Sunday, December 03, 2006

Reviewing 1843/44 Adventist Materials. Wow.

Over the last week and this weekend I have voraciously consumed materials from the Millerite and early Adventist period. This included articles from Ellen White along with many of the pioneers such as Joshua Himes, James White, Storrs, and Joseph Bates. Additionally I've read later works related to the Shut Door by W.W. Fletcher, "Days of Delusion" by Clara Endicott Sears (1924), and modern compilations on websites. I also have works such as Movement of Destiny (Froom), Origin and History of the Seventh-day Adventists (Spalding) and a rather poorly preserved original copy of The Great Second Advent Movement by Loughborough; I again reviewed some of these materials.

Though I will write more details at some point, a couple of observations are worth noting.

1. William Miller, and the attending preachers, made a false prediction. Not once, or even twice, but multiple times. Amid a din of resounding "duh's", this comes as no surprise, especially to we Adventists; his charts and doctrine were used (though not necessarily by him) to predict the end of the world and set several exact dates for Christ's return.

2. The society of Millerite Adventists can safely be called "cultic". Sears' title rightly employs the word "delusion" - the followers became fanatically deluded to the point of burning their earthly ships behind them. They left crops, sold or destroyed property, and destroyed their reputations and relationships for a message taught from charts by fire-breathing preachers. The heart-wrenching story of Mary Hartwell is especially touching, yet frightening.

3. The post-1844 Sabbath Adventists held and taught the Shut Door: only those who had believed in the 1843/44 experience and had come out in faith for the "midnight cry" were among the wise virgins who had brought oil sufficient to meet the bridegroom when he came. Those who rejected the "midnight cry", and who did not believe were among the foolish virgins, and were forever lost. Probation had closed since Christ had moved from the holy to the most holy place in the sanctuary in heaven.

4. Ellen White was not only a proponent, but supported the false doctrine from vision. Further, the many articles teaching and supporting the shut door were under her watch; I find not one article or statement by her condemning the teaching during this period. James White was editor of The Present Truth and The Advent Review. More Quotes

6. In reviewing the materials, and practices of those early Adventists I would hope I would have been among those to quote "no man knows the hour". Given the rampant lack of Biblical education and sophistication, however, it is not surprising that so many were swept into it. This would have made me part of "Sardis", and as a result, I would be considered lost and a part of the wicked and foolish virgins.

7. Given the strong and erroneous statements on the sanctuary, Sabbath and especially the Shut Door, I find myself recoiling; especially given that Ellen White heartily supported the Shut Door and from vision. Reading a few clipped quotes is amazing enough; reading the whole articles from the original publications is eye popping.

8. Would we today have believed and joined the Seventh-day Adventists? If we had watched the extremes of Millerism, observed the repeatedly failed prophecies, found their concept of the sanctuary teaching un-Biblical, and had seen Ellen White, James White and the other Seventh-day Adventist pioneers for seven years teach that the door of probation was forever shut to all but those who had believed in the 1843/44 "midnight cry"; would we - could we - have had confidence in the prophetic message of Ellen White and the exegetical and doctrinal methods of the Adventists?

I realize that friends who hear that I have "left" or apostatized feel sorry for me and consider me deluded. When ever a person we speak with even hears a hint that we are "out" or don't believe, they almost always say something like, "please don't try to convince me that I don't have to keep the Sabbath." How I wish they could and would read these materials about those early days. These documents are a portal into the thought patterns of these early pioneers. They start to explain the inexplicable and convoluted nature of the sanctuary teachings today.


Shubee said...

1. William Miller, and the attending preachers, made a false prediction.That hardly seems like a fair criticism. Aren't you in fact really condemning Jesus for making a false prediction? “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” (Matthew 24:34). William Miller's message was based on a correct interpretation of Daniel 8:13-14. The 2,300 days represent years. Why fault Miller for believing Scripture and for not recognizing that the prophecies in the book of Daniel were conditional and that the prophetic updates can be found in the book of Revelation?

Curtis Forrester said...

No. He made a prediction. It did not come true. Ironic that you quote another prediction that failed to come true to defend Miller's. The followers of Miller along with modern Seventh-day Adventists all lack solid critical thinking skills. They are sold a story that sounds plausible on the surface and when predictions of major events (such as the end of the world) fail to come true they are labeled "conditional"?

That sounds like the New Age friends I had back in my California days who fervently believed in alternative medicine and meditation to cure all ills. When these failed to work the rationale was that you had not done it right - not had the right attitude or fully believed. Ah. Always a caveat that shifts responsibility from the person making the claims to the one hearing them.

Shubee said...


I have no problem with rationalists lumping Jesus and Miller together with all religious figures that have made false predictions. However, since Miller was simply invoking a respected method of Biblical interpretation prevalent in his day, to a book he believed was true, whereas Jesus doesn't have this excuse, why aren't you condemning Jesus for having even less justification than Miller for his failed predictions?

Curtis Forrester said...

If in fact, as you suggest, he was simply using a respected method - why did most mainstream theologians reject his thesis? Instead if you read their objections they felt that his method and conclusions were in fact not "respected".

And wouldn't you think that being "rational" should be something we all should aspire to? Or do you prefer to avoid that and be irrational? I'm not sure that it's "rational" to suggest that Jesus had less reason than Miller. They were both wrong. That is an historical fact. It's up to each to conclude as they will from that fact. The original post, however, expressed my study and conclusion that Miller's movement was irrational and wrong, and that the surrounding followers behaved exceedingly irrational. That's my conclusion. I fully realize that the convinced will never accept that.

Shubee said...


What I meant by Miller "simply invoking a respected method of Biblical interpretation" is contained in the following two paragraph quote on the extent and power of the Millerite movement:

Walter Martin wrote:

Based largely upon the apocalyptic books of Daniel and Revelation, the theology of the Advent Movement was discussed in the newspapers as well as in theological journals. New Testament eschatology competed with stock market quotations for front-page space, and the "seventy weeks," "twenty-three hundred days," and "the abomination of desolation" (Daniel 8--9) were common subjects of conversation.

Lest anyone reading the various accounts of the rise of "Millerism" in the United States come to the conclusion that Miller and his followers were misguided, the following facts should be known: The Great Advent Awakening movement that spanned the Atlantic from Europe was bolstered by a tremendous wave of contemporary biblical scholarship. Although Miller himself lacked academic theological training, actually scores of prophetic scholars in Europe and the United States had espoused Miller's views before he himself announced them. In reality, his was only one more voice proclaiming the 1843/1844 fulfillment of Daniel 8:14, or the 2300-day period allegedly dating from 457 B.C. and ending in A.D. 1843-1844. — Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults, (1997 edition), pp. 521-522.

Personally, I'm amused by confident former-Christian rationalists' that insist that Christ and the early Christians were just as deluded as William Miller and the Millerites.

Curtis Forrester said...

Heh - you seem quite fond of labels. Is "rationalist" the word-of-the-day? Amusing that you'd quote Walter Martin. I've read a bit of him. I also read the many criticisms. And I've read Miller. He himself seemed honest and balanced; his followers and movement, however, were far from balanced. I wish you well, anyway. You'll not convince me and I'll not convince you - especially through the voice of a 3 year old blog posting.