28 Jul

Becky, Farewell!

There were many of us that knew the news will come, but when it finally came, we were shocked. And we wish it hadn’t! A designer-editor of Mountain Views, Becky De Oliveira left us on June 21, 2023, after a valiant battle with cancer.

Her contribution to 25 editions of our magazine began in the summer of 2015. Her talent to illustrate what our authors proposed invited readers to go beyond the written words. She added art, and contemporary at that, that made space meet with time, including an invitation to reflect and wonder. Her talent and creativity enhanced our spiritual journey.

It is never conclusive to describe who she was, Becky, my American sister. Hours of conversations made one discover her thoughtful, perceptive, and real approach to everydayness. Hers was a poetry of life, so needed in our real world. And we enjoyed talking about the weather as well.

If you wanted to laugh, Becky was your strong option.

Her cultural hue included Britishness as her studies took her to England. And you could easily talk with her about faith, motherhood, and weave into it a dose of dry humor. And she loved chocolate.

After our regular editorial meetings in local cafes, she started reminding me about taking a selfie with her, if I forgot to take it. Dozens of them. We miss her, but also know that we will see her again. Lord, please come soon. Meanwhile, our thoughts enshrine the family—Japhet, her husband, Joshua with Gretchen, her daughter in law, and Jonah.

—Rajmund Dabrowski, editor

26 Jul


Religion is at its best when it makes us
ask hard questions of ourselves.
It is at its worst when it deludes us into thinking
we have all the answers for everybody else.
– Archibald Macleish

“Is Adventist Hymnal the only acceptable worship music in our churches?” asked a communication director from one of the West African Adventist Conferences.

“Or, can we sing our own songs, too?” he further asked.

You should have been there and listened to the heated discussion which erupted among the younger and not so young colleagues; a few humorous comments were supplied. One of them offered a background comment: “Pastor, we are serious. And in case you wish to know, tomorrow morning you will be preaching, and it is expected that you wear your full ministerial suit. But it will be very hot!” he said with a full grin.

As I listened and had little to offer as a definitive answer, it became obvious that “newness” and “change” will have a long road to acceptance in their culture. And it wasn’t only a cultural matter. Their heated debate was summed up by one of them: “What the missionaries taught us, we shall continue to do.” On Sabbath, I sweated in one hundred degree weather.

Today, I am asking myself, what is authentic in my religious experience? Is it what I learned when I was a kid or what I practice now, knowing more and living in a contemporary world?

Frankly, neither the hymnal nor what clothes we wear is essential to our religious experience. And more. Is it what I think and believe that matters or is it what one learns from the Holy Word and puts it into practice?

A colleague of mine frequently used an absurdly religious vocabulary even when mundane topics were commented upon. At first, I thought to myself, “He must be a very pious person.” I quickly learned that he failed to convince me about his religiosity. Just because one uses an abundance of religious words and concepts does not mean that you are religious.

A known author and retreat director, Fr. Thomas Dubay, concludes that, in the context of religious life, “authenticity is reality without sham.” He adds, “The human person is authentic to the extent that he lives the truth. He conforms his mind, words, actions to what is. His mind reflects reality, his speech reflects his mind.”

In the words of Jesus: Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven (Matt. 7:21, NIV).

In short, a Christian person keeps Jesus as the absolute example of what it means to abide in God’s truth. In a natural way, my personal authenticity as a follower of Christ contributes to the authenticity represented by the community I belong to. Adventist authenticity is reflected in who I am as its member.

Apart from the obvious Adventist practices, based on what we accept as doctrinal like any religious group, we also have a ballast of add-ons. But, depending on our cultural values and traditions, we aim to differ from others. Those differences are often kept as essential to our faith. We abstain from some stuff, and many an Adventist regard other things as salvific. You cannot be an Adventist if … [You can create your own list of do’s and don’ts that will truly exemplify you as an Adventist!]

We are authentic through our Scripture studies. We are mission minded. And, as Adventists, “you seem to have no time to lose,” as a clergyman from another denomination told me. “You are growing. We do not,” he explained.

Meanwhile, as in the blessing regularly shared at my church worship, “May Jesus bless you with courage, that you will dare to be who you are.”

Rajmund Dabrowski is editor of Mountain Views. Email him at: [email protected]

26 Jul


If you’ve ever tried to buy a hotdog in Chicago, you know that the fastest way to get kicked out of a hotdog joint in the city of wind and hotdogs is to ask for ketchup on it.

Putting ketchup on a hotdog in Chicago is about the most blasphemous thing you could do. I lived in Chicago. More than one hotdog place actually had a sign warning customers of the consequences of asking for ketchup.

Because, if you live in Chicago, the only correct way to order a hotdog is to order an authentic Chicago style hotdog. Mustard, relish, pickle, tomato, onions, sports peppers, and celery salt. That’s it. Done. Some places advocated for a modification that includes sauerkraut. But if it’s a modification, is it really the authentic version?

I’m sure the debate will never end. One might ask, “How did this come about?” Honestly, I don’t know. I haven’t looked it up.


Because I don’t care. It’s food. Eat what tastes good. And maybe, preferably, is healthy. But whatever.

I love a good Chicago dog. But I grew up eating ketchup on hotdogs before I learned that doing so made me some sort of barbarian.

Does that mean ketchup on a hotdog tastes bad and is wrong? I’ll let you decide.

I also love Chicken Tikka Masala. It’s a curry based Indian dish. It’s fantastic. It’s this creamy spiced curry sauce with chicken mixed in that you put over rice. I will eat it any day, every day till I’m sick if I let myself.

