Fundamental Belief #1: The Bible

What do Seventh-day Adventists believe? How do their beliefs differ from mainstream Christianity? How are they similar? What is the church’s official position on wedding rings? These are the questions that some have asked, and this series of blog posts is my answer. We’re going to spend the next 28 weeks going over these fundamental beliefs that everyone must agree to when they get baptized.
Well. Almost everyone. For the record, *I* only agreed to 27 of them. (They snuck the 28th one in 4 years after I was baptized, and I never got a straight answer on what it was exactly. I asked 4 different people, got 4 different answers, and then gave up.)
If we were to resurrect the earliest of the pioneers, a lot of them would have trouble agreeing with all 28 of these fundamental beliefs. The trinity, for example, was not universally accepted until some time after the church was formed.
But I am getting ahead of myself. We shall start with a doctrine that I believe to be common ground with most of mainstream Christianity.
We begin with Fundamental Belief #1: The Word of God.
The Holy Scriptures, Old and New Testaments, are the written Word of God, given by divine inspiration. The inspired authors spoke and wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
In this Word, God has committed to humanity the knowledge necessary for salvation. The Holy Scriptures are the supreme, authoritative, and the infallible revelation of His will. They are the standard of character, the test of experience, the definitive revealer of doctrines, and the trustworthy record of God’s acts in
history. (Ps. 119:105; Prov. 30:5, 6; Isa. 8:20; John 17:17; 1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 3:16, 17; Heb. 4:12; 2 Peter 1:20, 21.)
Seventh Day Adventists know their Bible. They know what they believe and why. Well, most of them do, anyway. Somehow I managed to avoid learning most of it until well after I was baptized.
Seventh Day Adventists believe in both old and new testaments, and give the two equal weight. I was always told that the Old Testament pointed forward to Jesus, the New Testament pointed back to him, and the Gospels talked about him. Thus the word of God hung in perfect balance.
Anyone who is an Adventist, whether they were born that way or baptized in as an adult, had to at some point have studied the Bible. Most Adventists will go out of their way to educate their converts. I have read that some Adventists have used trickery and deceit to score baptisms. I have no personal experience with this, I’m sure it happens, but most of the people I talked to who converted in later in life knew exactly what they were getting into.
And so, theoretically, do the very young children who get baptized. Converts and born Adventists all eventually have to go through classes where they will study not just the 28 fundamental beliefs, but the Bible in general. I have met some pastors of other denominations that were less educated about the Bible than the average 4 year old Adventist. (I’m sure this is not the case everywhere, just that I have seen it.)
Seventh Day Adventists claim to base their beliefs solely on the Bible and the Bible alone. If their belief cannot be supported by the Bible, they will cease to believe.
So, what part does Ellen White play? We’ll get into that more later. For now it is enough to note that, officially speaking, the church does not place Ellen White’s writings on the level of the Bible.
Even Ellen herself did not want her writings used in such a manner. (Or so she claimed.) She herself is quoted as saying that she is “the lesser light pointing to the greater light,” the greater light being the Bible. I had it explained to me that “Ellen White is the flashlight you use to find the fusebox so you can turn on the main light upstairs.”
Whether or not this is how it actually is is something we’ll get into later. For now all you need to really know is that Adventists place an emphasis on the Word of God.
If you can make an argument from the Bible, and make it sound convincing enough, you can get an Adventist to do practically anything. And this is why I think that not believing in the Bible is my super power. Because I do not believe in the Bible, you can not use the Bible to manipulate me.
Now, Seventh Day Adventists, at times, do twist scripture. To understand their interpretation of the book of Revelation, for example, you have to pick and choose verses from all over the Bible, flipping back and forth so fast you will get whiplash. (Or paper-cuts.)
Seventh Day Adventists believe that the word of God is unchangeable, infallible, and “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16.)” They know that the Bible is true because the Bible says it’s true.
This is why a lot of Adventist college students have a lot of trouble taking out loans for college. The Bible, I am told, forbids people from being co-signers. So students who are too young to age out of the ridiculously high FAFSA requirements and have to put down their parents’ income on the financial aid form whether or not their parents actually are helping them are screwed, because their parents won’t cosign loans for them. Because Bible.
I may or may not still have a grudge about that one. I may or may not have been hit over the head with that verse a lot in my early 20s.
The high importance they place on the Bible explains a lot of SDA doctrine. It is why Seventh Day Adventists go to church on Saturday. Because the Bible never specifically changes the Sabbath day from Saturday to Sunday, and because the 4th (?) commandments says to worship on “the 7th day of the week,” Adventists worship on Saturday.
Speaking of the days of the week, that brings me to my next point: Seventh Day Adventists have always been creationists. I hear some people say that, historically speaking, Christians haven’t always been creationists. I am told that at first Christians had no problem accepting Darwin’s theory of evolution.
That may be true for a lot of denominations, however, it is not true of Seventh Day Adventism. If you read what Ellen White has to say about evolution, for example, you would not find anything positive.
There is a growing group of progressive Adventists today who do believe in evolution and are trying to teach it in Seventh Day Adventist science classes. This has naturally resulted in a backlash, with people losing their jobs and the faculty cracking down on what is taught.
I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I don’t think evolution is incompatible with Christianity and think Adventists need to accept the facts we know from science. On the other hand, Adventist schools are private Adventist institutions. I do understand that not all students who go there choose to go there (a lot of people have parents who will insist on only paying for an Adventist college, for example), but I feel like, for the most part, creation “science” is part of the package deal and is something you can expect when you go to an Adventist college.

I don’t really understand the details of this, so we will not dwell on it too long. The main thing you need to know is that the majority Adventists are creationists, but there is a minority that are not.

Adventists  believe that God’s word never changes. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. This is another reason they worship on Saturday: if the law of God was to worship on the 7th day of the week, Adventists don’t believe that God would ever change that.

That is the reason the Adventists still follow the food laws of Leviticus 11. We’ll save the food discussion for another post. For now we will merely note that this is the reason Adventists don’t eat pork or shellfish; they believe that God’s word never changes. They believe that because they do this, they cannot be accused of picking and choosing.

I will admit that they certainly do a lot less picking and choosing than a lot of other denominations. But do they at all pick and choose?

We’ll get into that as we discuss the other fundamental beliefs. There are 27 more to go. Maybe now I’ll get to finally figure out what the fucking 28th is.


One thought on “Fundamental Belief #1: The Bible

  1. Some quibbles:

    “Seventh Day Adventists know their Bible.”

    Yes. To a point. It is true that compared to the other Christian denominations I became involved with, the average SDA is more Biblically literate. And the other non-SDA congregations I experience were not nearly engaged with the Bible than most SDA congregations.

    However, there are swaths of the Bible that do not play as large a role in SDA thinking as others. Some of the Old Testament’s minor prophets and even portions of some major prophets are poorly explicated in Adventism. It makes for happy hunting ground for some *offshoots*. After 40+ years, I am just beginning to read these with some attention and understanding.

    “I am told that at first Christians had no problem accepting Darwin’s theory of evolution.”

    My feeling is that this is simply not true. Darwin delayed publishing _Origin of Species_ in part because he knew it would faced resistance from Christians. He definitely left to later, with the publication of _Descent of Man_, to flesh out the implications of _human_ evolution. Fairly quickly, among _some_ Christians, accommodations to evolution were developed, but often they were more accommodations to the old earth geology and _animal_ evolution, not so much human evolution and the full directionless nature of modification by natural selection.

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