Seventh-day Adventist Evangelical Conferences
, Vol. V, p.
p 1 -- A WORD OF EXPLANATION -- In this Brochure, we have brought together all the presently available source documents involving the Seventh-day Adventist Evangelical Conferences during 1955-1956. These documents are from the pens of some of the participants - on the part of the Evangelicals, major participants, Donald Grey Barnhouse and Walter R. Martin - and on the part of the Seventh-day Adventists, the chairman of the conferences, T. E. Unruh.
It must be noted that the observations and evaluations of the conferences on the part of the Evangelcicals were written immediately at the conclusion of the dialogues, while the summation from the Adventist viewpoint did not come till twenty years later in 1977, and written as an historical postscript. In fact it must be remembered that the rank and file of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, including most of its ministry at the time, did not know who all were involved in these conferences, nor the primary author of the book resulting from these dialogues - Questions on Doctrine - till the article appeared in Adventist Heritage* written by T. E. Unruh.
There remains - still out of the reach of research - the original answers given by the Adventist conferees to Barnhouse and Martin. The book - Questions on Doctrine - while purporting to be those answers, is not, but is rather a revision of what was given to those men. Because of this - and so far no evidence has been produced to nullify the conclusion - we must conclude that what Walter Martin and Donald G. Barnhouse have written is an accurate statement of what the Adventist conferees did say to these men, and what the original answers did read as given to them. A careful evaluation of what T. E. Unruh has written reveals that the highest levels of the Adventist hierarchy were involved in the denial of basic historic Adventist Christology. The list of names reads like a Who's Who of the executive officers of the General Conference at that time. (See p. 41, Adventist Heritage article)
Although the book - Questions on Doctrine - is not being reprinted, and is no longer available at Adventist Book Centers, the follow-up book - Movement of Destiny - authored by the primary writer of Questions on Doctrine, is still being promoted. Movement of Destiny teaches the same heresies in Christology as did Questions on Doctrine, and bears the nihil obstat of the present president of the General Conference, Neal C. Wilson, and the imprimatur of the previous "first minister" of the Church, Robert H. Pierson. In fact the Statement of Beliefs voted by the 1980 General Conference reflects these same deviations from the historic teachings of the Church in the areas of the Incarnation and the Atonement. This makes it even more important that we understand what did take place during these Seventh-day Adventist Evangelical Conferences of 1955-1956. The present theological crisis in the Church is not something that happened over night, nor is it the work of one man, but its roots go back to the betrayal of the trust placed in men who were supposed to stand "as guardians of the spiritual interests" of God's professed people. (See Testimonies For the Church, Vol. V, p. 211)
* -- Adventist Heritage, Vol 4, #2, pp. 35-46. Being reproduced by permission.
p 2 -- The Adventist Heritage, Vol. 4, No. 2, 1977 - The Seventh-day Adventist Evangelical Conferences of 1955-1956 by T. E. Unruh (Now living in Grand Terrace, California, T. E. Unruh is a retired minister. When the events described here took place, Unruh was president of the East Pennsylvania Conference.) -- A series of conferences between Seventh-day Adventist and Evangelical leaders, begun in the spring in 1955 and running into the summer of 1956, led to the publication of two books: the first, Seventh-dayAdventists Answer Questions on Doctrine; the second, The Truth About Seventh-day Adventism.The first is a definitive statement of contemporary Adventist belief, established on a broad international consensus of church leaders and prepared for publication by a representative committee appointed by the officers of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. The second work, by Walter R. Martin, a leading expert on American cults, defines and examines Seventh-day Adventist doctrines, using the first work as source and authority. In his book Martin removed the Seventh-day Adventist church from his list of non-Christian cults and acknowledged that all whose beliefs followed the Questions on Doctrine should be counted members of the Body of Christ (the Christian church in the Evangelical definition) and therefore his brethren. While some Adventist and non-Adventist dissidents have been vociferous in their denunciation of the Adventist definitions and the Evangelical evaluation, in retrospect the conferences improved the understanding and appreciation of the Seventh-day Adventist church on the part of many Evangelical leaders, and likewise warmed many Adventist leaders toward the Evangelicals. It was a time when the gates between sheepfolds stood open.
was no thought of precipitating anything of such historic consequence
when I wrote a letter on November 28, 1949, commending Dr. Donald Grey
Barnhouse for his radio sermons on righteousness by faith based on the
book of Romans. At the time, Dr. Barnhouse was a popular radio preacher,
minister of the Tenth Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,
author of a number of Evangelical books, and founder and senior editor
of the influential Eternity magazine. I was the president of the
East Pennsylvania Conference, with headquarters in Reading.
his reply to my letter Barnhouse expressed astonishment that an Adventist
clergyman would commend him for preaching righteousness by faith, since
in his opinion it was a well known fact that Seventh-day Adventists believed
in righteousness by works. He went on to state that since boyhood he had
been familiar with Adventists and their teachings, and that in his opinion
their views about the nature and work of Christ were Satanic and dangerous.
He concluded by inviting this strange Adventist to have lunch with him.
did not then get together for lunch, but we did correspond for a time.
I returned a soft answer
p 3 --
the first letter from Barnhouse and sent him a copy of Steps to Christ,
at the same time affirming the evangelical character of Adventists doctrine.
I thought we had an agreement that Barnhouse would publish no further
criticism of Adventists before there was further contact and clarification.
However, in Eternity for June 1950, he sharply criticized Steps
to Christ and its author. After that, I saw no point in continuing
The Barhhouse article was entitled, "Spiritual Discernment, or How to Read Religious Books." It illustrated the difficulty that conservative Christians sometimes have in understanding one another. Here a man of great spiritual stature, a bold crusader for truth, revealed his prejudice against Adventism and Ellen G. White, whom he erroneously called, "founder of the cult.'' Concerning the first chapter of Steps to Christ, entitled "God's Love for Man." Barnhouse charged that so much emphasis on God's love neutralize His justice and that extending that love to unregenerate man smacked of the universalism characteristic of the writings of the cult. He quoted a number of statements which he called half truths introducing Satanic error, like a worm on a hook, "the first bite is all worm, the second bite is all hook. That is the way the Devil works." Yet this man came to respect Ellen White as a sincere Christian and a great spiritual leader and to acknowledge that Seventh-day Adventists were his brethren in Christ.
spring of 1955, almost six years after my correspondence with Dr. Barnhouse
began, I heard from Walter R. Martin, who had seen our correspondence
and who asked for face-to-face contact with representative Seventh-day
Adventists. Martin had written a chapter critical of Adventism in his
Rise of the Cults and now wanted to talk with Adventists before
doing further writing on the subject of our doctrines.
Walter Martin had come to the attention of Dr. Barnhouse when the former was in his early twenties, a graduate student in the history of
p 4 --
religion at New York University. By 1955 Martin had to his credit several
books about American cults which were recognized as standard works in
that field. He was a consulting editor on the Eternity staff, a
Southern Baptist clergyman, and a member of the Evangelical Foundation,
known to the faithful as "How Firm a Foundation, " an organization
started by Christian businessmen who managed the financial aspects of
the Barnhouse enterprises.
understood at the outset that Martin, a research polemicist, had been
commissioned to write against Seventh-day Adventism. Nevertheless, he
declared that he wanted direct access so he could treat Adventists fairly.
When I explained this to friends at the Adventist headquarters in Washington,
D.C., they agreed that Martin should be treated fairly, and provided with
the contacts he sought. Martin expressly asked to meet LeRoy E. Froom,
with whose Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers he was already familiar.
Froom suggested the inclusion of W. E. Read, then a field secretary of
the General Conference. I served as moderator or chairman throughout the
series of conferences.
1955, Martin came to Washington for his first meeting with the Adventists.
With him was George E. Cannon, a professor of theology on the faculty
of the Nyack, New York, Missionary College. At this first conference the
two groups viewed each other with wariness. As the Adventists had anticipated,
Martin had read widely from D. M. Canright, E. S. Ballenger, and E. B.
Jones, as well as other detractors or defectors. Martin, for his part,
seemed to expect a degree of resistance and cover-up, such as he may have
met in some of his other investigations. This first meeting can best be
described as a confrontation.
Martin began going through a list of questions which reflected his reading. We Adventists, rather than launching into a defense, began with a positive presentation in which we emphasized those doctrines held by our church in common with Evangelical Christians of all faiths in all ages. We stated our conviction that the Bible is the
p 5 --
Word of God and the only rule of Adventist faith and practice. We affirmed
our belief in the eternal and complete deity of Christ, in his sinless
life in the incarnation, in his atoning death on the cross, once for all
and all-sufficient, in his literal resurrection, and in his priestly ministry
before the Father, applying the benefits of the atonement completed on
the cross. And, finally, while setting no time, we affirmed our belief
in the imminent premillenial return of Jesus Christ.
became clear to the Adventist conferees that both questions and answers
would have to be formally stated in writing, that the answers would have
to be made crystal clear to the Evangelical conferees and to those they
represented, and that a way would have to be found to demonstrate the
consensus we were sure we had. Martin was given books and periodicals
to substantiate the claims we had made in our opening statement.
Following the first day of discussion both groups were busy into the night. The immediate concern of the Adventists was the list of questions with which Martin had begun his interrogation. Froom, who had a facile pen, took the responsibility of composing the initial answers, in a document running into twenty pages, whipped into shape by his secretary after hours. Until two o'clock in the morning Martin gave his attention to the reading matter we had given him.
day will never be forgotten by those who participated in the conferences.
As the morning session began Martin announced that, as the result of the
first round of discussion and the reading matter he had been given, he
was admitting that he had been wrong about Seventh-day Adventism on several
important points and had become persuaded that Adventists who believed
as did the conferees were truly born-again Christians and his brethren
in Christ. In a dramatic gesture he extended his hand in fellowship.
faced serious problems as a result of his turn-about. He had become convinced
that Adventists stood with other evangelical Christians on an impressive
number of basic doctrines. He was not convinced that Adventists were right
on doctrines we describe as "present truth," nor was he ever
convinced of these. But how was he to write a book in which he would expose
what he considered the errors of Adventism, while at the same time revealing
his honest conviction that there existed sufficient common denominators
to justify the inclusion of Seventh-day Adventists in the Evangelical
Christian community - and still satisfy those who had commissioned him
to write a book against Seventh-day Adventism? In his concern, he asked
the Adventist conferees to join him in praying for divine guidance.
also faced problems. The Evangelical conferees were satisfied that we
were presenting contemporary Adventist doctrines, because we were supported
by the 1931 statement of fundamental beliefs, which appeared regularly
in official yearbooks and manuals of the church, and by the amplified
statement in the baptismal covenant. But, they asked, if the Adventist
church had reached a firm consensus why did they find contrary or misleading
statements in Adventist publications, for sale in Adventist book and Bible
houses? We explained that this was the result of efforts by the church
to avoid an officially adopted creedal statement, and the denomination's
preference for an open-end theology which permitted new light to penetrate
in depth. This explanation did not impress them. They asked if we did
not think that we ourselves were to some extent to blame if these erroneous
statements were used against us. We could only reply that correction had
While church leaders had known of the conferences from the start, a point was reached where we thought it was wise to make a formal
p 6 --
to the church. In a long letter to Froom and Read, dated July 18, 1955,
I reviewed the progress in understanding achieved so far in the conferences,
and expressed the hope that the Adventist conferees chould be relieved
of other responsibilities so as to have more time for what was expanding
into a significant encounter, soon to include such a notable Evangelical
as Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse. A copy of this letter was sent to R. R.
Figuhr, president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
Thereafter Figuhr gave the support of his office to the conferences and
the publication of the definitive statement of Adventist belief which
immediate concern was his relationship with his sponsor, Dr. Barnhouse.
He reported to his chief his conviction that both had been wrong in their
judgment of contemporary Adventists, whom he had become convinced were
not cultists but truly members of the Body of Christ. He then asked Barnhouse
if he, Martin, was still a member of the team, and if he should go ahead
with the book he had been commissioned to write, which now would have
to be different from the one they had projected. Barnhouse gave him some
reassurance but was not troubled himself. Shortly thereafter he asked
to have the conferees meet with him at "Barchdale," his home
in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.
of the extension of Evangelical participation in the conferences Froom
early in August urged the enlargement of the Adventist conferee group.
He recommended the inclusion of R. Allan Anderson as a regular member
because of the latter's background as evangelist, college teacher of religion,
author, and especially because of his gift for diplomatic dialogue with
leaders of other communions. Anderson was the secretary of the Ministerial
Association of the General Conference and editor of Ministry magazine.
Since April he had been participating in the conferences. Thereafter he
was a member of the team, a tireless and valuable participant in the preparation
of the text of the developing questions and answers. We four Adventists
were authorized by the General Conference to plan with Martin and Cannon
for the meeting with Barnhouse at his home in Doylestown. The planning
session was held in Anderson's Washington office on August 22.
came about than on August 25 and 26, 1955, we four Adventists, with Walter
Martin and George Cannon, sat down with Donald Grey Barnhouse, one of
the most influential men among American Protestants and internationally
famous as a representative Evangelical, to discuss what Seventh-day Adventists
welcomed the conferees, our host expressed his deep desire that love might
prevail, and invited the small company to kneel with him while he prayed
for the Spirit of the Lord to be present and to guide.
always a very articulate man, began the conference by explaining his attitudes
towards Seventh-day Adventists. He told about his boyhood in California,
near Mountain View, where he imbibed the prevailing view that Adventists
were ignorant fanatics who believed the Devil to be the sin-bearer, and
that a person had to keep the seventh-day Sabbath in order to be saved.