However, it is not the authentic version of that dish even though I think it’s the “best” version. The original wasn’t so creamy. This version has been Westernized. Some say it originated in Britain, others say a Bengali chef in Scotland came up with it when he ran out of the proper ingredients.

And, I don’t care. Because I love what it is.

Does that make the original bad? No.

Does that mean it couldn’t ever be made better? No.

At what point does “authentic” stop being important and simply become a type of snobbery?

The word authentic has a number of overlapping definitions. It can mean “worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact.” Or “conforming to an original so as to reproduce essential features.” Or “made or done the same way as an original.” Or “not false.” Or “true to one’s own personality, spirit or character.”

The importance of accuracy and truth can’t be downplayed. Having said that, does authenticity really matter to most of the things in our life? We need things to work or taste good or be healthy more than we need them to be “authentic.”

And, considering how bad humans are as unbiased historians, I feel a couple questions should be asked, especially if we are relating the concept of authenticity to things like religion, theology, and spirituality.

Like Adventism.

We should ask questions like: “So, you want authentic Adventism? Cool. But which version is authentic? The version that existed before the organization of the church? The version that believed organizing would be evil? The version that believed they knew when the world was ending and promoted it, not because of accurate theology, but because of the pressure of a magazine publisher named Snow who wanted William Miller to make it more flashy?

Or the version where it was just people who decided they agreed on a seventh day sabbath and wanted to hang out together but still believed they should be a part of and attend their old Sunday churches? Or the version just after organizing, who embodied everything the pre-organizers believed was wrong? Or the ones who affirmed legalism and shunned grace and love and pushed away one of their own founders because she believed love and grace mattered most? Or maybe the authentic version of Adventism is the one that didn’t always stand against racism and sexism? Or is it the one before Desmond Ford? Or the one after? Or is it the one that exists now? Which one of those or any other version is the most authentic version of Adventism?”

Now, let’s say we answer all those questions and more. We still have an even more important question to ask?

Does “authentic” equate with “good” or “better”?

So, we all somehow miraculously agreed on the most authentic version (by whichever definition we landed on), does that mean it’s automatically the healthiest version? The one that most closely conforms to the absolute truths that only God knows and that we are floundering to figure out?

At least one definition of authentic suggests that what is authentic is individual to the person as opposed to a universal truth. But all of them speak of being true to itself, either as a concept or an origin.

And none of those things rely on any sort of absolute accuracy, only a comparative accuracy as it relates to itself.

So, I will ask again. Does finding authentic Adventism actually matter at all? The authentic way of travel is by walking. So, no horses or cars or boats or planes. Authentic would mean we can’t have new and better things. Only the original things. Or the ones that self-validate by comparison.

Or the ones that harmonize with the original thought …

… even if that thought was wrong.

Instead of arguing over authentic Adventism, as some Adventists are wanting to do, what if we discussed spiritual health and paths to greater connection with our Creator?

Arguing over authentic Adventism suggests that Adventism is the point and goal. It, of course, is not. That’s like arguing over which tool is the most authentic. The hammer? A rock? Fire? A stick? That means no nail guns or pliers or screwdrivers or air wrenches. No saws, welders, or glue.

It turns out there are a lot of useful tools because every situation is a different context that requires a different solution and a different tool to make it happen. Having the correct tool for any given task makes all the difference in the world.

Why can’t religious organizations understand this simple basic concept? In fact, almost every other area of thought and vocation understands this concept. Just not religious ones. That chef in Scotland adapted and changed and created something every bit as awesome as the original. Maybe even better.

And put ketchup on your hotdog. It’s not bad.

And feel free to change up your spiritual journey as you need to. It was ok with Jesus, it was ok with the apostles (see Peter, John, and Paul), and stop worrying whether it’s authentic.

Here is an idea. What if you ignored everyone else, and just asked God, the great Chef of the Universe, to guide you to the spiritual recipe that works best for you, to get you to where you need to be, and just let the religion snobs practice their dark arts on someone else?

If they don’t like that you might need a little ketchup with Jesus, that’s their problem. Be at peace and dust off your sandals and go somewhere else. There are plenty of restaurants out there.

Tony Hunter is a Seventh-day Adventist pastor and a hospice chaplain working for Gateway Hospice in Northern Colorado. Tony, his wife Nirma, and daughter Amryn live in Firestone, Colorado. Email him at: [email protected]  

26 Jul


On October 22, 1844, a young girl, who was 16 years old and less than a month from her 17th birthday sat waiting, fully expecting to celebrate her 17th Birthday in the New Jerusalem. Her name was Ellen Gould Harmon. That same night, a young man who had very recently turned 23 also sat waiting. His name was James Springer White.

By sunrise on October 23, 1844, both Ellen and James had suffered the world-shattering Great Disappointment—the event that shaped the remainder of their lives. In December 1844, Ellen Harmon (who by now had turned 17) had her first vision—less than two months after the Great Disappointment. The basic essence of that vision was confirmation that October 22, 1844, had indeed been cosmically important.1

When they were later married, by a Justice of the Peace, on August 30, 1846, Ellen was 18 and James was 25. When James founded The Present Truth in 1849, James was about 26 and Ellen was about 19. When the publication became the Second Advent Review and Sabbath Herald in 1850, James was now 27 and Ellen was 20. When the Seventh-day Adventist General Conference was finally organized in 1863, James was about 40, and Ellen was about 33.

Why begin this article with the Whites’ ages when the seminal events shaping their subsequent lives unfolded?

Partially, this is because when we see later photographs of the two, we sometimes imagine them developing the Seventh-day Adventist vision of Christianity as sober and mature adults. By no means is this true; they were teenagers and twenty-somethings when the Advent Movement was coalescing into what became the Seventh-day Adventism Church.

