Below is information with regards to the origins of the
Seventh-day Adventist Church and some arguments for and against it. In
recent years the SDA church has made moves to come more into line with
mainstream evangelical churches and abandon or distance itself from some of its
more controversial beliefs. Personally, I am
hesitant to regard this more recently evolved SDA church as a cult
because their core beliefs about Christ, sin and salvation seem sound to me,
even if like all denominations including the one I was bought up in, it does have it's
The older version of the SDA church however I do believe
borders on the "cultish". Their belief that sinners are "annihilated" rather
than go to hell
is contrary to scripture and also very misleading to non-Christians, in that they may reach a false conclusion that it's ok to sin up a storm , reject
Jesus Christ and then just die into oblivion, and not pay a price for their
rebellion. The strict observance of Saturday as "the" worship day is to me
not sustainable as a correct interpretation of
scripture (Colossians 2:16). Also their over concentration on the writings of Ellen G. White is a
worry. She may have been sincerely and importantly involved in the evolution of the SDA church but
she should be of little reference now to SDA church members, as all that is needed for a
correct understanding of the Gospel is God's word itself, the
If Seventh-day Adventist church members regard their denomination as the only
genuine one, that too is a serious error. There is only
true church, made up of all those people who rely solely on the death and
resurrection of Jesus Christ for their forgiveness and salvation.
In conclusion, one must be careful
when trying to determine the orthodoxy of an entire group. The Adventists are a
prime example of a denomination with some outrageous claims, but still holding
to Christian truth at its core. They have historically had some biblically
questionable stances on those issues such as the Sabbath, the Old Testament law,
annihilation of the wicked, and investigative judgment. But to place them
outside Christian orthodoxy when they teach the divinity of Jesus, the doctrine
of the Trinity, salvation by grace through faith alone, and the inspiration of
the Scriptures would be too much. I suppose it would be
best to take each Adventist on a case by case basis.
I would encourage any Seventh-day Adventists
reading this to seriously examine what they are being taught and what they
believe, in conjunction with a relevant study of those beliefs using a version
of the King
James Bible, and NOT the SDA's "Clear Word"
devotional paraphrase of Scripture. The following
articles may help..... Keygar
History of Seventh-day Adventism
The Seventh-day Adventist Church (abbreviated SDA)
is a denomination that grew out of the prophetic Millerite movement in the
United States during the middle part of the 19th century. It considers itself a
branch of Protestant Christianity, though differences in doctrine and practice
have led some mainstream Christians to dispute that designation.
The name of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination indicates its two main
distinctive characteristics: Sabbath observance on the seventh day (i.e.,
Saturday) and an expectation that the end of the world is drawing near.
Other distinguishing characteristics include adherence to the teachings of Ellen
G. White (who is regarded as a prophet), and various dietary observances rooted
in Jewish law.
As of 2005, the Seventh-day Adventist Church had 12 million baptized members and
about 25 million total members and adherents worldwide. The Seventh-day
Adventist Church is one of the world's fastest-growing organizations, primarily
due to increases in Third World membership. It now operates in 203 out of 228
countries recognized by the United Nations.
The Adventist movement has its roots in the 19th-century "Millerite movement,"
which centered on the belief that Jesus would return on October 22, 1844.
William Miller (1782-1849) was a farmer who settled in upstate New York after
the war of 1812. He was originally a Deist, but after much private Bible study,
Miller converted to Christianity and became a Baptist. He was convinced that the
Bible contained coded information about the end of the world and the Second
Coming of Jesus. In 1836, he published the book Evidences from Scripture and
History of the Second Coming of Christ about the Year 1843.
