T I C L E S
STEPHEN D. PITCHER
The story has often been told over the last 50 years. Walter Martin, the well-known cult researcher and Christian apologist, went to the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1955 to make sure he accurately understood Adventism's doctrinal positions. He had written a chapter about Adventism in The Rise of the Cults (Zondervan, 1955), and before he wrote more he wanted to question Adventist leaders directly. After several conferences with Martin and evangelical colleagues including Donald Grey Barnhouse in 1955 and 1956 (one count put the number of meetings at 18), the Adventists published Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine: An Explanation of Certain Major Aspects of Seventh-day Adventist Belief (often called QOD) in 1957. This book was the Adventists' official answer to Walter Martin and his colleagues.
Numerous accounts of this story focus not primarily on the events of the discussions themselves but on their backlash from both within and without the Adventist Church. As many have stated and re-stated, the publication of QOD resulted in more and longer-lasting controversy within the Adventist Church than has any other issue the Church has faced.2, 3, 4
Raymond Cottrell, associate editor of the Adventist Review and also of the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, practically prophesied about these 50 years of conflict as QOD was being prepared for publication:
Let us be certain that nothing gets into the proposed book that will take us the next 50 years to live down.5
In October of 2007 a QOD 50th anniversary conference was held at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. This event was not so much a celebration as it was a time for various individuals within Adventism (and two non-Adventists) to discuss issues from the QOD controversy which have persisted over the past five decades. Although many Adventists have opposed QOD, many have favored it, though their favor reflects a variety of viewpoints and agendas. Whether for or against the book, all of the conference participants agreed that QOD was a watershed event in Adventist history.
One particularly revealing event in the "QOD saga" occurred in 1984 when Walter Martin and William Johnsson, then editor of the Adventist Review, met for discussions on the John Ankerberg Show. The resulting five-program television series, "Who Is Telling the Truth About Seventh Day [sic] Adventism?," aired in 1985.
The question now needs to be asked. Did someone lie about Seventh-day Adventism? To answer this question, we will first look at the Adventists and the evangelicals involved in the "Martin conversations"—and then examine various responses to QOD. Juhyeok (Julius) Nam's doctoral dissertation "Reactions to the Seventh-day Adventist Evangelical Conferences and Questions on Doctrine, 1955–1971," is an excellent resource on this subject, but it only examines work written before 1972. Numerous issues, however, have arisen since 1971, particularly from the John Ankerberg Show, which we will address as well.
The Adventist leaders involved in the conferences with Walter Martin and his colleagues were Leroy Edwin Froom, W. E. Read, and Roy Allan Anderson—(a trio nicknamed FREDA inside leadership circles). Froom was a key player who maintained contact with General Conference president Reuben R. Figuhr. In a letter dated August 8, 1955, Froom cryptically wrote to Figuhr about the pending talks:
The time has come for some things to happen, and I believe that there is opportunity now to go forward with certain things. I know that I am speaking in generalities and parables, but if I get into particulars, it would take too long and I would have to explain the whole thing.6
All three Adventist conferees were "highly respected leaders."7 Read had received training in biblical languages but was not proficient.8 Anderson had dealt with non-Adventists for several years and could understand and use their Christian phraseology. Froom was a researcher and historian who had compiled multi-volume works on prophetic and conditionalist faith throughout Christian history. "But the facts are that our Adventist trio, untrained as theologians, was no match for Martin and Barnhouse, specialists in Calvinistic Evangelicalism."9
The uninvited Adventists—the lunatic fringe
Milian Lauritz Andreasen, Raymond F. Cottrell, and Francis D. Nichol were influential Adventists who were not invited to participate in the Adventist-Evangelical conferences. In fact, Andreasen and Nichol were specifically barred from participation. That these three and many others who had been influential in Adventism were not included is quite telling. These men in "the fringe" were so respected within Adventism that their opinions and possible objections to the QOD project had far-reaching effects, influencing countless laypersons who admired and learned from them.
Nichol was the editor of the Review and Herald from 1945 to 1961, and supervising editor of the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary. Many consider him the leading Ellen White apologist of the twentieth century.
Cottrell was an associate editor of both the Review and Herald and the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary. A notable scholar proficient in both Hebrew and Greek, he identified five areas of concern about the forthcoming QOD—concerns which were largely ignored. In an unpublished sixteen-page letter to General Conference leaders, he listed the categories of his concern: "(1) change in Adventist theology; (2) Ellen G. White; (3) the remnant church; (4) Adventism in relation to other evangelical churches; and (5) the proposed book on Adventism by Martin." 10
Andreasen was one of Adventism's most influential theologians of the 1930s and 1940s. He was a proponent of "Last Generation Theology" which holds that the generation alive when Christ returns will have to have reached perfection. He strongly opposed the publication of QOD and felt that the Adventist Church was being severely compromised. His story is well-known as he made it his last mission in life to warn the Adventist Church of the heresy that was coming into the Church through QOD. Many during those years pointed to his Letters to the Churches which articulated the reasons for his disapproval as just cause for assigning him to the lunatic fringe of Adventism—yet those Letters, far from being discarded as the work of a lunatic, are still being circulated to this day.
How did the man who was arguably the foremost theologian in the Adventist Church become consigned to the lunatic fringe? The reason was not Andreason's theology; rather, he was marginalized because he opposed working with evangelicals and making Adventist doctrines palatable to Protestant Christians.
Andreasen's writings were significant within Adventism. For example, some of his works were included in the Christian Home Library (CHL), a collection that epitomizes Adventist writing and which features all the works of Ellen White. The CHL offers works that all Adventists can agree clearly state their positions without resorting to non-Adventist phraseology. In effect, they did not rely on agreements with Babylonish theology to make the case for Adventism.
