In the previous posts , we reviewed the major systems of covenantal thought in the protestant tradition. In today's post, we will begi...

The Hole in Adventism (part 4)

In the previous posts, we reviewed the major systems of covenantal thought in the protestant tradition. In today's post, we will begin to explore where Adventism sits in this continuum of covenantal thought.

Before beginning, four disclaimers must be given. 
1) Adventism is not a monolithic faith. Many different perspectives exist under the "Adventist" banner which ranges from ultra-conservative to ultra-liberal. The perspectives on the right tend toward a legalistic theology and have been referred to by names such as "the old covenant brood" or "legalists" by their own Adventist kin[1]. These groups also tend to be sectarian and separatists[2]. In this sense, the critics of Adventism are partly correct when they charge the church with legalism for there are, indeed, legalistic factions within our movement. Nevertheless, the critics err in conflating all of the perspectives within the church into this one category. Those toward the left tend toward antinomianism and embrace many of the ideologies of liberal theology. Within Adventism, these groups tend to be accused of eroding the very things that give Adventism its identity[3]. This bifurcation alone suffices to silence those who attempt to paint Adventism with one brush. 
The charge is further weakened by the fact that Adventism is a non-creedal faith meaning there exist no Adventist creeds or confessions. While statements of belief do exist, they are not binding in the sense that a creed or confession is. Therefore, when I speak of Adventism it is important to note that I am referring to the mainstream/ centrist perspective which finds the most theological/ scholarly support and is, by and large, reflected in the official 28 fundamental beliefs of the church[4]. This centrist/mainstream perspective is often accused of apostasy by the left and theological muffling by the right once again demonstrating the disingenuous nature of labeling all of Adventism by one group. Nevertheless, if one would like to explore and critique Adventism the focus must be on the centrist/ mainstream camp which, while certainly not uniform either, does indeed vote statements of belief and resembles true Adventist thought. In this post, it is the centrist/ mainstream perspective that I offer.
2) Because Adventism is a non-creedal faith there is no way to present its system of thought in a language that all mainstream Adventists would employ. Therefore, while the points shared in this post are not simply personal opinions and do in fact reflect Adventism the reader must keep in mind that the language and explanatory angles used primarily reflect the way in which this author has systematized Adventist thought. Other Adventists may very well employ different language and explanations to express the same sentiments.
3) In today's post, I will make extensive use of Ellen White. While Adventist theology is not built, determined, or restricted upon Ellen Whites views, her writings nevertheless reflect the narrative of Adventism with clarity[5]. Therefore, to appeal to her writings in this setting should not be seen as distinct to Lutherans, Calvinists, or Wesleyans appealing to the fathers of those movements for insight into their particulars.
4) As was true of the covenantal systems reviewed in the previous post, this present post will also be brief. Below is the chart from the previous post for the reader's convenience.

Adventism (henceforth ADM) is an Arminian-Wesleyan understanding of the narrative of scripture[6]. It affirms sola scriptura, the interpretive priority of the NT over the OT, Trinitarian doctrine, and holds to all the principles of the Protestant reformation[7]. It also contends that the imparted and imputed righteousness of Christ are essential elements of the gospel and that good works are the natural outflow of genuine faith. ADM also holds to what can be labeled a "Sanctuary Hermeneutic" which places Jesus at the beginning, center, and end of the entire narrative of scripture (explored in more detail in the next post). In this sense, ADM can be said to have a very similar concern as NCT in that a consistent Christocentric approach to scripture is the only method by which the meaning of scripture can be fully derived.
The sacrifice of Christ as an atonement for sin is the great truth around which all other truths cluster. In order to be rightly understood and appreciated, every truth in the Word of God, from Genesis to Revelation, must be studied in the light that streams from the cross of Calvary. I present before you the great, grand monument of mercy and regeneration, salvation and redemption–the Son of God uplifted on the cross. This is to be the foundation of every discourse given by our ministers[8].
Salvation: ADM holds to the view that God has always had a plan of salvation, from before creation, that mankind is free to either embrace or reject. According to this view, mankind is too sinful to seek God, but God seeks man, and enables us to respond to his grace. Salvation can never be earned, aided, or deserved. It is always a free gift of God. ADM is thus an Arminian narrative of redemptive history.

Covenant Narrative: ADM believes in one Eternal Covenant of Grace. This Eternal Covenant basically means that it has ever been God's delight to interact with his creation via grace. Thus, before any mention is made, or exploration is given to, all of the covenants in scripture one must first understand the "Eternal Covenant". In ADM, this eternal covenant is part of our meta-narrative which interacts with an Arminian perspective of God.
Let those who are oppressed under a sense of sin remember that there is hope for them. The salvation of the human race has ever been the object of the councils of heaven. The covenant of mercy was made before the foundation of the world. It has existed from all eternity, and is called the everlasting covenant. So surely as there never was a time when God was not, so surely there never was a moment when it was not the delight of the eternal mind to manifest His grace to humanity[9].
For ADM the meaning of the Eternal Covenant is plain. Grace does not exist as a reaction to sin. Grace has always existed. Grace is the heart of God. Grace is the way by which we understand why God created and how he interacts with his creation. Sin did not provide a platform for grace. Grace was prior to sin. The beauty of the narrative of scripture is not that man sinned and God responded with grace, but that man sinned that sin and grace remained. 