I see a journey (God-inspired, we trust) by two very earnest very young adults who part of a core group struggling to make sense of what happened in 1844 as what ultimately led to the transfiguration of a movement in the stream of historic free-church Anabaptist Christianity2 into our own Seventh-day Adventist Christian community.

Because much of our doctrine and tradition is shared with the larger historic free-church Anabaptist stream of Christianity, I want to focus on three particular innovations in doctrine and belief that arose in the Adventist movement through the study of James White and the study and visions of Ellen G. White.3

As I see it, these three doctrinal innovations are the essence of what distinguishes the authentic voice of our Seventh-day Adventist movement from the larger stream of free-church Anabaptist Christianity. If you want a fuller discussion of these three points, I used the—and recommend using—the book A Brief History of Seventh-day Adventists by George R. Knight,4 as well as my own first grade through college education and immersion in Seventh-day Adventist parochial education—to write this short article. Let’s focus on what the Seventh-day Adventist Church has created in Christianity that is unique to its own vision of what it means to follow Jesus.

1. Trying to understand what happened in 1844 led to a tangible renewal of the first-century CE (i.e. AD) sense that the Second Coming was imminent and some people currently-alive would see it.

On the Morning of October 23, 1844, followers of William Miller had to make a choice. Would they view the Millerite understanding of end-time events in Danial and Revelation as a flawed misreading of the Biblical Text or not? For the vast Majority of Millerites, the choice was to rather shame-facedly decide they had been mistaken and either return to the churches from which they had departed or lose their faith entirely. It speaks to the tenacity of the young Advent movement coalescing, eventually, around James and Ellen White, that some decided instead to re-evaluate what their expectations had been—particularly as they had interpreted the word “Sanctuary” that was to be cleansed. And that re-evaluation led to a vibrant new understanding of Christ’s soon coming.

Those early Adventists began to sound much like the people to whom the Apostle Paul wrote his Epistles. I am thinking particularly of the famous passage in 1 Corinthians 15 where the Apostle so poetically describes the resurrection at the Second Coming. This excitement has led to wonderful things for Adventism. When I was in college, there was still some hesitation about creating endowments for our colleges and universities, for fear we were saving money that should be used to spread the good news of Jesus’s soon Coming. That excitement was enough to sustain Seventh-day Adventism for approaching two centuries.

As we are approaching the bicentennial of the Great Disappointment, the question for us today is how we continue to maintain that longing and expectation of the Second Coming as the time lengthens. This same struggle also occupied the larger Christian Church in the second and third centuries AD (CE).

My question for the Seventh-day Adventist Church today is: “How does our authentic Adventism help us approach this issue for our current generation? And how will it be different from what happened in the second and third centuries AD (CE)?”

2. The struggle to reconcile God’s love with eternal damnation led to the uniquely-Adventist Doctrines of Soul-Sleep and Conditional Immortality

To discuss this, I want to compare the usual verse I was taught as a proof text in school with its particular context and compare it to another couple texts. To begin, we compare Ecclesiastes 9:5 with Revelation 6:9-11 and Luke 16:14-31.

For the vast majority of Christian recorded history, Christians read the stories in Revelation and Luke as showing a literal version of what happens after we die and read the verse from Ecclesiastes as a rhetorical point about it being better to be alive than to be dead.

James and Ellen G. White and the early Adventists studied and thought and came to a consensus that (in reality), the Bible and the Character of God as a whole were not consistent with God creating independently-eternal souls, whose suffering God would have no power to relieve, if the souls rejected Him. They came to a consensus that in fact, death was followed by soul unconsciousness and that only at the second coming and the Resurrection would humans be subject to Judgement. And moreover, that after the Final Judgement, only the Saved would live eternally.

Returning to returning to our three versus, the Adventists determined that, of the three, only the one in Ecclesiastes should be read literally—and that both Jesus’s parable and the “crying out from under the altar” were both meant to be read metaphorically. In doing this, the early Adventists resolved for the Seventh-day Adventist Church an ambiguity about God’s character that had plagued Christianity for nearly 1800 years.

3. The deep desire to live a truly wholistic Christian life as communicated by Ellen G. White led to the Adventist Health Message (with the help of John Harvey Kellogg)5

Of all the aspects of being raised within the Seventh-day Adventist tradition, the Health Message is the part that (over my lifetime) has gone from being particularly “weird” in the eyes of American society in general to being seen as close to progressive and positively prophetic. Kellogg is now viewed as a far-sited pioneer remembered for creating such American institutions as breakfast cereal—and Hollywood has remembered him (for better or worse) in movies like the “Road to Wellville.” Today, the new plethora of meat substitutes, as well as vegetarian and vegan options for eating, have appeared everywhere—in both American supermarkets and restaurants.

When my family used to travel across the U.S. from Colorado to Maine each summer, the only thing we kids could find on the typical “diner” menu for us to eat tended to be salads and “grilled cheese” sandwiches (best not ask about all the fat on the grill in which the sandwich was cooked alongside hamburgers and hot dogs). The only place one could find meat substitutes was at what we used to call the Adventist Book and Bible House.

Yet Ellen G. White and John Harvey Kellogg’s choice to build a Sanitarium in Boulder, Colorado, is the reason I was raised where I was. And throughout my life, my entire family has been shaped by Adventism’s great over-representation in American health care. This is a legacy I took for granted as a child, and now I celebrate.

One of my favorite hymns—written by George Herbert—is “King of Glory, King of Peace.” In reflecting on the Health Message, and on that unique witness Seventh-day Adventism offers to the rest of Christianity, I will end with Herbert’s amazing words. The health message and Ellen G. White’s particular passion for this message has helped us fulfill Herbert’s words in this world:

King of glory, King of peace,
I will love Thee;
and that love may never cease,
I will move Thee.
Thou hast granted my request,
Thou hast heard me;
Thou didst note my working breast,
Thou hast spared me.

