Friday, June 09, 2017

Compilation of articles on SDA

Colorized photograph of Ellen G. White, SDA founder

The SDA or Seventh-Day Adventist church has some peculiarities, to put it politely, that I regard as “deal-breakers” for membership. I’ve also taken note of some articles published by Jehovah’s Witnesses over the years that introduced the reader to certain problems inherent with SDA. Here they are in one place: (‘g’ stands for the Awake! magazine and ‘w’ stands for the Watchtower magazine.)

  1. Adventist “Prophet” a “Plagiarist”?
  2. Adventist Controversy Sharpens
  3. Adventist Visions Rocked?
  4. The “Investigative Judgment”—A Bible-Based Doctrine?
  5. The International Date Line and the Sabbath

g81 1/22 p. 29 Watching the World
Adventist “Prophet” a “Plagiarist”?

Delegates to last year’s international Seventh-day Adventist convention reaffirmed that Ellen G. White is “inspired in the same sense as were the Bible prophets.” She wrote more than 50 books. Now an Adventist minister for 36 years who spent two years researching her writings declares: “She was a plagiarist.” Pastor Walter Rea claims that the evidence is so plain that “I could take a truck driver off the street and he can see it.” He states that Ellen White’s sources were often non-Adventist religious writers of the mid-1800’s and offers a number of examples to prove it. Thus far, he asserts, he has not found a major work by Ellen White that did not use a previously published source. “The important thing is that she and the denomination always claimed that she didn’t copy and that she wasn’t influenced by anyone,” Rea said.

Commenting on the discovery of this literary borrowing, Donald R. McAdams, president of Southwestern Adventist College in Keene, Texas, wrote: “Ellen White is so central to the lives of Seventh-day Adventists that her words impinge on practically every area of Adventist teaching and practice. . . . To consider her words as possibly derived from someone else and not necessarily the final authority introduces an element of chaos into the very heart of Adventism that makes all of us uneasy.”

g81 4/22 p. 29 Watching the World
Adventist Controversy Sharpens

“Plagiarism by foundress rocks Adventist Church,” declared a headline in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. The controversy centers around recent findings regarding the writings of the Church’s main founder, Mrs. Ellen G. White. She had claimed that her writings, from 1844 to 1915, were based on the many visions she had in which God’s voice supposedly instructed her on everything from Bible doctrine to matters of diet and dress. However, Adventist scholars have discovered that in her writings she had copied various other sources “more extensively than we had previously believed.” Desmond Ford, who was recently stripped of his ministerial credentials by the Church for challenging Mrs. White’s writings, said: “Her teachings have been misused as a basis for doctrine, almost as a substitute for the Bible.”

Former Adventist minister Walter Rea, who also was ousted after finding extensive evidence of her plagiarism, declared: “She copied and borrowed for almost everything. Some of this was known before, but not the immense extent of it. What we’ve now discovered magnifies it tremendously, much of it at the very heart of her theology.” He noted that a “shocking amount” of the plagiarism is being concealed from lay members of the Church, adding: “This [concealment] is more damaging than simply telling the truth. It’s not going to go away. It’s going to get worse.”

g81 9/22 p. 29 Watching the World
Adventist Visions Rocked?

At a conference of the American Academy of Neurology held in Toronto, Canada, two doctors reported that “a rock that hit the forehead of a founder of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, Ellen Gould White, when she was 9, almost certainly accounts for her visions, which are the basis of the church’s doctrine,” says the Toronto Star. The doctors, Delbert Hodder, an Adventist, and Gregory Holmes, based their diagnosis on eyewitness accounts of Mrs. White’s behavior after the accident. About 25 percent of this type of injury to the brain is said to result in a form of epilepsy that typically “causes a person to become religious, have a sense of destiny, be highly moralistic, write extensively and keep detailed diaries,” says the report. Doctors back then did not recognize this type of epilepsy, according to Hodder, and only within the last five years have doctors documented such personality changes.

Recognizing that church authorities may view his research as more fuel for the controversy over the authenticity of Mrs. White’s writings that has been raging among Adventists in recent months, Hodder says: “I see it as a unifying concept. It explains everything about her. It’s the answer.”

w97 7/15 pp. 25-29
The “Investigative Judgment”—A Bible-Based Doctrine?

OCTOBER 22, 1844, was a day of great anticipation for some 50,000 people on the East Coast of the United States. Their spiritual leader, William Miller, had said that Jesus Christ would return on that very day. The Millerites, as they were called, waited in their meeting places until darkness fell. Then the next day dawned, but the Lord had not come. Disillusioned, they returned home and thereafter recalled that day as the “Great Disappointment.”

