Breaking Through the Barriers (Part 2 of 3)

Part 1 of this post can be found HERE.

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”
 ~2 Timothy 4:3-4 

Photo by Ruby Birks













 So, why put so much effort in exposing Seventh-day Adventist doctrine?  While I’m very aware that my answer is not easy for Adventists to receive,  I have to remain faithful to what the Lord is showing me in His word and placing on my heart to do. I believe that Seventh-day Adventism acts as a deceptive barrier standing between broken people and the new life, restoration, and freedom found in Jesus Christ. While the professed convictions of some Adventists can appear to be orthodox, true Adventist doctrine acts as a dividing wall separating Adventism from Christianity in profound ways and keeps its adherents from clearly hearing and fully embracing the teachings of Jesus. For Adventists, the gospel is heard through the muffled filter of a wall of Adventist doctrine fixed and rooted in the visions, admonitions, and prophesies of a Biblically proven false prophet. This doctrine changes in profound ways the words and truth of God and by the time it reaches the ears of those on the other side of the wall, its adherents are placing their faith in a different story–which sadly, according to scripture, is a counterfeit gospel with a different Jesus. While some may suspect that something about their faith is “off” they often do not know where or how to begin examining their understanding of God. This is where I see Christians having an important role in breaking down the barriers that keep people from knowing the differences between the Adventist gospel, and the Gospel of scripture that reveals the character of God. 

Quite often, Adventists are so confused by the endless eschatology and symbolism built into SDA soteriology that they become overwhelmed or disinterested and choose spiritual apathy combined with behavior modification (“just in case”) over further examination. This type of “blind faith” will never allow adherents to fully understand that Adventism goes far outside of scripture, using an extra-biblical source to establish what they know and teach about who Jesus is and what He did.  
Occasionally,  self-professed “progressive Adventists” will begin to see doctrinal errors, however, instead of examining them they will begin to choose which doctrines they can accept and blend them with other pious sounding ideologies to create a variation of Adventist faith that is easier for them to understand and explain. Often these hybrid forms of Adventism become political in nature or perhaps even embrace the “good qualities” of other religions. Without deeply examining and renouncing their “mother faith” they cannot land at a Biblically orthodox set of creeds, because they cannot know what is scriptural and what is Ellen. 

A part of the reason for this apathetic approach to dealing with Adventist heresy is because Adventists have been trained to see non-sabbatarians as having been fooled by “Babylon.” They are taught from childhood to be well guarded against discussing doctrine with non- Adventists. For some it is a matter of loyalty. Others are told that to do so would open themselves to Satan’s great deception.  Consequently, for those experiencing cognitive dissonance, the emerging “progressive” stance keeps them protected against having to examine their world view and affords them their membership within the “remnant church”.  Sadly they’re walking a treadmill that leads them no further from the lies than they were when they began noticing them. Often, even if they consider examining their faith traditions against scripture, when things get tough (and they do), many retreat back into “blind faith” and hope God will “understand”.  Adventist doctrine, as well as its unbiblical world view, distorts the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ  (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) and builds in a fear of examining or leaving the organization by equating such a move with leaving God all together. This leaves puzzled Adventists paralyzed in their pursuit of truth.

So, if someone were to ask me now why I don’t leave quietly and enjoy my new “experience,” my answer would include a question, “Why didn’t the four men in Mark 2 avoid the burden of carrying their paralyzed friend to where Jesus was and taking apart a portion of the roof of another mans home to get him to the only One who could heal him?” I believe that Adventist culture and doctrine have a paralyzing effect on its members. Many Adventist people have secret questions but are not willing to go public with them. By being one more voice in cyberspace, sharing the journey from toxic and compromised religion to the truth of Jesus found in scripture, I hope that perhaps someone will find that they are free to fall through the hole in the roof and land in the arms of Jesus. Encountering the truth of God the Son is not only for the theologically minded and those who are “into that”. The truth about Jesus Christ simply cannot be tailored to the personal needs of each individual and what they are willing to accept about God. There is one God and one truth and facing Him is the single most important thing that anyone will ever do–or choose to avoid.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Nicole Stevenson lives in Southern California with her husband, Carel and her two children, Joshua and Abigail. Nicole graduated from La Sierra University with a degree in Social Work and is currently staying home to raise their kids. Carel is an alumnus of Walla Walla College and graduated from Cal Poly Pomona with a degree in Structural Engineering. While Adventists, Carel and Nicole volunteered their time as mentors to youth. They are now involved in helping design an outreach for Seventh-day Adventist youth who are processing out of Adventism or are questioning the religion they’ve inherited.[/author_info] [/author]

