Monday, February 20, 2012

The new book ...

Put optimistically, we’re about half to two-thirds done. I think our new research will present many surprises. Want a taste? Here is a very, very, very rough draft extract from what will be chapter 2. It is from the end of a discussion of differences between One Faith and Adventist belief:

Tensions between Age-to-Come believers and Millerite Adventists were evident from the first. Acrimonious exchanges, partisan labels (ie. Judaizers), and a firm refusal to see any holding Age-to-Come faith as true believers characterized the two first decades of the Advent Christian Society. By the 1870s many believers gravitated to the two independent Age-to-Come bodies, the Christadelphians and the One Faith movement centered on the paper Restitution. This accelerated as the Advent Christians moved from being an association of those who believed in the near return of Christ to a denomination with a narrower doctrinal set.  In the late 1860s complaints against some Advent Christian churches were voiced in The World’s Crisis. These were two-sided. Some congregations, it was said, would not receive any evangelist who did not believe Age-to-Come doctrines, and others would not receive anyone who did.

By the very early 1870s attempts to preserve unity had failed. The Advent Christian Times, through its editor Frank Burr, maintained a constant attack on Age-to-Come belief, especially as represented by the One Faith movement. In mid 1876 Burr wrote an editorial against the movement, suggesting that there should be no “controversy.” His vision of peace was the ostracism of One Faith believers. Amos Sanford, a prominent One Faith evangelist, took up Burr’s attack, accurately assessing it as coming from a well of theological frustration:

Evidently some of the “one faith” contenders, whom he denominates “theological gladiators,” have been attacking him with the “sword of the spirit” and controverting his “advent faith.” He doesn’t seem to care so much for Himself as for his flock whom he advises to have no “controversy” with “theological gladiators,” but to patiently endure “the trying ordeal” He tells them that “the spirit of God is not a spirit of controversy or contention,.” Strange as it may appear, in the very same issue, under the head of “What Next?” the editor enters into a controversy with his brethren, Dr. H. H. Barbour and Wm. C. Thurman. The former he denounces as a “fanatical leader on definite time,” and speaks of his disappointed Brother Thurman in a manner calculated to stir up feelings of unkindness instead of brotherly love. With their controversy I have nothing to do, for the reason that it is about the “advent faith,” and not the “one faith.” But one ca not help reflecting that Adventism had its birth in 1843-4. It was begotten by its partisan leader, “Father Miller,” and brought forth by its mother, “Definite Time.” The Times has heretofore endorsed “Thurman’s Chronology,” and asserted the probability of his ’75 definite time calculation being correct. Now that time is past, and those honest, earnest believers in Adventism are smarting under the failure in their calculations of the prophetic periods, isn’t it a little unkind in friend Burr to cast the same in their teeth?[1]

One Faith believers continued to associate with Adventist congregations through the decade of the seventies because there was little organization among them and few congregations. In 1879, a Mary Bush wrote to S. A. Chaplin, Restitution’s editor, that she and “quite a number of others” were associated with Adventists “because there is nowhere else we can go.” She suggested that Age-to-Come believers who shared her situation could “do them more good by being with them than by withdrawing.” Association with Adventists was frustrating: “They held their annual conference here … . The hall was crowded. I thought what a great opportunity to present a little more gospel, but we did not get it; they have dropped definite time and do not preach quite so much fire, so I think there is some improvement.” Age-to-Come evangelists remained active among Adventists, targeting those with an ear to hear.[2]

Another letter to The Restitution published later that year summarizes the relationship between One Faith and Adventists. Abby A. Perry’s letter told of her experiences in Providence, Rhode Island:

I found among the so-called Adventists there some of the greatest opposers to the age to come, or reign of Christ on David’s throne, future, that I have ever met, but I did not shun to declare the whole counsel of God and his servants on that subject to them; but contended earnestly in public, and in private with them, for the faith once delivered to the saints.[3]

Plainly One Faith and other Age-to-Come believers did not see themselves as Adventists. Their distinctive doctrine marked them as something else. There was, until three quarters of a century later, little peace between the two bodies. The Advent Christian Church defined itself in the 1870s in ways that alienated those who believed in the nearness of Christ’s return but not in the Adventist’s world-burning, spiritualizing doctrine. This is an important fact. Those who see Russell’s connections to Second Adventists as defining him as a closet Adventist miss his vital connections to One Faith belief. To accurately understand his theology, we must recapture the sources of his belief. They are, in point of fact, not derived from Adventism but from One Faith doctrine.


[1]               Amos Sanford: Controversy, The Restitution, June 12, 1876.
[2]               Mary Bush, Letter to S. A. Chaplin in the January 22, 1879, issue of Restitution.
[3]               Abby A. Perry, Letter to S. A. Chaplin in the April 16, 1879 issue of Restitution.

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Sherlock (JW1983) said...
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