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Seventh-day Adventist Church

From Academic Kids

The Seventh-day Adventist Church, or Adventist Church for short (the acronym SDA is deprecated), is an evangelical Christian denomination that grew out of the prophetic Millerite movement in the United States during the middle part of the 19th century.
Contents

Origins

According to historians of the movement, this group gained its more recent name from the teaching that the expected return of Jesus on October 22, 1844 had been fulfilled in a way that had not previously been understood. This was termed "the Great Disappointment." Further Bible study led to the belief that Jesus in that year had entered into the Most Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary, and began an "investigative judgment" of the world: a process through which there is an examination of the heavenly records to "determine who, through repentance of sin and faith in Christ, are entitled to the benefits of His atonement"¹ after which Jesus will return to earth. According to the church's teaching, the return of Christ may occur very soon, though nobody knows the exact date of that event (Matthew 24:36).

Early Seventh-day Adventist leaders, including Ellen G. White, taught that those who did not accept the Adventist message prior to October 22, 1844, would not be saved. This was called the "shut-door" doctrine. The doctrine was later rejected by Seventh Day Adventists. Ellen G. White would later claim that she only believed this doctrine for a few months in 1844, until a "vision" told her to reject it. However, critics argue that she and other early Adventist leaders continued to teach it as late as 1851. Among other things, they point to the Camden Vision, a document recounting a vision had by Ellen G. White which teaches the shut door doctrine and is dated to 1851. The Adventist church leadership, however, insists the Camden Vision is fraudulent. See [1] (http://www.ex-sda.com/camden-g.htm) for some discussions of the Adventist leadership claims (from an anti-Adventist perspective).

For about 20 years, the Adventist movement was a rather unorganized group of people who held to this message. Among its greatest supporters were James White, Ellen G. White and Joseph Bates.

Later, a formally organized church called the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists was established in Battle Creek, Michigan, in May 1863, with a membership of 3,500. Through the evangelism and inspiration of Ellen G. White, the church quickly grew and established a presence beyond North America during the later part of the 1800s. In 1903, the denominational headquarters were moved from Battle Creek to Washington D.C. (and the immediately neighboring community of Takoma Park, Maryland). In 1989, the headquarters was moved again, this time to Silver Spring, Maryland.

Doctrine

Seventh-day Adventist doctrine is based on the Anabaptist protestant tradition. Adventist doctrine resembles mainstream orthodox trinitarian Protestant theology, with the exception of several areas.

  • Saturday as Sabbath. Seventh-day Adventists observe a 24-hour sunset-to-sunset Sabbath commencing Friday evening. Justification for this belief is garnered from the creation account in Genesis in which God rested on the seventh-day, an approach later immortalised in the Ten Commandments. Seventh-day Adventists maintain that there is no biblical mandate for the change from the "true Sabbath" to Sunday observance, which is to say that Sunday-keeping is merely a "tradition of men."
  • State of the Dead. Seventh-day Adventists believe that death is a sleep during which the "dead know nothing" (Ecclesiastes 9:5). This view maintains that the person has no form of existence until the resurrection, either at the second coming of Jesus (in the case of the righteous) or after the millennium of Revelation 20 (in the case of the wicked). Because of this view, Seventh-day Adventists do not believe hell currently exists and believe further that the wicked will be destroyed in hell at the end of time.
  • Baptism. Seventh-day Adventists practice adult baptism by full immersion in a similar manner to the Baptists. Infants are dedicated rather than baptized, as it is argued that baptism requires knowing consent and moral responsibility.
  • Believe in an imminent, pre-millennial, second advent, preceded by a time of trouble when the righteous will be persecuted and a false second coming where Satan impersonates the Messiah.
  • Teach that the "Spirit of Prophecy," an identifying mark of the remnant church, was manifested in the ministry of Ellen G. White, whom Adventists recognize 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" (27 Fundamental Beliefs).

Seventh-day Adventists oppose the formulation of credal statements. Seventh-day Adventists prefer to view the fundamental beliefs as descriptors rather than prescriptors. However divergence from the published position is frowned upon. Missionary outreach of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is aimed on both unbelievers and other Christian Churches.

Number of members

  • 1961: 1 million
  • 1970: 2 million
  • 1980: 3.5 million
  • 1990: Almost 7 million
  • 2000: About 11 million
  • 2003: About 12 million
  • 2004: About 14 million

The Seventh-day Adventist Church is one of the world's fastest-growing organizations, primarily due to increases in Third World membership.

The current head of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is General Conference President Jan Paulsen from Norway.