Later, his bad opinions had been confirmed, he said, by reading books
by men who had been Adventists but had left the movement, notably E. B.
Jones. But since Martin had begun his conversations with the Adventists,
and had shared his findings, Barnhouse had come to see that there were
sober, truly born-again Christians among Seventh-day Adventists. With
them he was glad to fellowship as brethren, while reserving the right
strenuously to refute the two or three positions taught by Adventists
which Evangelicals hold to be in error. On this candid note the Doylestown
p 7 --
first Doylestown conference there was much discussion of Froom's Prophetic
Faith of Our Fathers, as providing an historical background for Adventism.
It was clear that the Evangelicals had respect for Froom's scholarly attainments.
Also, the questions and answers so far developed were reviewed in depth
during both days of the conference. We came to see that many misunderstandings
rested on semantic grounds, because of our use of an inbred denominational
vocabulary. Our friends helped us to express our beliefs in terms more
easily understood by theologians of other communions.
Grey Barnhouse, Jr., a theology consultant on Billy Graham's staff, sat
with us for a time on the first day. That evening, having seen his father's
attitudes change, the son challenged the father to reveal through the
pages of Eternity his new position on Seventh-day Adventism. Before
we separated that evening our host told us he had decided to do this,
though he knew it would precipitate a storm and would cost him many subscriptions.
same evening, in our motel, Martin and Cannon came to express their amazement
over the change they had witnessed in Dr. Barnhouse. To them it seemed
a miracle. To Martin it meant that he would not have resistance from Barnhouse
in writing the truth about Seventh-day Adventism, as he had come to see
On the second day we observed a change in the attitude of Barnhouse toward Ellen G. White. Anderson called Walter Martin's attention to a statement in Mrs. White's Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, which Martin in turn passed to Barnhouse. The latter was so impressed with it that he excused himself to take it upstairs for his secretary to copy. The statement reads in part:
We should come to the
investigation of God's work with a contrite heart, a teachable and prayerful
spirit ... We should not study the Bible for the purpose of sustaining
our preconceived opinions, but with the single object of learning what
God has said.
... If there are those
whose faith in God's word will not stand the test of an investigation
of the Scriptures, the sooner they are revealed the better; for then the
way will be opened to show them their error. We cannot hold that a position
once taken, an idea once advocated, is not, under any circumstances, to
be relinquished. There is but One who is infallible, - He who is the Way,
the Truth, and the Life.
the warmth, honesty and deep spiritual dedication of the man who was our
host at "Barchdale." We have pleasant recollections of his hearty
hospitality and that of his charming wife. Our entire days were spent
at the Barnhouse home, necessitating our having our meals there. For these,
Margaret Barnhouse went to great lengths exploring the unfamiliar land
of vegetarian cookery.
Following the two days with Dr. Barnhouse the conferees went to their tasks with renewed confidence. We Adventists had come to see that we could state our doctrinal positions with clarity, in language understood by theologians of other churches, yet never bending for the sake of clarity or harmony alone. Our position was clearly stated by Froom in a letter to Martin:
statements we seek to honor and safeguard truth, not merely to pass ...
scrutiny of some group. We are not seeking the approbation of any organization.
All we ask is understanding of our actual teachings. We must live our
own denominational life under the eye and scrutiny of God. Our sole purpose
is to please Him, to whom we are accountable and whom we adore.
We saw that, while there had been doctrinal deviation, and this was still a possibility, it was essential for us to demonstrate the existence of a majority position, a preponderant view, that a consensus actually existed, and that we were correctly reflecting that consensus. As means to this end the General Conference arranged a trip
p 8 --
for Martin to the West Coast, where Anderson was to introduce him to representative Adventists. On this trip Martin spoke in Adventist churches and met the staff of the Adventist radio station, Voice of Prophecy. In the East, Martin met with the staff of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary and spoke at an assembly there. On overseas trips he observed Adventist missions in action and found occasion to clarify misconceptions about Adventists held by missionaries of other denominations.
In another dimension, it was planned to demonstrate consensus by submitting the questions and answers to Adventist leaders in North America, and then around the world, using a mailing list of more than 250 names. The document by this time had grown to some sixty questions and answers, and was beginning to be thought of as having book possibilities - a definitive statement of contemporary Adventist theology, in convenient reference book form. A committee of fourteen members was appointed with General Conference approval, to prepare the document for distribution to church leaders, then to analyze and evaluate the feedback. Figuhr, the president of the General Conference, was chairman of this committee.*
Correspondence relating to the project was entrusted to J.I. Robison, the president's secretary. The response was good, the consensus was demonstrated, and the decision to publish was made. Thus Questions on Doctrine came into being.
Webmaster note: M. L. Andreasen, retired Seventh-day Adventist professor at the SDA Seminary, was referred to by his peers as "the dean of theology." Of over 250 who received copies of the manuscript for perusal, he was not sent a copy, however, someone did provide him with one. From his study of it, he asked for hearings to be recorded so the church members could know about the doctrinal deviations in the manuscript. These were refused, so he took his study of it to the members directly through his writing of Letters To the Churches linked here.
The conferees on the Evangelical side were also assessing the support of their new stand on Adventism. Martin, in November 1955, reported talks with Pat Zondervan, who was to publish The Truth About Seventh-day Adventism and who was interested in the new direction the book was taking. A month later, Martin reported going over the questions and answers in their entirety in a five-hour session with Dr. Barnhouse, and stated that Barnhouse was satisfied that Adventists were fundamentally evangelical in all matters concerning salvation.
* -- Members of the committee: R. R. Figuhr (chairman), A. V. Olson, W. B. Ochs, L. K. Dickson, H. L. Rudy, A. L. Ham, J. I. Robison, W. R. Beach, C. L. Torrey, F. D. Nichol, T. E. Unruh, R. A. Anderson, L. E. Froom, W. E. Read.
p 9 --
Martin also reported that Grank E. Gaebelein had written to James DeForest
Murch, stating his opinion that the Seventh-day Adventist church would
qualify for membership in the evangelical group, if they so desired. Dr.
Gaebelein was the founder and director of the famed Stony Brook School
(of which Martin was a graduate), a member of the Reformed Episcopal church,
and an official in the National Association of Evangelicals. Dr. Murch,
prolific author of religious works, publications director and later president
of the National Association of Evangelicals and the editor of United
Evangelical Action, was a member of the Disciples of Christ.
correspondence between Froom and E. Schuyler English, editor of Our
Hope and chairman of the revision committee of the Scofield Reference
Bible, resulted in an editorial statement by Dr. English in February 1956,
correcting misconceptions about Adventist doctrines as to the nature of
Christ in the incarnation, the Trinity, and the completed atonement on
the cross, followed by an article by Walter Marin in November 1956, the
earliest affirmation of the essential Christianity of the theology of
Adventism on matters relating to salvation to appear in a non-Adventist
journal of note.
two-day conference at the home of Dr. Barnhouse took place in May of 1956,
days which Barnhouse described as spent in mediation, communion, and discussion.
This time our host questioned the Adventist conferees closely about our
concept of the role of Ellen G. White as God's messenger to the remnant
church and the weight the Seventh-day Adventist church gave to her writings
compared to the Scriptures. There was also thorough discussion of the
Adventist teaching regarding the heavenly sanctuary and the role of Christ
as priest, mediating the sacrificial atonement completed on the cross.
By this time we had assembled an impressive exhibit of references which
demonstrated that, from the early days of our church, Mrs. White had held
the doctrinal concepts we were espousing, and showing that deviations
of persons or groups were misrepresentations of the inspired messages,
however sincerely held.
1956, Russell Hitt, the managing editor of Eternity, came to Washington
to go over with us the long-awaited Barnhouse article repudiating his
former position on Adventism. Supporting articles by Martin, to follow
in Eternity, were also gone over. We were given permission to quote
or otherwise refer to these articles.
came about that a year after the first Doylestown conference, where Dr.
Barnhouse had come to see that he would have to report his new position
on Adventism, Eternity for September 1956, carried his article,
entitled "Are Seventh-day Adventists Christians?" The article
was written with courage and clarity, and it was lengthy. The author began:
the past two years several evangelical leaders have come to a new attitude
toward the Seventh-day Adventist church. The change is a remarkable one
since it consists of moving the Seventh-day Adventists, in our opinion,
out of the list of anti-Christian and non-Christian cults into the group
of those who are brethren in Christ; although they still must be classified,
in our opinion, as holding two or three very unorthodox and in one case
peculiar doctrines. The steps in our change of attitude must be traced
and the justification of our changed attitude documented. Adventists who
read this should realize that evangelical readers have been conditioned
through the years for thinking that Adventists must be classified as non-Christians.
This present article will explain reasons why this should no longer be
went on to give an account of the conferences and the mutual understandings
resulting, and to announce the two forthcoming books, Martin's and ours.
He defined the areas of agreement which he considered sufficient for identifying
Adventists as members of the Body of Christ, within the evangelical definition.
The three major areas of disagreement he described as conditional immortality,
observance of the Seventh-day Sabbath, and the investigative judgment.
To these he could give no credence at all, though the first two had historical
foundation in the Christian church. The last he described as a doctrine
never known in theological history until the second half of the nineteenth
The supporting articles by Martin appeared in later issues of Eternity. The first gave the historical background of modern Adventism, the second a comprehensive statement of what Adventists really believe, and the last dealing with Adventism's unique or unusual doctrines. In these articles Martin was both lucid and fair. And while Adventists did not find his criticism of their distinctive doctrines either palatable or convincing, they did appreciate his candor, as he wrote at the end of his second article: However, whatever else one may say about Seventh-day Adventism, it cannot be denied from their truly representative literature and their historic positions that they have always as a majority, held to the cardinal, fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith which are necessary for salvation, and to the growth in grace that characterizes all true Christian believers.
p 10 --
Barnhouse, speaking for Martin as well as himself, ended his historic article with these words: In conclusion, I should like to say that we are delighted to do justice to a much-maligned group of sincere believers, and in our minds and hearts take them out of the group of utter heretics ... to acknowledge them as redeemed brethren and members of the Body of Christ. It is our sincere prayer that they may be led to consider further the points on which they are so widely divergent from the rest of the Body of Christ and in so doing promote their own spiritual growth and that of their fellow Christians.
a sobering experience as the conferees came to this point in the lengthy
dialogue to see the warm Christian friendliness of the Evangelicals. They
expressed a concern that the Adventists might come to see as they saw.
But they also realized
that we Adventists, moved by the same Christian spirit, hoped that exposure
to the special truths we believed would lead the Evangelicals to believe
as we did. This we all saw as a dilemma of the Body of Christ, which only
the Holy Spirit could resolve.
The expected storm broke quickly. There were at least a few of the peers of Barnhouse and Martin, English, Caebelein and Murch, for whom their stand was gall and wormwood. The Sunday School Times, published in the City of Brotherly Love where Dr.Barnhouse had his pastorate, carried a series of
11 -- articles against Adventism. The King's Business,
official organ of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA), ran articles
by Louis Talbot, the editor, attacking not only the Adventists but the
editor of Eternity as well. While these attacks could not be considered
typical, they at least showed that the editor of Time was less
than correct when he announced in the December 31, 1956 issue that the
Fundamentalists had made peace with the Adventists.
When Eternity lost one-fourth of its subscribers in protest, and the sale of Martin's books plummeted, Barnhouse asked anxiously, "Are you sure of your positions?" On Martin's affirmative answer, Barnhouse said, "Then we will go ahead." Within a year the Eternity subscriptions were higher than before, and there was again a good market for Martin's books.
the General Conference of Seventhday Adventists was taking a direct hand
in planning the book taking shape from the questions and answers. In September
1956 the General Conference Officers appointed a small editorial committee. *
On January 23, 1957, the Review and Herald Publishing Association was
invited to manufacture the book "as compiled by a committee appointed
by the General Conference," accepting the manuscript in its completed
form. And on January 30 the executive committee of the publishing house
accepted the manuscript for publication on a "text basis." The
General Conference officers approved the title, Seventh-day Adventists
Answer Questions on Doctrine, and also the short title, Questions
on Doctrine. The officers also approved the exact wording of the introduction
as it later appeared in the book over the signature of the editorial committee.
Here it was made clar that the book was the work of a representative selection
of participants, not of an individual, nor even of the committee, and
that those preparing the answers made no claim to having provided the
final word on Christian doctrine.
the officers recorded a series of actions having to do with publicity
and distribution. Union conference papers and Adventist magazines would
be asked to run advertisements. Non-Adventist periodicals would be invited
to run ads and to publish book reviews. A suitable four-page folder was
to be printed for distribution to non-Adventist clergymen. High-ranking
religious leaders in North America were to receive complimentary copies.
Churches were to be invited to put
copies in their libraries and to present complimentary copies to Protestant
ministers in the community. Book and Bible houses were to stock Questions
on Doctrine was published late in 1957. It was designed to begin with
the "Statement of Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists,"
first published in 1931, later given General Conference approval, and
regularly included in church manuals and yearbooks of the denomination.
