Every religion or denomination has prominent writers, thinkers, or church leaders that become a faith touchstone and keyword for the religion in question. As a Seventh-day Adventist, mine is Ellen White. She was a Methodist who became Adventist during the Millerite movement in the 1840s. Her ministry and influence helped solidify the Adventist Church as a denomination, and her writings have helped cement her continued influence even today. One of her most famous set of writings is her Conflict of the Ages series, which is part Bible commentary and part biblical history. I’ve never read the series all the way through, so I thought I should. You know, as a good Adventist.
White starts with the fallout in heaven between God and Lucifer (aka Satan) and then moves into Creation and the Fall of Man, ending on the death of David. She touches on the “greatest hits” in the first part of the Old Testament, while providing in-the-moment commentary for Christians on applications to be made in life.
This is actually a really difficult review for me to write, because I have to find a way to say I did not care for the first book in such a way that I will not scandalize people in my denomination. When I think about Bible history or commentary, I expect a certain level of academic thinking, and it just wasn’t there with this book. There were some enormous gaps of biblical history in between chapters that had me wondering about White’s chronological choices, the rationales of which just weren’t clear. For example, one of the most interesting instances in the Book of Judges is Deborah’s tenure as judge and Barak’s inability to take care of Sisera in battle. But that gets completely skipped over. I was rather disappointed in that.
But I think the clincher for me was the writing style. I know that White was writing in a different era, but there were definitely instances were a clear-sighted editor could have helped make her prose clearer and more academic in tone. Maybe that’s just my academic background coming into play, but I felt a bit frustrated with some of the writing choices. Also, I probably have a lot of baggage after years of hearing other Adventists rave about how much they looooove reading White. I’m guessing they read more for information and inspiration than for actual love of reading. There were definitely moments of exposition and information, but not as many as I expected for a Bible commentary and history.