Criticism of the Seventh-day Adventist Church
|Part of a series on|
Since the denomination's founding in the mid-19th century, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has been receiving criticism from various individuals and groups. These criticisms include objections to its teachings, structure, and practices.
One of the most prominent early critics of the church was D. M. Canright, an early leader in the movement in the late 19th century who apostatized and recanted but later left and became a Baptist pastor.
In the middle of the 20th century, evangelical Walter Martin and the Christian Research Institute concluded that the Seventh-day Adventist church is a legitimate Christian body with some heterodox doctrines and stated, "They are sound on the great New Testament doctrines including grace and redemption through the vicarious offering of Jesus Christ 'once for all'. However, other scholars such as Calvinist Anthony A. Hoekema, who did not agree with the Adventist views from Arminius's as Adventism holds a Wesleyan/Arminian stream of theloogy, grouped Seventh-day Adventism with Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses and Christian Science in his book The Four Major Cults.
Contemporary critics include former Adventist pastor and academy teacher Dale Ratzlaff, who left the church in the 1980s and later founded Life Assurance Ministries.
Several Seventh-day Adventist scholars have acknowledged that the Adventist view of the Trinity tends to differ in some aspects from the inherited traditional Christian view of the doctrine. According to Dr. Jerry Moon[who?], Ellen White, the co-founder of the church, taught that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three distinct individuals yet are united as one in the GodHead.
Moon asserts that Ellen White was raised trinitarian but adopted a different view from the traditional one and contends that White's later writings on the Trinity is not the same as the view rejected by the early Adventists.
Critic A. Leroy Moore contends Adventists reject the orthodox view, and contends that the view probably would have been branded as Arian by the orthodox.
- "What James [SDA co-founder James White, husband of Ellen White] and the other men were opposed to, we are just as opposed to as they were. Now, their solution to that, at that time, they didn't see any solution by retaining the Trinity concept, and getting rid of its distortions. But, in reality, we have been faithful to their commitment, and I know of nothing that they were objecting to, in objecting to Trinitarianism, that we have not also objected to." In 1876, James White discussed the differences between Seventh Day Baptists and Seventh-day Adventists, he observed, "The S. D. Adventists hold the divinity of Christ so nearly with the trinitarian, that we apprehend no trial here." 
- "A major development [in Adventism] since 1972 has been the quest to articulate biblical presuppositions grounding a biblical doctrine of the Trinity, clearly differentiated from the dualistic presuppositions that undergird the traditional creedal statements."
- "In many ways the philosophical assumptions and presuppositions of our worldview are different from traditional Christianity and bring different perspectives on some of these old issues. We do not accept the traditional Platonic dualistic worldview and metaphysics that were foundational to the church fathers' theology of the Trinity, one of these being the concept of the immortality of the soul."
It has been alleged by the Christian Research Institute that Adventism teaches that Christ had a sinful nature. Adventists hold that Christ came as fully man and yet still fully divine, and covering the nature of Christ state that Jesus Christ inherited Adam's fallen nature that has been passed on to all of humanity but did not sin. Such a belief is based on the following texts:
- "For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh" (Romans 8:3 NKJV)
- "For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin." (Hebrews 4:15 NKJV)
- "...concerning his Son (Jesus), who was descended from David according to the flesh..." (Romans 1:3 ESV)
- "Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people." (Hebrews 2:17 NKJV)
Adventist doctrine is that He took "man's nature in its fallen condition," but yet "Christ did not in the least participate in its sin", which shows Christ with post fall humanity but a sinlessness of Adam before the fall Mainstream Adventists believe that Jesus was beset with all of the moral weaknesses and frailties that ordinary humans experience. However, He did not have the propensity to sin. Christ could be tested by temptation, but like Adam before the fall, did not have our ungodly desires or sinful inclinations. Ellen White states "The Lord Jesus came to our world, not to reveal what a God could do, but what a man could do, through faith in God’s power to help in every emergency. Man is, through faith, to be a partaker in the divine nature, and to overcome every temptation wherewith he is beset."
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. Ellen White states "The Lord Jesus came to our world, not to reveal what a God could do, but what a man could do, through faith in God’s power to help in every emergency. Man is, through faith, to be a partaker in the divine nature, and to overcome every temptation wherewith he is beset."
Adventists are firm believers that people are saved by faith and not through works, however works are the necessary fruits that are proof of God truly being given a place in our lives.