Nikki Stevenson

Nikki Stevenson

Nicole Stevenson lives in Southern California with her husband, Carel and her two children, Joshua and Abigail. Nicole graduated from La Sierra University with a degree in Social Work and is currently staying home to raise their kids. Nikki, with her husband Carel, were on the launch team of Redeemer Fellowship, a new evangelical church in Loma Linda, California.
Nikki Stevenson

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  1. This explains much about the reaction I have received when explaining doctrinally why I am no longer an Adventist to SDA family members. For instance, when expressing why I do not believe in the ‘Investigative Judgment’ it really perplexes my logical mind to have someone agree and then say to me, “you (meaning me) are closer to being a true Adventist than you know”.

    What? How can an Adventist, a retired Adventist teacher in one case, agree with me when a expose a core Adventist doctrine as being false and then respond by saying I am very close to being a true Adventist? To me, there is some very illogical thinking in the person’s mind.

  2. Phil, I hear you! One of my great frustrations comes when I explain to a SDA friend that I am no longer an Adventist because I disagree, on a biblical basis, with several distinctive SDA beliefs. I frequently get the response, “You don’t have to believe [insert core SDA teaching here] to be an Adventist!”

    This is often the response despite the fact that the core teaching in question is listed by official SDA sources as being “fundamental” to the SDA belief system. This despite that fact that one of the doctrines I bring up is the *FOUNDING* doctrine of Adventism. This despite the fact that these doctrines are listed in the vows you must sign to receive baptism in Adventism. This despite the fact that any SDA educator or pastor who has ever publicly disagreed with one of these doctrines has been fired and defrocked.

    I think what these folks mean is that it is possible to quietly and privately question certain SDA fundamentals and get away with it for sometime, as long as you don’t rock the boat too hard or too publicly. That much is true, but how honest is that why would you want to live that way?

  3. I, too, am astonished at how the SDA religion has evolved and has been taught by some, such as Graham Maxwell,embraced as an acceptable “progressive” form of belief, and yet how the “traditionalists” and denominational leadership continuue to threaten those with enquiring minds. The SDA church is in gross disunity. The morality within our institutions is in disaray as well. And when seen in the light of the origens of the denomination this church appears to be resting on shifting sands from the beginning. I learn something new almost every day and it blows my mind. I have wondered why Ellen White adopted such a stern stance of law-keeping for salvation (yes, she says it just so, though the revisionists try to soften it)and have discovered her origens in Methodism which derived from John Wesley who did not believe in substitutionary atonement but rather a works-added theology. Calvin and Luther never rejected substitutionary atonement and in fact it was the hallmark of their reformation efforts. It is imperative that we understand the atonement lest we fall into various false doctrinal traps. Could I invite one to visit, a very stimulating website where I found an excellent article on this subject, complete with a list of about 42 texts which point out how atonement works? Bless you all in your studies. Do not be afraid to search for yourselves “whether these things be so,” as did the Bereans.

  4. I share the frustration. Ultimately it seems to be OK to disagree privately, as Chris said, with just about any fundamental SDA doctrine…there’s a price to pay, though, if one abandons the essential worldview: man has a spirit that survives the body and can know God, the Sabbath is not intrinsically holy nor eternal, Satan is not the scapegoat, EGW is a false prophet…and Jesus is all you need. Embracing Jesus and leaving behind that worldview seems to make one a perceived “enemy” instead of a “wandering brother/sister” who will likely come back.

    One of the strangest and most confounding things I hear is this, “Obviously you never really understood Adventism!”

    Well, actually, we have understood Adventism…better than we expected to understand it.

  5. I believe many Adventists don’t understand Adventism. Because the more embarrassing aspects have been swept under the rug. (where can one get their hands on the Testimonies volumes?) New members are increasingly sheltered from many details. Members seldom study beyond the SS lessons and often not even that. And administration at all levels engages in revisionist teaching and representation of the denomination. To wit,the changes in the purpose of the investigative judgment, which facts are unknown to many within the church. We who have studied this know exactly what the doctrines were from the beginning and how they have been changed to appear more appealing. Remaining in the church under the factional label of traditionalist or progressive would for me be intellectually dishonest. One is not sustainable and the other is not an honest representation of Adventism. SDAs are in various leaky lifeboats when the Ship of the true gospel has never foundered. I believe many more would leave if they could find a sabbatarian church, indicating they do not understand or accept the IJ teaching, nor how the sabbath is connected with it. This is all happening I believe because the foundations of the church were built on shifting sand from the beginning but now the foundation is crumbling and the pillars have fallen. Much like a government that doesn’t remain true to its constitution eventually morphs into a different entity regardless of its label.