The prediction of the year 1843 was based in large part on Daniel 8:14: "And he
said onto me, unto 2,300 days, then shall the sanctuary be cleansed." Miller
believed the "2,300 days" referred to 2,300 years and that the countdown began
in 457 BC. He concluded that the "cleansing of the sanctuary" (interpreted as
the Second Coming) would occur sometime between March 21, 1843 and March 21,
When these dates passed, Samuel Snow, a follower of Miller, interpreted the
"tarrying time" referred to in Habakkuk 2:3 as equal to 7 months and 10 days,
thus delaying the end time to October 22, 1844. When this date also passed
uneventfully, many followers left the movement in what is now termed "The Great
Disappointment." Miller himself gradually withdrew from the leadership of the
group and died in 1849.
Miller's followers who remained in the movement called themselves Adventists,
and taught that the expectation had been fulfilled in a way that had not
previously been understood. Further Bible study led to the belief that Jesus in
that year had entered into the Most Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary, and
began an "investigative judgment" of the world: a process through which there is
an examination of the heavenly records to "determine who, through repentance of
sin and faith in Christ, are entitled to the benefits of His atonement" after
which time Jesus will return to earth. According to the church's teaching, the
return of Christ may occur very soon, though nobody knows the exact date of that
event (Matthew 24:36).
For about 20 years, the Adventist movement was a rather unorganized group of
people who held to this message. Among its greatest supporters were James White,
Ellen G. White and Joseph Bates. Later, a formally organized church called the
General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists was established in Battle Creek,
Michigan, on May 21, 1863, with a membership of 3,500.
Primarily through the evangelism and inspiration of Ellen G. White, who was
regarded as a prophet, the church quickly grew and established a presence beyond
North America during the later part of the 1800s. In 1903, the denominational
headquarters were moved from Battle Creek to Washington D.C. and the neighboring
community of Takoma Park, Maryland.
In 1929, a new sect was formed by Victor Houteff, whose beliefs differed from
mainline Adventist teachings. The sect was called the Davidian Seventh-day
Adventists. This group further subdivided into other groups that included the
Students of the Seven Seals, popularly known as the Branch Davidians. This
off-shoot of the Seventh-day Adventist movement, which became widely known due
to David Koresh and 1993 Waco, Texas conflagration, held very little in common
with the rest of Adventism.
In 1989, the headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church was moved to
Silver Spring, Maryland.
Seventh-day Adventist Beliefs
Seventh-day Adventist doctrine is rooted in the Anabaptist Protestant tradition.
Adventist doctrine resembles mainstream orthodox trinitarian Protestant
theology, with a few exceptions such as the following.
Belief in an imminent, pre-millennial, universally visible second advent,
preceded by a time of trouble when the righteous will be persecuted and a false
second coming where Satan impersonates the Messiah.
Ellen G. White.
Teaching that the "Spirit of Prophecy," an identifying mark of the remnant
church, was manifested in the ministry of Ellen G. White, whom Adventists
recognize as the Lord's messenger. Her "writings are a continuing and
authoritative source of truth which provide for the church comfort, guidance,
instruction, and correction."(28 Fundamental Beliefs) They also make clear that
the Bible is the standard by which all teachings and experience must be tested.
State of the dead.
Seventh-day Adventists believe that death is a sleep during which the "dead know
nothing" (Ecclesiastes 9:5). This view maintains that the person has no
conscious form of existence until the resurrection, either at the second coming
of Jesus (in the case of the righteous) or after the millennium of Revelation 20
(in the case of the wicked). Because of this view, Seventh-day Adventists do not
believe hell currently exists and believe further that the wicked will be
destroyed at the end of time.
Seventh-day Adventists oppose the formulation of credal statements and prefer to
view the fundamental beliefs as descriptors rather than prescriptors. However,
divergence from the published position is frowned upon.
Seventh-day Adventist Practices
Seventh-day Adventists observe a 24-hour sunset-to-sunset Sabbath commencing
Friday evening. Justification for this belief is garnered from the creation
account in Genesis in which God rested on the seventh day, an approach later
immortalised in the Ten Commandments. Seventh-day Adventists maintain that there
is no biblical mandate for the change from the "true Sabbath" to Sunday
observance, which is to say that Sunday-keeping is merely a "tradition of men."
follow an evangelical format, with emphasis placed on the sermon. During the
week prayer meetings may be conducted and children often attend Adventist
Seventh-day Adventists practice adult baptism by full immersion
in a similar manner to the Baptists. Infants are dedicated rather than baptized,
as it is argued that baptism requires consent and moral responsibility.