The Eternal Covenant can then be separated into three overarching covenants of Redemption, Works, and Grace. Although Adventism has never used this distinction in a systematic sense each of the elements are present within its system.
Covenant of Redemption: The plan of salvation had been laid before the creation of the earth; for Christ is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).... Oh, the mystery of redemption! the love of God for a world that did not love Him! Who can know the depths of that love which “passeth knowledge”? Through endless ages immortal minds, seeking to comprehend the mystery of that incomprehensible love, will wonder and adore[10].
Covenant of Works: God made man upright; He gave him noble traits of character, with no bias toward evil. He endowed him with high intellectual powers, and presented before him the strongest possible inducements to be true to his allegiance. Obedience, perfect and perpetual, was the condition of eternal happiness. On this condition he was to have access to the tree of life[11].
Covenant of Grace: The broken law of God demanded the life of the sinner. In all the universe there was but one who could, in behalf of man, satisfy its claims. Since the divine law is as sacred as God Himself, only one equal with God could make atonement for its transgression. None but Christ could redeem fallen man from the curse of the law and bring him again into harmony with Heaven. Christ would take upon Himself the guilt and shame of sin—sin so offensive to a holy God that it must separate the Father and His Son. Christ would reach to the depths of misery to rescue the ruined race[12].
ADM also affirms that once man fell into sin salvation could only ever come by grace and never by works. Thus, Genesis 3:15 introduces the Covenant of Grace which becomes ratified in the New Covenant through Jesus death. ADM also affirms that the Old Covenant was a means by which God communicated his grace to Israel not a method of salvation. So while the Old Covenant pointed the practitioners to, and advanced the Covenant of Grace they were not the Covenant of Grace (this will be explored in more detail under the covenant continuity section).
There is no such contrast as is often claimed to exist between the Old and the New Testament, the law of God and the gospel of Christ, the requirements of the Jewish and those of the Christian dispensation. Every soul saved in the former dispensation was saved by Christ as verily as we are saved by Him today.... The gospel promise was given to the first pair in Eden, when they had by transgression separated themselves from God. The gospel was preached to Abraham. The Hebrews all drank of that spiritual Rock, which was Christ[13].
Christ Himself was the originator of the Jewish system of worship, in which, by types and symbols, were shadowed forth spiritual and heavenly things. Many forgot the true significance of these offerings; and the great truth that through Christ alone there is forgiveness of sin, was lost to them. The multiplying of sacrificial offerings, the blood of bulls and goats, could not take away sin[14]. 
A lesson was embodied in every sacrifice, impressed in every ceremony, solemnly preached by the priest in his holy office, and inculcated by God Himself—that through the blood of Christ alone is there forgiveness of sins. How little we as a people feel the force of this great truth! How seldom, by living, acting faith, do we bring into our lives this great truth, that there is forgiveness for the least sin, forgiveness for the greatest sin[15]!
This means that, for ADM, none of the OT saints were reconciled to God via the Old Covenant. Rather, they were saved in anticipation of the death of Jesus. Once Jesus came, the Old Covenant met its antitype and the symbols typifying the gospel were no longer necessary. Salvation is now here, not as a shadow, but as an accomplished reality. By his life and death Jesus fulfilled all of the conditions that were needed for grace to flow freely from heaven to earth. 
The atonement of Christ sealed forever the everlasting covenant of grace. It was the fulfilling of every condition upon which God suspended the free communication of grace to the human family. Every barrier was then broken down which intercepted the freest exercise of grace, mercy, peace, and love to the most guilty of Adam’s race[16].
Covenant Continuity/ Discontinuity: The uniqueness of ADM begins to emerge in its understanding of covenant continuity/ discontinuity. However, this is not a strict uniqueness as if no other covenantal system approximates it. Recall that WCC sees all the OT Covenants as the Covenant of Grace "dressed in ceremonies" and from there, it argues that they are all the same covenant (this position forms the foundation for their views on pedobaptism). Over against this 2LBC argues that the OT Covenants are not the Covenant of Grace but that they were typological narratives that pointed forward to the New Covenant which is the Covenant of Grace (Consequently, they reject pedobaptism). ADM holds a middle view that both affirms the Abrahamic Covenant as the Covenant of Grace and yet rejects pedobaptism at the same time.