Yet, disappointment soon gave way to hope. A young woman named Ellen Harmon convinced a small band of Millerites that God had revealed in visions that their time calculation was right. She held that a momentous event had taken place on that day—Christ had then entered “the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary.”

More than a decade later, Adventist preacher James White (who had married Ellen Harmon) coined a phrase to describe the nature of Christ’s work since October 1844. In the Review and Herald of January 29, 1857, White said that Jesus had begun an “investigative judgment.” And this has remained a fundamental belief among some seven million who call themselves Seventh-Day Adventists.

However, some respected scholars in the Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) Church have been wondering if the “investigative judgment” is a Bible-based doctrine. Why are they having second thoughts about it? If you were a Seventh-Day Adventist, this question would concern you. First, though, what is “investigative judgment”?

What Is It?
The anchor text cited to support this doctrine is Daniel 8:14. It reads: “He said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.” (King James Version) Because of the phrase “then shall the sanctuary be cleansed,” many Adventists link this verse with Leviticus chapter 16. It describes the cleansing of the sanctuary by the Jewish high priest on the Day of Atonement. They also connect Daniel’s words with Hebrews chapter 9, which describes Jesus as the Greater High Priest in heaven. One SDA scholar says that this reasoning is based on the “proof-text” method. A person finds “a certain word like sanctuary in Dan. 8:14, the same word in Lev. 16, the same word in Heb. 7, 8, 9” and holds “that they are all talking about the same thing.”

The Adventists reason this way: Ancient Israel’s priests performed a daily ministry in the temple compartment called the Holy, resulting in forgiveness of sins. On the Day of Atonement, the high priest performed an annual ministry in the Most Holy (the temple’s innermost room) that resulted in the blotting out of sins. They conclude that Christ’s priestly ministry in heaven consists of two phases. The first began with his ascension in the first century, ended in 1844, and resulted in the forgiveness of sins. The second, or “judgment phase,” began on October 22, 1844, still continues, and will result in the blotting out of sins. How is this accomplished?

Since 1844, Jesus is said to be investigating the life records of all professing believers (first of the dead, then of the living) to determine if they merit eternal life. This examination is the “investigative judgment.” After people are thus judged, the sins of those who pass this test are blotted out of the record books. But, explained Ellen White, those who do not pass will have ‘their names blotted out of the book of life.’ Thus, “the destiny of all will have been decided for life or death.” At that point, the heavenly sanctuary is cleansed and Daniel 8:14 is fulfilled. So Seventh-Day Adventists teach. But the SDA publication Adventist Review admits: “The term investigative judgment is not found in the Bible.”

A Missing Linguistic Link
This teaching has troubled some Adventists. “History shows,” says one observer, “that loyal leaders in our ranks have undergone agony of soul as they contemplated our traditional teaching on the investigative judgment.” In recent years, he adds, agony turned to doubt as scholars began to “question many pillars of our usual sanctuary presentation.” Let us now examine two of them.

Pillar one: Daniel chapter 8 is linked with Leviticus chapter 16. This premise is weakened by two main problems—language and context. First, consider language. Adventists believe that the ‘cleansed sanctuary’ in Daniel chapter 8 is the antitype of the ‘cleansed sanctuary’ of Leviticus chapter 16. This analogy seemed acceptable until translators learned that “cleansed” in the King James Version is a mistranslation of a form of the Hebrew verb tsa·dhaqʹ (meaning “to be righteous”) used at Daniel 8:14. Professor of theology Anthony A. Hoekema notes: “It is unfortunate that the word came to be translated be cleansed, since the Hebrew verb usually rendered cleansed [ta·herʹ] is not used here at all.”[1] It is used in Leviticus chapter 16 where the King James Version renders forms of ta·herʹ as “cleanse” and “be clean.” (Leviticus 16:19, 30) Hence, Dr. Hoekema correctly concludes: “If Daniel meant to refer to the kind of cleansing which was done on the Day of Atonement, he would have used taheer [ta·herʹ] instead of tsadaq [tsa·dhaqʹ].” Yet, tsa·dhaqʹ is not found in Leviticus, and ta·herʹ is not found in Daniel. The linguistic link is missing.

