Adventists at 33,000 Feet

Note: This article is reprinted with permission from As I See It, a monthly electronic magazine compiled and edited by Doug Kutilek. AISI is sent free to all who request it by writing to the editor at dkutilek@juno.com.

by Doug Kutilek

Author’s Note: This incident occurred in the mid-1990s, before As I See It was begun. The account was written then and appeared in print. Here, it is slightly revised.
plane.jpgOn a Delta flight from Budapest to Frankfurt, I was seated on the aisle in coach, as usual. Next to me were two men wearing suits, the older perhaps 45 and the younger somewhere in his late twenties or early thirties. They spoke quietly in German, too quietly for me to comprehend, with my limited knowledge of German, what they were talking about. They were looking at what were obviously religious booklets, and the older had a Bible and seemed to be instructing the younger. I suspected that they were cultists but couldn’t tell just then which group they were with. I kept my eyes and ears open.

Breakfast was served—fruit, juice, yogurt, ham and cheese, plus the usual offers of coffee, tea, pop, and the rest. I sneaked a furtive peek now and then to see what the two men did and did not eat. No coffee, tea, or pop; only water. The fruit was eaten, but the animal products—yogurt, cheese, and ham—were untouched. Bingo! (I speak figuratively, you understand.) Vegetarians, and that means Seventh-Day Adventists.

After breakfast had ended and the trays were taken away, I spoke to the older man in German; he answered in English (my German often draws that response). I asked about what he was and the purpose of his visit to Budapest. I learned that he was an important person in the Seventh-Day Adventists’ proselytizing outreach in Eastern Europe. A native of Brazil, he was in Hungary helping propagate the doctrines of Adventism.

I boldly remarked, “I’ve heard many things about Adventist teaching but have never met one so well-informed as yourself on the subject. If I could, I would like to ask some questions about Adventist beliefs to see if I have been correctly informed.” He agreed to address my questions, and so for 45 minutes I asked, and he answered; and by his answers he confirmed that every doctrinal error that I had heard ascribed to the Adventists was, in fact, exactly what they officially believe and teach.

I first inquired about Adventist dietary asceticism. “I noticed that you didn’t eat the cheese or ham served with breakfast. Is that a matter of personal preference, or is that because rejection of these things is required, a command?”

“It is a command,” he immediately answered.

Abstaining from certain kinds of food, especially meat and other animal products, as essential to salvation, is one of the features of Adventism. Vegetarianism is the order of the day (though not all Adventists are strict adherents). Mr. Kellogg of Battle Creek, Michigan, an Adventist (who later split with the cult over disagreements with “prophetess” Ellen G. White), started his cereal company to provide an alternative to the customary bacon and eggs breakfast of most 19th-century Americans. Adventists adopted their dietary rules, not as a result of careful study of Scripture, but from a divine directive allegedly given to Adventist Ellen G. White during one of her thousands of “visions” (more about her later).

The Bible, far from requiring vegetarianism, grants us freedom in the matter. Though God originally created mankind and all of the animals to be vegetarian (Gen. 1:29-30), after the Flood God granted Noah and his descendants permission to eat the flesh of animals, excluding only the blood (Gen. 9:3-4). It is true that the Law contains strict dietary laws (see, for example, Lev. 11 and Deut. 14), but these laws were given only to the nation of Israel. In the New Testament, Jesus said all foods were “clean” (Mark 7:19), as did Paul (Rom 14:14); when the apostolic council in Acts 15 gave recommendations for conduct to the Gentile believers, no dietary restrictions were imposed on them except the prohibition given to Noah to abstain from eating blood (Acts 15:29; the matter of meat offered to idols was a question of worship, not diet). Paul expressly says that no one has the right to judge a believer in the matter of the food he eats (Col. 2:16) and, in fact, says that those who prohibit certain kinds of food are teaching demon-inspired doctrines (1 Tim. 4:3). (This passage applies equally to Adventist vegetarianism as well as to Catholic demands of denial of meat during “Lent.”)

