24 Jul


For me, it was showing up at the neighborhood Bible study. Ostensibly, it was so that I could trade baseball cards and play street hockey with my friends whose parents were inside. I went inside on a rainy day, and the leader of the Bible study group, who happened to be Adventist, was sharing about God’s love and the plan of redemption. I went home that night and invited Jesus into my heart. Although I was only eight years old at the time, for me it was my first introduction both to Christ and Adventism. This, from my perspective, represents Adventism at its very first falling in love with Jesus and thereby desiring to see Him come soon. This Advent hope that awakened in my heart has deep roots in Adventist history.

James White wrote the book, Bible Adventism, in 1878 as a way to introduce and explain Adventism to others. He noted that “much prejudice” exists, but much of it is due to misinformation. Yet even just our name, “Seventh-day Adventist,” he wrote, “is expressive of two prominent features of our faith and hope.” As a people, we are a people who love to spend time with Jesus. Every Sabbath is about connecting in a relational way with our God. And for those who love Jesus so much, we cannot wait to see Him return. “The certainty of the second advent of Christ, and the manner and object of his coming, are points of thrilling interest to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1

Even William Miller understood this concept. He initially resisted religion as a young person, but, as he later revealed, it was because of a wrong view about who God is. When his picture of God began to change, through the reading of Scripture, everything else changed for him, too. He had gone through a series of hard knocks in life—going off to war, losing loved ones, and coming to essentially an existential crisis. And it was one day, while he was reading the sermon at church (since they didn’t have a pastor and he would complain about others) that he broke down. The sermon was by Alexander Proudfit titled “The Importance of Parental Duties.” For the first time he began to see God as a loving father in heaven:

Suddenly the character of a Saviour was vividly impressed upon my mind. It seemed that there might be a Being so good and compassionate as to himself atone for our transgressions, and, thereby, save us from suffering the penalty of sin. I immediately felt how lovely such a Being must be; and imagined that I could cast myself into the arms of, and trust in the mercy of, such a One.2

As he continued to study the Bible, “I found everything revealed that my heart could desire, and a remedy for every disease of the soul. I lost all taste for other reading, and applied my heart to get wisdom from God.” 3 This scriptural quest led to his conversion. “I saw Jesus as a friend, and my only help, and the Word of God as the perfect rule of duty.” 4 And in response to his earlier Deist friends who taunted him, he asked them only for more time so that he could continue his biblical quest. He concluded:

Give me Jesus, and a knowledge of His Word, faith in His name, hope in His grace, interest in His love, and let me be clothed in His righteousness, and the world may enjoy all the high-sounding titles, the riches it can boast, the vanities it is heir to, and all the pleasures of sin; and they will be no more than a drop in the ocean. Yes, let me have Jesus Christ, and then vanish all earthly toys. What glory has God revealed in the face of Jesus Christ! In Him all power centers. In Him all power dwells. He is the evidence of all truth, the fountain of all mercy, the giver of all grace, the object of all adoration, and the source of all light; and I hope to enjoy Him to all eternity.5

This is not to say that Adventism hasn’t struggled with this quest either. By the 1880s, Ellen G. White noted that the church had drifted into legalism. “Many had lost sight of Jesus,” she admonished. And the source of light came in the most unexpected way—two missionary pastors and editors working in California. And as various individuals at the infamous 1888 General Conference session got caught up majoring in the minors, so to speak (especially over the identity of the horns in Daniel 7 and the law in Galatians), Ellen G. White recognized there was something far more significant. These young men were preaching Jesus and emphasizing righteousness in Christ in a way that was spiritually refreshing. She stated that this 1888 message was given “in clear and distinct lines” so that “the world should no longer say that Seventh-day Adventists talk the law, but do not teach or believe Christ.” 6

Shortly afterward, Ellen G. White shared how Adventists indeed had promoted “the commandments of God, … but the faith of Jesus had not been proclaimed … as of equal importance.” The faith of Jesus was “talked of,” yet it was “not understood.” What constituted the faith of Jesus? She replied: “Jesus becoming our sin-bearer that He might become our sin-pardoning Saviour. He was treated as we deserve to be treated. He came to our world and took our sins that we might take His righteousness. Faith in the ability of Christ to save us amply and fully and entirely is the faith of Jesus.” 7 She later reflected on this 1888 meeting: “My burden during the meeting was to present Jesus and His love before my brethren, for I saw marked evidences that many had not the spirit of Christ.” 8

The most authentic form of Adventism—in its truest and best sense—is when Jesus is at the very heart and center of all things Adventist. Adventism quickly falls apart when Jesus isn’t at the center of it. And, while there are many good things that we do and believe, from figuring out the prophetic dates to health reform, none of these really matter if Jesus is not at the very heart and center of our Adventist experience and identity. Adventism is truly at its very best, as both James White and William Miller discovered, and as the church needed to be reminded again in 1888, by falling ever more deeply in love with Jesus. And, when we do, we will be eager and fervently looking forward to that day and doing everything in our power to hasten so that as many others as possible can know Jesus and be ready, too.

