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Questions On Doctrine


Seventh-day Adventist Relationship to Past Positions



Have Seventh-day Adventists changed from some of the positions advocated by certain adherents of earlier years, from whom citations are still currently circulated? Do such citations misrepresent the present teachings of Adventist leadership?


Seventh-day Adventists believe that the unfolding light of Bible truth is progressive, and is to shine "more and more unto the perfect day" (Prov. 4:18). And we have sought to walk in the advancing light of truth. We have never driven in formal creedal stakes, and said, "This is the truth; thus far, and no farther." Ellen G. White, one of our leading writers, wrote in 1892:

New light will ever be revealed on the word of God to him who is in living connection with the Sun of Righteousness. Let no one come to the conclusion that there is no more truth to be revealed. The diligent, prayerful seeker for truth will find precious rays of light yet to shine forth from the word of God.—Counsels on Sabbath School Work, p. 34.

The founding fathers of the Seventh-day Adventist Church over a century ago came out of various denominational backgrounds. While all were premillennialists, some were Trinitarian; others were Arian. The majority were Arminians; a few were Calvinists. Some insisted on immersion; a few were content with sprinkling. There was diversity on these points. And as with various


other religious groups, our early days were characterized by transition and adjustment. A church was being brought forth. As these men were already born-again believers, the initial study and emphasis was placed upon the distinctive teachings of the movement. And they were similarly occupied in developing an effective organization.

In those early years relatively little attention was paid to the respective merits of Arminianism in contrast with the Calvinist position. The historic differences of thought involved had reached back to Augustine and Chrysostom. They did not concern themselves with "absolute decrees," "divine sovereignty," "particular election," or "limited atonement." Nor did they, at first, seek to define the nature of the Godhead, or the problems of Christology, involving the deity of Christ and His nature during the incarnation; the personality and deity of the Holy Spirit; the nature, scope, and completeness of the atonement; the relationship of law to grace or the fullness of the doctrine of righteousness by faith; and the like.

But with the passage of years the earlier diversity of view on certain doctrines gradually gave way to unity of view. Clear and sound positions were then taken by the great majority on such doctrines as the Godhead, the deity and eternal pre-existence of Christ, and the personality of the Holy Spirit. Clear-cut views were established on righteousness by faith, the true relationship of law and grace, and on the death of Christ as the complete sacrificial atonement for sin.

A few, however, held to some of their former views, and at times these ideas got into print. However, for decades now the church has been practically at one on the basic truths of the Christian faith.


The very fact that our positions were now clarified seemed to us to be sufficient. Our teachings, we felt, were clear. And no particular statement of change from those earlier ideas appeared necessary. Today the primary emphasis of all our leading denominational literature, as well as the continuous presentation over radio and television, emphasizes the historic fundamentals of the Christian faith.

But the charges and attacks have persisted. Some continue to gather up quotations from some of our earlier literature long since out of date, and print. Certain statements are cited, often wrested out of context, which give a totally distorted picture of the beliefs and teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist Church of today.

Another consideration should be taken into account. It is that Seventh-day Adventists, having no formal creed, do not rigidly bind the thinking of their ministry. It would be strange indeed if from some Adventist writer there did not appear an occasional statement that was out of line with the consensus of Seventh-day Adventist belief. Most religious bodies face this problem and embarrassment from time to time.

All this has made it desirable and necessary for us to declare our position anew upon the great fundamental teachings of the Christian faith, and to deny every statement or implication that Christ, the second person of the Godhead, was not one with the Father from all eternity, and that His death on the cross was not a full and complete sacrificial atonement. The belief of Seventh-day Adventists on these great truths is clear and


emphatic. And we feel that we should not be identified with, or stigmatized for, certain limited and faulty concepts held by some, particularly in our formative years.

This statement should therefore nullify the stock "quotations" that have been circulated against us. We are one with our fellow Christians of denominational groups in the great fundamentals of the faith once delivered to the saints. Our hope is in a crucified, risen, ministering, and soon-returning Saviour.

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