This book came into being to meet a definite need. Interest concerning Seventh-day Adventist belief and work has increased as the movement has grown. But in recent years especially, there seems to be a desire on the part of many non-Adventists
for a clearer understanding of our teachings and objectives. Uncertainty regarding our basic beliefs is abundantly evident in much of the literature published concerning us. There are already many books purporting to give the story of this people.
Recently, however, one of the large Protestant publishing Houses here in the United States planned the production of still another book. An author of several works dealing with the history and beliefs of certain religious groups was requested to produce this new book, the purpose of which was to present a general review of our history and belief. It was to be an objective analysis, with particular emphasis in those areas wherein Adventist teachings differ from some other Christian groups.
In order to be factual in his treatment of the subject this author did what authors in general have failed to do: he visited our denominational headquarters in Washington, D.C., and obtained firsthand information. Moreover, he came not for just a single visit, but in company with other scholars made a number of trips to the General Conference covering a period of almost
two years. Hundreds of hours went into this research, and hundreds of books and pamphlets, both Adventist and non-Adventist, were examined. In addition there were a large number of interviews. During these many months of study, the major aspects of Adventist teaching were carefully analyzed. The inquiries growing out of this investigation were ultimately couched in a series of searching questions to which comprehensive answers were requested.
The replies were prepared by a group of recognized leaders, in close counsel with Bible teachers, editors, and administrators. The goal was to set forth our basic beliefs in terminology currently used in theological circles. This was not to be a new statement of faith, but rather an answer to specific questions concerning our faith. It was natural that these answers would come within the framework of the official statement of Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists which appears in our
Church Manual and is included in this volume, pages 11-18. In view of this fact, these answers represent the position of our denomination in the area of church doctrine and prophetic interpretation.
As the work on the answers progressed, it was felt that our church members would be equally benefited by the material being prepared, and therefore it was decided to publish the completed work in book form. So this volume came into being. While the form of the work is rather unusual, it will, we trust, meet a definite need.
The writers, counselors, and editors who produced the answers to these questions have labored conscientiously to state accurately the beliefs of Seventh-day
Adventists. But because of the very nature of the Seventh-day Adventist Church organization no statement of Seventh-day Adventist belief can be considered official unless it is adopted by the General Conference in quadrennial session, when accredited delegates from the whole world field are present. The answers in this volume are an expansion of our doctrinal positions contained in the official statement of Fundamental Beliefs already referred to. Hence this volume can be viewed as truly representative of the faith and beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Those who have prepared these answers make no claim that they have provided the final word on Christian doctrine. Seventh-day Adventists believe that man's understanding of God's truth is progressive. "The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day" (Prov. 4:18). We surely should know more of God's will and purpose than did righteous men of earlier ages. And in days to come we should rightly expect further unfolding of Bible truth.
While we accept the Bible and the Bible only as our rule of faith and practice, we certainly recognize that we do not understand perfectly all truth which God would have His children know today. Nor have we ever claimed such knowledge. We honor the noble line of witnesses such as Wycliffe, Luther, Tyndale, Calvin, Knox, Wesley, and other great leaders of the past, whose advance into new light led the church forward in its fuller understanding of God's will. And we believe that God has given special light in these last days that is in advance of the gospel light perceived by earlier Christian leaders.
In harmony with the apostolic injunction, "Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear" (1 Peter 3:15), we have here sought to give reasons for our faith. We invite our Christian friends to examine these answers in the light of the Word of God.
The officers of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists felt that the material appearing in this volume would not only be helpful to the members of their own church but that it would also furnish reliable information on Adventist beliefs and teachings to the many inquiries, that, in recent years, have arisen regarding Adventist doctrines. They have therefore requested that this book be published for general use with the fervent prayer and hope that it may be useful in making dearer the way of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Editorial Committee