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The theology of the Seventh-day Adventist Church largely resembles that of mainstream Protestant Christianity, and in particular evangelicalism. Most significantly, Adventists believe in the authority of Scripture and teach that salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ. The 28 fundamental beliefs constitute the church's official doctrinal position.

The denomination also has a number of distinctive teachings which differentiate it from other Christian churches (although some of these beliefs are also held in other churches). Most notably, Adventists believe in the perpetuity of the Ten Commandments, the unconsciousness of man in death, conditional immortality, an atoning ministry of Jesus Christ in the heavenly sanctuary, and an “investigative judgment” that commenced in 1844. Furthermore, a traditionally historicist approach to prophecy has led Adventists to develop a unique system of eschatological beliefs which incorporates a commandment-keeping "remnant", a universal end-time crisis revolving around the law of God, and the visible return of Jesus Christ prior to a millennial reign of believers in heaven.

This article outlines the current teachings of the Adventist church from a mainstream perspective, and also explores some historical and controverted issues. For different theological perspectives, see the articles on Progressive Adventists and Historic Adventists.


Official beliefs

The Seventh-day Adventist denomination expresses its official teachings in a formal statement known as the 28 Fundamental Beliefs. This statement of beliefs was originally adopted by the church's General Conference in 1980, with an additional belief (number 11) being added in 2005. Also highly significant are the baptismal vows, of which there are two versions; candidates for church membership are required to accept one.

In addition to the fundamental beliefs, a number of " Official Statements" have been voted on by the church leadership, although only some of these are doctrinal in nature. The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary is a significant expression of Adventist theological thought.

Source of authority

View of Scripture

The first fundamental belief of the church states "The Holy Scriptures are the infallible revelation of [God's] will." Adventist theologians generally reject the "verbal inspiration" position on Scripture held by many conservative evangelical Christians. They believe instead that God inspired the thoughts of the biblical authors, and that the authors then expressed these thoughts in their own words. This view is popularly known as "thought inspiration". According to Ed Christian, former JATS editor, "few if any ATS members believe in verbal inerrancy".

Adventists generally reject higher critical approaches to Scripture. The 1986 statement Methods of Bible Study, "urge[s] Adventist Bible students to avoid relying on the use of the presuppositions and the resultant deductions associated with the historical-critical method." However some authors such as Alden Thompson believe a limited application of the method could have some use.

See " The historical-critical method: the Adventist debate" by Robert McIver. Ministry 69:3 (March 1996), 14–17.

Role of Ellen White

Seventh-day Adventist approaches to theology are affected by the level of authority accorded the writings of Ellen White. Mainstream Adventists believe that White had the spiritual gift of prophecy, but that her writings are inferior to the Bible, which has ultimate authority.

According to one church document, "her expositions on any given Bible passage offer an inspired guide to the meaning of texts without exhausting their meaning or preempting the task of exegesis". In other words, White's writings are considered an inspired commentary on Scripture, although Scripture remains ultimately authoritative. Conservative Adventists place a heightened emphasis on her writings, whereas progressive Adventists often feel at liberty to differ with her on various points. Which approach is taken has significant consequences for one's theology.

As an example, while the 1950s Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary represented many advances in Adventist theology, editor-in-chief Francis Nichol also stipulated that it must be consistent with the writings of Ellen White.

Relation to other groups

Adventist theology is distinctly Protestant, and holds much in common with Evangelicalism in particular. However, in common with many restorationist groups, Adventists have traditionally taught that the majority of Protestant churches have failed to "complete" the Reformation by overturning the errors of Roman Catholicism (see also Great Apostasy) and "restoring" the beliefs and practices of the primitive church—including Sabbath keeping, adult baptism and conditional immortality.

Adventists typically do not associate themselves with Fundamentalist Christianity:
"Theologically, Seventh-day Adventists have a number of beliefs in common with Fundamentalists, but for various reasons have never been identified with the movement... On their part, Adventists reject as unbiblical a number of teachings held by many (though not all) Fundamentalists..."
Others such as progressive Adventist Ervin Taylor, executive editor of Adventist Today as of 2007, believe there are fundamentalist tendencies in certain Adventist subcultures or traditional beliefs.

Theological variation

Historical development

Seventh-day Adventism has moved away from some legalistic and perfectionistic tendencies which characterised its earlier decades, towards a stronger emphasis on grace. One of the main factors contributing to this theological shift were discussions which took place between Adventists and evangelicals in the 1950s, culminating in the publication in 1957 of a book entitled Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine. An earlier factor was the 1888 Minneapolis General Conference after which the church developed a much greater focus on Jesus and "righteousness by faith".

Present truth and the Pillars

The early Adventists emphasized the concept of "present truth" -- see (NKJV). James White explained, “The church [has] ever had a present truth. The present truth now, is that which shows present duty, and the right position for us…” ”Present truth is present truth, and not future truth, and the Word as a lamp shines brightly where we stand, and not so plainly on the path in the distance.” Ellen White pointed out that “present truth, which is a test to the people of this generation, was not a test to the people of generations far back.” This view is echoed in the preamble to the 28 Fundamentals. "...Revision of these statements may be expected at a General Conference session when the church is led by the Holy Spirit to a fuller understanding of Bible truth or finds better language in which to express the teachings of God's Holy Word." The founders of the SDA church had a dynamic concept of what they called present truth, opposed to creedal rigidity, and had an openness to new theological understandings that built upon the landmark doctrines that had made them a people.

Yet, the possibilities of dynamic change in Seventh-day Adventist beliefs were not unlimited. Those landmark doctrines were non-negotiables in Adventist theology. Collectively they had provided the Seventh-day Adventists with an identity. In their eyes the pillars of their faith--the Bible doctrines that defined who they were as a people--had been thoroughly studied out in the Scripture and had been attested to by the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. As Ellen White put it, "When the power of God testifies as to what is truth, that truth is to stand forever as the truth. ... Men will arise with interpretations of Scripture which are to them truth, but which are not truth. The truth for this time, God has given us as a foundation for our faith. Robert Johnston noted, “Without repudiating the past leading of the Lord, it [the Seventh-day Adventist church] seeks even to understand better what that leading was. It is always open to better insights to learn—to seek for truth as for hid treasure. … Adventists are still pilgrims on a doctrinal journey who do not repudiate the way marks, but neither do they remain stopped at any of them.”