"Notwithstanding that the sins of a guilty world were laid upon Christ, notwithstanding the humiliation of taking upon Himself our fallen nature, the voice from heaven declared Him to be the Son of the Eternal"
— Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, p. 112.
Investigative judgment and salvation
The Investigative Judgment doctrine is defined in the Church's list of fundamental beliefs. In reviewing this uniquely Seventh-day Adventist doctrine, non-Adventist critics contend that it is not Biblical teaching.
Adventists answer that the Investigative Judgment doctrine is not about celestial geography, that a judgment of works is compatible with the gospel, and that Scriptures like 1 Peter 4:17 and Matthew 25 teach an end-time judgment of the Church. They believe that the "end time gospel" of Revelation 14:6-12 did not sound in the first century but applies to our time. Also, many Adventist scholars interpret the references in Hebrews as to do with inauguration of the heavenly sanctuary, taking Hebrews 6:19-20 as parallel to Hebrews 10:19-20, a view shared with certain biblical scholars of other faiths, instead of the Day of Atonement event as interpreted by critics.
The essence of Old Testament sanctuary typology that Adventists rely on for their eschatology may be summarized as follows:
- The sanctuary services emphasized three aspects of Christ’s work for us: sacrifice, mediation, and judgment.
As to the 1844 date, Walter Martin wrote:
- Lest anyone reading the various accounts of the rise of "Millerism" in the United States come to the conclusion that Miller and his followers were "crackpots" or "uneducated tools of Satan," the following facts should be known: The Great Advent Awakening movement that spanned the Atlantic from Europe was bolstered by a tremendous wave of contemporary biblical scholarship. Although Miller himself lacked academic theological training, actually scores of prophetic scholars in Europe and the United States had espoused Miller's views before he himself announced them. In reality, his was only one more voice proclaiming the 1843/1844 fulfilment of Daniel 8:14, or the 2300-year period allegedly dating from 457 B.C. and ending in A.D. 1843-1844.
Catholicism In Eschatology
Like the Protestant Reformers, some writings of Ellen White speak against the Catholic Church in preparation for a nefarious eschatological role as the antagonist against God's remnant church (the Seventh-day Adventist Church) and that the pope is the antichrist. Many Protestant reformers such as Martin Luther, John Knox, William Tyndale and others held similar beliefs about the Catholic Church and the papacy when they broke away from the Catholic Church during the reformation.
Ellen G. White
The Seventh-day Adventist Church considers the ministry and writings of Ellen G. White as manifesting the gift of prophecy, as evidenced in fundamental belief 18. A common criticism of Ellen White, widely popularized by Walter T. Rea and others, is that she plagiarized material from other authors. A Roman Catholic lawyer, Vincent L. Ramik, undertook a study of Ellen G. White's writings during the early 1980s, and concluded that they were "conclusively unplagiaristic." When the plagiarism charge ignited a significant debate during the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Adventist General Conference commissioned a major study by Dr. Fred Veltman. The ensuing project became known as the "'Life of Christ' Research Project." The results are available at the General Conference Archives. Dr. Roger W. Coon, David J. Conklin, Dr. Denis Fortin, King and Morgan, among others, undertook the refutation of the accusations of plagiarism. At the conclusion of Ramik's report, he states:
"It is impossible to imagine that the intention of Ellen G. White, as reflected in her writings and the unquestionably prodigious efforts involved therein, was anything other than a sincerely motivated and unselfish effort to place the understandings of Biblical truths in a coherent form for all to see and comprehend. Most certainly, the nature and content of her writings had but one hope and intent, namely, the furthering of mankind's understanding of the word of God. Considering all factors necessary in reaching a just conclusion on this issue, it is submitted that the writings of Ellen G. White were conclusively unplagiaristic."
Critics have especially targeted Ellen White's book The Great Controversy arguing in contains some plagiarized material. However in her introduction she wrote...
In some cases where a historian has so grouped together events as to afford, in brief, a comprehensive view of the subject, or has summarized details in a convenient manner, his words have been quoted; but in some instances no specific credit has been given, since the quotations are not given for the purpose of citing that writer as authority, but because his statement affords a ready and forcible presentation of the subject. In narrating the experience and views of those carrying forward the work of reform in our own time, similar use has been made of their published works.
— The Great Controversy, p. xi.4 1911 edition
- http://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/1993/June/adventists-and-evangelicals-another-viewpoint[dead link]
- Walter Martin (1960). The Truth About Seventh-Day Adventism. Zondervan.
- Anthony A. Hoekema (1963). The Four Major Cults: Christian Science, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormonism, Seventh-day Adventism. Eerdmans. ISBN 0-85364-094-7.