Wherefore with my utmost art
I will sing Thee,
and the cream of all my heart
I will bring Thee.
Though my sins against me cried,
Thou didst clear me;
and alone, when they replied,
Thou didst hear me.

Sev’n whole days, not one in sev’n,
I will praise Thee;
in my heart, though not in heav’n,
I can raise Thee.
Small it is, in this poor sort
to enroll Thee:
e’en eternity’s too short
to extol Thee.

In conclusion, I think we can celebrate Seventh-day Adventism’s unique gifts to Christianity and the world particularly in these three particular theological concepts. Indeed, Christianity as a whole would be poorer without Adventist presence in our world.

Shawn P. Nowlan is an attorney currently working for the federal government in Denver. He is a member of the Boulder Adventist Church. Email him at: [email protected]

1  Knight, G. P. (1999). A brief history of Seventh-Day Adventists. Kindle version at: https://a.co/1rQvdeX

2  The term “free-church Anabaptist Christian tradition” is my own shorthand for the long-standing stream—beginning at the Reformation—of Protestant churches that dissented from the state-established Protestant traditions such as Lutheranism, Presbyterianism, and Anglicanism. For “Free Churches,” in a brief summary of the type of activity they embraced, Diarmuid MacCulloch used the descriptive phrase “improving activism … including Sunday Schools, lectures, social activities, even hymn books. In his index, he also includes groups in England such as Baptists, Congregationalists, Dissenters, and Methodists. Id. At 1138.

MacCulloch, D. (2009). Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years. Viking Penguin, p.861.

The term “Anabaptist” is the historic term for all Christians who believe baptism is not to be applied to be infants, but to be the free choice of individuals who have reached an age where they are competent to make the decision for themselves. “Anabaptist” means “re-baptized” since the first Reformation-era individuals who advocated for this belief has all been baptized as infants themselves.

There have been millions of Christians since the Reformation who were free church anabaptists, but who were (and are) not Seventh-day Adventists. For purposes of this article, I have been attempting to focus on what is uniquely doctrine of the Seventh-day Adventist movement and church itself. That is, why did the early Adventists feel the need to create a separate Christian denomination in 1863?

3  “The primary method used by the pioneers in their doctrinal formation was to study the Bible until a general consensus developed. At that point Ellen White would sometimes receive a vision on a topic already studied, primarily to reaffirm the consensus and to help those who were still out of harmony with the majority to accept the correctness of the group’s biblically derived conclusions. Thus, we can best view Mrs. White’s role in doctrinal development as confirmation rather than initiation.” . . .  Knight, G. P. (1999). A brief history of Seventh-Day Adventists. Kindle version at: https://a.co/1rQvdeX

4  Knight, G. P. (1999). A brief history of Seventh-Day Adventists. Kindle version at: https://a.co/1rQvdeX

5  The striking emphasis on health and vegetarianism is a feature of the Seventh-day Adventist message so unique that it is specifically mentioned in Diarmaid MaccColloch’s magisterial and bestselling general history of Christianity: MacCulloch, D. (2009). Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years. Viking Penguin, p.861.

26 Jul


In 1995, Martin Weber wrote a book entitled Who’s Got the Truth?: Making Sense Out of Five Different Adventist Gospels. Weber claimed his primary goal was to help fellow Seventh-day Adventists sort through the particular theological emphases of Morris Venden, George Knight, Jack Sequeira, Ralph Larson, and Graham Maxwell. Ironically, what Weber ended up doing was exposing a glaring truth to Adventists and the rest of the world: at any given moment, there are many different versions of Adventism, and Adventists are happy to debate which version is authentically Adventist and which versions should be deemed heretical.

This situation is simultaneously understandable and regrettable. On the one hand, it is natural for Adventists to try to determine which expressions of Adventism accurately reflect the truth of God’s character, love, and plan of salvation. On the other hand, our individual and corporate desire to discern the authenticity and inauthenticity of different versions of Adventism too often falls prey to the temptation of becoming inquisitors for God.

Nevertheless, the question still remains: What is authentic Adventism? While avoiding the pitfalls of tribalism, elitism, spiritual snobbery, judgmentalism, and idolatry, it is still essential for Adventists to determine what is authentic Adventism. Otherwise, we will continue to fight each other over who is a true Adventist and whose version of Adventism is authentic. And this fight will continue to spill over into our interactions with secularists, former Adventists, and the few young people left in our denomination.

But Adventists already have a blueprint for figuring out the answer to this question—and it’s not what you think. The answer to determining authentic Adventism is not in the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14:6-12. That message is a gift from God. But Adventists are divided on what those messages mean. Some maintain those messages are about the Sabbath and the papacy; others claim the emphasis is on a six-day creation week, the seventh day Sabbath, and avoiding other religious groups; and still others assert that those messages are all about Jesus’ love for us, our need to love him, and the importance of surrendering to him. Such disparate understandings of the three angels’ messages can never achieve the kind of unity or authenticity we so desire to see in Adventism.

Likewise, the 1888 message of righteousness by faith is sometimes touted as the remedy for our denominational malaise and the key to restoring “authentic Adventism.” Yet again, this is not the case. Every Adventist insists that we must put our faith in Jesus. But some Adventists stress God’s grace, the beauty of Christ’s character, and the all-sufficiency of Jesus, while other Adventists stress our obedience to God, our replication of Christ’s character in ourselves, and the addition of Jesus’ power to our moral effort. Whatever this dichotomy ultimately means, the one indisputable conclusion is that the message of righteousness by faith is not a silver bullet. There are no shortcuts to authenticity, and this is a hard lesson to learn.