Ellen White wrote,
"There is no excuse for anyone in taking the position that there is no more truth to be revealed, and that all our expositions of Scripture are without an error. The fact that certain doctrines have been held as truth for many years by our people, is not a proof that our ideas are infallible. Age will not make error into truth, and truth can afford to be fair. No true doctrine will lose anything by close investigation."

These pillars, landmarks, way marks, are the investigative judgment, the sanctuary that brings this judgment to light, the three angel’s messages of Revelation, the law of God, the faith of Jesus, the Sabbath, the state of the dead, and the special gift of prophecy.

Unity and variation

The book Seeking a Sanctuary comments:
"...any reviewer is confronted by the difficulty of 'finding' Adventist theology. Is it composed of ideas preached from the pulpit, published by the press, or discussed among academic colleagues? Is it represented in authorized publications like Questions on Doctrine or the Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology. Some beliefs, such as the Sanctuary doctrine, are officially promulgated but may be doubted by Adventist academics. Others, such as the complete inerrancy of the Scriptures, are probably believed by most church members but not officially endorsed. Many elements of the church's eschatology are carefully taught to would-be converts but play no active part in the internal theological life of the church. There are, accordingly, discrepancies both between the beliefs emphasized in internal discussion and those expounded in outside evangelism, and between the ideas that circulate in various parts of the church's organization."

A 2002 survey of Adventists worldwide showed 91% acceptance of the following beliefs:

Results from 2002 survey
Doctrine Percentage of Adventists who agree
Sabbath 96%
Second coming 93%
Soul sleep 93%
Sanctuary and 1844 86% (35% believe there may be more than one interpretation of this doctrine)
Authority of Ellen White 81% (50% see a need for modern reinterpretation of White's writings)
Salvation through Christ alone 95%
Creation in 6 days 93%

In a 1985 questionnaire, the percentage of North American Adventist lecturers who nominated various beliefs as contributions they believed Adventists had made to contemporary theology are

Results from 1985 questionnaire of North American Adventist theologians
Doctrine Percentage contribution
Wholism 36%
Eschatology 29%
Sabbath 21%
Great Controversy 18%
Sanctuary 15%
(None) 11%
Salvation 9%
Scriptural interpretation 7%
Mission theology 4%
Health 4%

Theological spectrum

A theological spectrum exists within Adventism. Evangelical Kenneth Samples identifies four strands: one "quite traditional, another very liberal," another "distinctly evangelical", and "a segment that is atheological in nature and reflects what I would call a cultural Adventism."

So called historic Adventists hold to certain traditional positions that have been rejected by the mainstream in the last half-century. The "historic" movement has strong lay support in certain regions, but is not represented among the church's scholarship. By contrast, evangelical or "progressive Adventists" typically question some of the church's distinctive teachings and are more common amongst scholars employed by the church.

It is generally held that, with many exceptions, the scholars tend to be more liberal/progressive than both administrators and the average lay member. In a 1985 survey of North American Adventist lecturers, 45% described themselves as liberal compared to other church members, 40% as mainstream, 11% as conservative, and 4% gave no response to the question. The views of other church leaders such as administrators and evangelists are also significant in practice. Various official and unofficial media productions including television stations represent another face of the church. There are two main organizations of Adventist scholars or interested laypeople. The Adventist Theological Society describes its beliefs as "balanced and conservative Adventist theology", whereas the Adventist Society for Religious Studies is more progressive by comparison.

Jon Paulien has identified four brands of Adventism – evangelists and frontier missionaries whose beliefs are traditional yet creatively expressed, scholars concerned with an accurate understanding of the Bible, the typical church member (including most of the younger, postmodern generation) who is most concerned with what is relevant to ordinary life and not concerned with most doctrines, and those in the Two-thirds World who are similarly concerned for a minimal belief set impacted by tradition yet passionate about their faith.

Regional and cultural differences

There is a common perception that different cultures and regions of the world vary in their theology.

According to Edwin Hernández, the principal investigator of the AVANCE study into Latino Adventists in the North American Division, "There was a very high degree (95 percent) of fidelity to the orthodox teachings of the church."

Shared Protestant doctrine

Seventh-day Adventists uphold the central doctrines of Protestant Christianity: the Trinity, the incarnation, the virgin birth, the substitutionary atonement, justification by faith, creation, original sin, the second coming, the resurrection of the dead, and last judgment.

In Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine (1957), Adventists outlined the core doctrines that they share with Protestant Christianity.

"In Common With Conservative Christians and the Historic Protestant Creeds, We Believe—

1. That God is the Sovereign Creator, upholder, and ruler of the universe, and that He is eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.
2. That the Godhead, the Trinity, comprises God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
3. That the Scriptures are the inspired revelation of God to men; and that the Bible is the sole rule of faith and practice.
4. That Jesus Christ is very God, and that He has existed with the Father from all eternity.
5. That the Holy Spirit is a personal being, sharing the attributes of deity with the Father and the Son.
6. That Christ, the Word of God, became incarnate through the miraculous conception and the virgin birth; and that He lived an absolutely sinless life here on earth.
7. That the vicarious, atoning death of Jesus Christ, once for all, is all-sufficient for the redemption of a lost race.
8. That Jesus Christ arose literally and bodily from the grave.
9. That He ascended literally and bodily into heaven.
10. That He now serves as our advocate in priestly ministry and mediation before the Father.
11. That He will return in a premillennial, personal, imminent second advent.
12. That man was created sinless, but by his subsequent fall entered a state of alienation and depravity.
13. That salvation through Christ is by grace alone, through faith in His blood.
14. That entrance upon the new life in Christ is by regeneration, or the new birth.
15. That man is justified by faith.
16. That man is sanctified by the indwelling Christ through the Holy Spirit.
17. That man will be glorified at the resurrection or translation of the saints, when the Lord returns.
18. That there will be a judgment of all men.
19. That the gospel is to be preached as a witness to all the world."

