We are Sabbath-Keepers, Not Seventh-Day Adventists
When friends and associates find out that I observe the Saturday Sabbath (Friday sundown to Saturday sundown), they almost invariably peg me as a Seventh-day Adventist. When I tell them I am a Sabbath-keeper of the Church of God category, they draw a complete blank. Like Seventh-day Adventists, most people know little of the existence of other Sabbath-keepers. (Write for our articles on the Sabbath, and the books, History of the Seventh Day Church of God, Volume I, and Six Papers on the History of the Church of God.)
Well, there are about half a million other Sabbath-keepers besides Adventists, and they have doctrinal beliefs that are distinct in many ways from SDA's. I can't speak for all of these Sabbatarians, but I can explain how we are in some ways similar, in other ways different, and why I am not a Seventh-day Adventist.
These We Also Believe
First, it would be proper to mention beliefs we have in common with Seventh-Day Adventists:
(1) We believe in Jesus Christ as personal Savior, and seek to pattern our life according to the Bible, looking for the imminent soon-coming return of the Lord.
(2) We believe that the Bible Sabbath (Saturday) is to be kept by Christians today. Christ kept the Sabbath and there is not a single text in the Bible showing that Christ authorized a change of the Sabbath from the seventh day of the week to the first.
(3) We accept the Bible literally as the inspired Word of God, Who has preserved the received text down through the ages.
(4) We believe that God created the world in six literal days and that the fossil record with coal beds and oil strata are proof of a great global catastrophe, a flood.
(5) We believe in the virgin birth of Jesus, the Son of God.
(6) We believe that believers should be baptized by immersion.
(7) Salvation is by grace alone, through faith in the atoning death of Jesus Christ. No one can "work his way" into the Kingdom of God. Nevertheless, "faith without works is dead." Keeping the commandments is the result, the evidence, of salvation, showing that we love God, I John 5:3.
(8) Christ is coming soon, personally, as He went away, Acts 1:11. His coming will climax global political and religious events, which will involve the entire population of the world and mark the end of the age. The graves of all God's children will be opened, the "dead in Christ" will rise, and all true Christians alive at that moment will be "caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air," I Thessalonians 4:16-17. The immortal saints will then reign with Christ a thousand years.
(9) After the millennium, the wicked will be resurrected and judged, and the incorrigibly wicked will receive eternal death. The New Jerusalem on earth will be set up following the purification of the earth by fire and its re-creation by Christ into the eternal home of His redeemed. There will be no more death or sorrow, in this "heaven on earth."
(10) Signs of Christ's coming are the nuclear holocaust potential, wars, combines of nations, an unprecedented increase of knowledge, Daniel 12:4, moral decadence, and lack of spiritual power, II Timothy 3.
(11) The body is the "temple of the Holy Spirit." Use of tobacco and harmful foods such as swine's flesh, will weaken our physical bodies, hindering our service to the Lord.
(12) We are opposed to religious legislation such as Sunday "blue" laws, and vigorously support religious freedom and separation of church and state.
(13) We agree on the state of the dead, that man of himself is mortal, subject to death. Only Christ can make man immortal, and this will not happen until the resurrection, at Christ's return. The ancient supposition that people go to heaven or hell immediately upon death is an infiltration of pagan mythology into Christian theology. The Bible shows that the dead "sleep" until the glorious return of Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords.
(14) The ministry in the Church are "pastors," "elders," "evangelists," etc., and are to be servants rather than overlords (dictators). They are not to be given a title applicable only to God, such as "reverend."
(15) God is to be given the tithe, the tenth of our increase, and in addition, offerings as we are able, as He prospers us.
(16) Representing Jesus in our attire, we must exercise modesty and simplicity in dress, and refrain from excessive ornamentation as taught in I Timothy 2:9-10; I Peter 3:3-4; Isaiah 3:16-21.
(17) We must honor Christ in our selection of reading, conversation, and associates, and must separate ourselves from worldliness, II Corinthians 6:17; I John 2:15; James 1:27, 4:4.
(18) Footwashing, the "ordinance of humility," was instituted and commanded by the Savior as a preparation for the communion service, John 13:12-15.
On This We Disagree
The above items of agreement I took from SDA literature. I'm sure there are many other areas with which we agree with Seventh-day Adventists. However, there are material differences that make it very uncomfortable for me to attend SDA church services. Looking at it objectively, I find the differences outnumber the similarities.
The Spirit of Prophecy
The visions and writings of Ellen G. White are held by SDA's as divinely inspired. I cannot accept this because the visions are often self-contradictory and against the Scriptures. This is a major reason why I do not feel comfortable attending an SDA church. At the 100th annual SDA camp meeting in Oregon, the ministers seemed to quote Ellen G. White as much as the Bible. This is very repugnant to us.
Seventh-day Adventists believe that the writings of Mrs. White are the testimony of Jesus and the "Spirit of prophecy," Revelation 19:10, and as such are equal with the Bible. One cannot separate SDA's and Ellen G. White: "Nothing is surer than this, that this message and the visions [of Mrs. White] belong together, and stand or fall together," Review and Herald, Supplement, August 14, 1883. SDA's further state that her writings should "be received, the same as were the messages of the prophets of old. As Samuel was a prophet to Israel in his day, as Jeremiah was a prophet to Israel in the day of captivity, as John the Baptist came as a special messenger of the Lord to prepare the way of Christ's appearing, so we believe that Mrs. White was a prophet to the church of Christ today. And the same as the messages of the prophets were received in old days, so her messages should be received at present times," Review and Herald, October 4, 1928.