Media ministries

The Seventh-day Adventist Church has many affiliated broadcast ministries that are seen every day on radio and television.

The Voice Of Prophecy was founded in 1929 by H.M.S. Richards, Sr. on a single radio station in Los Angeles, but has since spread to stations throughout the nation and has recently begun television and video production. Richards' son, H.M.S. Richards, Jr., succeeded him in the late 1970s, and today is hosted by Pastor Lonnie Meleshenko and Connie Jeffery (daughter of It Is Written founder George Vandeman).

The Quiet Hour was founded in 1937 by J.L. Tucker as a radio program. Succeeding members of the Tucker family have run the ministry since then, and it too has expanded into television.

It Is Written was founded in 1956 by George Vandeman and was the first religious program to air in color, and the first to take advantage of satellite technology. Mark Finley succeeded Vandeman in 1992. He left the show in 2004 and was replaced by Shawn Boonstra.

Amazing Facts was founded in 1965 by Joe Crews in Baltimore, Maryland. Inspired by the success of the Voice Of Prophecy, Crews' original objective was to reach out to both Christian and non-Christian listeners via daily 15-minute programs by opening with a catchy historic fact, and how it applies to the overall Biblical messages. Later, the program offered accompanying home Bible study courses, as well as books written by Crews himself. In 1987, Amazing Facts initiated a television ministry. In 1993, after Joe Crews' passing, Doug Batchelor assumed the position as Director/Speaker, and has held that position ever since. Today, Amazing Facts broadcasts mainly out of Sacramento, California.

Breath Of Life is one of the most recent Adventist broadcast ministries to hit the airwaves. Although its main audience is African American, the message is similar to the other broadcast ministries.

The Three Angels Broadcasting Network was founded in 1984 by Danny Shelton. Troubled by bad thoughts, but inspired by his and his daughter's singing religious songs, Shelton had an idea to build a television station that would fulfill his own deepest needs. Eventually this would develop into a major 24-hour satellite service seen around the world. 3ABN (as it is often called) broadcasts all the major Adventist ministries, as well as its own in-house productions on the gospel, and mental and spiritual health. Additionally, there is a Three Angels Broadcasting Radio Network as well. This organization is a privately run non-profit that is not an official arm of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

"HopeTV" is another television network affilliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The Hope Channel (http://www.hopetv.org/) is broadcast via satellite, terrestrial, and cable television.

All the main Adventist broadcast ministries have engaged in worldwide outreach via numerous crusades and rallies.

Health

Seventh-day Adventists present a health message that recommends vegetarianism and requires abstinence from pork, shellfish, and other foods proscribed as "unclean" in Leviticus as well as from alcohol and tobacco.

The "health message" is considered to be the "right arm" of the church.

Seventh-day Adventists run a large number of hospitals. The school of medicine in North America is located in Loma Linda, California.

Education

Seventh-day Adventists have had a long interest in education. The Adventist church runs one of the largest education systems in the world. They operate some 5,700 pre-schools, primary and secondary schools, as well as colleges, universities, seminaries and medical schools in about 145 countries worldwide. The Adventist educational program is comprehensive encompassing "mental, physical, social, and spiritual health" with "intellectual growth and service to humanity" its goal.

Pathfinders

The Youth Department of the Seventh-day Adventist church runs an organisation for 10-16 year old boys and girls called Pathfinders. For younger children, Adventurer and Eager Beavers clubs are available that feed into the Pathfinder program.

Pathfinders is similar to the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), except that membership is open to both boys and girls.

Institutions

Other Activities

The Seventh-day Adventist Church has been active for over 100 years advocating for freedom of religion (IRLA (http://www.irla.org)). They also have been formally active in humanitarian aid for over 50 years (ADRA).

Structure and Polity

  • The global church is called the General Conference.
  • The General Conference is made up of divisions.
  • Divisions are comprised of union conferences.
  • Union conferences consist of local conferences.
  • Local conferences include local church districts. These are generally ministered to by one pastor each.
  • Local districts can contain one to many local churches (congregations). In the United States, these numbers tend to be smaller (2-4 churches per district, perhaps), while in most of the worldwide church, the numbers tend to be larger (5+ per district and per pastor, sometimes as many as 15 or more).

Adventist Church polity (governance), is a curious mixture of hierarchical (or episcopal,) presbyterian and congregational elements. Each of these local churches has its own elected governing body and office. Almost everything is decided by either elected committees or through vote of members or representatives from the local churches. Each organization holds a general session at certain intervals. This is usually when general decisions get voted on. The president of the General Conference, for instance, is elected at the General Conference Session every five years. Churches are governed by a church board formed by members of that church, with the pastor of that congregation. Church property is owned by the conference corporation though, and so this differs from congregational polity. Ministers are ordained by ministers as are lay elders and lay deacons (This is presbyterian rather than congregational or episcopal.)