All of these doctrines, with the exception of item 11 (regarding the premillennial return of Christ), are widely held amongst conservative or evangelical Protestants. (It should be noted that different Protestant groups hold varying views on the millennium.)

Regarding salvation, a major statement was the 1980 " The Dynamics of Salvation".

Distinctive doctrines

Seventh-day Adventists have often focused on those doctrines which are (at least somewhat) unique or distinctive to Adventism. This was particularly true in the early days of the movement, when it was assumed that most people the church witnessed to were already Christian to begin with, and that they already understood the gospel.

Anglican Geoffrey Paxton has commented,
Adventists "are often thought of as those who 'major on minors.' But those Adventists who have given support to this accusation can hardly be seen as faithful to the heartthrob of the Adventist mission. In fact, when viewed in the light of the real Adventist claim, this accusation will be seen as wide of the mark."

Sabbath and the Law

Biblical law and the Ten Commandments

Seventh-day Adventists believe that "the great principles of God's law are embodied in the Ten Commandments", and that these are "binding upon all people in every age" (Fundamental Belief no. 19). While the ceremonial and sacrificial laws of the Old Testament were fulfilled by the death of Jesus Christ, the 10 commandments are held to remain in force for Christian believers. The words of Jesus Christ in are foundational to this conviction:
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven."

The Seventh-day Sabbath

Seventh-day Adventists believe that the seventh day of the week, Saturday, is the biblical Sabbath which God set "apart for the lofty purpose of enriching the divine-human relationship". It is noted that the Sabbath is a recurring message in the Bible, mentioned in the Creation account, at Sinai, in the ministry of Jesus Christ and in the ministries of the apostles. The Sabbath serves as a weekly memorial to Creation and is a symbol of redemption, from both Egypt and sin. By keeping the Sabbath, Adventists are reminded of the way that God can make them holy, like he did the Sabbath, and they show their loyalty to God by keeping the commandment in the Decalogue. The Sabbath is also a time for Adventists to spend with other people and with God.

Adventists believe that the Sabbath is not just a holiday but rather is intended as a rest for believers to grow spiritually. It should be noted, however, that although Seventh-day Adventists do not believe that they are saved by keeping Saturday as the Sabbath, they attach considerably greater significance to Saturday-Sabbath keeping than other denominations attach to worship on Sunday.

Adventists do not see the Sabbath as a works-based doctrine, but rather righteousness comes solely through faith in Christ alone. The Sabbath commandment is seen as an act of faith in God's ideal for the believer, although its significance may not be seen by non-believers.

Seventh-day Adventists teach that there is no evidence of the Sabbath being changed to Sunday in the Bible. They teach instead that it was changed by gradual acceptance of Sunday worship gatherings kept by the early church in Rome to distinguish themselves from the Jews and to align themselves with political authorities. This change became more universally accepted with the establishment of Roman emperor Constantin's Sunday law of 321 AD and the decree at the Council of Laodicea that in canon 29 declared that Christians should avoid work on Sunday.

Samuele Bacchiocchi's book From Sabbath to Sunday received much attention in the academic world, as well as many positive reviews. It also changed the way Adventists viewed the Sabbath in history. Prior to this, they had put more emphasis on the role played by Constantine in instituting Sunday.

Most individuals who leave the church give up Sabbath observance, but some exceptions exist. Dudley Canright rejected Adventism and the Sabbath, writing books against them.[355291] [355292] Australian Robert Brinsmead gave up the Sabbath and wrote against it. His writings were influential in the 1990s decision by the Worldwide Church of God's to give up the Sabbath. In response to his writings, another former Adventist, Desmond Ford, wrote the supportive book The Forgotten Day after reviewing the subject of the Sabbath in the light of Robert Brinsmead's rejection of it and writings against it. Dale Ratzlaff rejected the Sabbath in Sabbath in Crisis (now Sabbath in Christ).

Anglican Geoffrey Paxton wrote in 1977,
"It is sometimes said that Seventh-day Adventists claim salvation by Sabbath-keeping. But in my contact with them, I have never once heard this. Adventists do not believe they are accepted by God because they keep the Sabbath any more than they believe they are accepted by God because they practice monogamy!"

The Great Controversy

Seventh-day Adventists believe that prior to the beginning of human history, a dispute occurred in heaven between God and Lucifer (Satan) over "the character of God, His law, and His sovereignty over the universe" (Fundamental Belief no. 8). Lucifer was subsequently cast out of heaven, and, acting through the serpent in the Garden of Eden, led Adam and Eve into sin. God has permitted Lucifer's rebellion to continue on Earth in order to demonstrate to angels and beings on other worlds that his Law is righteous and necessary, and that the breaking of the 10 commandments leads to moral catastrophe.

This understanding of the origin of evil is derived from the book entitled The Great Controversy by Ellen G. White, particularly chapter 29, The Origin of Evil.

Heavenly Sanctuary and Pre-Advent Judgment

The Heavenly Sanctuary

The Seventh-day Adventist church teaches that there is a sanctuary in heaven which was foreshadowed by the Mosaic tabernacle, according to their interpretation of the Epistle to the Hebrews chapters 8 and 9. After his death, resurrection and ascension, Jesus Christ entered the heavenly sanctuary as the great High Priest, "making available to believers the benefits of His atoning sacrifice" (Fundamental Belief no. 24). Adventists hold that Christ ministered his blood in the first section of the sanctuary (the holy place) until October 1844; after that time he entered the second section of the sanctuary (the Most Holy Place, or Holy of Holies) in fulfillment of the Day of Atonement.

Adventists therefore believe that Christ's work of atonement encompasses both his death on the Cross and his ministration in the heavenly sanctuary. Early Adventists went as far as to claim that the atonement occurs in heaven, not on the cross:

:"[Christ] ascended on high to be our only mediator in the sanctuary in Heaven, where, with his own blood he makes atonement for our sins; which atonement so far from being made on the cross, which was but the offering of the sacrifice, is the very last portion of his work as priest..." Quoted from Fundamental Principles taught and practiced by the Seventh-day Adventists (1872), proposition II.