Seventh-day Adventists practice communion four times a year,
reflecting their Methodist roots. The communion is an open service (available to
members and non-members) and includes a foot-washing ceremony (commonly referred
to as the Ordinance of Humility) and consumption of the Lord's Supper.
Seventh-day Adventists do not eat pork or other unclean meat as
identified in the book of Leviticus and many avoid all meat for health reasons
(see next section).
of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is aimed at both unbelievers and other
Seventh-day Adventist Health Code and Dietary Restrictions
Seventh-day Adventists present a health message that recommends
vegetarianism and condones abstinence from pork,
shellfish, and other foods proscribed as "unclean" in Leviticus. Alcohol and
tobacco are also prohibited.
Dr. John Kellogg, founder of the Kellogg's company and a major supplier of
breakfast cereals, was a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The
Sanitarium Health Food Company, owned by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, is
one of Australia's leading manufacturers of health and vegetarian-related
Seventh-day Adventists run a large number of hospitals. Their predominant school
of medicine in North America is located in Loma Linda, California.
Seventh-day Adventist Ethical Views
The official Seventh-day Adventist position on abortion is that
it is permissable only in exceptional circumstances that present serious moral
or medical dilemmas, such as significant threats to the pregnant woman's life,
serious jeopardy to her health, severe congenital defects carefully diagnosed in
the fetus, and pregnancy resulting from rape or incest. While the general tone
toward abortion is negative, the individual Adventist may take any position on
the political spectrum. Abortions are performed in Adventist hospitals.
Seventh-day Adventists generally condemn homosexuality. The
church does not perform gay marriages or holy unions, and gay men cannot be
ordained. Homosexuality of a spouse is given as one of the rare acceptable
reasons for divorce. The official statement on sexuality states that sexual acts
outside of heterosexual marriage are forbidden. However, individual Adventists
may take a much more liberal position.
Criticisms of Seventh-day Advent Beliefs and Practices
There are disputes among some conservative Christian writers over whether
Seventh-day Adventism is a "cult," which in this context means
a group that deviates from the views of "biblical Christianity." In the late
1950s, Walter Martin and Donald Barnhouse classified Adventists as non-cultic,
although for Martin this was a reversal of his classification of Adventists
early in 1955 as a cult. Many followed this advice and continue to do so today,
accepting Adventism as a Christian denomination, even if it holds a few
doctrines which are different from mainline Christian churches.
Others, however, have rejected this view, including, for example, John Whitcomb.
Adventist insularism and warnings about mixing with non-Christians and even
non-Adventists, and the importance placed on Adventist education for children
add to allegations of cult-like behaviour.
Some critics argue that Seventh-day Adventists' focus on the Sabbath places a
focus on works rather than grace. Critics also argue that the
Adventist church, in accepting Ellen G. White as a prophet and her writings as
inspired, is putting forward another source of authority in
addition to the Bible. This they view as contrary to the traditional Protestant
sola scriptura view of the Bible as the only inspired source of
authority, and the rejection of claims of latter-day prophets.
They also criticise the
Christology taught by Ellen G. White as inaccurate and heterodox.
For example, White taught that "Christ took upon His sinless nature our sinful
nature… Christ took human nature and bore the infirmities and degeneracy of the
race. He took our nature and its deteriorating condition" (Questions on
Doctrine, pp. 654–656). However, Ellen White did affirm that Christ was
completely sinless and Adventists argue that Christ's taking of human nature
related to sickness, disease, the feeling of hunger, etc., and not to any moral
propensity to sin.