Michael Campbell, PhD, is director of archives, statistics, and research for the North American Division of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. He has spent over a decade teaching in higher education in schools in Texas and the Philippines. Previously he pastored in Kansas and in the Rocky Mountain Conference. He is married to Heidi, a PhD candidate at Baylor University, and they have two teenage children, Emma, and David.

White, J. (1878). Bible Adventism; or, Sermons on the Coming and Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association, 7 42.

2  Miller, W. (1845).  William Miller’s Apology and Defense, August 1. Boston: J. V. Himes, p. 5.

3  Miller, W. (1842). Miller’s Works: Views of the Prophecies and Prophetic Chronology. Boston: Joshua V. Himes. Vol. 1, 11.

4  Ibid.

5  Bliss, S. (1853). Memoirs of William Miller. Boston: Joshua V. Himes. III.

6  White, E.G. (1962). Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers. Pacific Press. 92.

7  White, E.G. (1993). Manuscript Releases. Ellen G. White Estate. Manuscript 24, 1888, 12:193.

8  Ibid.

24 Apr

Light To Suffering Humanity

Possibly one of the most profound ways that Adventism has influenced the wider culture has been through healthful living. From breakfast cereals, courtesy of the Kellogg brothers, to cutting edge surgeries such as when Leonard Bailey transplanted a baboon’s heart into a human infant known as “Baby Fae,” to proton treatments, Adventists are recognized for their innovations that have changed everyday lives, whether people realize it or not, in significant ways. Even more recently, National Geographic recognized those Adventists living in the Loma Linda area as one of the “blue zones” of longest living people groups on the planet.

While perusing the archives recently, I came across a series of letters from I. H. Evans, the first president of the North American Division (1913-1918) who, during his leadership, was responsible for several initiatives. One of the most significant was the need for a site for physicians and nurses connected to the College of Medical Evangelists at Loma Linda (today, Loma Linda University) for clinical training. But since the institution was in the rural San Bernardino area with not enough people to support such a facility (hard to imagine today!), it was decided that it was an imperative necessity that such a hospital be built in downtown Los Angeles.

In a newly discovered letter by G. I. Butler, former church president, he expressed his strong support for naming the institution after Ellen G. White, as the White Memorial Hospital (an Adventist healthcare facility that continues to exist in Los Angeles, California). He described it as the “crowning feature” of the Adventist medical training work that showed the rest of the world that Adventists care for and desire to uplift “suffering humanity.” He added: “Sister White has been the apostle of this health movement among our people and the world. Light from heaven came through her to our people on this stupendous subject.” He recounted what a blessing this health message has been in the development of the church as many other health institutions have been and continue to function around the globe.

So, what was the health message?

Adventist historians have, for many years, recognized that there were many health reformers in the nineteenth century. And so it is not surprising that a movement that was birthed in the crucible of reform would recognize how important it is to live a healthy and whole life. In fact, one of my favorite books is a book highlighting the supposed “good ‘ol days” that were indeed terrible! In addition to shortened lifespans, which was typically dependent on the region and decade, one could, if you were fortunate, live into your 30s or maybe your 40s. This is approximately half of what it is today. Dangerous drugs were regularly prescribed, and American physicians were generally perceived as some of the most backward in the world. Oliver Wendell Holmes once famously quipped: “I firmly believe that if the whole materia medica could be sunk to the bottom of the sea it would be all the better for mankind and all the worse for the fishes.”

Ellen G. White, in a series of visions, would come to increasingly recognize the significance of health reform. Her most far-reaching vision on the subject occurred at the home of Aaron and Lydia Hillard, Adventists living in Otsego, Michigan, when on Friday evening, June 5, 1863, Ellen G. White had a health reform vision. During those 45 minutes, as she later recounted, she discovered eight “true remedies” (as found in Ministry of Healing, pg. 127): pure air, sunlight, abstemiousness, rest, exercise, proper diet, use of water, and trust in divine power.

What is not as well known is that this prescriptive use of natural remedies was far from unique to Adventists. As already pointed out, there were many other health reformers of her day, but what did, in fact, make it unique was the spiritual and holistic emphasis. The notion that we are a whole person composed of body, mind, and spirit (or spiritual). This holistic emphasis was reflected in how Adventists understood the state of the dead (as a sleep until the resurrection) to other aspects of Adventism such as the unique nature of Adventist education (once again, most Adventist school logos and mottos will often reflect these three aspects of body, mind, and spirit). In other words, Adventist health reform was unique and significant because of this spiritual component and emphasized the composition of the whole person.

