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review 2018-10-27 23:57
Light Bearers: A History of the Seventh-day Adventist Church
Light Bearers : A History of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church (Light Bearers to the Remnant) - Richard W. Schwarz

The history of the Seventh-day Adventist church is the emergence of a small band of disappointed Millerites to that of a worldwide church of more than 10 million members by the end of the 20th Century, but not without struggles of all kinds along the way.  Light Bearers: A History of the Seventh-day Adventist Church by Richard W. Schwarz with revisions and updates by Floyd Greenleaf is comprehensive look into the development the denomination over the course of over 170 years by professional historians balancing their own religious beliefs and professionalism.

 

“Beginning” in 1839, though not without highlighting Advent strains across the Christian spectrum leading up to that point, and finishing at the year 2000 with the need to focus on the doctrinal, organizational, institutional, and missionary facets of the denomination’s history was a challenge needing an organized and methodical approach for the reader.  Dividing the history into three parts Greenleaf used Schwarz’s formula of advancing all the facets of the denomination’s development at the same space—though some overlap from one part to another was unavoidable—in different chapters but linking them to past or future characters when required.  These three parts, “Origins and Formative Years 1839-1888”, “Years of Growth and Reorganization 1888-1945”, and “The Globalization of the Church 1945-2000” give the reader, while not a step-by-step look at the denomination’s history, at least a lens to view the events that shaped the denomination as its history developed.  A fourth part, “Maintaining a Biblical Message”, relates the challenges that 20th Century members had keeping the unique doctrines of the Church based Biblically as well as answering challenges from not only without but within as well.

 

Given the multifaceted aspect of history that a book on the Seventh-day Adventist Church entails as well as revising and updating a previous history, Greenleaf did a professional job.  Yet as the first 15 chapters of the book are the original work of Schwarz with scant revisions, it is also a testament to his own professionalism that they hold up just as much as the final third when Greenleaf’s own work is solely on display.  With numerous historical actors and events throughout the over 170 years, both authors delicately balanced the need to be informative enough without slowing down the pace of the book unless the covered topic was doctrinal and thus needed a thorough explanation to better understand the controversy being covered.

 

Light Bearers: A History of the Seventh-day Adventist Church might look like a daunting book at nearly 700 pages, but for those interested in the development of the denomination that they are either apart of or wanting to understand this is the book for them.  Longtime Adventist historians Richard W. Schwarz and Floyd Greenleaf both balance their religious beliefs with their professionalism to give the reader an accurate—warts and all—look at a now global church that developed from only a few hundred disappointed Millerites.

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review 2018-08-04 04:28
Joseph Bates: The Real Founder of Seventh-day Adventism
Joseph Bates: The Real Founder of Seventh-Day Adventism - George R. Knight

While those who would eventually form the Seventh-day Adventist Church were Millerites, only one was influential in both that his work after the Great Disappointment would standout and provide the underpinnings of the eventual largest Adventist denomination.  Joseph Bates: The Real Founder of Seventh-day Adventism by George R. Knight is a comprehensive look at one of the most important men in the Adventism movement before and after October 1844.

 

Beginning with a young boy looking for adventure as a sailor, Knight fully covers the life of Joseph Bates until his death as a senior statesman of the Church he helped to found still looking to serve Christ.  In covering Bates career at sea, Knight pulls out traits—both potentially benefital and harmful—that would serve him as he preached the soon coming of Christ as part of the Millerite movement and later his development of Sabbatarian Adventism.  After retiring, Bates who had already shown a keen interest in reform, firstly himself and then his own ship’s crew, launched himself into numerous reform movements until he heard Advent message of William Miller and seeing it as the ultimate reform movement wholeheartedly went to spread the good news.  Though not a primary leader, he was a major secondary leader within the Millerites that both chaired conferences and went out preaching.  After the Great Disappointment of October 1844, Bates began studying and joined those Adventists that believed something did occur though not the fanatics that tainted this group of post-Disappointment Millerites.  It is at this point in which Knight carefully covers Bates life over a decade, though focused on a four year span in particular, in which Bates became both the first theologian and then first historian of Sabbatarian Adventism and would lay the foundations of essentially all major doctrines that set the Seventh-day Adventist Church apart from other denominations.  Knight covers Bates relationship with both James and Ellen White in full during this period and after as the trio would guide the “little flock” over the next two decades until his death.