Off-shoots and Schismatics

Most notoriously, the Branch Davidians and David Koresh of the Waco, Texas conflagration are a schismatic off-shoot of the Seventh-day Adventist religious movement, and hold very little in common with the rest of Adventism.

Outsider Criticisms of Seventh-day Adventism

There are disputes among Evangelical counter-cult authors over whether Seventh-day Adventism is a cult, in the sense in which they use this term to refer to groups which deviate from their own particular views on biblical orthodoxy. For example, in the late 1950s, Walter Martin and Donald Barnhouse classified Adventists as non-cultic, although for Martin this was a reversal of his classification of Adventists early in 1955 as a cult. Many evangelicals followed this advice, and continue to do so today, and accept Adventism as an orthodox Christian denomination, even if it holds a few doctrines which are different from mainline Christian churches. This can be viewed as an increasing acceptance of the Adventist church into the Christian fold, since many of these other Christian groups were previously very much opposed to Adventist teaching. Others, however, have rejected this view, including, for example, John Whitcomb, Jr. Adventist insularism and warnings about mixing with non-Christians and even non-Adventists, and the importance placed on Adventist education for children add to allegations of cult-like behaviour.

Some critics argue that Seventh-day Adventists' focus on the Sabbath places a focus on works rather than grace. Another criticism is that there are a number of conservative Adventists who hold staunchly anti-Roman Catholic views.

Critics of Adventist doctrine argue that the Adventist church, in accepting Ellen G. White as a prophet and her writings as inspired, is putting forward another source of authority in addition to the Bible. This they view as contrary to the traditional Protestant sola scriptura view of the Bible as the sole inspired source of authority, and the rejection of any claims to latter-day prophets.

They also criticise the Christology taught by Ellen G. White as inaccurate and heterodox. For example, White taught that "Christ took upon His sinless nature our sinful nature ... Christ took human nature and bore the infirmities and degeneracy of the race. He took our nature and its deteriorating condition" (Questions on Doctrine, pp. 654-656). By contrast, the traditional teaching of Christianity (both Protestant and Catholic) is that Christ's human nature was sinless.

Critics also view the Adventist belief in annihilationism as unbiblical. They point to various biblical passages which contradict annihilationism, for example Luke 16:19-31, which they argue clearly indicates that the dead are presently conscious in Heaven or Hell, not in some kind of soul sleep.

Critics alledge that Ellen G. White taught that belief in the doctrine of "investigative judgement" was necessary for salvation. For example, she writes in her book The Great Controversy (p. 488):

The subject of the sanctuary and the investigative judgement should be clearly understood by the people of God. All need a knowledge for themselves of the position and work of their great High Priest. Otherwise it will be impossible for them to exercise the faith which is essential at this time or to occupy the position which God designs for them to fill.

It has been noted by several other Christian groups that in recent years the Adventist leadership has de-emphasised several of the uniquely Adventist doctrines, in favour of an emphasis on the basic Christian beliefs they share with other Christians, which renders the Adventist church less problematic on the whole from the perspective of other Christians. Some groups of traditionalist Seventh-day Adventists, however, are rather cross at the Adventist Church leadership for doing this, and a few have left the Adventist church to form splinter groups as a result.

Notes

  1. Ellen G. White. The Great Controversy (1911 edition) p.422 GC chapter 23 (http://www.whiteestate.org/books/gc/gc23.html)

External links

Official Seventh-day Adventist Websites

Seventh-day Adventist Divergent Views

Sites opposed to Seventh-day Adventism

Sites opposed to sites opposed to Seventh-day Adventism

  • SDA Outreach.com (http://www.sdaoutreach.com/) - rebuttal of SDA Outreach.org
  • GreatControversy.org (http://www.greatcontroversy.org/) - Conservative issues-oriented site
  • Pickle Publishing (http://www.pickle-publishing.com/papers/jeremiah-films/video-1.htm) - A Critique of the Jeremiah Films Video: Seventh-day Adventism - The Spirit Behind the Church

Neutral POV Reference

es:Iglesia Adventista del Sptimo Da eo:Adventismo ja:セブンスデー・アドベンチスト教会 nl:Zevendedags Adventisten nds:Svenden-Dags-Adventisten ru:Адвентисты седьмого дня sv:Sjundedagsadventister pl:Kościł Adwentystw Dnia Sidmego

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