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Gregory Matthews

Introduction to Adventism

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Gregory Matthews    3,270
Gregory Matthews

Once next week, and once later in this month I am going to be introduced to a theatre audience that has come to view Hacksaw Ridge, as a SDA clergy person, former Army Chaplain, who personally knew Desmond Doss, who is there to respond to any questions that anyone in the audience might have about:  SDA beliefs, conscientious objection in the military and Desmond Doss.

I do not know what questions I might get.  But, I want to be prepared.  In preparing for this, I have written a document that I can give to anyone who might want to know more about the Adventism.  In its brief form, it goes for 15 pages, and in an expanded form it goes for 23 pages.  Both versions hae white space for a visual approach.

I have titled this document:  Introduction to Adventism.  Following the title pages. a Table of Contents, and a one-page statement about me and my background, I get into the meat of the matter.

Just in case anyone is interested, I will reproduce here the main chapters in the document.

I will lock this thread until I have posted them, and then I will open them up for comment.

 

 

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Gregory Matthews    3,270
Gregory Matthews

A Brief History of the Seventh-day Adventist. Church:

In the 1840s,  a Baptist preacher by the name of William Miller (1872-1849)  became convinced that the Bible taught that  Christ would return the second time in a one-year period that ended on October 22, 1844.  His message of revival swept through the United States and on a more limited way into Europe.  He did not intend to establish a new denomination.   But, the controversy of his message resulted in its adherents generally separating from the denominations in which they had formally been members.

With the passage of the one-year time period, and the failure of Christ to return the 2nd time, the movement’s adherents split a number of ways.  Some gave up on religion.  Some were able to return to established denominations.  Out of this movement came two denominations that exist today.  One is the Advent Christian Church, and the other is the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) denomination.

The early leaders in what became the SDA denomination came from a number of denominational backgrounds and they were primarily young people.   The probably two best known of these young  people were James S. White (1821-1881) and Ellen G. White (1827-1915)

Ellen White came from a Methodist background.  James White came from what was then called the Christian Connection, a denomination which  no longer exists today, in the form that it was when James White was a member.  Other early leaders came from other denominational backgrounds.  The SDA doctrine of the Sabbath began in the witness of Rachel Oakes Preston (1809-1868), a Seventh-day Baptist.

It was the mixed denominational background of the early SDA leaders and the Millerite Movement that set the background for two aspects of the SDA Church that exist to some degree today.   Adventism today exists in a range of beliefs, that can be hard to quantify.  In addition, Adventism has attempted to be a so-called “Big Tent” in which people with a range of belief and life style can come together in common worship and be united in the mission that God would want to unite His people.  But, with the rise of fundamentalism in our society today, this unity is being tested by some.

This diverse denominational background has become an adverse issue today.  Those who came into what became the SDA Church today, came from a background that had elements of Arianism, which  are soundly rejected by the majority of the Christian world today and officially rejected by the SDA denomination, today.  In addition, the early leaders of the SDA denomination were not trained theologians who spoke in carefully nuanced words.  This has continued to exist for many years beyond the origin of the SDA Church.  The result has been that  often SDA doctrine has not been well understood by people outside of the denomination and to some extent by people within the denomination. 

The SDA denomination formally organized in 1863.  From an early age it began to specialize in evangelism, missions, medical work, publishing and Christian education.

In organizational structure, the local congregation retains considerable  power.  It is the local congregation that determines standards for local membership, church discipline, if needed, and who shall serve in local positions of leadership, other than those that are filled by SDA Clergy.

Congregations in a geographic area are organized into what is called a Local Conference.  Several of these then form what is called a Union Conference.  The Pacific Union Conference has four local conferences.  The Union Conferences come under the General Conference, which has divided itself into sections such as the North American Division.

In theory, the SDA denomination is a democratic organization in which officials are often elected and delegates on all levels vote policy.  In actual fact, the structure of the organization gives considerable authority to clergy and elected officials.  It has probably been correctly stated that the SDA denomination is second to the Roman Catholic denomination as to clergy authority.

 

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Gregory Matthews    3,270
Gregory Matthews

Membership:

People who wish to join the SDA Church generally join in connection with a baptism, which as understood by SDAs involves a baptism by immersion.  Those who have already in their Christian experience been baptized by immersion, may be accepted into membership by Profession of Faith.  For both, it is expected that the potential members will agree with either the Standard Vow or the Alternative Vow.

Standard Vow

1.  Do you believe there is one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a unity of three coeternal Persons?

2.  Do you accept the death of Jesus Christ on Calvary as the atoning sacrifice for your sins and believe that by God’s grace through faith in His shed blood you are saved from sin and its penalty?