- LAM Publications, LLC.
- Rea 1983.
- Numbers 1976.
- Tinker, Colleen; Tinker, Richard (2010). Paul Carden, ed. 10 Questions & Answers on Seventh-day Adventism. Rose Publishing. p. 4. ISBN 978-1-59636-422-6.
- Ratzlaff, Dale (2007). Truth about Adventist "Truth". LAM Publications, LLC. p. 28. ISBN 0-9747679-4-8.
- Wiebe, Elmer (2006). Who Is the Adventist Jesus?. Xulon Press. ISBN 1-59781-328-1.
- Tinker, Colleen (March–April 2007). "Discovering the Adventist Jesus" (PDF). Proclamation! (Life Assurance Ministries, Inc.) 8 (2): 10–17. Retrieved 2011-01-12.
- From SDA Seminary professor Dr. Jerry Moon's presentation at the Adventist Theological Society’s 2006 "Trinity Symposium." http://atsjats.org/site/1/podcast/06_Trinity_Moon_Quest_Biblical_Trinity.mp3
- Moon, Dr. Jerry (Spring 2006). "The Quest for a Biblical Trinity: Ellen White's "Heavenly Trio" Compared to the Traditional Doctrine" (PDF). Journal of the Adventist Theological Society (Adventist Theological Society) 17 (1): 140–159. Retrieved 2011-01-12.
- SDA scholar and author A. LeRoy Moore, at the panel Q&A Session at the ATS 2006 "Trinity Symposium." http://atsjats.org/site/1/podcast/06_Trinity_Participants_Panel_Discussion.mp3
- From a Q&A session at the ATS 2006 "Trinity Symposium." http://atsjats.org/site/1/podcast/06_Trinity_Burt_Historical_Adventist_Views.mp3
- White, James (October 12, 1876). "The Two Bodies: the relation which the S. D. Baptists and the S. D. Adventists sustain to each other." (PDF). Review and Herald (Battle Creek, Michigan: Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association) 48 (15): 4. Retrieved 2011-11-29.
- Whidden, Woodrow; Moon, Jerry; Reeve, John W. (2002). The Trinity: Understanding God's Love, His Plan of Salvation, and Christian Relationships. Review and Herald Publishing Association. p. 201. ISBN 0-8280-1684-4.
- Fortin, Dr. Denis (Spring 2006). "God, the Trinity, and Adventism: An Introduction to the Issues" (PDF). Journal of the Adventist Theological Society (Adventist Theological Society) 17 (1): 4–10. Retrieved 2011-01-12.
- (Christian Research Journal, Summer 1988, p. 13)
- Half Adam? a sermon by Larry Kirkpatrick
- Christ's Human Nature by Joe Crews
- The SDA Bible Commentary, vol.5, p.1131.
- [Ellen G. White, 7BC p. 929 par. 6]
- "Fundamental Beliefs". General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved 2006-06-06.
- Paul Ellingworth (1993). The Epistle to the Hebrews (NIGTC). p. 518.
- Walter Martin (1997). The Kingdom of the Cults (Revised ed.). p. 522. ISBN 0-87123-300-2.
- The Antichrist and the Protestant Reformation
- Canright, D. M. (1919). Life of Mrs. E.G. White, Seventh-day Adventist Prophet: Her False Claims Refuted. Retrieved 2006-06-06.[dead link]
- The Ramik Report Memorandum of Law Literary Property Rights 1790 - 1915
- General Conference Archives of the Seventh-day Adventist Church
- Ellen G. White as a Writer: Part III - The Issue of Literary Borrowing
- An Analysis of the Literary Dependency of Ellen White
- Ellen G. White as a Writer: Case Studies in the Issue of Literary Borrowing
- The Ellen G. White Encyclopedia
- E. Marcella Anderson King and Kevin L. Morgan (2009). More Than Words: A Study of Inspiration and Ellen White's Use of Sources in The Desire of Ages. Honor Him Publishers.
- http://www.whiteestate.org/issues/ramik.html Also appears in Review article
- See Criticism of Ellen White
- Opposition to Adventism
- Life Assurance Ministries
- Cult or Christian: Does Seventh-day Adventism Teach the Trinity?
- exAdventist Outreach
- Let Us Reason
- Oliver, Timothy (1996) Seventh-day Adventist Church Profile, The Watchman Expositor, Vol. 13, No. 1, Watchman Fellowship ministry
- Addressing opposition claims