Critics also view the Adventist belief in annihilationism as
unbiblical. They point to various biblical passages which contradict
annihilationism, for example Luke 16:19–31, which they argue clearly indicates
that the dead are presently conscious in Heaven or Hell, not in some kind of
soul sleep. Compare this with the description of Lazarus as asleep given by
Jesus in John 11:12–14. Also consider the view of Luke 16:19–31 from the
perspective of those believing in annihilationism, which is that those verses
are a parable taught by Jesus, not actual events.
Critics allege that Ellen G. White taught that belief in the doctrine of "investigative
judgement" was necessary for salvation. For example, she writes in her
book The Great Controversy (p. 488):
The subject of the
sanctuary and the investigative judgement should be clearly understood by the
people of God. All need a knowledge for themselves of the position and work of
their great High Priest. Otherwise it will be impossible for them to exercise
the faith which is essential at this time or to occupy the position which God
designs for them to fill.
It has been noted by several other Christian groups that in recent years the
Adventist leadership has de-emphasised several of the uniquely Adventist
doctrines, in favour of an emphasis on the basic Christian beliefs they share
with other Christians, which renders the Adventist church less problematic on
the whole from the perspective of other Christians. Some groups of
traditionalist Seventh-day Adventists, however, disagree with this trend and a
few have left the Adventist church to form splinter groups as a result.
Seventh-day Adventist Organization and Structure
Seventh-day Adventists have three levels of ordination: deacons, elders, and
pastors. In some Adventist churches only men are eligible for ordination but
there are many examples of deaconesses and female elders and pastors. Male
pastors are allowed to marry and have families.
Organization beyond the local church is as follows:
The global church is called the General Conference.
The General Conference is made up of divisions.
Divisions are comprised of union conferences.
Union conferences consist of local conferences.
Local conferences include local church districts. These are
to by one pastor each.
Local districts can contain one to many local churches (congregations).
United States, these numbers tend to be smaller (2-4 churches per district,
perhaps), while in most of the worldwide church, the numbers tend to be larger
(5+ per district and per pastor, sometimes as many as 15 or more).
Adventist Church governance, is a mixture of episcopal and presbyterian
elements. Each of these local churches has its own elected governing body and
office. Almost everything is decided by either elected committees, through vote
of members, or representatives from the local churches. Each organization holds
a general session at certain intervals. This is usually when general decisions
get voted on. The president of the General Conference, for instance, is elected
at the General Conference Session every five years. The current head of the
Seventh-day Adventist Church is General Conference President Jan Paulsen from
Churches are governed by a church board formed by members of that church, with
the pastor of that congregation. Church property is owned by the conference
corporation though, and so this differs from congregational polity. Ministers
are ordained by ministers as are lay elders and lay deacons (which is
presbyterian rather than congregational or episcopal).
Seventh-day Adventist Education and Institutions
Seventh-day Adventists have had a long interest in education.
The Adventist church runs one of the largest education systems in the world.
They operate some 5,700 pre-schools, primary and secondary schools, as well as
colleges, universities, seminaries and medical schools in about 145 countries
worldwide. This education system involves some 66,000 teachers and 1,257,000
students. The Adventist educational program is comprehensive encompassing
"mental, physical, social, and spiritual health" with "intellectual growth and
service to humanity" its goal.
The Youth Department of the Seventh-day Adventist church runs an organisation
for 10-16 year old boys and girls called Pathfinders. For
younger children, Adventurer, Eager Beaver, and Little Lambs clubs are available
that feed into the Pathfinder program. Pathfinders is similar to the Boy Scouts
of America (BSA), except that membership is open to both boys and girls.
Seventh-day Adventists have founded a number of universities and hospitals throughout the world.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church has been active for over 100 years advocating
for freedom of religion. In 1893 its leaders founded the
International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA). They also have been formally
active in humanitarian aid for over 50 years (ADRA).
Is the Seventh-day Adventist Church a Cult?
of a cult..........
A leader or group of leaders, prophet, prophetess, that claims to
speak for God.
Fulfillment: Ellen G. White, the
Seventh-day Adventist’s prophetess makes the claim that what she writes is not
her ideas, but "that which God has opened before her in vision."
