Those of our number who find reading a difficult task may content themselves to look upon the four sizable volumes of The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, by LeRoy Edwin Froom, with a vague sense of denominational pride that such a scholarly work has come from an Adventist pen and press. I wish to write these lines for the benefit of any who have not yet discovered their true value and worth to the cause of God.
The challenge of the evangelistic task in the city of London demanded a rethinking of my entire approach to preaching the third angel's message. In developing that approach I found that the valuable material within the volumes of Elder Froom's work gave to my message not only an unmistakable ring of authority but also a sound historicity that old England needed. Adventism, you see, is in many quarters considered a strange new "American sect," entirely outside the "main stream of Christian faith." You can imagine, then, with what courage and confidence the message can be preached in England today with the added strength this compendium of sources and enlightening background gives the worker.
Figuratively speaking, England does not know that D. M. Canright is dead. It does not know that his antagonisms of a past century have been thoroughly answered. Prejudice among the so-called Fundamentalists is as rife and bitter as if Mr. Canright himself were speaking from the books that are freshly printed and circulated throughout the Isles. There is, therefore, much prejudice to be dispelled, and our ministering brethren there are building confidence that our people are expositors of "the faith once delivered to the saints," and not an offshoot or heresy.
Some opposition became apparent when we moved into the heart of London and opened the New Gallery evangelistic center. Numerous "letters to the editor" were printed in the Church of England Newspaper. These contained the familiar long-exposed indictments of our faith. The editor, a fair-minded Christian gentleman, answered these letters in our favor with a forceful editorial aimed at the intolerance of his people, and then requested that we write a summary of Seventh-day Adventist beliefs, and offered to print the whole in defense of our position. Naturally we took advantage of this unusual opportunity and included in the statement these words from the pen of L. E. Froom:
"They maintain that the principles and applications of prophetic interpretation which they stress are not some new discovery, belatedly made by Adventists, but are instead a recovery of what was held in the full vigor and purity of the early church and in Protestant Reformation times—not an invention, but a retention of what others had let slip; not an innovation, but rather a continuation."—Vergilius Ferm, ed., The American Church, p. 381.
In the letters received and the contacts made since that publication we find that this concept revealed in Brother Froom's words and illustrated within his volumes has created a respect beyond our fondest dreams.
And what is more, certain outstanding "Fundamental" theologians who have been antagonistic have now changed their attitude. The volumes of Prophetic Faith are being read and reviewed. Men who influence thousands of our formerly misunderstanding Christian friends are now addressing us, "My dear brother in the Lord." One man whose name prudence demands our withholding, who has been known to our workers in Britain for many years as a consecrated scholar, yet woefully misinformed regarding our work, is now urging other theologians to read Prophetic Faith. Many sets are being placed at the disposal of these men. Prejudice is breaking down and a new day is dawning among intellectuals in the religious world.
If we assume the attitude that these men are basically sincere and love the Lord, but are victims of misunderstanding regarding the work and teachings of Seventh-day Adventists, we are in a vantage position to reach them with present truth. And could the worker for God assume any other attitude, at least until these men prove themselves otherwise?
Only this morning there came to Elder Froom's office a cordial letter from another scholar in a British country, the president of a seminary and pastor of a church of well over two thousand members. This man, who in the past has refused even to sit on the same platform with one of our ministers, because of his sincere convictions that our brother represented heresy, now writes in this vein:
"I am not at all surprised at the favourable reviews which have appeared, I think it is well nigh impossible to appraise the value of the work you have done in producing these volumes. . . . If it were possible I certainly would be delighted to see these books given as wide a circulation as possible. . . .
"I am greatly indebted to you for your colossal achievement. It was something I longed to see someone do, but felt I had neither time, or competence, to do it myself. . . .
"Write me again and I shall endeavour to see that it shall not be a one-way correspondence.
"With warmest regards, I am,
"Heartily yours, . . .
Imagine further, such kind, cordial, understanding words as these, coming from the divinity professor of Heidelberg University, after he had read Prophetic Faith: "It is especially important to us just now, after the World Assembly at Evanston, to gather as much material as we possibly can out of the different churches on the theme of eschatology."
These appreciative words refer to the set already provided for the university library. He then requests a personal set and closes his letter, "With hearty thanks and best greetings, I am your very devoted . . ."
Why not determine to familiarize ourselves with this wealth of information? And here is an idea: What returns might we see someday if each church could provide a set of Prophetic Faith for the president of the local ministerial association! An entirely new concept of the place and use of these volumes is developing. Prepare the way now in your area for an intelligent understanding of the place and work of Seventh-day Adventists. Here is an unfailing instrument that commands thoughtful interest.
G. E. V.