The source for authentic Adventism is actually located in early Adventist history. In the years immediately after the Great Disappointment of October 22, 1844, early Adventists fractured into many varieties of Adventism. Adventist groups differed widely from each other all over New England and the Midwest. One type of Adventism believed the kingdom of God had arrived, which required us to behave like children to enter it—inclusive of wearing diapers, nursing, and throwing temper tantrums. A second type of Adventism believed God was now judging the world, so all forms of “vanity” must be rejected: forks, shoes, pants, public greetings, manners, hygiene, church attendance, and doing any work or holding a job.

Perhaps none were more rowdy than the charismatic forms of Adventism, which emphasized exuberant worship services, speaking in tongues, prophesying, anarchy, miraculous healing, exorcism, and even forms of fortunetelling, clairvoyance, and hypnotism. The charismatic groups tended to be mean and sometimes unethical in their attempts to convince other Adventists to adopt their version of Adventism. Finally, a clandestine form of Adventism encouraged sexual dalliances as true spirituality: swinger lifestyles, polygamy in communes, and loose forms of “free love” practices similar to what characterized the 1960s.

James and Ellen G. White belonged to one of the smallest versions of Adventism at this time: the Sabbatarian and Sanctuary Adventists. These Adventists believed Jesus loves us so much that he gives us Sabbath rest and works to save us as our high priest. But how could all these versions of Adventism unite in love and a cohesive sense of mission?

The answer was Jesus. As James visited each group and spoke of Jesus’ soon return for his friends, different kinds of Adventists either left Adventism altogether or moved closer to each other in love. As Ellen presented her visions of heaven, mission, and Jesus’ victory over sin and Satan to each group, different kinds of Adventists began to lay aside their own personal interpretations of Adventism and became more Christ-centered. As early Adventist leaders fasted and prayed together, practiced communion together, and confessed and forgave each other, different versions of Adventism began to dissipate and an authentic Adventism began to take shape: a movement of people on fire for Jesus, who had been seized by a great affection for the risen Savior and Lover of their souls.

What does this history lesson mean for authentic Adventism today? According to Adventist history, the essence of authentic Adventism comes when people discover to their shock and delight that Jesus loves them, has already achieved their salvation, and invites them to have a relationship with him—one that starts now, but which is intended to last for eternity. Authentic Adventism is where there is no fear of being unloved, rejected, or unaccepted by Jesus, because we know we are safe in his love—and in that love, we feel safe enough to make friends with others and extend the love and compassion of Jesus to them. True, authentic Adventism sees the Sabbath, the second coming, the state of the dead, the heavenly sanctuary, and the presence of spiritual gifts in the Church through the lens of Jesus, and not merely as doctrines: as indicators of how much Jesus loves us, enjoys our company, delights to take care of us, and desires to equip us for mission and service in preparation for his soon return.

Does any of this look like the Adventism you practice and hold dear? Many Adventists tend to shy away from having too much Jesus and too much of his love in their Adventism. It’s not that we think Jesus is a bad idea; rather, the temptation has always been to “complete” Jesus by having something else serve as the centerpiece of Adventism.

But if Jesus is the author of Adventism, which Adventists have always believed, then a stress on Jesus, his love, and his ongoing work of salvation on behalf of those inside and outside the denomination is the only factor that makes Adventism authentic. It is only as Adventism focuses on Jesus, accepts his love for us, and prioritizes and reaches out to the people Jesus values (everybody!), that we will discover authentic Adventism. The challenge for each of us is to leave behind our factional versions of Adventism, and become authentic Adventists who practice authentic Adventism by worshiping Jesus with all our hearts, souls, minds, and love—in short, with every fiber of our beings.

Nathaniel Gamble is the RMC public affairs and religious liberty director and senior pastor of Denver West Seventh-day Adventist Church and Aspen Park Seventh-day Adventist Church. He is in the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program at Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Email him at: [email protected]

24 Jul


A few years ago, our congregation decided to recruit Adventists from around North America to move to our city to help us participate in God’s mission there. We created a promotional video that we paid to show Adventists on Facebook®, explaining our vision and inviting those Adventists who had a heart to reach a secular context to join us.

One of the lines in particular is rolling around in my mind right now. In it, we said, “Maybe you want to join a movement that is pursuing authentic Adventism in the midst of America’s most secular region.” By “authentic,” what we had in mind was an open-minded, forward-thinking, relational community that’s imagining creative ways to live out the gospel and connect with the growing unchurched population.

But as I was reflecting about that idea after we produced and published the video, I really got to thinking: is that “authentic” Adventism?

And who gets to decide what’s “authentic” anyway?

It’s a question I’ve really been wrestling with for quite a while—one that has resulted not only from my pastoral and personal pursuits, but my academic ones as well.

After all, one popular way of telling the Adventist story is that we started out as a progressive, non-traditional, anti-institutional, anti-creedal movement. Emphasizing “present truth,” we were ever open to “new light” and didn’t want to draw doctrinal boxes, nor exclude people on the basis of theological differences.

Perhaps the “patron saint” of such a story is J. N. Loughborough, who, in 1861, famously outlined the quickest way to create a heretic. “The first step of apostasy,” he thus explained, “is to get up a creed, telling us what we shall believe. The second is to make that creed a test of fellowship. The third is to try members by that creed. The fourth to denounce as heretics those who do not believe that creed. And, fifth, to commence persecution against such.” 1

Such a quote, and others like it, are frequently cited as evidence of the progressive nature of early Adventism—and, by extension, what we should be like today—which is a perspective I’m very sympathetic to. We therefore shouldn’t carefully police theological boundaries, but be more inclusive and open-minded about further doctrinal development and ways to express our faith.