"In my books,
the truth is stated, barricaded by a ‘Thus saith the Lord.’ The Holy Spirit
traced these truths upon my heart and mind as indelibly as the law was traced by
the finger of God upon the tables of stone." Letter 90, 1906.
letters which I write, in the testimonies I bear, I am presenting to you that
which the Lord has presented to me. I do not write one article in the paper
expressing merely my own ideas. They are what God has opened before me in
vision--the precious rays of light shining from the throne." Testimonies
5 p. 67.
What they write and teach their followers, contradicts Bible.
Ellen G. White holds strict authority over
its members in respect to, finances, wills, diet, dress, amusement,
associations, etc. as taught in her books such as Testimonies to the Church.
Many members taking issue with the authority of the leader are
excommunicated, (disfellowshipped), shunned, or not allowed to hold office in
the church, etc.
EGW: "When the judgment of the General Conference, which is the highest
authority that God has on earth, is exercised private independence and private
judgment MUST NOT be maintained, but must be surrendered." Testimonies 3
Look at the SDA pastors
that were fired for not believing in some of Ellen G. White’s teachings. Also
members who have been put out of office and disfellowshipped for not accepting
Ellen G. White as a prophet or her teachings.
Cult leaders teach infallibility in their teachings or the
writings of their cult leader, in this case Ellen G. White.
Fulfillment: "It is from the
standpoint of the light that has come through the Spirit of Prophecy (Mrs.
White’s writings) that the question will be considered, believing as we do that
the Spirit of Prophecy is the only infallible
interpreter of Bible principles,
since it is the Christ, through this agency, giving real meaning of his own
words." G.A. Irwin, General Conference President, from the tract The Mark of
the Beast, p. 1.
On February 7,
1887, the General Conference passed the following resolution -- "That we
re-affirm our binding confidence in the Testimonies of Sister White to
the Church, as the teaching of the Spirit of God." SDA Year Book for 1914,
"Our position on the
Testimonies is like the key-stone to the arch. Take that out and there is no
logical stopping-place till all the special truths of the Message are gone...Nothing
is surer than this, that the Message and visions (of Mrs. White) belong
together, and stand or fall together." Review and Herald Supplement,
August 14, 1883.
The cult members believes that they are superior to others because of
their unique teachings as they have knowledge of God’s will that other
Christians do not have. Because of the false teachings of their prophet or
leaders, they consider themselves especially chosen by God, and look at
themselves as the "Remnant Church," or "The True Church".
Fulfilled: Ellen G. White and the
Seventh-day Adventist Church view themselves as "the Remnant Church" alone
especially called by God in 1844, over all other churches, which they called
Babylon. The Adventist still considers themselves the Remnant Church. Read,
"Seventh-day Adventist Believe 27," Chapter 12, The Remnant and Its
Believe: "One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is prophecy,
This gift is an identifying mark of the remnant church
and was manifested in the ministry of Ellen G. White." "Seventh-day Adventist
Believe 27," p.216.
Without Ellen G. White
and her Bible Contradictions, the Seventh-day Adventist Church could not call
itself the Remnant Church.
Adventist leaders and their members use the writings of Ellen G. White
to interpret the Scriptures. EGW's writings are the final arbitrator of
Fulfilled: The Adventist’s claim to
hold the Bible above all teachings, but in fact they interpret the Bible by the
writings of Ellen G. White. This is demonstrated in their Sabbath school
Quarterlies, sermons, and articles in their church paper, "Adventist Review."
Her counsel is to be followed as Scripture.
They publish their own Bible and insert their
own doctrines in the text.
Fulfilled: The Seventh-day Adventist
Church publishes The Clear Word Bible. It
is a cultic Bible that does not separate the Bible text from the author’s
personal commentary, opinions, which slants the text to agree with the writings
of Ellen G. White and whatever else to make the text say what he wants it to
say. This corrupt piece of work, makes the Word of God unclear to the reader.
Adventist scholar Dr.
