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I was doing a study to write a outline of the foundational pillars of Adventism. Everyone seems to have a personal view of what they entail but limited support for it. What SOP or writings in church periodicals has everyone on this important issue as I have the following pillars.....

The investigative judgment
The sanctuary service
The perpetuity of the Law of God
The faith of Jesus
The Three Angels' Messages
The seventh-day Sabbath
The state of the dead
The special gift of prophecy (or the Testimony of Jesus).

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You are not understanding the original SDA position that I hold. But rather than debating over it with you I will direct you to this page that explains that "heavenly trio" quote.

To be honest it doesn't really matter what position you personally hold. If you are able to give sources for a list of the pillars that would be helpful.

One of the problems in Seventh-day Adventism today is that people claim to "believe what the pioneers believed" without being able to define exactly what that means, or to which period they refer back.

For you I would say the same thing, what do you mean by "the original SDA position"? Can you define it, locate it in time, or is it a vague idea that sets you apart but cannot be defined? Either way it is meaningless. This thread is not about what you or I happen to believe but it is an attempt to define what is meant by "the pillars of our faith" and defining what those "pillars" actually were as far as the SDA church is concerned. For this we need to see evidence of what was being taught at the time the SDAC became a separate denomination. However, many doctrinal teachings were progressive and changed over the lifetime of Ellen White. So, better we stick with what is proven rather than vague claims, statements or allegations.

Btw: no page is there to refer to. However, it is always better to explain it yourself. I find that if someone cannot succinctly and clearly explain their position in a short sentence or two, they probably don't understand that position or why they hold it.

Here is from one of the sites...

"The Seventh-day Adventist Church rests upon seven distinctive pillars that set it apart from all other

beliefs or denominations. I’m not talking about the upstanding members who

definitely are spiritual pillars of the Crossville church (God bless you, every one!).

No, in this case I’m talking about those firm spiritual supports that undergird or

make secure everything the worldwide remnant church stands for.

I’d like to share with you a very brief snapshot description of each of these seven

distinctive pillars.

Pillar #1: the sanctuary. What makes this a pillar of Adventism, friends? That’s

right, the Bible tells us that Christ is in Heaven right now, in God the Father’s

presence, ministering on our behalf (see Heb. 9:24). The work of atonement is only

complete when mankind’s great High Priest finishes ministering there (Lev. 16),

and sin is forever eradicated from the universe. Most other folks sharing space on

our planet either don’t teach this Bible truth or else neglect it, whether consciously

or otherwise.

Pillar #2: death. The Bible plainly teaches that when people die, they enter into a

temporary state of unconsciousness, out of which God awakens them at one of the

resurrections. Jesus declared that His dead friend Lazarus was asleep (read Jn.

11:11–14), and from righteous Abel down to the last saint who will ever die, all

sleep in Christ (see 1 Cor. 15:18). Let your fondest hopes overflow as you try to

picture this: Jesus’ silver trumpet sounds as He descends on a great cloud, wrapped

in flames of fire. Looking on the graves of the sleeping saints, He raises His hands


to Heaven, crying, “Awake, awake, awake, ye that sleep in the dust, and arise!”

There is a mighty earthquake. Graves open, and the dead come up clothed with

immortality. Hallelujah! (See DS 1/24/1846; 4SP 463.)

Pillar #3: the Second Advent. It’s in the heart of our denominational name. We’ve

always been about proclaiming Christ’s advent near. Jesus Himself gives us many

signs of His return in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21, laying stress on its

suddenness and the urgent need for His followers to be ready. Heb. 9:28 tells us

that He shall appear a second time, when His work to get rid of sin is finished in

the heavenly sanctuary. One of Jesus’ parting promises was, “I will come again”

(Jn. 14:3).

Pillar #4: the millennium. The 20th chapter of Revelation talks a lot about a period

of 1,000 years, or a millennium, the time between two resurrections. The people

who have loved Jesus are raised to life at the first resurrection, and the unrepentant,

stubborn sinners resume their hateful habits at the second one. As we saw earlier,

young Ellen referred to the millennium in relating her vision. This brings us to a

related subject . . .

Pillar #5: the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14. I can’t think of another

religious group in the world that teaches the importance of these three messages,

which are an urgent call for every honest-hearted soul on Earth to worship our

Creator, keep all His commandments, and pull away from those persons or

institutions teaching a misdirecting Babel of untrue doctrines (see Rev. 14:6–12).

