The Seventh-day Adventist Church
Its beliefs and practices
Seventh-day Adventists (SDAs) follow most of the beliefs of conventional conservative Christianity: creation in six days, the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden, original sin; the virgin birth; the divinity of Christ; the nature of the Trinity; belief in Satan as a rebellious created being; God's inspiration of the authors of the Bible, the inerrancy of Scriptures as they were written by their authors; the resurrection of Jesus, salvation by the atonement of Christ, considering all same-gender sexual behavior as sinful, regardless of the nature of the relationship; rejection of same-sex marriage, civil unions, etc.
However, they differ from other conservative Protestants on a number of other beliefs:
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Writings of Ellen White: Ellen White is recognized by the Seventh-day Adventist church as having received the gift of prophecy. The written works by Ellen White:
"... are a continuing and authoritative source of truth which provide for the church comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction." 1
This produced some conflict within the Church when research in the 1980's suggested that she had borrowed heavily from contemporary writers. However, "An Analysis of the Literary Dependency of Ellen White" by David J. Conklin appears to demonstrate that there is no proof of Ellen White's plagiarism. 2 He later analyzed:
"... one chapter from Ellen G. White’s Desire of Ages which, of all her works, has received the most extensive investigation regarding alleged plagiarism, and compared it to the corresponding chapters of 47 other works of the same genre and century, using the computerized literary tool WCopyfind to locate parallel phrases between the various works. These parallels are then evaluated for strength and frequency. Study results indicate that un-attributed borrowing of phraseology was rather common, and even considered to be more acceptable among the nineteenth-century authors of this genre than would be acceptable in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The minimal borrowing by Ellen G. White in this chapter was within the acceptable standards of that era." 7
| ||Immortality: They deny the concept of "innate immortality". They believe that a person is not naturally immortal. When a person dies, they remain unconscious until they are resurrected. Eternal life is a gift which God gives only to righteous Christians; the rest will be ultimately annihilated and no longer exist in any form. Thus, they do not believe that a person goes to heaven for an eternal reward or to hell for never-ending torture immediately upon death as do many other conservative Christian denominations.|
|Investigative Judgment: This refers to a process that started in 1844 CE and remains active in Heaven today. Jesus is going through the Book of Life -- as mentioned in Revelation 5 -- to determine who is saved and who is lost. Only those who have:|
|believed in Jesus, |
|kept God's commandments, |
| ||followed the faith of Jesus, and|
|have retained faith in Jesus|
will be saved. That is, salvation is dependent upon both one's beliefs and one's works.
When Jesus returns to Earth in the near future at the time of his second coming, everyone's eternal fate will already have been determined. Seventh-day Adventist members note that the Bible states that God's pattern is to investigate before exercising judgment. 3 Examples are:
| ||In Genesis 3, God visited Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to determine first hand that they had eaten the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil and thus caused the fall or rise of humanity. (Interpretations of the impact of eating the fruit differ.) |
|In Genesis 19, God came down from heaven to learn first-hand what was happening in Sodom and Gomorrah. |
|In Revelation 20:4-6, at the time of Jesus' second coming, Jesus is described as having arrived on Earth to execute previously determined judgment on humans, not perform investigations to determine what judgment is just for each individual. |
| ||Jesus' return: The second coming of Christ is imminent. Believers should be ready at all times to be removed from earth to be with God in heaven. Others will be exterminated by Christ during what will be the largest genocide in history. Righteous Christians who had previously died will be resurrected at that time and taken to heaven. For the following 1000 years, only Satan and his fallen angels will be living on earth. A second resurrection will occur at the end of that period. The righteous will then return to a cleansed earth, and establish the New Jerusalem.|
The unrighteous who died before the Second Coming will be resurrected and be annihilated; they will be consumed by fire from God, along with Satan and his angels. The universe will then be free of sin and sinners. Hell exists as a lake of fire where the unrighteous are "burned up, utterly destroyed, and cease forever to exist". They do not view Hell as a place of eternal torment. The vast majority of humans who have ever lived will be among the unrighteous. They will cease to exist in any form.
The practice of Adventism varies greatly from congregation to congregation. Some are more conservative; others more liberal. This is seen in their degree of emphasis on the writings of Ellen White, their customary clothing styles, their order of service, choice of music, etc.
|Abortion: The Seventh-day Adventist church takes a position between the strict pro-life and strict pro-choice alternatives. A set of "Guidelines on Abortion" was approved by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Executive Committee on 1992-OCT-12. It says in part:|
"The Church does not serve as conscience for individuals; however, it should provide moral guidance. Abortions for reasons of birth control, gender selection, or convenience are not condoned by the Church. Women, at times however, may face exceptional circumstances that present serious moral or medical dilemmas, such as significant threats to the pregnant woman's life, serious jeopardy to her health, severe congenital defects carefully diagnosed in the fetus, and pregnancy resulting from rape or incest. The final decision whether to terminate the pregnancy or not should be made by the pregnant woman after appropriate consultation. She should be aided in her decision by accurate information, biblical principles, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, these decisions are best made within the context of healthy family relationships."
|Adultery: Prior to 1946, adulterers were required to be disfellowshipped. Those who were sincerely repentant could be "placed under censure for a stipulated period of time." The would have to be re-baptized before rejoining the church. These policies have since been relaxed.|
|Baptism into the church is done by full immersion after the age of accountability. It is preceded by instruction, a personal acceptance of the Scriptures, repentance of sins, and confession of sins.|
Diet: Members are expected to abstain from alcohol, tobacco, and every other "soul-defiling habit".
They were once also expected to abstain from caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea, cola drinks, etc. The church has since removed this from the baptismal vows, although they still recommend that policy. They have interpreted the Old Testament dietary laws as prohibiting the eating of some foods. The church recommends avoiding red meat. Many members are vegetarians who supplement their diet with eggs and milk.
Their diet seems to produce significant positive results! Dan Buettner of the Blue Zones Project has spent years searching for pockets of people around the world who live longer than average. In the U.S., he found that Seventh-day Adventists have a life expectancy is 89 years, compared to 79 years for the average American. He attributes this to a combination of better diet and better stress management factors. 8
| ||Divorce: They regard marriage to be a divine institution. The Seventh-day Adventists only allow divorce if one spouse has committed adultery or fornication. However Adultery/fornication is defined very broadly to include incest, child sexual abuse, homosexual behavior, or excessively intimate behavior with a person who is not one's spouse. 5,6 There were discussions at the year 2000 General Conference Session of expanding grounds of divorce to include abandonment by a believing spousee. (A believing spouse means a fellow Seventh-day Adventist member. Roman Catholics, other Protestants, etc. are considered unbelievers in this context.) 4 However, this was not implemented. In practice, members who have terminated an unworkable toxic marriage are not shunned or harassed in any way.|
| ||Dress: Dress codes differ greatly among individual congregations. Some churches expect members to dress simply; others have no dress code requirements at all.|
|Education: Higher education is highly respected within the church. The rate of college graduates among the Seventh-day Adventist church membership is about twice the US national average.|
| ||Entertainment: Members are encouraged to watch uplifting entertainment. Some conservative SDA congregations suggest that members should "shun all questionable worldly amusements such as the theater and dance". However, most Adventists differ little from the average American in this area.|
|Evolution: The Seventh-day Adventist church has been quite active in the promotion of Creation Science in opposition to the theory of evolution. The Geoscience Research Institute at Loma Linda University (an Adventist institution) publishes a semi-annual periodical Origins which promotes Creation Science.|
| ||Homosexuality: In common with essentially all conservative Christian denominations, the SDA does not allow the ordination of homosexuals. Loving, committed same-sex couples cannot be married or have their civil unions recognized or blessed.|
| ||Inter-faith marriages are discouraged. This practice is based on 2 Corinthians 6:14 which cautions believers to "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?" Most Adventists interpret this as forbidding dating and marriage outside of the church. Even marriage by a SDA member to a person from another conservative Protestant is frowned upon.|
| ||Remarriage: In the early church, ministers would generally not unite in marriage any divorced person. This was made official by the General Conference Session in 1887. Currently, only "...the spouse who has remained faithful to the spouse who violated the marriage vow has the biblical right to secure a divorce and also to remarry. ... A spouse who has violated the marriage vow and who is divorced does not have the moral right to marry another while the spouse who has been faithful to the marriage vow still lives and remains unmarried and chaste. The person who does so shall be removed from church membership. The person whom he/she marries, if a SDA member, shall also be removed from church membership." 6|
|Sabbath: Perhaps their most obvious practice which differentiates them from most other Christian churches is that they follow observe Saturday as their weekly Sabbath (from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset). Their religious education classes are called Sabbath Schools, not Sunday Schools. Some followers give a "Happy Sabbath" greeting when they meet. |
The church follows the practice of the earliest Christian movement: the Jewish Christians who were located in Jerusalem under the leadership of James, a brother of Jesus. They observed the Jewish Saturday Sabbath because of very clear instructions from God that were to stay in effect forever. One example is Genesis 2:2-3. it describes how God rested on the seventh day, Saturday, after having spent the previous six days creating the world, its life forms and the rest of universe. God is recorded as blessing the day and making it holy. It was apparently created as a day of rest for all mankind, forever.
This practice was changed by the Church Council of Laodicea circa 364 CE, which ordered that future religious observances were to be conducted on Sunday. The Seventh Day Baptist church in the 17th century reverted to the practice of the primitive Christian church and adopted Saturday for religious services. The Seventh-day Adventist church followed suit.
Saturday worship has caused some employers to discriminate against those Seventh-day Adventist members who feel that they cannot work on Saturday. On the other hand, other companies have found that an employee who is willing to work every Sunday can be an asset.
An interesting development was experienced in Samoa and nearby countries after a shift was made in the International Date Line. This caused their day of the week at the end of 2011-DEC and later to match that of Australia and New Zealand. As a result, the government and people in Kiribati, Samoa, and Tonga observed a single week at that time that lasted only six days. After Thursday 2011-DEC-29, came Saturday DEC-31. However SDA members in those countries -- -- and later Futun and Wallis -- kept meeting every seven days. 9 As a result, at the end of 2011, the SDA churches started to hold meetings on what the governments and people regard as Sunday.
"cc_of_0z" clarified this matter in the Yahoo! Answers web site. She wrote:
"Tonga lies east of longitude 180 degrees. The international dateline deviates from a strict 180 degrees around Tonga and includes it with the other side of the date line on the next day. This is a man made deviation used for trade and economic reasons. Tongan Seventh-day Adventists do not accept this anomaly in the dateline. They worship on Sabbath from sunset to sunset according to the Earth's rotation as they have always done. Since they lie east of the 180 degree line, they use the Saturday Sabbath of the hemisphere they are located within - the Western Hemisphere. Adventists in Kiribati, Samoa, Tuvalu and remoter parts of Fiji do this too. It is not an acceptance of Sunday worship but a rejection of artificial date changes." 10
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- The Gift of Prophecy at: http://www.adventist.org/
- David J. Conklin, "An Analysis of the Literary Dependency of Ellen White: We Analyse, You Decide," at: http://dedication.www3.50megs.com/
- "Fundamental Beliefs: 24. Christ's Ministry in the Heavenly Sanctuary," Seventh-Day Adventist Church, at: http://www.adventist.org/
- Divorce and remarriage amendment discussions at the year 2000 meeting are covered in: http://session2000.adventist.org/ and http://session2000.adventist.org/
- Gerald Winslow, "Seventh-day Adventist policy on divorce and remarriage," Adventist Family Ministries, 2000, at: http://familyministries.gc.adventist.org/
- "Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual," 2000, marriage, divorce and remarriage section at: http://familyministries.gc.adventist.org/
- David J. Conklin, Jerry Moon, & Kevin Morgan, Abstract, "Analyzing Alleged Plagiarism in Nineteenth-Century Literature: A Case Study of Ellen G. White’s The Desire of Ages," Plagiary 2008 3(5): 1-29, 2008-JUL-25, at: http://www.plagiary.org
- Ryan Buxton, "What Seventh-Day Adventists Get Right That Lengthens Their Life Expectancy," Huffington Post, 2014-JUL-31, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
- "Samoa SDA Sunday worship not endorsed," Talumua Media & Publications, 2012-JUN-21, at: http://www.talamua.com
- "Seventh Day Adventists - Can you please explain this Sunday worship at a SDA church to me?," Yahoo! Answers, as on 2015-APR-19 at: https://au.answers.yahoo.com/
Copyright © 1997 to 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2015-APR-19
Author: B.A. Robinson