Mrs. White claimed infallibility and sole leadership in the church. "In these letters which I write, in the testimonies I bear, I am presenting to you that which the Lord has presented to me. I do not write one article in the paper expressing merely my own views. They are what God has opened to me in vision - the precious ray of light shining from the throne," Testimonies, Volume 5, page 67. "If you lessen the confidence of God's people in the testimonies [EGW's visions] He has sent them, you are rebelling against God," Testimonies, Volume 5, page 66. In Early Writings, pages 258-261, she says that anyone who found fault or tried to examine the platform of her teachings was "fighting against" God. "In ancient times God spake to men by the mouth of prophets and apostles. In these days He speaks to them by the Testimonies of His Spirit . . . . The Lord has seen fit to give me a view of the needs and errors of His people. . . . One stood by my side, and said: 'God has raised you up, and has given you words to speak to people and to reach hearts, and He has given to no other one'," Testimonies, Volume 5, pages 661, 667. Compare this with Hebrews 1:1-2.
To say that one can be a good Seventh-day Adventist, and not believe that the writings of Ellen G. White are equal with the Bible, is to deny the foundation of their church organization. In the first Seventh-Day Adventist Church Manual, published in 1932, one of the twenty-one questions ministers were to ask every candidate for baptism and church membership was: "Do you believe the Bible doctrine of 'spiritual gifts' in the church, and do you believe in the gift of the Spirit of prophecy which has been manifested in the remnant church through the ministry and writings of Mrs. Ellen G. White?" page 78. The visions were (1860s) and are (presently) a test of fellowship.
Ellen G. White suppressed all others who claimed revelation or divine leading while she herself assumed exclusive leadership, Testimonies Volume 1, pages 206-207. Compare this with Joel 2:27-28; Acts 13:1, 21:8-10; I Corinthians 14:29-31 where it shows that sons and daughters, many, will prophesy of God.
As we will soon show, Ellen G. White's errors and contradictions are an SDA albatross. Why do they cling to her? Because of the need for an authoritative voice in the midst of prevailing religious confusion. "With the prevailing confusion in the Christian world as to doctrine and practice, the need of a divinely chosen instrumentality, pointing out the way of truth to bewildered men and women, is most obvious. True, the Bible points the way. But even so, in the field of religion today it is 'lo here' and 'lo there,' until men are bewildered with the Babel of tongues. An authoritative voice, or divine oracle, to point the way out from the numberless bypaths of error to the fundamental teaching of the word of God is manifestly needed in these times when the full gospel light is to shine and prepare the waiting church to meet her coming King," Signs of the Times, August 13, 1935.
The Spirit of the living God is the only true divine oracle. Read John 7:17. Ellen G. White has been dead since 1915, and her spiritual guidance is confined to her writings. SDA's have recognized no other prophet or prophets. Is it not strange that God would pour out His Spirit in the last days only upon one woman and manifest the "gift of prophecy" only for the lifetime of one woman?
Cataloging all of the errors of Mrs. White would indeed be a long and laborious task. Only ONE proven error is enough to demonstrate that she was not inspired of God. A large percentage of what she writes is not flagrantly in error; but because of the claims she has made, she does not allow herself any errors at all. The whole platform of SDA teachings hinges on whether or not she is 100% accurate.
1856 Vision Proven False
In 1856, Mrs. White stated, "I was shown the company present at the conference. Said the angel: 'Some food for worms, some subject to the last plagues, some will be alive and remain upon the earth to be translated at the coming of Jesus'," Testimonies, Volume I, page 131. Everyone present in that meeting is now dead. If it had been God talking to her through one of His angels, He would certainly have known who would still be alive at Christ's return. There are no conditions for the fulfillment of this prophecy. You be the judge of whether or not she is true. Read Deuteronomy 18:20-22.
When Advent people and Mrs. White were disappointed in 1844 because Jesus did not come as they had thought, they revised their interpretation of certain prophecies. The date was not wrong, they reasoned, but the significance attached to the 1844 date had been "misunderstood." Mrs. White says in Great Controversy, 1927 edition page 546, "In 1844, attended by heavenly angels, our great High Priest entered the holy of holies, and there appears in the presence of God, to engage in the last acts of His ministration in behalf of man, to perform the work of investigative judgment, and to make atonement for all who are shown to be entitled to its benefits."
This a direct contradiction of the Bible. Romans 5:11 says that "we have now received the atonement," and Christ's sacrifice was "finished," John 19:30, at the stake. We "are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all," Hebrews 10:10. Christ is our mediator, I Timothy 2:5, by virtue of the fact that He had made full atonement for the sins of all the world when He died in place of us. Christ did not have to wait until 1844 to appear in the presence of God for us. The Bible teaches that when Jesus ascended to heaven He went directly into the most holy place "within the veil," Hebrews 6:19, 9:24. When Jesus died, the veil between the holy and the most holy place was rent in twain, Matthew 27:51. This signified that Christ's sacrifice made it possible for the believer's prayers to reach the very dwelling place of God, which is the true Most Holy Place. This happened immediately after Christ's ascension, not in 1844! His sacrifice on Cavalry was sufficient for all time; there was no need of another "phase" of an atonement in 1844 (see also Hebrews 9:25-28, 10:14, 9:12). But SDA's disagree with these truths. In the words of Uriah Smith, "Christ did not make the atonement when He shed His blood upon the cross," Looking Unto Jesus, page 237.
Mrs. White said that no sins were blotted out until 1844: "At the close of the 2300 days, in 1844, began the work of investigation and the blotting out of sins," (Great Controversy, page 552). Again, this statement is totally contrary to the Bible. Acts 3:19 (RSV) says "Repent therefore and turn again that your sins may be blotted out, that [literal Greek says 'in order that'] times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord." David prayed that his sins would be blotted out, and that he would be washed from his iniquities, Psalms 51:1-2. Thus the Bible teaches a complete removal of sins at the time a sinner truly repents. SDA's believe that all confessed sins until 1844 were "transferred to the heavenly sanctuary" thus "defiling the sanctuary" which began to be "cleansed" in 1844. How the heavenly Jerusalem, Hebrews 12:22, could be defiled yet be inhabited by a holy God and Christ, separate from sin and sinners, is something that has never been explained to my satisfaction by Seventh-day Adventists (see Hebrews 7:22-28).
