Seventh-day Adventism and Arminian, evangelical Christianity

Recently I’ve been spending a lot of time with Seventh-day Adventist theologians and students.  Most of the stereotypes I was given about them have been blown away.  That process really began years ago as I followed Walter Martin’s journey from calling them a cult to saying (much to the chagrin of many of his followers) they are not.  I agreed with him then–almost 40 years ago.  In the meantime I have gotten to know some Adventists and interviewed some of their pastors and visited some of their churches and now, rubbing shoulders and elbows with them, am increasingly certain that, in spite of some doctrinal differences from “mainstream” Christianity (which may be a faulty concept in our postmodern age) they are, for the most part, at least, evangelical Christians.  And many, if not most, of them consider themselves Arminians.

Here is a case study in how reading ABOUT and actually meeting and talking WITH people can be very different modes of acquaintance with beliefs.  Over the years I have gone out of my way to have face-to-face encounters with adherents of many different Christian traditions.  Occasionally those encounters have only served to confirm my worst fears.  Usually, however, they have shed light on those “others” that I could not get from merely reading.  There is something about sitting in a church or chapel and listening to people pray and about sitting around a table and listening directly to people explain their beliefs that transcends what reading about them can offer.

I do not agree with some Adventist beliefs, but I am discovering there is real diversity among them about how to interpret some of those beliefs evangelicals cringe at.  And I am discovering that some of what I thought Adventists believed (through reading books about them) is not what they believe at all.  Then, of course, there is the difference between what the untutored Adventist believes and what the scholars believe.  That’s true in every tradition and denomination.  I’m a Baptist.  I certainly hope non-Baptists don’t judge Baptist belief and practice by what some possibly ignorant Baptist neighbor says about Baptist belief!

I urge critics of people who claim to be Christians to sit down with them and find out in face-to-face encounters using a hermeneutic of charity and not one of suspicion.  I grew up pentecostal/full gospel and knew for sure, without any doubt, that many of our evangelical critics knew little to nothing about us and yet spoke as if they were experts on us.  I remember reading a book on “cults” that included my tradition and made statements about us that were totally false or that took some heresy from one corner of our tradition and blamed us all for it.  (For example, many Baptists I know think all Pentecostals deny the Trinity just because some do.  What they don’t know and usually don’t care to find out is that the vast majority of Pentecostals do believe in the Trinity and do not consider non-trinitarian Pentecostals their brothers and sisters in Christ!)

Right now I’m reading a fascinating little book about Adventist history and doctrine entitled A Search for Identity: The Development of Seventh-day Adventist Beliefs by Adventist scholar George R. Knight.  I challenge everyone to go beyond reading books about “cults” and “sects” and beyond stereotypes and engage in real conversation with people who say they are Christians and find out that way.  It may take some time.  But if they are your neighbors, friends, relatives, colleagues or just building a church down the road, it’s incumbent on you, for the sake of intellectual honesty, to make sure you know what their tradition really is and believes before jumping on some bandwagon of criticism.

  • Vance

    Jumping to conclusions about groups like the SDAs on the basis of what “cult” and “sect” books say about them reminds me of “Catholics worship Mary” and “Arminians are Pelagians.” On a related note (i.e., a thought sparked by SDAs and their emphasis on the Decalogue), I would like to know your views (and the views of the fellow named “Robert” who posts here from time to time) on the ongoing debate between Covenant Theologians and New Covenant Theologians on the place of the Decalogue in Christianity, Jesus as “New Lawgiver,” etc.

    • http://RogerEOlson.com Roger

      I’m clueless about that. I suspect one has to be an insider to Calvinist circles to know much about that.

    • Robert

      Hello Vance,

      You wrote:

      “Jumping to conclusions about groups like the SDAs on the basis of what “cult” and “sect” books say about them reminds me of “Catholics worship Mary” and “Arminians are Pelagians.””

      True.

      “ On a related note (i.e., a thought sparked by SDAs and their emphasis on the Decalogue), I would like to know your views (and the views of the fellow named “Robert” who posts here from time to time) on the ongoing debate between Covenant Theologians and New Covenant Theologians on the place of the Decalogue in Christianity, Jesus as “New Lawgiver,” etc.”

      I will make you a deal Vance; I took the time to write a response to you on the GOD AND EVIL thread. A post to which you never responded. Respond to my earlier post over on that thread and I will be glad to respond to your question concerning my own views on the debate between Covenant Theologians and New Covenant Theologians. I took the time to respond to you before and received no response from you. So I think it is fair that you respond to my earlier post first, then I will happily respond to your question here.

      Robert

  • Vince MacIsaac

    Dr. Olson,

    I am a Seventh-day Adventist Pastor who attended the Arminian conference at Andrews this weekend and I just wanted to take a minute and kindly thank you for both your kind words in your blog and in your interactions with us.

    Often in the field, as a pastor, others have not treated us fairly, nor been willing to examine what we really believe. I can’t tell you how many times others have tried to tell me, an Adventist pastor, what we do and do not believe only to have it all wrong. I cannot thank you enough for approaching us with an open mind and kind spirit.

    Dr. Olson, you are indeed a great Christian, and godly man. Blessing to you and your work.

    Vince MacIsaac

    • http://RogerEOlson.com Roger

      Thanks. I enjoyed the conference very much. And I look forward to the day when Adventists and evangelicals can work together arm-in-arm and not try to proselytize each other.

  • http://sunestauromai.wordpress.com Brian

    Sir, what about the fact that much of the seventh day adventist beliefs are based on the (false) teachings of Ellen G. White?

    • http://RogerEOlson.com Roger

      Could you be more specific? What false teachings? If false, are they crucial to the gospel? What church doesn’t have some false teachings? Only mine! :) Seriously, please feel free to be specific and I’ll try to get the answer for you.

    • Mike

      Brian,

      Your post further solidifies the thesis of Dr. Olson’s blog. What you have done is exactly what he, rightly, has challenged us not to do when he wrote, “it’s incumbent on you, for the sake of intellectual honesty, to make sure you know what their tradition really is and believes before jumping on some bandwagon of criticism.” As an SDA pastor, I can tell you emphatically that Adventist theology is based exclusively on the principle of sola scriptura. None of the beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church are based on the teachings of Ellen White, but rather the Holy Scriptures themselves, including our belief in regard to the gift of prophecy.

  • David Wilson

    Dr Olson,

    As an SDA, I appreciate your desire to treat, not just ourselves, but all others with an honest, open inquiry…rather than the “this is what I was told, so it must be true” approach to knowing about the beliefs and practices of fellow Christians.