3.  Do you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and personal Savior, believing that God, in Christ, has forgiven your sins and given you a new heart, and do you renounce the sinful ways of the world?

4.  Do you accept by faith the righteousness of Christ, your Intercessor in the heavenly sanctuary, and accept His promise of transforming grace and power to live a loving, Christ-centered life in your home and before the world?

5.  Do you believe that the Bible is God’s inspired Word, the only rule of faith and practice for the Christian? Do you covenant to spend time regularly in prayer and Bible study?

6.  Do you accept the Ten Commandments as a transcript of the character of God and a revelation of His will? Is it your purpose by the power of the indwelling Christ to keep this law, including the fourth commandment, which requires the observance of the seventh day of the week as the Sabbath of the Lord and the memorial of Creation?

7. Do you look forward to the soon coming of Jesus and the blessed hope, when “this mortal shall . . . put on immortality” [1 Cor. 15:54, KJV]? As you prepare to meet the Lord, will you witness to His loving salvation by using your talents in personal soul-winning endeavor to help others to be ready for His glorious appearing?  

 8.  Do you accept the biblical teaching of spiritual gifts and believe that the gift of prophecy is one of the identifying marks of the remnant church?

9.  Do you believe in Church organization? Is it your purpose to worship God and to support the Church through your tithes and offerings and by your personal effort and influence?

10.  Do you believe that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit; and will you honor God by caring for it, avoiding the use of that which is harmful, and abstaining from all unclean foods; from the use, manufacture, or sale of alcoholic beverages; from the use, manufacture, or sale of tobacco in any of its forms for human consumption; and from the misuse of or trafficking in narcotics or other drugs?

11.  Do you know and understand the fundamental Bible principles as taught by the Seventh-day Adventist Church?  Do you purpose, by the grace of God, to fulfill His will by ordering your life in harmony with these principles?

12.  Do you accept the New Testament teaching of baptism by immersion and desire to be so baptized as a public expression of faith in Christ and His forgiveness of your sins?

13.  Do you accept and believe that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is the remnant church of Bible prophecy and that people of every nation, race, and language are invited and accepted into its fellowship? Do you desire to be a member of this local congregation of the world Church?

Alternative Vow

1.  Do you accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and Lord, and do you desire to live your life in a saving relationship with Him?

2.  Do you accept the teachings of the Bible as expressed in the Statement of Fundamental Beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and do you pledge by God’s grace to live your life in harmony with these teachings?

3. Do you desire to be baptized as a public expression of your belief in Jesus Christ, to be accepted into the fellowship of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and to support the Church and its mission as a faithful steward by your personal influence, tithes and offerings, and a life of service?

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Gregory Matthews    3,270
Gregory Matthews

Common Beliefs & Teachings:

As the Seventh-day Adventist Church developed, in 1980s, a group of statements were formulated that expressed doctrinal positions that SDAs considered to be important in describing what they generally believed.  They were not intended to be a creed that was locked in concrete.  Neither were they intended to be a formal statement as to what one must believe in order to become and to remain a member of the SDA denomination.

A group of SDA scholars took those brief statements and expended them   into a discussion of the range of understanding that existed in the denomination at that time, along with additional development of their background in the Bible.  This was published in a 1988, 392 page book of these 27 fundamental statements.   This has since been expanded into 28 statements. 

Those 28 statements may be accessed at: 

 https://www.adventist.org/fileadmin/adventist.org/files/articles/official-statements/28Beliefs-Web.pdf

Those 28 statements cover the following areas:

1)  The Holy Scriptures                                         15)  Baptism

2)  The Trinity                                                         16)  The Lord’s Supper

3)  God the Father                                                  17)  Spiritual Gifts & Ministries

4)  God the Son                                                       18)  The Gift of Prophecy

5)  The Holly Spirit                                                   19)  The Law of God

6)  Creation                                                                20)  The Sabbath

7)  The Nature of Humanity                                    21)  Stewardship

8)  The controversy between god and Satan       22)  Christian Behavior

9)  Life, death & Resurrection of Christ               23)  Marriage & the Family

10)  The Experience of Salvation                             24)  Christ & the Heavenly Sanctuary

11)  Growing in Christ                                               25)  The Second Coming of Christ

12)  The  Church                                                         26)  Death & Resurrection

13)  The Remnant & Its Mission                              27)  The Millennium & the End of Sin

14)  Unity in Christ                                                    28) The New Earth

 

NOTE:  In an expanded version of this document I have spelled out each of the above 28.