Shut Door - Later Re-opened
Other Adventist groups admitted the gross error in assuming that October 22, 1844 was the Day of Atonement and the date of the return of Christ to the earth. But the White party never recanted, and instead changed their interpretation of what happened prophetically on that date. Based on a vision of Hiram Edson in 1844, the date was re-interpreted to state that on October 22, 1844, Christ cleansed the heavenly sanctuary and began His work of "investigative judgment."
It is a well-documented fact that the Day of Atonement in 1844 fell on September 23, and Atonement can NEVER fall as late as October 22.
For about ten years after 1844, the White party taught that probation had closed for all the world except the Advent believers. This is called the "shut door doctrine." In A Word to the Little Flock (1847), page 14, Mrs. White clearly expressed the belief that non-Adventists could not be saved. James White in Present Truth (1849), page 22, said that the time of non-Adventists' salvation was past. In later editions, these revealing portions were expunged. See also Present Truth, May, 1850, pages 75-79.
As a result of this teaching, public evangelism was not done, but Sabbath Adventists labored exclusively among those that had been in the Adventist movement during the years leading up to 1844. Ellen White's "Camden Vision" stated that the wicked could not be benefitted by prayers of Adventists because they were lost. Later, these firm "shut door" teachings were conveniently forgotten, to pave the way for new converts. More damaging than believing in the shut door idea is denying that they ever taught it. Yet that is what a number of SDA apologists would have you believe.
"In 1844 . . . our High Priest entered the holy of holies . . . to perform the work of investigative judgment. The only cases considered are those of the professed people of God," Great Controversy, page 546. "There must be an examination of the books of record to determine who, through repentance of sin and faith in Christ are entitled to the benefits of His atonement," (page 480).
The truth is, the fate of the righteous is settled at the time of their death. Righteous men and women in Hebrews 11 are plainly said to be in the coming "better resurrection" verse 35. God knows who are His, II Timothy 2:19, He does not need a judgment beginning in 1844 to determine their fate. The ones whose fate is not yet determined are those who come up in the second resurrection, after the 1,000 years, Revelation 20:5, 11-15.
Says Mrs. White, "the judgment is now passing in the sanctuary above. For many years this work has been in progress. Soon - none know how soon - it will pass to the cases of the living" (page 556). L.H. Christian, a notable SDA writer, in his book Facing the Crisis (1937) adds, "In this work of judgment which began in heaven in 1844 when the 2,300 years ended, the eternal fate of every soul will be decided. Beginning, no doubt, with Abel, the first to die, one by one the names of all are called and the destiny of each is decided . . . . From that decision there will be no appeal. We know not what hour the Lord will come to our name and decide our case forever. It may be today, it may be tomorrow" (page 283).
If one's case is decided when he is still living, then nothing you do either way from then on will matter? What confusion!
Half-Hearted Effort Not to Eat the Whole Hog!
In Testimonies (Volume I, pages 206-207), Mrs. White says that the Lord showed her that pork is "nourishing and strengthening food." She was rebuking a brother in the church for teaching that swine's flesh is forbidden food. She hadn't yet had a "vision" on this subject, so he was being a troublemaker, since all truth must come through her. You should read this passage in the original.
In 1863, Mrs. White received "light" on the subject of pork (J.N. Loughborough, Rise and Progress of Seventh-Day Adventists, page 214). Yet in 1865 at an SDA conference, James White admitted that the Whites had just finished eating a 200-pound porker. In spite of all the evidence that the Whites originally taught that pork was nourishing food, Uriah Smith, an apologist for Mrs. White, wrote in 1868 that Mrs. White's visions never taught that swine's flesh was good and nourishing food (The Visions of Mrs. E.G. White, a Manifestation of Spiritual Gifts According to the Scriptures, page 95).
In Spiritual Gifts, Volume IV, page 124, Mrs. White claims a vision against pork: "God never designed the swine to be eaten under any circumstances." Thus, "divine inspiration" was claimed for opposite teachings. She didn't even follow her own visions for a time! Mrs. White maintained that "I am just as dependent upon the Spirit of the Lord in relating, or writing a vision, as in having a vision." A "vision" of hers published January 31, 1849, purported that those Sabbath-keepers who rejected the visions were speaking against the Holy Spirit. Are you bold enough to dare to check out what she said, or will you succumb out of fear, or the majority belief?
SDA's Don't Follow Their Own Prophetess
The subject of food must be one of great embarrassment to Seventh-day Adventists. It is readily apparent that not all SDA's are vegetarians, yet the predominant teaching is against eating meat. Why this dichotomy? If on the one hand, SDA's are supposed to believe that Ellen G. White's visions are to be treated as the prophets of old, why do they not all listen to their prophetess? Why didn't Ellen G. White follow her own prophecies?
She said in Testimonies (1872), Volume III, page 21, that her visions gave "positive testimony against tobacco, spirituous liquors, snuff, tea, coffee, flesh meats, butter, spices, rich cakes, mince pies, a large amount of salt, and all exciting substitutes used as articles of food." Further, she stated that cheese should never enter the human stomach, and that "eggs should not be placed upon your table" (Testimonies, Volume II, pages 68, 400).
However, the Bible contradicts Mrs. White. Jesus ate fish, Luke 24:41-43. He prepared a "fish fry" for the disciples, John 21:9-12. As the God of the Old Testament, He ate a meal of bread, butter, milk and beef with Abraham, Genesis 18:1-8. The Messiah was prophesied to eat butter, Isaiah 7:14-15. God's people eat eggs, Job 6:6, which are "good gifts" of His blessings to us, Luke 11:11-13. David ate cheese, II Samuel 17:29.