Every person has a sacred responsibility to observe health laws, or natural laws, just as they take seriously the law of God, such as the seventh-day Sabbath, and keep it out of love. This latter part was especially important because some people might view it as some sort of legalistic obligation, but as early Adventist health reformers (and especially Ellen G. White) emphasized, following these natural laws contributed to a happier and longer life. God knows what is best for us and wants us to be in relationship with Him to the best of our ability.

Gerald Wheeler has noted that these early understandings about what was right and wrong were “strongly conditioned by cultural, as well as time factors.” During this time “the white middle-class population felt threatened by their own declining birth rate and a rising tide of immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe. They saw political control slipping from their grasp. The authors of the popular health articles saw in the eight laws of health a means of keeping the women of the white middle class in good health so they could have more children. They believed that the future of the nation literally rested on the health and fertility of the Anglo-Saxon Protestant women.” 1 In other words, through the prophetic gift, Ellen G. White was able to select from culture what was valuable and timeless from that which was not helpful.

Ellen G. White also recognized that the health message had strategic value, not only for living a healthier life, but also for helping to improve the lives of others. “The medical missionary work is as the right arm to the third angel’s message which must be proclaimed … They awaken spiritual joy and melody in the hearts of those who have been free from suffering, and thanksgiving to God arises from the lips of many.” 2 Elsewhere she wrote: “The health reform, I was shown, is a part of the third angel’s message, and is just as closely connected with it as are the arm and hand with the human body. I saw that we as a people must make an advance move in this great work.” 3

Another Adventist pioneer, J. H. Waggoner, wrote in 1866 about how “we do not profess to be pioneers in the general principles of health reform.” Instead, “we do claim that by the method of God’s choice it has been more clearly and powerfully unfolded and is thereby producing an effect which we could not have looked for from any other means.” 4 In other words, through the prophetic gift, God was helping our spiritual forebears to realize that he truly does love and care for us. In fact, as a group recognized as a “blue zone” or some of the longest living people on earth, this knowledge is a blessing meant to be both experienced and shared with others. The true test of Adventist health reform is that it should make us live healthier and happier lives. It is therefore only fitting that in 1916, as Adventist church leaders wrestled with what to name the new hospital, that they named it after Ellen G. White herself.

The Adventist understanding of healthful living, along with many creative innovations in its wake, continues to undergird one of the largest medical systems in the world. And arguably, continues to be one of the most profound ways that Adventism has and continues to shape the culture around them.

Michael W. Campbell, PhD, is director of archives, statistics, and research for the North American Division of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. He has spent over a decade teaching in higher education in schools in Texas and the Philippines. Previously he pastored in Kansas and in the Rocky Mountain Conference. He is married to Heidi, a PhD candidate at Baylor University, and they have two teenage children, Emma, and David.

1  Wheeler, G. “The Historical Basis of Adventist Standards,” Ministry, Oct. 1989, pg. 10-11.

2  White, Ellen G.  Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 229.

3  White, Ellen G.   Counsels on Diets and Foods, p. 74.

4  Waggoner, J.H.  Review and Herald, August 7, 1866.

21 Oct


On Adventist Heritage Tours, one of my favorite places is in New Ipswich, New Hampshire. Leonard Hastings, a local farmer during Adventist beginnings, was passionate about the soon return of Jesus Christ. On October 22, as the anticipated date drew near, he left his crops unharvested as a testimony of his faith. Shop owners closed down, made restitution for loss, damage, or injury and paid their debts. They were serious about their faith.

Another favorite place is the bridge between Fairhaven and New Haven, Massachusetts. It was on this bridge that Bates, fresh from having discovered the truth of the seventh-day Sabbath, saw a friend who asked, “What’s the news?” To which Bates replied, “The seventh-day is the Sabbath of the Lord our God.” Soon his friend, James Hall, joined him in observing the Sabbath and they shared their faith with several of their friends. Soon Bates was another fellow Advent believer and abolitionist, the singing blacksmith, Heman Gurney. “The cause of truth lays near my heart,” he wrote in 1852.

What did Hastings, Bates, and Gurney have in common? They had a passion for studying the Bible. They further maintained that God’s people will and must grow in their understanding of truth. Gurney wrote:

Truth is precious; but all truth is not alike precious; for all truth does not send forth its rays of light to the same generation. There is a portion due to every generation. It is not the labor of the church now to show that Jesus was the true Messiah, as did the apostles. But there is another portion of truth more appropriate now, and calculated to act upon the interest and motives of men with greater power. Although the portion of truth that has awakened an interest in the speedy coming of Christ has been proclaimed by a minority, it is therefore no evidence that a providential hand has not ordered it in a manner which fulfills prophecy, and reveals the hearts of men.[i]

So, what of these early Adventist truths remain relevant for Adventism in 2022? If our Adventist pioneers were still alive, how might they re-imagine Adventism for our present world? Do these truths still matter, and if they do, what might they look like?