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Gregory Matthews    3,270
Gregory Matthews

Misunderstandings & Confusion:

There are areas of SDA belief and life that are confusing and misunderstood by others.  In part, our own members may be confused.  I can not address all of these aspects but I will address a couple of them

The Role and function of Ellen White:  Ellen White had a significant role in the development of the SDA denomination.  Her role was of such importance that she is properly called a co-founder of the denomination.  She preached.  She advised.  She evangelized.  Through her life she was influential   in the life of this denomination.

She was considered by many to give advice that came from God.  As such,   others called her a prophet, although she never took that term upon herself.  These questions generally fall into two areas:

a)      Are SDA doctrines derived from the writings of Ellen White?  The fundamental SDA teachings to which the SDA Church ascribes are derived from what it understands to be teachings of the Bible.     Teachings that are outside of a Biblical foundation, even if found in the writings of Ellen White are not mandatory and may or may not be accepted by SDA members.  E.G. SDAs believe that we should have a healthful life style.  As part of that, many of its members, in some parts of the world do not consume flesh products.  This is an optional choice that its members  make and probably is not followed by the majority of its international members.

 

B)      Are the writings of Ellen white elevated above the Bible?  Both Ellen White and the SDA Church teach that the Bible, as understood in the Protestant sense, is the supreme authority upon which all spiritual doctrines should be judged to include being the authority by which the writings of Ellen  White should be  judged.

Was Salvation complete at the Cross:    There are two parts to this issue.

a)       SDA’s commonly use the term “salvation” to include not only what happened with the cross but also to include the righteous being taken to spend eternity with Christ.  This does not diminish what happened at the cross.  Rather, it expands the use of the term beyond the cross which is not often understood.

 

B)      The 2nd aspect of this involves Common Belief # 24 as to Christ’s Ministry in a Heavenly Sanctuary.  In honesty, this belief is not well understood by some SDA members.

 

c)      Briefly, SDAs believe that in the beginning of time, there was a rebellion in heaven in which God was charged   with unfairness.  That leader and its followers were expelled from heaven.  In the so-called Garden of Eden, humanity came under  the control of the leader of that rebellion. 

 

d)      As such, the planet Earth has become a battleground where humanity is making a choice as to whether they want to spend eternity with Christ or spend eternity separated from God.  In a sense, God is on trial before the Universe.  That trial came to an end at the cross.  Now   in this End Time, it is being revealed to the Universe that God is fair and just; and God has a people who have chosen to spend eternity with Christ and in providing them with salvation God has not been unfair to those who have chosen to be separated from God. Christians have nothing to fear in this process.  Their salvation was assured by the death of Christ on the cross. 

 

 

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Gregory Matthews    3,270
Gregory Matthews

Reference Sources:

Preface

No additional references.

A Brief History of the SDA Church

Tell it to the World:  This is a video of the development of the SDA denomination in the 19th century.  It can be viewed in six (6) segments of 30 minutes each.  The beginning and ending segment contain some discussion by church historians.  It may be purchased as a DVD, or all six (6) segments may be viewed at:  https://telltheworld.adventist.org/watch

Also see:     

https://www.adventist.org/en/information/history/article/go/-/seventh-day-adventist-church-emerged-from-religious-fervor-of-19th-century/

https://www.adventist.org/en/information/history/article/go/-/ironically-early-adventists-were-reluctant-missionaries/  This article is of interest as it relates to early Adventist efforts in evangelism outside of the United States.

Membership

These are officially voted statements of 28 Official SDA Beliefs.  It should be noted that these statements are not intended to define the beliefs that people must hold in order to be members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.  Those 13 listed beliefs, titled “The Baptismal Vows,”  are found in The Church Manual, listed below.

https://www.adventist.org/en/beliefs   While this is not the officially voted version of the 28, this is essentially another statement of what SDAs believe.

https://www.adventist.org/en/information/official-statements/    This is an official website where official statements of the SDA Church have ben posted.  It must be noted that while these are official Church statements, they are not statements that its members are required to agree with.

Misunderstandings & Confusion

http://whiteestate.org/   Many people misunderstand the role that Ellen White played in the SDA Denomination.  This website contains more accurate information about her than exists anywhere else.  Although there are some recent books about her that are not represented here.  On this website, one can find SDA responses to questions that people may have about her and in addition, all of her published writings are listed here and in a form that one can computer search them in order to see what she actually wrote and the context in which it was written.

http://www.whiteestate.org/issues/issues.asp    This section of the EGW Website  contains  material related to common questions that people have about the role and function of EGW in the SDA denomination.