Though Andreasen's books eventually faded in popularity and were absent from Adventist Book Centers (ABC) for many years, they are again being sold. His book The Sanctuary Service is currently available through the ABC.11
Ironically, Leroy Froom, one of the key participants in the Evangelical-Adventist meetings, was a typical Adventist and sounded much like the "lunatic fringe" to which Andreasen had been relegated. Unlike Andreasen, however, Froom reached out to Martin and Barnhouse in the 1950's. This apparent cordiality belied his earlier hostility toward working with those from "Babylon". The Adventist Church has always taught that the Pope is the Antichrist, that the Roman Catholic Church is the Whore of Babylon (Revelation 14:8), and that the Protestant churches are its harlot daughters. In The Ministry magazine for April, 1944, Froom endorsed this traditional Adventist belief when he wrote:
How dare a man contemplate, or have the temerity to present, the degree of doctor of divinity, gained in the universities of Babylon, as a credential for teaching or preaching this threefold message, the second stipulation of which is, "Babylon is fallen, is fallen … Come out of her, My people." How dare we accept such a Babylonian credential in lieu of mastery of the truth? Shall a man go into Babylon to gain strength and wisdom to call men out of Babylon? To ask the question is but to disclose how far some have compromised with Babylon, as they have gone back to Babylon to drink from her wells of wisdom. Oh, for the living waters of truth fresh from the Word!
Someone needs to sound an alarm. We need to grip ourselves and halt a growing trend that, if it becomes entrenched, will bring disaster through neutralizing our message… Otherwise we shall go the way of all other religious bodies before us, who started out with a heavenly message, but who have bogged down in the morass of worldly scholarship with its erudite haziness, its loss of spiritual vision, and its blurring of truth, until its virility and its power to witness have virtually disappeared.12
What happened between 1944 and the 1950s to cause Froom to make such an apparent about-face?
Apparently avoiding the label "cult" was even more important to Froom than avoiding collaboration with those from Babylon. In the 1940s Froom would have agreed with Andreasen, Cottrell and Nichol. In the 1950s, however, Froom appeared to trample his own convictions, leading out in the conferences designed to convince the evangelicals from "Babylon" that Adventism was truly Christian, while the very men with whom he agreed theologically were cast off to the sidelines to witness the unthinkable.
"A powerful circle" —the non-Adventists
The Evangelicals involved in the conferences were primarily Walter R. Martin, Donald G. Barnhouse and George E. Cannon. Martin, in his mid-20s, was a consulting editor with Eternity magazine with specific training in apologetics and cults. Barnhouse, the senior theologian, Martin's mentor, and a world-renowned Bible teacher, pastored the Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia for many years and served as editor of Eternity magazine. Cannon was a professor of New Testament at Nyack Missionary College in Nyack, New York.
The effects of Martin's work were already known in religious circles. Martin had classified the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (Jehovah's Witnesses) as cults. With that label the organizations had a very difficult, if not impossible, time convincing informed individuals of their orthodoxy. The leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church was aware both of Martin's conclusions regarding the Mormons and the Jehovah's Witnesses and of his influence, and the Adventists did not want the same stigma being attached to their church.
Froom knew the power of the individuals with whom he was meeting. In a letter to General Conference president Figuhr, Froom stated:
I do not know where all this will lead, but we do know that we have won friends in a powerful circle—friends who believe that we have been unjustly treated and are set to make a defense of our adherence to sound Biblical positions.13
Wordsmiths—why did the Adventists change their language?
Although approving of many positions articulated in QOD by the delegated committee, Raymond Cottrell and others later admitted that there were serious problems in the text. Cottrell believed the book was telling "only part of the truth as to what Adventists believed on [certain] points."14 Nichol stated:
It seems evident that some statements were clearly made to Martin and some typewritten forms of answers were given to him that many of us, on mature consideration are unable to support.15
Froom was aware of the new, non-Adventist wording the committee members were using to answer Martin's questions. In a letter to Figuhr dated April 26, 1955, Froom wrote:
It may seem that some of the statements are a bit different from what you might anticipate. If you knew the backgrounds, the attitudes, the setting of it all, you would understand why we stated these things as we have.16
The annotated edition of QOD, reprinted as part of the Adventist Classic Library, was published in 2003. The annotations were written by George R. Knight, professor (now retired) of church history at Andrews Theological Seminary. In his introduction he notes:
The authors at times push the facts a bit too far on such issues as Adventism's historic understanding of the Trinity and they even present their data in a way that creates a false impression on the human nature of Christ. But given the desire to please and the importance of the answers, the volume overall is a remarkably courageous statement of traditional Adventist doctrinal understanding.17
When it comes to wordsmithing, Andreasen, Knight, and a host of others have all agreed in print (at different times in the past 50 years) that the heading on p. 650 of QOD (in Appendix B) was more than just a modification of the words used to state Adventist belief. Referring to Christ, it reads, "Took Sinless Human Nature."18 It has been amply demonstrated from the writings of Ellen G. White, who is "the final court of appeal"19 within Seventh-day Adventism, that Jesus took our sinful, fallen human nature, "degraded and defiled by sin." Prior to the writing of QOD, Ellen White's words were the standard Adventist description of Christ's human nature.