This was to make clear to Adventists and non-Adventists alike, that in
presenting an amplified statement on doctrine the General Conference was
not setting forth a new theology, but was clarifying and amplifying the
doctrines most generally believed by contemporary Seventh-day Adventists.
Included in appendices was an extensive compilation from the writings
of Ellen G. White, covering such subjects as the Diety and eternal preexistence
of Christ and His place in the Trinity; His divine-human nature in the
incarnation; His completed sacrificial atonement on the cross; and His
priestly ministry in the heavenly sanctuary. These were the areas which
had been found to be most frequently misunderstood and misquoted. This
compliation was later included in Volume 7-A of the Seventh-day Adventists
Commentary series. Many of these same quotations appeared in the Ministry
magazine, between May 1956, and March 1957, under the title, "Counsels
from the Spirit of Prophecy."
of Ministry, R. A. Anderson, made sure during the months preceding
the publication of Questions on Doctrine, that the Adventist clergy
was fully informed of what to expect. He described the conferences with
the Evangelicals and the removal of century-old misunderstandings. He
explained the procedure for getting a doctrinal consensus from world leaders
in the church. The unity of belief so demonstrated he attributed to the
influence of the writings of Ellen G. White. There were also articles
during this period from W. E. Read on the nature of Christ and from L.
E. Froom on the atonement.
It came as a surprise to the planners, after thedemonstration of a solid consensus from world leaders in the church and the preview in Ministry of what was to come, that Questions on Doctrine should be subjected to attack from Adventist sources. The critics seemed to be saying the same things, suggesting a common source.This was not hard to find. M.L. Andreason, a respected retired Adventist theologian, author and Bible teacher, had widely circulated eleven mimeographed documents and six printed leaflets addressed to the churches. In these the writer
Webmaster note: M. L. Andreasen, retired Seventh-day Adventist professor at the SDA Seminary, was referred to by his peers as "the dean of theology." Of over 250 who received copies of the manuscript for perusal, he was not sent a copy, however, someone did provide him with one. From his study of it, he asked for hearings to be recorded so the church members could know about the doctrinal deviations in the manuscript. These were refused, so he took his study of it to the members directly through his writing of Letters To the Churches linked here.
* -- Members of the editorial committee: A. V. Olson (chairman), W. E. Read, M. Thurber (book editor of the Review and Herald Publishing Association), W. G. C. Murdoch, R. Hammill, L. E. Froom, and R. A. Anderson, consultants.
12 -- accused
the compilers of Questions on Doctrine of attempting to change
traditional doctrines, and he accused the officers of the General Conference
of planning to revise the writings of Ellen White to conform.
denial of these charges was prepared by A. V. Olson, a General Conference
vice president, and chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Ellen G.
White Estate. This reply, dated September 6, 1960, was sent at the request
of the General Conference officers to officers of the overseas divisions
of the church and to all union conference officers and local conference
presidents in the North American Division. The incident was soon closed,
and the author of the criticism made his peace with the church to which
he had formerly given distinguished service.
Publishing House had originally scheduled publication of Walter Martin's
The Truth About Seventh-day Adventism for January 1957, as part
of the series on cult apologetics. There were delays, but so long as there
was a possibility of his book coming out first he was supplied with page
proofs of the Adventist book, so he would have reliable references. Martin
had promised that in describing the teachings of contemporary Seventh-day
Adventists he would only use statements from the book to be published
with the approval of the General Conference. As late as October 1959,
R. A. Anderson and W. E. Read, with H. W. Lowe, chairman of the Biblical
Study and Research Group of the General Conference, were going over Martin's
gallies, preparatory to writing a statement to be included in the book.
The Truth About Seventh-day Adventism was, and is, a notable book.
In the "Foreword" Barnhouse stated:
Since leaders of
Adventism agree that this book fairly represents their theological position,
this work is a milestone in Christian apologetics; for, during this study,
brethren talked and prayed together, assessed each other's position and
agreed to disagree while still obeying the Lord's command to love one
author's "Preface" Martin reminded both Adventists and non-Adventists
that still to be healed were wounds caused by ignorance, prejudice, and
an unforgiving spirit, of which Adventists as well as non-Adventists were
guilty. But, he wrote, the place of healing is at the cross. Meeting there,
we find strength and grace to keep the "lost commandment, "
that we love one another.
statement, over the name of H. W. Lowe, as it appeared in Martin's book,
asked that members of the Adventist church, when reading the last chapter
of the book, in which Martin described his points of disagreement with
Adventism, would remember the fair and
accurate statement of Adventist teachings set forth in the earlier portions
of the book. Lowe also expressed the gratitude and respect the Adventist
leadership felt toward Martin for his correct recording of their beliefs
and for his attitude of Christian brotherhood.
In retrospect, the publication of The Truth About Seventh-day Adentism and Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine, improved relations between Evangelicals and Seventh-day Adventists. Martin's book did not convince all Adventist isolationists that its author and Barnhouse spoke for the Evangelicals, or that fraternal relations were desirable or safe. And the publication of Questions on Doctrine did not
p 13 -- convince all Evangelicals that Adventists were not heretics in Christian robes. Isolated attacks on Adventism continued. And Martin's book could not be bought in Adventist book stores.
Hopkins, the executive secretary of the (Barnhouse) Evangelical Foundation,
struck a hopeful note in a letter to me, dated May 6, 1960:
Quite honestly, I
can see that what you began with us is still only the beginning and I
recognize that you are going to have the same problems within your group
that we have in ours. There is much land still to be possessed before
the members of the Body of Christ can recognize one another as we should.
In the meantime, let us continue to work and pray that the day may come
sooner than we might normally expect.
p 14 -- Are Seventh-day Adventists Christians?
NEW LOOK AT SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISM - by Donald Grey Barnhouse -
In the past two years several evangelical leaders have come to a new
attitude toward the Seventh-day Adventist church. The change is a remarkable
one since it consists in moving the Seventh-day Adventists, in our opinion,
out of the list of anti-Christian and non-Christian cults into the group
of those who are brethren in Christ; although they still must be classified,
in our opinion, as holding two or three very unorthodox and in one case
peculiar doctrines. The steps in our change of attitude must be traced
and the justification of our changed attitude documented. Adventists who
read this should realize that evangelical readers have been conditioned
through the years for thinking that Adventists must be classified as non-Christians.
This present article will explain reasons why this should no longer be
of attitude goes back to our acquaintance with a young man whom I first
knew in New York City as a member of my weekly Bible class there. When
I first knew him, the Rev. Mr. Walter R. Martin was still in his early
twenties, busily engaged in his study of American religious history. He
is at present a candidate for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in New
York University, working on his thesis in the field of non-Christian religions
that had their beginning in America. Of these the best known are Christian
Science, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormonism, Unity, and up until very recently
Mr. Martin's volumes Jehovah of the Watchtower, The Christian Science
Myth, The Rise of the Cults, and a textbook, The Christian and the Cults,
have become standard works in their field. *
Mr. Martin joined the staff of ETERNITY magazine first as consulting editor
on the cults and now as a full-time member of the staff of the Evangelical
less than two years ago it was decided that Mr. Martin should undertake
research in connection with Seventh-day Adventism. We got into touch with
the Adventists saying that we wished to treat them fairly and would appreciate
the opportunity of interviewing some of their leaders. The response was
immediate and enthusiastic.
went to Takoma Park, Washington, D. C., the headquarters of the Seventh-day
Adventist movement. At first the two groups looked upon each other with
great suspicion. Mr. Martin had read a vast quantity of Adventist literature
and presented them with a series of approximately forty questions concerning
their theological position. On a second visit he was presented with scores
of pages of detailed theological answers to his questions. Immediately
it was perceived that the Adventists were strenuously denying certain
doctrinal positions which had been previously attributed to them. As Mr.
Martin read their answers he came, for example, upon a statement that
they repudiated absolutely the thought that seventh-day Sabbath keeping
was a basis for salvation and a denial of any teaching that the keeping
of the first day of the week is as yet considered to be the receiving
of the anti-Christian "mark of the beast." He pointed out to
them that in their book store adjoining the building in which these meetings
were taking place a certain volume published by them and written by one
of their ministers categorically stated the contrary to what they were
now asserting. The leaders sent for the book, discovered that Mr. Martin
was correct, and immediately brought this fact to the attention of the
General Conference Officers, that this situation might be remedied and
such publications be corrected. This same procedure was repeated regarding
the nature of Christ while in the flesh which the majority of the denomination
has always held to be sinless, holy, and perfect despite the fact that
certain of their writers have occasionally gotten into print with contrary
views completely repugnant to the Church at large. They further explained
to Mr. Martin that they had among their number certain members of their
"lunatic fringe" even as there are similar wild-eyed irresponsibles
in every field of fundamental Christianity. This action of the Seventh-day
Adventists was indicative of similar steps that were taken subsequently.
At that time I made a statement to these men approximately
* -- These are all available from ETERNITY Book Service.
The true life of prayer is a life completely given to God
15 -- as follows: I want to explain to you my attitude toward
Seventh-day Adventism. In the providence of God I was born in a little
town in California about forty miles away from Mountain View where Ellen
G. White, revered teacher in the Adventist movement, had her headquarters.
At that time the followers of the Adventist movement that came into our
town and others of the region were, from our point of view, colossally
ignorant fanatics. We considered them to be the descendants of the Millerites
who in 1844 were supposed to have gone on top of a hill to await the Second
Coming of Christ on a certain night, and who were utterly deceived and
discredited. We understood that the Seventh-day Adventists believed the
devil to be the sinbearer, * that a
person had to keep Saturday in order to be saved, *
thus denying the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Later on all
of my bad opinions about the Adventist movement had been confirmed and
established, I thought, by books which had been written by men who had
been Adventist preachers and who had left the movement; notably, there
was a series of works by E. B. Jones which showedd that he had been a
Seventh-day Adventist layman missionary and had believed a long list of
horrible things which he had since abandoned now that he had been "saved."
on to state to my guests that in many conversations with Walter Martin
through the previous year and through reading their prepared statements
I had come to see that, beyond question, there were sober, sane, truly
regenerated men among the leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist church.
While they still held positions which were totally alien to my thinking
and which I had to repudiate, I was ready to admit that some of these
positions had been held in the past by noted Christians (Martin Luther
held one of these positions which with the modern Lutheran church I repudiate),
and that I was ready to extend a hand to these men as Christian brethren
though I still reserve the right strenuously to refute the two or three
positions which evangelicals hold to be in error.
leaders accepted my explanation and acknowledged that they understood
The seven of us worked through the Adventist statement for two days. Mr. Martin had further conferences with the Adventist leaders in Washington, D. C., and in Glendale, California. He was invited to preach in two of the large Adventist churches in the country and spoke to their theological seminary and to the employees of the Voice of Prophecy broadcast. In May, 1956, the same group of Adventist leaders returned to my home in Pennsylvania for another two-day conference.
Now the time has come to make known to the general public the results of the hundreds of hours of labor that have been expended by Mr. Martin and the similar time that has been put forth by many Adventist leaders.
book on Seventh-day Adventism will appear in print within a few months.
It will carry a foreword by responsible leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist
church to the effect that they have not been misquoted in the volume and
that the areas of agreement and disagreement as set forth by Mr. Martin
are accurate from their point of view as well as from our evangelical
point of view. All of Mr. Martin's references to a new Adventist volume
on their doctrines will be from the page proof of their book, which will
appear iri print simultaneously with his work. Henceforth any fair criticism
of the Adventist movement must refer to these simultaneous publications.
of the Adventists seems to some of us in certain cases to be a new position;
to them it may be merely the position of the majority group of sane leadership
which is determined to put the brakes on any members who seek to hold
views divergent from that of the responsible leadership of the denomination.
Notably, the Adventist leadership proclaims that the writings
of Ellen G. White, the great counselor of the Adventist movement, are
not on a parity with Scripture. While the Adventist church claims to have
received great blessing from the ministry of Mrs. White, they admit her
writings are not infallible, but in all fairness they do revere her writings
as special counsels from God to their movement. Her writings incidentally
are not a test of fellowship in the Seventh-day Adventist church.
While the Adventists keep Saturday as the Sabbath, they specifically
repudiate the idea that Sabbath-keeping is in any way a means of salvation.
They acknowledge freely that Christians today who keep Sunday in good
faith are as much members of the Body of Christ as they are.
To avoid charges that have been brought against them by evangelicals,
Adventists have already worked out arrangements that the Voice of Prophecy
radio program and the Signs of the Times, their largest paper, be identified
as presentations of the Seventh-day Adventist church.
specifically repudiate any teachings by ministers or members of their
faith who have believed,
(Continued on page 43)
* -- Absolutely repudiated in Seventh-day Adventist theology today we are now informed.
p 16 --
and written any matter which would classify them among Arians. That is
to say, they hold that Jesus Christ is the eternal Word of God, second
member of the Godhead, eternally existing with God as God, and they repudiate
absolutely any concept that Jesus was a created being. While many of their
Bible teachers have shown that "the angel of Jehovah" in the
Old Testament is none other than Jesus Christ, this position is one that
I myself have taken and taught in my book, The Invisible War. The word
"angel" means "messenger" and Christ's action as a
"messenger" did not and does not make Him a creature or less
than God. This declaration on the part of the Adventist leaders specifically
removes them from classification with Jehovah's Witnesses who are Arians
in the modern sense, and the Adventists totally repudiate the Jehovah's
Witnesses' concept of Christ. The Adventists take their place in the very
center of traditional Christianity's Trinitarian doctrine as accepting
the Christology of the New Testament of the Fathers, the Reformers, and
all true evangelicals.