It is true that there are certain advantages to a reduced-meat diet and that vegetarianism seems to reduce the possibility of heart trouble, certain cancers, and other medical problems (I personally don’t think vegetarians live longer; it just seems longer). The Bible has no rebuke for anyone who chooses vegetarianism voluntarily; we have that freedom in Christ. But when someone promotes vegetarianism as an essential part of salvation, he has fallen into a demonic error of salvation by works and has placed himself under the unbearable yoke of the law, which could not save the Jews and will not save the Gentiles (Acts 15:10-11).

I next turned to the question of Saturday Sabbath-keeping. “Do Adventists really believe that worshiping on Sunday is the Mark of the Beast?”

He replied, “If a person has heard the truth [his word, not mine] of Sabbath-keeping and continues to worship on Sunday, yes, he has accepted the Mark of the Beast.” (This, by the way, is another doctrine allegedly “revealed” to Ellen G. White in a “vision.” She claimed she was carried into heaven and saw the tablets of the Law with the Ten Commandments in the heavenly sanctuary and that the fourth—the Sabbath—command had a special radiant glow about it, which was God’s way of informing her that she must restore the long-neglected Sabbath command.

I turned to Colossians 2:16 and quoted Paul’s words. “Let no man judge you … in respect … of a holy day … or of the sabbath.” “Paul says here as plain as day that you have no right to pass judgment on anyone regarding his day of worship.” He had no answer to that. There is no answer. Never in Scripture are gentiles commanded to keep Saturday as a day of worship. The apostolic council of Acts 15 could and would have made such a command if it were essential, but they were perfectly silent on the matter. In truth, Jesus Himself (not the popes, as Ellen White in ignorance of history affirmed) began Sunday worship by meeting two Sundays in a row (Sunday by the Roman/gentile reckoning, since the evening had already come, which by Jewish calculation would actually be Monday, yet Scripture calls it “the first day of the week”) with the assembled disciples after the Resurrection (John 20:19, 26). Furthermore, the great day of Pentecost in Acts 2 fell on a Sunday (see F.F. Bruce’s commentary on Acts). Paul specifically chose Sunday as the day to meet with the assembled believers at Troas (Acts 20:7), and the Corinthian church also customarily met that day (1 Cor. 16:2). John was given the Revelation of Jesus Christ on the first day of the week, and John saw Christ in the midst of the churches (Rev. 1:13; 2:1), strongly implying that that was the day the churches assembled (see Matt. 18:20).

In truth, neither Saturday nor Sunday worship is a command, the New Testament granting perfect liberty in the matter, though we customarily assemble on Sunday in commemoration of the resurrection of Christ and following the example of Christ and the apostles. By its demand of Saturday worship, once again Adventism wants to bring people under the bondage of the law rather than to introduce them to the freedom from the law we have in Christ.

I inquired about Ellen G. White. “Do you believe that she was truly a prophetess and that her visions were really divine revelations?”

“Yes, we do.”

“But wasn’t there quite a stir several years ago when it was proven that many of the accounts of her visions were really plagiarized from books published in the 19th century?”

“Well …”

Ellen G. Harmon White (1827-1915), rendered unconscious (and comatose for three weeks) at age nine by a rock thrown by a schoolmate that hit her in the face, began having epileptic-like seizures thereafter. As a young teenager, she was one of those caught up in William Miller’s Advent enthusiasm of 1843 (and 1844). When that enthusiasm proved false—twice—Ellen began to claim (at age 16) that she was having inspired visions during these periodic seizures. And in her long life, she claimed to have had more than 2,000 visions in all. Accounts of these visions, reportedly dictated to her husband immediately after their occurrence, fill some 10,000 written pages and have been published in 54 books. Without these “inspired” visions as a continuing and authoritative revelation from God, Adventism would be deprived of its whole foundation.

There was a major scandal among Adventists in the 1970s and 1980s when Adventist researchers published documented proof that at least part—a major part—of White’s vision accounts were really plagiarized or stolen from other contemporary authors. Yet virtually the whole of Adventism—Sabbath-keeping, dietary asceticism, soul sleep, and much else—rests squarely on the belief that her visions and doctrines came directly from God. If her writings are fraudulent and not divine, the whole structure collapses.