Pillar #6: the Spirit of Prophecy. The Bible’s concluding book makes it plain that

the Devil hates God’s last-day church, symbolized in Rev. 12:17 as a pure woman,

whose very last-born generation, or seed, keep all 10 of God’s commandments and

have the testimony of Jesus Christ, and that testimony is His special gift of the

Spirit of Prophecy (see Rev. 19:10). We believe that Ellen Harmon (later White)

possessed that gift.

Pillar #7: the seventh-day Sabbath. The Bible couldn’t be clearer on any teaching

than it is on this one: “The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: . . . In

six days the Lord made heaven and Earth, . . . and rested the seventh day:

wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath, and hallowed it” (Ex. 20:10, 11). Together

with the Second Advent, it’s in the very heart of our name.,%20Web%20Versi...

Can you bring up some quotes on that

Hmm. I have this in my notes..."Here is a explanation of the basic Pillars:

The Investigative Judgment The investigative judgment is a unique Seventh-day Adventist doctrine, which asserts that a divine judgment of professed Christians has been in progress since 1844. It is intimately related to the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and was described by the church's prophet and pioneer Ellen G. White as one of the pillars of Adventist belief. It is a major component of the broader Adventist understanding of the "heavenly sanctuary", and the two are sometimes spoken of interchangeably.

The Sanctuary The atonement of Jesus in the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary is the basis of Seventh-day Adventism. The 1844 disappointment was due to a misunderstanding of what the sanctuary of Daniel 8:14 was and of the event that was to begin October 22, 1844. As bitter as that disappointment was, the understanding of the truth of the heavenly sanctuary and of Christ’s ministry was joyous to the believers who refused to concede that God’s hand had been in the movement. Writing of the importance of the 1844 atonement in heaven, Ellen White noted: The scripture which above all others had been both the foundation and the central pillar of the advent faith was the declaration: “Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.” Daniel 8:14. (The Great Controversy, p. 409;) This famous statement tells us plainly that the sanctuary teaching is the central pillar of our faith. That certainly makes it very important. In fact, David says, “Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God” (Psalm 77:13)? God’s way, his character, and his righteousness are revealed in the sanctuary, even by the judgment which takes place there. The judgment of the dead began in 1844 in the heavenly sanctuary. According to Revelation 14:7, we have been living in the time of the judgment since 1844. The Apostle Paul spoke of a “judgment to come” (Acts 24:25, future tense), but we speak of a judgment that has come (past tense). Paul also, quoting from Psalm 9:8, noted that God had “appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained” (Acts 17:31). God appointed 1844 for the time of the judgment to begin, and Jesus Christ is “that man” who will judge. The heavenly sanctuary is the setting for a great portion of the Revelation and also for the judgment scene of Daniel 7.

The Law of God The law of God is the transcript of his character. God is holy. “Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at his holy hill; for the LORD our God is holy” (Psalm 99:9). God is just: “…just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints” (Revelation 15:3). Jesus testifies that God is good (Mark 10:18). The Psalmist says, “Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart” (Psalm 73:1). God is good to Israel because he is good. Jesus, who is the express image of the Father’s character, is the “the good shepherd” (John 10:14). Just as God is holy, just, and good, his law is holy, just, and good: “Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good” (Romans 7:12).

Sabbath The very seal of God is found in the Sabbath commandment, Exodus 20:8-11. Every official seal has three distinct parts: the name of the lawgiver or ruler, the title, and the territory of the lawgiver. In Exodus 20:11 we find all three parts in the fourth commandment. “For in six days the LORD [his name, Jehovah or Yahweh] made [his title, creator] heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is [his territory], and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” Sabbath is even called by God the foundation of many generations: And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in. If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words. (Isaiah 58:12,13) God, through Ezekiel, says that Sabbath would be a sign between him and his people (Ezekiel 20:20), and Ellen White simply puts it: Sabbath is a golden clasp that unites God and His people. (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 351)

The Faith of Jesus Coupled with the commandments of God is the faith of Jesus. “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12) Though sometimes ignored in the list of landmarks from Counsels to Writers and Editors, the faith of Jesus is vital to the foundation of our experience. Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference. (Romans 3:22) And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith. (Philippians 3:9) Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. (Galatians 2:16) It is impossible to preach “the everlasting gospel” (Revelation 14:6) without teaching the faith of Jesus.