Most Adventists are familiar with the following quotes from Ellen White regarding Christ's human nature. These quotes are completely contrary to the frankly deceptive statement in QOD:
Think of Christ's humiliation. He took upon Himself fallen, suffering human nature, degraded and defiled by sin.20
Clad in the vestments of humanity, the Son of God came down to the level of those He wished to save. In Him was no guile or sinfulness; He was ever pure and undefiled; yet He took upon Him our sinful nature.21
Before the publication of the annotated QOD, Knight wrote A Search for Identity: The Development of Seventh-day Adventist Beliefs. In it he clearly identifies how the Adventists in the 1950s rationalized the rewording of their doctrine of an atonement that was not completed on the cross:
The issue of the complete atonement in many ways was a semantic adjustment made to enable the Adventist leaders in dialogue with Barnhouse and Martin to communicate their belief in the sufficiency of Christ's death. They felt safe in that approach since they could quote Ellen White as essentially saying that the atonement took place on the cross. Thus the authors of Questions on Doctrine could note in agreement with the evangelicals that Jesus had "provided" the sacrificial atonement on the cross while still not yielding the Adventist understanding that the atonement continued in the heavenly sanctuary where Christ "applied" the benefits of His sacrificial atonement.22
The crafting of phraseology that sounded orthodox to evangelicals while not renouncing historic Adventist positions intentionally obscured the true nature of Adventist beliefs. Martin and Barnhouse were convinced that the Adventist church had changed some of its cultic doctrines to conform to the evangelical understanding. In reality,
[QOD] represents a total rejection of Barnhouse and Martin's dispensational understanding of the Second Advent and the covenant, while it is a courageous statement of the Adventist position on such controverted topics as the Sabbath, the mark of the beast, Daniel 8, the investigative judgment, the state of the dead, hell, Babylon, the remnant, and other topics that were offensive to the evangelical community.23
Following the publication of QOD various storms of controversy broke out both within and outside the Adventist Church. These have been well documented by Juhyeok Nam in his doctoral dissertation as well as by many others over the past 50 years. Reactions outside the Adventist church run the gamut, from claiming that the Adventists had completely deceived Martin and Barnhouse,24 to praise that the Adventists were rightly recognized as part of the Evangelical community.25 Following the publication of QOD, in 1960 Walter Martin authored The Truth about Seventh-day Adventism. This was to be a companion volume to QOD, sold in Adventist Book Centers; however, the General Conference reneged on its promise to Martin that it would sell his book as well.
Following the release of QOD and of Martin's book, the Adventist presses published many books and articles defending Adventist beliefs, bolstering the Adventist "pillars" that QOD had camouflaged and which Martin's book did not endorse. The first significant reactions to QOD and Martin's work took place on the ministerial level. The Adventist magazine The Ministry published a series of articles from June, 1960 to July, 1961 to counter Martin's new volume. These articles were compiled into a book entitled Doctrinal Discussions, to which three of the men involved in the Evangelical-Adventist conferences contributed. W. E. Read wrote articles on the investigative judgment, its biblical basis, and the time for this phase of the judgment. Roy A. Anderson wrote an article arguing for conditional immortality, and Edward Heppenstall contributed two articles on the hour of God's judgment having come.
In his introductory endorsement of Doctrinal Discussions, President R. R. Figuhr assured the readers of this new book that "the Bible, we believe, clearly establish[es] the solid scriptural foundation of Seventh-day Adventist doctrines."26 As one reads the articles in The Ministry and Doctrinal Discussions, however, it becomes clear that the writers could not defend Adventist doctrines from the Bible alone; the articles contain at least 18 references to the writings of Ellen G. White in support of various positions.
What is actually promulgated in Doctrinal Discussions? One telling example of the articles' traditional Adventist tone is this statement by Heppenstall, one of the most evangelical of Adventist leaders:
It is important to notice that the central issue in all these scriptures concerned with the work of judgment is the justification and vindication of God, not of man. The great concern is that God is declared righteous. Only as this becomes true can the saints be proclaimed righteous. It is the vindication of God and His throne that alone guarantees the triumph and vindication of the believer.27
Heppenstall's essay—written specifically to defend traditional Adventist theology against the challenge by Walter Martin—indicates that the believer's triumph and vindication depends not on the cross but on the judgment and vindication of God "alone". Moreover, this belief puts God the Creator on trial before His creatures on whom His vindication ultimately depends. Ironically, Heppenstall has long been championed as one of the most Christ-centered, cross-centered Adventist thinkers within Adventism.
Other endorsements of traditional Adventism since the publication of QOD include The Atonement by Edwin Reiner (Southern Publishing, 1971) which includes many theological statements of the kind which Martin and Barnhouse opposed. Reiner indicates that the sins of humanity were laid on Jesus at his baptism, that part of the Atonement was Christ's victory over Satan in the wilderness temptations, and that the Sabbath is included in the Atonement. Some of Reiner's statements, in order, are as follows:
After coming up from the water [of baptism], Jesus bowed in prayer on the banks of the Jordan. Laden with man's sins, He prayed for each person….28
As for Jesus, He now stood in a vastly different position than He had previously. The Sinless One must now [following His baptism] feel the shame of sin.29
Despite His human limitations and with the terrible weight of humanity's sins crushing Him, He withstood the pressures which Satan put upon Him. He did not succumb to the most dangerous temptation man faces….30
Christ stood at His symbolic tree of knowledge of good and evil….31
More important, the salvation of man hung in the balance, and the trial of Christ in the wilderness would decide man's eternal fate. Christ won out over His appetite, thus pointing to the fact that man had a chance to overcome his sinful nature.32
Christ's victory was as complete as had been Adam's failure.33
Since God has designated the seventh day as a sign of His authority, anyone who spurns His command to honor the Sabbath virtually rejects His leadership. Those who profess to follow Christ cannot enter into the rest of faith (Hebrews 4:9) while willfully breaking the Sabbath, for to reject one is to reject the other.34
Since the beginning in 1844 of the investigative judgment prophesied by Daniel, the Sabbath has truly become a test to the Christian world.35
The statements contradict Jesus' statement that all things—even the Sabbath—have been handed over to Him by the Father (Matt. 11:27-29).
Reiner included 58 pages of quotations from Ellen White to substantiate his view of the Atonement.
In retrospect, it is clear that, although the Adventist church published QOD using words that sounded much more like mainstream Christianity than any of their previous publications, the book did not signify any change of doctrine or belief. Moreover, the church moved quickly to reassure its members that there was no change in Adventist doctrines.