    Your post reminded me of my experience with one of the cult watchdogs. Upon reading their profile, I learned after being raised in our faith upon four generations of past Adventist forebears, that we teach baptismal regeneration. Having been to church almost every Sabbath for the first 30 years of my life and studying our theology and history very carefully, I was rather surprised to learn that we teach this. I never knew. I wrote to them to inform them that they were incorrect. That we teach that baptism by immersion is an outward sign of an inward experience and men are saved through faith in Christ alone, baptism simply being a necessary act of obedience flowing from a living faith. What I got in return was statements taken from the words of one of our theologians that might have been more carefully edited which were interpreted by the cult watchers as proof that we do after all teach baptismal regeneration. I suggested that maybe they should dialogue with the author as to his intent or better yet speak to leading theologians within the denomination. No reply. Oh well, I guess we teach baptismal regeneration. Oh yes and Arminians aren’t Christians either.

    May the grace of God be with you.
    DL Wilson

  • Barry L. Callen

    Roger, It was a pleasure to serve with you at the recent symposium at Andrews University. I value the quality of your scholarship and written communication. Thanks, and best wishes, my special brother.

    Barry L. Callen

    • http://RogerEOlson.com Roger

      Thanks, Barry. It was good to see you again and serve at the symposium with you. I hope our paths cross again soon.

  • Douglas Devnich

    Brother Dr. Olson:
    I am a retired minister of the Adventist Church. My firm belief that Jesus Christ and His Righteousness alone provides my salvation and my assurance of eternal life was further undergirded by your presentations and discussions at the Andrews University Symposium on Arminianism and Adventism. I practice and proclaim that the only thing I can bring to God is my profound gratitude for His unfathomable Grace. His love for me motivates my service. Thank you Roger for the impact of your spiritual influence on me.
    Doug Devnich, Canada

  • http://theultrarev.blogspot.com theultrarev

    Keep up the great blogging Dr. Olson. Your comments remind me of when Richard Mouw, President of Fuller Seminary, made his (in)famous remarks at a gather of Mormons and Evangelicals. He is quoted as saying, “I am now convinced that we… have often seriously misrepresented the beliefs and practices of the Mormon community. Indeed, let me state it bluntly to the LDS folks here this evening: we have sinned against you. The God of the Scriptures makes it clear that it is a terrible thing to bear false witness against our neighbors, and we have been guilty of that sort of transgression in things we have said about you. We have told you what you believe without making a sincere effort first of all to ask you what you believe…Indeed, we have even on occasion demonized you, weaving conspiracy theories about what the LDS community is ‘really’ trying to accomplish in the world.” (Wikipedia: Anti-Momonism)

  • C Bond

    Thank you for this. As an Adventist, I’ve found it wise never to take one person’s (or group’s) word for what another believes. And always to give fair and respectful consideration to ideas that conflict with my own. If it strengthens my convictions, I am stronger for it. If it changes my convictions, I am still stronger for it.

  • http://jeffkclarke.com Jeff

    Great advice, Roger. I thought of Clark Pinnock as I read your piece. Many people treated him very poorly for differences they had with some of his beliefs. While some of them were completely wrong and criticized him unfairly, others never took the time to get to know him better through an open reading of his own work and through personal encounters. If they did, they would soon realize that while they may have continued to disagree on certain points (this is perfectly OK), they would also have come to know him more accurately, and learned to view him as a brother in Christ.

    Thanks again for your piece. As a Pentecostal (PAOC), I hear ya!

    Jeff

  • Victor M. Reyes-Prieto

    Dear Dr. Olson,

    It is, indeed, refreshing to read your kind and wise words regarding what our posture should be as Christians. The apostle James warns us about the danger of gossip when referring to the misuse of our tongue. Your words above are reminiscent of his spiritual counsel.

    “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1: 26, 27, NIV)

    It is important to notice that the apostle James does not shy away from defining what true religion is all about. Christians in general are used to the idea that religion is about head knowledge and pay no attention to the fact that true religion is evident in our works; clearly, this implies transformation.

    Our Lord Jesus Christ corroborates the apostle James “When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, ‘Hear and understand: Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.’ Then His disciples came and said to Him, ‘Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?’ ” (Matthew 15:10-12, NKJV)

    It is not surprising that the Jewish leaders were offended by Jesus’ words. They thought that by keeping the law, they were made holy and, therefore, caused God to look at them with favor. Their works are evident in that they criticized the baptism of John the Baptist and utterly rejected him, even they rejected as our Lord. The ultimate result led to the crucifixion of the long-awaited Messiah. The apostle John records this sad fact with the following words: “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” (John 1: 11, NIV)

    Originally, Seventh-day Adventists never desired to branch off into another denomination. If fact, the historical record shows opposition to the idea of forming another Christian denomination for fear of establishing a complacent church that would fall into apostasy and spiritual babylonic error and confusion. However, the Lord allowed such institution to be established here on earth due to the fact that many of them were disenfranchised from their local congregations for their millerite beliefs. Discouraged, they came together to study Scriptures as never before. Their passion to understand the Scriptures led to the discoveries that today we hold dear, particularly, the Adventist understanding of the sanctuary that gives Christian a rare peak into the workings of God’s grace and how he saves us.

    Yet, as stated above, true religion is not about head knowledge; it is about transformation that is evident in our works. For about 150 years, the fruit of Adventism has been made evident to the world. Since the trun of the century, the Church has been growing exponentially into more than 16 million members world-wide.

    But more than numbers is the fact that we are fully convinced that in these last days, Christians more than ever need to know for sure how to respond to God’s grace as depicted of the Church of the last days in Revelation 12: 17 (NIV). “…those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” And again in Revelation 14: 12 (NIV): “the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.”

    It is clear from these verses and others that true Christianity, or as James calls is, true religion, requires true obedience to God’s Commandments, so that the Spirit can then effectively work in our lives to transform us into the likeness of Jesus Christ. This message could not have been more timely in a secular society that disregards the will of God. This message is even a sober warning to Christians who presuppose that once Jesus saves us that we have no obligation to obey God’s precepts (antinomianism). Clearly, they have misread Paul who was the epitome of a Pharisee who was trapped by the demands of the law, nothing more than a legalist. But once he met Jesus, he could clearly write: “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.” (Romans 3:31, NIV) The use of the optative in “Certainly not” could very well render this phrase as follows: “Far be it from reality or the realm of possibility!” This is the force of that particular phrase.

    Having this understanding of the law from a forensic point of view, how can we, as Seventh-day Adventists ever shy away from proclaiming that our salvation, which was freely obtained through grace without any merits of our own, could ever give us the liberty to hurt our Lord and Savior by breaking even the least of these commandments?

    The apostle James makes this very clear: “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. ” (James 2: 8-11, NIV)

    It is certain to all of us that he is living in the New Testament era and yet, he dares to warn us all that the breaking of God’s commandments even after our conversion and repentance can and will constitute sin as defined by the law of God.

    So, yes, the misuse of our tongue also constitutes sin by the same law because sin is always defined by the boundaries of the Word of God, namely His Commandments. Jesus death did not nullify the law but established it as holy and just. The Psalmist reminds us:

    “It is time for You to act, O LORD, For they have regarded Your law as void.” (Psalm 119:126, NIV)

    “Rivers of water run down from my eyes, Because men do not keep Your law.” (Psalm 119:136, NIV)

    Clearly the law does not save, but breaking it will affect anyone’s salvation. After all, it was our disobedience that has placed us in the predicament where we find ourselves today.