According to ADM, the Everlasting Covenant is the Covenant of grace. Once man fell into sin this Covenant of Grace was revealed to Adam (Adamic Covenant; Gen. 3:15, 21) and typified by the death of an animal and covering of their nakedness by the animal's skin which foreshadowed the death of Christ and the covering of our sin by his righteousness alone. Thousands of years later, during a time when most people had forgotten about this Covenant of Grace, God renewed it via the Abrahamic Covenant. 
After the Flood the people once more increased on the earth, and wickedness also increased.... The Lord finally left the hardened transgressors to follow their evil ways, while He chose Abraham, of the line of Shem, and made him the keeper of His law for future generations. This same covenant [the covenant of grace] was renewed to Abraham in the promise “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 22:18). This promise pointed to Christ. So Abraham understood it, and he trusted in Christ for the forgiveness of sins. It was this faith that was accounted to him for righteousness[17].
Thus, according to ADM, the Covenant of Grace God made with Adam (offspring of the woman would crush the serpent's head; Gen. 3:15) was the same covenant he made with Abraham (offspring of Abraham would bless all nations; Gen. 12:1-3). In other words, the Abrahamic Covenant is a "renewal" of the Adamic Covenant (Covenant of Grace) which had, by now, been largely forgotten. This Abrahamic covenant is a universal and unconditional covenant in that "all the nations of the earth would be blessed" by his offspring (Jesus) and that God alone made the promises (Genesis 12:1-3, 15:18-21). Abraham believed the promises by faith and was accounted righteous (Rom. 4:3) just as in the New Covenant where "grace through faith" is the condition of being accounted righteous (Rom. 4:16).

Adventism and Antinomianism

Following this line of thinking, once could conclude that ADM agrees with WCC on this point and should, therefore, adopt a pedobaptist stance. However, such is not the case. While ADM does see the Abrahamic Covenant and the New Covenant as being the same covenant, ADM means something different by that statement than is meant by WCC. For WCC, the covenant similarity forms the basis for defending their stance on pedobaptism (Jewish infants in the OT were circumcised therefore Christian infants in the NT should be baptized). ADM has never really debated the issue of pedobaptism because its roots are primarily Wesleyan-Methodist and so it has always been credobaptist.

Rather, when ADM says that the Abrahamic Covenant and New Covenant are the same it is dealing with a different context than WCC. Recall that each of the covenantal views have, in their history, been plagued by antinomian sentiments. ADM's view of the covenants is a proactive systematic rejection of antinomianism in all of its forms. According to scripture, Abraham was justified by faith apart from the works of the law (Gen. 15:6, Rom. 4). However, scripture is also clear that Abraham obeyed all of God's commands (Gen. 26:5). Abraham heard and believed the gospel (Gal. 3:8) that all of mankind would be justified by faith apart from works and yet, he did not from this reason that obedience to the law was now unnecessary (antinomianism). If Abraham could respond to the gospel by faith and obedience clearly the New Covenant, which the Abrahamic Covenant promised, would not include an abrogation of the law. Rather, the New Covenant would maintain the same relationship of grace and law found in the Abrahamic covenant for they are the same covenant.
Christ does not lessen the claims of the law. In unmistakable language He presents obedience to it as the condition of eternal life—the same condition that was required of Adam before his fall.... The requirement under the covenant of grace is just as broad as the requirement made in Eden—harmony with God’s law, which is holy, just, and good....[18]
Under the new covenant, the conditions by which eternal life may be gained are the same as under the old—perfect obedience.... In the new and better covenant, Christ has fulfilled the law for the transgressors of law, if they receive Him by faith as a personal Saviour.... In the better covenant we are cleansed from sin by the blood of Christ[19].
Thus, according to ADM obedience to the law has always been the requirement for salvation and remains so to this day. However, being that man is depraved and cannot render such obedience God promised justification in the Adamic and Abrahamic covenant. But the Abrahamic Covenant demonstrates that this promised justification (New Covenant) does not lessen the claims of the law. Rather, through it's merits we are clothed with Christ's righteousness and brought into a right relationship with the law. Such a position is a clear rebuttal of antinomianism which claims that grace gives men license to break the law of God. ADM's view is also perfectly in keeping with Jeremiah's proclamation that in the New Covenant God would write his laws in our minds and hearts (Jer. 31:33).

Therefore, while ADM sees the Abrahamic Covenant and the New Covenant as being the same covenant, ADM means something different by that statement than is meant by WCC. For WCC, the covenant similarity forms the basis for defending their stance on pedobaptism. For ADM, the covenant similarity forms the basis for rejecting antinomianism. Pedobaptism doesn't even enter the picture. Nevertheless, the views ADM holds in its rejection of antinomianism are not unique to its system. Both WCC and 2LBC reject antinomianism and uphold the continual and perpetual validity of the law in the New Covenant via the same arguments.

Adventism and Pedobaptism

Because ADM has never really debated the issue of pedobaptism sources explaining its systematic rejection of it do not exist. Therefore, in this section I will attempt - as best and simply as possible - to propose an argument. 