William Johnsson and Walter Martin
Although Walter Martin was aggressive in defending "the faith, once and for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3), he was also outspoken on the principle that Christians are not to attack fellow believers. Often during his ministry he defended the Adventist church as an evangelical Christian denomination on the basis of its statements in QOD, insisting that Adventists were not to be treated like the many cults with which he dealt. In keeping with his conviction, when Martin appeared with William Johnsson (then editor of the Adventist Review) on the John Ankerberg Show in 1985, Martin and Ankerberg often referred to William Johnsson as "brother," encouraging him to continue speaking truthfully about his own convictions as well as about the beliefs of the Adventist Church.
By the time the series with Martin and Johnsson was produced, QOD had been out of print for several years. Martin pressed Johnsson to explain why the book was not being reprinted, but he got no answer. Moreover, Johnsson could not clearly answer Martin's questions about whether the atonement was finished at the cross. Nevertheless, despite Johnsson's evasions and growing discomfort with Martin's questioning, Martin continued to acknowledge Johnsson as a brother in Christ.
Johnsson recounts his memories of the Ankerberg Show in his 2008 autobiography, Embrace the Impossible. Chapter 10, "Contending for the Faith", is dedicated to the events of those programs.
Johnsson states that, in agreement with General Conference president Neal C. Wilson, he was to "appear as the church's representative that Ankerberg had been publicly calling for."36 Nevertheless, Johnsson claims he refused to quote Wilson during the interviews.
I could have embellished my reply. I could have told Martin, "I asked our world leader, Neal C. Wilson, that very same question—whether the church has repudiated Questions on Doctrine—and he stated that we have not"… But I chose not to piggyback on anyone else's convictions. I took my stand as an individual Adventist, ready to answer from the heart.37
If he had a direct statement from the General Conference president but refused to share it, Johnsson failed in his role as representative of the Adventist Church.
The second program included a discussion of the investigative judgment and Hebrews 9 during which Johnsson claimed expertise in the exegesis of Hebrews 9 and 10. These two chapters had been the subject of his doctoral dissertation, Defilement and Purgation in the Book of Hebrews, which he had written under the direction of professor L. E. Keck at Vanderbilt University. He reports the exchange:
Just for a few minutes I found a respite—Martin moved into the book of Hebrews. Soon, however, he realized that I was well versed in that area, so he dropped Hebrews and went to a different subject.38
The transcript, however, reveals a different picture. Following a discussion of the Greek term ta hagia and whether it refers to the sanctuary in general or to a specific apartment of the sanctuary, Martin and Johnsson had this exchange:
Martin: And would the person who wrote the article [an older, definitive work on ta hagia] admit to the Adventist doctrine of 1844 and the second apartment of the sanctuary and Jesus going in there? Would they say that Hebrews 9 would admit that?
Johnsson: I don't think you get all that from Hebrews 9.
Martin: Oh, no. Not at all from Hebrews 9.39
Johnsson then redirected the discussion to the judgment seat of Christ. It was not Martin who dropped Hebrews; it was Johnsson who changed the subject and failed in his role as contender for the Adventist faith—in his area of expertise.
Throughout the interviews Johnsson struggled to uphold Adventist beliefs from a biblical standpoint and seemed inadequately prepared. Neal Wilson had told him, "It will be difficult, Bill. You will face a no-win situation. They will try to trap you with the questions they put to you. But if you can just stay calm and sweet and make clear that as an Adventist you believe in righteousness by faith, that will be sufficient, whatever else they try to trick you into saying." 40
Although Wilson warned him that he would face a difficult situation, Johnsson seems truly perplexed in retrospect and recounts his feelings while on the program:
Inside I was beginning to boil... And this was purportedly a Christian television show? Yes, the name of Jesus was mentioned, along with references to the Bible and various Christian doctrines, but the attitude, the spirit of the show, was overwhelmingly negative, designed to put the Seventh-day Adventist Church in a bad light.41
The "bad light" that Johnsson felt shone on the Adventist church, however, did not grow out of a predetermined negative attitude. Rather, Walter Martin persisted in asking Johnsson specific questions. For example, Martin asked Johnsson if all his sins were forgiven and fully atoned at the cross, and he asked why QOD was allowed to go out of print if the Adventist church really taught what the book stated. Johnsson could not give definitive answers to Martin's questions.
In fact, throughout all five programs, Johnsson persistently referred to the Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists to answer Martin's questions and refused to give straight, personal answers. When Martin was pressing Johnsson regarding the authority of Ellen White in the Adventist Church, Martin—who knew that the public statements of Fundamental Beliefs are carefully worded to conceal the true import of Adventist doctrine—declared:
[The] fundamental beliefs today are essentially worthless, because you can find an equal if not superior number of quotations on the same subject from your own publishing houses which disagree with it.42
Johnsson continues through this chapter of his book with many statements about the emotions he was experiencing throughout the program, saying that the Adventist Church was under attack and that he was constantly on the defensive. Later in the chapter, he refers to a letter from Edward Fudge, a member of the Church of Christ and the author of The Fire That Consumes, a book defending conditional immortality. Johnsson was assured by Fudge that "[I had] comported myself in a truly Christian manner. ‘In fact,' he wrote, ‘you were the only Christian on the program.'"43
Finally, Johnsson declares that, if given the opportunity, he would do such a set of interviews again, even if it looked like a setup.
But I would make sure one aspect was different. I would have in the audience someone—at least one person—to whom I could look and know that they were a friend and praying for me. Walter Martin had his cheering section in the audience, and he played up to it. I felt dreadfully on my own.
But I was not on my own. The Lord was there, by my side, right through.44
In reality, Johnsson was ill-equipped to go five rounds with Walter Martin. Wilson's advice to Johnsson to stay "calm and sweet" and to reiterate that he believed in "righteousness by faith" would never convince a theologian like Martin that Adventist doctrine is Christian. Martin's concerns about Adventism were not allayed by these interviews, and Johnsson's obfuscation only intensified Martin's legitimate doubts. Even QOD—the original "proof" to Martin that Adventism was evangelical—was out of print, and Johnson could neither explain the church's resistance to reprinting it nor articulate the Christian doctrine of a completed atonement. Furthermore, he could not deny the central role of Ellen G. White but persistently parroted the official Fundamental Beliefs.