    For those who find occasion to criticize the Adventist Church, let them be warned for their own spiritual well-being:

    “He who looks often upon the cross of Calvary, remembering that his sins placed the Saviour there, will never try to estimate the degree of his guilt in comparison with that of others. He will not climb upon the judgment seat to bring accusation against another. There can be no spirit of criticism or self-exaltation on the part of those who walk in the shadow of Calvary’s cross.” (White, E. G. (1896; 2002). Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing (128). Pacific Press Publishing Association.”)

    Brother, Olson, I pray that your heart will forever continue to be moved by the Spirit of God and that your personal witness of Adventism be a blessing not just for your souls but for those with whom you will come in contact. Allow me to leave you with this last thought from sister Ellen White:

    “He who beholds Christ in His self-denial, His lowliness of heart, will be constrained to say, as did Daniel, when he beheld One like the sons of men, “My comeliness was turned in me into corruption.” Daniel 10:8. The independence and self-supremacy in which we glory are seen in their true vileness as tokens of servitude to Satan. Human nature is ever struggling for expression, ready for contest; but he who learns of Christ is emptied of self, of pride, of love of supremacy, and there is silence in the soul. Self is yielded to the disposal of the Holy Spirit. Then we are not anxious to have the highest place. We have no ambition to crowd and elbow ourselves into notice; but we feel that our highest place is at the feet of our Saviour. We look to Jesus, waiting for His hand to lead, listening for His voice to guide. The apostle Paul had this experience, and he said, ‘I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.’ Galatians 2:20.” (White, E. G. (1896; 2002). Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing (15). Pacific Press Publishing Association.)

    Again, thank you so much for your Christian witness which was an inspiration to many of us. May the Lord continue to bless your endeavors now and forever.

    In Christian Love,

    Victor M. Reyes-Prieto
    Berrien Springs, MI

  • http://www.drwayman.com drwayman

    I was having a conversation with a SDA friend. She has trouble believing in an eternal hell full of torment and believes that annihilation is a more biblical concept. She showed me verses that demonstrate why they believe in annihilation. However, she accepts me as a Christian brother and I accept her as a Christian sister. We have prayed together, studied the Word together, shared our struggles together, etc. The only major difference I have seen is their concept of annihilation. My conclusion on this issue with her was, “I believe that the traditional church has interpreted hell as eternal torment, hence, I’m going with the majority on this one as there is full biblical concept for this. However, on a personal level, I would agree that I don’t want people punished for eternity. Therefore, I hope that the SDA is right.” She seemed to accept that answer.

    • Victor M. Reyes-Prieto

      Dear drwayman,

      Since we are on the topic of Adventism and its Armenian soteriological roots, it is important to understand one very misunderstood biblical foundation on which all Adventist theology hinges: The Great Controversy theme that runs throughout Scripture. Adventists theological positions are misunderstood mainly because other Christian groups have seen Adventist theology through their own theological filters.

      Just like Catholicism is a different worldview from Protestantism; so it is with Adventism, it is a different theological worldview. This does not mean that just because they are different or opposing worldviews, that such perspective of Scripture is correct. Rather, it means that if one is going to look at a particular worldview, one needs to become familiar with the premise of such view. Particularly, is one is going to critique such view.

      In looking to reform the Church of the Middle Ages, Luther and the magistrates, had an intimately knowledge of their premise of Catholicism. They understood that Catholic theology hinges on Ecclesiastical tradition, in many instances, over and above the authority of the Word of God. Catholics were able to build a doctrine of soteriology which is intimately linked with ecclesiology. If one understands this, then the critic is better equipped to refute their argument on the basis of the authority of Scripture. This is precisely what the Reformers did.

      The Reformers were able to build a new worldview which gave scores of Christians hope outside the doors of Catholicism. In doing so, they left us a “new” Christian heritage which is summarized as follows:
      1. Sola Scriptura vs. Tradition
      2. Sola Fide vs. Works
      3. Sola Gratia vs. Human Merits
      4. Solo Christos vs. The Intercession of Mary and the saints
      5. Soli Deo Gloria vs. Human Boasting

      Subsequent mainstream Christian movements base their worldview on the Reformers’ worldview of Scripture, Seventh-day Adventists among them (believe it or not). The most influential Protestant worldview that shaped early Adventism was Methodism, which promoted Jacobus Arminius’ views on soteriology. Arminius did not condemn all of Calvinism; on the contrary, he attempted to correct certain flaws in Calvin’s theological system. Even Roger Olson has admitted that he has not renounced all Calvinism but those soteriological views that are contrary to Scripture. The point here is that the theological foundation of today’s Protestant and Evangelical denominations is built on the worldview of the early Reformers.

      Enter Adventism. Seventh-day Adventist soteriology, which is a subset of the Great Controversy theme, is built on the platform and legacy of the Reformers. Richard Davidson, Adventist theologian, has been able to delineate a seven-point prism on which all of Scripture hinges. This multi-faceted center illustrates in a nutshell the premise of the Great Controversy theme. Here it is for your perusal:

      At the onset, consider that Davidson’s argument hinges on the fact that the first three chapters of Genesis hold the key to understanding the entirety of Scripture. In fact, this 7-fold theme is found in these early chapters Genesis and it is clearly again in the entire book of Job and in the last three chapters of the book of Revelation (20-22) forming a macro chiastic structure that miraculously provides a picture of the saga of God.

      1. Creation and God’s divine design for this planet
      2. The Character of the Creator (with implication for theodicy –”defense or justification of God’s goodness and omnipotence in view of the existence of evil”).
      3. The Rise of the Moral Controversy which rages over the issue of the character of God.
      4. The Gospel Covenant promise centered in the Person of the Messianic seed.
      5. The Substitutionary Atonement worked out by the Messianic seed.
      6. The eschatological windup of the moral conflict with the end of the serpent and evil.
      7. The sanctuary setting of the moral conflict.

      Understanding this multi-faceted prism, will help anyone looking at Adventism with critical eyes to determine if the Adventist view of Scripture is heretical or built on the solid foundation of the Apostles, the teaching of Jesus and the witness of the Old Testament. The point here is not stop at the contribution of the Reformers because they are not canonical, nor to return to Catholic Canon Law, but to return to “Thus Saith the Lord” and “It is written.” As the prophet Isaiah clearly stated: “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Isa. 8:20, KJV). This concept is deeply rooted in Sola Scriptura. Adventist contribution here is Tota Scriptura.