The Three Angels’ Messages In the three angels’ messages, we must understand that these messages are very comprehensive and within the three angels’ messages are all the details of the everlasting gospel (including the incarnation), of the sanctuary message, of the fall of Babylon, and of the mark of the beast/seal of God. The banner of the three angels’ messages includes the commandments and the faith of Jesus, the sanctuary message, and the ark with the law, highlighting the Sabbath commandment. Nothing seems to be specifically mentioned about God. Surely the doctrine of God must be a pillar. Nearly all Bible students acknowledge the doctrine of God to be the most fundamental doctrine of all. As we noted, the Catholic Church declares their understanding of God to be their central pillar of the Catholic faith. The very first commandment of the Ten Commandments forbids false worship. Within the first angel’s message, we find the commands to fear, to reverence, and to give glory to God. Can this be done with false ideas about him? Hardly! Thousands have a false conception of God and His attributes. They are as verily serving a false god as were the servants of Baal. (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 174)

The Non-immortality of the Wicked The non-immortality of the wicked is a fundamental teaching that is like a sharp, two-pronged fork. It safeguards against one of the main forms of spiritualism. The Scripture states: For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing. (Ecclesiastes 9:5) His [the dead person’s] sons come to honour, and he knoweth it not; and they are brought low, but he perceiveth it not of them. (Job 14:21) The teaching of the non-immortality of the wicked is also a safeguard against the charge that God is a tyrant. It preserves the mercy of his character with his righteousness, and here is Ellen White on the issue: It is beyond the power of the human mind to estimate the evil which has been wrought by the heresy of eternal torment. The religion of the Bible, full of love and goodness, and abounding in compassion, is darkened by superstition and clothed with terror. When we consider in what false colors Satan has painted the character of God, can we wonder that our merciful Creator is feared, dreaded, and even hated? The appalling views of God which have spread over the world from the teachings of the pulpit have made thousands, yes, millions, of skeptics and infidels. (The Great Controversy, p. 536) The Scripture is plain that God is no such tyrant. The destruction of the wicked by God is called a “strange act” (Isaiah 28:21). On the surface the destruction of the wicked seems foreign to his character of love. God, in his mercy, will finally destroy all sin and the sinners who refuse to let go of their sin. They will not have immortality in an eternally burning hell. For as ye have drunk upon my holy mountain, so shall all the heathen drink continually, yea, they shall drink, and they shall swallow down, and they shall be as though they had not been. (Obadiah 1:16) And they [the wicked] went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. (Revelation 20:9)

The gift of prophecy or the Testimony of Jesus Not only is the testimony of Jesus one of the characteristics of the remnant people (Revelation 12:17; 19:10), but it has been promised to the church (Ephesians 4:1-13), and the church will prosper when it believes its prophets (2 Chronicles 20:20). The history of God’s people in ancient and modern times reveals a positive history when the prophets have been believed and followed and sadness and tragedy when disregarded and disobeyed.

The Nature or Personalities of God and of Jesus The Apostle Peter tells us that God’s grace and peace come to us through a knowledge of him. “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1: 2, 3). Not only does grace and peace come to us, but all things “that pertain unto life and godliness” come through knowing God. Like our Saviour, we are in this world to do service for God. We are here to become like God in character, and by a life of service to reveal Him to the world. In order to be co-workers with God, in order to become like Him and to reveal His character, we must know Him aright. We must know Him as He reveals Himself. (The Ministry of Healing, p. 409) God reveals himself as a God of love and justice, as a God of mercy and righteousness. A knowledge of God is the foundation of all true education and of all true service. It is the only real safeguard against temptation. It is this alone that can make us like God in character. This is the knowledge needed by all who are working for the uplifting of their fellow men. Transformation of character, purity of life, efficiency in service, adherence to correct principles, all depend upon a right knowledge of God. This knowledge is the essential preparation both for this life and for the life to come. (Ibid.) Jesus plainly declares that it “is life eternal” to “know… the only true God, and Jesus Christ” (John 17:3). “Christ’s favorite theme was the paternal tenderness and abundant grace of God” (Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 40). “In order to strengthen our confidence in God, Christ teaches us to address Him by a new name, a name entwined with the dearest associations of the human heart. He gives us the privilege of calling the infinite God our Father” (Ibid., pp. 141, 142). Now as to the nature of Christ, Jesus Christ was the “Word” that existed in the beginning and became flesh and dwelt among men John 1:1-3,14. In Christ dwelt “all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” Col. 2:9. Jesus declared His oneness with the Father John 10:30. The Father Himself testified of the Godhood of His Son Heb. 1:8. Jesus’ divinity is evidenced by both His creative power Heb. 1:2; John 1:3 and His eternal nature John 8:58; John 17:5. Twenty eight times in the four Gospels, Jesus is referred to as the “Son of God”. His Human Nature: Jesus --God’s divine Son-- became a man with the same frail humanity common to all men Hebrews 2:16-17; Gal 4:4; Rom. 8:3. Mary was the “mother of Jesus” John 2:1,3; Acts 1:14; and not a surrogate parent –but passed on real human genes to her Child. Yet Jesus was untouched by the taint of sin 1Pet. 2:22; John 14:30. Eighty four times in the four Gospels, Jesus is referred to as the “Son of man”. His humanity sets forth an example of what man, by God’s grace, may become 1Pet.2:21-23; 1John 2:6"

