When Adventists Simply Aren’t

Posted on November 14, 2013


Two Adventist GroupsAuthor: Andrew Kerbs

You may be scratching your head at the title—When Adventists Simply Aren’t. 

It refers to a modern phenomenon in the church in which there are Seventh-day Adventist church members who are anything but Seventh-day Adventist. Now I’ll give a premature disclaimer. I’m not advocating cookie-cutter doctrinalism (I might have made that word up). You know, the scene where everyone must have identical theology, pray the same way, look the same way, worship the same way, explain 1844 the same way, or else risk being left out—or worse, called a “liberal!” 

However, let me pose a series of questions. And yes, they are rhetorical. 

What do you call a Seventh-day Adventist Christian who isn’t a vegetarian. Well, I suppose they’d still be a Seventh-day Adventist, even if they don’t share the same emphasis on the health message as some others do. What would you call a Seventh-day Adventist Christian who doesn’t care for pastors quoting Ellen White in their sermons? They’d still be have a Seventh-day Adventist. 

And this lack of uniformity is fine. But unity can still thrive. Unity and uniformity are not synonymous. And here’s a provocative, tangential quip: anyone who says those two are synonymous probably has an agenda afoot and is best left ignored. The world church, in fact, thrives on diversity. I had the privilege of attending the last General Conference session in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2010. Without descending into the politics of Ted Wilson or what have you, I will say this. Never have I seen such a massively diverse group of people who were so fervently united in purpose and ideal. They all looked different, spoke different, and worshiped different. But every soul I came in contact with, whether from England, Kenya, or Argentina, had a passion for Christ and his soon return. Unity and uniformity aren’t the same. 

With that said, let me pose a few more questions. 

What do you call a Seventh-day Adventist who disbelieves in the credibility of Ellen White? Not only this, but they feel the fourth commandment is in no way binding upon New Testament Christians, thus Sabbath-keeping is more a cultural thing than a spiritual one. They also have their doubts about the validity of William Miller’s being called of God and the whole dating system that landed us on 1844. In fact, the whole sanctuary in heaven motif also seems a bit of a stretch. After all, they say, the atonement was completed at the cross, so hush with all of this investigative judgment chatter. To top it all off, they think the health message is useful at best, and a complete waste of time at worst. 

From this assessment you’d think they’d be a critic on the outside looking in, but Seventh-day Adventism has this peculiar predicament in that many of our harshest critics are those who insist on remaining within the church as members. Not only members, but members who are involved, active, upright, and spiritual leaders. Yet they actively disbelieve every tenet Seventh-day Adventist was founded upon. 

As I said before, I do not care what you believe. I’m not looking for uniformity, but if I were a Muslim and disbelieved in the ministry of Muhammad and questioned the validity of the Quran, what kind of a Muslim would I be? If I were a Buddhist and put no stock in meditation and inner balance, what kind of a Buddhist would I be? If I were a Catholic, yet didn’t believe in papal infallibility, didn’t believe in the authoritative nature of church tradition, disbelieved in the Eucharist, what kind of Catholic would I be? Well, I’d probably be a Protestant. 

There’s the case and point, though. How is it we have Seventh-day Adventists who disbelieve everything the church was founded upon, yet still are bound and determined to call themselves Seventh-day Adventists? 

“I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.” (Acts 20:29, 30) 

The Bible makes it clear; there will be critics and deceivers who originate within our own ranks. 

“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5) 

They will appear to be godly individuals according to Paul. Yet they follow their fleshly lusts, denying the Spirit. 

So the question is, what to do about it? The answer really isn’t that difficult. Thankfully, Paul, in his narrative to Timothy, continues on and offers advice for this predicament. 

“You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness,11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete,equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy: 3:10-17) 

Sometimes I think Paul was looking down through time at the church when he wrote those words, but he wasn’t. The fact was these things were already occurring in Paul’s day. His advice is this: stick to what you know to be true. 

The Word of God is the only sure anchor. We are facing spiritual storms of unrest like no other time in history, when every wind of doctrine is blowing about. Wolves in sheep’s clothing have truly come amidst the flock and if it were not for the aid of the Holy Spirit, there may be no church left. 

This is a call to trust God and to continue to go to the source of Truth, God’s Word. Christ said in his prayer, “Sanctify them by your truth, your Word is truth.” (John 17:17) Paul also says in Romans 10:17 that “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” 

Righteousness is by faith as is sanctification. These all are made known to us through the Word of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Let’s go back to our Protestant roots of sola scriptura. Stop being blown about by various doctrine, but test all things to Scripture. Hold on to the biblical pillars of truth that have guided us these many years. 

May we always remember the words of Isaiah, “To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.” (Isaiah 8:20) 

*All Bible quotes taken from the English Standard Version.