Seventh-day Adventist position on salvation is Arminian, classifying them
with Wesley and the modern groups such as the Holiness and Nazarene movements.
I discovered, however, in our long talks together that these brethren
have what I think is a misconception of Calvinism. They would not find
it too hard to get along with the modern Calvinism which is held by most
evangelical Baptists and Presbyterians today and vice versa.
that there are still some sharp areas of disagreement. To my mind, the
most important of these is the Adventist belief in "conditional immortality."
They believe that death brings unconscious "soul-sleeping" and
that the lost are to be annihilated, thus denying the doctrines of hell
and eternal punishment. When we realize, however, that both Martin Luther
and William Tyndale held this doctrine, we cannot on this ground alone
divorce the Adventists or sever them from the true Body of Christ. We
most heartily disagree with them on these doctrines and pray that they
will soon move to a position of belief with the vast majority of evangelical
Christians throughout the centuries.
disagree on the question of the Seventh-day Sabbath. A great amount of
time was spent in our early meetings to spell out the fact that Adventists
do not believe in legalism as a part of salvation though everything in
their practice seems to indicate that they do. They recognize clearly
that some of their teachers have taught the contrary, but they take a
position (to us very illogical) that the Ten Commandments are to be obeyed,
but that their teaching has no part whatsoever as a down payment or a
part payment toward salvation which they and we in common confess to be
by Christ alone on the basis of His expiatory death on Calvary.
major area of disagreemen is over the doctrine of the "investigative
judgment," which is a doctrine never known in theological history
until the second half of the nineteenth century and which is a doctrine
held exclusively by the Seventh-day Adventists. At the very beginning
of our contacts with the Adventist leaders, Mr. Martin and I thought that
this would be the doctrine on which it would be impossible to come to
any understanding which would permit our including them among those who
could be counted as Christians believing in the finished work of Christ.
In order to understand this doctrine of "investigative judgment"
it is necessary to devote a few paragraphs to Adventist history.
early nineteenth century there was a great increase in the study of Bible
prophecy. Dr. LeRoy Froom, the eminent Adventist historian, in his monumental
four-volume history of the development of Adventist teaching on prophecy,
shows clearly that innumerable Bible students from a score of denominational
affiliations were carried away with date-setting for the Second Coming
of Christ. The reason for this is (what I believe to be) a false interpretation
of Daniel's prophecy of 2,300 days. In Daniel 8:14 a figure is given of
2,300 days. In the early nineteenth century it became fashionable to equate
this with 2,300 years, interpreting this verse by association with Ezekiel
4:6 where it is stated, "I have appointed thee each day for a year."
Since 2,300 years from Daniel would fall toward the end of the first half
of the nineteenth century, thousands of people believed that the Second
Coming of Christ would take place in that period. Anglicans, Presbyterians,
Lutherans, etc. spent extraordinary amounts of time and effort in figuring
out the chronologies, and ultimately the consensus agreed on 1844.
be realized that there was no Seventh-day Adventist church at that time.
All of these. "Adventists" were in the major denominations.
One William Miller of Baptist background even placed the advent between
specific months. The newspapers of America were filled with headlines
concerning the matter. A historical study of the events demonstrates that
these people were serious-minded students who were definitely self-deceived.
The story that they dressed in flowing white robes and went to the top
of a hill has been exploded. Hoodlums did dress up in flowing robes and
in ribald fashion mocked these people, but they themselves were dreadfully
in the fourth volume of his work, describes these events as "The
Great Disappointment." Out of the "Great Disappointment"
grew the Seventh-day Adventist church. It will be impossible to understand
the movement unless it is realized that most of the Adventists before
1844 kept Sunday, were found in dozens of denominations, and had no common
doctrine or organization. In their disappointment little segments of these
disillusioned people drew together. One of the segments kept Saturday
as the Sabbath. Still another of the segments believed in conditional
immortality and soul-sleeping, and a third segment fell upon the doctrine
of "the investigative judgment." The latter doctrine, to me,
is the most colossal, psychological, face-saving phenomenon in religious
history! It would further seem to me that the various segments, each with
a distinctive doctrine not held by the majority of Christendom, drew together
and consolidated on the basis of the acceptance of each other's peculiar
heterodox teachings. The error of conditional immortality and the error
of Sabbatarianism are both well known. That of the "investigative
judgment," however, now requires further explanation.
On the morning after the "Great Disappointment," two men were going through a corn field in order to avoid the pitiless gaze of their mocking neighbors to whom they had given their final witness and had said an eternal goodbye the day before. To put it in the words of Hiram Edson (the man in the corn field who first conceived this peculiar idea), he was overwhelmed with the conviction "that instead of our High Priest coming out of the Most Holy of the heavenly sanctuary to come to this earth on the tenth day of the seventh month at the end of 2,300 days.
17 -- He for the first time entered on that day the second
apartment of that sanctuary, and that He had work to perform in the Most
Holy before coming to this earth." It is to my mind, therefore, nothing
more than a human, face-saving ideal It should also be realized that some
uninformed Seventh-day Adventists took this idea and carried it to fantastic
literalistic extremes. Mr. Martin and I heard the Adventist leaders say,
flatly, that they repudiate all such extremes. This they have said in
no uncertain terms. Further, they do not believe, as some of their earlier
teachers taught, that Jesus' atoning work was not completed on Calvary
but instead that He was still carrying on a second ministering work since
1844. This idea is also totally repudiated. They believe that since His
ascension Christ has been ministering the benefits of the atonement which
He completed on Calvary. Since the sanctuary doctrine is based on the
type of the Jewish high priest going into the Holy of Holies to complete
his atoning work, it can be seen that what remains is most certainly exegetically
untenable and theological speculation of a highly imaginative order. What
Christ is now doing, since 1844, according to this version, is going over
the records of all human beings and deciding what rewards are going to
be given to individual Christians. We personally do not believe that there
is even a suspicion of a verse in Scripture to sustain such a peculiar
position, and we further believe that any effort to establish it is stale,
ftat, and unprofitable! This doctrine is linked with that of the scapegoat
(Azazel) of Leviticus 16, whom Seventh-day Adventists, in company with
not a few recognized non-Adventist Hebrew scholars, believe to be Satan.
It should be noted, however that the transaction with the scapegoat is
in no way to be construed as part or completion of the atonement which
Adventists believe Christ alone vicariously made on Golgotha. The meaning
of the "scapegoat" teaching is that Satan merely bears away
into final annihilation his responsibility in tempting man to sin, much
as the master criminal who must pay a penalty for plotting and directing
a crime though he never actually committed it. This concept while admittedly
strange is not heretical because it is divorced from the doctrine of the
atonement in Adventist theology so that it becomes only a kind of "legal
transaction" not in any sense a vicarious bearing of sharing in the
sin atonement of Christ on the Cross. This editor, of course, flatly rejects
such an interpretation and reserves the right to consider it as a somewhat
bizarre excursion into the field of speculative theology.
up, I would say that the differences between other evangelicals and the
Seventh-day Adventist position are three:
The unimportant and almost naive doctrine of the "investigative
In conclusion, I should like to say that we are delighted to do justice to a much-maligned group of sincere believers, and in our minds and hearts take them out of the group of utter heretics like the Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and Christian Scientists, to acknowledge them as redeemed brethren and members of the Body of Christ. It is our sincere prayer that they may be led to consider further the points on which they are so widely divergent from the rest of the Body of Christ and in so doing promote their own spiritual growth and that of their fellow Christians. END
18 -- The
Truth About Seventh-day Adventism -
by Walter R. Martin -- Its
Historical Development from Christian Roots -- What
was the true role of William Miller in the great advent awakening movement?
-- Seventh-day Adventism, as a religious
movement, sprang from the great second advent "awakening" which
shook the religious world toward the middle of the nineteenth century.
this particular period of theological development, speculation relative
to the second advent of Jesus Christ had been rampant on the continent
of Europe, and it was not long before the European prophetic scheme of
interpretation bridged the Atlantic and penetrated American theological
Based largely upon the books of Daniel and Revelation (both apocalyptic), advent theology became a topic of conversation discussed in newspapers as well as theological journals; in short, New Testament eschatological study suddenly competed with current stock market quotations for front-page space, and the "seventy weeks," "twenty-three hundred days," and "the abomination of desolation" (Dan. 8, 9) became common subjects of conversation.
the chronology of Archbishop Ussher and interpreting the twenty-three
hundred days of Daniel as literal years, many Bible students of various
faiths concluded that Christ would come back near or about the year 1843.
Of this studious number was one William Miller, a Baptist minister and
resident of Low Hampton, New York, who arrived at the final date, October
22, 1844, as the time when Jesus Christ would return for His saints and
usher in judgment upon sin, culminating in the establishment of the Kingdom
of God upon earth.
great second advent movement, which was to sweep the United States particularly
in the early 1840's, stemmed from the activities of this William Miller,
who confidently taught, beginning in the year 1818, that in "about"
twenty-five years from that date, i.e. 1843, Jesus Christ would come again,
or as Miller himself put it, "I was thus brought in 1818 at the close
of my two-year study of the Scriptures to the solemn conclusion that in
about twenty-five years from that time all the affairs of our present
state would be wound up" (The Midnight Cry, Francis D. Nicol,
p. 35, Review and Herald, Washington, D. C.).
anyone reading the various accounts of the rise of Millerism in the United
States come to the unwarranted conclusion that Miller was a "crackpot"
and an uneducated tool of Satan, the following facts should be known:
The great advent awakening movement which spanned the Atlantic from Europe
was bolstered by a tremendous wave of contemporary biblical scholarship,
and, though Miller himself was uneducated, there were literally scores
and scores of interpretative prophetic scholars, both in Europe and the
United States, who espoused Miller's view before he himself announced
it; and in reality his was only one more voice proclaiming the 1843/1844
fulfillment of Daniel 8:14, or the twenty-three-hundred days' period allegedly
dating from 457 B.C. and ending in 1843/1844. William Miller was born
in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, on February 15, 1782, and while still a
young child his family
Clearly it may be seen that although Miller popularized the 1843/44 concept of Christ coming again, he was far from being alone; it we hold Miller up for scorn we must also hold up a whole ream of internationally known scholars who have some of the best educations in the world but who had a "blind spot" in prophetic interpretation and so endorsed the Millerite interpretational system of
-- This is the first of three articles. Next month Adventist theology will be examined.
p 19 --
It was the Lord Jesus Christ who said, "No one knoweth the hour of
my return," and at another time the Master plainly stated that it
was not given to us, His followers, to know the times nor the seasons
"which the Father hath put in his own power." This should have
been enough to deter the Millerites from their foolhardy quest to set
a date for the return of the Lord, but, unfortunately, they persisted
in their chronological speculations and suffered tremendous humiliation,
ridicule, and abject despair.
to the prophetic interpretations of William Miller, he had set the time
for the probable return of the Lord somewhere between March 21, 1843 and
March 21, 1844 (The Midnight Cry, p. 169), and as the time drew
nigh a religious frenzy shook the Millerite world - the Lord was coming
though the followers of Miller were and terribly sincere in their faith
as they must have been, stark disappointment waited them as the Jewish
year "1843" faded from time and the Lord had not come. As the
realization that the dream closest to their hearts had not materialized
sank into the consciousness of the disillusioned Millerites, word from
William Miller was eagerly sought, and with his characteristic honesty
it was shortly forthcoming. Wrote Miller in the very shadow of spiritual
anguish: "Were I to live my life over again, with the same evidence
that I then had, to be honest with God and man I should have to do as
I have done. Although opposers said it would not come, they produced no
weighty arguments. It was evidently guess-work with them; and I then thought,
and do now, that their denial was based more on an unwillingness for the
Lord to come than on any arguments leading to such conclusion. I confess
my error, and acknowledge my disappointment; yet I still believe that
the Day of the Lord is near, even at the door; and I exhort you, my brethren,
to be watchful and not let that day come upon you unawares" (Memoirs
of William Miller, Sylvester Bliss, p. 256).
the wake of this stunning declaration by their leader, the Millerites
strove vainly to reconcile the prophetic interpretation of the Scripture
to which they had adhered with the stark reality of the fact that Christ
had not come again. And with one last gasp, so to speak, Miller with reluctance
endorsed what has come to be known historically as "The Seventh-month
Movement" or the belief that Christ would come on October 22, 1844,
the tenth day of the seventh month according to the Karaite reckoning
of the Jewish Sacred Calendar (The Midnight Cry, p. 243). Once
again the Millerites' hopes were lifted, and October 22, 1844 became the
new battle cry for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. The outcome of
the "Seventh-month Movement" can best be summed up in the words
of Dr. Josiah Litch, one of the leaders of the Millerite movement, who
from his home in Philadelphia wrote on October 24 these words, "It
is a cloudy and dark day here - the sheep are scattered - the Lord has
not come yet" (The Midnight Cry, p. 263).
Litch's statement, it is a simple matter to piece together the psychological
framework of the Millerites in the wake of these two disappointments.
