A MISREPRESENTED CHURCH
There is a church that keeps the unchanged commandments of God, and has the belief in Christ as a personal savior. There actually are a handful of them, however one of them stands out as being unique... the Seventh-day Adventist Church. And it has been given some bad press in the past, here's why:
The Seventh-day (Sabbath-keeping) Adventist (Christ-coming-soon) believe in "the Bible, and the Bible only." This doesn't get them into trouble so much as:
- Worshiping on Saturday, the Sabbath, is looked as being out of place, so people naturally take a distance. Sabbath begins at sundown Friday and ends at sundown Saturday. This is not a restriction in scheduling at all. One can work on Fridays, and take the night off -- many businesses allow leaving early on Friday in support of religious freedom. Saturday morning and afternoon, when you are refreshed, are spent fellowshipping with others, and at evening the malls are open and still available. On top of that, Sunday is now a completely open and free day when most people are home all day. Furthermore, you could work for your business on this day -- they love that.
- Adventists are usually very health-conscious. They avoid smoking and alcohol, plus they typically avoid "unclean" foods mentioned in the Bible; many promote vegetarianism. Many non-adventist claim that the diet eaten is strange and a harsh set of rules. Adventists simply believe in moderation. There aren't doctrinal rules enforcing any of this, many just try cutting things like ham, shrimp, oysters, etc. from their diets and end up feeling better. Adventist have longer life expectancy, better health, and don't get cancer as much as the general population. ..go figure. None of this has to do with Salvation, but rather that if God created man then the diet He spelled out should be the healthiest. As it turns out, it is -- as confirmed by science.
- The biggest factor is the misunderstanding of one of the people in the history of the church. People actually think that adventist worship a Bible Commentator named Ellen G. White. Some people have used the word prophet to describe her, though White never thought so and didn't like mis-context of the label. They hear the word prophet, and go 'oh boy' and slam a door before anyone hears any explaination. Again, it's a wrong-definition causing the communication barrier. [see below]
Revelation Describes a True Remnant Church
As just mentioned, the book of Revelation describes the true remnant church as those who "keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ."
Many churches try to keep the commandments, but are often unaware that they have been altered.
Here is a fantastic prophecy that says that God will restore truth in the end time through a church which upholds His Law and manifests the gift of prophecy. Yet, how many churches today keep all ten commandments including the Sabbath, and claim the gift of prophecy? Only one.
This combination is found in the Seventh-day Adventist Church who believes that "the spirit of prophecy" has been restored through the life and works of Ellen G. White (1827-1915). The thought of a prophet, much less a woman prophet, really bends a lot of people backwards.
What's a Prophet
When most people think of a prophet they think of miracles blazzing from the fingertips. Or of someone foretelling future events and relating the true meaning of dreams.
Proclaiming the Message of Hope
But there's one definition left over, a very modest one: a messager who proclaims the message of hope. Prophets initiated the church's mission outreach. [ACTS 12:1,2; 16:6-10] They edified the church. [1 COR 14:3-4; EPH 4:12] They united and protected the church. [EPH 4:14] They warned of future difficulties. [ACTS 11:27-30; 20:23; 21:4, 10-14] They confirmed the faith in time of controversy. [ACTS 15:32]
Ellen G. White falls into the most non-threatening catagory. She has simply offered a little clearer understanding of the Bible. She has not added new doctrine to it to it, taken from it, or changed its message. She is in agreement with Bible, reading her works confirms that.
Only Two "Predictions"
She did make two predictions (both which are now very true): The rise of modern spiritualism (it was in 1850 when spiritualism was just arising that she foretold of its incredible growth), and a close cooperation between Protestants and Roman Catholics (during her time the two wanted nothing to do with one another, years after her death, the started working together as the rise of the ecumenical movement). She acknowledged Christ's incarnation, and it is evident the influence of her ministry has spread and strengthened the church. She said the Bible was the supreme standard, she worked to guide others to the Bible, and as a guide to help others understand the Bible.
In the first edition of "The Kingdom of the Cults" in 1965 was to expose the cults of the world. Apparently the Seventh-Day Adventists seemed like a well rounded group, with one exception: "their worship of the prophet." Bzzttt! Whoever did his research was way out in left field in his understanding of Mrs. White. The major attacker of Adventists was Dr. Anthony Hoekema's book "The Four Major Cults."
Re-examination in the revisied 1985 edition by Walter Martin corrects the misunderstanding, to some degree, in its appendix section on page 409. There he states that "it is perfectly possible to be a Seventh-day Adventist and be a true follower of Jesus Christ despite certain heterodox concepts which will be discussed."
