Are Adventists Christians? Exploring our 28 Fundamental Beliefs (Part 2)

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8. Great Controversy: All humanity is now involved in a great controversy between Christ and Satan regarding the character of God, His law, and His sovereignty over the universe. This conflict originated in heaven when a created being, endowed with freedom of choice, in self-exaltation became Satan, God's adversary, and led into rebellion a portion of the angels. He introduced the spirit of rebellion into this world when he led Adam and Eve into sin. This human sin resulted in the distortion of the image of God in humanity, the disordering of the created world, and its eventual devastation at the time of the worldwide flood. Observed by the whole creation, this world became the arena of the universal conflict, out of which the God of love will ultimately be vindicated. To assist His people in this controversy, Christ sends the Holy Spirit and the loyal angels to guide, protect, and sustain them in the way of salvation.

The Great Controversy doctrine stands as one of the unique doctrines of the SDA church. However, as unique as this doctrine is it is actually held in every church in one form or another. The entire doctrine can be summarized in these points:

  1. There was a war in heaven between Satan and God and Satan was cast out.
  2. Satan led Adam and Eve, and consequently the whole world, into rebellion against God.
  3. God sent his son Jesus to defeat Satan and restore harmony with mankind.
  4. Jesus will ultimately defeat Satan and destroy him and his entire kingdom.
  5. When the war is over, God's government will be vindicated and the universe will be forever free of sin and sinners.
Honestly, I don't know of any denomination that doesn't actually believe each of these points. The Methodist "Governmental Theory of atonement" is in many ways the foundation of the Great Controversy doctrine and Iraneaus of Lyon, and early Christian theologian, held a theology known as "Recapitulation" that comes within inches of being identical to the Great Controversy.[1]  The final point (universe free of sin and sinners) is a widely accepted implication of the doctrine of annihilation as opposed to eternal torment. While Adventists may not necessarily agree on every minute point with other denominations the basic outline is widely known and accepted. Even the Adventist understanding of the great tribulation, which points to the Antichrist as the office of the papacy is shared by other Christians. Lutheran scholars (known as the Centuriators_of_Magdeburg) and Presbyterean leader Ian Paisely, along with many protestant reformers, identified the papacy as the Antichrist power of Revelation. The Great Controversy theme and its implications are, therefore, not entirely unique to Adventism and the points that we do disagree on, such as the annihilation of the wicked, do not make a church unchristian. 

9. Life, Death, and Resurrection of Christ: In Christ's life of perfect obedience to God's will, His suffering, death, and resurrection, God provided the only means of atonement for human sin, so that those who by faith accept this atonement may have eternal life, and the whole creation may better understand the infinite and holy love of the Creator. This perfect atonement vindicates the righteousness of God's law and the graciousness of His character; for it both condemns our sin and provides for our forgiveness. The death of Christ is substitutionary and expiatory, reconciling and transforming. The resurrection of Christ proclaims God's triumph over the forces of evil, and for those who accept the atonement assures their final victory over sin and death. It declares the Lordship of Jesus Christ, before whom every knee in heaven and on earth will bow.

I don’t even have to comment on this doctrine. It is one of the most basic and fundamental of Christian beliefs inside and outside of Adventism. However, since Christology is here involved I will clarify one issue: The Human nature of Christ.

Some have accused the SDA church of teaching that Jesus was a sinner. This is a gross misunderstanding. In the SDA church there are three views of the human nature of Christ, one of which is the official teaching of the church and its pioneers including Ellen White. The three views are:
  1. Jesus was born with a sinful human nature like the nature Adam had after he fell.
  2. Jesus was born with a sinless human nature like the nature Adam had before he fell.
  3. Jesus was born with both a sinful and a sinless nature. His sinful nature constitutes his physical being (he was born with a body like yours and mine subject to weakness, exhaustion etc.) but he had a sinless spiritual nature (his moral nature was not corrupt and he was sinless from birth to death).
Of these three views, the SDA church and its pioneers maintain that the third option is our official teaching. While Jesus inherited a body with all of the hereditary weaknesses caused by sin, he was not sinful in any way shape or form. He faced temptation like we do but never had a natural internal inclination to sin like the rest of us do. In short, he was enough like us to know what its like to suffer and be tempted, yet he was enough unlike us to be our savior.

10. Experience of Salvation: In infinite love and mercy God made Christ, who knew no sin, to be sin for us, so that in Him we might be made the righteousness of God. Led by the Holy Spirit we sense our need, acknowledge our sinfulness, repent of our transgressions, and exercise faith in Jesus as Lord and Christ, as Substitute and Example. This faith which receives salvation comes through the divine power of the Word and is the gift of God's grace. Through Christ we are justified, adopted as God's sons and daughters, and delivered from the lordship of sin. Through the Spirit we are born again and sanctified; the Spirit renews our minds, writes God's law of love in our hearts, and we are given the power to live a holy life. Abiding in Him we become partakers of the divine nature and have the assurance of salvation now and in the judgment.