The first point to note is that ADM still holds to strong distinctions between the Abrahamic and New Covenants. For WCC the OT and NT covenants are equal, whereas for ADM they are approximately equal meaning that the Abrahamic covenant approximates the New Covenant but is not equal to it just as an engagement approximates a marriage and yet is not equal to it. Thus, while ADM can affirm that the Abrahamic Covenant is the New Covenant it can likewise affirm that there are strong distinctions between the two. 
Though this covenant was made with Adam and renewed to Abraham, it could not be ratified until the death of Christ. It had existed by the promise of God since the first intimation of redemption had been given; it had been accepted by faith; yet when ratified by Christ, it is called a new covenant[20].
The first distinction to note is that ADM sees the Abrahamic Covenant as the "unratified" version of the New Covenant. Both are centered in the promises and work of Jesus, so they are the same covenant. The difference is that under Abraham the covenant was not official. It depended on a future reality. Under Christ, the covenant is official because it has been accomplished. Therefore, in both the Adamic and Abrahamic Covenant salvation was promised but also hinged on a future contingent (death of Jesus). But under the New Covenant, our salvation is official the moment we accept Christ for the atonement is already complete. According to ADM while the Abrahamic Covenant is the Covenant of Grace it is, in and of itself not the promise of redemption. Rather, "the Abrahamic covenant contained the promise of redemption"[21] making it the same covenant in an "approximate" sense, not an absolute one.

The second distinction to note is that while ADM's view on covenant similarity between the Abrahamic and New Covenant is based primarily on the universal promise of justification the Abrahamic Covenant cannot be summarized simply in justification by faith. Clearly, the covenant included a promise of descendants and land for those descendants which was then grafted into the Mosaic and Davidic Covenants as well. This includes the rite of circumcision which ADM affirms is still in continuation today only it is now "of the heart" not "the flesh" (Romans 2:29). In addition, we understand the OT covenants to be designed so that God could establish a people on the earth through whom his narrative would be guarded and the messiah would come and this was a national people. But with the arrival of the church the descendants of Abraham are revealed to be those who share in the patriarch's faith, not simply those who share his DNA.

Consequently, Adventists are not pedobaptists. Since ADM holds that the Abrahamic Covenant and the New Covenant are approximately equal (and not equal) it does not make the same claim of continuity between the two covenants that WCC does. Distinctions between the two remain beginning with the fact that one was ratified and the other not and that the ratified has a different sign to the unratified: that is baptism.  While ADM affirms that circumcision informs our understanding the New Covenant sign of baptism, and that the two signs overlap in meaning, they are not the same sign. Because circumcision under the New Covenant is "of the heart" it requires an informed decision that cannot be rendered by an infant. And due to the true Israel being the children of faith and infants cannot exercise faith (this view is part of ADM's "expansion theology" on the relationship between Israel and the Church) it likewise rejects pedobaptism while affirming that, in terms of the promise of justification by faith, the Abrahamic Covenant is the New Covenant. Thus ADM affirms credobaptism.

Abrahamic Covenant = New Covenant

Circumcision = Baptism

Pedobaptism affirmed
Abrahamic Covenant ≅ New Covenant

Circumcision ≅ Baptism

Pedobaptism Denied
Abrahamic Covenant ≠ New Covenant

Circumcision ≠ Baptism

Pedobaptism Denied
= (Equal to)
≅ (Approximately Equal to)
≠ Not Equal to

However, keep in mind that, while I have taken some time to address this here, when it comes to the discussion over the Abrahamic Covenant and the New Covenant ADM is simply not dealing with pedo/credobaptism. Instead, it is dealing with justification by faith in both covenants which resulted in a life of obedience to God's law in both covenants. It is in this regard that ADM argues for covenant similarity while maintaining that there remain distinctions between the two. It is for this reason that ADM's position between the two covenants is best understood as "approximate equality".

Adventism and the Mosaic Covenant

Up to this point, we have only looked at one portion of ADM's middle view between WCC and 2LBC: The relationship between the Abrahamic and New Covenant. In order to fully grasp this middle view we must also explore the Mosaic/ Old Covenant. According to ADM the Abrahamic covenant and New Covenant are the same Covenant of Grace (in an approximate sense, see above). However, the Mosaic Covenant is not the same as the Covenant of Grace. While it certainly communicates, advances, and points to the Covenant of Grace it is distinct. So then, what is the Mosaic Covenant?
In their bondage the people had to a great extent lost the knowledge of God and of the principles of the Abrahamic covenant.... Living in the midst of idolatry and corruption, they had no true conception of the holiness of God, of the exceeding sinfulness of their own hearts, their utter inability, in themselves, to render obedience to God’s law, and their need of a Saviour.... God brought them to Sinai; He manifested His glory; He gave them His law, with the promise of great blessings on condition of obedience....[22]
According to ADM the Mosaic Covenant was given because God's people, the children of Abraham, had lost sight of his holiness and law. As a result, they had lost sight of their own sinfulness and depravity, for "without the law there is no knowledge of sin" (Rom. 4:15). Much like preachers today who emphasize man's sinfulness in order to reveal our need for a savior, God brought the Israelites under the Mosaic Covenant in order to reveal to them their utter inability and depravity. However, grace was not absent in this covenant. God gave them a sanctuary system by which they could be daily reminded of their need for a savior. This sanctuary system pointed them back to the Adamic and Abrahamic promise and forward to the fulfillment of that promise in the messiah.
The people did not realize ... that without Christ it was impossible for them to keep God’s law.... Feeling that they were able to establish their own righteousness, they declared, “All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient”[23].
Thus, the Old Covenant was brought into play in order to reveal man's need for a savior and the ceremonial aspect was a more detailed depiction of the plan of salvation God gave to Adam and Abraham. Thus, while ADM sees the Adamic Covenant, the Abrahamic Covenant and the New Covenant as the Covenant of Grace, it does not see the Mosaic Covenant as the Covenant of Grace. Rather, it sees it as a Covenant of Works that revealed the need for the Covenant of Grace which was to be ratified by the coming messiah. ADM does not teach that men were saved via this works-covenant. Obedience to the covenant only resulted in temporal blessings not in eternal life. Nevertheless, grace was typologically present in the covenant so that, as in the case of Abraham, the Israelites could put their faith in the coming one and be accounted righteous as well.