  6. I wish there were “like” buttons for all the comments. So well said.

    Laurel, I also believe that many more people would leave if they would see the facts. It is actually quite amazing to me how effective the Seventh-day Adventist public relations department is. I had *no* idea as an Adventist (just two years ago) that so many people were leaving. I was shocked to learn at that time that over 2 million people had left in the last 5 years in North America alone! I knew some left now and then but the only explanation in my own thinking (and stated around me) was that they were hurt. I remember apologizing to my mom as a child for “my church” hurting her and begging her to come back because I didn’t think she would be in heaven. She didn’t leave because she understood right doctrine, but she left knowing the Adventists did not have truth.

    Remaining Adventist with so much cognitive dissonance is such a disorienting experience. I remember coddling myself by thinking that perhaps I could be an example of “progressive” change for good (not even realizing I didn’t have truth) by pouring into the youth.

    Adventist people do not have reality about God, and therefore do not have reality about themselves or their lives. Yet they learn how to live in a state of subtle confusion and feel as though that is as good as it gets. This isn’t because they are not as “smart” as those of us who leave, or because they are bad people. It is because they are victims of a corrupt system that rewards loyalty, and it breaks my heart.

    It all reminds me of when I was told I needed glasses. I put them on for the first time and was shocked at the details I saw in the surrounding trees and mountains. It was amazing! I had no idea we were meant to see so well. The common theme among Adventists who leave is absolute awe and wonder over the truth about God! It is so fun worshiping together!

    All we can do is pray and be willing to come out of the places us formers tend to hide in to preserve peace in our lives. When we are willing to stand and take what comes, we reveal to those seeking truth that they are not alone and there is hope. It is a part of taking up our cross, and it is not easy. But Father is faithful.

  7. This is a great topic, Nikki. I hope there are SDAs and non SDAs here that will choose to study on their own. Truth cannot be forced, it must be desired. Mean reactions that come to those who have enquired into the gospel are from fear and we have felt that fear too, as the Adventist mantras pounded in our heads. We are actually an Adventist’s best friends as we have been in the frightening position in which they find themselves if they wonder about one tiny little thing. We have all slowly,reluctantly released our desparate hands from the wreckage of whatever lifeboat we could find, only to find there was a solid Rock under our feet and we only needed to stop kicking and set our feet down. On a similar note,I believe if all the progressives and people who have niggling questions were to leave the church it would hit critical mass and the institutions would fail of monetary support and have to be auctioned off. I think this is why the administration digs in and keeps pushing EGW because they know without her there is no SDA church, ergo no financial donations. So in the end it becomes a secular battle, just business, and the members are pawns in the scheme. That to me is a scandal of highest degree.

  8. Nikki, by your picture you appear to be quite a young woman…which I mean as a compliment, and also as a lead-in to my point. This post gives me the impression that you have been researching and interviewing SDA all over the country for years and years. Your judgments/assessments of how SDA think and what they believe about God is stated in such a matter of fact manner that the unwary reader might be led to believe that you actually know what you are talking about, rather than fabricating your opinions about SDA current state of thought from very limited exposure to mature, thinking, committed SDA. Your readers and cohorts ought to stop and consider that the SDA movement is still relatively young, and is evolving. Especially consider the history of the movement that has built into it’s DNA the search for truth, wherever it leads. The snide suggestion of one of the above comments that SDA are changing their understanding of the Investigative Judgement in order to soften it or make it less objectionable to other Christians is quite uncharitable (see I Cor 13). The more loving interpretation of that change might see it as a very positive development within Adventism, where the truth of the Gospel is positively impacting SDA understanding of that distinctive grasp of the teaching of scripture. Hopefully Adventism will keep moving forward, led by the Holy Spirit in their diligent study of scripture. Hopefully they will not retreat back toward Rome from whence the great reformers like Luther, Melanchthon, Calvin and others emerged, but whose movements froze in place when they passed from the scene. Not every strain of Christianity accepted the pagen concept of a surviving cognisant spirit, and SDA see that doctrine as a deception; not every group of Christians abandoned the Sabbath of God established at creation in favour of the Roman/Pagan/Papal mark of authority, the day of the Sun. The saddest thing to see among FA is this retreat back into pagan and Papal dogma! By all means, let us all strive to understand, appropriate, and witness of the gospel in truth! But why would we choose to go back toward Papal Roman paganism? One truly doesn’t have to do that in order to abandon “mother Ellen White”! Abandon her if you must, but please don’t fall into the arms of the “mother church” as an alternative.

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