You made the following statement in your article Are Seventh-Day Adventists Christians or a Cult?: "The Adventists are a prime example of a denomination with some outrageous claims, but still holding to Christian truth at its core." Allow me to give you one quote (I have dozens of others) that would determine whether or not Adventism is a cult. First of all, I know thousands of Adventists. They are good moral people (much like many legalists who live by the Law). But to say they still hold to Christian truth is to step over the line and join their legalism. Unless of course you believe that a Man died for our sins on the cross and not God. Here's what Ellen White had to say: "When Christ was crucified it was His human nature that died. Diety did not sink and die, that would have been impossible." (Letter #250, 1904. Review and Herald 1882 article, "The Upward Look.") If one believes that only a man died on the cross then we have some very difficult questions to answer regarding how God planned to save the world through His own life. Regardless of how right and moral Adventists are, if they hold to this teaching of Ellen White, they are a cult.
Thanks for your letter. Thanks also for your quote from Ellen White. Are you familiar with the authoritative volume, Questions on Doctrine, released by the 1957 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists? Walter Martin, in his book Kingdom of the Cults, states: "This book truthfully presents the theology and doctrine that the leaders of Seventh-day Adventism affirm they have always held" (534). Questions on Doctrine specifically states, "Jesus Christ is very God" (22), and "In His human nature He maintained the purity of His divine character" (658). Even Anthony Hoekema, who considered Seventh-day Adventism a cult, acknowledges that they affirm "the full deity of Jesus Christ" and "the incarnation" (The Four Major Cults; p. 403). Finally, the authoritative pronouncement in Questions on Doctrine declares: "Only Christ, the Creator, the one and only God-man, could make a substitutionary atonement for men's transgressions. And this Christ did completely, perfectly, and once for all, on Golgotha" (400).
I agree that it's unfortunate that Ellen White made some of the statements that she did. However, it's only fair to remember that the authoritative position of Seventh-day Adventists in Questions on Doctrine makes clear that "the Bible and the Bible only is the sole rule of faith and practice for Christians. We believe that all theological beliefs must be measured by the living Word, judged by its truth, and whatsoever is unable to pass this test, or is found to be out of harmony with its message, is to be rejected" (28). And as Dr. Martin noted, Adventists, in Questions on Doctrine, only consider Ellen White's writings authoritative "in those areas where they are in agreement with the Word of God" (545).
Of course, none of this is to say that Seventh-Day Adventists are completely orthodox according to classical definitions of this term. It is simply to point out that even recognized authorities like Walter Martin are not completely comfortable identifying Seventh-day Adventism as a cult. And even those who are, like A. Hoekema, acknowledge that Seventh-day Adventists hold to many of the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith (including the Deity of Christ, the Trinity, the personality and Deity of the Holy Spirit, the substitutionary atonement of Christ, the infallibility of the Bible, the resurrection of Christ, the necessity for regeneration and sanctification by the Holy Spirit, and Christ's literal return, etc.).
Thus, I do not think that Kris' statement: "The Adventists are a prime example of a denomination with some outrageous claims, but still holding to Christian truth at its core," is wide of the mark. For even critics, who regard Adventism as a cult, would say much the same thing. For further documentation, please see Walter Martin's The Truth About Seventh-Day Adventism, or his lengthy chapter in Kingdom of the Cults, (Updated and expanded edition, 1997) "The Puzzle of Seventh-Day Adventism" (pp. 517-608).
The Lord bless you,
About the Author
Michael Gleghorn is a research associate with Probe Ministries. He earned a B.A. in psychology from Baylor University and a Th.M. in systematic theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. Before coming on staff with Probe, Michael taught history and theology at Christway Academy in Duncanville, Texas. Michael and his wife Hannah have two children. His personal website is michaelgleghorn.com.
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