Eternal Covenant

Covenant of Grace
Old Testament
New Testament
Adamic Covenant
Abrahamic Covenant
Mosaic/ Old Covenant

←Abrahamic Covenant is still in effect→
New Covenant -
OT Covenants Fulfilled/ Canceled
He (Jesus) will crush your head (Satan) = Promise of deliverance

all peoples on earth will be blessed through you (Abram’s offspring - Jesus) = Promise of the savior

Abrahamic Covenant forgotten. This do (law) and live… all the people said “everything the Lord has said we will do". = Reveal man’s depravity and thus need for a savior. Promise of a savior revealed via ceremonies. Not Covenant of Grace.
Adamic and Abrahamic Covenant promise fulfilled. Atonement complete.
Old Covenant abrogated.

This difference alone is enough to show that ADM understands and embraces a covenant distinction between the Old and New Covenants. However, it is not the only distinguishing factor inherent to this system. Another distinction lies in the very concept of ratification.
Another compact [other than the Abrahamic covenant]—called in Scripture the “old” covenant—was formed between God and Israel at Sinai, and was then ratified by the blood of a sacrifice. The Abrahamic covenant was ratified by the blood of Christ, and it is called the “second”, or “new” covenant, because the blood by which it was sealed was shed after the blood of the first covenant[24].
In other words, the Abrahamic (Second/ New Covenant) could only be ratified by the blood of Jesus. Why? Because "the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, 'In thee shall all nations be blessed'"(Gal. 3:8). This is the Covenant of salvation by grace through faith which could only be made official through the blood of the "offspring" in which its promise rested. However, the Mosaic (Old) Covenant was daily ratified by the blood of sacrifices (animals). This does not mean that men were saved via the death of these animals for they could not be(Heb. 10:4). But what it means is so long as the people kept the law and sacrificed the animals God would bless them. The Abrahamic/ New Covenant which promised salvation could never be ratified by the death of an animal. The only way justification could ever be granted was via the blood of Jesus (the promised offspring). According to ADM, this is the biggest distinction between the Abrahamic and Old Covenant and also the greatest similarity between the Abrahamic and New Covenant.

Abrahamic Covenant
Mosaic Covenant
  • Covenant of Grace
  • Promised Eternal Life
  • Blood of Jesus Needed to Ratify
  • Becomes the New Covenant Upon Jesus’ Death
  • Remains until the end
  • Covenant of Works
  • Promised Temporal Blessings
  • Sacrificial Offerings Sufficed to Ratify
  • Becomes the Old Covenant Upon Jesus’ Death
  • Forever Removed

And finally, in keeping with all other covenantal traditions ADM teaches that the New Covenant is indeed founded on much better promises than the Old Covenant.
[The Israelites] had witnessed the proclamation of the law in awful majesty, and had trembled with terror before the mount; and yet only a few weeks passed before they broke their covenant with God, and bowed down to worship a graven image. They could not hope for the favor of God through a covenant which they had broken; and now, seeing their sinfulness and their need of pardon, they were brought to feel their need of the Saviour revealed in the Abrahamic covenant and shadowed forth in the sacrificial offerings. Now by faith and love they were bound to God as their deliverer from the bondage of sin. Now they were prepared to appreciate the blessings of the new covenant. The terms of the “old covenant” were, Obey and live: “If a man do, he shall even live in them” (Ezekiel 20:11; Leviticus 18:5); but “cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them” (Deuteronomy 27:26). The “new covenant” was established upon “better promises”—the promise of forgiveness of sins and of the grace of God to renew the heart and bring it into harmony with the principles of God’s law. The blessings of the new covenant are grounded purely on mercy in forgiving unrighteousness and sins....[25]
Once again, the middle view of ADM is that the Covenant of Grace and the Abrahamic covenant are the same covenant in an approximate sense. However, the Mosaic Covenant is not the same as the Covenant of Grace. While it certainly communicates, advances, and points to the Covenant of Grace it is not the same as that covenant. In that sense, ADM falls between WCC (which teaches that all the OT Covenants were the same as the Covenant of Grace) and 2LBC (which teaches that none of the OT Covenants were the same as the Covenant of Grace but merely typified it). However, in practical terms one would note that ADM's view, while accurately described as a middle view, is actually no different from the view espoused by 2LBC. It's "middle view" is only necessary in a discussion over pedobaptism which ADM does not engage. Therefore, while the middle view exists, it can be excluded for the sake of simplicity and practicality. This places ADM's view on covenant continuity/ discontinuity in agreement with 2LBC - the OT covenants merely typified the NT and there is thus, no continuity between them. This conclusion naturally leads to the big question on the law.

