Seventh-Day Adventists: Who the Heck Are They?
The Seventh-Day Adventist Church has been called a cult by some and "fringe" Protestants by others. But are they either? This article hopes to enlighten readers with facts about actual SDA beliefs.
The Seventh-Day Adventist Church is a Protestant denomination that began as an offshoot of the Millerite Movement. The Millerites were followers of William Miller, a farmer and a preacher, who upon reading scripture (specifically Daniel 8:14), came to the conclusion that Jesus Christ's Second Advent would occur on October 22, 1844. Many of Miller’s followers even sold their earthly possessions due to their conviction that the end of the world was near.
When Jesus did not appear, Miller stated he had made a mistake; he then issued another date for the Second Coming of Jesus. After Miller’s second failure, most of his followers abandoned the movement. This second let-down became known as the Great Disappointment.
Nevertheless, a few believers chose to go back to their Bibles to try and figure out where they went wrong. From this small group, the Adventists began to form beliefs which would later form the doctrine for the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. The SDA church became a formal denomination in 1863, and was co-founded by Joseph Bates, Ellen G. White and James Springer White, among others. As an aside, it should also be noted that members of the church often refer to themselves as SDA's or "Adventists."
Some Personal Background
Around 1956, two love-struck teenagers fell in love. One of them was my father, whose parents were very, very Catholic. The other teenager was my mother, who was raised by two devout Seventh Day Adventists, my grandparents. My parents married when they were both 18 years of age. After my brother and I appeared on the scene, both sets of grandparents unabashedly took it upon themselves to raise their grandchildren in the religion each had faithfully observed for many generations.
One might assume the contradiction between being raised both Catholic and Protestant may have bewildered two young children; however, no such perplexity or chaos ever materialized in my young mind nor in that of my sibling. In fact, having been raised by two "opposing religions" (both of which treated us quite well) was an experience neither of us have ever regretted. My brother and I appreciated both religions, strange as it may seem.
Furthermore, I can honestly say that Seventh Day Adventists have had a positive impact on my life. Thus, in having observed that SDA's are generally misunderstood, I decided to do my part to set the record straight. As an aside, I attended an SDA high school and an SDA college (and a Catholic Elementary school for three years of my life).
SDA's Believe in the Basic Tenets of Christianity
Given the Millerite debacle, it is not difficult to understand why the SDA church has been considered a "fringe" religion by many folks. However, just like mainstream Protestants (and Catholics, for that matter), SDA’s believe in the major precepts of Christianity---that Jesus lived, died, and was resurrected; that Jesus is mankind's Savior, and that Jesus will return again to gather the faithful to live with him for eternity. SDA's also believe in prayer, communion and missionary work. In effect, the SDA Church believes that salvation is God's gift to humanity through his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. That being said, Seventh Day Adventists have some significant theological differences that we will explore later in this article.
Ellen G. White
Ellen G. White was one of the early co-founders of the SDA Church. She began prophesying at 17 years of age until she died 70 years later, in 1915. Adventists believe E.G. White had the "gift of prophecy" and that her many and extensive doctrinal writings were inspired by God. Indeed, Mrs. White's voluminous writings (5,000 periodical articles and 40 books) are considered the authority on SDA teachings. Additionally, Mrs. White had approximately 2000 visions pertaining to healthy living, end-times and other prophesies, as well as insights into the daily life of Jesus before his ministry began.
Smithsonian Magazine named Ellen G. White as one of The 100 Most Significant and Interesting Americans of All Time. The magazine article provides highly detailed information about Ellen White's visions as well as eyewitness testimony of these events wherein Mrs. White would enter into a trance-like state during her revelations. However, the Smithsonian article downplays the supernatural somewhat, suggesting that the visions were a result of a traumatic head injury young Ellen had suffered as a child, which indeed she had.
Certainly, the Adventist church has received quite a lot of criticism regarding Ellen White's visions. It has even been suggested that White may have had epilepsy, possibly schizophrenia, and that, furthermore, her visions were a result of a "hysterical" personality. However, no credible evidence exists to substantiate any of these claims. Thus, the Smithsonian article leaves the reader to determine for themselves why and how the visions may have come about.
In any event, it is these seemingly strange trances which have caused reasonable people to speculate whether the Seventh Day Adventist church is a cult-like organization.