 

In approximately 220 pages of text and reference, Knight use Bates’ own autobiography as well as research first discovered others including two of his own students to give the reader a full sense of the life of Joseph Bate as can be expected.  Though the book is not strictly chronological, Knight structures the book in such a way as to give an overview in a certain period of Bates life in one chapter and in the subsequent one focus on a particular aspect during that period with it most typically being theological in nature.  This keeps the book engaging for the general reader and not getting them bogged down or overwhelmed with detail of having a strictly chronological book from beginning to end.  Yet while these choices by Knight create a very good and readable book, there just seemed to be something off with his writing that made me feel that it was up to other books that he had authored.

 

Joseph Bates: The Real Founder of Seventh-day Adventism is a very good book for those, whether Seventh-day Adventists or not, looking to understand the history of denomination that Bates helped to found.  As the preeminent Seventh-day Adventist historian, George R. Knight presents the Bates the man of both virtues and flaws and how he shaped the Advent movement.  I highly recommend this book for those interested in SDA Church history.

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review 2018-07-31 21:51
Abraham's Other Son: Islam Among Judaism & Christianity
Abraham's Other Son: Islam Among Judaism & Christianity (Question and Answer Format) - Philip G. Samaan

Many Christians have no idea what the religion of Islam actually is and for many who have read the Old Testament, they forget that Islam began among the descendants of Abraham’s other son Ishmael.  Dr. Philip Samaan attempts to give Christians, in particular Seventh-day Adventists, a glimpse of actually Islam and Muslims in Abraham’s Other Son: Islam Among Judaism & Christianity.

 

The first two-thirds of the book Samaan focuses primarily on everything related to Islam beginning with Abraham, Hagar, and Ishmael in the Biblical record before turning his attention to Muhammad as well as the rise and spread of Islam.  After the historical portion, Samaan then looks at the faith of Islam itself and its similarities and contrasts to Judaism and Christianity.  Then after covering Jesus in Islam, the book turns to focus on Christ for nearly the last third of the book until the last chapter covers how Christians—Seventh-day Adventists—can witness to both Muslims and Jews.

 

Born in Syria into an Orthodox Christian family, Samaan not only grew up amongst all three faiths but has studied them diligently bring extensive knowledge to this book.  However, while Samaan is particular knowledgeable on the subject went to write, it felt that he wrote parts of at least three different books in this roughly 280 page book.  Not that the material cover wasn’t insightful, but when the book ignored Islam for long stretches which felt weird given that it was to be the main topic.  While the book structure was a little surprising, the biggest drawback is the editing of the text which could have been tightened up in several spots and in some places were determinately to the understanding of what Samaan was discussing.

 

Abraham’s Other Son is an informative book on the history of Ishmael and his descendants in Muslims around the world.  While Philip Samaan’s book is not perfect, it is able to give Christians—not only Seventh-day Adventists—a true glimpse at what Islam really is and its relationship to Judaism and Christianity.

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review 2018-06-30 22:21
Myths in Adventism: An Interpretive Study of Ellen White, Education, and Related Issues
Myths in Adventism: An Interpretive Study of Ellen White, Education, and Related Issues - George R. Knight

Myths pop up everywhere from history, to religion, and in the understanding of someone’s writing.  George R. Knight writes in Myths Adventism: An Interpretive Study of Ellen White, Education, and Related Issues about numerous issues that influence the thinking of Adventists educators and administrators.