They were shattered and disillusioned people - Christ had not come to
cleanse the sanctuary, to usher in judgment, and to bring the world into
subjugation to the "everlasting gospel." Instead, the physical
sky was cloudy and dark, and the historical horizons were black with the
failure of the Millerite movement. There was, understandably, terrible
confusion, of which God, the Scripture tells us, is not the author.
final phase of the Millerite movement, then, came to a close with the
"Great Disappointment" of 1844, and as the Millerites began
to disintegrate as a movement there gradually emerged other groups (First-day
Adventists, etc.) but in our study we are concerned primarily with three
distinct segments which later joined in an indissoluble fusion eventually
producing the Seventh-day Adventist denomination as we know it today.
William Miller, it should be noted, was never a Seventh-day Adventist
and confessed himself that he had "no confidence" in the "new
theories" which emerged from the shambles of what was previously
the Millerite movement. Dr. LeRoy Froom of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological
Seminary, in the fourth volume of his masterful series The Prophetic
Faith of our Fathers, p. 828-29, succinctly states exactly what Miller's
position was. Wrote Dr. Froom: "Miller was out-spokenly opposed to
the various new theories that
had developed following October 22, 1844, in an endeavor to explain the
disappointment. He deplored the call to come out of the churches that
had been given, and he never accepted the distinctive positions of the
Sabbatarians. The doctrine of the unconscious sleep of the dead and the
final destruction of the wicked was not, he maintained, part of the original
Millerite position, but was introduced personally by Storrs and Litch.
He even came to deny the application of a parable in The
to the Seventh-month Movement and eventually went so far as to declare
unequivocably that the movement was not 'a fulfillment of prophecy in
any sense.' "
The theology of William Miller, then, except for his chronological speculation, differed from the Seventh-day Adventist theological interpretations in these three distinct ways: Miller denied the Seventh-day Sabbath, the doctrine of the unconscious sleep of the dead, and the final annihilation of the wicked - all doctrines held by the Seventhday Adventist denomination. He also differed theologically
20 -- in
that he never held to the "day of atonement" and "investigative
judgment" theories as developed by Seventh-day Adventists. For William
Miller the era of chronological speculation was over, and he died shortly
thereafter, a broken and disillusioned man who was, nevertheless, honest
and forthright when in error or when repudiating error, and there can
be no honest doubt that he now enjoys the presence of the Lord whose appearing
he so anxiously awaited.
now to the three branches or groups which eventually united to form the
Seventh-day Adventist denomination, for it is important that the reader
understand the early background of Seventh-day Adventist history and theology.
Each of the three groups mentioned held a distinctive doctrine. The group headed by Hiram Edson in western New York proclaimed the doctrine of the sanctuary "as embracing a special or final ministry of Christ in the Holy of Holies in the heavenly sanctuary, thus giving new meaning to the message, 'The Hour of God's Judgment has come.'" The second group, headed by Joseph Bates, with the main following in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, advocated the Sabbath feature or observance of the Seventh-day "as involved in the keeping of the commandments of God." The third group emphasized the "spirit of prophecy" or the testimony of Jesus, which they believed was to be manifest in the "remnant church" (Rev. 15:6-12, also Rev. 12:17, 19:10), or " The last segment of God's church of the centuries." Between theyears 1844 and 1847 the thinking of these two groups chrystalized and was actively declared and promulgated in the writings of their respective leaders, Hiram Edson, O. R. L. Crosier, Joseph Bates, James While, and Ellen White.
the name "Seventh-day Adventist denomination" was not officially
assumed by the group until 1860 at a conference held in Battle Creek,
Michiganl, Seventh-day Adventism had been born, and in 1855 the headquarters
of the movement was centralized in Battle Creek, where it remained until
1903, when the national headquarters was moved to Washington, D. C.
The three distinctive doctines of Seventh-day Adventism, which were previously enumerated, will he discussed along with others in the second and third articles of this series on Seventh-day Adventism, so at this time we shall omit any discussion of them. However, the Adventists had a definite theological platform, which through the years has varied little, but which in comparatively recent years has undergone a very definite evolution toward a more forthright declaration concerning the principles of the historic Christian faith, especially as they are embodied in the tenets of orthodox Christian theology. These matters as previously stated will be discussed in our second and third articles.
the case with most religious movements, one extraordinary personality
often dominates the entire history of the group, and Seventh-day Adventism
is no exception to this rule. The dominant personality of Seventh-day
Adventism was Ellen G. White, one of the most fascinating figures ever
to appear upon the horizon of religious history, and a controversial personage
whose memory and work have been alternately praised by Adventists and
damned by their enemies since the early years of the movement's history.
Born Ellen Gould Harmon in Gorham, Maine in 1827, and reared a devout
church-going Methodist in the city of Portland, Mrs. White, early in her
religious experience, became known as an unusual person, for she bore
witness to certain "revelations," which she believed she had
received from Heaven, and as eary as the age of seventeen embraced the
Adventist faith of the Millerites (E. G. While, Life.Sketches, pp. 64-68).
Mrs. While, after her marriage James White, a prominent Adventist leader,
eventually exerted a tremendous influence upon the thinking al Seventh-day
Adventists - and does to this day through her prolific writings - she
never claimed for herself infallibility in matters of inspiration; or
as Dr. Froom has put it, "She neither claimed nor accepted the role
of infallibility, which is vastly different from inspiration, or the influence
of the spirit of God upon the spirit of the submissive servant and messenger.
Like the prophets of old she illuminated and applied truth and gave guidance
to her fellow believers. She did not lay claim to the title of prophet,
preferring to he called a 'messenger' and `servant' of God."
has read extensively in the publications of the Seventh-day Adventist
denomination and almost all of the writings of Ellen G. White, including
her testimonies, and feels free to state that there can be no doubt that
Mrs. White was a "born again" Christian woman who truly loved
the Lord Jesus Christ and who dedicated herself unstintingly to the task
of bearing witness for Him as she felt led. It should be clearly understood
that in some places orthodox Christian theology and the interpretations
of Mrs. White do not agree; in fact, in some places they are at direct
loggerheads, but on the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith necessary
to the salvation of the soul and the growth of the life in Christ, Ellen
G. White has never written anything which is seriously contrary to the
simple, plain declarations of the gospel. One may disagree with Mrs. White's
interpretation of the atonentent and the scapegoat; one may challenge
her stress upon the Seventh-day Sabbath, health reform, and conditional
In addition to this statement the following comment from representatives of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, which is the governing hody and voice of Seventh-day Adventism worldwide, clearly states the denominational position relative to Ellen G.White: "Seventh-day Adventists uniformly believe that the canon of Scripture closed with the book of Revelation. We hold that all writings and teachings are to be judged by and are subject to the Bible, which stands alone and unique as the source and norm of our Christian faith. We do not consider Ellen G. White to be in the category of the writers of the canon of Scripture. Her writings are regarded by Adventists as containing special counsel from God concerning personal religion and the conduct of our denominational work. That portion of her writings which might be classified as prediction actually forms a very small segment. And even when she deals with what is coming on earth, her statements are only amplifications of Bible prophecy. She did not assume the title of
but simply a messenger of the Lord. "To claim to be a prophetess
is something that I have never done... but my work has covered so many
lines that I cannot call myself other than a messenger sent to bear a
message from the Lord' " (Review and Herald, July 26, 1906).
it is true that Seventh-day Adventists hold Mrs. White and her writings
in great esteem, the Bible is their only rule of faith and practice. We
as fellow Christians may violently disagree
Canright, 1 in his two books on Ellen G.
White, has gone into great critiral details based upon his early association
and personal acquaintance with Mrs. White, and many of the points which
Canright makes from the standpoint of a personal opinion no one is capable
of challenging for the simple reason that nobody ever had source material
enough to question Brother Canright's analysis. Having read D. M. Canright,
E. B. Jones, and every major work on Seventh-day Adventism printed in
the United States and Europe over the past fifty-seven years, the writer,
too, is unable to determine whether or not Canright's judgments where
Mrs. White is concerned are 100 per cent valid. If the reader is seriously
interested in a comparison of the two positions he is urged to read F.
D. Nicol's book, Ellen G. White and Her Critics and compare it
with Canright's volumes, The Life of Mrs. E. G. White and Seventh-day
Adventism Renounced, at the end of which reading he is free to make
up his own mind as to the character and work of Ellen G. White. To this
writer as a student of comparative religions it is irrelevant whether
or not Mrs. White as a person was actually everything that Brothers Canright
or Nicol proclaim. After all, she never claimed infallibility for herself,
and, therefore, to refute Ellen G. White either as a person or theologically
is certainly not to refute Seventh-day Adventism per se, for there are
interpretation within the Seventh-day Adventist movement which disagree
with Ellen G. White's interpretations on some points, and it is significant
to note that her writings are not a test of fellowship in the denomination!
To emphasize this point the Review and Herald, February 15, 1870,
made the following statement: "We therefore do not test the world
in any manner by these gifts. Nor do we in our intercourse with other
religious bodies who are striving to walk in the fear of God in any way
make these a test of Christian character."
significant fact is that James White, three times President of the General
Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, when speaking on the work of his
wife, expressly declared that "Adventists do not, however, make a
belief in this work a test of Christian fellowship" (Review and
Herald, June 13, 1871). F. M. Wilcox who for thirty-five years was
editor of the Review and Herald, the Adventist denominational church
paper, wrote, "In the practice of the church it has not been customary
to disfellowship one because he did not recognize the doctrine of spiritual
gifts... A member of the church should not be excluded from the membership
of the church because of his inability to recognize clearly the doctrine
of spiritual gifts and its application to the second advent movement"
(The Testimony of Jesus, pp. 141, 143).
the Seventh-day Adventist denomination numbers over a million throughout
the world, operates a total of forty-two publishing houses and produces
literature in more than two hundred languages, while publishing over three
hundred periodicals, which include correspondence courses, Sabbath School
lessons, etc. In their Bible study courses, advertised over the Voice
of Prophecy, their official denominational radio program, the Adventists
have enrolled more than three million persons, and the Signs of the
Times, their weekly paper, has a circulation of over a million copies
to their tremendous printed propaganda the Adventists have excelled in
medical works on the mission field and in the United States and have numerous
sanitariums and hospitals, which enjoy excellent reputations.
We cannot hope to cover the entire scope of Seventh-day Adventist historical development in an article of this length. However, enough has been shown to indicate clearly that from meager beginnings in the wake of the Great Disappointment of 1844 and the collapse of the Millerite movement, the Seventh-day Adventist denomination has pressed forward and expanded until today it constitutes an important segment of American Protestantism. Its theology will be the subject of our next article.
1 -- An ex-Adventist leader of great magnitude and a personal friend for many years of Ellen G. White. He left the movement, became a Baptist minister, and wrote much against SDA. His criticisms where they bear upon the Sabbath, soul sleep, annihilation of the wicked, the sanctuary doctrine, the investigative judgment, the spirit of prophecy as manifested in Mrs. White, and health reform in SDA are frequently well taken; however, much has changed since Canright's day and his work must be viewed in the light of current SDA theology.
p 22 -- The Truth About Seventh-day Adventism - by Walter R. Martin -- What Seventh-day Adventists Really Believe -- Are the differences between Adventist and orthodox Christian doctrines sufficient to deny them fellowship? -- We saw in our first article of the series something of the origin, growth and development of Seventh-day Adventism as a movement. Now we shall review briefly Adventist theology of today. The theology of Seventh-day Adventism can be divided into three separate sections, as follows:
Cardinal Doctrines of the Christian Faith: The doctrine of the
Trinity, the virgin birth of Christ, the perfect human nature of Christ
during the incarnation, His eternal deity, the vicarious atonement of
Christ on the cross for all sin, the bodily resurrection of our Lord from
the grave, and His visible second advent to judge the world. On these
basic fundamentals of the gospel of Jesus Christ, Seventh-day Adventists
are solidly in the tradition of historic orthodox Christianity. And without
hesitation they recognize the Bible alone as the inspired, inerrant
Word of God, the only rule of faith and practice.
Alternate Views on Secondary Teachings: The second, section of
theological beliefs concerns alternate views on biblical doctrines, either
view being admissible from the standpoint of Christian belief and argument,
such as Arminianism versus Calvinism, Historicist eschatology versus Futurist,
etc., so that the Adventists find themselves at times on one side and
at other times on the other side relative to theological issues that have
never fully been settled throughout the history of the Christian Church.
Doctrines Peculiar to Seventh-day Adventism: The third division
involves a relatively small group of doctrines which are peculiar to the
Seventh-day Adventist Church, and which are not held or shared by any
other groups. These distinctive doctrines are: (a) The doctrine
of the heavenly sanctuary, (b) the investigative judgment, and
(c) the restoration of spiritual gifts, including the "spirit
concise statement of what Seventh-day Adventists do believe from an authoritative
source will probably serve to establish their adherence to the basic principles
of Christian theology far better than a hundred articles by a nonAdventist.
Therefore, the following statement, prepared by a group of leading theologians
of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, appearing in a new book soon to be
released by the Review and Herald Publishing Association, covers the subject
quite thoroughly and is reproduced here by permission.
