Are Adventists Christians? Exploring our 28 Fundamental Beliefs (Part 1)
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Below are the first seven of the 28 fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist church. During the next four posts I will share our fundamental beliefs until I have done all 28 of them. In the meantime, I will show how each of our fundamental beliefs are part of Christianity as a whole. I hope after reading this and studying it for yourself you will see that the whole questions as to whether SDA's are Christians or not is rather nonsensical. However, before I begin allow me to make a disclaimer: There is, at times, a significant distinction between what the mainstream Seventh-day Adventist movement believes and teaches and what some local SDA congregations teach. There are many local SDA churches that are far from Christian and are, in fact, rather cult-like in their beliefs and practices. It is primarily due to the influence of these congregations - coupled with certain degrees of misguided leadership in our history - that has led many to cast the authentic Christianity of Adventism into question (and I don't blame them). However, to label all SDA Christians and the SDA denomination this way would be disingenuous at best. This post, along with the three that will follow, deals exclusively with the official teachings of the church which is the mainstream. My intent is to show that regardless of our theological disagreements it remains true that Seventh-day Adventists are Christians in the purest and truest sense of the word.
Seventh-day Adventist Beliefs
1. Holy Scriptures: "The Holy Scriptures, Old and New Testaments, are the written Word of God, given by divine inspiration through holy men of God who spoke and wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. In this Word, God has committed to man the knowledge necessary for salvation. The Holy Scriptures are the infallible revelation of His will. They are the standard of character, the test of experience, the authoritative revealer of doctrines, and the trustworthy record of God's acts in history."
This belief is entirely orthodox, and agrees with every Protestant Christian denomination. This view was also upheld and taught by influential Christian thinkers, preachers and theologians such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, D.L. Moody, and Billy Graham and continues to be taught all throughout Protestantism today.
2. Trinity: "There is one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a unity of three co-eternal Persons. God is immortal, all-powerful, all-knowing, above all, and ever present. He is infinite and beyond human comprehension, yet known through His self-revelation. He is forever worthy of worship, adoration, and service by the whole creation."
While not all Protestants agree with the doctrine of the trinity, all major protestant denominations such as Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Non-Denominational Christians and many others uphold it as a Biblical teaching.
3. Father: "God the eternal Father is the Creator, Source, Sustainer, and Sovereign of all creation. He is just and holy, merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. The qualities and powers exhibited in the Son and the Holy Spirit are also revelations of the Father."
The sovereignty of God is not only clear in scripture but is widely accepted all throughout Protestant Christianity.
4. Son: "God the eternal Son became incarnate in Jesus Christ. Through Him all things were created, the character of God is revealed, the salvation of humanity is accomplished, and the world is judged. Forever truly God, He became also truly man, Jesus the Christ. He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He lived and experienced temptation as a human being, but perfectly exemplified the righteousness and love of God. By His miracles He manifested God's power and was attested as God's promised Messiah. He suffered and died voluntarily on the cross for our sins and in our place, was raised from the dead, and ascended to minister in the heavenly sanctuary in our behalf. He will come again in glory for the final deliverance of His people and the restoration of all things."
The Christology of Adventism, as espoused in Fundamental Belief number four, is one that is also widely accepted and believed all throughout Christianity. Those who reject this view of Jesus are often considered heretics.
5. Holy Spirit: "God the eternal Spirit was active with the Father and the Son in Creation, incarnation, and redemption. He inspired the writers of Scripture. He filled Christ's life with power. He draws and convicts human beings; and those who respond He renews and transforms into the image of God. Sent by the Father and the Son to be always with His children, He extends spiritual gifts to the church, empowers it to bear witness to Christ, and in harmony with the Scriptures leads it into all truth."
While not all Protestants agree in every point with the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, all major protestant denominations embrace the person-hood and individuality of the Holy Spirit as the third person of the godhead (Trinity).
6. Creation: "God is Creator of all things, and has revealed in Scripture the authentic account of His creative activity. 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. Thus He established the Sabbath as a perpetual memorial of His completed creative work. The first man and woman were made in the image of God as the crowning work of Creation, given dominion over the world, and charged with responsibility to care for it. When the world was finished it was ``very good,'' declaring the glory of God."
The SDA doctrine of creation is, and has always been, the traditional and conservative Biblical teaching of both Protestantism and Catholicism.
7. Nature of Man: "Man and woman were made in the image of God with individuality, the power and freedom to think and to do. Though created free beings, each is an indivisible unity of body, mind, and spirit, dependent upon God for life and breath and all else. When our first parents disobeyed God, they denied their dependence upon Him and fell from their high position under God. The image of God in them was marred and they became subject to death. Their descendants share this fallen nature and its consequences. They are born with weaknesses and tendencies to evil. But God in Christ reconciled the world to Himself and by His Spirit restores in penitent mortals the image of their Maker. Created for the glory of God, they are called to love Him and one another, and to care for their environment."
The nature of man, as understood by the SDA church, is also a commonly shared belief among Christians. The only exception would be the view that man is "dependent upon God for life and breath and all else." In other words, man alone is mortal and not immortal. This is known as the doctrine of "Conditional Immortality." However, Adventists are not the only ones to believe and teach this doctrine. Highly influential Evangelical theologians, scholars, and apologists such as John Stott, John Wenham, Michael Green, Clark Pinnok, Edward Fudge, Greg Boyd, E. Earle Ellis, and Ben Witherington II are among some who supported this doctrine. This belief has been around long before the SDA church and has had periods of resurgence in the history of Christianity.
So far we have reviewed seven of the 28 fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist church in an attempt to determine whether the denomination is truly Christian or not. Though it is too soon to draw any conclusions we can safely say, "So far, so good."