Adventist Journal Online | How Adventists Became Creationists
AAdventists and creation go hand in hand like jam and bread, but it wasn’t always that way.
The story of how we became a biblical belief movement dedicated to the worship of our Creator and Redeemer1 has some surprising twists. Let’s start by addressing a simplistic and false myth in four parts: (1) Christians had a primitive understanding of origins before Charles Darwin published his theory of evolution in 1859; (2) in the face of Darwin’s compelling scientific arguments, almost all Christians embraced evolution, and everyone believed in evolution until (3) Ellen G. White had visions that prompted Adventists to dismiss science on behalf of the Genesis of creation, and (4) this A misconception spread to other faiths thanks to an amateur Adventist scientist by the name of George McCready Price.
A more reliable version
Like so much else associated with Darwin’s theory of evolution, this particular myth is in tension with recorded history and reality. First, it is important to remember that since the time of Christ believers have dealt with theories of evolution. In fact, before Christians, sophisticated theories of evolution were widespread, such as that advocated by the Roman poet Titus Lucretius Carus.2 Second, Darwin’s theory of evolution was published in the midst of a debate over multiple theories of evolution. At that time, Christians were particularly concerned because of the racism inherent in virtually all theories of human evolution. For example, Frederick Douglass, the great campaigner for racial equality, pointed this out when he denounced evolution five years before Darwin published his version of the theory of evolution:
“So far from all the scientific moonlight that would link men to apes; it would make the world believe that humanity, instead of resting on its own characteristic – gloriously independent – pedestal is some sort of movable ladder, making one extreme brother of the urang-or-tang, and the other of angels, and all the rest in between! “3
Where did Adventists come from in all of this? Remember that those who eagerly awaited the Second Coming of Christ were a diverse group; there does not seem to have been unanimity in Creation. William Miller, whose interpretation of prophecy sparked the Adventist movement, promoted an age-of-day theory in which every literal 24-hour day of creation pre-figured 1,000 years of human history. He believed this understanding supported his interpretation of the prophecy that described Jesus’ return in 1844.4
After the great disappointment of 1844, those who would later be called Seventh-day Adventists continued to focus on prophecy and the Second Coming, particularly on how to prepare. The Ten Commandments were central to preparation thinking, with the Fourth Commandment being fairly central to Adventist thought. This is reflected in the very first Seventh-day Adventist periodical, The present truth (now Adventist Review): Its first issue contained an article titled “The Weekly Sabbath Established at Creation, Not at Sinai”. Emphasis on the commandments logically related to Creation.
In 1872, the new Seventh-day Adventist denomination will issue a “Declaration of Fundamental Principles”5 which did not contain any specific element dealing with creation, but recognized that God “created all things” through Jesus. The biblical creation was more or less assumed, but it was not explained. Other denominations, especially Catholics, made much more direct statements in favor of creation, especially the biblical account of human creation given in Genesis.6
Creationism at the beginning of Seventh-day Adventism
During the first 50 years of the Church there have been a number of publications which reflect the very evolving understanding of human nature against which Frederick Douglass spoke out. A shocking example appeared in 1866 in the Advent Magazine and Sabbath Herald. Uriah Smith, the editor, said that “the dividing line between the human and animal races is lost in confusion”, and offered certain races as irrefutable proof of this.7 Smith wrote this during a fiery but misguided defense of Ellen White’s prophetic ministry, not as a proponent of evolution, though he always drew on the “evidence” produced by “science” at the time. To support his argument, he was quick to grasp and encourage acceptance of a point of view rooted in evolutionary thought rather than the distinct creation of humans found in the biblical records. His mistake is clear, but we must keep in mind that we are perhaps as vulnerable to this kind of mistake today as the Adventist pioneers were. Review contained articles on Creation. By the 1950s, articles increasingly included references to why creation is a primary focus for Seventh-day Adventists. “Style =” font-size: 16px; float: right; “class =” img-right “/>
The distinction of bringing biblical creationism more clearly into Adventism is commonly given to George McCready Price, although Ellen White was very clear about it long before him. Price was an Adventist author who wrote extensively on many topics and championed the ideas of earlier geologists who believed that the geological column was produced by the flooding recorded in Genesis 6-8. He also added his own ideas. Price’s arguments were replaced by understandings more current today, but still influenced other Christian leaders, including Henry Morris and John Whitcomb. These fellow Christians have brought original ideas and professional expertise to the table, influencing a large group of believers who worship the Creator God.8
Nor is the idea that Price was just promoting what Ellen White wrote, or that he was on his own, supported by contemporary literature. The fundamentals– famous essays which established the term “fundamentalism” as a descriptive of genuine conservative Christianity – were being written when Price was most active, in the first half of the twentieth century. The authors of these essays had varying views on creation, but among them were firm believers in the biblical creation account. One of them, Philip Mauro, wrote a creationist book9 and participated in the “monkey” trial of Scopes. Mauro contributed three influential essays to The fundamentals and noted, “If the Bible does not give us a truthful account of the events of the six days recorded in its first chapter, we should not trust any of its statements.”ten
In the 1930s, a list of Adventist core beliefs began to appear in Adventist directories. These did not contain any specific foundational beliefs about the creation, although belief in a recent literal six-day creation, as recorded in the scriptures, is clearly assumed, if not stated.11
A clear doctrinal statement
A denominational commitment to creation was evident among the leaders and members of the church, as evidenced by the formation of the Institute for Geoscience Research in 1958 and numerous publications. It was not until the declaration of fundamental convictions voted at the session of the General Conference in 1980.12 that the biblical creation was explicitly included as Adventist doctrine. The wording of this core belief was refined in 2015.13
As our church grew, education levels increased and tensions occasionally arose about our faith in the words that God wrote with his own finger in stone about his creation. of the world and of his life in six days (Exodus 31:18). This is to be expected, though, amid ever-changing and diverse scientific understandings, data continues to pile up in tension with Darwinism. As science changes and many recognize the inadequacy of evolution as a scientific theory, the biblical account of history remains the same and eternally true.
I am proud to belong to a community of faith that embraces this eternal truth. If we truly live the Bible’s teaching on creation, it completely changes our view of the world, of our fellow human beings, and of our God. It takes us away from dehumanizing ideas that can have a blindingly attractive brilliance to them, and serves as a guiding principle that brings us together as a community of faith, while also connecting us with other believers from other denominations. By revealing the truth that our Creator has made all things “very good” and is coming back to effect a new creation, we are fulfilling our mission to share Christ with the world and to draw all men to Him.
Timothy G. Standish is a principal investigator at the Geoscience Research Institute in Loma Linda, California, United States.