Adventist Activism

While the discovery of core truths, such as the Sabbath and Sanctuary, are well-known, what is not is the fact that our earliest church pioneers cared deeply about the world in which they lived. This was a seeming paradox for those who, anticipating Christ’s return, believed that this present world would indeed fade away. Therefore, early Adventists believed that it wasn’t enough to merely proclaim the Advent truths—they had to deeply shape the world in which they lived until the end arrived.

It is this deep sense of urgency coupled with activism that made the pioneers care deeply about a wide range of social issues—everything from advocating for temperance (against alcoholic beverages in particular) to health and dress reform. Adventists built sanitariums to not merely help people get better, but to teach them how to live healthier and happier lives. Many of the denomination’s earliest institutions were concerned about providing for those less fortunate, including those who were poor, widows, or orphans in their midst. Adventists raised money not only for churches, but to provide relief to those who were suffering. In what might seem ironic, Adventists cared deeply about the world in which they lived, just as they cared deeply about being ready for the world to come. They believed they were a divinely called movement, and thus had a unique message and mission, that changed the way they lived.


Adventists today can, by studying the past, capture a glimpse of the passion the early pioneers had for the world around them. This sense of urgency to be ready for Jesus’ soon return, with the passing of time, remains an imperative part of our Adventist identity. This world is not our home, and we are left to faithfully wait for and hasten the return of Jesus. In the meantime, God’s people are described as having the “patience of the saints.” It isn’t easy to be patient, and yet that is what God’s people are called to do.

Reflective Remnant

If these truths remain just as relevant today, what must change is our application of how we apply them to our lives. What does it mean to be a Seventh-day Adventist now after 171 years since the Great Disappointment?

Perhaps while God’s reflective remnant patiently wait, there can be new ways to take these same old truths and apply them to our present lives. The seventh-day Sabbath remains just as imperative as ever. It is the defining mark of God’s end-time people. It is God’s remnant church who keep the seventh-day Sabbath, not merely because it is the right day, but because it represents who the true God is and what He stands for—a moral government of God, and that God’s character will ultimately be revealed through the Great Controversy.

Could it be that a more relational understanding of the seventh-day Sabbath could be just what people in the 21st century need? That in a frenetic age, with instantaneous communication and social media, God calls His people to be in right relation with Him and with others. That in a world that yearns for authenticity despite the artificial nature of social media, God invites us to live in community. The Sabbath can become a touchstone whereby a new generation finds true value and meaning, both with God and with one another.

God’s remnant people also value the seventh-day Sabbath because it is a symbol of His creation. For a people at the end of time who recognize that this world will literally burn, yet because they value God’s Word who made this world even though it is corrupted by sin, God has entrusted it to our care and keeping. In this way, God’s end-time people who care deeply for the seventh-day Sabbath should also care for the environment. They know they aren’t going to save it, as some may hope, but they are good stewards of this earth because they know they must be good stewards of the earth made new. In other words, Adventists can and must care about the environment, not for political or social motivation, but simply because it is the biblical perspective. Adventists in the new century, particularly as climate change becomes more disruptive, need to care deeply for God’s creation for the same reason that they care for the seventh-day Sabbath. It is part of what God has tasked us with.

Adventist Advantage

God’s remnant people have a unique and important responsibility as they patiently wait for Christ’s return. They are tasked with the proclamation of the “everlasting gospel” to the world.

This is indeed the work of the Three Angel’s Messages of Revelation 14. While we don’t know how long time will last, until Jesus does return, each generation will be tasked with the mission of sharing this message. That means taking the same “present truth” of the pioneers and making it our own. Not for one moment will this change our distinctive beliefs. They remain and will only become all the more important, but it is this distinctive Adventist outlook—a worldview—that gives hope in an uncertain world. It is this hope that drives Adventism and is indeed the Adventist advantage. It is, after all, a sacred responsibility, not because it makes anyone better, but instead, humble us to recognize that as the world changes, our Adventist perspective changes the way we live in this world. We cannot sit idly by but must remain in the spirit of the pioneers as activists living out our beliefs in an ever-changing world.

Michael W. Campbell PhD, is director of archives, statistics, and research for the North American Division of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. He has spent over a decade teaching in higher education in schools in Texas and the Philippines. Previously he pastored in Kansas and in the Rocky Mountain Conference. He is married to Heidi, a PhD candidate at Baylor University, and they have two teenage children, Emma and David.

[i]H. S. Gurney, “Communication from Bro. Gurney,” [dated Feb. 19, 1854], ARH, Feb. 28, 1854, 47.