Modern Adventists have moved away from this unorthodox view, and now insist that Christ's death on the cross was a fully completed work of atonement. They continue, however, to refer to his mediatorial work in heaven as an "atoning ministry" (as in Fundamental Belief no. 24), distinguishing themselves from mainstream Protestant theology.

Investigative Judgment

The investigative judgment is a doctrine unique to Seventh-day Adventism, and teaches that the judgment of God's professed people began on October 22, 1844 when Christ entered the Holy of Holies in the heavenly sanctuary. Adventists find the investigative judgment portrayed in texts such as , and . The purpose of this judgment is to vindicate the saints before the onlooking universe, to prepare them for Christ's imminent Second Coming, and to demonstrate God's righteous character in His dealings with humanity. This judgment will also separate true believers from those who falsely claim to be ones.

The biblical basis of the investigative judgment pillar was challenged in 1980 by Adventist scholar Desmond Ford. (See Glacier View controversy.) Since this time, the Adventist church has been internally divided over the issue, although the doctrine remains part of the church's official teaching.


The Remnant Church

The Seventh-day Adventist church regards itself as the "remnant" of Revelation 12:17 (KJV). The Remnant church "announces the arrival of the judgment hour, proclaims salvation through Christ, and heralds the approach of His second advent" (Fundamental Belief no. 13). The duty of the Remnant is summed up in the "Three Angels' Messages" of Revelation 14:6-12, and its two distinguishing marks are seventh-day Sabbath observance and the Spirit of Prophecy (see below).

At baptism, Adventists may be asked the following question: "Do you accept and believe that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is the remnant church of Bible prophecy and that people of every nation, race, and language are invited and accepted into its fellowship?" (NB. In 2005 an alternative set of baptismal vows was created, which does not contain a reference to the Adventist church as the remnant. Candidates may now choose whether to take the original vow or the new one.)

Some scholars have questioned the traditional understanding, preferring to widen the concept of "remnant" to include other Christians.

Second coming of Christ

Seventh-day Adventist prophetic time chart from 1863, about the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation
Seventh-day Adventists believe in an imminent, universally visible Second Coming of Christ, which will be preceded by a "time of trouble". The teaching that Christ will be universally visible is based on which states that "every eye will see him." The second coming will coincide with the resurrection and translation of the righteous, as described in . Adventists believe that the unrighteous, or wicked, will be raised after the millennium.

As compared to other Christian views of eschatology, the Seventh-day Adventist view is closest to Historic (or post-tribulational) Premillennialism. Conditions on earth are expected to steadily deteriorate until the "time of trouble"[355293] (which is similar to the Great Tribulation of classic premillennialist teaching), when civil and religious authorities will combine to unleash intense persecution upon God's people, particularly those who keep the seventh-day Sabbath. The time of trouble will be ended by the glorious appearing of Christ, which will also mark the commencement of the millennium.

Adventists reject dispensationalist theology and the pretribulation rapture, believing that the church will remain on earth throughout the end-time crisis. A further difference is that the millennial reign of Christ will take place in heaven, not on earth, and will involve all of the redeemed people of God, not just national Israel. (See Fundamental Beliefs, no. 26 & 27.)

Seventh-day Adventism interprets the book of Revelation using the historicist method, but also holds that some of the events it predicts are still future. (See Interpretations of the Book of Revelation.)

Hell and the state of the dead

Seventh-day Adventists believe that death is a state of unconscious sleep until the resurrection. They base this belief on biblical texts such as which states "the dead know nothing", and which contains a description of the dead being raised from the grave at the second coming. These verses, it is argued, indicate that death is only a period or form of slumber. Adventist also takes the state of the dead from the book of John 11:1-45 when Jesus rasied Lazarus from the dead. John 11:11 says "These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep." (King James Version) See the scriptures show that Adventist follow the Bible, and the Bible only. The scriputres don't say you go to heaven or hell you are in the dust of the earth until the return of Jesus Christ.

Adventists teach that the resurrection of the righteous will take place at the second coming of Jesus, while the resurrection of the wicked will occur after the millennium of . They reject the traditional doctrine of hell as a state of everlasting conscious torment, believing instead that the wicked will be permanently destroyed after the millennium. The theological term for this teaching is Annihilationism.

The Adventist views about death and hell reflect an underlying belief in: (a) conditional immortality (or conditionalism), as opposed to the immortality of the soul; and (b) the holistic (or monistic) Christian anthropology or nature of human beings, as opposed to bipartite or tripartite views. Adventist education hence strives to be holistic in nature, involving not just the mind but all aspects of a person.

This belief in conditional immortality has been one of the doctrines used by critics (particularly in the past) to claim that the church is not a mainstream Christian denomination. However this view is becoming more mainstream within evangelicalism, as evidenced by the Britishmarker Evangelical Alliance ACUTE report, which states the doctrine is a "significant minority evangelical view" which has "grown within evangelicalism in recent years". Evangelical theologian and conditionalist Clark Pinnock suggests Adventist Le Roy Edwin Froom's The Conditionalist Faith of our Fathers, 2 vols. as "a classic defense on conditionalism".

Spirit of Prophecy

portion of working pages 80-81 of Desire of Ages, with editorial handwriting from one of Ellen White's literary assistants

The church believes the spiritual gift of prophecy was manifested in the ministry of Ellen White, who is sometimes referred to as the "Spirit of Prophecy". The church's 28 Fundamental Beliefs state:
"her writings are a continuing and authoritative source of truth which provide for the church comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction. They also make clear that the Bible is the standard by which all teaching and experience must be tested."

Two other official statements regarding the prophetic ministry of Ellen White have recently been voted at General Conference Sessions. The June 1995 document A Statement of Confidence in the Spirit of Prophecy states that White "did the work of a prophet, and more", and that her writings "carry divine authority, both for godly living and for doctrine"; and recommended that "as a church we seek the power of the Holy Spirit to apply to our lives more fully the inspired counsel contained in the writings of Ellen G White." The 2005 document Resolution on the Spirit of Prophecy called upon "Seventh-day Adventists throughout the world to prayerfully study her writings, in order to understand more fully God's purpose for His remnant people", describing her writings as "theological stimulus".

