Discussing The Various Beliefs of Seventh-Day Adventists

JeffLogan's picture

We have, in the past, involved ourselves many times in the discussion of Catholic doctrines. I thought it might be of interest to some here to open a discussion around the Fundamental Beliefs of the Seventh-Day Adventist church.

The Seventh-Day Adventist church does not have a typical creed but rather has chosen to call their doctrines "Fundamental Beliefs." The idea is that if we are to follow the Bible and the Bible only as our authority then we must not put down roots so deeply that we cannot change them should Christ chose to correct our understanding. This position gives us the latitude to come into line with scripture without the embarrassment that would normally arise had we taken a dogmatic approach. It allows us, as a people, to be ready to follow Christ onward and upward as we progress toward a fuller understanding of the plan of salvation as God strips away the error which has taken such a stronghold upon our minds.

But just as sure as I post these to the world-wide-web they become somewhat etched in stone. So I will offer this disclaimer, that these are the church's Fundamental Beliefs as of August 2011, and provide this statement from the official church website.

    Seventh-day Adventists accept the Bible as their only creed and hold certain fundamental beliefs to be the teaching of the Holy Scriptures. These beliefs, as set forth here, constitute the church's understanding and expression of the teaching of Scripture. Revision of these statements may be expected at a General Conference session when the church is led by the Holy Spirit to a fuller understanding of Bible truth or finds better language in which to express the teachings of God's Holy Word.

    --Captured from Adventist.org, August 2011.

To some minds the SDA church is not a true Christian church because it is said that their doctrines do not conform entirely to the established religious mindset prevalent today. And, there are indeed some beliefs which seem to be unique which we will address, if you like, and as time allows. But consider that the following churches also held as truth doctrines which were new in their day.

  1. The Lutherans taught Justification by Faith alone
  2. The Baptists taught baptism by full emersion and religious freedom
  3. John Calvin taught that salvation comes directly from God, not the church
  4. The Methodist taught discipline and accountability
  5. The Charismatics taught joyful worship--our dependence upon God's spirit
  6. and we mustn't forget...

  7. The Catholics for defending foundational truths against err and protecting the sanctity of life

...and on and on. Martin Luther brought out one prominent truth which had been hidden from view but he lacked understanding in other areas. So God sent John Calvin. Then John Wesley to balance out Martin Luther and John Calvin. But it was difficult for those earlier churches who laid down creeds to keep pace by embracing new theology so other denominations sprang up and moved the ball down the field a bit further, so to speak. So is it a strange thing for God to continue in this course as time moves on. But in order to validate that it is God's work moving us forward we must look to see if we embrace God's earlier revealed truth. Do we hold to Justification by Faith Alone? What about religious freedom and baptism by immersion? What about Jesus as a personal Savior? What about true sanctification? What about joyful worship and dependence upon God's spirit to fulfill His purposes in our lives? The battery of truths must accumulate and not fall away. We must not drop important truths as we progress else we must go back into the wilderness and retrieve them. So with that said, let's get started. Let's see if the Adventist church retains all of these truths and investigate any new truths they bring to the equation.

I thought I would start by stating some doctrines we do hold in common with the larger community of faith to establish that perhaps the SDA church is not a cult. Because they are deemed not to be controversial I will post several of them at a time. However, as we get to those which are more controversial I will slow down. But I post these in the event they too may be controversial by their wording or scriptural reference.

So if you're ready to begin, let's start!

(I would request that you wait until I open a particular topic before you post a related question. We'll see how that works. But if you raise a question please give me ample time to address it. I can not always participate every day. And, let's make this enjoyable and a learning experience. But please ask what is on your mind.)

Jeff Logan

michael_legna's picture

Dogma and Fundamentals both rely on opinions in the same way

I think your narrower definition is based on a misconception. You restrict dogmas to those items which are based on an opinion whereas I take the more usual definition as applying the term to anything regarded as incontrovertible irrespective as to how it is arrived at. This is because I see the establishment of a dogma or a list of dogmas as always being dependent on opinion. This is because there is either opinion involved in picking and choosing what goes on the list and what does not, and/or opinion also plays a part in the interpretation of the meaning of what is accepted as incontrovertible.

The important thing to note here is that these same influences of opinion enter into the SDA Fundamental Beliefs. The list is not limitless, and it does not contain every truth that is in the Bible. So someone had to choose which items made the list of fundamentals and which points didn't. That is opinion. Second, the beliefs you say would never be changed are in fact interpretations of what the scriptures say. Now in many instances I would agree with those interpretations, but not all individuals who call themselves Christians would and so they remain opinions.

The acceptance of the infallibility of the successor of Peter and the Apostles (acting in unison) is such a fundamental which we disagree on, but it is said as plainly if not more plainly in Scripture than the fundamental of the Trinity. This is why the Catholic has no problem in depending greatly upon the acceptance of dogmas declared by infallible teaching office of the Church. As you said, the Adventist shun this practice and the use of the word dogma. But the claim of preferring to prove that their doctrines are clearly taught in Scripture and are, therefore, of no private interpretation; is of course a contradiction in terms. I don't disputed the right of the SDA to claim these are clear and obvious, but the burden of proof is in their court. And with the logical problem of all written material require interpretation it is a heavy burden of proof they face.

In fact the one verse you apply as a basis for the contention that the written scripture does not lend itself to being interpreted is itself so badly interpreted by you that it is not convincing to anyone outside your denomination.

2 Pt 1:18-21 18 And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. 19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: 20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

This prophecy referred to here is not the inspiration of the authors of scripture, and certainly not the entire Scriptures themselves, but the prophecy the Prophets and that of the Apostles who heard the voice of God on the mount, or those who were later given the gift of Prophecy.

If we are to assign the concept of prophecy to all of written scripture then it makes no sense to study it, as we could never learn its meaning that way. But that would mean scripture contradicts itself when it tells us to study to show ourselves approved. No point studying if you can only learn the meaning through inspired guidance by the Holy Spirit. In fact to claim that the Holy Spirit provides inspired guidance to each of us so that some statements in scripture are perfectly clear so as to be put on a list of dogmatics of fundamentals is really no different than the idea of Papal and Conciliar infallibility. We actually these two idea do differ in one fundamental way the claim of being led to infallible understanding of scriptures by individuals has no scripture to support it while the Papal and Conciliar authority to bind and loose one earth as in heaven is directly stated in scripture.