Adventism and the Law

At this juncture, the only remaining question is how does ADM view the perpetuity of the law? Once again we find here a connection to both WCC and 2LBC. Because ADM is not a monolithic faith it is important to highlight alternate views that exist within its Centrist/ Mainstream camp rather than just one. 

Traditionalist View: Those within the centrist camp who tend toward a more traditional approach will argue for the perpetuity of the law in the same fashion as WCC. In other words, they will differentiate between the moral, ceremonial, and civil laws of the Mosaic Covenant. They will agree that the ceremonial and civil laws no longer apply but will argue for the perpetuity of the moral law which would include the 10 commandments and any other moral law that can be sub-categorized under them. This would include the sexual laws, dietary laws, and stewardship laws. In other words, this camp will simply say that all OT ceremonial laws have been abrogated. However, moral laws all remain beginning with the Decalogue and down to other holiness laws. This view is not unique to traditional ADM but is found in any church that not only holds to the perpetuity of the Decalogue but which also promotes sexual purity, care for the body, and tithe return.

Progressive View: The more progressive wing of ADM holds to a different perspective which traces back to the 1888 General Conference in Minneapolis. During this conference, two preachers by the names of EJ Waggoner and AT Jones united with Ellen White to proclaim the gospel within the SDA church. Jones and Waggoner argued against the traditional Adventist distinction of moral/ ceremonial law specifically in the book of Galatians[26]. According to Jones and Waggoner Galatians was speaking of the entire Mosaic law not just the ceremonial. In that sense, the law as a whole was simply a "schoolmaster to bring us to Christ" (Gal. 3:24). Nevertheless, Jones and Waggoner did not deny the perpetuity of the law and neither did Ellen White who supported their preaching over against denominational disdain. So how does ADM hold to both the abrogation and perpetuity of the moral law at the same time?

The answer is quite simple and is very similar to the position held by 2LBC (law as trans-covenantal) and NCT (law of love as trans-covenantal). While ADM has never used "trans-covenantal" in its language it is nevertheless inherent in our system of thought. According to ADM the Eternal Covenant is based on the character of God (Arminian understanding) which is love in its purest form. God created the universe in harmony with his character of love and in doing so the universe came to operate and function under the law of love. Thus Natural and Moral law are both based on the character of God. This is why nature "reveals the glory of God" (Psa. 19:1) as well as the Decalogue. They both point to the law of love as the law of design by which all of creation operates. The Decalogue did not exist in Eden, or even in heaven, as it did in Sinai because there was no need. Everything operated according to the law of love. But we nevertheless see the outworking of the law of love in the commands God gave to Adam and Eve in Eden (to care for the garden, to enjoy the fruit of the trees, to rest on the Sabbath, to procreate, to not eat of the forbidden tree, etc.). Thus, Ellen White could say that the law, while eternal, "was adapted to the condition of holy beings"[27] meaning, that  - while the law is eternal - it has not always looked like the Decalogue. In fact, in Eden the law does not even take on the negative tone it does in Exodus. Instead, the law operated more in line with a gift than with a restriction. Thus, there was no such thing as "Thou shalt honor the Sabbath" in Eden. Rather, the Sabbath was simply given to man as a gift. This is partially rooted in the fact that the commands seen in Eden were applications of the eternal law of love to a sin-free world and the Decalogue are applications of that same law of love to a sinful world. Because we are still in a sinful world, the Decalogue still applies. And because the Sabbath originated in a sin-free world the command to "remember" it, we believe, applies not only now in our sinful world, but will continue through eternity as a local application of the law of love for sin-free/ redeemed humanity. If ADM holds to any abrogation of the moral law whatsoever it is the abrogation of the other nine commandments after the parousia, for at that time the law of love will once again be "adapted" to the context of holy beings (the redeemed). The Sabbath, however, having existed as an expression of the law of love prior to sin, does not need to be "adapted" for a post-sin world but can remain as a symbol of Gods creation and redemption of our world for all time.
After the transgression of Adam the principles of the law were ... definitely arranged and expressed to meet man in his fallen condition"[28].
When mankind fell into sin the law took on a more "dummy proof" form. While "thou shalt not murder" was not needed in Eden, it was needed in a post fall world where selfishness had taken charge as the operating principle of human beings. Thus, the law was "adapted" once more to "meet the conditions". It was still the law of love but contextualized to fallen man's need. Had there been no law God could not have judged sin, for "by law is the knowledge of sin" (Rom. 3:20). Thus the law of God existed prior to the Mosaic Covenant, especially the Sabbath which existed in Eden. 