In reality, Adventism's teachings denigrate the person and work of Jesus Christ by saying the atonement occurs in two or three phases with the cross constituting only the first phase, while the final phase is the believer's appropriation of the benefits of Christ's righteousness to ultimately vindicate God. These are definitely not orthodox Christian teachings.
The Adventist church in practice
Ever since the Adventist church published Questions on Doctrine to convince Martin and Barnhouse that it was not a cult, the organization continued publishing materials endorsing traditional Adventism. In other words, QOD did not alter the church's doctrines and teachings. A quotation from The Review in 1971 shows that even fourteen years after QOD was published, some very un-Protestant positions were held by Adventists and promulgated in the official church magazine:
When will the people of God cease trusting their own wisdom? When will they come to the place where they will cease to measure, construe, and interpret, by their own reason, what God says to them through His appointed channel?
When we come to the place where we place no trust in man nor in the wisdom of men, but unquestionably accept of and act upon what God says through this gift, then will the spirit of prophecy, as set before us in the Bible and as witnessed in the present manifestations of this gift be confirmed among us and become, in fact, the counselor, guide, and final court of appeal among God's people. Under the leadership of Christ, through this gift, the cause of God will move forward with mighty strides to final victory.45
Although this quote was written decades before, it's interesting that the same church that had produced QOD would allow this article to be published in 1971.
Ted Wilson, elected as General Conference President at the General Conference session in Atlanta in 2010, has made some similar claims for the writings of Ellen G. White. In his Sabbath message on July 3rd of this year, he states:
The same spirit that moved the holy men of old has again, in these last days, raised up a messenger for the Lord. My brothers and sisters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Lord has given us one of the greatest gifts possible in the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy. Just as the Bible is not outdated or irrelevant, neither is the testimony of God's end-time messenger. God used Ellen G. White as a humble servant to provide inspired insight about Scripture, prophecy, health, education, relationships, mission, families and so many more topics. Let us read the Spirit of Prophecy, follow the Spirit of Prophecy and share the Spirit of Prophecy. … The Spirit of Prophecy is one of the identifying marks of God's last-day remnant people and is just as applicable today as ever before because it was given to us by heaven itself. As God's faithful remnant, may we never make of none effect the precious light given us in the writings of Ellen G. White.46
Later in his presentation, Wilson again refers to the Spirit of Prophecy (Ellen G. White):
While the Bible is paramount in our estimation as the ultimate authority and final arbiter of truth, the Spirit of Prophecy provides clear, inspired counsel to aid our application of Bible truth. It is a heaven-sent guide to instruct the church in how to carry out its mission. It is a reliable theological expositor of the Scriptures. The Spirit of Prophecy is to be read, believed, applied and promoted. … Let me repeat a conviction of mine, a personal conviction: there is nothing antiquated or archaic about the Spirit of Prophecy; it is for today and until Christ returns.47
Wilson does not say that the Bible alone is paramount. He states that "While the Bible is paramount… the Spirit of Prophecy provides clear, inspired counsel…" The phrasing is ambiguous at best, intentionally misleading at worst. Is Wilson affirming that the Bible is paramount, or is he stating that the Spirit of Prophecy is a "reliable theological expositor of the Scriptures"? Should we go to the Bible alone, or are the writings of Ellen G. White to be "read, believed, applied and promoted"? Is the Bible God's counsel to all Christians for all time, or are we to read the Spirit of Prophecy "today and until Christ returns"?
Wilson, like many in the Church who voted him into office, does believe that the writings of Ellen G. White are inspired counsel. In fact, his endorsement expounds upon the 18th fundamental belief of the Church which states:
18. The Gift of Prophecy: One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is prophecy. This gift is an identifying mark of the remnant church and was manifested in the ministry of Ellen. G. White. As the Lord's messenger, her writings are a continuing and authoritative source of truth which provide for the church comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction. They also make clear that the Bible is the standard by which all teaching and experience must be tested. (Joel 2:28, 29; Acts 2:14-21; Heb. 1:1-3; Rev. 12:17; 19:10.)48
Ellen White's writings are a "continuing and authoritative source of truth." Although followed by a statement about the Bible being the standard, it is interesting to note that it is the writings of Ellen White—and not the Bible itself—which "make clear that the Bible is the standard." In effect, Ellen White is the standard for Adventist theology, because her writings are not only needed to identify the Bible as the "standard", but they are also "a continuing and authoritative source of truth."
Following the adoption in 1980 of the 17th fundamental belief (renumbered in 2005 as the 18th fundamental belief) affirming the prophetic gift of Ellen G. White, an ad hoc committee of the Adventist General Conference met to work out a detailed statement on Ellen White. This statement was published in the July 15, 1982, issue of the Adventist Review and the August, 1982, issue of Ministry magazine. Included with many excellent statements about Ellen White's writings not being on a par with Scripture was an unusual declaration. Following ten affirmations are ten denials. The first of these denials reads:
We do not believe that the quality or degree of inspiration in the writings of Ellen White is different from that of Scripture.49
The authors then state:
We conclude, therefore, that a correct understanding of the inspiration and authority of the writings of Ellen White will avoid two extremes: (1) regarding these writings as functioning on a canonical level identical with Scripture, or (2) considering them as ordinary Christian literature.50
With statements like these one can easily become confused regarding Adventism's official belief regarding Ellen G. White. Nevertheless, we must conclude that if the "quality" and "degree" of inspiration are no different from that of the Bible, the confusion is meant to obfuscate. Since Adventism regards her inspiration to be equal to that of the Bible writers, we must conclude that no matter what role they assign to her writings, members are to regard her counsel as authoritative in the same way they regard the Bible to be authoritative. In other words, Adventists need Ellen White in order to properly interpret and apply the Bible.
Did Adventist leadership lie to Walter Martin?