We agree that tobacco, and excessive amounts of coffee, tea, salt, and spices are harmful to the body, as well as excessive amounts of intoxicating beverages (there are many Scriptures on this topic). However, God created the alcoholic fermentation process. The Savior drank wine (not grape juice), Matthew 11:18-19, John 2:1-11. Paul told Timothy to drink a little wine for his stomach's sake, I Timothy 5:23. When SDA's are confronted with the Bible facts on wine, they are totally dishonest and try to say that the Greek word for wine, oinos, means "grape juice." Try getting drunk on grape juice (Ephesians 5:18, which uses this same Greek word oinos)!
Let us be honest with God's Holy Word! Ellen G. White's writings are held to be as inspired as Isaiah and all the prophets of old. Yet she contradicts the Bible and herself.
Seventh-day Adventists today are not honest. Mrs. White's published vision says that we are positively not to eat flesh meats. Yet the SDA church does not follow this teaching. A recent Adventist Review magazine (1978 "Friendship Issue") states that she merely gave "advice to abstain from flesh foods" and "not all members have adopted a non flesh diet" (page 12). If many members of the church founded by Mrs. White do not even believe what she said, when she claimed infallibility, why should I believe Ellen G. White at all? I'd rather believe I Timothy 4:1-4, "Now the Spirit speaks expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils, . . . commanding to abstain from meats which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving . . . ."
The god of Medicine
Seventh-day Adventists claim to be very health conscious. They speak of the body as the "temple of the Holy Spirit." They are supposedly against ingesting anything harmful to the body. Like Adventists, we believe in prayer and anointing the sick. But there is a vast difference between us and Adventists on the subject of health.
Adventists operate a series of hospitals that dispense harmful drugs, are said to perform abortions, perform needless or destroying operations, and in short, are little different than the rest of modern "health science" which is founded on pagan Egyptian and Greek medicine.
The true way of the Creator Yahweh is the way of obedience to His laws of cleanliness in diet and total living, and of faith in Him to heal you when sick. We should seek and use natural substances such as herbs, which the Creator has given for our health ("herb for the service of man," Psalm 104:14-15). Read our book, Biblical Health and Healing.
On the other hand is the way of "doing your own thing," and then going to medical "science" to operate on you, or to pump harmful drugs into your body, in order to repair the damage.
Those who know how drugs and vaccines are made and of what substances they are composed, understand why there is great hypocrisy in avoiding unclean substances such as pork, while at the same time freely taking drugs and vaccines. Some vaccines are made from putrefied pus of animals such as horses, calves, and monkeys. See the book, Vaccination Condemned by Eleanor McBean, pages 284-325. Since I believe that the Eternal's laws forbid eating unclean foods, I can't reason around pumping putrefied unclean animal substances into my bloodstream, in the name of "health."
Seventh-day Adventists do not rate highly as truly being health conscious. But then neither do most other Sabbath-keepers either. My God is a lot more powerful than the "modern" god of medicine. Yahweh is my healer, Exodus 15:26. How about you?
Only Part of Key Verse Quoted
In the Great Controversy, Mrs. White quotes only part of Isaiah 24:6 to "prove" that at Christ's coming, all the wicked will be destroyed on the earth, leaving the earth desolate during the millennium, while the saints supposedly will be taken to Heaven (page 657). Yet the rest of the verse states that there will be few men left. Scripture is plain that the millennial kingdom will be on the earth, not up in Heaven, Zechariah 14; Acts 1:11-12; Revelation 5:10, 2:26-27, 20:6, etc. The earth will, under the saints' rule under Christ, be restored to its Edenic glory, Isaiah 2:2-4, 11:1-9. God created the earth to be the home of mankind, not to be destroyed, Isaiah 45:18.
Seventh-day Adventists are not opposed to military service. They will, if conscripted, serve as medics.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, some leading Sabbath Adventists, such as H.E. Carver of Iowa, were opposed to bearing arms and believed that the church should adopt the same position publicly. James White wrote in the Review that to engage in war would be a violation of two of God's commandments, but in case of being drafted, the government would be responsible for an individual's violation of God's commandments. In effect, he said that it was all right in these cases to break God's law! However, Iowa Church of God brethren were so adamantly against warfare that they petitioned and were granted a special state exemption as non-combatants, which the White group branded as "fanaticism."
The Church of God has always been fundamentally opposed to bearing arms or to come under military authority. They do not waffle on this issue.
As detailed in our article, "And Follow Their Faith!" Adventists changed their general opposition to participation in carnal warfare, and expelled German Adventists who refused to accept this doctrinal change. See the book, published by the Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement, "And Follow Their Faith!" available from Giving & Sharing.
Marriage Sanctity Not Stressed
Besides prohibition of foods that God intended for man to eat, Ellen G. White discouraged marriage: "In this age of the world," she stated, "as the scenes of earth's history are soon to close, and we are about to enter upon the time of trouble such as never was, the fewer marriages contracted, the better for all, both men and women" (Testimonies, 1885, Volume V, page 366).
Marriage is not one of the strongest doctrines of Seventh-day Adventists. A Seventh Day Baptist leader told me he has seen a scholarly research paper proving that Seventh-day Adventists have one of the highest divorce rates of any Protestant denomination. Since divorce, and especially divorce and remarriage (contrary to the Bible) is an important religious issue today, SDA's are culpable in not having the right doctrine and not speaking out on this vital issue.
Good Friday - Easter Sunday Belief
Mrs. White's visions supposedly supported the idea that Christ was crucified on a Friday and resurrected on a Sunday. Jesus said the only sign He would give that He was the Messiah, was that He would be three days AND three nights in the heart of the earth, Matthew 12:40. The way people argue around the plain statements of Jesus to cling to the Good Friday-Easter Sunday tradition, never ceases to amaze me. Christ was not resurrected on Sunday morning, but on Saturday as the Sabbath was ending.
