Sunday, December 8, 2013

'Pentecostal' experiences in Seventh-day Adventism?

While I generally embrace a largely Christian identity, I label myself as Judeo-Christian, in recognition that the roots of Christianity is Jewish. Further, as a Protestant, I find that if I am to be consistent with an identity that challenges the worldwide influence and domination of Roman Christianity, then I must start to uncover what the Christian faith looked like before the domination of Roman Christians.

This journey has lead me to become more tolerant of Christian diversity as I realise that all of us have got it wrong, and no one group has the full 'truth' or authentic 'Christian' traditions. I appreciate from my reading of Jenkins (2010) that Roman and Western Christians' violent domination and subjugation of Eastern Christians also contributed to the rise of Islam. In this regard, I recognise that Islam's rise was partially a reaction against Western Christians violently imposing their own theology on Eastern Christians with different theologies and practices.

In the task of trying to understand more about my spiritual roots I have been reading a number of books, especially those about groups that I am personally acquainted with. I am currently reading a book written about Seventh-day Adventists by some sociologists, which to me is an objective look at the denomination's development. For me, this reading is important because of my path and spiritual journey with God, which found me becoming a member of the church back in my early university days. I feel obligated as a result to thoroughly understand objectively how Seventh-day Adventism developed separate and apart from what the denomination's gate keepers wants the congregants to know. I also want to get the information from a source that is not biased like the ex-Seventh-day Adventists that spew venom in their analysis and research or even other denominational researchers with an agenda.

That said, I find Bull and Lockhart's (2007) an excellent scholarly resource from which to view the Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) denomination objectively, without the indoctrination. Bull and Lockhart's (2007) book is indeed a good read objectively covering how outsiders viewed the church (including the popular media) as well examine the insiders' experiences, literature and views.

In this post in particular, I want to highlight in particular the 'Pentecostal' experiences in the SDA denomination as presented by Bull and Lockhart's (2007) research.

Those today who visit a Seventh-day Adventist Church will know it as a quiet church. There is no shouting, people falling on the floor or expressing themselves emotionally in worship. Well, I have news for you. In Adventist early history, the church people were more noisy than they are today. In Chapter four in particular of Bull and Lockhart, it is mentioned that the Adventists were once confused with the Shakers and spiritualists. In addition, both Ellen and James White report experiences of praying and falling to the floor or feeling the Holy Spirit come over them. Adventist believers engaged in house prayer sometimes found themselves 'slain in the spirit' according to several accounts documented by Bull and Lockhart (2007). According to Bull and Lockhart (2007), James White in a letter to his wife relates

how, when visiting some believers, "I fell upon my face, and cried and groaned under the power of God. Brethren Sanborn and Ingraham felt about the same. We all lay on the floor under the power of God." (p.77)
 This was not just a one off situation either. Bull and Lockhart (2007) also reports Ellen White describing another situation:

While the larger family of Brother P. were engaged in prayer at their own house, the Spirit of God swept through the room and prostrated the kneeling suppliants. My father came in soon after and found them all both parents and children, helpless under the power of the Lord
I also find a similar typical occurrence in White's (2000) documentation of her experience in Early Writings (p. 12):

That said, it is interesting given this history that in my experience, Jamaican Adventism draws almost hostile lines of distinctions and demarcations from Pentecostals and that Jamaican Pentecostals do the same with Adventists. For me, the evidence points out that we are all coming from the same tree. In fact, Adventism is likely to have 'quenched' the spirit, which is why Pentecostals seem more advanced in the manifestations of Bible miracles and signs.


Bull, M., & Lockhart, K. (2007). Seeking a sanctuary: Seventh-day Adventism and the American dream. 2nd ed. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Jenkins, P. (2010). Jesus wars: How four patriarchs, three queens, and two emperors decided what Christians would believe for the next 1,500 years. NY: HarperCollins.

White, E. G. H. (2000). Early writings. Washington, D.C: Review and Herald Pub Assoc.

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