The definition of "lie" is to tell an untruth with the intent to deceive. Included in the definition is the act of not telling the whole truth, or telling partial truths with the intent to mislead. Given this definition of "lie," the simple answer to the question must be a clear "Yes, Adventist leadership lied to Walter Martin." We can go to great lengths to discuss the specifics of the wordsmithing they did when explaining their doctrines, comparing the language of QOD to earlier written positions. Unfortunately very few remain who were a part of that experience. Those who were there, such as Herbert Douglass, are clear that Questions on Doctrine was not in harmony with historic Adventist positions, and it resulted in a deep and long-lasting controversy within the Adventist Church.
George Knight, an accomplished historian and scholar, has documented well many of the issues that arose from QOD. His book A Search for Identity and his detailed annotations in the republished Questions on Doctrine provide many important details that indicate the Adventists involved in drafting QOD were not fully honest in the ways they articulated Adventism's doctrinal positions.
Finally, in his dissertation, Juhyeok Nam extensively documents the history of QOD from before its publication until 1971. He provides documentation on reactions from outside and inside the Adventist Church. These include private letters, not intended for publication, which have direct and significant bearing on exactly how and why the Adventist participants in the 1950s meetings concealed the truth.
Walter Martin stated the facts himself on the John Ankerberg Show in 1985. It's now time to admit that the Adventists did not tell Martin, Barnhouse, and their evangelical colleagues the truth. It's time to set the record straight.
Will the Adventist leadership repent?
Regarding the direction the Adventist Church was taking in the 1970s and 1980s, Walter Martin said:
I fear that if they continue to progress at this rate, that the classification of a cult can't possibly miss being re-applied to Seventh Day [sic] Adventism." 51
Following the death of cult leader Herbert W. Armstrong in 1986, his Worldwide Church of God labeled Armstrong's writings heretical, repented of its errors, and joined the greater Christian community.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church had a similar opportunity in the 1950s. When meeting with Martin they had the chance to come clean about their anti-trinitarianism, multi-phase atonement, identification of "Sunday worship" with the mark of the beast, Sabbath requirement, prophetess Ellen White, and many other unbiblical beliefs. They instead chose to rework the wording of their positions to appear acceptable to evangelical Christians.
Seventh-day Adventism has been able to infiltrate the evangelical community because key leaders deceived Walter Martin into believing they were evangelical Christians (albeit with a number of heterodox teachings and practices). Under this facade, however, the church has never renounced or stopped teaching its founding doctrines, and now, with the election of Ted Wilson as General Conference president, there is renewed emphasis on proclaiming and embracing true Adventism.
Regardless of the church's corporate stance, however, individual Seventh-day Adventists always have the opportunity to admit the truth. Jesus is calling, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your soul" (Mt. 11:28–29).
The voice from heaven in Revelation 18 calls all those caught in false religion:
Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, "Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities" (Rev. 18:4–5, ESV). †
well i guess you can call us that, since we are so devoted, attached to Jesus
I've told people that also.
The attachment to Jesus did not cause Walter Martin to investigate the Church as a cult. It was the over dependence on the SOP, and the semi-arian beliefs which caused him concern. He was also concerned about the classification of the nature of Christ, which historically indicated that Christ was born with a sinful nature, it was changed in QOD to Christ was born with the nature of Adam, which is a belief shared by evangelicals. He was also concerned about the understanding of the Holy Spirit, which QOD indicated that He was a distinct being. There were many Adventist at the time who were raised on the belief that the trinity was a part of Catholic doctrine and should be rejected, many SDA's then and today considered it the omega heresy that Ellen White predicted.
Keith there is many definitions of a cult so you can pick the one that suits you best indeed
that's why the church spent so much time proving that we are not a cult. It was a massive issue a few years ago.
Organizationally there are people who perform like they are in a cult. No room for critical thinking and follow along with what humans prescribe, with some denying the Holy Spirit. There are also splinter groups like Hartland,and Weimer, and some at Amazing Facts that have a lot of cult like tendencies. They suffer from paranoia, and look for tangible leadership, rather than having faith in the unseen.
Every church has its fair share of fanatics, even some are more cult like, and so what, it is what God thinks about His church that matters not what others think.
I do think that there is to great concern in the Leadership about what others think, we should rely on God that is well able to sustain His church.
This has been going on since the beginning of our movement. Mrs. White changed her position several times. Many were concerned about EGW from the very beginning. I think it is important to study our church history. Just because there are questions doesn't need to pull us apart if we are willing to let Christ be our central teaching.
We should be careful how we formulate out statements. When you say "Mrs White change her position several times". what do you mean? Can you be more specific? Are you referring to diet or her position on everything ?
Both, She believed in the shut door for many years. She didn't believe in the Sabbath at first, but accepted that.
She changed her position on the Trinity, and the Holy Spirit. She believed the investigative Judgement was almost over. that Christ would return in a very short time. She thought the spiritual rapping's would increase and warned about them. She changed when she was convinced in her mind. She wrote a testimony to one family rebuking them for suggesting swine flesh should be prohibited she later preached about it.
I know you think I am anti-sda, but nothing could be farther from the truth. I love my church family and our doctrine. But it breaks my heart to see members putting Mrs. White and her writing in a position that equals God or above. She herself preached strongly against fanaticism. That's why I'm so against the statement " Sister White says " When I was young if a difficult question was asked, the answer would always be "Because Sister White said." I'd like to see us get away from that and maybe suggest, let's look it up in scripture and let the Holy Spirit help us. That's what the disciples did at the Jerusalem counsel. I don't mean to offend any one, I just feel very strongly about the subject and feel it should be addressed. Keith
you said: "She didn't believe in the Sabbath at first, but accepted that."
Remember they were the ones who stated the SDA Church. She was not born into a Seventh Day Baptist Church
You said: “She believed in the shut door for many years”
yes she was a teen following the Millerites,. Peter believed in the shut door for many years also
You said: "She changed her position on the Trinity, and the Holy Spirit."
