Heirs of the Reformation: the Story of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Europe

Heirs of the Reformation: the Story of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Europe

Albert W. Wardin, Jr.

By Hugh Dunton, et al., eds. Grantham, England: The Stanborough Press, 1997. 274 pp.

One of the growing religious movements of American origin with a world-wide impact is the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Although small in comparison with many other denominations, its work in evangelism, education, and health far exceeds anything their numbers might suggest. The volume, Heirs of the Reformation, provides valuable historical and statistical information on Adventists in Europe, surveying their beginnings, tribulations, institutional development, and growth. There is an account for each country, generally written by a national, with other materials interspersed, such as biographies, histories of schools, and personal observations. The European beginnings of Adventism parallel to a remarkable degree the beginnings a generation earlier of Baptists on the continent. Both groups spread from Germany, both were led by a commanding German leader–Johann Oncken for the Baptists and Ludwig Conradi for the Adventists–and both had the ability to gain converts from other traditions.

One of the values of the book for non-Adventists is the relationship this movement has had with other denominations, such as Mennonites, particularly in Russia, and with Baptists. A number of the early Adventist converts came from these two church groups, and many a theological battle was fought by adherents an both sides. This book attempts, however, to project a different picture. Its very title, Heirs of the Reformation, stresses the Adventist adherence to the principles of the Protestant Reformation, including justification by faith alone. In his introduction, Daniel Heinz, Adventist historian and custodian of European Adventist archives in Friedensau, Germany, emphasizes the theological similarities between Adventists and other Protestant bodies and omits (except for the Sabbath observance) unique Adventist distinctives. Heinz claims that European Adventists, particularly after the Second World War, have highlighted Christ and his grace rather than their earlier legalism and condemnation of all other churches.

The book not only shows the evolving character of Adventism, but also the means it has used in evangelism, schools, and health centers in its successful outreach. It portrays difficulties, common also to other free churches in Europe, such as working in the rocky secular soil of Western Europe–including decline in Scandinavia. But the book also presents the great mission opportunities in Eastern Europe where growth has been spectacular. The book is enhanced by bibliographies for each country and an appendix which lists Adventists missionaries and volunteers from Europe.–Reviewed by Albert W. Wardin Jr., professor emeritus of history, Belmont University, Nashville, Tennessee.

COPYRIGHT 1999 Baptist History and Heritage Society

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group