Unfortunately, the historical record is a lot more complicated. As I’ve gone through early Adventist materials, I’ve found most of the early “pioneers” to be a lot more closed-minded and self-confident than I’d originally thought, expected, and hoped for. While we were very critical of other denominations that failed to continue to “advance” into further “light,” we ourselves seemed to suffer the same fate. By and large, our own theological system was mostly developed by the early 1850s, and we didn’t really budge from it after that.

We were also very intent on defending that system, and quick to attack any perceived threats.

Thus, two years after Loughborough’s famous reflections on creeds, the General Conference Committee, for example, very publicly defrocked Moses Hull from ministry and expelled him from Adventist membership for being a “heretic of the most obnoxious kind.” 2 Hull had been Adventism’s most celebrated and accomplished evangelist up to that point, and had even, somewhat ironically, toured with J. N. Loughborough in New Hampshire just months before his defrocking in an attempt to keep him on the straight and narrow.

But by this time, Hull had started flirting with Spiritualism, after he debated a Spiritualist, and, by the end of 1863, had essentially cast his lot with the movement, apparently abandoning, at least according to an Advent Review and Sabbath Herald article entitled, “Astonishing Apostasy: Elder Moses Hull Departed from the Faith, and Gone to Spiritualism!” all the foundational teachings of Christianity and most of the doctrines of Adventism (except, interestingly, the Sabbath).

The relevant point here is a question: which episode is “authentic” Adventism? The sentiments of Loughborough in 1861, who expressed grave concerns about doctrinal witch hunts, or the General Conference Committee in 1863, who carefully guarded theological orthodoxy and publicly shamed a celebrated evangelist for going astray (no doubt, by the way, with the approval of Loughborough, who was intimately acquainted with Hull’s theological outlook)?

Of course, perhaps neither represents “authentic” Adventism. Perhaps we shouldn’t look to the 1860s or even the 1960s to determine what is the truest expression and representation of the faith. Perhaps there are as many “authentic” versions of Adventism as there are Adventists—which, as of this writing, is over 20 million persons worldwide—which is somewhat of an attractive approach, since we don’t believe in Popes who can single-handedly declare, by fiat, what is the truest and most authentic expression of faith.

But, for my part, as I look especially at our history, searching for clues as to what our denominational identity and trajectory has been and should be, my gaze turns in one particular direction.

What is that direction? Ellen G. White.

Ellen G. White’s “Authentic” Adventism

Whether one recognizes Ellen G. White’s prophetic gift or not, it’s hard to deny one simple reality: her ministry has been unparalleled when it comes to shaping Adventism. Some view this as a great thing, others as catastrophic. I think it’s a mixed bag.

I don’t say this because I don’t believe in her prophetic ministry. Quite the opposite. I say it because any “battle” over what constitutes “authentic” Adventism is, to some degree, a battle over how one interprets Ellen G. White.

The truth is, just like people do with Scripture, we can all make Ellen G. White say whatever we want to say (and perhaps even more than we do with the Bible, since we have so much more material from her).

So, obviously, my appeal to Ellen G. White is just one perspective. I can probably see what I want to see in her writings.

But here’s what I see: when I read many of the other pioneers of her time, I get very discouraged. While I’m incredibly grateful for the determination they had and the convictions they remained committed to, I don’t see the gracious, large-hearted, and open-minded spirit that is sometimes attributed to them.

I see people who were confident in and dogmatic about their own opinions, judgmental towards other Christians (some of whom they said weren’t even Christians), and resistant to anything new or novel. I say this with all due respect.

And I’d also say that Ellen G. White herself saw—and identified—this. Especially as her own understanding developed
in the 1880s, and she recognized how Adventism was gospel-deficient, she started sounding the alarm and trying to correct the denomination, centering it firmly on Christ.

Thus, she started saying stuff like, “Of all professing Christians, Seventh-day Adventists should be foremost in uplifting Christ before the world.” 3 She also said that “we have many lessons to learn, and many, many to unlearn.” 4 She started writing prolifically on the life of Christ, and began and ended her Conflict of the Ages series with the words “God is love.” She even wrote, in Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, that we should not intrude upon the “province of conscience” of another and make our “interpretations of Scripture” the “criterion” by which to judge them.

In short, “authentic” Adventism for Ellen G. White, was—grounded firmly in Scripture—open-handed, large-hearted, and centered on Jesus. And she desperately tried to steer the denomination in this direction.

This doesn’t at all mean she was theologically-shallow or that she lacked doctrinal convictions, having an “anything goes” attitude. She was firmly committed to the “pillars” of the faith, as she called them, but presented them in the light of Christ, refusing to turn everything into a theological debate, or majoring in minors.

And this is what discourages me so much. There’s such a huge and tragic paradox between what Adventism could be, and what it is.

I do believe Adventism, when properly articulated and lived out—because of the “God is love” paradigm we have access to (but so often ignore or deny)—could be the most beautiful, awesome, loving, and powerful religious movement in the world. Instead, we are so often the opposite.

This doesn’t mean we should run everything through Ellen G. White, especially since she wanted us to base our lives on Scripture, rather than on her. But we can at least gather a few hints from her about what “authentic” Adventism is: a Christ-centered, love-saturated, open-minded, world-engaging movement.

Shawn Brace is a pastor in Bangor, Maine, whose life, ministry, and writing focus on incarnational expressions of faith. The author of four books and a columnist for Adventist Review, he is also a DPhil student at the University of Oxford, focusing on nineteenth-century American Christianity. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @shawnbrace, and sign up for his weekly newsletter at: shawnbrace.substack.com  

1  Bates J. and Smith, U. (1861). “Doings of the Battle Creek Conference, Oct. 5 & 6, 1861.” Advent Review and Sabbath Herald. Vol. 18, No. 19: p. 148.