This you can't prove
Church historians point out that the teachings and writings of Ellen White, who was raised in a Methodist family, ultimately proved influential in shifting the church from largely semi-Arian roots towards Trinitarianism. Wikipedia
Anyone knowledgable about Seventh-day Adventist history, however, knows that many of the SDA pioneers held Arian or semi-Arian views. In his article, “The Doctrine of the Trinity Among Adventists,” Dr. Gerhard Pfandl, associate director of the Biblical Research Institute at the General Conference of SDAs, articulated the situation accurately when he wrote:
While the Seventh-day Adventist Church today espouses the doctrine of the Trinity, this has not always been so. The evidence from a study of Adventist history indicates that from the earliest years of our church to the 1890s a whole stream of writers took an Arian or semi-Arian position (page 1).
Charge: Ellen White refers to Jesus as “Michael the Archangel.” She thus views him as an angel.
It is true that on several occasions Ellen White refers to Christ as “Michael the Archangel” (for example, Spiritual Gifts, vol. 1, 43; Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 1, 342; Testimonies, vol. 3, 220). So also does the famous evangelical puritan commentator, Matthew Henry (1662-1714), in his famous em>Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 6, “Acts to Revelation.” Commenting on Revelation 12:7-9, Henry wrote:
Michael and his angels on the one side, and the dragon and his angels on the other: Christ, the great Angel of the covenant, and his faithful followers; and Satan and all his instruments. This latter party would be much superior in number and outward strength to the other; but the strength of the church lies in having the Lord Jesus for the captain of their salvation (p. 1160; first published during Henry’s lifetime, this famous commentary remains in print today).
Matthew Henry, like Ellen White, interprets Michael as a divine being. Henry is not bringing Christ down to the level of a great angel. He is placing Michael on the level with Christ as a divine being. In Revelation 12 the context indicates that Michael (verse 7), the commander of the heavenly hosts, is Christ himself (verses 10-11)
Chronology of Ellen White’s statements on the Trinity:
The following is the chronological progression of Ellen White’s statements on Christ’s divinity and his relationship to the Godhead (based on Jerry Moon, The Trinity, 207-210). Notice the increasing clarity of expression over the years:
1850: Christ and the Father are personal beings with tangible form (Early Writings, pp. 54, 77).
1869: Christ is equal with God (Testimonies, vol. 2, 200). Here she forges ahead of her colleagues in this assertion.
1870: Christ was one with the Father before the angels were created (Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 1, 17).
1872: Christ was not a created being like the angels (Review and Herald, Dec. 17, 1872).
1878: Christ is the “eternal Son” (Review and Herald, Aug. 8, 1878; letter 37, 1887, in Manuscript Releases, vol. 15, p. 26; Youth’s Instructor, Aug. 31, 1887; 1888 Materials, vol. 1, p. 29; Review and Herald, Feb. 8, 1898; Review and Herald, Apr. 5, 1906).
1887: Christ preexisted with the Father from all eternity (Review and Herald, July 5, 1887; The Desire of Ages , p. 19).
1888: Concerning those who reject the deity of Christ, she said: “None who hold this error can have a true conception of the character or the mission of Christ, or of the great plan of God for man’s redemption” (The Great Controversy [1888 ed.], p. 524).
1888: Christ is “one with the eternal Father,–one in nature, in character, and in purpose” (ibid., p. 493), “one in power and authority” (ibid., 495), yet in person, Christ was “distinct” from the Father. “The Lord Jesus Christ . . . existed from eternity, a distinct person, yet one with the Father (Review and Herald, Apr. 5, 1906).
1890: Christ is self-existent; His deity is not derived from the Father (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 36).
1897: The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Godhead (Special Testimonies, Series A, No. 10, p. 37).
1898: Publication of The Desire of Ages recapitulates the previous two points: “In Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived” (The Desire of Ages, p. 530), and the Holy Spirit is the “Third Person of the Godhead” (ibid., p. 671).
1901, 1905: Three “eternal heavenly dignitaries,” three highest powers in heaven,” “three living persons of the heavenly trio”–the Father , Son, and Holy Spirit are one in nature, character, and purpose, but not in person (manuscript 145, 1901; Special Testimonies, Series B, No. 7 , pp. 51, 62, 63; The Ministry of Healing , p. 422; all quoted in Evangelism, pp. 614-617).
You said: “She thought the spiritual rapping's would increase and warned about them. She changed when she was convinced in her mind.”
On page 43 read as follows: "I saw that the mysterious knocking in New York and other places was the power of Satan, and that such things would be more and more common, clothed in a religious garb so as to lull the deceived to greater security and to draw the minds of God's people, if possible, to those things and cause them to doubt the teaching and power of the Holy Ghost." This view was given in 1849, nearly five years since. Then spirit manifestations were mostly confined to the city of Rochester, known as the "Rochester knockings." Since that time the heresy has spread beyond the expectations of anyone.
Much of the view on page 59, headed "Mysterious Rapping" given August 1850, has since been fulfilled, and is now fulfilling. Here is a portion of it: "I saw that soon it would be considered blasphemy to speak against the rapping, and that it would spread more and more, that Satan's power would increase, and some of his devoted followers would have power to work miracles, and even to bring down fire from heaven in the sight of men. I was shown that by the rapping and mesmerism these modern magicians would yet account for all the miracles wrought by our Lord Jesus Christ, and that many would believe that all the mighty works of the Son of God when on earth were accomplished by this same power."
I saw the rapping delusion-what progress it was making, and that if it were possible it would deceive the very elect. Satan will have power to bring before us the appearance of forms purporting to be our relatives or friends now sleeping in Jesus. It will be made to appear as if these friends were present; the words that they uttered while here, with which we were familiar, will be spoken, and the same tone of voice that they had while living will fall upon the ear. All this is to deceive the saints and ensnare them into the belief of this delusion.