Once again, this doctrine is so foundational to Christianity that there is no need to comment on it. However, because critics accuse Adventists if being legalists, I will comment anyhow. Adventists are evangelicals. Plain and simple. The SDA church teaches that we are saved by grace through faith not works. Not only are we justified by faith but we are also sanctified by faith. Our sanctification does not add any extra merit to what Christ did. The SDA gospel is not a "What I do + What Jesus did = Salvation" The SDA gospel is an Arminian/ Wesleyan understanding of the gospel, both of which are widely accepted understandings in Christianity. We are saved only by the merits of Christ's blood and while we believe in obedience to Gods word we do not believe that obedience make us more acceptable before God. This is exactly what Christian teachers of all denominations have taught for centuries and the SDA understanding is no different. How people can, in good conscience, accuse the church of legalism is beyond me. Despite the evidence that we believe and teach a grace based gospel, critics ignore the truth and continue to spread lies and slander about what we actually believe.

11. Growing in Christ: By His death on the cross Jesus triumphed over the forces of evil. He who subjugated the demonic spirits during His earthly ministry has broken their power and made certain their ultimate doom. Jesus' victory gives us victory over the evil forces that still seek to control us, as we walk with Him in peace, joy, and assurance of His love. Now the Holy Spirit dwells within us and empowers us. Continually committed to Jesus as our Saviour and Lord, we are set free from the burden of our past deeds. No longer do we live in the darkness, fear of evil powers, ignorance, and meaninglessness of our former way of life. In this new freedom in Jesus, we are called to grow into the likeness of His character, communing with Him daily in prayer, feeding on His Word, meditating on it and on His providence, singing His praises, gathering together for worship, and participating in the mission of the Church. As we give ourselves in loving service to those around us and in witnessing to His salvation, His constant presence with us through the Spirit transforms every moment and every task into a spiritual experience.

While there are some Christians who deny the experience of sanctification, this theological school does not represent true Christianity as it has always been and continues to be. Growing in Christ is one of the most basic Christian doctrines and has been taught both in scripture and church history by men like D.L. Moody, Billy Graham, John Wesley etc. And is taught today by others like Greg Laurie, Francis Chan, Kyle Idleman and T.D. Jakes.

12. Church: The church is the community of believers who confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. In continuity with the people of God in Old Testament times, we are called out from the world; and we join together for worship, for fellowship, for instruction in the Word, for the celebration of the Lord's Supper, for service to all mankind, and for the worldwide proclamation of the gospel. The church derives its authority from Christ, who is the incarnate Word, and from the Scriptures, which are the written Word. The church is God's family; adopted by Him as children, its members live on the basis of the new covenant. The church is the body of Christ, a community of faith of which Christ Himself is the Head. The church is the bride for whom Christ died that He might sanctify and cleanse her. At His return in triumph, He will present her to Himself a glorious church, the faithful of all the ages, the purchase of His blood, not having spot or wrinkle, but holy and without blemish.

Yet another doctrine that needs no comment. This view is embraced by protestants 

13. Remnant and Its Mission: The universal church is composed of all who truly believe in Christ, but in the last days, a time of widespread apostasy, a remnant has been called out to keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. This remnant announces the arrival of the judgment hour, proclaims salvation through Christ, and heralds the approach of His second advent. This proclamation is symbolized by the three angels of Revelation 14; it coincides with the work of judgment in heaven and results in a work of repentance and reform on earth. Every believer is called to have a personal part in this worldwide witness.

The doctrine of the Remnant church is one of the reasons some people dislike the SDA church. However, the church does not claim to be the only church in which Gods spirit dwells. It does not claim that non-SDA’s are false Christians who will not be saved either. The SDA church affirms that God's people are everywhere and in every denomination. By Remnant church the SDA church teaches that it carries God's last day message to this world and that it is indeed his pure visible church on earth. Some would respond saying that this is nothing but denominational arrogance, however, if that were the case then every denomination would be guilty of arrogance. While not all denominations claim to be the remnant church no denomination claims to be a false church. Because theological pluralism is un-biblical every denomination then, whether actively or passively, claims to be the true church. For the SDA church to claim actively what every other church claims passively is not arrogance, it is conviction. Thus, this doctrine cannot be used to label the church as non-Christian or else every denomination would have to be labeled non-Christian as well.

In addition, SDA's affirm, support, and embrace all denominations with the exception of cults or heretical groups like the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormons. We read, quote, share and even sell books written by a variety of non-Adventist authors. As an SDA my favorite preachers are not even Adventist but evangelical. Billy Graham, Greg Laurie, Kyle Idleman and Louie Gigglio are among the few. Were the SDA church a cult any outside influence, especially from theologians, would be rejected by the organization. However, the opposite is true.

The purpose of the remnant then is not to be an exclusivistic organization of elite Christians that alone comprise Gods church but to be the church which proclaims Gods special message to His people and the world in the last days. The true remnant will not be seen until the very end of time when decisions for or against Christ have been finalized, but the SDA church affirms that in a time of widespread apostasy within Christendom it has, as a movement and visible organization, been entrusted with the remnant message. This is neither cultish, arrogant, or non-Christian.

14. Unity in the Body of Christ: The church is one body with many members, called from every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. In Christ we are a new creation; distinctions of race, culture, learning, and nationality, and differences between high and low, rich and poor, male and female, must not be divisive among us. We are all equal in Christ, who by one Spirit has bonded us into one fellowship with Him and with one another; we are to serve and be served without partiality or reservation. Through the revelation of Jesus Christ in the Scriptures we share the same faith and hope, and reach out in one witness to all. This unity has its source in the oneness of the triune God, who has adopted us as His children.

Unity in the body of Christ is yet another widely accepted doctrine in the Christian church.