Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Book Review: Angry Saints by George R. Knight

Angry Saints: Tensions and Possibilities in the Adventist Struggle Over Righteousness by FaithAngry Saints: Tensions and Possibilities in the Adventist Struggle Over Righteousness by Faith by George R. Knight
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The 1888 General Conference session in Minneapolis was both a triumph and humiliation for the Seventh-day Adventist church because of the issue debated at it, the atmosphere they were debated in, and the resulting conflict within Adventism itself for the last 125 years.  George R. Knight not only examines the issues and the course of events before and after Minneapolis, but also the major individuals involved in a thorough manner.  Published around the 100th anniversary of the Minneapolis session, this book is important for every Adventist to read, both new and long-time.

The issue at Minneapolis was a new interpretation of the law in the book of Galatians by E.J. Waggoner & A.T. Jones that emphasized righteousness by faith that was supported by Ellen White.  This interpretation of Galatians was opposed by G.C. President George Butler and Uriah Smith, the editor of Review and Herald, and their ministerial allies.  The atmosphere of the session was contentious, a carry over from the 1886 session, in which the "traditionalists" and the "reformers" fought over the meaning of basic Christian truths with those of supposed Adventist truths as the nation debated a National Sunday Law .  After Minneapolis, the two factions continued to clash with one another over the understanding that has continued in essence until the present day.

The denomination triumphed at Minneapolis because it rediscovered the need to emphasize the righteousness and justification of faith in Christ along with the Ten Commandments, including the seventh-day Sabbath.  Another triumph was the emphasis to return to reading the Bible over following the lead of denominational leaders and not investigating their teachings.  However the humiliations for Adventists are more pronounced, especially when one considered that 40 years after the Great Disappointment a member of the denomination could be an Adventist but not Christian.  Another humiliation was that denominational leaders were trying to emphasis human authority instead of the Bible to "protect" supposed Adventist beliefs and even wanted to create creeds to protect them.  But the biggest humiliation that two factions that sparred over the law of Galatians have continued in essence to the present-day resulting at times of a divided church facing potentially facing dangerous situations.

Knight goes over all everything I have just stated in great detail, but I found the most important part of the book to me was the last chapter entitled, "The Continuing Possibility."  Within this chapter, Knight uses his own early experience as an Adventist as an example of the continuing problem that is can be seen in some Adventist churches.  Within the context of the preceding chapters, this final one puts the crisis in Minneapolis squarely into our time and challenges us to examine how we relate to Christ.

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