Is Seventh-day Adventism Anti-Gospel?

Over the past few years, I have been engaging on social media with critics of Seventh-day Adventism. I started watching YouTube Videos “Defeating Adventism” which left me with a feeling of being despised and ridiculed as a Seventh-day Adventist by the Host who would put the most extreme and outlandish spin on church teachings. I then found a show SDAQ&A that interested me because the platform was able to get Adventist church scholars on the program. I kept watching the show because the Host–Peter Dixon–who was a lifelong member of the church until a few years ago, made an attempt to give both active members and former members a platform to air their views. But the one thing I have learned from both skeptics is that while they honestly think that the teachings of the church are unbiblical, neither one accurately represents the state of the Adventist church in the 21st Century.

As a fourth generation SDA myself, I have more members of the church in my immediate and extended family than some churches have in their entire congregation. My mother grew up in a missionary family in Africa and my paternal grandfather was a high ranking executive in the Review and Herald Publishing Association for over 20 years–he controlled their budgeting. I have close relatives in Adventist Healthcare, Adventist Education, and Adventist Conference Work. I personally attended Adventist Schools in California, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Vermont, North Carolina, and Maryland where I was personal friends with many children who’s parents were church pastors and evangelists.

I have a right to speak out about Adventism because it has been the center of my families spiritual life for multiple generations and because, simply put, I would not exist today without the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Members of my family have sacrificed tirelessly to see the church grow and retain a healthy spiritual atmosphere all over the world. I am no exception.

One of the biggest problems I have experienced in the church is the high levels of legalism that is prevalent in the church. Legalism is putting conditions on salvation other than simple faith in Christ alone. While I have a huge amount of respect for the Adventists who want to model their life after Jesus Christ in everyway, I have to squirm in my pew when I hear some state that eating a hamburger and cola at McDonalds is enough to keep a person out of heaven. While I know that these types of extreme views do not represent the majority of the people who attend Adventist Churches, they still exist and are allowed to be expressed by Adventist leaders and lay-members who tend to buy their way into churches and create theological havoc.

If this were the major criticism of former Adventists then I would say that they were correct. Legalism has been a huge problem for the church. The fact that Adventists stress keeping of the 10 Commandments make it most vulnerable to the theological error of legalism. But in its defense, legalism is not unique to Adventism and can be found in all other Christian churches to some extent. The early church of the Apostles almost split over forcing people to become circumcised as a condition of acceptance into the kingdom of God. Furthermore, I am well aware that most Adventist church members are not legalistic–I have been to their houses and eaten at their dinner tables (Fun Fact: Most own televisions, watch sports on TV, go to movie theaters and bowling allies, swim at co-ed pools, eat cheese pizza, play video games, and read fiction novels). Most will tell you in private conversation that they don’t keep the commandments in order to be saved, but only because they enjoy the assurance of salvation.

Again, if legalism is where the skeptics stopped their attacks on the church then I would agree with their criticism. The “big tent” philosophy of many ministers that allows both gospel Adventists and law Adventists a platform in the church has created a problem. The legalist minority with the big budgets are hijacking many churches and making things look bad for the rest of us.

Where I disagree with the outside critics of the church is that they view Adventism as a non-Christian cult. They claim we make Ellen White equal to the Bible, that we have demoted Jesus to being a lesser being within the Godhead, and that our views of prophecy are anti-gospel. While I may be able to agree that there is a “cultish group” within Adventism that is largely made up of independent Adventists who view the church itself as “Babylon”, I DO NOT ACCEPT that this is representative of Adventism as an entire denomination.

Most Adventist leaders, scholars, and lay-members will tell you that they do not get their doctrine from Ellen White, that we have to look at the full historical context of an Ellen White statement before finding a “common sense” application, and that the ever increasing popularity of Last Generation Theology and Anti-Trinitarianism within independent groups are not representative of Church teachings.

The weakness of most of the popular Adventist skeptics is that they lump all of Adventism into one stereo-typical mold based on the most extreme opinions and refuse to include the diversity of Adventist thought and opinions on different subjects. They are also bold enough to claim that Adventists are anti-gospel and anti-Christian because of our views on the investigative judgment. But they ignore that there are multiple views of the investigative judgement that allow the beauty of the gospel to shine forth. They claim we teach the atonement was not completed at the cross and ignore the clear statements to the contrary.

Is Adventism perfect? Absolutely not. Over the years I have found plenty of problems within the church. Is the Seventh-day Adventist Church anti-gospel and anti-Christian? Read the following paragraph by Ellen White:

“Christ is pleading for the church in the heavenly courts above, pleading for those whom he paid the redemption price of his own lifeblood. Centuries, ages, can never diminish the efficacy of this atoning sacrifice. The message of the gospel of His grace was to be given to the church in clean and distinct line, that the world should no longer say that seventh-day Adventists talk the law, but do not teach or believe Christ.” Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers, p. 92

Stephen Beagles (2024)

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