Seventh-day Adventists: Beyond the Sabbath

Who is the founder of 7th Day Adventism?

Most people's knowledge of Seventh-day Adventists is limited primarily to information about their worship on Saturday instead of Sunday. However, this unique religious community has many more characteristics than just a day of worship.

History of the Seventh Adventist Church

The Seventh-day Adventist Church or 7th Adventist Church traces its origins to William Miller, an American preacher and Baptist who predicted that the Second Coming of Christ would occur between 21 March 1843 and 21 March 1844. His followers who shared the expectation of the imminent coming were nicknamed "Adventists."

When the supposed coming did not happen, Miller reluctantly supported a group of his followers known as the "seventh month movement", which claimed that Christ would return on 22 October 1844 (in the seventh month of the Jewish calendar).

When this prediction, too, proved wrong, Miller gave up trying to predict the date of the Second Coming, and his followers split into several competing groups. Miller was unwilling to associate himself with the new theories developed by his followers, including those who sought to retain some of his 1844 doctrine.

William Miller, based on his study of the texts of Daniel and Revelation, argued that Christ would return in 1843-1844 to conduct a cleansing of the "sanctuary" (Dan. 8:11-14, 9:26), which he interpreted as the earth. However, after the expected event did not occur in 1844, several of his followers offered a different interpretation. One of these was Hiram Edson, who, while walking through a cornfield on the morning of 23 October 1844, felt that he had received a spiritual revelation indicating that Miller had mistakenly identified the sanctuary as the earth. He believed that the sanctuary was actually in the heavenly temple of God, and that Christ, instead of coming out of the heavenly sanctuary to purify the earthly sanctuary, first entered the heavenly Holy of Holies in 1844 to purify it.

Another group of Miller's followers, influenced by Joseph Bates, held the view that Christians should observe the Sabbath, the Jewish day of worship, instead of Sunday. This led to increased anti-Catholic sentiment among Seventh-day Adventists, who accused the Catholic Church of changing the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday.

These two strands of thought-the entrance of Christ into the heavenly sanctuary and the importance of keeping the Sabbath-were brought together by Ellen Gould White, who claimed to have received many visions confirming these teachings. Along with Edson and Bates, she became the founder of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination or 7th Adventist Church, which officially took its name in 1860.

The denomination now has 780,000 members in the United States and 7.8 million members in other countries, including those with a Catholic heritage.

What do Adventists believe?

7th Adventist Church - Propaganda

Ellen Gould White claimed that the first of many visions appeared to her in December 1844. Her status as a prophetess was recognised in Adventist circles and she became an important spiritual leader in the church. For many years she gave instruction on various aspects of faith and worship, authoring more than fifty books. Her followers regard her works as authoritative on matters of doctrine.

Among her most important works are The Desire of Ages and The Great Controversy, which are frequently reprinted by Seventh-day Adventist publishers in various formats. The books may come with different covers and titles, sometimes with Ellen Gould White's name mentioned and sometimes without. This allows Adventists to distribute White's works to the uninitiated without passing them off as Adventist publications until readers begin reading the text itself.

Adventist publishers also avoid using the terms "seventh-day" and "Adventist" in their titles. This is because these terms can evoke negative associations among some evangelicals, who sometimes view Adventists as a cult or sect. Some evangelicals have even claimed - wrongly - that Adventists are not Christians, even though they share faith in Christ and use the trinitarian form of baptism.

Adventist beliefs

7th Adventist Church agree with many Catholic doctrines, including the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the Immaculate Conception, the atonement, the physical resurrection of the dead, and the Second Coming of Christ. They use the traditional form of baptism and believe in original sin. However, they reject the gospel doctrine of unchangeable salvation, believing that a person can lose salvation.

Unfortunately, Adventists also hold several false and strange doctrines. They believe that the Catholic Church is the Harlot of Babylon and that the Pope is the Antichrist. They claim that in the last days Sunday worship will become the "mark of the beast" and that there will be a future millennium in which the devil will roam the earth. They believe that the soul sleeps between death and resurrection, and that at the end of time the wicked will be destroyed rather than damned forever.

Adventists also hold to the principles of sola scriptura (the Bible is the only rule of faith) and sola fide (justification by faith alone). However, some Protestants, especially conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists, criticise them for this, believing that they do not adhere to these principles. All of this creates controversy and disagreement within the Christian community over doctrines and practices.