Will see if I can find where that came from..

It is an interesting proposition but sadly we don't seem to find the pillars of the faith defined until late in Adventist history. In 1853, prior to the formation of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, James White was in discussion with the Seventh-day Baptists and stated, “We are united in these great subjects: Christ's immediate, personal second Advent, and the observance of all of the commandments of God, and the faith of his Son Jesus Christ, as necessary to a readiness for his Advent. With Seventh-day Baptists, we agree in the institution, design and perpetuity of the Sabbath.” A year later (1854) the Review and Herald printed for several months a list of what was referred to as “Leading Doctrines Taught by the Review”. These were:
The Bible, and the Bible alone, the rule of faith and duty. The Law of God, as taught in the Old and New Testaments, unchangeable. The Personal Advent of Christ and the Resurrection of the Just, before the Millennium. The Earth restored to its Eden perfection and glory, the final Inheritance of the Saints. Immortality alone through Christ, to be given to the Saints at the Resurrection.”

In the 1860s the Church was under what Ellen White described as "the banner of the thrid angel" which "has enscribed upon it The Commandments of God and the faith of Jesus."

In Review and Herald of 13th October 1874 Uriah Smith refers to the great pillars of our faith as being: the doctrine of the personal, soon coming of Christ and; the observance of the seventh day as the Sabbath. However, a year later D.M. Canright refers to "the great pillars of our faith" as being, "the signs of the times, the messages, the Sabbath, &c". (Review & Herald 21st October 1875)

J. N. Andrews is described as one who "turned the powers of his logical mind to the investigation of the pillars of our faith, and brought out works on the Sabbath, the Sanctuary, the Judgment, etc., which, so far as at present appears, leave nothing to be developed on these points." (Bible Echo and Signs of the Times 15th October 1890), so his books would be of some use in determining the subjects.
However, in 1905 F.A. Allum gave a report of a baptism in Bathurst, Australia, in which he wrote, Great care has been taken to baptise only those who are in harmony with all the "pillars of our faith." (Union Conference Record [Australasian]1st January 1905) This would infer that the confession of faith in use by SDAs at least incorporated the "pillars". In the 1st February 1904 edition of that periodical the pamphlet Outline Studies in Bible Doctrines (161 lessons) was recommended in the following way, As a people we need to know the pillars of our faith, and this can only be realised by an earnest study of God's Word. This little booklet will assist you. In September 1909 (same periodical) there is a report of a baptism in which the candidates declared that they were in perfect harmony with "the ten pillars of our faith".

SDA evangelists were preaching the pillars of our faith at this time and specific reference is made to the health reform and the sabbath however, by 1916 the Australasian Record reports that there are "twelve pillars of our faith". Also, in the Review an Herald of 9th October 1913 there is a list of 15, what are described as, "cardinal features of the faith" beginning with "the Trinity" and ending with "the fires of the last day".

It may be an idea to approach the various statements of belief and baptismal vows that were put out by the SDA Church as that would be a good way of understanding the main points of belief. If we ignore William Millers statement of beliefs then the first such statement would be that presented by Uriah Smith in 1872 which was referred to as "A Declaration of the Fundamental Principles Taught and Practised by SDA" and of which there were 25 in number. Then in 1874 James White wrote of 28 Fundamental Principles - an increase of 3 principles but that does put us at variance with the "10", "12" or "15" pillars of later years.

G.A. Unwin gives a list of 10 "pillars of the faith" in Review and Herald 25th May 1905 and enumerates them as follows:

 “1. The commandments of God;

  2. Righteousness by faith;

  3. Life only in Christ;

  4. The sleep of the dead;

  5. The sanctuary;

  6. The three messages;

  7. The second advent;

  8. The spirit of prophecy;

  9. Health reform;

  10. Systematic giving.”

None of these pillars were in relation to the nature of God but then in 1913 Wilcox’s statement is printed which gives a definition of the Seventh-day Adventist concept of the Godhead.

I have looked at this in the context of the church having the Spirit of Prophecy active during the time that these statements were made (excepting the 1916 Australasian Record statement). The assumption being that if the "principles" were not correct they would have been corrected by EGW at some point.

Hope this helps.

You should also look up where Sister White speaks of the "pillars" and "landmarks."

As far as I can see, sis. White does not enumerate the pillars or give any definitive list. If you know where she does, please give a reference.

Here is a piece from Roger W. Coon's lecture from Andrews University.

IV. Ellen G.White's relationship to the "pillar" doctrines of the Seventh-day Adventist Church

Following the Minneapolis General Conference session she wrote this commentary on what happened then:

"In Minneapolis God gave precious gems of truth to His people in new settings. This light from heaven by some was rejected with all the stubbornness the Jews manifested in rejecting Christ, and there was much talk about standing by the old landmarks. But there was evidence they knew not what the old landmarks were. There was evidence and there was reasoning from the word that commended itself to the conscience; but the minds of men were fixed, sealed against the entrance of light, because they had decided it was a dangerous error removing the "old landmarks" when it was not moving a peg of the old landmarks, but they had perverted ideas of what constituted the old landmarks."

"The passing of the time in 1844 was a period of great events, opening to our astonished eyes the cleansing of the sanctuary transpiring in heaven, and having decided relation to God's people upon the earth, [also] the first and second angels' messages and the third, unfurling the banner on which was inscribed, "The commandments of God and the faith of Jesus." One of the landmarks under this message was the temple of God, seen by His truth-loving people in heaven, and the ark containing the law of God. The light of the Sabbath of the fourth commandment flashed its strong rays in the pathway of the transgressors of God's law. The nonimmortality of the wicked is an old landmark. I can call to mind nothing more that can come under the head of the old landmarks. All this cry about changing the old landmarks is all imaginary." (Mss 13, 1889 in CW 30-31)


1. Ellen White variously identified the "pillar," "landmark," "foundation" doctrines of the Seventh-day Adventist Church as:

a. The Second Coming of Christ.

b. The Heavenly Sanctuary (including Christ's high-priestly ministry therein).

c. "Soul Sleep" (conditional immortality; the non-immortality of the wicked).

d. The Seventh-day Sabbath, and the immutabiblity of the Ten Commandments.

e. The Three Angels' Messages. (see CW 28-32).

2. What was her personal relationship to these doctrines? What was her role in their origin and development? Was she and her visions the source of our doctrines?

No! as we have seen our doctrines did not originate in either her visions or in her writings!

Her role, largely, was to come after those pioneers which had more prominently popularized them, and set the imprimatur of heaven upon them.

A. The Second Advent of Christ

1. Ellen White heard William Miller preach this doctrine in Portland, ME, in 1840, and again in 1842, when she was a child of 12 and 14 years, respectively.

She, with her parents, accepted this doctrine as taught solely from Scripture. And they were subsequently disfellowshipped from the Methodist Church because of their stand.

2. Ellen White's role as a "special messenger," vis-à-vis this doctrine, was largely that of validating the prior Biblical teaching of Miller, Joshua V. Himes, Charles Fitch, Josiah Litch, Joseph Bates, and others who promulgated it.

The doctrine of Christ's Second Advent hardly originated with Ellen White!