Some SDA's believe in the Saturday resurrection, although the official church position supports Sunday. Some writers have attempted to show that Ellen G. White suggested a Saturday resurrection in her book, Desire of the Ages.
One of the key doctrines of the Church of God (Seventh Day) since the 1860s has been their belief of the Wednesday crucifixion and Saturday resurrection. This belief gives a death blow to Sunday-keeping, and it is strange that SDA's keep the Sabbath, yet also believe in the Sunday resurrection doctrine.
Adventists Hold Pagan, Unscriptural Trinity Belief
Adventists believe in the Trinity, that God is three persons in one. Early English and American Sabbatarians and the Church of God have rejected Trinitarianism. Joseph Davis, Sr., a member of the London Mill Yard Church, wrote in 1670 that he believed in one God the Father, one Lord Christ, and that the Holy Spirit is the power of God, not part of a "Trinity." Historically, Trinitarianism is not a doctrine commonly associated with Sabbath-keepers. Ellen G. White carried over many of her Methodist beliefs into the Adventist church.
There are many Bible proofs against the Trinity. For instance, if the Holy Spirit is a distinct person, then the Holy Spirit, not God the Father, is the sire of Jesus, Matthew 1:18. This is ridiculous! The word "Trinity" is not found in the Bible, so the burden of proof is upon Trinitarians to prove the existence of three beings. Adventists believe that the Holy Spirit, or the Comforter, is the personal representative of Christ on the earth. The Bible says that we must have the spirit of Christ in us, Romans 8:11, that Christ in us is our hope of glory, Colossians 1:27. Both God the Father and Christ are composed of Holy Spirit essence, which is their power and mind, Philippians 2:5; II Timothy 1:7. They are both Holy Spirit.
Early Adventists, such as pioneer Joseph Bates, were not Trinitarians. Some conservative Adventists today, such as Richard Carlson, believe that the Seventh-day Adventist General Conference no longer represents God's faithful people, primarily because of its ecumenical and authoritarian stance, and the acceptance and teaching of the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity. The Trinity is the fundamental doctrine of the Catholic Church, upon which all her other doctrines are based.
Easter and Quarterly Communion
Because Mrs. White was originally a Methodist, we can understand why she carried Protestant ideas such as the Trinity over into her new religion. This is, no doubt, the reason why she continued the practice of observing communion quarterly. The Church of God, from its inception on the Day of Pentecost in the First Century, has observed the Christian Passover annually, as the replacement of the Jewish Passover.
Seventh-day Adventist scholar Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi verifies that the early true Christians kept the annual Passover. In his famous book, From Sabbath to Sunday (pages 81, 161-164, 198-207) he cites Epiphanius who said that until 135 A.D., Christians everywhere observed the Passover on the Jewish date (not with a lamb, but with bread and wine as Jesus instituted). He also gives much other historical material which nails down the fact that "the inclination to break away from Judaism" led Rome to abandon the Quartodeciman Passover (annual Passover on the 14th day of the first Hebrew month of Nisan) as well as leave the seventh-day Sabbath and instead keep Easter and Sunday. Sunday-keeping is the weekly extension of an annual Easter. And Easter is based on the false idea that Christ was resurrected on a Sunday morning.
How SDA's can justify keeping communion quarterly, and Easter which borrows relics from paganism, after reading the works of one of their greatest scholars, Dr. Bacchiocchi, is a source of amazement to me!
Against God's Holy Days
Seventh-day Adventists present quite typical Protestant anti-Holy Day arguments. They generally do not know too much about the Holy Days. And quite surprisingly, in their official publication against the Radio (later Worldwide) Church of God, they only devote a few pages toward the end of the book to a refutation of the Holy Days. Since the antitypical fulfillment of each of the Holy Days has already occurred, they reason, there is little purpose in observing the Holy Days.
One does not, and cannot, understand something he hasn't experienced. You cannot understand the Holy Days until you keep them. Those who truly keep the Holy Days know - from the Scriptures - that every one of the Holy Days (even Passover) points also to a future event as yet unfulfilled in God's plan.
In 1995, leading Adventist Dr. Samuele Bacchioccchi, demonstrated in his book, God's Festivals in Scripture and History, that all of the Biblical Holy Days point to past, present, and future events. This "discovery" led Bacchiocchi to accept the Holy Days. He found that many SDA collegues had already been privately keeping the Holy Days as well. So, perhaps on this issue, some SDA's are making spiritual progress! It is also encouraging to note that Bacchiocchi attacks the observance of pagan holidays such as Christmas and Easter.
They Are Protestants! They Are Catholics!
A revealing SDA belief is their open admission that they are Protestants. Ellen G. White writes glowingly of Reformers such as Martin Luther. This may be merely following the common view that one is either a Catholic or a Protestant.
This concept is contrary, however, to the Biblical view that the true apostolic Church of God largely fell away, and controlling elements initiated the great false Catholic church, while scattered true believers fled into obscurity, leaving only traces of their existence in history's record.
The Catholic Church is the great whore, and has many harlot Protestant daughters, Revelation 17:5. I am a member of the Church that has no connection with this system! SDA's are in reality little different than Protestants. Their doctrines are permeated with Catholic and non-Biblical corruption, such as Trinity, Good Friday, Easter, Christmas, etc. A tree is known by its fruit. They are a Protestant church that happens to keep the Sabbath. But, let us have hope that many SDA's can return to the faith once delivered. We should never write them off. Let us help them as we can.
Conservative SDA's are appalled that their church hierarchy has joined the World Council of Churches, and compares its government to that of the Catholic Church. As reported in The End Times newsletter, Walter Scragg, President of the SDA South Pacific Division, admitted that "the structure of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is essentially hierarchical...The pyramid of church organization. . . " (Record, June 23, 1990, pp. 4-5). Douglas Devnich, President of the SDA Canadian Union, stated, "The Seventh-day Adventist Church follows a model of organizational order in the church which is modified from the orders of Roman Catholicism, but it retains the same notions of clerical order which separates the members of the church into two classes - clergy and laity" (Messenger, December, 1993, p. 2). In the March 5, 1981, issue of Adventist Review, SDA General Conference President Neal C. Wilson stated, "There is another universal and truly catholic organization, the Seventh-day Adventist Church."
