Are Adventists Evangelical? A Response

20130523-081107.jpgBy Leif L.

I recently posted a comment on an article written in Ministry magazine, which aim was to demonstrate that Ellen G. White, one of the founders and the prophetess of Seventh-day Adventism, was evangelical in her beliefs. The article can be found at:

https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/1995/02/are-adventists-evangelical

When I posted this comment, I did not realize that it was an Adventist site. The tenor of the author makes it plain that he is not an Adventist writer. However, I think that the author is unaware that although Mrs. White held to certain evangelical beliefs, these beliefs were held in a suspension of doctrines that are incompatible with the essential doctrines that Evangelical Christians hold as important and true.

My reply to the article, with minor changes, follows:

“This article seems to be one-sided. Did the author read a wide selection of the works of Ellen G. White? I suppose Joseph Smith and Charles Taze Russell would also seem to be evangelical if judged by limited quotations. I doubt that Ellen White’s beliefs listed below (embraced by all faithful Seventh-day Adventists) could be considered compatible with Evangelical Christianity:

  • Biblical inspiration: “The Bible is written by inspired men, but it is not God’s mode of thought and expression. It is that of humanity. God, as a writer, is not represented. Men will often say such an expression is not like God. But God has not put Himself in words, in logic, in rhetoric, on trial in the Bible. The writers of the Bible were God’s penmen, not His pen.” (Selected Messages, Vol. 1, Chapter One)
  • Christ’s atonement was not complete at the cross: “[In 1844] our great High Priest entered the Holy of Holies … to there make atonement for all who are shown to be entitled to his benefits.” “Christ entered the holy of holies to perform the closing work of the atonement” The Great Controversy, 308, 428
  • Adherence to certain old covenant laws is necessary in order to qualify for salvation (sabbath, food laws, tithing)
  • “The Sabbath is the great test question. It is the line of demarkation between the loyal and true and the disloyal and transgressor. … It is the seal of the living God.” Selected Messages Vol. 3, p. 423.
  • She believed that Michael the archangel is Jesus, and that “Satan was once an honored angel in heaven, next to Jesus Christ” (Spiritual Gifts, vol.1)
  • Christ took a fallen 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)”
  • The scapegoat is Satan, who ultimately bears the sins of the saved: “It was seen, also, that while the sin offering pointed to Christ as a sacrifice, and the high priest represented Christ as a mediator, the scapegoat typified Satan, the author of sin, upon whom the sins of the truly penitent will finally be placed. … Christ will place all these sins upon Satan, … so Satan, … will at last suffer the full penalty of sin” (The Great Controversy, p. 422, 485, 486).
  • The Seventh-day Adventist church is the only true (remnant) church; all other Christian churches are Babylon and her daughters.

The above is an incomplete list. None of the above quotations and points should be offensive to an Adventist. Any knowledgeable, conservative Evangelical Christian should take exception to all of the points above.

This is not meant to demean Ellen White, Seventh-day Adventists, their beliefs or practices. It is simply meant to demonstrate that Ellen White’s beliefs, while holding commonality in some points with Evangelical Christianity, is ultimately incompatible with it from the point of the gospel, systematic theology and worldview.

The same judgment could be made if comparing Roman Catholicism with Fundamentalist Protestantism – while they hold certain points in common, they are ultimately two entirely separate systems of thought, biblical interpretation, and point of view. Don’t equate Fundamentalism with Catholicism, or Evangelicalism with Adventism. It confuses everyone and is unsatisfactory to all parties involved.”

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9 responses to “Are Adventists Evangelical? A Response

  1. “When I posted this comment, I did not realize that it was an Adventist site.”

    To look Christian and slide in under the carefully watched door of Evangelicalism to prey upon a Christian Pastor’s Sheep is almost always the gimmick of a “Seventh-Day” Adventist ministry or organ.

    Within the “Seventh-Day” Adventist membership it is common knowledge that we (I speak as a former SDA who is now a Christian) do not make our association with the SDA institution, open and notorious. When you search for its association, is often not on the mailer, or on a magazine or banner. If it is, it is small and not typically the first thing that stands out. Even the other cults like LDS or the Watchtower Society do not hide it as much as do “Seventh-Day” Adventists.

    Interestingly though, almost all SDAs former or current can look at a publication or propaganda and just from the content’s wording or subject tell you with uncanny accuracy if something is SDA.

    But to the original question, “Is Seventh-Day Adventism Evangelical?” Louis Talbot the former Chancellor of BIOLA University answered it soundly, “NO!”