B. The Heavenly Sanctuary

1. Ellen White's first written statement upon this subject came about a year after the conclusions of Hiram Edson, O.R.L. Crosier, and Dr. Frederick Hahn had been written out by Crosier and published in the Day-Star, and Day-Dawn. George Knight comments:

"Ellen Harmon's . . . early visions also touched upon the topic of the sanctuary. Her first vision (December 1844) dealt with the validity of the seventh-month movement . . . rather than the sanctuary. But in early 1845 she reported another vision in which she 'saw the Father rise from the throne, and in a flaming chariot go into the holy of holies within the veil, and sit down' at the beginning of the second phase of Christ's heavenly ministry (see EW 14, 15, 54-56). While Ellen Harmon's vision harmonized with the Bible-based conclusions of Crosier and others, we must remember that she had no authority in Adventism at that time. She was basically unknown to the major players in the developing sanctuary theology. To them she was merely a 17-year old girl claiming to have visions amidst the conflicting voices of a shut door Adventism literally overrun by a multitude of individuals claiming charismatic gifts. It would take time to separate the genuine from the false in the chaotic conditions of the post-Disappointment Adventism of 1845" (In Search of Identity, p. 65).

Her role was largely to validate the conclusions of these brethren, not to initiate.

2. During her ministry, but particularly in the later years, she repeatedly urged our members to read articles upon this subject written by the pioneers of the Advent Movement.

In 1983, Paul A. Gordon, then associate secretary of the White Estate, collected 400+ articles (the Table of Contents itself runs 16 pp.) on the Sanctuary doctrine (plus related topics: Dan. 8:14; the Judgment; the 2300-Days; the Year-Day Principle, and the Atonement) published between 1846 and 1905; and he produced an anthology of 1,009 pages (still in print and available from the White Estate).

Although Ellen White received 11 visions on the subject of the heavenly sanctuary between 1845-51, she always referred church members to the articles by the pioneers. And, interestingly, not one of the pioneers appealed to these 11 visions as "proof" of the validity of this doctrine! Ellen White was not even mentioned in their articles! Their evidence and arguments were drawn solely from the Scriptures! Uriah Smith appealed to these very same articles to refute critics and to "prove"--from the Bible, and the Bible alone--the validity of this doctrine, never to Ellen White.


C. "Soul-Sleep" (Conditional Immortality; the Non-Immortality of the Wicked)

1. George Storrs [1796-1879], a Methodist minister who became a Millerite preacher in 1842, was the first in Millerism to write in advocacy of the unconscious state of humans in death.

He coined the expression "soul-sleep."

In 1841 he wrote An Enquiry: Are the Souls of the Wicked Immortal? In Three Letters.

2. Storrs' ideas influenced Eunice Harmon, Ellen White's mother, who shared them with daughter Ellen (about 1842), when the latter was about 15 years of age. Ellen's initial reaction was one of strong disapproval; but after a careful study of the Biblical evidence, she accepted it (1T 39, 40).

After entering upon her prophetic ministry, she became a strong advocate of Storrs' "Soul-Sleep" doctrine of conditional immortality, and she considered it to be one of the half-dozen "pillar" doctrines of the SDA Church (Ms. 13, 1889; cited in CW 30, 31).

Her role in promoting it, however, was largely in the nature of endorsing Storrs' views; she did not break any "new ground."


D. The Sabbath

1. The doctrine of the Sabbath.

This doctrine was first brought to the attention of ex-Millerites by Joseph Bates.

Bates, in turn, was strongly influenced by studying the work of T. M. Preble, and in discussions with Rachel Oaks-Preston (a Seventh Day Baptist) and Frederic Wheeler.

When Bates first approached Ellen White on the Sabbath doctrine, her initial reaction was negative (as was, also, Bates' initial reaction when first told that she had been given a genuine prophetic gift!)

Both, however, changed their respective opposition, on the basis of coercive Bible-based evidence.

2. The observance of the Sabbath.

James and Ellen White initially observed the Sabbath on the basis of their study of the Bible, not because she had had a vision on the subject showing it to be the right day!

A copy of Bates' tract on the Sabbath was given to them about the time of their marriage, Aug. 30, 1846. They accepted the Sabbath on the basis of Bible proof alone.

The first vision dealing with the sacredness of the seventh-day Sabbath (and also of the existence of the heavenly sanctuary) was given April 3, 1847, seven months after the Whites had commenced its observance on the basis of Bible evidence alone, and three months after Bates published the second edition of his book Seventh Day Sabbath (cf. Lt 2, 1874; cited in EW 323-35).