The SDA Pacific Press Publishing Association, defending itself against a lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, stated, "Although it is true that there was a period in the life of the Seventh-day Adventist Church when the denomination took a distinctly anti-Roman Catholic viewpoint, and the term 'hierarchy' was used in the pejorative sense to refer to the papal form of church governance, that attitude on he church's part was nothing more than a manifestation of widespread anti-popery among conservative Protestant denominations in the early part of this century and the latter part of the last, and which has now been consigned to the historical trash heap so far as the Seventh-day Adventist Church is considered" (civil case #74-2025 CBR 1975, Reply Brief for Defendants, p. 4). On September 14, 1996, a Catholic priest, Benedict O'Cinnsealeigh, gave a Sabbath sermon to the SDA Church of Kettering, Ohio, explaining forty similarities between the Roman Catholic Church and Seven-day Adventists. Judge William T. Hart, in handing down a decision against Derrick Proctor and in favor of the SDA Church, stated, "Church documents that prescribe the church's structure and governance confirm that all parts of the church are parts of a single entity. Next to the Roman Catholic Church, the Adventist church is the most centralized of all he major Christian denominations in this country." More information is given in The End Times, published by Richard Carlson, PO Box 1102, Lady Lake, FL 32158-1102.
Purpose and Place of Church Organization
Seventh-day Adventists say they are the true church, the "remnant people of God." They say there may be people saved who were never in their organization, but all who hear their message and have the opportunity to join them, must do so to be saved. They hold that they are the only organization. The powers exercised by SDA leaders are similar to those of the Catholic hierarchy. There is a strict test of fellowship, and those not complying are excommunicated. Each candidate for baptism must agree to a list of statements of SDA beliefs before being baptized. Tithes are sent to regional or general headquarters. Pastors are appointed to churches and paid by the Conference, which holds legal title to the local church property.
The Church of God is not any exclusive church organization; membership in an "organization" is not, and never has been, a pre-requisite for salvation. Search the New Testament diligently, and you will never see all tithes going to a central church headquarters, you will never see all ministers appointed from headquarters. There is no Bible example of a monolithic church hierarchical organization. Instead, local elders assisted individual members to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling, Philippians 2:12. Rather than proudly claiming to be the "only ones" that God has called, true believers remember Elijah's lack of awareness of other believers, Romans 11:1-5, and realize that God knows those who are His, II Timothy 2:19.
Ellen G. White had a vision that told her that the Sabbath Adventists should be called "Seventh-day Adventists," and that to use the term "Church of God" would be to excite suspicion, conceal absurd errors, and be a mark of fanaticism. However, as usual, she contradicted her own visions and used the name Church of God in several instances during the early years.
The Eternal's true people are kept in His own name, John 17:11. To use the Scriptural name for the body of His people is not fanaticism: Acts 20:28; I Corinthians 1:2, 10:32, 11:16, 22, 15:9; II Corinthians 1:1; I Thessalonians 2:14; II Thessalonians 1:4; I Timothy 3:5, 15; and Galatians 1:13.
Amalgamation of Man and Beast
Mrs. White said in Spirit of Prophecy, Volume I, page 78, "Every species of animals which God created was preserved in the ark. The confused species which God did not create, which were the result of amalgamation, were destroyed by the flood. Since the flood, there has been amalgamation of man and beast, as may be seen in the almost endless varieties of species of animals, and in certain races of men." This appeared in the 1864 and 1870 editions of this book, but was quietly omitted in later editions.
Uriah Smith supported this: "there was amalgamation; and the effect is still visible in certain races of men . . . . wild Bushmen of Africa, some tribes of the Hottentots, and perhaps the Digger Indians of our own country, etc." (The Visions, by Uriah Smith, leading SDA writer, page 103).
The beast and man mixing theory is something that no modern SDA would support. This idea is more absurd than evolution. SDA's are not honest when they cover up for the errors of their "prophetess."
A Great Plagiarist
Ellen G. White copied profusely from other books, never giving credit yet claiming that every word she wrote was a direct revelation from God. Her Sketches from the Life of Paul was taken so largely from Conybeare & Howson's Life and Epistles of Paul, that SDA's were compelled to take it off the market when it was in great demand.
Her best known book, Great Controversy, was largely copied from D'Aubigne's History of the Reformation and Wylie's History of Protestantism. Whole paragraphs were used with little or no change yet with no quotation marks or credit. Finally, the 1911 edition of Controversy introduced quotation marks and has over 400 credits not shown in older editions. More information on this aspect of Adventism is given in the articles by Sydney Cleveland in this series.
Wise Advice on Debt - Not Followed
If only Mrs. White and SDA's would follow her teachings! She warned her followers to "Shun debt as they should shun the leprosy" (Testimonies, Volume II, page 217). Yet she was nearly $90,000 in debt when she died in the early 1900s.
Reform Dress - Quietly Forgotten
About 1863 or earlier, Mrs. White wrote in Testimonies, Volume I, page 458, "Christians should not take pains to make themselves a 'gazing stock' by dressing differently from the world."
Later she changed her teaching and said, "God would now have His people adopt the reform dress, not only to distinguish them from the world as his 'peculiar people,' but because a reform dress is essential to physical and mental health" (Testimonies, Volume I, page 525). On page 424 she said the women's dresses should be an inch or two above the floor, while on page 521 she advised nine inches from the floor.