Adventist anti-Catholicism

Catholics may view anti-Catholicism as characteristic of the radical wings of Adventism. However, this view is not entirely accurate. Although there is a view of Catholicism among the 7th Adventist Church, Adventists who are moderate to Catholicism are a minority. The anti-Catholicism present in the denomination is due to the fact that it is reflected in White's "divinely inspired" writings. A few quotes may clarify the issue:

  • "Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots, is later described as 'a great city reigning over the kings of the earth'. (Revelation 17:4-6, 18). The power that for centuries has despotically ruled over the kings of Christendom is Rome" (The Great Controversy, 338).
  • "One of the basic doctrines of Roman Catholicism is the teaching that the pope is the visible head of the universal Church of Christ and is infallible. He is required to be worshipped by all men. This same demand that Satan made in the wilderness of temptation, he [Satan] continues to make through the Roman Church, and multitudes are willing to accept it" (The Great Controversy, 48).
  • "The Roman Church displays remarkable shrewdness and cunning. She is able to foresee the future. She is in no hurry, seeing that the Protestant churches accept her false Sabbath. It is important to remember that Rome prides herself on her immutability. The principles laid down by Gregory VII and Innocent III are still fundamental to the Roman Catholic Church. And if she had the opportunity, she would put them into practice with the same determination today as she did in the past" (from The Great Controversy, 507-8).
  • "The Word of God warns of impending danger; but if this is not heeded, the Protestant world will only learn Rome's true aims when it is too late to avoid the trap. Rome is quietly gaining ground. Its doctrines are influencing legislatures, churches, and the hearts of men. He is erecting his grand edifices where his past persecutions will be repeated. Secretly and stealthily he is fortifying his positions to realise his aims when the time comes to strike. All he needs is a favourable position, and it has already been provided. Soon we will see and feel the true intentions of the Roman church. Those who believe and follow the word of God will be reviled and persecuted" (from The Great Controversy, 508-9).

These quotes are taken from one of White's most famous works, The Great Controversy.

What is the 7th-day Adventist church?

Adventist eschatology

The 7th Adventist Church is centred on the concept of the end times. It grew out of the remnants of the Millerite movement, which was organised in anticipation of the end of the world. The Jewish Sabbath and the Catholic Church play a special role in White's teaching on the last days.

According to White, the papacy represents the seven-headed beast from the sea in the book of Revelation 13:1-10. It is accompanied by a lamb-like beast coming out of the earth (Rev. 13:11-18). According to her teaching, the second beast is the United States (from The Great Controversy, 387-8), and he will cause people to worship the papacy by "forcing them to observe certain rites which will be an act of papal worship" (ibid., 389). This rite, according to her teaching, is Sunday worship, not Sabbath worship.

White argues that the papacy has changed the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday, making this change a sign of its authority. She believes the time will come when the United States will have a "national Sunday law" that will force its citizens to worship on Sunday. This would not lead them to embrace Catholicism, but to join the Protestant state church, which is the "image" of the papacy and thus the "image of the beast" (ibid., 382-96).

Seventh-day Adventism cannot change its views of the Catholic Church as the harlot of Babylon without abandoning the doctrine of Sunday worship. It cannot abandon the doctrine of Sunday worship without revising its views on the Jewish Sabbath. Seventh-day Adventism cannot cease to be anti-Catholic without ceasing to be Seventh-day Adventism.

Yes, there is a "moderate" wing within the Seventh-day Adventist Church that is more open to Catholics as individuals and recognises that there may be the saved among them. This is reflected in Ellen White's statements that there may be true Christians among Catholics who, despite observing Sunday, are sincerely serving God. However, as you noted, these tolerant statements are often lost among the many anti-Catholic statements in her writings.

Moderate Seventh-day Adventist followers may attempt to highlight and emphasise such tolerant aspects of White's teachings, but they find it difficult to do so in a context where the entire world around them is anti-Catholic. Eschatological teachings such as the supposed period of papal persecution and the notion of Sunday law create an atmosphere in which it is difficult to adopt a tolerant attitude towards Catholicism.

Although Seventh-day Adventists, through their baptism and belief in the divinity of Christ, are Christians, their separation from the church founded by Jesus Christ exposes them to a variety of teachings and aspirations, including anti-Catholicism, which sometimes prevents them from achieving a more tolerant and open attitude toward other Christian denominations.


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