What Does the Context Reveal?
Now consider the context. Adventists hold that Daniel 8:14 is “a contextual island,” having nothing to do with the preceding verses. But do you get that impression when you read Daniel 8:9-14 in the accompanying box entitled “Daniel 8:14 in Context”? Verse 9 identifies an aggressor, a small horn. Verses 10-12 reveal that this aggressor will attack the sanctuary. Verse 13 asks, ‘How long will this aggression continue?’ And verse 14 answers: “Until two thousand three hundred evenings and mornings; and the holy place will certainly be brought into its right condition.” Clearly, verse 13 raises a question that is answered in verse 14. Theologian Desmond Ford says: “To detach Dan. 8:14 from this cry [“How long?” verse 13] is to be exegetically at sea without an anchor.”[2]

Why do Adventists detach verse 14 from the context? To avoid an awkward conclusion. The context ascribes the defilement of the sanctuary, mentioned in verse 14, to the activities of the little horn. However, the “investigative judgment” doctrine attributes the defilement of the sanctuary to the activities of Christ. He is said to transfer the sins of believers to the heavenly sanctuary. So, what happens if Adventists accept both the doctrine and the context? Dr. Raymond F. Cottrell, a Seventh-Day Adventist and former associate editor of the SDA Bible Commentary, writes: “To pretend to ourselves that the SDA interpretation reads Daniel 8:14 in context then would thus be to identify the little horn as Christ.” Dr. Cottrell honestly admits: “We can’t have both context and the Adventist interpretation.” With regard to the “investigative judgment,” therefore, the Adventist Church had to make a choice—accept the doctrine or the context of Daniel 8:14. Unfortunately, it embraced the former and dropped the latter. No wonder, says Dr. Cottrell, that informed Bible students blame Adventists for “reading into Scripture” what cannot “be drawn from Scripture”!

In 1967, Dr. Cottrell prepared a sabbath school lesson on Daniel, which was sent to SDA churches worldwide. It taught that Daniel 8:14 does relate to its context and that the ‘cleansing’ does not refer to believers. Significantly, the lesson omits any mention of an “investigative judgment.”

Some Remarkable Replies
How great is Adventist awareness that this pillar is too weak to support the “investigative judgment” doctrine? Dr. Cottrell asked 27 leading Adventist theologians, ‘What linguistic or contextual reasons can you give for the link between Daniel chapter 8 and Leviticus chapter 16?’ Their response?

“All twenty-seven affirmed the nonexistence of any linguistic or contextual reasons for applying Dan. 8:14 to the antitypical day of atonement and the investigative judgment.” He asked them, ‘Do you have any other reasons for making this link?’ Most of the Adventist scholars said that they had no other reasons, five replied that they made this link because Ellen White did, and two said that they based the doctrine on a “fortunate accident” in translation. Theologian Ford remarks: “Such conclusions offered by the cream of our scholarship assert in effect that our traditional teaching on Dan. 8:14 is indefensible.”

Any Help From Hebrews?
Pillar two: Daniel 8:14 is linked with Hebrews chapter 9. “All our early works draw heavily on Heb. 9 when explaining Dan. 8:14,” says theologian Ford. This link was born after the “Great Disappointment” in 1844. Searching for guidance, Millerite Hiram Edson dropped his Bible on a table so that it would fall open. The outcome? Hebrews chapters 8 and 9 were facing him. Says Ford: “What could be more appropriate and symbolic of the Adventist claim that these chapters hold the key to the meaning of 1844 and Dan. 8:14!”

“That claim is crucial for Seventh-day Adventists,” adds Dr. Ford in his book Daniel 8:14, the Day of Atonement, and the Investigative Judgment. “Only in Heb. 9 . . . can be found a detailed explanation of the significance of . . . the sanctuary doctrine so vital to us.” Yes, Hebrews chapter 9 is the chapter in the “New Testament” to explain the prophetic meaning of Leviticus chapter 16. But Adventists also say that Daniel 8:14 is the verse in the “Old Testament” that does so. If both statements are true, there must be a link between Hebrews chapter 9 and Daniel chapter 8 as well.

Desmond Ford observes: “Certain things stand out immediately as one reads Heb. 9. There is no obvious allusion to the book of Daniel, and certainly none to Dan. 8:14. . . . The chapter as a whole is an application of Lev. 16.” He states: “Our sanctuary teaching cannot be found in the only book of the New Testament which discusses the significance of the sanctuary services. This has been acknowledged by well-known Adventist writers around the world.” So, then, pillar two is also too weak to support the troubled doctrine.

However, this conclusion is not new. For many years, says Dr. Cottrell, “Bible scholars of the church have been well aware of the exegetical problems our conventional interpretation of Daniel 8:14 and Hebrews 9 encounters.” Some 80 years ago, influential Seventh-Day Adventist E. J. Waggoner wrote: “Adventist teaching concerning the sanctuary, with its ‘Investigative Judgment’ . . . , is virtually a denial of the atonement.” (Confession of Faith) Over 30 years ago, such problems were presented to the General Conference, the SDA Church’s leadership.