There has been an increasing tendency in the church to view White in more human terms, although still inspired. Whatever the prominence assigned to her writings for doctrinal authority, Adventists are agreed that the Bible takes precedence as the final authority.

Anglican Geoffrey Paxton has commented,
Adventists "are often thought of as those who 'major on minors.' But those Adventists who have given support to this accusation can hardly be seen as faithful to the heartthrob of the Adventist mission. In fact, when viewed in the light of the real Adventist claim, this accusation will be seen as wide of the mark."

Trinitarian development, Christology and Pneumatology

Early Seventh-day Adventists came from a wide assortment of nineteenth-century American Protestant churches, highly influenced in thought and teaching by Anabaptism and Restorationism. As typical among early Adventists, two of the church's principal founders, James White and Joseph Bates, had a background in the Restorationist Christian Connection church, which rejected the Trinitarian nature of God. However, the teachings and writings of Ellen White, who was raised in a Methodist family, ultimately proved influential in shifting the church from largely Semi-Arian roots towards Trinitarianism.

Before the 1890s Ellen White made no explicit anti-Trinitarian or semi-Arian statements, but neither did she open disagree with the leaders of the movement. However, in Desire of Ages (1898) she made the shocking, to some, statement, "In Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived." Over the next several decades, other Adventists explored the Bible and developed the current Trinitarian teaching on the topic.

After "transition and conflict" in the early 20th century, by the middle of that century the Trinity became accepted. The move towards Trinitarianism can be observed in the successive doctrinal statements of the church. The 1872 Declaration of the Fundamental Principles taught and practiced by the Seventh-day Adventists[355294] mentioned Father, Son and Holy Spirit but did not contain an explicit affirmation of the Trinity:

:"That there is one God, a personal, spiritual being, the creator of all things, omnipotent, omniscient, and eternal, infinite in wisdom, holiness, justice, goodness, truth, and mercy; unchangeable, and everywhere present by his representative, the Holy Spirit.

:That there is one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Eternal Father, the one by whom God created all things, and by whom they do consist...

By 1931 the Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-Day Adventists[355295] included a Trinitarian statement:

:That the Godhead, or Trinity, consists of the Eternal Father, a personal, spiritual Being, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, infinite in wisdom and love; the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Eternal Father, through whom all things were created and through whom the salvation of the redeemed hosts will be accomplished; the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead, the great regenerating power in the word of redemption.

The official Adventist fundamental beliefs, adopted in 1980, include the following as statement number 2, "Trinity":
"There is one God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a unity of three co-eternal Persons. [...]".

Despite the denomination having been officially Trinitarian for several decades, there remain small factions and individuals within the church who continue to argue that the authentic, historical Adventist position is semi-Arian.

Christ and the Archangel Michael

Seventh-day Adventists have traditionally identified Jesus as Michael the archangel of and and as "Michael the great prince" of . Contrary to common misconception, Adventists are not relegating Jesus to something less than divine nor less than God.

The term "angel" is interpreted not as a specific class of sub-divine heavenly beings as in the standard Christian view, but more broadly as any being serving as a messenger from God. This interpretation follows from the derivation of the English word "angel", which originally came from the Greek ἄγγελος (ángelos) meaning "messenger". Michael is understood to be chief of the angels ("arch" = chief). Its application to Jesus has been illustrated this way: "In the Old West, black slaves, escaping bondage in the South, joined up with Native American tribes. Some of these black Africans became clan chiefs. They held the title Indian chief, but they weren't Indian." In a similar way, Jesus held the title chief of the angels bringing messages from God, but with His full divinity retained.

"We believe that the term 'Michael' is but one of the many titles applied to the Son of God, the second person of the Godhead. But such a view does not in any way conflict with our belief in His full deity and eternal pre-existence, nor does it in the least disparage His person and work."

Given that Seventh-day Adventism is now expressly Trinitarian (see previous discussion), it is questionable whether this identification can still be used as criticism of Adventist Christology. For a further Seventh-day Adventist perspective on this issue, see the essay: Who is Michael?, by Henry Feyerabend.

Holy Spirit

The early Adventists came from many different traditions, and hence there was also diversity on their views of the Holy Spirit. Some held an impersonal view of the Spirit, as only a "power" or "influence". However the main emphasis at this time was on Adventist distinctives, not on topics such as the Holy Spirit.

J. H. Waggoner called it "that awful and mysterious power which proceeds from the throne of the universe". Uriah Smith similarly described it as "a mysterious influence emanating from the Father and the Son, their representative and the medium of their power" and a "divine afflatus".

Yet by the end of the 19th century, Adventists generally agreed the Spirit is a personal being, and part of the Trinity. Ellen White spoke of "the Third Person of the Godhead" repeatedly and "a divine person".

Some Adventist books include Le Roy Froom, The Coming of the Comforter (1928); W. H. Branson, The Holy Spirit (1933); G. B. Thompson, The Ministry of the Spirit (1914); Francis M. Wilcox, The Early and the Latter Rain (1938).

The human nature of Jesus Christ

Since the middle of the 20th century, there has been a vigorous and divisive debate within Adventism concerning whether Jesus Christ took on a fallen or an unfallen nature in the Incarnation. The debate was precipitated by the publication of Questions on Doctrine in 1957, which advocated the latter interpretation against the majority of Adventists of the time. Since 1957, however, the position taken by Questions on Doctrine has become the dominant view.

The debate revolves around the interpretation of several biblical texts:

"For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh." Romans 8:2 (ESV)

"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin." Hebrews 4:15 (NIV)

"...concerning his Son (Jesus), who was descended from David according to the flesh..." Romans 1:3 (ESV)

Most early Adventists, as well as some modern Adventists, argue that Jesus Christ was born with the fallen nature that has been passed on to all of humanity from Adam. They believe that Jesus was beset with all of the moral weaknesses and frailties that ordinary humans experience, including the inclination to sin. Despite this, he managed to resist temptation both from within and without, and lived a perfectly obedient life. Jesus is therefore set forth as the supreme Example in whose footsteps Christians must follow. The fact that he overcame sin completely, despite having no advantage over other human beings, demonstrates that we too can live a life of complete obedience by trusting in him.

