“Know Nothing” Adventists

One of most unique political parties to arise in American history was the Know Nothing party. The causes that it championed were to restrict the immigration of certain ethnic peoples and to curb the influence of a particular religion in the United States in the 1850s.  Members of the Know Nothing party included US Congressmen from Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, and the former United States President, Millard Fillmore. Because of the semi-secretive nature of the party’s organization, when a member was asked about its activities, he was to say, “I know nothing.” By 1854 they had won numerous local elections from the Northeast, Midwest and California and numbered over one million members.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church grew up in the era of “causes,” “issues,” and “reform movements.” Our own spiritual history is sprinkled with such things as:  The Millerite movement, health reform, dress reform, the temperance movement, education for former slaves, and opposition to Sunday laws among other reform activities.

As a church, it is obvious that we can get passionate about different issues and causes. In the 1880’s the Adventist Church faced a major division over law and grace, with long time church officials appealing to delegates to the 1888 General Conference Session to “Hold to the standards and the pillars,” while the younger men like Jones and Waggoner were presenting Righteousness by Faith. To some it appeared the church could divide over this issue and fall apart.  Causes and issues seem to flow through our history. Even to this day.

I remember well the days when I was studying for the ministry, and the question over the Sanctuary message and the investigative judgment was hot and heavy.  Some of my classmates in the seminary followed a charismatic teacher from Australia and decided that they could no longer serve in ministry in a church that held the message of an investigative judgment or believe in the 2300 day prophecy. My wife and I carefully studied for ourselves the sanctuary message again, and through those turbulent times, we saw the message of Christ and His redemptive work flowing through this message. We chose to remain a part of the Advent Movement.

More recently the issues that have flowed through our midst include:  The nature of Christ, worship styles, segregated conferences, creation-evolution, homosexuality, social justice, last generation theology and ecumenism. We can get passionate about these issues and every time I turn around it seems I hear someone asking, “Where does the church stand on. . .?” as they name an issue they are concerned about.

Today’s political parties with their rhetoric have nothing on the current Adventist vitriol spewing forth on the possibility of Women’s ordination.

In the midst of all our passion, I wonder if it is time to regain an early Christian Church movement for the Adventist Church. I would call it the “Know Nothing Adventist” movement.  And we would base it on the words of the Apostle Paul who said, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”  (1 Corinthians 2:2, NIV)

As we approach the season of the year when we especially dwell on the birth of Christ, let us remember that the crèche that held the incarnate infant Lord, was just the first step toward a cross where the Savior held His arms out for the world.  And that is the message, the cause, the issue this world needs more than anything else.


As Adventists, let us take up the mission of Jesus for the world.  And as a church let us commit to anything that furthers that mission. And let us affirm and encourage anyone, young or old, male or female that will put their hands to the task of spreading the message of the next Advent of Jesus Christ.

One response to this post.

  1. Ray, You are spot on with this post. It’s time to let people know who we are by our love. Not by our perfectly prepared paper on one topic or another.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts!!


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