospect, that was simplistic…it was totally naive…

and the substance of the vote itself was a mistake…a one-policy solution, when the bible calls for a two-policy solution, is the root of the bitterness that’s engulfing us now…this root of bitterness needs to be yanked out of the ground in its entirety at indianapolis 2020…and we need to learn from this sad experience the importance of diversity…as we settle into more and more parts of the globe, and as more and more parts of the world we’re already in experience cultural transformation, diversity is probably going to have to be a much bigger imperative than it has been…we may still not understand how much we’ll need to diversify before we finish up the work…

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Many times our God lets us stew in our own conundrums! Hopefully we can learn from these situations and finally move on. Our God is ready to help us forward.

If anything, I believe that reading both the Old Testament AND the New Testament as History, we come to the conclusion that it is THE ONE INDIVIDUAL who makes a difference.
Noah, Abraham, Joseph, moses’ father in law, Samuel when he squeaked Speak Lord, Ruth when she chose to leave home, Rahab when she chose to be a traitor to her country, Teen David with his sling shot, Jonah, teen-early 20’s Daniel and friends at court, risking to say NO at the unveiling of the statue.
God telling Jeremiah he was CHOSEN in the womb. Isaiah just saying, YES! Elisha burning up his 2 oxen and his plowing --planting instruments and leaving a good life, with nothing in his pockets. [He reminds me of St Francis becoming poor so he could serve]
Then we have the ONES – one Peter at Pentecost, one Peter before the Sanhedren, Stephen, Philip, Paul turning the world upside down.
ALL of these DID NOT have an ORGANIZATION behind them. But they made a difference in the world.
We have to look at ourselves as ONE, ONE willing to make a difference to those, in those around us and NOT worry about the Denomination – The Church.
Just present Jesus, the Loving Father, the Holy Spirit.
Just present Jesus!!
The man who baptized 13 yr old David Livingston, ONLY had him for a convert, and felt depressed, thinking he was a failure as a preacher.
David Livingston – ONE against the Continent of Africa.
William Wilberforce – ONE parliament leader against the British Slave Trade. Encouraged by his pastor, John Newton [penned Amazing Grace].

TOO MUCH Denominations can become deluded and those in POWER can take up the Spirit and Ways of the Beast Powers of Revelation. No longer becomes a Christ-centered organization, but turns into a Religion by Men, for Men.


No way God will “wash his hands of us,” considering he was very tolerant of German churches that supported Nazism.Even when Christian churches displayed the Nazi flag embossed with the cross these denominations still have survived. Since the WO issue was not an OT issue when God chose only males as priest, how can it result in God’s disapproval if the church votes to support or discontinue women as ordained priest?