      Questions such as “Where we come from?” “Why are we here?” “Where do we go after death?” –in particular, your question on annihilationism– Adventists believe are better understood within the context of the Great Controversy theme. Any critic of Adventism that misses the theme of the Great Controversy has no leg to stand on in refuting Adventism unless they consider the basis for Adventist theology. Just like the Reformers’ intimate understanding of Catholicism gave them an edge in refuting such theological system, it would be wise for you and others to honestly look at Adventism with an inquiry mind before even attempting to take down a system that is well interconnected with a solid Scriptural theme. The point I make here illustrates what Dr. Olson has already eloquently stated above.

      To get a hold of Richard Davidson’s article send me an email and I would be more than happy to forward it to you. It contains all references to Scripture for all seven points. In addition, I would encourage you to read Ellen White’s Conflict Series to further understand the Adventist worldview. More important, however, is to humbly ask God for wisdom and understanding His Word, the one and only Adventist Creed!

      Blessings to you and may the God of peace, which transcends all understanding, guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus.

  • JPC

    Dr Olson, I am sorry but I have to strongly disagree with you. Seventh day Adventism is a cult and teaches a false salvation by adding observance of the Sabbath as a still valid “commandment” that seperates the remnant from those who are deceived and elevates false prophet Ellen White to “authoritative prophet” status and continues to promote her teachings (for example – the investigative judgement that began in 1944 after the failed prophecy of the Lord’s return did not materialize). I don’t doubt that there are many sincere people in the Seventh Day Adventists movement that truly want to serve the Lord but they can’t be measured by that. They have an official website so anything that is on there is Authoritative and anyone claiming to be a Seventh Day Adventist that disagrees with it needs to consider getting out of that movement. Let me share a few things that I found on http://www.adventist.org/beliefs/fundamental/index.html lest I be accused of falsely describing what they believe. These are numbered from their fundamental beliefs and my critiques will be in parentheses.

    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. (The Seventh Day adventists always use this phrase “keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus”. And what is the 4th Cammandment that they believe is still valid and binding to all people today? “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.” Therefore you cant be saved and break this commandment according to Seventh day Adventists).

    18. The Gift of Prophecy:
    One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is prophecy. This gift is an identifying mark of the remnant church and was manifested in the ministry of Ellen. G. White . As the Lord’s messenger, her writings are a continuing and authoritative source of truth which provide for the church comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction. (Ellen White was a false prophet and a lot of Seventh day Adventists say that they dont follow her but not according to their official website which should be binding to them).

    19. Law of God:
    The great principles of God’s law are embodied in the Ten Commandments and exemplified in the life of Christ. They express God’s love, will, and purposes concerning human conduct and relationships and are binding upon all people in every age. These precepts are the basis of God’s covenant with His people and the standard in God’s judgment. (They wrongly understand the 10 Commandments and especially the Sabbath as binding to all people which if true would bring the penalty of death to those that break it.)

    20. Sabbath:
    The beneficent Creator, after the six days of Creation, rested on the seventh day and instituted the Sabbath for all people as a memorial of Creation. The fourth commandment of God’s unchangeable law requires the observance of this seventh-day Sabbath as the day of rest, worship, and ministry in harmony with the teaching and practice of Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a day of delightful communion with God and one another. It is a symbol of our redemption in Christ, a sign of our sanctification, a token of our allegiance, and a foretaste of our eternal future in God’s kingdom. The Sabbath is God’s perpetual sign of His eternal covenant between Him and His people. (Does that sound like following the Sabbath is optional to you? It was according to them “instituted for all people”, “God’s unchangeable law”, “requires the observance”, “a symbol of our redemption in Christ”, “God’s perpetual sign of His eternal covenant”. I wonder how one could violate this law and not have all this that is listed and still be saved???)

    22. Christian Behavior:
    This means that our amusement and entertainment should meet the highest standards of Christian taste and beauty. While recognizing cultural differences, our dress is to be simple, modest, and neat, befitting those whose true beauty does not consist of outward adornment but in the imperishable ornament of a gentle and quiet spirit. It also means that because our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit, we are to care for them intelligently. Along with adequate exercise and rest, we are to adopt the most healthful diet possible and abstain from the unclean foods identified in the Scriptures. (Did you get that? “abstain from the unclean foods identified in the Scriptures”. That sure sounds like trying to place the disciples back under the law. Do they not know that we are to eat whatever is put in front of us, to not call unclean what God has made clean and to not let any man judge us in regard to food and drink?)

    24. Christ’s Ministry in the Heavenly Sanctuary:
    He was inaugurated as our great High Priest and began His intercessory ministry at the time of His ascension. In 1844, at the end of the prophetic period of 2300 days, He entered the second and last phase of His atoning ministry. It is a work of investigative judgment which is part of the ultimate disposition of all sin, typified by the cleansing of the ancient Hebrew sanctuary on the Day of Atonement. It also makes manifest who among the living are abiding in Christ, keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, and in Him, therefore, are ready for translation into His everlasting kingdom. This judgment vindicates the justice of God in saving those who believe in Jesus. It declares that those who have remained loyal to God shall receive the kingdom. The completion of this ministry of Christ will mark the close of human probation before the Second Advent. (Now this is just flat out heresy, where did they get this strange teaching from? None other than false prophet Ellen White. And did you catch this part “It also makes manifest who among the living are abiding in Christ, keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, and in Him, therefore, are ready for translation into His everlasting kingdom.” Now what was that 4th Commanment again that they believe is binding on all people?, thats right the Sabbath.)

    There is a lot more that I can post from their official website but I believe that this is suffice to prove that they are indeed a cult and if we truly love them than we should “speak the truth in love”. When the Judaizers tried to add circumcision to faith in Christ they were strongly resisted by Paul and Barnabas “Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue. But some of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed stood up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses.” After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. “And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. “Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? “But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.” Acts 15:1-11. And what did Paul say later about these same people? “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! Gal. 1 and “But not even Titus, who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage. But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you.” Gal. 2 and “But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? You observe days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain. So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?” Gal. 4 and “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. I have confidence in you in the Lord that you will adopt no other view; but the one who is disturbing you will bear his judgment, whoever he is.” Gal. 5

    Seventh Day Adventists are modern day Judaizers who substitute circumcision with the Sabbath and must be opposed as fiercely as the Judaizers were by Paul. We cannot tempt God by placing a yoke on the disciples that we cannot bear and by nullyfing the grace of God by placing the disciples under the law again. We must “speak the truth in love”.

    • http://RogerEOlson.com Roger

      I have known Baptists and Pentecostals who are every bit as legalistic (or more so!) than SDAs. Does that make them a cult?

      • http://RogerEOlson.com Roger

        Well, the SDAs I met in Michigan were not like that at all. I am sure they believe I am saved and a good Christian even if I do not observe Saturday as the Sabbath. I’m sure they think I would be a better Christian if I did observe it, but so what? My Pentecostal friends and relatives think I would be a better Christian if I spoke in tongues. I don’t think you absorbed either of my points–about shelf doctrines or about the word “cult.”

    • Vance

      The Westminster Confession of Faith, XXI, 7-8:

      7. As it is of the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in his word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment, binding all men in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven for a sabbath, to be kept holy unto him: which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week; and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, which in Scripture is called the Lord’s Day, and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath.