3. The time to begin the observance of the Sabbath.

This issue was not settled among Sabbatarian Adventists until November 1855.

Four views coexisted among them during the 1840s and early 1850s:

(1) The Sabbath begins at sunrise Saturday morning (based upon a misinterpretation of Mat 28:1, which they interpreted to mean that Sunday begins at sunrise Sunday morning).

(2) The Sabbath begins at midnight Friday night-"legal time."

(3) The Sabbath beings at 6 p.m. Friday ("equatorial time"), a position favored by sea-captain Bates, who knew that the sun rises daily at 6 a.m., and sets daily at 6 p.m., upon the equator.

(4) The Sabbath begins at sunset on Friday; the Seventh Day Baptist position.

John Nevins Andrews, then only 26 years of age (but a scholar who could readily read the original Hebrew of the OT and the Greek of the NT) was commissioned by church leaders to study the matter out from Scripture, and write a research paper to be read at a General Conference gathering in Battle Creek in November 1855.

On the basis of 11 OT texts and 2 in the NT, Andrews concluded that the proper time to begin the Sabbath was sunset on Friday (his sermon is recorded in the RH, 4 December 1855).

Bates initially held out for "equatorial time," and Ellen White initially sided with Bates.

Two days later, however, Ellen White received a vision correcting her position, which she subsequently shared with the other believers at the early morning service the following day (Arthur L. White, Messenger to the Remnant, 36; 1T 116; George Knight, Joseph Bates, 161).

E. The Three Angels' Messages of Revelation 14

1. William Miller and his associates preached only the First Angel's Message (1839-44). They never really went beyond it in any major way.

2. Charles Fitch seems to have been the first to attempt to preach the Second Angel's Message, on 26 July 1843, some 15 months before the Great Disappointment. It never really "caught on" among Millerite preachers, however.

Previously, Protestants had tended to identify the Church of Rome with Spiritual Babylon as identified in the Book of Revelation.

Fitch broadened the category to include contemporary Protestants who had turned from the doctrine of an imminent Second Advent, or were merely "warmly" in favor of it. (See LeRoy Edwin Froom, The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, 4: 543, 544; EGW incorrectly dates the first preaching of this message to the summer of 1844, in GC 389.)

3. Among Sabbatarian Adventists Joseph Bates was the first one, in his second edition of Seventh Day Sabbath (January 1847) to articulate a theology of inter-connected doctrines including the Sabbath, the Second Advent of Christ, and the Three Angels' Messages.

4. Ellen White's role, basically, was to endorse the preaching of all three messages as presented by other previous speakers and writers.



1. Early Adventist pioneers and Ellen White did not refer to her visions to "prove" the validity of the Seventh-day Adventist doctrines which she espoused and taught.

2. She did, however, have this to say about those foundational "pillar" doctrines:

a. "The past fifty years have not dimmed one jot or principle of our faith as we received the great and wonderful evidences that were made certain to us in 1844, after the passing of the time. The languishing souls are to be confirmed and quickened according to His Word. . . . Not a word is to be changed or denied. That which the Holy Spirit testified to as truth after the passing of the time, in our great disappointment, is the solid foundation of truth. [The] pillars of truth were revealed, and we accepted the foundation principles that have made us what we are--Seventh-day Adventists, keeping the commandments of God and having the faith of Jesus" (Letter 326, 4 December 1905; cited in UL 352).

b. "We are to stand firm as a rock to the principles of the Word of God, remembering that God is with us to give us strength to meet each new experience. Let us ever maintain the principles of righteousness in our lives, that we may go forward from strength to strength in the name of the Lord. We are to hold as very sacred the faith that has been substantiated by the instruction and approval of the Spirit of God from our earliest experience until the present time..." (Letter 66, 28 August 1911; cited in UL 254).

3. What contributions did Ellen White make beyond confirmation?

Over time she provided a theological framework, a worldview. Her conceptual themes of the love of God and the great controversy between good and evil have provided Seventh-day Adventists with an interpretive theological framework to understand Scripture.

Other Christian churches have such frameworks of theological interpretation to articulate their doctrines and teachings: Augustinian/Calvinist and Aristotelian/Thomist frameworks are two examples.

Ellen White's doctrinal authority lies largely in this worldview.



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