Sakae Kubo say’s, "I am concerned about how our membership regard and use
Blanco’s Clear Word. Behind my remarks is a history of Bibles of this
sort that have a terrible bias. The Jehovah’s
Witnesses’ New World Translation is an obvious example—the
divinity of Christ is removed and His createdness is brought out along with
other tendential characteristics. The very obvious and serious danger is that
our own people will be confused as to what the Bible really says. Interpretation
has been so mixed in with the text that our people will think that the
interpretation is part of the Word of God."
Adventist Review, April 1995, p.15.
The Clear Word Bible, 1994 by Jack J. Blanco.
and distributed by Review and Herald Publishing Association,
Oak Ridge Drive, Hagerstown, MD 21740
cults look at individuals that leave their group as being lost, and without
It is difficult for
Seventh-day Adventists to fathom that a person leaving their church can remain a
Christian and still be saved. After I left the Adventist Church I had letters
telling me I was being led by Satan, I was making war on God's church, I would
burn in Hell, and that I should come back to the church, etc.
Christians that do not
belong to the Seventh-day Adventist Church are often called "outsiders." When a
Christian from another Church joins the Seventh-day Adventist Church, they are
said, "to have come into the truth."
What is a cult?
A religious cult is an
organization that has departed from mainstream Christianity to follow doctrines
that are not Biblical. They hold their leader's Bible contradictions over the
Word of God. The Seventh-day Adventist Church teaches many non-Biblical
Webster’s Dictionary by
cult n. 1. a particular
system of religious worship, esp. with reference to its rites and ceremonies. 2.
a. a group that devotes itself to or venerates a person, ideal, fad, etc. 3. a.
a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist. b. the
members of such a religion or sect. -adj. 4. of or pertaining to a cult. 5. of,
for, or attracting a small group of devotees: a cult movie. cultic, adj.
cultish, adj. cultism, n. cultist, n.
Are there different kinds
Most definitely. There
are religious cults, Satanic cults, secular cults. Some cults are purely
secular such as; sport idols, UFO cults, movie stars, and some are
dedicated for good of society. A cult in itself is not necessarily evil.
Christians need to be
alert as to what is being taught as truth and refuse to accept Biblical
Contradictions especially if a church has a prophet. People find comfort and
security in belonging to religious cults, as it agrees with their beliefs that
they were brain-washed into believing as truth.
Is the Seventh-day Adventist Church a Cult?
By Larry Kirkpatrick
Different Opinions about What Is Truth?
The many religious
bodies constituting Christendom have never agreed which teachings define
heaven's authentic system of belief. The ideas that reflect a group's
distinctive doctrinal perspective are many. Even the authorities that stand at
the foundation of each group's beliefs differ in substantial ways. For some
groups, the final basis is tradition. For some, it is the Bible. For another,
modern "prophetic" teachings may provide the foundation. Some groups use the
Bible or part of it. Many combinations are possible.
A number of groups base
their teachings upon the same source -- the Bible --
and yet approach its interpretation from different starting points or
pre-suppositional sets. Is the Bible to be taken absolutely literally? Should
the passages containing miracles be discounted as myths? Would God wish that we
use a "sanctified imagination" to make our understanding of the Bible fit better
with more "informed," up-to-date notions? Or shall we read the Bible and seek
the plain meaning of its text as it's been given? How we answer these questions
will have a large impact on what we understand God to be saying.
The point is, that the
varying sources of spiritual authority and the presuppositions which we bring to
them make evaluating which groups are heretical (false) and which groups are
orthodox (true) a meaningful task. Significant thought and evaluation are
required in order to be fair. And who draws the baseline against which the other
groups are to be measured? Shall it be the majority? How often, historically,
has the majority been correct in religious matters? Wouldn't it be much fairer
to consider how consistent a group's teachings are in relation to their declared
principles? This is what we must do if we would be both serious and fair.