Problems and an Impasse
The General Conference appointed a “Committee on Problems in the Book of Daniel.” It was to prepare a report on how to resolve the difficulties centering on Daniel 8:14. The 14 committee members studied the question for five years but failed to propose a unanimous solution. In 1980, committee member Cottrell said that most committee members felt that the Adventist interpretation of Daniel 8:14 could be “established satisfactorily” by a series of “assumptions” and that problems “should be forgotten.” He added: “Remember, the name of the committee was the Committee on Problems in the Book of Daniel, and the majority was suggesting that we forget the problems and not say anything about them.” That would have amounted to an “admission that we had no answers.” So the minority refused to back the majority’s view, and there was no formal report. The doctrinal problems remained unsolved.

Commenting on this impasse, Dr. Cottrell says: “The issue of Daniel 8:14 is still with us because we have been unwilling, thus far, to face up to the fact that a very real exegetical problem does exist. That issue will not go away so long as we keep pretending that there is no problem, so long as we insist on holding our heads, individually and collectively, in the sand of our preconceived opinions.”—Spectrum, a journal published by the Association of Adventist Forums.

Dr. Cottrell urges Adventists to make “a careful reexamination of the basic assumptions and the principles of exegesis on which we have based our interpretation of this—for Adventism—indispensable passage of Scripture.” We would encourage Adventists to examine the doctrine of “investigative judgment” to see whether its pillars are based solidly on the Bible or are founded on the unstable sands of tradition.[3] The apostle Paul wisely urged: “Make sure of all things; hold fast to what is fine.”—1 Thessalonians 5:21.


[1] Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies defines tsadaq (or, tsa·dhaqʹ) as “to be righteous, to be justified,” and taheer (or, ta·herʹ) as “to be clear, bright, and shining; to be pure, clean, purged; to be clean from all pollution or defilement.”

[2] Dr. Ford was a professor of religion at the church-run Pacific Union College in the U.S.A. In 1980 the SDA leadership gave him a six-month leave to study the doctrine, but they rejected his findings. He published these in the book Daniel 8:14, the Day of Atonement, and the Investigative Judgment.

[3] For a reasoned explanation of Daniel chapter 8, see pages [164-179 in the book Pay Attention to Daniel’s Prophecy!, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses].

[Box on page 27]

Daniel 8:14 in Context
DANIEL 8:9 “And out of one of them there came forth another horn, a small one, and it kept getting very much greater toward the south and toward the sunrising and toward the Decoration. 10 And it kept getting greater all the way to the army of the heavens, so that it caused some of the army and some of the stars to fall to the earth, and it went trampling them down. 11 And all the way to the Prince of the army it put on great airs, and from him the constant feature was taken away, and the established place of his sanctuary was thrown down. 12 And an army itself was gradually given over, together with the constant feature, because of transgression; and it kept throwing truth to the earth, and it acted and had success.

“13 And I got to hear a certain holy one speaking, and another holy one proceeded to say to the particular one who was speaking: ‘How long will the vision be of the constant feature and of the transgression causing desolation, to make both the holy place and the army things to trample on?’ 14 So he said to me: ‘Until two thousand three hundred evenings and mornings; and the holy place will certainly be brought into its right condition.’”—New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures.

w10 2/1 p. 13 Should You Keep the Weekly Sabbath?
The International Date Line and the Sabbath

The international date line presents a challenge for those who believe that they must keep a weekly Sabbath on the same day everywhere. The date line is an imaginary line that runs for the most part through the Pacific Ocean along the 180th meridian. Countries to the west of the date line are one day ahead of those to the east.

For example, when it is Sunday in Fiji and Tonga, it is Saturday in Samoa and Niue. So if a person keeps the Sabbath in Fiji on Saturday, members of his religion in Samoa, just 711 miles [1,145 km] away, would be working because it is Friday there.

Seventh-Day Adventists in Tonga keep their Sabbath on Sunday, reasoning that by doing so, they are keeping the Sabbath at the same time as their members in Samoa, a little over 500 miles [over 850 km] away. However, at the same time, Seventh-Day Adventists less than 500 miles [800 km] away in Fiji are not resting because it is Sunday there, and they observe the Sabbath on Saturday!

[Admittedly, this just highlights a humorous circumstance. But the complete article is here:]

In summary, the “deal-breakers” for SDA membership are as follows:
  1. Creature worship like the Mormons do, falling victim to the “follow the founder fallacy.”
  2. There is no “last days” prophet or prophetess.
  3. The alleged prophetess Ellen White sadly had blunt-trauma neurological damage. (See: “Adventist Visions Rocked?” above and “The Significance of Ellen White’s Head Injury”
  4. Ellen White was a plagiarist, a literary thief!
  5. Christ set us free from Sabbatarianism.
  6. “Investigative judgment” was a patch to fix a burst balloon, and now patches need to be placed on that patch.
  7. Immature Biblical hermeneutic galore (young-earth creationism comes to mind).
Consequently, as with debunked Mormonism, the true God is not to be found in the SDA church.

See also: