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Question and Answer

Are Seventh-Day Adventists Christians?

Question:

Are Seventh Day Adventists Christians? Clearly, the Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons are not as they reject the Christ of Scripture, but what of Seventh Day Adventists? We currently rent a SDA building for our worship and our pastor regularly prays for the ministry of the SDA pastor and congregation during his pastoral prayer.

I understand and embrace the communion of the saints, but it seems to me that the Adventists are more distant from Scripture than even the Catholics and Eastern Orthodox believers.

Answer:

Thank you for your question. You may well know that a good number of OPC churches (until they have a church building of their own) meet in SDA churches for worship (since by definition Seventh-Day Adventists worship not on the Lord's Day, the first day of the week, but the seventh day, and thus the church building is often not being used on Sunday). In fact, our church is actually considering it right now.

In attempting to answer your question, I contacted a few of these OPC pastors to see how they have reflected upon the question. I also looked around the denominational pages to see if there was an official statement. To my knowledge, there is not one, so I will do my best to give you an answer based on available sources.

It seems that there is some variance in opinion on whether or not the SDA is cultic or evangelical. There are OPC ministers on both sides of this question, and some who are undecided; there are also others who would say that you have to teach one Adventist at a time and recognize some theological diversity among them. This level of perplexity should not alarm you, as it is also reflected in books on cults.

For instance, Walter Martin in his book Kingdom of the Cults does not list the SDA as a cult, but rather devotes an extensive appendix (95 pages) to the movement. His appendix on the SDA is longer than any other section in the book, even those devoted to clearly definable cults.

Though Martin sees the SDA as standing very near to the edge, in the end, he equates them with Arminian evangelicals. His reason for doing so is that in the official documents of the SDA, chief of which is Questions and Answers, they affirm key doctrines such as the inerrancy of scripture and salvation by grace alone through faith alone. Martin is convinced that the SDA affirms these things in an evangelical manner.

The issue is more complex than that, however. First, other apologists have taken the position that the SDA is a cult. John Gerstner and Anthony Hoekema are but a couple of examples of such men. Second, as even Martin concedes, there are significant inconsistencies in SDA theology that make this a hard call. Let's consider the two most significant:

1. View of Scripture: Though the SDA affirms the inerrancy of scripture, it also attributes a prophetic role to the writings of Ellen G. White. "She was recognized as one who possessed the gift of the spirit of prophecy, even though she herself never assumed the title of prophetess" (Questions on Doctrine, 91). In their defense, they also said, however, "We do not regard the writings of Ellen G. White as an addition to Scripture ... in the same sense as the Holy Scriptures, which stand alone and unique as the standard by which all other writings must be judged" (Questions on Doctrine, 89).

2. View of Salvation: The SDA emphatically denies that salvation is by works. "Salvation is not now, and never has been, by law or by works; salvation is only by the grace of Christ ... nothing men can do, or have done, can in any way merit salvation" (Questions on Doctrine, pp. 141-142). However, in Martin's words, "they are often prone to believe that their remaining saved depends on commandment-keeping" (Kingdom of the Cults, 496), and they also believe that it is possible to lose one's salvation.

This is the rub. Can someone who believes it is possible to lose one's salvation be saved? Are they rightly called evangelical? I believe that the reality is that there is not one answer to this question in the OPC. Debates in the last few decades on whether or not Arminians can be saved have taken place, but to my knowledge the church has not officially taken the posture that the answer is "No." The implication is that the church has not been of a mind to say that Arminian Christians who believe in free will or even the possible loss of salvation are necessarily outside the kingdom, even though they are dead wrong in believing these things.

In the end, it seems that the church is not prepared to say that Arminians cannot be saved, or that there will not be Seventh-Day Adventists in heaven. It is possible to be inconsistent or wrong about something in Scripture and still be saved.

Your original question was "Are Seventh-Day Adventists Christians?" Perhaps the best way to say it is that it appears possible for one to be an Seventh-Day Adventist and still be a Christian, although Scripture leads us a better way. If your pastor and elders have taken the view that he may pray for them and their work, I would encourage you to talk with them about it, but know that they may not be alone in their practice.

I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have further questions on the matter.


About Q&A

"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)

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