Adventists are Exceptionally Health Conscious
One cannot speak of Adventists without first realizing how well-respected they are in the field of healthcare and nutrition. The SDA approach to healthy living is really quite simple. Adventists' promote a vegetarian diet of legumes, whole grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables. The SDA church believes that our bodies are the temple of God and must therefore be respected as such. SDA's tend to be vegetarian; many do not smoke or drink much, if any, alcohol. Additionally, Adventists tend to remain physically active into old age. In fact, Loma Linda, a primarily Adventist community in California, boasts one of the longest and healthiest life expectancy communities in the world.Interestingly, such communities are referred to as blue zones.
In fact, my very own Adventist grandparents never smoked, never drank coffee or liquor and never ate meat of any kind. My grandpa even grew his own vegetables. My grandmother was a superb cook who never purchased an ounce of meat. As for exercise, she enjoyed her brisk walks.
Because I also spent a good portion of my time with my Catholic relatives, who ate meat, smoked, drank coffee and liquor, I came out somewhere in the middle of the nutrition spectrum. (Although I have never smoked.) Accordingly, I am very grateful for the lessons I learned from the Adventists about proper diet, to include viewing my body as a temple of God. I feel confident that this knowledge has greatly contributed to my over-all health, well-being and self-respect.
World SDA Health Care
No. of Hospitals & Sanitariums
Clinics & Dispensaries
Outpatient Visits over
Orphanages & Childrens Homes
Airplanes & Medical Launches
Nursing & Retirement Centers
Dr. Ben Carson, One of the More Famous SDA's
One of the more illustrious SDA's in the United States is Dr. Ben Carson, retired neurosurgeon and former Director of Johns Hopkins Hospital of Pediatric Neurosurgery. Dr. Carson was undoubtedly a gifted physician. He successfully separated conjoined twins; developed and performed (intra-uterine) surgery on a fetal twin as well as a hemispherectomy to relieve the seizures of an infant, among many other difficult surgeries. Dr. Carson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush in 2008. Dr. Ben Carson is currently the United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, under the Trump Administration.
SDA's are Deeply Involved in Education
The Church has approximately 7,000 schools around the world and over 100 colleges and universities. Adventist universities produce a plethora of physicians, nurses and other professionals. Indeed, when I attended an SDA high school and college (My high school senior class had only 40 students), I was surrounded by classmates whose parents were M.D.'s or other medical professionals. Although I was definitely the poor kid on the block, I always felt perfectly at home among these more privileged students.
Back In the Day...
SDA Baptismal Vows
1. I believe in God the Father; in His Son, Jesus Christ; and in the Holy Spirit
2. I accept the death of Jesus to pay for my sins
3. I accept the new heart Jesus gives me in place of my sinful heart
4. I believe that Jesus is in heaven as my best friend and that He gives me the Holy Spirit so I can obey Him
5. I believe God gave me the Bible as my most important guidebook
6. By God living in me, I want to obey the Ten Commandments, which include the observance of the seventh day of the week as the Sabbath
7. I want to help as many people as possible to be ready for the soon coming of Jesus
8. I believe God gives special abilities to His people, and that the Spirit of Prophecy is given to His chosen people
9. I want to help God's church with my influence, effort, and money
10. I want to take good care of my body because the Holy Spirit lives there now
11. With God's power, I want to obey the basic principles of the Seventh-day Adventist Church
12. I want to be baptized to show people I am a Christian
13. I want to be a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and I can believe this church has a special message to give to the world
Just How Do SDA’s Differ from other Protestants?
- SDA's believe the Sabbath is Saturday, not Sunday:
SDA's refrain from working on Saturday and they attend worship services on Saturday. No Adventist would ever think of replacing the Sabbath day (Saturday) with Sunday; they believe doing so would be to reject the Word of God. Adventists observe the Sabbath from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset.
- SDA's rarely, if ever wear jewelry:
The idea behind forsaking jewelry is many fold. I will only touch upon it here. The pagans of Roman times wore jewelry not only to lavishly adorn themselves, but to also honor the pagan gods and/or Caesar. Ancient Roman jewelry was engraved with pagan symbols or etchings of Caesar. Some early Christians began wearing engraved jewelry, but St. Paul warned against wearing anything that might honor paganism and the excesses of Rome. Thus, St. Paul encouraged women to be modest in their dress.
Needless to say, most jewelry pieces today are not engraved with images of Caesar and/or pagan gods. Nevertheless, Adventists still counsel against "needless adornment" and instead encourage "simplicity" of dress. Actually, Ellen G. White had owned a gold watch for a time, but eventually discarded it because it proved to be a stumbling block for some church members. Otherwise, E.G. White had no personal problem with the watch.