 

Knight tackles 19 “myths” related to Adventist education, institutions, and thoughts over the course of 250 pages.  Beginning with myth related to “Historical and Philosophical” issues including those surrounding Ellen White, Knight clears up historical inaccuracies and puts Mrs. White’s writing not only in the context in which lines are written but what was going on at the time that made her write certain statements.  Knight then turned his attention to “Institutions and People” focusing on such issues the interplay between home and school, human nature, and intellectualism in Adventist education.  The largest section of the book about “Curriculum and Methods”, Knight focused on sacred and secular topics, Bible as textbook, literary subjects, religious instructions, in-classroom environments, and recreation and manual labor.

 

As a child of a retired Adventist teacher, I appreciated this book in seeing what my mother had to face over the course of approximately 35 years of her career.  Knight’s research and writing are fantastic throughout the book giving the reader amazing insights in how myths are given life in numerous fields and situations.  However, my problem with this book is not with Knight but with the publishers who in designing the book and blurbs made this book something it wasn’t.  The front cover blurb literally says, “A thoughtful look at misconceptions about Ellen White and Adventist life that have long caused controversy in the church” but nothing about education which is what the book is about and instead makes it appear it’ll be about numerous other things about Adventism.  Though Knight attempts to shield the publishers for their decision in the preface, it’s unfortunately makes the reader realize they might have gotten hoodwinked.

 

Overall Myths in Adventism is an insightful look at the cultural clashes in Adventist education by a writer that knows how to do research in Adventist history and education.  However even though George R. Knight is fantastic, the decisions of the publishers to make this book appear to be something that it’s not is very annoying and future readers need to know about it.

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review 2018-06-02 18:36
Organizing for Mission and Growth: The Development of the Adventist Church Structure (Adventist Heritage Series)
Organizing for Mission and Growth: The Development of Adventist Church Structure - George R. Knight

Throughout the history of the Seventh-day Adventist history there has been a constant question “To organize or not to organize, and if so how?”  Organizing for Mission and Growth is the third book of the Adventist Heritage Series written by Adventist historian George R. Knight.  In covering over 170 years in fewer than 190 pages, the book covers the struggles to first organize then restructuring and then reinvigorating the church so as to achieve its mission to spread its end time message.

 

The Sabbatarian Adventists out of the Millerite movement were small and disorganized across New York and New England, but their former denominational experiences and theological beliefs in the evils of organization forces the rising leaders of the group to do much of the work themselves particularly James White.  While White himself initially was against organizing and “making a name”, the essential one-man operation that he was preforming led him to reexamine scripture and rethinking his anti-organizational ideas becoming a strong advocate for the organizing of the denomination so much so that he refused to become its first president.  But as the decades past and the church grew, the strengths for church structure for a small number of believers over the breath of half a nation became detriments as membership grew and expanded worldwide leading to crisis that brought about restructuring at the beginning of the 20th Century.  However, the divide in ideas about how to restructure causes nearly a decade of drama before it was resolved.  Yet throughout the 20th Century the organization of the church was tweaked and reinvigorated with innovation on several levels but in the 21st Century many have begun questioning the extent of how much administration is needed compared to the previous 100 years.

 

Unlike what he was able to cover in A Brief History of Seventh-day Adventists, Knight goes in-depth on how Seventh-day Adventists got their name and how they structured their denomination’s organization and the debates for and against as well as how it innovated.  Knight does not go in-depth over the entire course of the 155 year history of the General Conference, but he focuses on what needs to be in-depth like James White’s struggle to found the denomination and later the 1901-3 restructuring of the denomination by A.G. Daniels and others against the efforts by A.T. Jones and others who wanted a much decentralized organization (congregationalism).  Yet the events of 1901-3 also had a theological element that while touched upon was discussed more in A Search for Identity, another Adventist Heritage Series book focused on the development of Seventh-day Adventist theology.  This limited focus created a very strong book that gave the reader a clear history of its topic without going down various rabbit holes.

 

Although Knight intended Organizing for Mission and Growth to be the third of a seven book series related to Adventist heritage, however for over a decade it has been the last he has written.  This fact does not take away how important this and other Adventist Heritage Series books for Seventh-day Adventists who are interested in the history of their denomination, it’s theological beliefs, and it’s organizational structure as they are the primary readers Knight aims for.

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