Most modern Adventists, and all or nearly all denominational scholars, have adopted a more "orthodox" position (in line with most Protestant as well as Roman Catholic teaching), which holds that Jesus was wholly unique in that he possessed a human nature untouched by original sin. He was thus akin to Adam in his pre-Fall state. It is denied that this view in any way diminishes the truth that Jesus was truly human, or that he experienced genuine temptation. Rather, it is argued that one cannot take original sin seriously and simultaneously claim that Jesus had a fallen nature.

It is evident that the controversy within Adventism over Christ’s human nature is closely linked to the equally heated debate over whether it is possible for Christian believers to achieve a state ofsinless perfection. The debate is as yet unresolved, and was discussed at the Questions on Doctrine 50th Anniversary Conference. Both points of view are currently represented at the Biblical Research Institute.

According to Woodrow W. Whidden II (himself a supporter of the "unfallen" position), proponents of the view that Christ possessed a "fallen" nature include M. L. Andreasen, Herbert Douglass, Robert J. Wieland, Thomas Davis, C. Mervyn Maxwell, and Ralph Larson. Proponents of the view that Christ's nature was "unfallen" include Edward Heppenstall, Hans K. LaRondelle, Raoul Dederen, Norman Gulley, R. A. Anderson, Leroy E. Froom and W. E. Read; and the vast majority if not all of the currently denominationally employed scholars.

See also: Crosscurrents in Adventist Christology by Claude Webster

Other doctrinal issues


Original sin

The Adventist understanding of original sin has evolved over time. Early Adventists (such as George Storrs and Uriah Smith) tended to de-emphasise the corrupt nature inherited from Adam, while stressing the importance of actual, personal sins committed by the individual. They thought of the "sinful nature" in terms of physical mortality rather than moral depravity. Later Adventists adopted a more mainstream view of original sin, which believes in humanity's inherently corrupt nature and spiritual separation from God. Original sin is thus conceived as a state into which all humans are born, and which we cannot escape without the grace of God. As one Adventist writer has put it, "Original sin is not per se wrong doing, but wrong being."

Although the majority of Adventists now believe that all human beings inherit a depraved nature from Adam, they generally stop short of a full blown Augustinian conception of original sin, according to which mankind inherits not only Adam's depraved nature but also the actual guilt of his transgression. Additionally, there remain some within the church (such as Dennis E. Priebe[355296]), who continue to argue that sin should only be defined in terms of wilful transgressions, not an inherited corrupt nature.

Soteriology and free will

The Seventh-day Adventist church stands firmly in the Wesleyan tradition (which in turn is an expression of Arminianism) in regards to its soteriological teachings. This is significant in two respects. Firstly, there is a very strong emphasis in Adventist teaching on sanctification as a necessary and inevitable consequence of salvation in Christ. Such an emphasis on obedience is not considered to detract from the reformation principle of sola fide ("faith alone"), but rather to provide an important balance to the doctrine of justification by faith, and to guard against antinomianism. While asserting that Christians are saved entirely by the grace of God, Adventists also stress obedience to the law of God as the proper response to salvation.

Secondly, Adventist teaching strongly emphasises free will; each individual is free either to accept or reject God's offer of salvation. Adventists therefore oppose the Calvinistic/Reformed doctrines of predestination (or unconditional election), limited atonement and perseverance of the saints ("once saved always saved"). Questions on Doctrine stated that Adventists 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." The freedom of each individual to accept or reject God is integral to the Great Controversy theme.

"God could have prevented sin by creating a universe of robots that would do only what they were programmed to do. But God's love demanded that He create beings who could respond freely to His love—and such a response is possible only from beings who have the power of choice."

Feelings assured of one's salvation is part of the official beliefs. Yet only an estimated 69% of Adventists "Have assurance of salvation", according to a 2002 worldwide survey of local church leaders.

Sinless perfection

The question of whether Christians can achieve a state of sinless perfection has long been a controversial topic for Seventh-day Adventists. In his book The Sanctuary Service (1947), M. L. Andreasen taught that sinless perfection can be achieved; his theology continues to be influential among certain traditionalists. These Adventists insist that a final generation of believers, who will live through the "time of trouble" (between the close of probation and second coming of Christ), must and will attain a state of sinlessness comparable to the pre-fall condition of Adam and Eve. They believe that this is the authentic and historic Adventist position on the issue, and that denominational leaders have erred in moving away from it. Larry Kirkpatrick and the "Last Generation" movement[355297] are representative of this stream of teaching.

However, most modern theologians such as Edward Heppenstall generally express the view that sinlessness is not possible in this life, and that Christians will always rely on forgiving grace—even after the "close of probation". It is argued that "perfection" in the Bible refers to spiritual maturity, as opposed to absolute sinlessness. In theological terms, sanctification is a life-long process that will not be completed until Christians are glorified at the resurrection of the dead.

Ministry and Worship

Ordination of women

The church does not support women's ordination, although a lesser title "commissioned" may be bestowed on female pastors. Some Western churches employ female associate pastors and encourage women to take a more active role in the ministry of the church. General Conference Sessions in the 1990s discussed and voted on the issue, and the church's stance was affirmed.


Seventh-day Adventists practice believers baptism by full immersion in a similar manner to the Baptists. They argue that baptism requires knowing consent and moral responsibility. Hence, they do not baptize infants or children who do not demonstrate knowing consent and moral responsibility, but instead dedicate them, which is symbolic of the parents', the community's, and the church's gratefulness to God for the child, and their commitment to raising the child to love Jesus. Seventh-day Adventists believe that baptism is a public statement to commit one's life to Jesus and is a prerequisite for church membership. Baptism is only practiced after the candidate has gone through Bible lessons. According to the Bible, the act of baptism shows that the person has repented of sin and wishes to live a life in Christ. . See Adventist baptismal vow.