The "reform dress" was loose pants with a sack over it. She said that "It is just what we need to distinguish and separate God's commandment-keeping people from the world" (Testimonies, Volume III, page 171). Mrs. White even sold patterns for the SDA women to make the dress.
Great importance was attached to the reform dress, so much that a daughter of an Adventist pioneer preacher, in coming to the altar in a prayer meeting, was loudly asked by the minister, "Will you wear the reform dress?"
Most SDA women grudgingly went along. Mrs. White went to California about 1872, and before returning, she quietly rejected the dress. Other Adventist women quickly followed suit.
Prior to 1900s, some Battle Creek Adventist women tried to restore the reform dress, but were sharply rebuked by Mrs. White who said, "The Lord does not require any test of human invention . . . . No one precise style has been given me as the exact rule to guide all in their dress" (Review & Herald, September 11, 1900). First the reform dress was a vision from God; but now it was reduced to merely a human invention.
The SDA apologist, F.D. Nichol, devotes nearly 25 pages of his book, Ellen G. White and Her Critics, to try to show that she didn't receive instruction in a vision about skirts 9 inches above the floor. The above quotes, plus a picture of Mrs. White in such a dress about this length, proves Nichol wrong.
As I read articles pro and con about Ellen G. White, I am greatly amazed how Seventh-day Adventists can respect their "prophetess." Maybe it is because few today have seen the old editions which were later "edited" to remove damaging comments. Having personally examined many of these dusty texts, I cannot help but question the moral integrity of such men. The Almighty is their judge.
"The writings of Mrs. E. G. White were never designed to be an addition to the canon of Scripture. They are, nevertheless, the messages of God to the remnant church, and should be received as such, the same as were the messages of the prophets of old" (Review & Herald, October 4, 1928).
If we carefully examine this statement, we will clearly see the religious doubletalk. Scripture cannot be broken, John 10:35. It has no error. God doesn't inspire any error. All writings of uninspired man are prone to error and falsehood, no matter what their intentions may be. So if Ellen G. White's writings are not scripture, she is in one statement "taken off the hook" for any error she may have. On the other hand, it is claimed that her writings are the messages of God and should be treated equally with the messages given to Samuel, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. But these prophets' messages are in the Bible. What is the difference? It's the same effect. Just because we don't trust anyone today to "canonize" Scripture doesn't mean that men today don't recognize various writings as inspired. Mormons have their Book of Mormon, SDA's have Ellen G. White's writings, Christian Scientists have Mary Baker Eddy, all the while claiming to believe in the Holy Bible, along with some other inspired writings. Somehow the meaning of Revelation 22:18-19 seems to escape these people. May the Eternal help us not engage in such hypocritical double talk, attempting to reason around following another human being! God's Word cannot be broken. Man's words can. Let us recognize the difference.
Source of Ellen G. White's Visions
Seventh-day Adventists claim the source of Mrs. White's visions was divine. During numerous visions, doctors attested to the fact that she stopped breathing and was unconscious, but her heart beat regularly. In an 1858 vision, she was confined to bed and raised the upper part of her body at a 30 degree angle up from the bed unsupported by hands and arms for 30 minutes. A leading Adventist minister, J.N. Loughborough, who personally witnessed this event, states, "Here again was proof that some power over which she had no control was connected with the vision" (Loughborough, Rise and Progress of the Seventh-Day Adventists, pages 91-95, 218-219).
The Bible, however, shows that God's true prophets are never possessed with such a spirit. "The spirits of the prophets are subject to the control of the prophets" (I Corinthians 14:32, NIV). Verse 14 of Romans 8 shows that God's Spirit leads and does not take over and control us apart from our own will.
From her childhood, when she was struck in the head by a rock and was in a coma for days, until later in life, Mrs. White suffered nervous and physical disorders. Later, when her health improved (possibly from keeping the laws of health, such as abstaining from pork), the visions were less frequent and not as intense.
Dr. W. J. Fairfield, brought up as an SDA, and for years a physician in their Sanitarium at Battle Creek, wrote a letter on December 28, 1887, stating: "You are undoubtedly right in ascribing Mrs. E. G. White's so-called visions to disease. It has been my opportunity to observe her case a good deal, covering quite a period of years, which, with a full knowledge of her history from the beginning gave me no chance to doubt her 'divine' attacks to be simply hysterical trances. Age itself has almost cured her."
Dr. William Long, an SDA and chief physician at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, wrote on July 12, 1869 that he had made up his mind some time previously "that Mrs. White's visions were the result of a diseased organization or condition of the brain or nervous system."
Ellen G. White admitted at a conference at Pilot Grove, Iowa in 1865, that when she visited Dr. Jackson's Health Institute, the doctor, upon a medical examination, pronounced her a subject of hysteria.
How Mrs. White's visions enabled her husband, James White, and herself to gain control of the Sabbath Adventist movement, and how the visions supported prevalent ideas, and changed when the weight of opinion changed, how the visions conveniently came to correct those who disbelieved in Mrs. White's divine revelation, is shown time and again in our books, History of the Seventh Day Church of God, Volume I, and Six Papers on the History of the Church of God, article, "Sabbath Adventists."
Since the days of legal organization of the Sabbath Adventists, the visions of Ellen G. White have been made a test. In 1862, Uriah Smith, a leading SDA writer, in Review & Herald, said, "those who reject the gifts do not have true union with the body. From the very nature of the case, they cannot have it." Thus, belief in Ellen G. White's visions is as important as deciding with whom to fellowship, as well as the Sabbath, baptism, and the coming of Christ!
Do They Really Believe in the Sabbath?
There is a serious question whether or not Seventh-day Adventists truly are Sabbath-keepers. They believe that enforced Sunday observance is the "mark of the Beast." Yet when government bodies force them to work on the Sabbath, they give in and do so.
An example is the SDA church in the former Soviet Union. The "Official" SDA church in the USSR cooperated with military service requirements of the government, obtained prior government approval of sermons, sent their children to school on the Sabbath, and cooperated with government-enforced programs in the autumn, when young people were required to harvest crops on the Sabbath.
