Someone contacted me through email asking, “Why do you publish information on A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner?” The short answer is, because I love the way that they seek to teach both Gospel and Adventism at the same time. However a little more indepth answer appears below.
Importance of 1888
To answer this question, we must first recognize that many people from the different theological perspectives of Adventism see in their message, or the history of that time, a God given message. Some see in the 1888 messengers and attempt from God to shake the church out of the icy grip of legalism. Others see in it a call to bring Adventism more in line with the gospel that the other churches have taught. Others see in the 1888 message an important call to move to Christianity first before the distinctive teachings of Adventism.
As I think about the 1888 messengers, I remember a few discussions with friends. First there is the friend who said that it was only after reading these messengers that he saw how Adventist doctrines can help him in his understanding of the Gospel. Before Jones and Waggoner he saw the Sabbath as important, but not connected to the Gospel as he does now. He sees in the doctrine of the nature of humanity (state of the dead) the reality that Christ, in his humanity, decided to die a death that would mean eternal death. Some articulate this by saying that “Christ went to hell.” In the Sanctuary, my friend now sees one who is looking out and working for humanity right now with a purpose that includes the cleansing of humanity.
Another friend told me that 1888 reminds him that in our “Adventist-ness” we can never lose our “Christian-ness. We are a part of that global body called Christianity and none of our doctrines can separate us from that body.
Why I Like The Messeges
Personally, I think that 1888 allows Adventism to make sense in the context of the Gospel. It emphasizes the Gospel, but it emphasizes that we look at and understand it through our Adventism. Certainly A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner are not infallible. I agree with Ellen White, God Alone is infallible. But in these writings, I see two individuals, striving to see and learn more of Jesus in our characteristic doctrines, not in spite of them. Waggoner doesn’t teach the sabbath just for the sake of the sabbath. Jones doesn’t teach the sanctuary just for the sake of the sanctuary. Everything is taught to gain a greater understanding of Jesus Christ and his mission.
My first attempts at looking at theology came from reading Jones and Waggoner. I will always love these three for that reason. Certainly, I don’t agree with everything, but 1888 reminds me that our doctrines and teachings are not an end to themselves, but are there to help us understand Christ. Agree or disagree with them, they tried to just preach Christ and him crucified within the context of Adventism.