Eternal Law of Love
Love God           ⟷        Love Man
Eden earth
Sinful earth
Renewed Earth
  • Care for the Garden
  • Procreate
  • Rest on Sabbath
  • Enjoy the fruit of the trees
  • Stay away from the forbidden tree.
  • 10 Commandments
  • Law of love further contextualized for various conditions that only exist on sinful earth
  • Principles of love continue to inform how believers should act in diverse circumstances
  • Care for the earth
  • Rest on Sabbath
  • Enjoy the fruit of the trees
  • Laws relevant only in sinful context made redundant

By the time Sinai enters the picture the commands are already known to one degree or another as local applications of the eternal law of love. However, under the Mosaic Covenant, the law becomes the means by which man gains and retains blessings from God and is understood to offer eternal life to anyone who can keep it perfectly - a sheer impossibility. Under the New Covenant, however, the law of Moses (moral/ ceremonial/ civil) is abrogated but because the law of love transcends the Mosaic Covenant it can never be abrogated. The local application of that law, which includes the Sabbath, remains as relevant to all New Covenant believers not as a means of justification or sanctification but as a result of being justified and sanctified by the Spirit of God. The law is written in the human heart and becomes a part of who we are placing us in harmony with God's character of love. Thus, under the New Covenant, progressive ADM does not make a case for moral vs ceremonial law but it does argue for the perpetuity of God's law based on the perpetuity of God's love of which the Decalogue is a local, trans-covenantal, application. New Covenant believers are not under the law but under grace which places them - not in an "at odds" relationship with the law - but in a harmonious one. The same is true of all the moral laws in the OT including sexual, health, and stewardship laws[29]. This position is in harmony with the reformation view that "the imparted and imputed righteousness of Christ are essential elements of the gospel, and that good works are the natural outflow of genuine faith."
There are two errors against which the children of God—particularly those who have just come to trust in His grace—especially need to guard. The first ... is that of looking to their own works, trusting to anything they can do, to bring themselves into harmony with God. He who is trying to become holy by his own works in keeping the law, is attempting an impossibility.... The opposite and no less dangerous error is, that belief in Christ releases men from keeping the law of God; that since by faith alone we become partakers of the grace of Christ, our works have nothing to do with our redemption.... If the law is written in the heart, will it not shape the life? ... Instead of releasing man from obedience, it is faith, and faith only, that makes us partakers of the grace of Christ, which enables us to render obedience....[30].

As a result, ADM is in agreement with the covenantal thought expressed in Category A: Covenantalism in that it continues to affirm the perpetuity of the law. The only point of distinction between ADM and Covenantalism when it comes to the Sabbath is ADM sees no evidence of a transfer of day, thus holding to a seventh-day Sabbath whereas both WCC and 2LBC teach the New Covenant Sabbath is on the first-day of the week, Sunday.

Israel/ Church Relationship: ADM teaches that the church has always existed. In the Old Testament, ADM sees a distinction between physical Israel and spiritual Israel. Physical Israel was composed only of those who were descendants of Abraham. Spiritual Israel was composed of all, whether Jew or pagan, who worshiped the true God. Thus, ADM holds that the church has always existed in Spiritual Israel and is, not its replacement, but its continuation. Consequently, ADM sees one redemptive plan for all time and one nation of God that began in Abraham and continues with the children of faith in the church. In addition, it sees one law of love, adapted to one humanity, relevant for eternity. As a result, it sees national Israel as playing no specific role in end time events[31]. However, Spiritual Israel - which is the church - plays a central role. This view is essentially the same as the view espoused by 2LBC though ADM's view emerged at the same time as CDM so its rhetoric is slightly different.

Eschatology: ADM holds to a Historicist hermeneutic for interpreting apocalyptic prophecy[32]. This hermeneutic puts it in agreement with views such as the visible, bodily return of Jesus at the end of the age. The bodily resurrection of the just and unjust for judgment. Eternal death for the wicked, and eternal life for the redeemed. ADM also continues to regard the Papal dynasty as the anti-Christ. Outside of these points of agreement, ADM rejects the Futurism of Dispensational theology and denies concepts such as the secret rapture[33]. However, it also rejects the Amillennialism of contemporary Covenantalism which holds to a Preterist hermeneutic for eschatology. By continuing to adhere to Historicism as the method for understanding Bible prophecy ADM is in harmony with Classic Covenantalism and arrives at unique conclusions which will be explored in the next post. It should also be noted that ADM holds to annihilationism with regards to the eternal fate of the wicked[32].

Other: In closing, here are some brief mentions of other elements inherent to ADM. 1) Sign of the New Covenant is baptism. 2) Immersion is the only acceptable method of baptism. 3) Partial continuation of spiritual gifts until the end of time. 4) Separation of church and state. 5) Lords Supper as an act of remembrance and communion with God.

Closing Thoughts
Now that we have applied Adventist theology to a covenantal framework it is apparent that it most closely aligns with Category A - specifically 2LBC, the Covenantal framework of the Reformed Baptist denominations. While unique features also emerge which don't fit into any existing system the areas of agreement are impressive (I have underlined all of the points that are in agreement in each system with ADM. Notice that apart from a few exceptions, ADM and 2LBC are practically the same). Below, I have added a new chart of covenantal thought that includes ADM. Please note that the system laid out below only presents what we have discussed in this post. In the next post the system will be revised to incorporate the uniqueness of ADM and as a result will evolve quite a bit. For now, consider this a "next step" toward our conclusion, and not the conclusion itself.