Ultimate truth is not
itself relative. An objective, bottom-line truth does indeed exist. Even this is
a presupposition. Yes, it runs against presently accepted wisdom. But that
wisdom is merely the presently popular foam riding the crest of this moment's
Some persons measure
other groups against their own favorite list of doctrines. Some, against what is
supposed to have been the most common belief-set in historical terms. Yet this
is usually quite subjective, and of little use except in providing
self-justification for the evaluator's own position.
We've begun our
thinking about cults with these considerations before us. But now we must turn
to the criteria by which we will make our evaluation. Various criteria
have been reviewed by which the teachings of religious bodies have been defined
as being cultic or not. Some suggest that we use primarily sociological
criteria, others historical, others biblical. Much writing concerning "cults" in
the past has consisted of measuring groups up against doctrinal criteria. While
this may seem the rigid approach of less-enlightened times, it has the advantage
of being at least somewhat less subjective than most of the other means. it has
been the practice of Seventh-day Adventists to identify themselves in biblical
and doctrinal terms. They thus most readily lend themselves to evaluation on a
To simplify the matter,
doctrinal definitions of cults tend to define them according to these primary
The group is founded by a single, exceptional and highly charismatic
The group either unduly elevates man, or lowers God.
The group adds other sources of authority equal to or of greater weighting
than the Bible.
The group teaches some form of salvation by works.
These will suffice as
for the purposes of this paper we seek to determine whether Seventh-day
Adventism is a cult.
Adventism according to these four criteria:
Seventh-day Adventism? Several individuals were prominent in the early
days of Adventism, including William Miller, Josiah Litch, J.V. Himes, and
Charles Fitch. The initial Advent preachers came out of several denominations.
They preached the soon return of Christ, which they thought to be immediately
imminent. When their expectations failed to be fulfilled in the way that they
had expected, there were a variety of reactions. Some groups just went back to
what they had been doing before the movement and resumed business as usual. Some
people gave up on God entirely. But from one of the groups that came out of the
initial era, soon another arose.
This group in 1863
formally became the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Among its most prominent early
individuals were James White, Joseph Bates, Hiram Edson, Ellen White, and
others. The biblical foundations of the church were etched-out by this core
group. Because one of the features of Adventism is the contemporary prophetic
gift expressed through Ellen G. White, it has been suggested maliciously that
she founded the church. But she was a mere 17 year old youth when in December
1844 she experienced her first vision. She was never a church president, or took
formal position o denominational leadership. Certainly, those even casually
acquainted with the history of the movement know that Ellen G. White did not
found it, but was one of several significant founding individuals.
Another criteria that
we mentioned was the undue elevation of man or the lowering of God.
Adventist belief has never been suggested to wrongly elevate man, to turn him
into a God. And as far as lowering God goes, again, no such charges have ever
been seriously leveled. Seventh-day Adventism has not been seriously questioned
on this point.
The third criterion we
mentioned is the adding of sources of authority considered equal to or
greater than the Bible. Returning to Ellen G. White, the contemporary
prophet, this question is legitimate and will now be addressed. A prolific
writer, her fertile pen produced numerous pages through the years of her long
life. Her writings are considered by Seventh-day Adventists to be divinely
The Bible appears
clearly to teach that the various gifts God has given to His church for its
up-building would remain in it until the second coming of Christ. In some
places, the Bible likens these gifts to the parts of the body, without which it
is more or less crippled.
In any case, given the conclusion that contemporary prophecy is foretold and
supported by the Bible, one must consider the question of inspiration: are some
prophets more inspired than others? Was Amos less inspired than Paul, or was
Moses more inspired than Isaiah? What about Philip's daughters who prophesied,
mentioned in the book of Acts? Since no Bible book records their prophetic
utterances, is their prophecy less inspired than was John's? Obviously we cannot
distinguish between degrees of inspiration. Either a prophet is true, or false;
either inspired or uninspired. There can be no middle ground.
Ellen White's role, if
anything, was least prominent in terms of setting up the Biblical foundations of
the movement. She experienced and shared with the group the visions which she
believed came to her from God. Unlike Mormonism or other religious groups that
arose, the whole basis for Adventist belief was built upon Bible foundations.