This is not an historical oddity, because in Germany during World War I, SDA's approved of participation of their young men in the military, including the bearing of arms. The desires of a totalitarian government, they felt, superseded Acts 5:29. In the Nazi era, Adventist church leaders accommodated the Nazi state, joined the Nazi war machine, fought on the Sabbath, and gave Nazi salute. The April 20, 1940, Morning Watch (Adventist publication) praised Adolph Hitler for his humility, self-sacrifice and "warm heart." Adventists even disfellowshipped members of Jewish origin, and testified against Adventists who they expelled for being conscientious objectors. See the book, And Follow Their Faith! Published by the Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement, and available from Giving & Sharing.
To their credit, a small group of Adventists in the Soviet Union, called True and Free Seventh-Day Adventists, refused to sell out to Babylon. They opposed the "official" sanctioned church, but did not seem to have much support from American Adventists.
A Strange Church?
The Seventh-day Adventist stance on homosexuality seems to be ambivalent at best. There are at least two separate organizations of SDA homosexuals: the Orion Fellowship Alliance (formed 1982) and the Seventh-Day Adventist Kinship International (formed 1977). Both seek to minister to SDA gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual people. The SDA Kinship has a liaison with the SDA General Conference. Although it is not officially sanctioned (yet) by the Church, SDA Kinship speakers have been invited to speak at SDA colleges. Some Adventist pastors refer counselees to SDA Kinship, and no longer consider being gay and Christian a contradiction of terms. Six official representatives of the SDA church attended a gay Adventist meeting and as a result of their joint discussions, presented nine proposals to the Church administration, seven of which were passed, one of which was to call for an in-depth reevaluation of the Church's position on homosexuality.
To his consternation, Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi reports that in California, there are several SDA Churches that openly promote acceptance of the gay and lesbian lifestyle.
Church Built on Sand
Our Savior doesn't change, Hebrews 13:8. If He truly lives in us, we won't change either. When you see a church liberalize and water down doctrinal beliefs, then you know the Spirit is not leading them.
Several years ago, an 86-year-old Sabbath-keeper visited our home. He was closely associated with Adventists for 50 years. He said that Adventists formerly avoided anything to do with worldly holidays which stem from paganism, such as Christmas and Easter. Other older Sabbath-keepers tell me that old time Adventists were staunchly against divorce and remarriage. SDA's have bent with the pressure of society and thrown away truths they once had.
May it always be said of us, that we are true and consistent with our beliefs and convictions, continually growing in God's truth, and holding fast to His revealed ways of life!
Adventists are part of the shifting sands of modern Protestantism. They are not built on the rock of the Savior of mankind.
An Honest Conclusion
In discussing Ellen G. White with a couple of Adventist friends, they remarked how they look to the Bible only, and do not equate her writings with the Bible. However, they say that studying her writings with the Bible, really helps one understand. Like the founding principles of the SDA church, Adventists today coexist with a contradiction of terms. On the one hand, SDA writings and Mrs. White herself, equate everything she wrote to God's message for His end time people. Yet on the other hand, we find "loyal" SDA's who do not abstain from meat, who question many of her "infallible" precepts.
As a former member of the Worldwide Church of God founded by Herbert W. Armstrong, I am sometimes subjected to ridicule because of the claims he has made as being "God's Apostle." Yet Herbert Armstrong never made quite the degree of claims to infallibility that Ellen G. White did. He changed doctrinal teachings openly time and again as a result of study. I never heard Herbert Armstrong quoted equally with the Bible in religious services. He was rarely quoted. Doctrines were generally believed and practiced by the entire membership.
I do find some similarities, however. Early literature in both groups is suppressed and sometimes altered. There is great central authority and uniformity of belief is stressed. Most of the membership in the Seventh-day Adventist and Worldwide Church of God are oblivious to the truth of what is really going on, and few check out the early history of their church. Both groups have recently undergone serious defections. Desmond Ford and many Australian SDA's have differed sharply with Adventist headquarters over the Investigative Judgment, and may be in the process of forming a new denomination. (There have been many splits from the SDA church through the years.)
SDA's are acting as if their founder was not completely inspired in everything, but refuse to admit openly that their founder had and taught many errors and had questionable conduct. In the case of the Worldwide Church of God, for many years, Herbert Armstrong taught "divine inspiration" for a Monday Pentecost and was against divorce and remarriage. Then in later years he claimed "divine" inspiration for a Sunday Pentecost and freedom to divorce and remarry for almost any reason. Ellen G. White did the same sort of thing. This breach cannot be healed. At one time (or both) they had to be uninspired. I have to be honest and flee such confusion.
We are Sabbath-keepers, but not Seventh-day Adventists. Some day, the Eternal will help us all to see eye to eye.
Sunday-keepers may think that we are little different than Seventh-Day Adventists. But my honest conclusion is that there is a vast difference. Being honest with the Bible and with Ellen G. White's writings is the basic reason why I am not a Seventh-day Adventist.
- written by Richard C. Nickels W
This article was originally published as Study No. 64.
Seventh Day Baptists and Seventh-Day Adventists: A Study of How They Differ, 12 pages. American Sabbath Tract Society, Plainfield, New Jersey.
Radio Church of God: How Its Teachings Differ from Those of Seventh-Day Adventists, by Harry W. Lowe, 143 pages. Pacific Press, Mountain View, California.
"Gathering Call Material" (Part J) of Volume II of History of the Seventh Day Church of God, by Richard C. Nickels.
"What Is a Seventh-day Adventist?" by Arthur S. Maxwell, in Religions in America, edited by Leo Rosten.
Why I Am Not a Seventh-Day Adventist, by Edward L. Saunders, 29 pages. Church of God Publishing House, Meridian, Idaho.