Seventh-day Adventist theology

Seventh-day Adventist theology

The theology of the Seventh-day Adventist Church largely resembles that of mainstream Protestant Christianity, and in particular evangelicalism. Most significantly, Adventists believe in the authority of Scripture and teach that salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ. The 28 fundamental beliefs constitute the church's official doctrinal position.

The denomination also has a number of distinctive teachings which differentiate it from other Christian churches (although some of these beliefs are also held in other churches). Most notably, Adventists believe in the perpetuity of the Ten Commandments, the unconsciousness of man in death, conditional immortality, an atoning ministry of Jesus Christ in the heavenly sanctuary, and an “investigative judgment” that commenced in 1844. Furthermore, a traditionally historicist approach to prophecy has led Adventists to develop a unique system of eschatological beliefs which incorporates a commandment-keeping "remnant", a universal end-time crisis revolving around the law of God, and the visible return of Jesus Christ prior to a millennial reign of believers in heaven.

This article outlines the current teachings of the Adventist church from a mainstream perspective, and also explores some historical and controverted issues. For different theological perspectives, see the articles on Progressive Adventists and Historic Adventists.


Official beliefs

The Seventh-day Adventist denomination expresses its official teachings in a formal statement known as the 28 Fundamental Beliefs. This [ statement] of beliefs was originally adopted by the church's General Conference in 1980, with an additional belief (number 11) being added in 2005. [] Dale Ratzlaff rejected the Sabbath in "Sabbath in Crisis" (now "Sabbath in Christ").

Anglican Geoffrey Paxton wrote in 1977,:"It is sometimes said that Seventh-day Adventists claim salvation by Sabbath-keeping. But in my contact with them, I have never once heard this. Adventists do not believe they are accepted by God because they keep the Sabbath any more than they believe they are accepted by God because they practice monogamy!" [ Adventists: Heirs of the Reformation] , chapter 1 of " [ The Shaking of Adventism] " by Geoffrey J. Paxton]

econd Coming of Christ

Seventh-day Adventists believe in an imminent, universally visible Second Coming of Christ, which will be preceded by a "time of trouble". The teaching that Christ will be universally visible is based on which states "the dead know nothing", and ] However this view is becoming more mainstream within evangelicalism, as evidenced by the British Evangelical Alliance "ACUTE" report, which states the doctrine is a "significant minority evangelical view" which has "grown within evangelicalism in recent years". [. The purpose of this judgment is to vindicate the saints before the onlooking universe, to prepare them for Christ's imminent Second Coming, and to demonstrate God's righteous character in His dealings with humanity. This judgment will also separate true believers from those who falsely claim to be ones. [Apparently, Ronald L. Numbers "The Creationists" is a good source. Excerpt [ available online] ]

Worship style

In North America, there has recently been a change in the style of worship associated with Seventh Day Adventists. Congregations are now taking a more modern and contemporary approach to worship in order to connect with a younger generation of church followers.

piritual gifts

The 17th fundamental belief of the church affirms that the spiritual gifts continue into the present.

There have been isolated occurrences of "speaking in tongues" throughout the history of the Adventist church. Adventists generally believe the legitimate gift is of speaking unlearned human languages only, and are generally critical of the gift as practiced by charismatic and Pentecostal Christians today.

The scapegoat

Adventists teach that the scapegoat, or "Azazel", is a symbol for Satan. They believe that in the final judgment Satan will have to bear the responsibility for the sins of Christians, and that this was foreshadowed on the Day of Atonement when the high priest confessed the sins of Israel over the head of the scapegoat (Leviticus 16:21). Naturally this belief has drawn criticism from other Christians, who have accused Adventists of giving Satan the status of sin-bearer alongside Jesus Christ. Adventists have responded by insisting that Satan is "not" a saviour, nor does he provide atonement for sin; and that Christ "alone" is the substitutionary sacrifice for sin. [ [ Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine] , Review and Herald Publishing Association, Washington D.C., 1957. Chapters 34 "The Meaning of Azazel" and 35 "The Transaction With the Scapegoat".]

unday law

Traditionally, Adventists have taught there will be a time before the Second Advent in which the message of the Ten Commandments and in particular the keeping of the seventh day of the week, Saturday, as Sabbath will be conveyed to the whole world. Protestants and Catholics will unite to enforce Sunday legislation. In reference to the creation of an Image to the Beast -, Ellen G. White stated:

"When the leading churches of the United States, uniting on such points of doctrines as are held by them in common, shall influence the state to enforce their decrees and to sustain their institutions; then Protestant America will have formed an image of the Roman hierarchy, and the infliction of civil penalties upon dissenters will inevitably result." -Great Controversy p. 445

However most Adventist scholars today prefer derive their doctrinal understanding primarily from the Bible, which means they may have less to say on some points. "Sunday law" itself cannot be proved from the Bible, yet many Adventist scholars do find biblical support for the Sabbath being a central issue in the end times. Jon Paulien, arguably Adventism's most respected scholar on Revelation, bases his theology on the Bible rather than history, current affairs or other sources. []

Critics say it traces to Joseph Bates and earlier. [ [ National Sunday Law - Fact or Fiction?Chapter 1: Strange Origins of the National Sunday Law] from a critical website]

A closely related topic is the emphasis given to Ellen White's writings in determining doctrine. While all Adventist scholars give precedence to the Scriptures, as she herself emphasized, there is some variation of belief on the extent to which she should be relied on for doctrinal matters.

Progressive Adventists generally emphasize the positive aspects of the Sabbath such as it being made for human benefit ( This book "constitute [s] how a representative group of Australian teachers explain their beliefs."
* "Continuity and Change in Adventist Teaching: A Case Study in Doctrinal Development" by Rolf Pöhler. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2001 ( [ publisher's page] )


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