So how does identifying the place of ADM in covenantal thought help the church and its mission? Here are three major ways:
1) It demonstrates that Adventist theology was not born in a vacuum and is not some strange and unheard of heresy. Instead, it can be rightly understood as an Arminian-Federalist (2LBC) view of redemptive history. In addition, this also demonstrates that ADM's view of the covenants, perpetuity of the law, and Sabbath-keeping is in fundamental harmony with what many of the reformers believed and is more in line with classical Protestant thought. This gives us a strong defense against those who would accuse us of legalism or of holding to an unheard of sectarian covenant theology.
2) It enables our faith to be more easily understood and intelligently critiqued. For many decades Adventists have been labeled as legalists for our belief in a perpetual law and Sabbatarianism. However, what is apparent is that such critics are not really attacking Adventism but Covenantalism. Although we may disagree on the particular day that Sabbath is, ADM, WCC, and 2LBC all agree in the perpetuity of the law including the command to honor the Sabbath day. Those who wish to label us legalists for this belief must also be willing to label many of the reformers as legalists as well, for Covenantalism was the prevailing view until the arrival of Dispensationalism in the 1840's. Thus, in debates over the perpetuity of the law Adventists should first seek to discover if their opponent adheres to CDM, NCT or a modified version of Covenantalism which leans toward a CDM/ NCT understanding of the law. It makes no sense to debate the Sabbath if our opponent holds to a systematic view of redemptive history that belongs in Category B. In such a scenario, debating the Sabbath is premature.
3) It enables us to more intelligently communicate our narrative to the rest of the Christian world. A perfect example of this is, once again, the Sabbath. When ADM first emerged it embraced the seventh-day Sabbath doctrine after a Seventh Day Baptist introduced it to our forefathers. As Adventists began preaching the perpetuity of the law and Sabbath the vast majority of their audience were Covenantalists who were already Sabbatarians. In many ways, ADM's only contention was to demonstrate the absence of "transfer" in scripture (From Saturday to Sunday) and then trace the history of this transfer and its implications. However, the same is not true today. With the arrival of CDM and NCT, the entire law is no longer regarded as perpetual - especially the Sabbath. Speaking of the absence of transfer or the change as originating in the medieval church is entirely irrelevant to an audience who regards the topic as an unnecessary distraction. Thus, our language, presentation, and even understanding of the relevance of Sabbath must be contextualized to these differing views if we wish to be understood. However, Adventists continue to preach and teach the Sabbath as though our audience were Covenantalists-Sabbatarians whose only point of distinction was a first day Sabbath as opposed to the seventh-day. Today, for the most part, our audience is either CDM, NCT, or highly influenced by these views. Thus, to speak of a "transfer" of day or of the "perpetuity of the law" without an understanding and appreciation of these systematic differences will get us nowhere.
In the next post, I will present a more thorough view of ADM's theological landscape and its unique contributions to historical Christian theology. We will once again explore the Sanctuary-hermeneutic alongside the Meta, Macro and Micro-Narrative inherent in our system of thought. This analysis, in conjunction with the system presented here, will then be summarized and offered for consideration.


[3] See "The Apocalyptic Vision and the Neutering of Adventism" by George R. Knight.
[8] Ellen G. White, Seventh-Day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 7 (Gospel Workers, p. 315.)
[9] ------- S.D.A. Bible Commentary. Vol 7, pg. 934 (Signs of the Times, June 12, 1901)
[10] ------- Patriarchs and Prophets, 63.3; Note that due to its Arminian heritage ADM does not see the Covenant of Redemption as the time in which God sovereignly elected some to salvation and others to damnation but simply as the time in which God laid out the plan of salvation that he would make freely available to all of mankind.
[11] ibid. 49.2
[12] ibid. 63.2
[13] Ellen G. White, The Signs of the Times, September 14, 1882
[14] ------- Seventh-Day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 7, p. 933 (The Signs of the Times, January 2, 1893)
[15] ibid., p. 913 (The Review and Herald, September 21, 1886)
[16] ibid., p. 933 (Manuscript 92, 1899)
[17] Ellen G. White, "Gods Amazing Grace" p. 133
[18] ibid. p. 134
[19] ibid. p. 136
[20] ibid. p. 133
[21] Ellen G. White, "From eternity past" p. 259
[22] ------- "Gods Amazing Grace" 135
[23] ibid.
[24] ibid. 
[25] ibid. 135-36
[27] Ellen G. White, "Gods Amazing Grace" p. 132
[28] ibid. p. 130
[29] The difference, however, is that because the Mosaic Covenant is no longer in effect New Covenant believers are not to go to the Mosaic Covenant to figure out how to keep the Sabbath (for example). While we may go to the Mosaic Covenant to inform us we are not bound to keep the Sabbath exactly as it is delineated in the Mosaic Covenant because the law has been released from that context. This is why, critics who say Adventists should keep all of the hundreds of Sabbath laws to be found in the OT if they want to be consistent are wrong. Those laws may inform contemporary application but they do not dictate how we keep the Sabbath. As in the case with 2LBC, this forms the basis for why we do not stone Sabbath breakers to death, among other discontinuities.
[30] Ellen G. White, "Gods Amazing Grace" p. 138
[31] see:; and: