Perspectives on 150 years of Seventh-day Adventist Historiography

Author Faculty (Discipline)


Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Adventism and Adventist History:Sesquicentennial Reflections Conference

Embargo Period



220401 Christian Studies (incl. Biblical Studies and Church History)

Avondale Research Centre

Scripture, Spirituality and Society Research Centre

Reportable Items (HERDC/ERA)


Peer Review

Before publication


This is a study of the way the Adventist church has understood and used history from the 1850s to the present. In the decades leading up to 1888, Adventist thought leaders understood true history as being a means of demonstrating the actions of God in human affairs, demonstrating the way in which Adventists were the heirs of God’s promises and the principal agents of his current engagement in the world. The pursuit of history was in the hands of lay people and minimally-trained clergy, as professional historical endeavour with its secular perspectives lacked the necessary spiritual insight. Shaped by the concepts of Restorationism, Adventist writers idealised prophetic, Protestant Reformation and Evangelical Revival history and envisioned themselves as continuing and completing the processes initiated by reformers in earlier times. Attempts in the early Twentieth Century to develop better historiographical practices fell victim to the surge of fundamentalist thinking that followed the passing of Ellen White. The practice of history in Adventism from the second half of the Twentieth Century (1958-present)demonstrates the tensions created by a growing emphasis on critical historical engagement by professionally-trained historians dealing more broadly with religious and secular history as well as the history of the Adventist movement. Recent Adventist approaches demonstrate more awareness of the complexities of history, and the implications for a denomination with a historically-grounded approach to a biblical understanding, especially of prophecy.


Used by permission: the author