The Reformation and the Remnant

Miller handles each topic carefully, though not exhaustively.

Matthew J. Lucio, MDiv, pastors in the Iowa-Missouri Conference and resides in Mason City, Iowa, United States.

Nicholas Miller’s The Reformation and the Remnant addresses popular controversies in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, following works like Martin Weber’s Adventist Hot Potatoes and George Knight’s If I Were the Devil. While Knight’s work was generally scholarly with a bit of passion and anguish, Miller’s cooler style emphasizes his legal training. As the latest book to address “hot potatoes,” this book seems to be, thus, the most relevant. Concerns over jewelry and the nature of Christ have given way to gay marriage, women’s ordination, and conspiracy mongering. Miller tackles these issues through principles gleaned from the Protestant Reformation.

Miller handles each topic carefully, though not exhaustively. On women’s ordination, the author essentially popularizes and updates the position that he championed as a member of the church’s Theology of Ordination Study Committee. Rather than assail entrenched positions, he argues that women’s ordination is a not a salvation issue and should be seen as an area of “Christian liberty”; that is, something we must tolerate.

Nicholas Miller’s most significant contributions are not his updated stances on the current popular controversies but the principles he uses to arrive at those stances. The Reformation and the Remnant is a demonstration of moderate Adventism, which seeks to avoid the ditches of liberalism and conservatism. Knight, in his introduction, proclaims that Miller continues his (Knight’s) own tone of “broad-based openness that seeks the middle ground between extremes” (11). Miller sees the “primary ideological struggle” in American Adventism as “between fundamentalism and modernism,” which has breached the Adventist psyche, causing a crisis of identity. This can be resolved, Miller argues, but recognizing that the Adventist church was originally evangelical and emphasized justification by faith, Miller declares that “only a rediscovery of our holiness heritage will enable us to resolve the identity crisis” (138) of the church. This rediscovery happens not just by examining the views of the Adventist pioneers but from examining the spiritual heritage of the Protestant Reformers.

Nevertheless, there are a few weaknesses. The reading level required for the book can be assessed as tuned for those with some higher education. Words like propositionalist and prima traditionis, though helpfully defined, may stand as an obstacle to easy reading. Second, Miller’s argument against same-sex marriage could be stronger. Using “moral reasoning,” he argues that children are most successful when raised by their biological parents. But this attack hits traditional adoptive families and step-families just as squarely as same-sex ones. Besides, one might argue, would not children in a same-sex home be better off than in an orphanage? Miller’s overall argument represents a more satisfying way of approaching this explosive topic, called “moral reasoning,” a method of moral persuasion based on the common good. The application of this method might be flawed in this case, but the principle becomes a creative way to avoid stale dialog over issues of public morality.

Thinking Adventists need to pick up The Reformation and the Remnant because Nicholas Miller tackles navigating ever-changing social waters. It just so happens that understanding the Reformational context of the Adventist pioneers yields timeless principles.

—Matthew J. Lucio, MDiv, pastors in the Iowa-Missouri Conference and resides in Mason City, Iowa, United States.

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Matthew J. Lucio, MDiv, pastors in the Iowa-Missouri Conference and resides in Mason City, Iowa, United States.

September 2016

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