I continued, “Do Adventists believe that the souls of both saved and lost people are entirely unconscious between death and resurrection?”

“Yes, that is what we believe.”

“But didn’t Paul say he ‘desired to depart and be with Christ’ (Phil. 1:23), and that ‘to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord’? (2 Cor. 5:8). Christ was conscious and in heaven at the Father’s right hand, and Paul expected to go there immediately at death.”

“Well, yes, but didn’t Stephen ‘fall asleep’ (Acts 7:59)?”

“I’m glad you mention that passage because it proves my point. In verse 59, Stephen entrusted his spirit to Jesus, and it departed. It was only his body that was described as asleep. The spirit abandons the body at death, as James taught (James 2:26).”

In truth, the Scriptures consistently teach that the spirits of both saved and lost people continue in conscious existence after the death of the body and, in fact, that the spirit never for all eternity ceases conscious existence. After their physical deaths, we find the disembodied spirits of Abraham (Luke 16:23), Moses (Matt. 17:3), Samuel (1 Sam. 28:12ff), Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:22, 23), Jesus (1 Pet. 3:19; Luke 23:43), the repentant thief (Luke 23:43), and vast multitudes in heaven (Rev. 7:9-15; etc.) fully conscious and able to communicate, to hear, to speak, to understand, to worship, to sing, and so on. There is no “soul sleep” in Scripture.

(I could also have inquired about the Adventist teaching regarding the eventual annihilation of the wicked. They, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, deny the teaching of Jesus regarding the eternal torments of the lost (Matt. 25:41, 46; et al).)

“One final question: is keeping the law essential to salvation?”

“After a person has been saved, yes, he must keep the law.”

“But doesn’t that go against everything that Paul says in the book of Galatians? ‘But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident, for the just shall live by faith.’”

And indeed, it does. From first to last, Adventism is the error of Galatianism, the teaching that salvation is either gained or kept by obedience to the law. Some evangelical writers have denied that Adventism is a cult (I speak particularly of the now-dead cult specialist Walter Martin), but they have been deceived into so saying. Adventism has virtually all the earmarks of a cult: a new prophet, a new revelation, and salvation by works. Being generally Trinitarians (unusual for a cult) does not rescue them from deserving the designation of “cult.”

Our flight and our conversation were over. It was a most informative flight for me. Adventism is all the bad things I’d heard. It denies salvation by grace and teaches “another gospel,” which is no gospel at all.

Many Baptists and other conservative Christians have unknowingly fallen under the influence of an Adventist. Anyone who has read the widely distributed book Which Bible? (5th ed., 1975) edited by the late David Otis Fuller has unwittingly been exposed to Adventist teaching. Nearly half of that book (46%) is a reprint—edited to conceal the writer’s true identity and denomination—of parts of Our Authorized Bible Vindicated (1930) by Adventist missionary, theologian, and college president Benjamin G. Wilkinson. Fuller knew that Wilkinson was a leading Adventist and that his book was filled with misinformation, but Fuller knowingly concealed the truth from us. Wilkinson’s part of Which Bible? is filled with gross factual errors, many of which some Baptists now accept as “gospel truth” on the text and translation issue. Wilkinson’s chief motive for rejecting the English Revised Version of the 1880s was because by its literal translation, it robbed Adventism of several favored “proof-texts” for their distinctive doctrines!

kutilek.jpgDoug Kutilek is editor of www.kjvonly.org, a website dedicated to exposing and refuting the many errors of KJVOism, and has been researching and writing about Bible texts and versions for more than 35 years. He has a B.A. in Bible from Baptist Bible College (Springfield, MO), an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Hebrew Union College (Cincinnati), and a Th.M. in Bible exposition from Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN). A professor in several Bible institutes, college, graduate schools, and seminaries, he edits a monthly cyber-journal, As I See It. The father of four grown children and four granddaughters, he and his wife, Naomi, live near Wichita, Kansas.
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