See  Byington, J., AndrewsJ.N., and Amadon G.W. (1864). “Astonishing Apostasy: Elder Moses Hull Departed from the Faith, and Gone to Spiritualism!” Advent Review and Sabbath Herald. Vol. 23, No. 6. p. 45-46.

3  White, Ellen G. (1888). The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials. p. 891.

4  White, Ellen G. Review and Herald. July 26, 1892.

24 Jul


In his book Life of the Beloved and Our Greatest Gift, Henri Nouwen shares the experience of befriending a young secular journalist named Fred from the New York Times who interviewed him. During the interview, Henri felt great sympathy for the young man, for it seemed that Fred was ready to surrender his dreams by going through the motions of his profession. “He looked like a prisoner locked behind the bars of a society forcing him to work at something he didn’t believe.” 1 As their friendship matured, the conversations transitioned to a deeper level and became “[a] little less concerned about success, career, fame, money, and time; questions of meaning and purpose came more into the center of our relationship.” 2

One day, Fred challenged Henri to speak to his friends—individuals who, like many who walk the streets of big cities, possess great spiritual hunger and thirst, and no longer go to churches or synagogues.3 His request was simple, yet simultaneously thoughtful and reflective, one that moved beyond the need for definable constructs of beliefs, emerging as a cry from the depths of the human heart. “Speak to us about the deepest yearning of our hearts, about our many wishes, about hope—not about the many strategies for survival, but about trust—not about new methods of satisfying our emotional needs, but about love … . Yes, speak to us about something or someone greater than ourselves. Speak to us about—God.” 4

It seems that Fred’s request called for an authentic voice that rises above the boundaries of logically defined information about God. The invite sprang from the desire to understand the mystery of God from a voice immersed in an authentic relationship of trust and love—one that connects people with God. Sensing an intense depth of an inner emotional struggle on Henri’s face, Fred added, “Speak from that place in your heart where you are most yourself. Speak directly, simply, lovingly, gently, and without any apologies. Tell us what you see and want us to see; tell us what you hear and want us to hear.” 5 Fred called for voice authenticity, one that speaks candidly from the depths of the struggles to know and understand God.

Reflecting on Henri’s encounter with this young professional, I wonder about the meaning of authenticity in the context of my faith tradition. Authenticity means being genuine, sincere, honest, and transparent with oneself and others; aligning thoughts, feelings, and actions with core values, beliefs, and identity without pretense or façade. It requires humility and vulnerability to confront the challenges of knowing God on an ongoing prospective journey of faith (1 Corinthians 13: 9-12). Such faith’s authenticity collaborates with the challenging nature of the social, cultural, and religious environment. Simultaneously, it remains anchored to the object of Christian adoration—Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Peterson describes the named process as a daily—and even several times a day—return to “Square One,” the transforming, empowering, and primary source of relational authenticity. “We return to the condition in which we acquired subject permanence … . We adore and listen.” 6 In that sense, the Christian faith’s authenticity finds its locum in a relational attachment to Jesus. It means knowing, understanding, and sharing the values flowing from the depths of God’s love (1 Corinthians 13:1-8).

Adventism and Authenticity

The challenges confronting the Seventh-day Adventist Church in today’s changing world tend to lock the progressive nature of faith, beliefs, and understanding of God’s revelation into a retrospective and defensive mode reinforced by the call to return to the pioneers’ doctrinal beliefs, i.e., a revival of authentic historic Adventism. In October 2022, a group of 30 Seventh-day Adventist scholars participated in a conference titled, “Being the Remnant: Adventist Identity in History and Theology.” As one of the organizers noted, “It’s essential we talk about what it is that makes us distinctly Seventh-day Adventist, and then that we share that with the world Church.” 7 I contend that it is even more essential to reflect on how to make the Adventist voice authentic and relevant in the contemporary, dramatically changing world.

Rather than turn to retrospective reflections to secure distinctiveness and correctness encrypted in doctrinal expressions of the past, it is essential to recapture the spirit of the dynamic, prospective nature of the movement’s spiritual journey that progressively augmented Adventist pioneers’ biblically secured faith. Space does not permit examining the slow, complex, and progressive development of Adventist doctrines, but current trends toward adopting the traditional, and often literal, approach to interpreting core Adventist doctrinal beliefs—such as Creation, the Sabbath, the Fall, Salvation, Eschatology, the State of the Dead, and the Second Coming—frame the dynamic nature of faith into cognitive, static, and informative constructs of a Christian worldview. Within this inert framework, various views so often have swayed attention toward irrelevant discussions and arguments about “hair length, beards, pantsuits, dress length, makeup, jewelry, and Sabbath observance.” 8

In recent years, one has observed the divisive tension relating to “women’s ordination,” fundamentalism’s impact, and—even more troubling—the warnings against the practice of spirituality. Instead, to remain relevant, the contemporary Adventist voice’s authenticity must embrace and transmit the dynamism of the relational heart-to-heart transmission of faith in God and its ensuing values (1 Peter 1:18-21)—the Adventist heritage story’s foundational hub.