Problems discussed involve improper financial problems, which is seen by all church denomations, yet is no excuse; these tend to happen higher up in the political chain. [ see below regarding what the church has accomplished ] The doctrine part talks about works-righteousness, legalism, and the prophetic status of Ellen G. White. The church has published a book called "27 Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists" which outlines the church's doctrine... all of it Biblically based and backed up with multiple scriptures, not on a single "proof text" of verse which could be taken out of context.
The author sent a letter to the General Conference regarding doctrine and Ellen White. The response from W. Richard Lesher, April 29, 1983, states among other things: "As an attested agent of the prophetic gift we believe communication based on Ellen White's revelatory experience to be trustworthy and dependable. However, we do not believe that the writings of Ellen White exhaust the meaning of scripture." Ellen White didn't take credit for the content, which would have pointed 'glory' at her instead of where it belonged.
Also we note that [p. 411] the book states "...is an effort to examine,... even if it does not agree with our preconceived notions,...." Here the author comes out and admits that in evaluating Adventism, it was tried to be put in a preconceived boundary for comparision, not developed from ground up with a blank slate and an open mind. It's that magic catagory of "that's contrary to what I first learned, therefore it must be invalid."
The book pokes at Adventism as being strongly based on the book of Daniel and the book of Revelation with high regard to the 2,300 day prophecy. The church puts its belief in the whole Bible through and through, the majority of prophecies have already come true. Revelation discusses the prophecy yet to come, and to decode it, one uses Daniel since there is some overlap. The "tougher part" of the Bible just requires a little more study, but it is not the foundation of the beliefs! Other views of the 2,300 day prophecy fall short when other devised methods for reading the symbolism in the symbolism are used. We've shown above that the method has worked in applying to history and to present day times, and from back then it worked in telling the future. Those future events are now our recent past, however there is more future still to come.
The book mentions that Adventists were "regarded with grave suspicion" [p. 419] because they believed Christ would come before the millenium. The other was from where they sprang, which was from William Miller who said Christ would return in 1844... and there was great humiliation when it didn't happen.
What people overlook is that William Miller wasn't an adventist. He didn't take to the Sabbath, the state of the dead, or the final destruction of the wicked. Adventism grew out of bible study starting at ground zero by a group of Baptists, Catholics, Methodists, Luthherians, etc., in an effort to find out why Miller was wrong.
Another attack was contained in an article in "Sign of the Times," March 1927, by L. A. Wilcox which claimed (in not so many words) that Christ posessed man's sinful nature. However in a subsequent publication it was brought out that L. A. Wilcox was never on the editoral staff and that '...this article cannot be truly represented as official or authoritative.'
Another attack came from "Bible Readings for the Home Circle" (1944 ed., p. 174) based on the same kind of text. The statement was expunged by Adventists because it was not in line with Adventist theology.
Ellen White's text had the same problem in "Desire of the Ages" (p.177) where she wrote "Our Savior took humanity, with all its liabilities. He took the nature of man, with the possibility of yielding to tempation." The critics don't bother to continue reading for the clarification explaining about the liabilities being things like: aging, being suseptable to pain, etc. The "fallen nature" she discusses is physical, not spirtual! Christ had the choice to give into temptation, but guided by His Father, He knew not to and how to recognize it, and so He didn't.
Another attack is based on the allegation that Christ's attonement on the cross was incomplete. Again, further reading clearly explains that Christ's attonement was complete and that He is making benefit of that attonement now in the heavenly temple.
|1) An extra-scriptural source of authority (Ellen G. White)|
|2) The denial of justification by grace alone.
b) The keeping of the Sabbath
|3) The devaluation of Christ|
|4) The group as the exclusive community of the saved.|
No. To be saved you believe in Christ as God's only Son sent to Earth in human form who was innocent of sin and was crucified. His death has paid for our sins, symbolically washing away our debt with His blood. That is how to get saved... and many other people in other religions believe and are saved. Adventists aren't the exclusive group; they never have been and never will be. Being an Adventist doesn't save you, it's His Grace through Our Faith that does. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Dr. Hoekema also says that the Adventists believe through continious sin we can lose salvation. No, the Adventists say that when you're saved you try to turn from sin as best as possible. Sin still happens, but we have forgiveness for it. Being saved doesn't remove responsibilty. A person can choose to turn back to a life of sin, and make a personal choice to withdrawl from the salvation of God. Deliberately sinning and claiming grace as your shield doesn't work. Falling into sin, repenting of it privately to God, and asking forgiveness is how salvation works. Your character becomes improved and enlightened with the acceptance of Christ by as much as you let it.
Is Seveth-day Adventism a cult? Hardly.
There are other major religions that should bring greater concern: tradition over scripture, made little idols (of Saints), prayed to or through idols and people who passed away, had someone in authority , having priests forgive sins by confession, saying repetitous chants (like 'Hail Mary'), using beads, changing the scriptual laws based on convience, etc...
Adventists don't fit this description, although Catholicism does -- again, it's not the people, it's the system.