Holy Communion

Seventh-day Adventists believe that the bread and wine (grape juice) of the Holy Communion are "symbols" of the body and blood of Jesus; however, Christ is also "present to meet and strengthen His people" in the experience of communion. Adventists practice "the ordinance of footwashing" prior to each celebration of the Lord's Supper, on account of the gospel account of John 13:1-16.

Worship style

In North America, there has recently been a change in the style of worship associated with Seventh-day Adventists. Congregations are now taking a more modern and contemporary approach to worship in order to connect with a younger generation of church followers.

Spiritual gifts

The 17th fundamental belief of the church affirms that the spiritual gifts continue into the present.

There have been isolated occurrences of "speaking in tongues" throughout the history of the Adventist church. Adventists generally believe the legitimate gift is of speaking unlearned human languages only, and are generally critical of the gift as practiced by charismatic and Pentecostal Christians today.


Seventh-day Adventists interpret the opening chapters of Genesis literally and reject the biological theory of evolution, and as such they generally adhere to both Young Earth Creationism and a Global Flood (see flood geology). The sixth fundamental belief states in part:
"In six days the Lord made 'the heaven and the earth' and all living things upon the earth, and rested on the seventh day of that first week."

Many Adventists follow Ellen White in believing there are worlds populated by intelligent beings elsewhere in the universe, which pre-existed the Earth and are untainted by sin.

The Geoscience Research Institute, furthermore, acknowledges that the Earth might possibly be billions of years old and that the universe beyond our solar system probably pre-dates Creation Week. It is thus evident that the Adventist church permits belief in a form of "Gap Theory" or "two-stage creation". Some to many church scientists and scholars do not support creation: see Creation Reconsidered ed. James L. Hayward. A 1994 Adventist Today article documents a survey of North American Division science educators. 60% responded, of which 83½% held doctoral degrees. Just 43% of the respondents affirmed the traditional statement "God created live organisms during 6 days less than 10,000 years ago."

The church has been highly influential on the development of creationism. The Seventh-day Adventist geologist George McCready Price was responsible for reviving flood geology in the 1900s. He was partly influenced in turn by the writings of Ellen White and the earlier Christian tradition. He was quoted heavily by William Jennings Bryan in the Scopes Trial, and his ideas were also later borrowed by Henry Morris and John Whitcomb in their landmark 1961 creationist text The Genesis Flood.

The scapegoat

Adventists teach that the scapegoat, or Azazel, is a symbol for Satan. They believe that in the final judgment Satan will have to bear the responsibility for the sins of Christians, and that this was foreshadowed on the Day of Atonement when the high priest confessed the sins of Israel over the head of the scapegoat (Leviticus 16:21). Naturally this belief has drawn criticism from other Christians, who have accused Adventists of giving Satan the status of sin-bearer alongside Jesus Christ. Adventists have responded by insisting that Satan is not a saviour, nor does he provide atonement for sin; and that Christ alone is the substitutionary sacrifice for sin.

Sunday law

Traditionally, Adventists have taught there will be a time before the Second Advent in which the message of the Ten Commandments and in particular the keeping of the seventh day of the week, Saturday, as Sabbath will be conveyed to the whole world. Protestants and Catholics will unite to enforce Sunday legislation. In reference to the creation of an Image to the Beast Revelation 13-17, Ellen G. White stated:

"When the leading churches of the United States, uniting on such points of doctrines as are held by them in common, shall influence the state to enforce their decrees and to sustain their institutions; then Protestant America will have formed an image of the Roman hierarchy, and the infliction of civil penalties upon dissenters will inevitably result."
-Great Controversy p.

However most Adventist scholars today prefer derive their doctrinal understanding primarily from the Bible, which means they may have less to say on some points. "Sunday law" itself cannot be proved from the Bible, yet many Adventist scholars do find biblical support for the Sabbath being a central issue in the end times. Jon Paulien, arguably Adventism's most respected scholar on Revelation, bases his theology on the Bible rather than history, current affairs or other sources. Yet he does maintain that the central issue of the "final crisis of earth’s history has to do with the Sabbath", based on the strong allusion of to (the Sabbath commandment of the Ten Commandments), and also other verses and themes in Revelation.

Critics say it traces to Joseph Bates and earlier.

A closely related topic is the emphasis given to Ellen White's writings in determining doctrine. While all Adventist scholars give precedence to the Scriptures, as she herself emphasized, there is some variation of belief on the extent to which she should be relied on for doctrinal matters.

Progressive Adventists generally emphasize the positive aspects of the Sabbath such as it being made for human benefit ( ), but deny that Sunday keeping is or ever will be the mark of the beast.