That being said, SDA's have not been "allowed" to wear wedding rings because it was thought to be "prideful." It was not until 1986 that the ban on wearing wedding rings was lifted. Prior to that time, Adventists wore a nice watch, instead of a ring, as the marriage symbol. Many Adventists still follow that custom today.
- SDA's are politically diverse:
45% of SDA's are Democrats, 35% are Republicans, 19% identify as Independents or claim no political affiliation. About 53% approve of larger government, while 42% prefer a small government. Surprisingly, Adventists believe it is important for the woman to make her own choice about abortion. The official stance is that women must choose for themselves when there are extenuating circumstances, such as rape, incest, congenital defects or serious jeopardy to the health of the woman.
- SDA's are Conscientious Objectors:
Adventists, by and large, do not carry arms during wartime, but they have always willingly served in the military as medics or in any other capacity that does not include the killing of another human being. The reason SDA's will not bear arms is due to the Sixth Commandment, "Thou Shalt Not Kill." Again, SDA's take the Ten Commandments literally.
By now, many of you may be familiar with Mel Gibson's Oscar nominated film, Hacksaw Ridge, a powerful portrayal of the true story of Desmond Doss, a Seventh Day Adventist conscientious objector, who volunteered to join the army during World War II. Doss is credited with having saved approximately 75 lives as an Army Medic during his service in World War II.
Corporal Doss was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Truman "for outstanding gallantry far above and beyond the call of duty." The Medal of Honor is the highest award a soldier can achieve. Doss never fired a single bullet, nor was he tucked away in a tent during battle. He saved lives by putting others' ahead of his own safety, on the battlefield. It is an understatement to say that his faith and courage was remarkable.
A Film based Upon the Life of Desmond Doss.
- SDA's do not believe in Hell or eternal punishment:
The SDA church believes that the dead know nothing (Ecclesiastes 9:5-6) and that they remain in a sleep (of sorts) until the Final Judgment Day. SDA's believe that when Jesus comes again, the righteous will live with him in heaven a thousand years for a time of reconciliation, after which time God will then return to earth to resurrect the unrighteous dead; He will then cleanse the earth with fire. In essence, SDA's do not believe in eternal torment but in a quick annihilation. After the cleansing, the Lord and the faithful will create a new heaven or "New Jerusalem" on earth where sin is no more and where joy and peace reign forevermore.
- SDA's are ethnically diverse and have been since their founding:
According to Pew Research, Seventh-day Adventists "top the list" regarding diversity, with the highest score of all major religions within the U.S., at a score of 9.1. For adults who identify as Seventh-day Adventists, 37% are white, 32% are black, 15% are Hispanic, 8% are Asian and another 8% are another race or a mixed race.
Around the world there are 18.1 million SDAs, making them a larger global presence than the Southern Baptist Convention (15.5 million), the United Methodist Church (12.8 million), or Mormonism (15.3 million).
~TGC The Gospel Coalition
What's Your Verdict?
Do you have a more favorable view of Seventh Day Adventists after having read this Hubpage?
Grain of Salt, Anyone?
Another Hubpage author has stated that the SDA church is a cult and that once involved, one "CANNOT leave the church" (paraphrase), the implication being that the church will engage in some sort of nefarious, menacing activity to make a fearful follower stay. His point seemed to be that the SDA church is dangerous and SCARY!
Frankly, I've never heard anything more nonsensical in my life. Nobody chases anyone down in the SDA church. That kind of talk is beyond silly. Crazy stuff just doesn't happen. SDA's are some of the most grounded people I've ever met. They tend to be highly-educated and frankly, quite normal, sometimes a little bit on the boring side, when all is said and done.
However, each individual must decide for themselves what they choose to believe. Let's face it, some SDA beliefs may seem odd, but cult-like? Not at all.
My brother, Orlando, today.
This article has touched upon a few facts pertaining to Seventh Day Adventists; Nevertheless, if it has served to educate the layman on a few points of interest pertaining to SDA's, then its purpose has been accomplished.
In closing, let me share with you what my brother stated regarding his feelings about the SDA church---given that we were raised together, in two different religions...
"I felt there were too many rules, and I'm the type of person who feels obliged to follow all of them, but I respect their health message very much. To this day, I still lean toward the view that Saturday is the Sabbath, even if I go to church on Sunday sometimes. Also, they are the only church that follows ALL Ten Commandments."
I asked him if he thinks the church is a cult. He laughed, as if to say:
"What a dumb question. No."
I feel the same way.
© 2017 Yves