An Evangelical Look at Adventism

Speaker: Categories: Mar 11, 1989


This lecture has only 1 CD/MP3

[1hr, 17min, 59sec]


"0 would to God the gift he gi’e us, To see ourselves as others see us . . . "

These familiar words provide an appropriate introduction to this month's FORUM presentation. While we, as Seventh-day Adventists, have been engrossed in resolving matters of immediate and internal concern, such as the meaning of justification and sanctification, perfection, the appropriateness of the wedding ring, and the "truth" about women in ministry, we may have become ignorant or at least unaware of just how others see us.

Some, while acknowledging the above, would counter that such perceptions by others just don't make any difference for we are God's people, the remnant church. The opinions and assessments by others are totally irrelevant to our mission and purpose here on earth! In fact, such external evaluations may very well be the work of the Devil in his efforts to thwart God's purposes!

"Since its inception in the mid-nineteenth century, Seventh-day Adventism (SDA) has remained extremely controversial among evangelical Christians (evangelicalism being defined as that movement in modern Protestant Christianity which emphasizes the new birth). There was, in fact, something of a consensus among evangelical scholars that SDA was little more than a non-Christian cult until the 1950, when Donald Grey Barnhouse and Walter Martin began a comprehensive evaluation of Adventist theology. After thousands of hours of research and extensive meetings with Adventist officials, Barnhouse and Martin concluded that SDA was not an anti-Christian cult, but rather a somewhat heterodox (i.e., departing from accepted doctrine) Christian denomination.

"Gradually, the climate of evangelical opinion began to change in favor of Barnhouse and Martin's view, though there were always many dissenting opinions. As the 1960s dawned, SDA enjoyed an unprecedented openness with evangelical Protestantism. Ironically, this openness also raised some very difficult issues as certain key teachings of traditional SDA were challenged from within the denomination.

By the mid 1970s, two distinct factions had emerged within SDA. Traditional Adventism, which defended many pre-1950 Adventist positions, and Evangelical Adventism, which emphasized the Reformation understanding of righteousness by faith. This controversy soon gave way to a full-blown internal crisis which severely fragmented Adventism. By the early 1980s, severe denominational discipline against certain evangelical Adventist leaders left many Adventists disillusioned.

"These events have led a number of evangelicals to question whether SDA should retain the evangelical label. The purpose of this article [and this month's FORUM presentation] is to address this question head-on as we review the controversial evangelical/SDA dialogues of the 1950s, as well as trace the doctrinal issues which have contributed to Adventism's crisis of identity."

This preceding excerpt from the Christian Research Journal, Summer, 1988, focuses attention on the tension we, as Adventists, are experiencing.


Kenneth Samples is Correspondence Editor, Christian Research Institute, where Dr. Walter Martin is president. Mr. Samples specializes in the study of Roman Catholicism, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Seventh-day Adventism -- an interesting diversification!!

He holds undergraduate degrees in philosophy and social science. Currently, he is completing his master's degree in systematic theology at Talbot School of Theology. Named in Who's Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges (1987) and in The National Dean's List (1987), he plans to begin doctoral study at Claremont Graduate School in 1990.

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