I saw that the saints must get a thorough understanding of present truth, which they will be obliged to maintain from the Scriptures. They must understand the state of the dead; for the spirits of devils will yet appear to them, professing to be beloved friends and relatives, who will declare to them that the Sabbath has been changed, also other unscriptural doctrines. They will do all in their power to excite sympathy and will work miracles before them to confirm what they declare. The people of God must be prepared to withstand these spirits with the Bible truth that the dead know not anything, and that they who appear to them are the spirits of devils. Our minds must not be taken up with things around us, but must be occupied with the present truth and a preparation to give a reason of our hope with meekness and fear. We must seek wisdom from on high that we may stand in this day of error and delusion.
We must examine well the foundation of our hope, for we shall have to give a reason for it from the Scriptures. This delusion will spread, and we shall have to contend with it face to face; and unless we are prepared for it, we shall be ensnared and overcome. But if we do what we can on our part to be ready for the conflict that is just before us, God will do His part, and His all-powerful arm will protect us. He would sooner send every angel out of glory to the relief of faithful souls, to make a hedge about them, than have them deceived and led away by the lying wonders of Satan.
I saw the rapidity with which this delusion was spreading. A train of cars was shown me, going with the speed of lightning. The angel bade me look carefully. I fixed my eyes upon the train. It seemed that the whole world was on board, that there could not be one left. Said the angel, "They are binding in bundles ready to burn." Then he showed me the conductor, who appeared like a stately, fair person, whom all the passengers looked up to and reverenced. I was perplexed and asked my attending angel who it was. He said, "It is Satan. He is the conductor in the form of an angel of light. He has taken the world captive. They are given over to strong delusions, to believe a lie, that they may be damned. This agent, the next highest in order to him, is the engineer, and other of his agents are employed in different offices as he may need them, and they are all going with lightning speed to perdition."
I asked the angel if there were none left. He bade me look in an opposite direction, and I saw a little company traveling a narrow pathway. All seemed to be firmly united, bound together by the truth, in bundles, or companies. Said the angel, "The third angel is binding, or sealing, them in bundles for the heavenly garner." This little company looked careworn, as if they had passed through severe trials and conflicts. And it appeared as if the sun had just risen from behind a cloud and shone upon their countenances, causing them to look triumphant, as if their victories were nearly won.
I saw that the Lord has given the world opportunity to discover the snare. This one thing is evidence enough for the Christian, if there were no other; namely, that there is no difference made between the precious and the vile. Thomas Paine, whose body has now moldered to dust and who is to be called forth at the end of the one thousand years, at the second resurrection, to receive his reward and suffer the second death, is represented by Satan as being in heaven, and highly exalted there. Satan used him on earth as long as he could, and now he is carrying on the same work through pretensions of having Thomas Paine so much exalted and honored in heaven; as he taught here, Satan would make it appear that he is teaching in heaven. There are some who have looked with horror at his life and death, and his corrupt teachings while living, but who now submit to be taught by him, one of the vilest and most corrupt of men, one who despised God and His law.
He who is the father of lies, blinds and deceives the world by sending forth his angels to speak for the apostles, and to make it appear that they contradict what they wrote by the dictation of the Holy Ghost when on earth. These lying angels make the apostles to corrupt their own teachings and to declare them to be adulterated. By so doing Satan delights to throw professed Christians and all the world into uncertainty about the Word of God. That holy Book cuts directly across his track and thwarts his plans; therefore he leads them to doubt its divine origin. Then he sets up the infidel, Thomas Paine, as if he were ushered into heaven when he died, and now, united with the holy apostles whom he hated on earth, were engaged in teaching the world.
Satan assigns to each of his angels a part to act. He enjoins upon them all to be sly, artful, cunning. He instructs some of them to act the part of the apostles and to speak for them, while others are to act the part of infidels and wicked men who died cursing God, but now appear to be very religious. There is no difference made between the most holy apostles and the vilest infidel. They are both made to teach the same thing. It matters not whom Satan makes to speak, if his object is only accomplished. He was so intimately connected with Paine upon the earth, aiding him in his work, that it is an easy thing for him to know the very words Paine used and the very handwriting of one who served him so faithfully and accomplished his purposes so well. Satan dictated much of his writings, and it is an easy thing for him to dictate sentiments through his angels now and make it appear that they come through Thomas Paine, who, while living, was a devoted servant of the evil one. This is the masterpiece of Satan. All this teaching, purporting to be from apostles and saints and wicked men who have died, comes directly from his satanic majesty.
The fact that Satan claims that one whom he loved so well, and who hated God so perfectly, is now with the holy apostles and angels in glory, should be enough to remove the veil from all minds and discover to them the dark, mysterious works of Satan. He virtually says to the world and to infidels, No matter how wicked you are, no matter whether you believe or disbelieve in God or the Bible, live as you please, heaven is your home; for all know that if Thomas Paine is in heaven, and so exalted, they will surely get there. This error is so glaring that all may see if they will. Satan is now doing through persons like Thomas Paine what he has been trying to do since his fall. He is, through his power and lying wonders, tearing away the foundation of the Christian's hope and putting out the sun that is to light them in the narrow way to heaven. He is making the world believe that the Bible is uninspired, no better than a storybook, while he holds out something to take its place; namely, spiritual manifestations!
Here is a channel wholly devoted to himself and under his control, and he can make the world believe what he will. The Book that is to judge him and his followers he puts back in the shade, just where he wants it. The Saviour of the world he makes to be no more than a common man; and as the Roman guard that watched the tomb of Jesus spread the lying report that the chief priests and elders put into their mouths, so will the poor, deluded followers of these pretended spiritual manifestations repeat and try to make it appear that there is nothing miraculous about our Saviour's birth, death, and resurrection. After putting Jesus in the background, they attract the attention of the world to themselves and to their miracles and lying wonders, which, they declare, far exceed the works of Christ. Thus the world is taken in the snare and lulled into a feeling of security, not to find out their awful deception until the seven last plagues are poured out. Satan laughs as he sees his plan succeed so well and the whole world taken in the snare.