Great Former Adventist Fellowship Conference

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Phil Bubar, senior pastor of The Chapel Evangelical Free Church in St. Joseph, Michigan, located near Adventism’s theological seminary, was the keynote speaker for the seventh annual Former Adventist Fellowship Conference at Trinity Church in Redlands, California, February 17-19, 2012. In addition to teaching several conference sessions on doctrinal issues including the Trinity, the atonement, and the new birth, Bubar spoke at a meeting to which area pastors and the public had been invited. Pastor Bubar was kind enough to share his impressions from the conference with Proclamation! Blog.[/author_info] [/author]

As I write this, I am sitting in the Ontario, CA airport ready to check in for my flights back to South Bend, IN and then home, arriving sometime tonight. The weekend at the Former Adventist Fellowship Conference was amazing.  There were 75 registered attendees  from all over the country. Though most were from California, people came from Virginia, Tennessee, Texas, Manitoba (Canada), Kentucky, and Wyoming, to name a few. In addition, about 19 others including the presenters, the worship band, the hospitality team who prepared food, and the audio-visual team were there. It was a privilege to be part of this long weekend.

My six sessions went very well, and were well received.  My question originally was, “Why do you want me, a non-former Adventist, to speak?”  The response was that they wanted someone who was outside Adventism to speak truth.  So I taught on the various doctrines from God’s Word that are at variance with Seventh-day Adventist teaching.

My first session covered the most materials, all in 50 minutes.  I covered the doctrine of God, especially the doctrine of His sovereignty.  Then it was on to the doctrine of the Trinity, as Ellen White held that Jesus was elevated into the position of Son of God.  She wrote that Jesus and Lucifer were on the same level and God the Father chose Jesus over Lucifer as seen in her writing, The Great Controversy. That of course is heresy. Then the third point was the doctrine of Man: that we are dead in our sins, that the only way to salvation is by what God has done for us through Jesus Christ, and that we do not progressively get better.  