Whereas some other groups must go outside of the Bible and to added "inspired"
writings to support their teachings, the foundation of the Seventh-day Adventist
movement was, from its very beginnings, the Bible.
Mrs. White consistently
pointed to the Bible as the acid test for the Christian's beliefs. The majority
of her work, as that of most Bible prophets, was exhortation, guidance, and
encouragement; only a small percentage of her writings contain directly
predictive content. The many supposed prophets of other religious groups, with
their own writings interpreting or superseding the Bible for their followers,
make it tempting superficially to class Ellen G. White in the same category. But
this would be a mistake. Her writings should be as carefully evaluated. if for
no other reason than that she is the most prolific woman writer of all time, her
work demands respect.
After an extensive
study of both, the Bible and her writings, I have not discovered any point where
she contradicts it, or where her writings must be used to supersede it.
Seventh-day Adventist teachings to this day, are biblically-based and
have not added to the Bible. Ellen White's
writings are considered to be inspired, but not to be Scripture. They have not
been added to the Bible; nor will they be. To better understand this point, a
significant look at
the phenomenon of prophecy as recorded in the Bible
will bring clarification. And we believe that a fair-minded look at the Ellen G.
White writings themselves will support that evidence shows that the ultimate
authority for Adventism is, as it always has been, the Bible, and that the
writings of Ellen G. White have not been placed on a level authoritatively with
Finally, let us
consider the question of whether Adventism teaches salvation by works.
Critics of Adventism have noted our emphasis upon the law of God. Because we
have emphasized the Ten Commandments, and the Sabbath Commandment in particular,
some have viewed this as evidence that we teach a form of salvation by works.
But is a superficial glance enough to bring such a determination? To uphold the
law does not necessarily point to the idea of salvation through works. In the
Bible the law is presented in a positive light, from end to end. Positive
references to the law abound in the New Testament. The law is a crucial
instrument that the Holy Spirit uses in convicting us of sin, of righteousness,
and of judgment. It forms the basis for evaluating man. It forms the basis for
condemning all men who have not become connected with Christ. Clearly, without
the law, God would have no basis for condemning Satan, sin, and evil, or saving
the repentant sinner who trusts in Christ.
In conclusion, our
brief survey suggests that Seventh-day Adventism be carefully evaluated before
firmly affixing any charge of cultism. Recall the four criterion mentioned
above. It was not founded by one or even two highly charismatic individuals, but
by several earnest students of Scripture. Charges have never really been leveled
against Adventism on the second point. The third point is more involved than
might be imagined, but the strong emphasis upon the Bible and its use by the
group as final doctrinal authority reveals that here, Adventists are on
orthodox, if uncommon ground. Finally, a careful look beyond knee-jerk
suspicions and pre-judgments about how salvation is taught, reveals that
Seventh-day Adventists do not easily fit the cult label at that measure either.
Having suggested that
Seventh-day Adventism is clear at all four key points, I must say that I care
little whether we really are clear of the "cult" label or not. Sticks and stones
do not change truth. Those who throw sticks and stones will throw their sticks
and stones. Its not the throwing of sticks that matters, but whether charges
stick. What matters is what the evidence shows, not what the prejudiced purport
to show. What matters is simply what the Bible itself teaches when we accept it
as our ultimate spiritual authority and interpret it according to its own innate
Often those who come to
make these evaluations are obeying God's will as delineated in the Bible but
selectively anyway, calling into question their own spiritual validity. They
need to check their own gospel before they come and declare the gospel of
Adventism faulty. Why don't we turn to the Bible together, and go on from there?
Is Seventh-day Adventism a cult? No. But what of it? Neither having the label or
not having it really matters in the end, but faith working through love. It is
what the faith objectively produces that finally determines its verity. Only the
faith that comes from God will lead to God. Let each serious seeker for truth
seek-out that very faith, and make it his own through the One who died on the
cross to give him life.
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