"Seventh-day Adventists believe that the unfolding light of Bible truth is progressive and is to shine 'more and more unto the perfect day' (Prov. 4:18). And we have sought to walk in the advancing light of truth. We have never driven in formal creedal stakes, and said, 'This is the truth; thus far and no farther.' Ellen G. White, one of our leading writers, wrote in 1892: 'New light will ever be revealed on the Word of God to him who is in living connection with the Sun of Righteousness. Let no one come to the conclusion that there is no more truth to be revealed. The diligent, prayerful seeker for truth will find precious rays of light yet to shine forth from the Word of God.' (Counsels on Sabbath School Work, 1892, p. 34.) The founding fathers of the Seventh-day Adventist Church over a century ago came out of various denominational backgrounds. While all were premillennialists, some were Trinitarian; others were Arian. The majority were Arminians; a few Calvinists. Some insisted on immersion; a few were content with sprinkling. There was diversity on these points. And, as with various religious groups, our early days were characterized by transition and adjustment. A church was being brought forth. As these men were already born-again believers, the initial study and emphasis was placed upon the
23 -- distinctive
teachings of the movement. And they were similarly occupied in developing
an effective organization.
those early years relatively little attention was paid to the respective
merits of Arminianism in contrast to the Calvinist position. The historic
differences of thought invo!yed had reached back to Augustine and Chrysostom.
They did not concern themselves with `absolute decrees.' 'devine sovereignty,'
'particular election,' or 'limited atonement.' Nor did they, at first,
seek to define the nature of the Godhead, or the problems of Christology,
involving the deity of Christ and His nature during the incarnation: the
personality and deity of the Holy Spirit: the nature, scope, and completeness
of the atonement, the relationship of law to grace, or the fullness of
the doctrine of righteousness by faith; and the like.
with the passage of years the earlier diversity of view on certain doctrines
gradually gave way to unity of view. Clear and sound positions were then
taken by the great majority on such doctrines as the Godhead, the deity
and eternal preexistence of Christ, and the personality of the Holy Spirit.
Clear-cut views were established on righteousness by faith, the true relationship
of law and grace. and on the death of Christ as the complete atonement
few, however, held to some of their former views, and at times these ideas
got into print. However, for decades now the church has been practically
at one on the basic truths of the Christian faith.
very fact that our positions were now clarified seemed to us to be sufficient.
Our teachings, we felt, were clear. And no particular statement of change
from those earlier ideas appeared necessary. Today the primary emphasis
of all our leading denominational literature, as well as the continuous
presentations over radio and television, emphasizes the historic fundamentals
of the Christian faith.
the charges and attacks have persisted. Some continue to gather up quotations
from some of our earlier literature long since out of date and print.
Certain statements are cited, often wrested out of context, which give
a totally distorted picture of the beliefs and teachings of the Seventh-day
Adventist Church of today.
this has made it desirable and necessary for us to declare our position
afresh upon the great fundamental teachings of the Christian faith, and
to deny every statement or implication that Christ. the second Person
of the Godhead, was not One with the Father from all eternity, and that
His sacrifice on the cross was not a full and complete atonement. The
present belief of Seventh-dlay Adventists on these great truths is clear
and emphatic. And we feel that we should no longer be identified with
or stigmatized for certain limited and faulty concepts held by some in
our formative years.
statement should therefore nullify the stock 'quotations' that have been
circulated against us. We are one with our fellow Christians of denominational
groups in the great fundamentals of the faith once delivered to the saints.
Our hope is in a crucified, risen, ministering, and soon-returning Saviour."
true that there is still some literature in print and on the shelves of
libraries that reflects some of the earlier positions just mentioned,
but precautions are being taken to limit further circulation and to present
a unified and true picture of Seventh-day Adventist adherence to the cardinal
doctrines of the Christian faith.
to this development in Seventh-day Adventism, it is to be noted that there
are many publications circulated today in evangelical bodies, dealing
with the Seventh-day Adventist denomination that are seemingly unaware
of or unconcerned with the present positions of the church. This writer
has read all the anti-Adventist publications issued within the last fifty-seven
years and listed in the catalogs of the Library of Congress and the New
York Public library. Less than 20 per cent of these volumes are now up
to date or contain the true Seventh-clay Adventist positions as they are
stated and published in contemporary Adventist circles.
has uncovered the fact that not only have many unrepresentative quotations
cited from earlier Seventh-day Adventist publications been expunged from
the current editions of these publications, but that many of the critics
of Seventh-day Adventism constantly make unethical use of the elipsis
-the deletion of parts of sentences, and sometimes whole paragraphs in
between sentences - in order seemingly to indict the Adventists for holding
beliefs that they most strenuously reject. The abuse of ethics by some
Christian writers and publishers, both non-Adventist and Adventist, is
shocking when one makes a close survey of the conflicting literature involved!
writer is by no means a Seventh-day Adventist, nor do I as a Baptist at
all hold their distinctive doctrines, which we shall discuss next, but
an impartial study of the facts extending over a seven-year period, inteiviews
with leaders in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and a thorough acquaintance
with a voluminous amount of Adventist and non-Adventist publications,
has led me as a research polemicist to believe that a reasonable re-evaluation
of the position of Seventh-day Adventism is called for in orthodox evangelical
circles today. The need for abandoning the out-of-print quotations and
questionable statements that have been repudiated by the Adventist denomination
ought also to be recognized by Christian publishers who wish to present
the truth. Surely none is interested merely in issuing books and pamphlets
to sell and make money, irrespective of the truthfulness of their contents.
Adventists then, assuredly accept the Bible as the inspired revelation
of God to man, the sole rule of faith and practice. Their theology embraces
the orthodox doctrines of the Trinity, the deity and eternal preexistence
of Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Godhead, His miraculous conception
and Virgin birth, sinless human nature during the incarnation, vicarious
atoning death on the cross, bodily resurrection, literal ascension, priestly
to this, all reliable, representative, Seventh-day Adventist literature
holds to the fundamental doctrines of the new birth, justification by
faith, progressive sanctification by the indwelling Holy Spirit, and salvation
by grace alone through the blood of Jesus Christ, apart from the works
of the law. Should anyone reading this article desire proof of the official
Seventh-day Adventist position on these statements they should address
a letter or postal card to: The General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists,
Department 1, Takoma Park, Washington 12, D. C., and confirmation sufficient
to convince any honest investigator will be forthcoming immediately. In
the early months of 1957 the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
will release a new book dealing with contemporary Seventh-day Adventist
theology, which should supersede individual-author publications on the
basis of authoritive theological positions, stating unequivocally the
adherence of the General Conference, and of all true Seventh-day Adventists,
to the fundamentals of the gospel just stated.
Seventh-day Adventism in 1956 is a far cry from the Adventism rightly criticized in certain areas - of Dudley M. Canright in his book Seventh-day Adventism Renounced. Whosoever attempts to refute Adventism today by using Canright and by quoting him as authoratitive in every area of his criticism of Seventh-day Adventists is tearing down a straw man. Where Canright deals with the divergent views of Adventism as they affect the historic Christian message, he is relevant.
24 -- However, many of the earlier minority positions in Adventism
have either been reversed or revised in line with the convictions of the
leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination that advancing light
and progressive truth make necessary clarification and adherence to the
cardinal truths of the gospel.
E. Froom, one of the Secretaries of the General Conference of Seventh-day
Adventists, writing in a new theological publication to be released early
in 1957, clearly states the Secenth-day Adventist denomination's repudiation
of all extremist or personal positions of the past that misrepresent the
clear teachings of the church and of distorted positions wrongly attributed
to them. Writes Dr. Froom:
wholly reject the thought that the atoning sacrifice of Christ on Calvary
was either insufficient or incomplete. We totally reject the concept of
a dual atonement. We utterly repudiate the postulate that human works
are in any way a ground of acceptance with God. And we reject the blasphemous
and abhorrent suggestion that Satan plays any part in our salvation."
lists popular "errors" in the religious world repudiated by
Adventists: "We likewise reject the evolution hypothesis, the fallacy
of a second probation, the fantasy of ultimate resrorationism, or universalism,
as well as spiritism, unitarianism, pantheism, ritualism, anti-nomianism,
and rationalism. And we reject the practice of infant baptism and baptismal
he states categorically: "And we similarly reject all such Roman
Catholic doctrines as the superiority of tradition and the insufficience
of Scripture, the immaculate conception, the mass and transubstantiation,
communion in one kind, purgatory, penance, veneration of images, indulgences,
invocation of saints, absolution, and extreme unction."
The positions presented in this covering statement by Dr. Froom, speaking as a leading authority on Adventist history and theology, are fully supported by the declarations of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. It is one more evidence that Seventh-day Adventists wish to correct all misrepresentations, and any misinterpretations of some in the past, and to fellowship with the other members of the body of Christ.
the Adventist teaching that when the Lord Jesus Christ returns from heven
with His saints at the close of the millenial thousand years, to end the
great and terrible day of Jehovah, He will place upon Satan, or the devil,
the full responsibility for Satan's role as instigator or tempter to sin.
The Adventists reason that Satan is indirectly involved, where guilt is
concerned, in that he was the originator of evil who caused our first
parents to sin and ushered death into the world. Therefore it is only
fitting, they believe, that according to the type he should be punished
for his responsibility in bringing about the rebellion of both angels
and men against the Creator, and he must therefore bear the retributive
punishment for his responsibility in the sins of all men.
the Adventists repudiate completely any suggestion or implication that
Satan is in any degree their "sinbearer," pointing out that,
in the Old Testament symbolism, only the first goat was slain as a vicarious
offering. The second goat was not killed, but sent out into the wilderness
to die. And they maintain that Satan similarly bears a way to final annihilation
his part and responsibility as the master criminal who plotted the development
of sin and has sustained it throughout the period of God's grace toward
lost men. To quote a recognized Adventist authority:
concerning my sin, Christ died for my sins, (Romans 5:8). He was wounded
for my transgressions and bore my iniquities (Isaiah 53). He assumed my
responsibilities and His blood alone cleanses me from all sin (I John
1:7). The atonement for my sin is made solely by the shed blood of Christ,
for without the shedding of blood there is no remission (Heb.9:22)."
then, stands for Satan in Lev. 16, according to Seventh-day Adventist
theology. It is he who, in the final analysis, is to have rolled back
upon his head not only his own sins but the responsibility for all the
sins he has caused others to commit. In their theology Satan does not
vicariously bear the sins of anyone! He has no part whatsoever in the
already completed atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. As Dr. Froom has
death, a thousand times over, could never make him a saviour in any sense
whatsoever. He is the arch-sinner of the universe, the author and instigator
of sin. Even if he had never sinned, he still could never save others.
Not even the highest of the holy angels could atone for our sins. Only
Christ, the Creator, the one and only God-man, could make a substitutionary
atonement for men's transgressions. And this Christ did completely and
perfectly and once-for-all on Golgotha."
The literature of Seventh-day Adventists in past years, and even occasionally in some current publications, has unfortunately not been altogether clear in this differentiation, when the scapegoat was discussed. But neither Ellen G. White nor theoverwhelming majority of Adventist writers has ever held that Satan was in any degree a vicarious substitute or a sin-bearer, much less a co-worker with Christ in the atonement. AII Seventh--day Adventists are in harmony with the teachings of the General Conference that Jesus Christ shed His blood upon the cross once for all, and it was on that perfect sacrifice alone, and Christ's completed atonement, that they have rested, and do now rest, all hope for their salvation.
by Law or Grace?
law cannot save the transgressor from his sin, nor impart power to keep
him from sinning. In infinite love and mercy, God provides a way whereby
this may be done. He furnishes a substitute, even Christ the Righteous
One to die in man's stead making Him to be sin for us who knew no sin
that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him' (II Cor. 5:21).
That one is justified, not by obedience to the law but by the grace that
is in Christ Jesus. By accepting Christ man is reconciled to God, justified
by His blood from the sins of the past, and saved from the power of sin
by His indwelling life. Thus the gospel becomes 'the power of God unto
salvation to everyone that beleiveth' (Romans 1:16). This experience is
wrought by the divine agency of the Holy Spirit, who convinces of sin
and leads to the Sin-Bearer, inducting the believer into the new covenant
relationship, where the law of God is written upon his heart, and through
the enabling power of the indwelling Christ, his life is brought into
conformity to the divine precepts. The honor and merit of this wonderful
transformation belongs wholly to Christ (I John 2:1.2; 3:4; Romans 3:20;
5:8-10; 7:7; Ephesians 2:8-10; 3:17; Gal. 2:20; Heb. 8:8-12)." ("Fundamential
Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists," p. 4, of Seventh-day Adventist
Year Book, 1956.)
Seventh-day Adventists have reacted
p 25 -- rather violently against the modern trend toward Antinomianism or the concept that the Christian has nothing to do with the moral law and especially the Ten Commandments. They maintain and rightly so, that although one is saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, wholly apart from the law, and while he is free from the condemnation of the Iaw, he is certainly not free from the moral obligations of God's moral law. For the Adventists (as for other informed Christians) it is just as wrong for a Christian to lie, to cheat, to steal, to commit adultery or to blashheme now as it was for mankind to do so before Calvary. And it has been their emphasis upon this point, in the face of certain Antinomian tendencies in evangelical circles through the years, which has largely been responsible for characterising them as "legalists." "That there are some legalistic tendencies in Adventism however, there can he no doubt. But whatever legalistic tendencies do exist, in no way impugn the fundamental adherence of Adventists to the gospel of Christ and the cardinal doctrines thereof.
