Proclamation! | Winter | 2017 | Adventism Examined
By Rick Barker
ADVENTISM’S FUNDAMENTAL BELIEF #23
Marriage was divinely established in Eden and affirmed by Jesus to be a lifelong union between a man and a woman in loving companionship. For the Christian a marriage commitment is to God as well as to the spouse, and should be entered into only between a man and a woman who share a common faith. Mutual love, honor, respect, and responsibility are the fabric of this relationship, which is to reflect the love, sanctity, closeness, and permanence of the relationship between Christ and His church. Regarding divorce, Jesus taught that the person who divorces a spouse, except for fornication, and marries another, commits adultery. Although some family relationships may fall short of the ideal, a man and a woman who fully commit themselves to each other in Christ through marriage may achieve loving unity through the guidance of the Spirit and the nurture of the church. God blesses the family and intends that its members shall assist each other toward complete maturity. Increasing family closeness is one of the earmarks of the final gospel message. Parents are to bring up their children to love and obey the Lord. By their example and their words they are to teach them that Christ is a loving, tender, and caring guide who wants them to become members of His body, the family of God which embraces both single and married persons.
Commentary on this statement
A cursory reading of this Fundamental Belief would likely lead most readers to conclude that it is entirely orthodox: marriage is a life-long union between a man and a woman based on a promise (covenant) to each other and to God. There are, however, several Adventist teachings hidden within this statement.
This Fundamental Belief states innocuously that marriage should only occur between those “who share a common faith.” In fact, Scripture plainly teaches that believers shouldn’t marry non-believers. For the Adventist, however, a “common faith” means Seventh-day Adventism. In fact, most Adventist pastors will refuse to perform a marriage ceremony for an Adventist marrying a Christian from any other denomination. What Adventists are saying when they refuse to perform a marriage between one of their church members and a member of any other Christian church is that the “outsider” is an unbeliever.
Ephesians 4:4-6 describes the unity that all believers share; it includes one Lord and one faith. “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Insisting that a Christian does not share the “one faith” with an Adventist is an admission that Adventists do not, deep down, believe that they follow the same God as the rest of Christianity. All of the Adventist insistence that they are just another church is unmasked in this one simple teaching.
The most disturbing statement in the Fundamental Belief, however, occurs near the end of the statement: “Increasing family closeness is one of the earmarks of the final gospel message.” This sentence directly contradicts the words of Christ, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household” (Mt. 10:34-36).
This scriptural contradiction, though, is less concerning than the phrase “the final gospel message”. In other words, the gospel message has changed at some point in time, and the “final gospel message” is somehow different from the gospel presented by Christ and His disciples. In fact, Adventists believe in a concept of “Present Truth”— a code for the new information provided specifically to Adventists through their prophet Ellen White. The prophetic writings of Ellen White teach this “final gospel”.
Adventists who claim to follow Scripture alone should carefully consider the implications of Paul’s words, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8-9). †