Other

http://www.nadadventist.org/article/500/news/current-newspoints    The North  American Division of SDAs posts a weekly newsletter related to current events in North America. 

https://adventistan.com/forums/  This is an unofficial, independent forum where people can meet to discuss issues related to the SDA Church and to socialize.  Probably  1/3 of the people posting are committed, main-line SDAs, 1/3 are on the edges of Adventism and the final third are people who simply want to know more about Adventism, but are not members of the  denomination.  From this perspective, people should not a assume that the posts represent official SDA teachings.

The Church Manual http://www.adventist.org/fileadmin/adventist.org/files/articles/information/seventh-day-adventist-church-manual_2015_updated.pdf    This 227 page book is a general guide as to the operation of SDA congregations.  In actual practice, individual congregations may make changes as to how they operate.

Desmond Doss was the first Conscientious Objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor. He received this medal in 1945, by President Truman, in the name of the Congress of the United Stated.  The actions under which he received this medal have been memorialized in the Hollywood film, Hacksaw Ridge.  Prior to this film, a documentary on his life was made titled The Conscientious Objector.  

See:   https://www.amazon.com/Hacksaw-Ridge-Andrew-Garfield/dp/B01MPWV2J2

   &  

https://www.amazon.com/Conscientious-Objector-documentary/dp/B000VDZ8Z8

Chaplain of the United States Senate:  Barry Black, Former Rear Admiral (UH) and former Chief of Naval Chaplains, is currently the Chaplain of the U.S. Senate and a Seventh-day Adventist clergyperson.

 

Operation White Coat:  During a period of time from 1954 into 1673, some 2,300 SDA soldiers voluntarily participated in a research program to develop counter measures to potential bio-warfare.  Out of those efforts some13 vaccines were developed.  Information about a 2017, 36 minute, video of this program may be accessed at:  http://operationwhitecoatmovie.com/

Reference books on Adventism and its background:

The following books were authored by both  SDA authors and others.  They provide background on the culture in which Adventism arose and/or on the beliefs and practices of the denomination;

Aamodt, Terrie Dopp; Land, Gary’ & Numbers, Ronald L.; Editors;  Ellen Harmon White: American Prophet. Oxford University Press, 2014, 365 pages.

The 21 authors of sections in this book consist of both SDA s and people who are not SDA members. Most are Ph.D. historians.  In general, their chapters present EGW as an influential religious leader in her time.

Fortin, Denis;& Moon, Jerry, Editors; The Ellen G. White Encyclopedia; Review & Herald, 2013, 1465 pages.

The 182 authors write on a multitude of issues related to Ellen White and the development of the SDA denomination.

Bull, Malcolm & Lockhart, Keith; Seeking a Sanctuary: Seventh-day Adventism and the American Dream, 2nd Edition; Indiana University Press, 2007, 498 pages.

This is a book written by a professor at Oxford University and a London journalist, one of whom is a SDA member.  It is an analysis of Adventism that explores its concern with apocalypticism and health and it describes how Adventism has become a unique global subculture that differs from American civil religion.

Bruinsma, Reinder;  Seventh-day Adventist Attitudes Toward Roman Catholicism, 1844-1965; Andrews University Press, 1994, 374 pages.

The SDA author with a Ph.D. from the University of London, examines a complex issue that is a part of Adventism.

Land, Gary, Editor; The world of Ellen G. White , Review & Herald, 1987, 253 pages.

This is a SDA book, authored by some 14 people who discuss the social background in which Ellen White lived and wrote.  It is not devoted to a discussion of Ellen White herself.

Gaustad, Edwin S, Editor; The Rise of Adventism: Religion & Society in Mid-Nineteenth-Century America.  Harper & Row, 1974, 329 pages.

In this book eleven (11) historians, largely SDA, discuss the social and religious context of the mid-nineteenth century in America.

 

 

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Gregory Matthews    3,270
Gregory Matthews

Well folks, here is it. The above reflects my thinking, personality and what think might be helpful in responding to the people in that theatre audience.  I am not suggesting that it will meet the needs that you may have.

 

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rudywoofs (Pam)    2,298
rudywoofs (Pam)

I'm impressed!  Great job putting together all that info/data!

I think you're a good choice as the live "face of Adventism" to the theater audience...

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Gregory Matthews    3,270
Gregory Matthews

At my first meeting there were some 70 people who watched the film Hacksaw Ridge.  About 15 to 20 stayed afterword to talk to me.  All of their questions involved Doss and none of them about the SDA Church.  So, I gave those people a 1-page document that I had prepared about Doss.

NOTE:  In working with people one should not approach them with an agenda.  Rather one should respond to the questions that they ask.

I have further modified the document about the SDA Church by adding contact points for 4 nearby SDA congregations.

Later this month, I will again attend a showing of the film and we shall see how that one goes.

 

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