Historically, the Seventh-day Adventist denomination has ever emphasized the blood of Jesus Christ and His grace alone as the true basis for salvation, and their emphasis upon the law stems mainly from a drsire to avoid the error of Antinomianism.
Doctrine of the Heavenly Sanctuary
breakfast I said to one of my brethren, 'Let us go and see and encourage
some of our brethren.' We started, and while passing through a large field
I was stopped about midway of the field. Heaven seemed open to my view
and I saw distinctly and clearly that instead of our High Priest coming
out of the Most Holy of the heavenly Sanctuary to come to this earth on
the tenth day of the seventh month, at the end of the 2300 days, He for
the first time entered on that day the second apartment of that sanctuary;
that he had a work to perform in the 'most holy' before coming to this
earth. That He came to the marriage at that time (as mentioned in the
parables of the ten virgins); in other words to the ancient of days to
receive a kingdom, dominion and glory; we must wait for His return from
I was thus standing in the midst of the field, my comrade passed on almost
beyond speaking distance before missing me. He inquired why I was stopping
so long, and I replied, 'The Lord was answering our morning prayers, by
giving light with regard to our disappointment.' "
Edson's mind then, and in the minds of many early Adventists, Heaven contained
a literal sanctuary with a first apartment and a second apartment, constructed
long the lines of the ancient Hebrew tabernacle. According to Edson, Christ
entered the second apartment of the sanctuary in 1844 for the "first
time," to perform His final judgment work in the "Most Holy,"
or second apartment, which would place Christ in the first apartment of
the sanctuary from the time of His ascension until October 22, 1844. *
second work that the Lord was expected to perform, and which He has been
carrying out since 1844 according to Adventist theology, has been a work
of "investigative judgment," that is, a review of all believers,
covering their lives, their works, etc., and when man's probationary period
is closed, the Lord Jesus Christ will come out of the heavenly sanctuary
and return to earth, bringing all rewards with Him, and ushering in the
great and terrible day of God Almighty.
have reserved further discussion of "the heavenly sanctuary,"
the "investigative judgment," conditional immortality, annihilation
of the wicked, and the Seventh-day Sabbath for our concluding article,
which will deal particularly with those doctrines and give a summary of
the reasons why, despite such views, the writer feels that it is still
possible for us to have fellowship with Seventh-day Adventists.
deviations from what is commonly called "historic orthodox theology"
embraced by Seventh-day Adventism, will therefore be the subject of our
final article. It has been the aim of this series of articles not to present
an apologetic for Seventh-day Adventism, nor to whitewash their obvious
deviations from the accepted theological views of orthodox Christianity,
but rather to point out that all the evidence has not been considered
where the Adventists are concerned, and what evidence has been presented
has often been clouded by inaccuracy, lack of ethics, and distinct shortcomings
of scholarly investigation. In order to have something to say against
Adventism, many have been content to say anything! However, whatever else
one may say about Seventh-clay Adventism, it cannot be denied from their
truly representative literature and their historic positions that they
have always as a majority, held to the cardinal, fundamental doctrines
of the Christian faith which are necessary to salvation, and to the growth
in grace that characterizes all true Christian believers.
* - This literalistic interpretation is contradicted by Hebrews 9:12. Christ had already entered in "once" into the holy places (Greek-Hagia, plural).
p 26 -- The Truth About Seventh-day Adventism - by Walter R. Martin -- ADVENTIST THEOLOGY vs. HISTORIC ORTHODOXY -- Are there serious differences concerning cardinal doctrines of Christianity? -- This article concludes the series on Seventh-day Adventism by the Rev. Mr. Martin. Do something today that only a Christian would do.
the first two articles of this series on Seventh-day Adventism, we were
concerned chiefly with the history and some of the theological doctrines
of the Adventist denomination. We saw how Seventh-day Adventism developed
from the Second Advent (Millerite) Movement following the Great Disappointment
of 1814, and that the early Adventists came from varying religious backgrounds,
some orthodox and some heterodox - that is, out of harmony with generally
accepted doctrinal teaching in particular areas. Thus, it was some years
before certain segments within the main body resolved their differences
and consolidated their beliefs in a doctrinal platform acceptable to the
are concerned in this article with some of the differences between Seventh-day
Adventist theology and the theology of "historic orthodoxy."
We have two questions: (1) Are there major differences regarding
the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith, between Seventh-day Adventist
theology and evangelical orthodoxy? (2) Are the other differences
that exist an insuperable barrier to fellowship between Seventh-day Adventists
study reveals seven areas of disagreement. We shall note these seven areas,
discuss them, and attempt to reach a conclusion based upon all available
evidence, by-passing the morass of prejudice accumulating for almost one
Conditional Immortality, "Soul Sleep" and Annihilation.
-The doctrine of "soul sleep" (unconsciousness in death) and
the final extinction of all the wicked, is a cardinal tenet in the theological
superstructure of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This presents what
is probably regarded as the greatest bar to fellowship between Adventists
and their fellow Christians.
doctrine of the "sleep of the soul" - though the term is seldom
used by informed Adventists - involves the proposition
that at the death of the body the spirit, or principle of life in man,
returns to God who gave it, and man as a "living soul" (Gen.
2:7) lapses into a state of unconsciousness, oblivious of passing time,
pending the resurrection of the physical body. The Adventists base this
doctrine upon various texts in the Bible where the word "sleep,"
in their thinking, is used as a synonym for "death."
"them that sleep in the dust of the earth," "David is not
ascended unto the heavens," "David slept with his fathers,"
"the dead know not anything," "in death there is no remembrance
of thee," "Lazarus is not dead, but sleepeth," "they
which are fallen asleep," etc., Seventh-day Adventists take to mean
that man is in a temporary state of unconsciousness awaiting the resurrection,
or call to life. They point out that the Bible never refers to "immortal
souls," that it is God "who only hath immortality" (I Tim.
6:15, 16), and that immortality is declared to be a "gift,"
received from Christ at the resurrection and is applicable only to resurrected
thirty-five pages in my forthcoming book, The Truth About Seventh-day
Adventism, is alloted to a fuller study of this problem, and its solution
and refutation. So at this time it will be unnecessary to go into detail.
However, the Scriptures teach that to be "absent from the body is
to be present [or "at home" - Greek] with the Lord" (II
Cor. 5:8), and I for one do not see how any careful student of Greek today
can read the first chapter of Paul's epistle to the Philippians, especially
verses 21 to 23, and not come to understand that the apostle clearly meant
with his choice of words that it was far better for him "to depart
and be with Christ" than to remain there in the flesh, although it
was needful for the Philippian Christians.
In that context the inspired apostle indisputably maintained that "to live is Christ and to die is gain." If man, as an entity, be unconscious until the resurrection, it certainly is not gain. Again, in II Corinthians 5:8 and that context where, although Paul states he would not desire to be "naked," that is "unclothed," until the resurrection, nevertheless, he definitely teaches that the soul will be conscious in the presence of the Lord until the resurrection, and that at the resurrection the soul will be clothed with an immortal body (I Cor. 15), the very image of the resurrection body of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible nowhere teaches what is commonly termed "soul sleep," nor is the term ever mentioned in Scripture, and we believe the Adventists
27 -- at this point are standing on weak ground exegetically.
it is only fair to mention that such noted scholars as William Tyndale,
whose translation of the Bible was largely the basis for our King James
translation; Martin Luther, great leader of the Protestant Reformation;
and prior to them, John Wycliffe, himself a famous translator, all held
to the doctrine of the sleep of the soul - as well as many other illustrious
Christians through the centuries. This, of course does not make the doctrine
true. But, one should see that if we refuse to fellowship with Seventh-dav
Adventists on the basis of the doctrine of the unconscious sleep of the
dead then we likewise will have to refuse fellowship with Tyndale, Luther,
Wycliffe, and a host of other Christians who held essentially that same
as this writer is concerned, although he is in definite disagreement with
the doctrine, it does not constitute a bar to our having fellowship with
them, since the basis of fellowship is Jesus Christ crucified, risen,
and coming again - "God manifest in the flesh" - and not the
nature of man or the intermediate state of the soul pending the resurrection.
of the annihilation of the wicked is felt by many to be a purely rationalistic
development in Christian theology. It assumes that in order for the universe
to be "clean" all evil will have to be annihilated that good
may eventually triumph. The fallacy in this thought, as I see it. is that
God is not circumscribed by human concepts and methods of purging His
creation. Further, what may appear perfectly logical to us, where a "clean
universe" is concerned, may be just the opposite in the divine mind.
As I see it, the Bible uses no terms which could be translated "annihilate"
or "reduced to nothingness." To argue, therefore, for the annihilation
of the wicked is to argue contrary to the usage of the terms employed
in the Bible to describe God's final disposition of evil. Orthodox Christianity
has commonly held since the early centuries of the Christian era that
God intends to punish unto the everlasting ages of eternity those who
commit the infinite transgression of rejecting Jesus Christ, the eternal
Word made flesh (Matt. 25:46; John 3:36; etc.). Seventh-day Adventists
and their theological ancestors, historic Christianity contends, have
brought forth no valid scriptural evidence to the contrary, but only a
rationalistic approach to what is admittedly a difficult but not insoluble
then, when the Lord Jesus Christ said in Matthew 25:46, "These shall
go away into everlasting punishment," He meant precisely what He
said, and to argue that in this text and others like it "everlasting
punishment" means annihilation is contrary to the usage of the terms
themselves. Insofar as historic orthodoxy is concerned, the teaching of
the extinction or annihilation of the wicked is at best a speculative
position, unsupported by systematic theology, good exegesis, and the application
of the sound principles of hermeneutics.
The Doctrine of the Sanctuary and the Investigative Judgment. - The
Seventh-day Adventist doctrine of the heavenly sanctuary (discussed in
my second article) holds that Christ is now in the heavenly sanctuary
judging who are to he accounted worthy to reign with Him; and that when
this work is completed Christ will return to earth, bringing His rewards
with Him. Thus, say the Adventists. Christ is ministering the benefits
of the atonement which He completed on the cross. As our great high priest
(Heb. 4:14, 15) Christ is interceding for us, constantly forgiving and
cleansing us from all sin (I John 1:7, 9). The "investigative judgment"
itself is a term and a doctrine peculiar to Seventh-day Adventism, and
is based on an Arminian interpretation of the position of the believer
as opposed to the Calvinistic doctrine of the eternal security of the
believer. According to their interpretation of salvation the Adventists
hold that they may lose the benefit of redemption through sin (Arminianism),
and the investigative judgment is no more than a modified device of Arminianism,
Contemporary Seventh-day Adventist theology accepts the
28 -- ADVENTIST THEOLOGY - continued --
Barnhouse pointed out in his article in September the investigative judgment
is purely a speculative dogma, inherent within the structure of Adventist
theology, and when properly understood can offer no real objection to
fellowship between Adventists and their fellow Christians.
(3) The Scapegoat, a Teaching concerning Satan. - This particular doctrine was also discussed in the second article, where we saw that Adventists do not believe that Satan vicariously bears the sins of men. Rather, he bears only his own responsibility for the crime of tempting men to sin. It is not to be construed that he is a co-worker in the atonement with the Lord Jesus Christ. Though the scapegoat interpretation (of Leviticus 16), is peculiar in the light of the usual historic interpretation, it is not heretical. And since this area of Adventist theology does not involve a denial of the completed atonement made by Christ alone, it certainly cannot be cited as a legitimate reason for refusing to fellowship with the Adventists.
The Seventh-day Sabbath. - This doctrine is just plain historical
Sabbatarianism, which the Seventh-day Adventists took over front the Seventh-day
Baptists. In the eyes of many it smacks of legalism, especially since
the Adventists claim that if one does not observe the seventh-day Sabbath
he is in disobedience to what they believe to be one of the express commands
of the moral law, or Ten Commandments as they describe it. But the Adventists
also teach that those who keep Sunday in good faith and are honestly living
up to all of the light that they have on the issue do not have this disobedience
imputed to them.
Contrary to this position, St. Paul tells us in the fourteenth chapter of Romans that one man esteems one day above another, others esteem every day alike and that each should be fully persuaded in his own mind, etc. In the second chapter of Colossians, Paul also tells us that days, feasts, ceremonials, types, etc., have all passed away at the cross. And in Colossians 2:16 and 17 the inspired apostle specifically mentions the Sabbaths, in the plural, clearly indicating that as far as he was concerned the Sabbath issue was closed at Calvary.
The Spirit of Prophecy. - The Seventh-day Adventist doctrine of the
"spirit of prophecy" teaches that spiritual gifts did not cease
with the apostolic church, but rather that they have been manifested through
the years, and especially so in the writings and work of Ellen G. White,
prominent early leader in the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. The
Adventists maintain that Mrs. White was specifically guided in penning
counsel and instruction to the Seventhday Adventist denomination. They
esteem her writings highly, which one cannot understand until one digests
a sufficient quantity of them. They do not, however, put her writings
on a parity with Scripture.
Adventists regard the "spirit of prophecy" counsels of Ellen G. White as counsels to the Adventist denomination, and there is no reason why this view should prohibit Christians of other denominations from having fellowship with Adventists, so long as Adventists do not attempt to enforce upon their fellow Christians the counsels that Mrs. White specifically directs to them.