      8. This sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs before-hand, do not only observe an holy rest all the day from their own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations; but also are taken up the whole time in the publick and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.

      Does this mean that the Presbyterians who affirm the Westminster Confession and teach the Sabbath (now moved to a different day) is a part of the moral law and perpetually binding on all men are members of a cult and must be opposed for putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples? I don’t think so. In Acts 15, the issue was not whether or not the commandments of the Dacalogue were binding on Christians. The Judaizers were saying that a Gentile had to become a Jew before he could be saved. Being adopted into Judaism involved much more than keeping the Ten Commandments or believing them to be the perpetually binding moral law.

      • http://RogerEOlson.com Roger

        Good point, Vance.

      • JPC

        Vance, its interesting that you are quoting the Westminster Confession which states that the Sabbath was “changed” to Sunday and is a “perpetual commandment, binding all men in all ages”. Would this not mean that Seventh Day Adventists are in violation of this as they continue to hold to the Saturday Sabbath and dont believe that it was ever changed? That seems to support my argument that Seventh Day Adventism should be opposed.

        Secondly, do the Presbyterians or any other group that affirms the Westminster Confession as binding believe that if you dont follow the Sunday “Sabbath” that you will not be saved? I reject these points in this Confession and feel no obligation to them at all. I can agree with most points in most confessions but that does not mean that in my conscious I must place them on par with the Word of God. I dont believe in the Saturday or Sunday Sabbath (I am fully convinced that each day should be alike although I do not judge one who considers one day above the rest so long as they do not try to make a commandment out of it) and I do believe that it is a matter of Christian liberty as is eating meat and drinking wine.

        “One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.” Rom. 14:6 and ” Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day-things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.” Col. 2:16-17 and “But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? You observe days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.” Gal. 4:9-11.

        Do the Presbyterians affirm that there are Christians outside of there denomination and that one does not have to affirm every point in the Westminster Confession in order to be saved? Can one be a Christian and think of every day as being alike as I do? If so, then I can respect their opinions and agree to disagree on this issue. However, I know that the Seventh Day Adventists (there is a reason why they are called this) hold the Saturday “Sabbath” to be binding upon all people and a mark of God’s true “remnant” so they must be opposed.

        • http://RogerEOlson.com Roger

          Yes, by all mean, lets oppose all groups that think they are special in some way and that other Christians are defective in some way. But then we’d be opposing just about everyone.

        • Vance

          “Vance, its interesting that you are quoting the Westminster Confession which states that the Sabbath was “changed” to Sunday and is a “perpetual commandment, binding all men in all ages”. Would this not mean that Seventh Day Adventists are in violation of this as they continue to hold to the Saturday Sabbath and dont believe that it was ever changed? That seems to support my argument that Seventh Day Adventism should be opposed.”

          You miss my point entirely. My point: Believing that Sabbath observance (regardless which day, Saturday or Sunday) is still binding on Christians does not put a group in the same category as the Judaizers the apostles contended with in Acts 15.

          “Secondly, do the Presbyterians or any other group that affirms the Westminster Confession as binding believe that if you dont follow the Sunday “Sabbath” that you will not be saved?”

          No. I’m sure many (perhaps most) Calvinists believe there are true Christians who follow the Saturday Sabbath, but I suspect that a minority of the hardliners (among Calvinists) would say that only SDAs who remain SDAs are not among the elect. I don’t know of any SDAs who believe that only Christians who observe the Saturday Sabbath are true Christians. There may be a few old hardliners who think along these lines, but they are not in agreement with the majority. SDAs believe they are the “remnant,” but they make it plain that there are true Christians (saved people) who are not a part of the remnant though they would be much better off if they were.

          • JPC

            Vance: “I don’t know of any SDAs who believe that only Christians who observe the Saturday Sabbath are true Christians.”

            Here are quotes from the SDA official website at http://adventist.org/beliefs/other-documents/other-doc6.html

            “The Sabbath encompasses our entire relationship with God. It is an indication of God’s action on our behalf in the past, present, and future.”

            “In this age of materialism, the Sabbath points men and women to the spiritual and to the personal. The consequences for forgetting the Sabbath day to keep it holy are serious. It will lead to the distortion and eventual destruction of a person’s relationship with God.”

            “When the Sabbath is kept, it is a witness to the rest that comes from trusting God alone as our sustainer, as the basis of our salvation, and as the ground of our hope in the future.”

            “The Sabbath has significance as a perpetual sign of the everlasting covenant between God and His people ”

            “The universality of the Sabbath is rooted in Creation. Thus its privileges and obligations are binding in all nations, sectors, or classes. (See Ex 20:11; 23:12; Dent 5:13; Isa 56:1-8.) Sabbath observance pertains to all members of the household including children and extends even “to the stranger that is within thy gates” (Ex 20:10).”

            “Ellen White points out that the Sabbath commandment is unique, for it contains the seal of God’s law. It alone “brings to view both the name and title of the Lawgiver. It declares Him to be the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and thus shows His claim to reverence and worship above all others. Aside from this precept, there is nothing in the Decalogue to show by whose authority the law is given.”

            “The Sabbath as a sign of the Creator points to His ownership and authority. Meaningful Sabbath observance, therefore, indicates the acceptance of God as Creator and Owner and acknowledges His authority over all creation, including oneself. Sabbath observance is based on the authority of God’s Word. There is no other logical reason for it.”

            “Sabbath keepers may have to face resistance at times because of their commitment to God to keep the Sabbath holy. To those who do not recognize God as their Creator, it seems arbitrary or inexplicable for someone to cease from all work on the Sabbath day for merely religious reasons. Meaningful Sabbath observance testifies to the fact that we have chosen to obey God’s commandment. We thus recognize that our life is now lived in obedience to God’s Word. The Sabbath will be a special test in the end time. The believer will have to make a choice either to give allegiance to God’s Word or to human authority (Rev 14:7, 12).”

            Here are some of my favorite rules for the Sabbath according to SDA’s:

            “This means that they will avoid types of employment which, although essential for the function of a technologically advanced society, may offer problems in Sabbath observance.”

            “Absenting one’s self from God’s house and being denied fellowship with the believers on the Sabbath can have a chilling effect on one’s spiritual life.”

            “As a general rule, the purchasing of goods, eating out in restaurants, and paying for services to be provided by others ought to be avoided because they are out of harmony with the principle and practice of Sabbath keeping.”

            “While Sabbath travel may be necessary for engaging in Sabbath activities, one should not allow Sabbath travel to become a secular function; therefore, preparation should be made in advance. Automobile fuel and other needs should be cared for before the Sabbath begins. Travel on commercial carriers for personal or business reasons should be avoided.”

            Now, you keep telling me what SDA’s believe but I am showing you what they believe from their “official” website, is that not enough to convince you? Also, the reason that I equate the SDA’s with the Judaizers is the principle of taking ceremonial law that was part of the covenant with Israel and making it a requirement for New Covenant Gentile believers, which is exactly what SDA’s do with the Sabbath. That was a sign between God and Isreal and is not a moral law and was fulfilled when we “rest in Christ” from our dead works and trust in him for Salvation. To try and now “go back” to the Sabbath is the same as “going back” to circumcision or “going back” to animal sacrifices, do you not see the correlation?

          • http://RogerEOlson.com Roger

            All or most of those SDA beliefs about the Sabbath were once held regarding Sunday (called the Sabbath) by Puritans and other conservative Christians. When I first moved to Texas 12 years ago I had to mow my lawn on a Sunday. My elderly Baptist neighbor came over to speak to me. I shut down the mower and listened as he asked me “Whose ox died?” I just stared at him. Then I realized he was chiding me for working on the “Sabbath” (Sunday to him). So I assume you would say that my neighbor and all those other mainline Christians who once believed or still believe that working on Sunday is a sin are heretics.

          • Vance

            JPC, please go back and re-read the SDA document you cited. Yes, no question about it, the SDAs believe strongly that the Fourth Commandment is still in force and that everyone should keep the Saturday Sabbath holy. I’ve never argued that they don’t believe that. What I *have* argued is that SDAs *do* believe that there are true Christians who are not members of the SDA denomination and who do not observe the Saturday Sabbath but *do* follow God’s instructions to the best of their knowledge and ability. Ellen G. White even believed that some non-Christians would be saved because they act on what little light of revelation (through nature) they have. And yes, there are Sunday-keeping Christians who believe that Sunday is the Christian Sabbath and should be kept holy, and that Christians who don’t keep it are sinning and are either “lukewarm” or not really Christians. Do keep in mind that the document you cited has SDA members–people already convicted of the Saturday Sabbath–in view. I could show you Catholic documents stating that the Catholic Church is the one true church and that Protestant denominations cannot properly be called “churches.” But Catholics *do* believe that there are millions of Protestants who are true Christians but just don’t have the fullness of the faith. Similarly, SDAs believe they are the “remnant” church of prophecy, but they do *not* think there are no true Christians in other churches.

        • http://www.drwayman.com drwayman

          Here in Germany, it is against the law to mow the lawn on Sunday. Also, most stores are closed on Sunday. This has little to do with keeping the Sabbath. Rather, Sundays, culturally, are reserved for family and getting out and getting exercise.

  • http://www.contendingforthefaith.com John Metz

    Dr. Olson,

    Your heart in this article is much needed today. As you probably well know, there is a cottage industry among certain believers that is quick to condemn and very slow, even resistant, to dialogue. Yet, dialogue is extremely helpful to Christians or Christian groups who may have issues with each other.

    I am not in SDA but I have seen firsthand the value of positive and open dialogue in resolving differences between Christian groups. I appreciate your comments about charity and a lack of suspicion. To often these, along with truth, are sacrificed at the altar of a “doctrinal correctness” as perceived and practiced in a narrow and exclusive way. Thank you for your thoughtful post.

  • http://travelah.blogspot.com/ A.M. Mallett

    In talking with many people who consider themselves to have “come out of the cult”, an entirely different picture emerges from that painted for you by the academia of SDA. Why would so many people who used to be part of this sect have such a different perspective than those who are informing you of their consistent “evangelical” beliefs? Is Jesus Christ really the archangel Michael? Is EGW truly the “spirit of prophecy” as mentioned in Rev and claimed in the SDA fundamental beliefs? Is the SDA the true Remnant Church? Is there really an investigative judgment? There is a nearly endless number of questions that “formers” are in an excellent position to shed some light on. Every one to a person that I have conversed with felt swallowed up in legal performance while an SDA and only found real peace with God when they removed those shackles and started trusting only in Christ and not the demands of their elders. Every one of them have considered the SDA to be cultic and overly authoritarian.
    How does the same degree of legalism that brought Paul to condemn such in Galatians give rise to inclusion as evangelical Arminianism?

    • http://RogerEOlson.com Roger

      Huh? Jesus the archangel Michael? I am absolutely certain that is not SDA doctrine. It is Jehovah’s Witness belief. I think it is dangerous to judge an entire denomination by the reactions of those who left it. Their testimonies can be helpful and should be taken seriously, but so should the views of the group’s leaders. I grew up in the thick of Pentecostalism and I can assure you that many of its adherents subscribe (if that’s even the right word) to aberrant beliefs. But the denominational leaders are orthodox (except in the Oneness groups). I left Pentecostalism and have some pretty strong criticisms of it, but I don’t call it a cult even if many Pentecostals I grew up with and still know hold some very unorthodox opinions. The tutored ones, educated in Pentecostal doctrines, do not hold those aberrant beliefs. But a weakness of Pentecostalism is a certain tolerance for aberrations within the ranks–especially among evangelists. Still, none of that marks Pentecostalism as a cult or even “cultic.” I am coming around to thinking of the SDA church along the same lines.

    • John I.

      The issues of legalism and authoritarianism is different from the issue of orthodoxy of beliefs. Authoritarianism and legalism are also a problems in more orthodox churches.

      John I.

  • Vance

    I can’t turn down a deal like that. I’ll post a response as soon as I can get to it. Thanks for calling my attention to your reply. I was out of town for 10 days without computer access, and I didn’t check that thread after I got back. On the CT versus NCT issue, I presently think CT has it basically right. In fact, I find that I strongly agree with the Reformed Tradition in most issues aside from the last four points of the Five Points of Calvinism.

    • Robert

      Hello Vance,

      “I can’t turn down a deal like that. I’ll post a response as soon as I can get to it. Thanks for calling my attention to your reply. I was out of town for 10 days without computer access, and I didn’t check that thread after I got back. On the CT versus NCT issue, I presently think CT has it basically right. In fact, I find that I strongly agree with the Reformed Tradition in most issues aside from the last four points of the Five Points of Calvinism.”

      Well you responded to my post on the other thread so I now have to keep the bargain on this thread! :-)

      It also looks like we are almost opposites! :-)

      I accept total depravity if it is taken as the idea that all are separated from God through sin (i.e. spiritually dead) and unable to have a faith response (cf. John 6:44) unless the Holy Spirit works powerfully in them (thus negating Pelagian and semi-Pelagian views). But while the Spirit must enable a faith response, this work does not necessitate a faith response (thus irresistible grace is false, a person once enabled by the Spirit can choose to accept Christ or choose to reject Him, with the choice being up to them). I reject the conception of depravity that says that a person must be regenerated first in order for them to have a faith response. I also believe that genuine believers cannot lose their salvation (so apparently while you are a “1 pointer” I am a “2 pointer”! :-)

      First of all I do not accept Covenant Theology. I have real problems with their concept of the “covenant of works” (something I find no evidence of whatsoever in the book of Genesis where it supposedly first begins).

      Before encountering covenant theology (CT for short) and New Covenant Theology (NCT for short), my own simple framework was encapsulated in the answer to a single question: at this time in history how does a person enter into a saving and proper relationship with God? The simple answer is that this is always by faith. The more complex answer is that while we are saved through faith, we are also present during time periods where various covenants are in place. God operates in line with these covenants. So you have to take onto account the covenant made with Abraham, the Mosaic covenant and finally the New Covenant. Since I reject the covenant of works (as a theological invention nowhere present in the biblical texts), for me a person is always initially saved by faith alone (though good works will always come from a living fruit bearing believer). And the Abrahamic covenant seems to suggest this, that Abraham’s descendants would be those who initially believe God, who trust God as Abraham did.

      Now if you believe these things (as I do) then what do you think my response to NCT will be? :-)

      I am very open and positive about it. I think they capture a lot of the thoughts that I already hold to (cf. I especially like Douglas Moo in this area as he seems to get it right in my opinion, and he ought to be classified as a proponent of NCT in my opinion, similarly D. A. Carson gets things in this area right as well and he is NCT in my opinion), and their emphasis on the discontinuity between the Old and New covenants is especially true in my opinion.

      Another difference that in my opinion CT people do not take sufficiently into account is that the Old Covenant included nonbelievers (as the nation of Israel included both genuine believers and those who were not believers): the New covenant on the other hand includes ONLY BELIEVERS. I believe this is why CT people make so many mistakes in the area of baptism. Only believers receive the Holy Spirit in the New covenant (and so only believers ought to be baptized). Believers under the New Covenant are not under the Mosaic Law (the NT statements on this to me are crystal clear and well exegeted by guys like Tom Wells and Fred Zaspel and D.A. Carson and Douglas Moo, major proponents of NCT). And here again the NCT folks have some great things to say about all of this.

      The real sticky wicket is the role of works in the believers life and the function of the Decalogue for New Covenant believers (e.g. I agree with the NCT people that we are not under the Sabbath regulations as Old Covenant believers were).

      All in all then, I see a lot of positives with the NCT people. They know their bibles, exegete the relevant passages correctly and know the problems and errors with CT. And no I am not a dispensationalist either if you were wondering! :-)

      Robert

  • Vance

    Thanks, Robert.

    “First of all I do not accept Covenant Theology. I have real problems with their concept of the ‘covenant of works’ (something I find no evidence of whatsoever in the book of Genesis where it supposedly first begins).”

    Here’s my understanding of CT’s view on the covenant of works and covenant of grace: Adam was under a covenant of *law* (the expression “covenant of works” may be misleading or confusing; some CT people prefer “covenant of creation”). The “covenant” is God’s promise to bless Mankind (Adam and Eve, with their progeny) on the condition that they abide by the terms of the covenant. The “law” was this: Don’t eat fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Even if the tree and fruit were literal, they could have represented a whole body of commandments.) Once the covenant of law was broken–once sin entered the picture–the covenant of grace was necessary if Man was to continue to survive. The effects of Christ’s sacrifice were retroactive, so at the Fall the “covenant of grace” began. Perhaps a less confusing way of saying all this is as follows: Adam was given a law, the breaking of which would result in death. When he broke it, the result was death for Man (all of us were “in Adam,” as it were). The deadly effects of Adam’s sin were reversed by the sacrificial work of Christ (the Source of the covenant of grace).

    Christ Himself fulfilled the covenant of works through His perfect obedience. If not for His perfect obedience (and fulfillment of the covenant of works), there would be no covenant of grace.

    It’s important to remember that the covenant of law (or “covenant of works”) was also a covenant of grace, for humans *always* owe absolute obedience to God, so God’s promise of life for Adam reveals the grace of God already present. I don’t see anything in this *not* to agree with.

    “Another difference that in my opinion CT people do not take sufficiently into account is that the Old Covenant included nonbelievers (as the nation of Israel included both genuine believers and those who were not believers): the New covenant on the other hand includes ONLY BELIEVERS.”

    I agree completely. But I was thinking (and could be wrong) that some CT advocates believe the NC includes only believers, not believers and their children.

    “The real sticky wicket is the role of works in the believers life and the function of the Decalogue for New Covenant believers…”

    Indeed, it is. But more than that, it is the way the NCT crowd (or some of them, at least) treats the Sermon on the Mount. I have in mind particularly Reisinger’s arguments in his book, “In Defense of Jesus, the New Lawgiver” (a response to Barcellos’s “In Defense of the Decalogue”). I won’t elaborate here, but I think he misreads Jesus’ “but I say unto you” statements. He thinks Jesus is suggesting discontinuity between the Mosaic Law and His new Law, when in fact He is not overturning OT commandments and replacing them with new commandments, but is bringing to light the true meaning and underlying intent of those OT laws by stripping away misunderstandings and the false traditions the scribes and Pharisees had attached to them.

    “I also believe that genuine believers cannot lose their salvation (so apparently while you are a “1 pointer” I am a “2 pointer”!”

    This is surprising. I didn’t know you believed that false doctrine. : )

  • JPC

    Roger, I do agree that it is a fine line to determine whether or not a group should be considered a “cult” or if we just have differences within the body and have to agree to disagree as brothers, dont you? I dont want to condemn any group without doing my due diligence in “testing all things and holding fast to that which is true” and I have examined the Seventh Day Adventists “official website” and they are definitely a “cult”. I can post many things from that website and anyone wondering whether they are a cult or not should examine their “official teachings” and find out for themselves. I have had many disagreements with Pentecostals (my mom is a Pentecostal and I grew up in a Pentecostal Church and had a lot of “experiences” in that Church) but I still consider them my brothers in Christ (not Oneness Pentecostals though). It is not fun and I have been ostracized from my Seventh-Day Adventist and Oneness Pentecostal family but continue to love them and pray for them and hope that one day they will see the truth of God’s word and not the false doctrines that they have trusted in.

    Also, I did see both of your points about “shelf doctrines” and the word “cult” and I agree in part to what you are saying in both. For “shelf doctrines” I agree that we all do that to some extent but when you call your movement “Seventh Day Adventism” and rigidly follow the Sabbath in accordance with the 10 commandments and believe that the Sabbath is the distinguishing mark of the “remnant”, that hardly qualifies as a “shelf doctrine” dont you think? As for the word “cult” I do try and use it mainly in this instance: when a group claims to have the only way for Salvation and that they are the only true Church while also teaching a false Gospel and/or a false God. I believe that within this scope it is appropriate to consider them a “cult”.

    • http://RogerEOlson.com Roger

      I believe you continue to miss my point about the word “cult.” Again–in the popular mind (including most Christians) it is associated with violence or mind control or some kind of egregious abuse. The media use it that way exclusively. They never use “cult” in the older, theological sense. I believe that today putting the label “cult” on any group is putting a target on them–for harassment if not violence. I prefer not to use the term except for those few groups that do actually threaten violence or practice physical or mental abuse. An older term for marginal groups that are considered unorthodox is “sect.” I don’t know if that effectively replaces “cult” (in its older, theological meaning) or not. Perhaps. But better is probably “alternative religious movement.”

  • Victor M. Reyes-Prieto

    Dear JPC,

    I have hesitated to reply to you personally. However, after reading your comments regarding Adventists, it would be of interest to you to read my comments in reply to drwayman’s comments and his observation on annihilationism.

    Bear in mind that it is not my attempt to provide direct answers to your questions nor to the question on annihilationism. The point is clear, to steer you in a direction that would be spiritually productive rather than to tackle issues randomly. If you are interested in learning more about the biblical foundation of Adventism, you owe it to yourself to begin your investigation at its theological core. Everything else hinges on its foundation which centers on God’s dilemma to save the human race, namely in the person of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

    Feel free to engage in an amicable and spiritually profitable discussion, seeking to uplift one another in Christ following the counsel of Scripture.

    Blessings,

    Victor ;-)

  • Andrew

    You can go here for a comprehensive Adventist view on Michael the Archangel with Bible references:

    http://www.sdanet.org/atissue/books/qod/q08.htm

    Here it is in part:

    “We emphatically reject the idea set forth in this question, and the position held by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. We do not believe that Christ is a created being. We, as a people, have not considered the identification of Michael of sufficient prominence to dwell upon it at length either in our literature or in our preaching. But we do have clear views on the subject, and are prepared to set them forth. And our views concerning Michael, it might be added, have been held by various eminent scholars through the centuries. We are therefore not alone in our understanding.”

    Whatever is in bold must be clear before you read any further.
    But anyone who thinks Adventists are “like Jehovah’s Witnesses” or even confuses the two groups is probably not sufficiently mature or knowledgeable to evaluate the matter.

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  • Mark

    As a Calvinist I would like to ask all Arminians – Wesleyan, Nazarene, Pentecostal, SDA, CoC, Methodist, Missionary Alliance, whatever – how a spiritually dead human being who is born to be in rebellion against God can come to a saving trust in Christ by his or her own will? I know, you guys talk about prevenient grace, but even with that thrown into the lot the ultimate decision is laid upon the human being.

    I’m not saying that Arminians cannot be born-again Christians (some Arminians are better Christians than some Calvinists) but you guys still have this theological conundrum that has yet to be answered when challenged by a Calvinist.

    • http://RogerEOlson.com Roger

      Have you read any Arminian books? I challenge you to read Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities and (when it is published later this year) Against Calvinism. I answer your accusations and challenges in them.

    • Jeff Martin

      This is from John Fletcher, an early Methodist preacher and theologian

      I. Availing yourself of St. Paul’s words to the Ephesians and Colossians, “You hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; and you, being dead in your sins, hath he quickened together with him;” you dwell upon the absurdity of “expecting living actions from a dead corpse,” or living works from a dead soul.

      1. I wonder at the partiality of some persons. If we assert, that “strong believers are dead TO sin,” they tell us very properly that such are not so dead, but they may commit sin if they please, or if they are off their watch. But if we say, that “many who are dead IN sin, are not so dead, but in the strength imparted, together with the Light that enlightens every man, they may leave off some of their sins if they please,” we are exclaimed against as using metaphysical distinctions. and dead must absolutely mean impotent as a corpse.

      2. The word dead is frequently used in the Scriptures to denote a particular degree of helplessness and inactivity, very short of the total helplessness of a corpse. We read of the deadness of Sarah’s womb, and of Abraham’s body being dead; and he must be a strong Calvinist indeed, who, from such expressions, peremptorily asserts, that Sarah’s dead womb was as unfit for conception, and Abraham’s dead body for generation, as if they both had been “dead corpses.” Christ writes to the Church of Sardis, “I know thy works; thou hast a name to live, and art dead.” But it is evident, that dead as they were, something remained alive in them, though like the smoking flax, it was “ready to die.” Witness the words that follow: “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die.” Now, sir, if the dead Sardians could work for life, by “strengthening the things” belonging to the Christian “which remained” in them’ is it modest to decide è cathedra, that the dead Ephesians and Colossians could not as well work for life, by “strengthening the things that remained and were ready to die,” under their own dispensation? Is it not evident that a beam of “the Light of the world” still shone in their hearts, or that the Spirit still strove with them? If they had absolutely quenched him, would he have helped them to believe? And if they had not, was not there something of “the Light which enlightens every man” remaining in them; with which they both could, and did work for life, as well as the dead Sardians?

      3. The absurdity of always measuring the meaning of the word dead, by the idea of a dead corpse, appears from several other scriptures St. Paul, speaking of one who grows wanton against Christ, says, “She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.” Now, if this means that she is entirely devoid of every degree of spiritual life, what becomes of Calvinism? Suppose all that live in pleasure are as dead to God as corpses, what became of the everlasting life of Lot, when he lived in pleasure with his daughters? of David with Bathsheba, and Solomon with his idolatrous wives? When the same apostle observes to the Romans, that their “body was dead because of sin,” did he really mean they were already dead corpses? And when he adds, “Sin revived and I died,” did Calvinian death really pass upon him? Dead as he was, could not he complain like the dry bones, and ask, “Who shall deliver me from this body of death?”

      Again: when our Lord says to Martha, “He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live,” does he not intimate, that there is a work consistent with the degree of death of which he speaks? A believing out of death into life? A doing the work of God for life, yea, for eternal life?

      4. From these and the like scriptures, it is evident, that there are different degrees of spiritual death, which you perpetually confound.

      (1.) Total death, or a full departure of the Holy Spirit. This passed upon Adam, and all mankind in him, when he lost God’s moral image, fell into selfish nature, and was buried in sin, guilt, shame, and horror.

      (2.) Death freely visited with a seed of life in our fallen representative, and of course in all his posterity, during the day of their visitation.

      (3.) Death oppressing this living seed, and holding it “in unrighteousness,” which was the death of the Ephesians and Colossians.

      (4.) Death prevailing again over the living seed, after it had been powerfully quickened, and burying it in sin and wickedness. This was the death of David during his apostasy, and is still that of all who once believed, but now live in Laodicean ease or Sardian pleasure. And,

      (5.) The death of confirmed apostates, who, by absolutely quenching “the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus,” the second Adam, are fallen into the miserable state of nature and total helplessness, in which the first Adam was when God preached to him the Gospel of his quickening grace. These are said by St. Jude to be twice dead; dead by Adam’s total apostasy from God, and dead by their own personal and final apostasy from “the Light of the world.” [Fletcher's Works, Vol.1 pp. 199-201, The Wesleyan Heritage Collection]

  • http://www.aiias.edu ian felicitas

    Dr. Olson,

    I have been elated with your books, namely: Arminian theology: Myth and Realities and the recent released Against Calvinism)! You have given sound and engaging arguments to the validity of the Arminian soteriological paradigm.

    Thank you for this meaningful contribution to the theological world!

    -ian felicitas


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