    See (http://outofadventism.com/2011/04/05/life-assurance-ministries-completes-reprint-of-louis-t-talbots-1957-article-on-adventism/)

    • I was raised Adventist, and probably identified with it in some way until ten years ago. When I was 8, the Lord led me and my broken family to a small SDA church, which had a gifted Christ-centred pastor, a church school and a friendly membership that read the Bible and spent much time in prayer. It made a tremendous difference to our lives.

      My wife and I have severed ties with that institution (which it is; it is not a biblical New Testament church but a very efficient hierarchical religious organization), and we are now active members in a small conservative Evangelical church.

      We have close friends and family who feel that of all denominations, it has the most biblical doctrines. I know people in there that are true followers of Jesus Christ, and who don’t understand why we left. They identify Evangelicalism with “cheap grace” and don’t seem to comprehend or connect with certain gospel truths (that believers are under the new covenant, and not the Mosaic law, for example). They tend to undervalue the person and work of Christ, and place heavy emphasis on their own obedience to ritual law in order to gain and maintain God’s favour.

      There is no doubt that the errors in that institution are grave. They have a history of deceit and coverup that is shocking. But we treat our friends and family with love and respect, despite our differences. We will occasionally attend their special events if invited; sometimes our friends will accompany us to ours.

      In the end, I realize that it is only the Holy Spirit that can reveal to a person the issues that are at stake, and to peel back the layers of untruth that exist there. Otherwise, I would still fail to understand the importance of the items of difference that I mentioned in this post.

  2. It’s interesting to me that you’re obviously not exalting what the Bible says as the foundation of truth but what Evangelical Christians hold as important and true.

    • This blog post is a response to the article, “Are Adventists Evangelical?” and not, “Are Adventists Biblical?”, in which case the title and approach would have been different.

  3. “The Bible is written by inspired men, but it is not God’s mode of thought and expression. It is that of humanity. God, as a writer, is not represented. Men will often say such an expression is not like God. But God has not put Himself in words, in logic, in rhetoric, on trial in the Bible. The writers of the Bible were God’s penmen, not His pen.” (Selected Messages, Vol. 1, Chapter One)

    Beautifully stated. I agree.

    • What is under consideration here is the understanding of Biblical inspiration and inerrancy. If the “words” are not inspired, then the “word” is not inspired.

      Conservative Evangelicals hold to Biblical inerrancy, Adventist’s position on inspiration is much more fluid. I’m not going to debate this issue in the comments, let’s just agree that this is a difference that exists between Adventism and the (conservative) Evangelical churches.

  4. “The Sabbath is the great test question. It is the line of demarcation between the loyal and true and the disloyal and transgressor. … It is the seal of the living God.” Selected Messages Vol. 3, p. 423.

    I agree that Sister White was wrong about the Sabbath.

  5. “Christ’s atonement was not complete at the cross.”

    I recall Walter Martin boasting that he was primarily responsible for the evangelical world accepting Seventh-day Adventist faith as Christian and not a cult movement. The charge that SDAs believe in an incomplete atonement was answered to Martin’s satisfaction in the Adventist classic: SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISTS ANSWER QUESTIONS ON DOCTRINE. Evidently, evangelicals accept the Adventist answer in QOD while your repudiate it.

    http://everythingimportant.org/seventhdayAdventists/qod.htm

    • Thanks for your article which discusses QOD. I had read it a number of years ago. I think it is clear that what E.G. White meant by “perfect atonement” is completely different than the evangelical world understands, and it is picking of phrases outside of a greater context that was not an honest representation of Adventist teaching for the evangelical world.

      Ellen understood the “final atonement” as a future event. Here are a couple examples from The Great Controversy and Patriarchs and Prophets:

      “Attended by heavenly angels, our great High Priest entered the Holy of Holies [in 1844] … to there make atonement for all who are shown to be entitled to his benefits.” (GC 308).

      “The blood of Christ, while it was to release the repentant sinner from the condemnation of the law, was not to cancel the sin; it would stand on record in the sanctuary until the final atonement . . . . Then by virtue of the atoning blood of Christ, the sins of all the truly penitent will be blotted from the books of heaven. Thus the sanctuary will be freed, or cleansed, from the record of sin” (PP 357-58).

      In contrast, the Scriptures teach that when Jesus “had by Himself purged our sins, [he] sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3). This was a once-for-all completed act, a final atonement of sins which were cancelled and blotted out.

      QOD was a thorn in the side of many Adventists and Evangelical scholars. The cutting and pasting, use of ellipses throughout the book to misrepresent historic Adventism has been well documented.

      Walter Martin in later years considered rewriting his book, and his daughter said that the state of Adventism (before his death in 1989) disturbed him. After all, Desmond Ford (and others) lost their credentials in the Adventist church for believing that Christ’s atonement was indeed completed at the cross.

Please let me know what you think! I learn from your comments.

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