ADVENTISM’S FUNDAMENTAL BELIEF #22
We are called to be a godly people who think, feel, and act in harmony with the principles of heaven. For the Spirit to recreate in us the character of our Lord we involve ourselves only in those things which will produce Christlike purity, health, and joy in our lives. This means that our amusement and entertainment should meet the highest standards of Christian taste and beauty. While recognizing cultural differences, our dress is to be simple, modest, and neat, befitting those whose true beauty does not consist of outward adornment but in the imperishable ornament of a gentle and quiet spirit. It also means that because our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit, we are to care for them intelligently. Along with adequate exercise and rest, we are to adopt the most healthful diet possible and abstain from the unclean foods identified in the Scriptures. Since alcoholic beverages, tobacco, and the irresponsible use of drugs and narcotics are harmful to our bodies, we are to abstain from them as well. Instead, we are to engage in whatever brings our thoughts and bodies into the discipline of Christ, who desires our wholesomeness, joy, and goodness.
Commentary on this belief
Rather than “Christian Behavior” this belief statement should be called “Works”. This belief statement lists the “works” that are important to Seventh-day Adventism. What is left unsaid and unaddressed in this belief statement, however, is what happens if a person doesn’t have all of the works described in it. The belief statement ignores the most important part of any doctrine about works; the relationship between those works and a person’s salvation. This omission is another case of Adventism obscuring its true beliefs from the casual observer.
The phrasing about recreating “the character of our Lord” in us has specific connotations within Adventism. Recreating the character of Christ means living in the same obedient state that Christ lived; it means living without sin. Adventism teaches that Satan has charged God with unfairness, saying He gave a law that was impossible for fallen man to keep. Jesus, they say, came to show that it could be done.
There are several glaring departures from Scripture. Nothing in Scripture teaches that the Spirit will “recreate” the sinless character of our Lord in us. Even worse than adding a concept that isn’t found in Scripture is the underlying theme that the change in our nature is based on us, rather than God. The statements in this belief make the change in our nature the result of those things we select “which will produce Christlike purity”. On the contrary, the Spirit, not our deeds, creates change in us. Christians are discriminating in our entertainment choices not in order to become Christlike but because we are already alive in Him, and things of the world interest us less and less. Adventism falsely teaches that Christlikeness flows from our choices; Scripture says our works flow from Christ’s work in us. Adventism’s cause and effect are backwards.
The belief statement also contends that we are to “care intelligently” for our bodies because they are the Spirit’s temple. This reference is used grossly out of context. In 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 Paul contrasts sexual immorality with all other activities that go on outside the body, including foods one eats. We are one with Christ because of the Spirit dwelling within us, so when we become “one” with a temple prostitute through sexual immorality, this sin is more grievous than those that occur outside the body. This is contrasted within these verses with food, all of which is lawful, but not all of which is good for us. What we take into our bodies, food and drink, does not pollute us (v. 12-13).
The implicit core of the Adventist Health Message is that we control our spiritual wellbeing through our diet; the better our diet, the more spiritual we can become. This replaces the work of the Holy Spirit with human works.
As children of God, already assured of His salvation, we perform good works (Eph. 2:8-10) because the Holy Spirit is working within us to create these good works (Gal. 5:22-26). The good works are produced to bring glory to God (Mt. 5:16; Is. 43:7), not to create righteousness in us. When it comes to the righteousness necessary for salvation, “all of our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Is. 64:6).
The nature and purpose of works is the most important element of any doctrine on christian behavior. And that is where Adventism falls woefully short. †
Rick Barker is a native of Southwestern Ohio and facilitates a weekly Bible study for former and transitioning Adventists in the Dayton, Ohio, area. Rick graduated from Andrews University in 1987 and received a Masters degree from the University of Dayton. Rick and his wife Sheryl formally left the Adventist chuch in 2004. Prior to this they had been active in the Miamisburg and Wilmington, Ohio, Adventist churches.