Review: “1919” and “1922” by Michael W. Campbell

1919: The Untold Struggle of Adventism’s Struggle with Fundamentalism by Michael W. Campbell. Pacific Press Publishing Association. 124 pages.

1922: The Rise of Adventist Fundamentalism by Michael W. Campbell. Pacific Press Publishing Association. 144 pages.

It was my honor the last few years of my tenure at Southwestern Adventist University to share the campus with Dr. Michael Campbell, who taught church history. In addition, since we were both authors, we often shared war stories, even though I discovered that he was both a more prolific and a more successful author than I was. He’s told me for a couple of years about his most recent project, which started with his doctoral dissertation, and has to do with the origins of fundamentalism thought in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. These two books, small as they are, are the the results of that study, with a third book on its way.

Church history, and especially Adventist history, is not for everyone, and that’s probably why Pacific Press insisted that Campbell keep his tomes short. And in doing so, he gets right to the meat of the matter. The first book focuses on a Bible conference in 1919, where top Adventist theologians from around the world were called together to discuss their differences in relation to several doctrinal issues, including prophetic interpretation, the trinity, and how to interpret the writings of Ellen G. White. The conference was significant in that it was the first time Adventist theologians were radically divided on several issues, and several times during the sessions A.G. Daniells, the General Conference president had to call for the official record keeper to stop recording what was being said.

The second book, 1922, focuses on the General Conference session in San Francisco and how the Bible conference of 1919 effected Adventist world leadership and decision making three years later. For someone who grew up in the Adventist church, who worked my entire life in the Adventist church system, these books help me understand the influences that tainted the church that I love. Campbell does a good job of serving as an unbiased historian and looking impartially at what happened without trying to cover up any mistakes that someone might have made. In addition, he shows how what was going on in other churches and in the world at that time had a significant impact on the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Both books are a must-read for those either concerned about Adventist church history or just in understanding why we are the way we are. Highly recommended and an easy read.

Five of five stars.