Health Reform (unclean foods, etc.). - The ministry of Mrs. White, throughout
her many years of association with the Seventh-day Adventist denomination,
uniformly encouraged what has been called "health reform." This
term is much broader than the matter of diet. Mrs. White believed and
taught that the Scriptures give the best outline for the care of the human
body. Throughout her life she gave to the Seventh-day Adventist denomination
frequent counsels on health principles, including dietary matters. Many
individuals outside the ranks of Adventism,
29 -- themselves "under grace" and free to eat all things,
as based upon Peter's vision in Acts 10:15. Here Peter saw a great sheet
filled with all manner of beasts, creeping things, and fowls. In this
connection, the Lord speaking to him, said, "What God hath cleansed
call not thou common or unclean."
hold that this vision concerning the edibility of "all things"
is symbolic, and they quote verses 28 and 34, where Peter says, "God
hath showed me that I should not call any man common or unclean"
and adds, "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons."
to the charge of Mosaic legalism, a prominent Adventist authority on the
Old Testament, the Rev. W. E. Read, stated the denominational position
when he wrote:
is true we refrain from eating certain articles as indicated,... but not
because the law of Moses has any binding claims upon us. Far from it.
We stand fast in the liberty wherewith God has set us free. It must be
remembered that God recognized 'clean' and 'unclean' animals at the time
of the flood (Gen. 7:2, 8; 8:20), long before there was a law of Moses.
We simply reason that if God saw fit to counsel His people then that such
things were not best for human consumption, and since we are physically
constituted as are the Jews and all other people, that such things can
hardly he the best for us to use today.
is primarily a question of health. We attach religious significance to
the question of eating insofar as it is vital that we preserve our bodies
in the best health. This we feel is our duty and responsibility, for our
bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 3:16; 6:19; II Cor. 6:16)."
he seen that, in the Adventist view, certain principles of the Mosaic
law are still operative today regarding the question of foods, just as
certain other features of the Mosaic law are operative today regarding
other truths carried over from the Old Testament to the New Testament:
but these are not forced upon Adventists in a legalistic way, except as
they personally feel moral responsibility or where their conscience is
concerned. That certain features of the old Testament law are taught in
the New Testament, no informed theologian will deny, and these were not
abolished at Calvary (See I Sam. 14:32, 33; Deut. 6:5; 10-12, 36, and
compare with Acts 15:28, 29; 21:25; Matt. 19:19; 22:39; Rom. 13:9; Gal.
of the Adventists, now past the million mark, is scattered over most of
the countries of the earth. They consistently seek to use the best foods
available in the various lands, as circumstances permit, while conscientously
avoiding that which they regard as "unclean." Should any doubt
that the Adventists have some ground on which to stand, they may check
the instances where some Mosaic injunctions were carried over as moral
responsibilities in the New Testament.
not agree with Seventh-day Adventists on the problem of dietary health
reforms, but St. Paul tells us, in Romans 14:2-4, that we ought not to
judge another's habits, etc., but leave such judgment unto the Lord. Further,
that we ought to do nothing that would cause our brethren to stumble (I
Cor. 8:15). Therefore, so long as Seventh-day Adventists do not attempt
to enforce upon their fellow Christians these dietary restrictions this
issue, too, fails to justify a refusal of fellowship.
The Remnant Church. - The last area of conflict between Seventh-day
Adventism and contemporary evangelical Christianity is the "remnant
church" idea, espoused by early members of the Seventh-day Adventist
denomination. Still taught in the denomination, though in a vastly different
sense from its original conception the idea is that Adventists constitute
a definite part of the "remnant church," or the "remnant
people" of God, of the last days. But they just as staunchly maintain
that God's true children, scattered through all faiths, are likewise included
in this "remnant," in contradistinction to some early writers
in the movement who maintained that the term "remnant" applied
only to Seventh-day Adventists.
early writers, in their formative days, developed the idea that the 144,000,
mentioned in the book of Revelation, was the Seventh-day Adventist Church
in literal numbers. Such restricted views have long since been repudiated
by their leaders and the great majority of Adventists.
Today, the term involves a time element - the "remnant church" indicates the great last segment of the true Christian church of the Christian Era, existing just before the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Adventists further recognize that God's true followers everywhere, whom He owns as His people are true members of this "remnant," which will constitute the Bride of Christ at His glorious return to usher in the Kingdom of God.
30 -- If Seventh-day Adventist theology actually did maintain that
they alone were the chosen or "remnant church," and that other
Christians were excluded, we might say that a definite reason existed
for hesitation, where fellowship with them is concerned. But the denominational
position today clearly recognizes all true Christians as fellow members
of the Body of Christ and part of the great last day "remnant people"
to be manifested in the closing days of the age of grace. Some detractors
still persist in quoting outmoded or unrepresentative literature and out-of-context
quotations not in harmony with the true denominational position in an
attempt to prove that the Adventists are rigid exclusivists on this issue.
This assertion simply is not true!
draw this brief resume of current Seventh-day Adventist beliefs to a close,
we feel that the two questions that we set out to answer in the beginning
have been satisfactorily covered in the light of verifiable contemporary
evidence. It is definitely possible, we believe, to have fellowship with
Seventh-day Adventists on the basis of their clear fundamental allegiance
to the cross of Jesus Christ, and to the cardinal doctrines of the Christian
faith, regarding which Seventh-day Adventists are soundly orthodox. Despite
their somewhat "heterodox" theological ideas in some areas,
they are most certainly true be lievers in the Lord Jesus Christ.
the serious disagreement that might most naturally arise in three areas
- sleep of the dead (and annihilation of the wicked); the Sabbath; and
the sanctuary - investigative - judgment theory - can be greatly mollified
by understanding the true Adventist position on these doctrines.
The leadership of the denomination is eager to see that this position be set forth in their literature and borne out in their activities throughout the world. There is no doubt that Seventh-day Adventists desire to receive and to extend the hand of fellowship to all truly within the Body of Christ. The differences that exist between Seventh-day Adventist theology and accepted historic orthodoxy, do not justify the attitude which many have held toward Seventhday Adventism of either the recent past, or the present. Were it not for the fact that many Christian writers and publishers have seemingly been concerned only with selling books, pamphlets, etc., and combatting certain phases of what they believe to be theological error in Adventist theology, instead of digging out the true, verifiable facts and presenting the whole picture, the Christian public today would have a much clearer concept of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. True Seventh-day Adventism, despite its differences from us, is one with us in the great work of winning men to Jesus Christ and in preaching the wonders of His matchless, redeeming grace.
on Seventh-day Adventism -
by Donald Grey Barnhouse --
three years ago the Editor-in-Chief of ETERNITY approached the Adventist
leaders saying that we were assigning the Rev. Mr. Walter R. Martin, a
member of the staff of the Evangelical Foundation and Contributing Editor
of ETERNITY, to make a study of their doctrines. Never have we seen such
cooperation, such willingness to reveal everything, such desire for Christian
fellowship, and such kindness and love in all, relationships.
Martin prepared scores of questions. Their answers were hammered out with
us. They gathered their best teachers and editors and have now published
many of these questions with 720 pages of answers! The volume is an authoritative
statement of their doctrines. They say that it is not a new statement
of faith, but rather "an answer to specific questions concerning
their faith." However, it is a definitive statement that lops off
the writings of Adventists who have been independent of and contradictory
to their sound leadership and effectively refutes many of the charges
of doctrinal error that have been leveled against them. The writings of
those who have in the past attacked Seventh-day Adventism in those areas
are now out of date. From now on anyone who echoes these criticisms must
be considered as willfully ignorant of the facts or victims of such prejudice
that they are no longer to be trusted as teachers in this field.
the same time that the Adventists issue their new volume Zondervan Publishing
House is releasing Walter Martin's appraisal and criticism of the Adventist
position. The importance of this double publication cannot be minimized.
It may be the first time in modern church history that two parties with
sharp differences have prayed and talked with each other and come finally
to a complete understanding of the areas of agreement and disagreement.
When Mr. Martin went to the Adventist headquarters in Washington, he was
given complete access to all their records. The honesty of the Adventists
can be seen in their attitude. When Mr. Martin asked the custodian of
their vault to let him see material unfavorable to the Adventists, the
man replied, "My instructions are to give you absolutely anything
that you ask on this matter." All references in Mr. Martin's volume
are paged to this Adventist statement. In the front of Mr. Martin's book
is a statement signed by an official of the Adventist denomination that
they have not been misquoted or misrepresented by Mr. Martin.
entire Adventist volume is an expansion of the answer to the first question
in the book. We believe it so important that we are reproducing that question
and answer here:
1. What doctrines do Seventh-day Adventists hold in common with Christians
in general, and in what aspects of Christian thought do they differ?
in general are divided into various schools of thought on practically
every doctrine of the Bible. On some doctrines Seventh-day Adventists
find themselves in one group, and on other doctrines we may be classified
quite differently. With some religious groups we hold many doctrines in
common. With others we may find little common doctrinal ground. We do
not accept certain doctrines held by some Christians because we feel that
they are not based on the Word of God.
"Practically all Seventh-day Adventist beliefs are held by one or more Christian groups. A few are distinctive with us. Our beliefs could be classified in relation to the beliefs of other Christians under the following headings:
In Common with Conservative Christians and the Historic Protestant
Creeds, We Believe:
That God is the Sovereign Creator, upholder, and ruler of the universe,
and that He is eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.
32 -- "8. That Jesus Christ arose literally and bodily from the
On Certain Controversial Doctrines among Conservative Christians, We
Hold One of Two or More Alternate Views. We Believe:
That man is free to choose or reject the offer of salvation through Christ;
we do not believe that God has predetermined that some men shall be saved
and others lost.
In a Few Areas of Christian Thought, Our Doctrines Are Distinctive
with Us. We Believe:
That there is a sanctuary in Heaven where Christ, our High Priest, ministers
in two distinct phases of His mediatorial work.
here are the first few pages of a 720-page book. Any questions about any
of these thirty-six statements set forth will be found fully answered
in the heart of the volume.
p 33 -- ADVENTISM
favorite allegations have been drawn from quotations from fringe teachers
who do not represent the real thought of the Adventist movement.
lost some subscribers by telling the truth about the Adventists. This
we regret. We feel sure that this was due to an apparent misunderstanding
of the issue. We are delighted, however, that many who cancelled have
renewed their subscription because they have come to understand the matter
and realized that we were motivated by Christian love.
would emphasize again, as we did in our first article, that we heartily
disagree with the Adventists on many of the doctrines. In fact, as my
already heavily burdened schedule allows, we expect to publish biblical
expositions showing some of what I hold to be fallacies in the S.D.A.
position. Especially do I wish to show the error in their whole idea of
conditional immortality, soul sleeping, and annihilation. I wish also
to show the fallacy of the day-year theory, which is the theory that first
got their forefathers off the track and caused the beginning of the movement.
I hope to write on the whole question of the law and the Sabbath.
it be said for the very critical that the Adventists have been most careful
to spell out their disagreement with the most serious charges which have
been leveled against them in the past. They call Ellen G. White, "one
of our leading writers" (p. 29). They say, "We test the writings
of Ellen G. White by the Bible, but in no sense do we test the Bible by
her writings" (p. 90). "While Adventists hold the writings of
Ellen G. White in highest esteem, these are not the source of our expositions"
(p. 93). And again: "While we revere [her] writings, and expect all
who join the church to accept the doctrine of spiritual gifts as manifested
in her experience, we do not make acceptance of her writings a matter
for church discipline" (p. 96). "The Bible is the sole rule
of faith and practice" (p. 22).
most serious charge ever made against the Adventists has arisen out of
a series of booklets written by one of their former workers and disavowed
again and again by the responsible leaders of the church. One writer in
particular set forth that Jesus Christ had a sinful human nature. The
present volume approaches this statement from several different points
of view and repudiates it with horror. Because this has been made such
a large issue by one "defender of the faith," who has attempted
to pin this error on Mrs. White herself, the Adventist leaders in this
present volume boldly present thirty-six different quotations from the
writings of Mrs. White expressing herself in the strongest fashion in
positive statements concerning the eternal Godhead and sinless human nature
of our Lord. In another appendix are listed more than fifty quotations
concerning the mystery of the incarnation in which Mrs. White expresses
over and over the wonder of the Word made flesh and the glory of His sinlessness.
The original difficulty arose from the fact that Mrs. White was not a
trained theologian and was largely unacquainted with historical theology.
She was unaware that some of her terms might be construed against her.
In my opinion she lacked profundity, accuracy, and scholarship, but she
owned, honored, and taught Jesus Christ as the eternal, sinless Son of
most of our readers may not wish to attempt the 720 pages of the new Adventist
volume, though it is illuminating in many areas, I would recommend that
they purchase, read, and circulate Mr. Martin's volume, which renders
obsolete every other non-Adventist book that has been written on the appraisal
and criticism of Seventh-day Adventism.
In deep humility before God I record one final angle of this whole question. The Adventists had been maligned and persecuted for decades. Regardless of whether or not some of this was their own fault, they were hurt by it and withdrew into themselves. One of their foremost leaders (and they have deep men of God, gifted scholars who are humble Christian gentlemen) remarked, "The editors of ETERNITY have communicated more with us in two years than the whole Protestant church did in over one hundred years because they came to us in the spirit of Christian love." More than I can say I am glad for this, because this is the crowning desire of my life that men shall know that we are His disciples because we love one another (John 13:35). End