 Two other sessions focused on the doctrine of Salvation, specifically the doctrine of Redemption: that we are held captive by sin and must be redeemed by Christ’s shed blood, that Jesus is the ransom price and He also paid the ransom, and that there is no way out of our captivity by our actions.  Obeying the Law, keeping the Sabbath, any of our actions cannot bring about our freedom from this captivity.  It must come from someone who is “one of us” yet without sin, one who is outside of the captivity of sin.  That is what Jesus Christ, God in flesh, did for us.  The other key session was on the blood of Jesus Christ, why His sacrifice had to be a blood offering. 
It was great to hear other speakers like Dale Ratzlaff, as he addressed redemption and propitiation.  Jon Rittenhouse, adjunct professor at Biola University and serving with Campus Crusade for Christ, spoke on the inerrancy of Scripture, another doctrine that is not held by Adventists.  Their reasoning is that since Ellen White’s writings are not without error, neither are the Scriptures.  Therefore, Ellen White’s writings are on the same par with Scripture.  Truly, Adventism is a cult! Colleen Tinker, editor of Proclamation! magazine, addressed the Adventist great controversy paradigm and contrasted it with a biblical worldview. Gary Inrig, senior pastor at Trinity Church in Redlands, California, taught through the parable of the prodigal son. 
Another speaker was Paul Carden, executive director of The Center for Apologetics Research.  What he shared was amazing.  He spoke about the SDA missionary effort going on right now to get copies of Ellen White’s book, The Great Controversy, into the hands of millions around this world.  That book is heretical!  He also talked about John Nevins Andrews, the name sake for Andrews University.  He was a missionary and scholar for the Adventists at the beginning and he held to the heretical fourth-century Arian view of the Trinity, that God the Son and the Spirit were lesser beings than God the Father.  I sure didn’t know that!  If Adventists want to be seen as evangelical, how can they not change the name of their university?  But they aren’t evangelical.  The other big idea that Paul brought out was that John Andrews believed in Jesus, but his Jesus is a different Jesus than we hold to from the Word of God.  Wow!  So while Adventists may use the same words as we do, their words mean something different than how we would define them. 
My last message on Sunday morning was to be on legalism, but those dear people just needed to talk, ask questions, and debrief.  All who have transitioned out of Adventism, who have come to place their faith in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation, have so many layers to work through, to peel off.  So dialogue, questions, and reactions are all part of it.  Our Sunday morning time was very special.    
Twice on Saturday I had breakout sessions, time for discussion and interaction.  Those too were very important to me.  During the breaks between sessions and through our meal times together, I got to talk with many who were there.  I got to hear their hearts, to learn about their scares, their hurt and pain.  These people are amazing to me as most of them still have family who are steeped in Adventism.  A number of them, women and men, who have left Adventism have been divorced by their spouses because now they would be “unequally yoked” to a non-believer.  By leaving Adventism, they are viewed as leaving the truth, leaving salvation.  They are told that they will burn in hell.  Now while Adventists believe in annihilation, they also believe that non-Adventists will go out of existence at death after burning a little while in hell.  So while I will burn some in hell, a relatively short time, those who have known the truth and walked away (these former Adventists) will burn longer!  That view is so wrong!  Adventists don’t try to win you to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, they just want to win you to Adventism!   
I talked to a number of people who were in tears over the wrong teaching that they had received and how they still can lapse back into those Adventist thoughts.  A number of times I would hold their hand and pray with them.  It has been so drilled into their thinking that you cannot know if you are saved.  They used to dread thinking of the end, when their name would be reviewed by Christ and they might be found unworthy of heaven.  So they are continually living in fear and dread: “Have I done enough?  What if I sin when Jesus comes? I must do more.”  Their hope of heaven is that they have “done enough,” not what Jesus has done for them!  Now, having come to place their faith in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation, they have been set free from condemnation.  They now possess God’s gift of salvation and they can know it.  However, they need to be reminded of the truth over and over because it is too easy to slip back into their old way of thinking.  
On Friday night I spoke on the conflicting world views in comparison to our evangelical world view.  Of the world religions, Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism are in conflict with our evangelical worldview.  Then we talked about Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Adventism as they too are in conflict with our evangelical worldview.  Then I focused on Adventism.  We went to Paul’s letter to the Galatians and saw how Paul viewed those who taught a “different Gospel” than the one he presented.  Paul begins that letter with the Gospel:  
“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who  gave  himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our  God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever.” Amen. -Gal. 1:3-5
But then he quickly addresses the issue in verses 6-9: 
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of  Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently  some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of  Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the  one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so  now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted,  let him be eternally condemned!” -Gal. 1:6-9
And that is what Adventism is; it is a different Gospel.  It is faith in Christ plus obedience to the Law.  And that is not the true Gospel as seen in Gal. 3:2 -3:
I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing  the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the  Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” -Gal. 3:2-3
As the Friday night service was opened to those not registered for the conference and as local pastors were invited, I challenged all of us who were there, including myself, to address these issues if Adventism is dominant in our areas.  And it is dominant in Redlands, CA as well as in our area in Michigan with Andrews University being the theological center for Seventh-day Adventist Church.  
A new dimension to the conference this year was that it was broadcast live through the Former Adventist Fellowship website.  All of the sessions will be available for you to watch HERE. It will take a couple of weeks for all the sessions to be uploaded, but the first ones should be up next week. Another exciting element was that those watching live could “chat” as one very technically inclined former Adventist typed through all the sessions what was going on and interacted with those watching.  He assisted during the question and answer portion of one of the breakout sessions and we fielded several questions from those at a distance.  When we celebrated the Lord’s Supper on Saturday night, many joined us through the internet and had their own elements of the Supper to partake with us.  Isn’t that amazing?  We even had a former Adventist from Romania sharing with us in this time of communion, all to the glory of God! 
As I reflect back on this time now and as I shared with these dear people during the conference, my heart goes out to them even with tears for all they have gone through.  They have suffered for righteousness’ sake as they have come to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  My prayer for them is Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesus: 
“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and  on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you  with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your  hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may  have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep  is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be  filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do  immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work  within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations,  for ever and ever! Amen.” -Eph. 3:14-21
– Phil Bubar, February 20, 2012

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