See also


  1. The Adventist Theological Society, an interview of Ed Christian by John McLarty.
  2. . Compare
  3. The Untold Story of the Bible Commentary by Raymond Cottrell, p. 44
  4. "Fundamentalism" in Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, vol. 10 in the Commentary Reference Series, p.577-78.
  5. Progressive Adventism » Blog Archive » Interlogue #20 ~ Ervin Taylor
  6. White, James, 1846, Present Truth, July, pg. 1 and 1857, Review and Herald, Dec 31, p 61); White, Ellen, Testimonies, vol. 2, p. 693; from Knight, George, 2000, A Search for Identity, Review and Herald Pub., pp. 19-20
  7. Fundamental Beliefs
  8. Knight, George, 2000, A Search for Identity, Review and Herald Pub., pp. 27
  9. Knight, George, 2000, A Search for Identity, Review and Herald Pub., pp. 24
  10. Knight, George, 2000, A Search for Identity, Review and Herald Pub., pp. 26
  11. Johnston, R. 1983, Adventist Review, Sept, 15, p. 8, from Knight, George, 2000, A Search for Identity, Review and Herald Pub., pp. 28
  12. Counsels to Writers and Editors, p35. Chapter, " Chap. 4 - Attitude to New Light"
  13. " Chap. 3 - The Foundations, Pillars, and Landmarks" of Counsels to Writers and Editors by Ellen White
  14. Venden, Morris, 1982, The Pillars, Pacific Press, pp. 12-13
  15. Seeking a Sanctuary, 99
  16. " Three Strategic Issues: A World Survey". Presented to the General Conference Annual Council on 7 October, 2002. Accessed 2008-04-24. See also reprint on the Adventist Review website. For reports on the survey, see Annual Council 2002 Special Report. Adventist Review 10 October, 2002; including " World Survey Gets Mixed Reviews" by Nathan Brown. It must be noted the survey was only very approximate
  17. Samples, Kenneth (2007). " Evangelical Reflections on Seventh-day Adventism: Yesterday and Today". Questions on Doctrine 50th anniversary conference
  18. Samuel Koranteng-Pipim has criticised the theologians as "liberal".
  19. Membership :: Adventist Theological Society
  20. Publication on the internet forthcoming. Conference attendees received a copy of all the papers presented
  21. (this quote p.36) See also the editor's introduction
  22. Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine, Review and Herald Publishing Association, Washington D.C., 1957. Chapter 1 "Doctrines We Share With Other Christians."
  23. " The Dynamics of Salvation". Adventist Review, July 31, 1980
  24. Adventists: Heirs of the Reformation, chapter 1 of The Shaking of Adventism by Geoffrey J. Paxton
  25. Sausa, Diego D. Kippur - the Final Judgment: Apocalyptic Secrets of the Hebrew Sanctuary, Fort Myers, FL: The Vision Press, 2006. ISBN 0-9788346-1-5.
  26. Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual, 17th edition, revised 2005, page 33.
  27. Delegates Debate Baptismal Vows, July 8 2005, Hulbert, V..
  28. See George R. Knight, "Adventist Approaches to the Second Coming". Ministry 73 (June–July 2000), p28–32 for more details
  29. Walter Martin in Kingdom of the Cults (Appendix) regards this as unorthodox. Others have issued stronger statements.
  30. Clark Pinnock, "The Conditional View" in Four Views on Hell, ed. William Crockett, Zondervan, 1992, 147.
  31. Knight, George, 2000, A Search for Identity, Review and Herald Pub., pp. 30-32
  32. Jerry A. Moon, The Adventist Trinity Debate Part 1: Historical Overview and The Adventist Trinity Debate Part 2: The Role of Ellen G. White. Copyright 2003 Andrews University Press. See also " The Arian or Anti-Trinitarian Views Presented in Seventh-day Adventist Literature and the Ellen G. White Answer" by Erwin Roy Gane
  33. The Desire of Ages by Ellen White. 1898, p530. Chap. 58 - "Lazarus, Come Forth"
  34. Knight, George, 2000, A Search for Identity, Review and Herald Pub., pp. 116
  35. Knight, George, 2000, A Search for Identity, Review and Herald Pub., pp. 117
  36. " The Trinity in Seventh-day Adventist History" by Merlin D. Burt. Ministry February 2009
  38. For further information on Trinity and Seventh-day Adventism see and History of Seventh-day Adventist Views on the Trinity by Merlin D. Burt
  39. Venden, Morris, 1984, sermon, Oregon Conference of SDAs Campmeeting
  40. Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine, Review and Herald Publishing Association, Washington D.C., 1957. Chapter 8 "Christ, and Michael the Archangel".
  41. J. H. Waggoner, The Spirit of God: Its Offices and Manifestations, p9
  42. Uriah Smith, The Biblical Institute (1878), p184
  43. Uriah Smith, Looking Unto Jesus, p10
  44. For instance Ellen White, Desire of Ages, p671 etc.
  45. Ellen White, Evangelism, p617
  46. This section all cited from the Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia first edition, p525–526
  47. Questions on Doctrine: Annotated Edition, 519
  48. For example, " Seventh-day Adventism: Christian or Cultic?" from the Christian Research Institute. Accessed 2008-02-25. This source is insufficient by itself
  49. Questions on Doctrine 50th Anniversary Conference, Andrews University, October 24-27, 2007
  50. Gerhard Pfandl, Some thoughts on Original Sin. Biblical Research Institute[1].
  51. Heppenstall, The Man Who is God, Copyright 1977 by the Review and Herald Publishing Association.
  52. Woodrow W. Whidden, Adventist Theology: The Wesleyan Connection, Copyright, Biblical Research Institute, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
  53. Seventh-day Adventists Believe (A Biblical Exposition of 27 Fundamental Doctrines). Copyright 1988 by the Ministerial Association General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Chapter 7 "The Nature of Man".
  54. Number 10, "Experience of Salvation"
  55. " Three Strategic Issues: A World Survey". General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 2002, p17. See question 11. Also question 87, "The clear presentation of the assurance of salvation in Christ" as one of the "reasons people might want to join your local church", for which an 81% figure was given
  56. See Last Generation Theology in 14 Points, from
  57. Edward Heppenstall, How Perfect Is "Perfect" Or Is Christian Perfection Possible? and Some Theological Considerations of Perfection. Copyright, Biblical Research Institute, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
  58. Voting was generally along geographical lines – generally speaking, the Western world supports it but developing nations do not. See also " Forgotten Heralds: Millerite Women Who Preached" blog by Jeff Crocombe, September 21, 2006. " More Forgotten Heralds: Early Adventist Women Ministers" blog by Jeff Crocombe, October 1, 2006. The independent journal Adventists Affirm is opposed to women's ordination. Books include Women in Ministry: Biblical and Historical Perspectives edited by Nancy Vyhmeister. Andrews University Press ( publisher's page). " Women Pastors Begin Baptizing" by Judith P. Nembhard. Spectrum 15:2 (August 1984); Reprinted on the Spectrum blog 18 July 2009 with an introduction by Bonnie Dwyer. See the " Women in Ministry" section of AtIssue. Articles with subject "ordination of women" and "women clergy" cataloged in the Seventh-day Adventist Periodical Index
  61. Science Faculty Vary in Views on Creationism Adventist Today
  62. Apparently, Ronald L. Numbers The Creationists is a good source. Excerpt available online
  63. Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine, Review and Herald Publishing Association, Washington D.C., 1957. Chapters 34 The Meaning of Azazel and 35 The Transaction With the Scapegoat.
  64. National Sunday Law - Fact or Fiction? Chapter 1: Strange Origins of the National Sunday Law from a critical website

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