The Authentic Voice’s Prospective Nature

Discussing the attributes of the Adventist movement’s journey between 1850 and 1863, Beem and Harwood draw attention to the Advent experience’s specific character. “The spiritual life of the Advent people was shaped by opening their lives to receive the truth God revealed through the leading of the Holy Spirit and then by experiencing the joys of fuller dwelling within God’s design. The spiritual understanding was deepened, and progress made when individuals practiced their faith and put it to the test.” 9

More importantly, “They [the pioneers] sought God in prayer and meditation, searching the Scripture for further word from God. The spiritual confusion, distress, and discouragement needed to be met with clear evidence of God’s imprimatur on the movement.” 10 This description highlights the dynamic nature of the relational quality of faith grounded in spiritual life, prayer, meditation, an open-minded approach to Bible study and the Holy Spirit’s influence. It generates spiritual growth in understanding the truth that surged from God’s revelation. Moreover, it empowers believers to practice faith and test God’s presence in the surrounding reality of life. Such faith engenders authentic voices empowered to share God from the heart-to-heart stance.

Ellen G. White’s voice continued to encourage the movement to focus on the Christian experience’s spiritual nature—a prospective journey of faith to a specific destination. In her understanding, such life “will breathe out fragrance and will reveal a divine power that will reach men’s hearts.” 11 As she argued, it’s no wonder that “Christ is the center of all true doctrine. All true religion is found in His word and in nature. He is the One in whom our hopes of eternal life are centered.” 12 In this context, to remain relevant to this messed-up world’s needs, the Church must raise its vision beyond the boundaries of its doctrinal distinctiveness and embrace and transmit the vitality of the relational heart-to-heart sharing of faith anchored in Jesus.

The prophetic voice of the past uplifts this visualization as an ongoing source of spiritual remedy. “In the time of confusion and trouble before us, a time of trouble as has not been since there was a nation, the uplifted Savior will be presented to the whole world in all lands that all who look to Him in faith may live.” 13  Voices around us seem to cry out, speak to us about something or someone greater than ourselves. Speak to us about God, but what does it mean practically?

Concluding Reflections

Amid today’s political, social, religious, and family dysfunctions, people are skeptical about structures built on failed promises. There seems to be a demand for values that enhance comfort, courage, and a sense of secure belonging, as well as foster authentic identity, purpose, and hope. The prevailing milieu provides an opportunity for the Church to shape the story of Creation, Salvation, and future hope in a new and refreshed way—not from the space of isolated doctrinal distinctiveness, but from life reflecting the values and qualities shared by Jesus. It calls for a voice that connects people with God, a space that offers genuine authenticity and transformational change.

John Skrzypaszek, DMin, a retired director of the Ellen White/Seventh-day Adventist Research Centre, is an adjunct senior lecturer at Avondale University College, Coranboong, NSW, Australia. Polish by birth, John takes a keen interest in heritage, spirituality, and identity studies. He is married to Brenda and has two sons Raphael and Luke. Email him at: [email protected]

1  Nouwen, H. (2002). Life of the Beloved and Our Greatest Gift. Hodder and Stoughton, London. p. 11.

Ibid., p. 15.

Ibid., p. 17.

Ibid., p. 18.

Ibid., p. 20.

6  Peterson, E.B. (1997). Subversive Spirituality. Eerdmans Publishing, p. 30.

7  Koch, I. “Conference at Andrews University Explores Adventist Identity.” Adventist Review, October 27, 2022.  https://adventistreview.org/news/conference-at-andrews-university-explores-adventist-identity/

8  Moncrieff, S. Spectrum, March 25, 2022. https://spectrummagazine.org/arts-essays/2022/authentic-adventism-places-faith-denomination

Beem, B. and Hanks-Harwood, G. (2006) “My Soul is on the Wings for Glory.” Andrews University Studies. Volume 44, No 1, p. 166.

10  Ibid., 160.

11  White, E.G. (1940). The Desire of Ages. Pacific Press. p. 363.

12  White, E.G. (1913). Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students. Pacific Press. p. 453.

13  White, E.G. (1904). Testimonies for the Church. Pacific Press. Vol. 8, p. 50.

24 Jul


For me, it was showing up at the neighborhood Bible study. Ostensibly, it was so that I could trade baseball cards and play street hockey with my friends whose parents were inside. I went inside on a rainy day, and the leader of the Bible study group, who happened to be Adventist, was sharing about God’s love and the plan of redemption. I went home that night and invited Jesus into my heart. Although I was only eight years old at the time, for me it was my first introduction both to Christ and Adventism. This, from my perspective, represents Adventism at its very first falling in love with Jesus and thereby desiring to see Him come soon. This Advent hope that awakened in my heart has deep roots in Adventist history.

James White wrote the book, Bible Adventism, in 1878 as a way to introduce and explain Adventism to others. He noted that “much prejudice” exists, but much of it is due to misinformation. Yet even just our name, “Seventh-day Adventist,” he wrote, “is expressive of two prominent features of our faith and hope.” As a people, we are a people who love to spend time with Jesus. Every Sabbath is about connecting in a relational way with our God. And for those who love Jesus so much, we cannot wait to see Him return. “The certainty of the second advent of Christ, and the manner and object of his coming, are points of thrilling interest to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1

Even William Miller understood this concept. He initially resisted religion as a young person, but, as he later revealed, it was because of a wrong view about who God is. When his picture of God began to change, through the reading of Scripture, everything else changed for him, too. He had gone through a series of hard knocks in life—going off to war, losing loved ones, and coming to essentially an existential crisis. And it was one day, while he was reading the sermon at church (since they didn’t have a pastor and he would complain about others) that he broke down. The sermon was by Alexander Proudfit titled “The Importance of Parental Duties.” For the first time he began to see God as a loving father in heaven:

Suddenly the character of a Saviour was vividly impressed upon my mind. It seemed that there might be a Being so good and compassionate as to himself atone for our transgressions, and, thereby, save us from suffering the penalty of sin. I immediately felt how lovely such a Being must be; and imagined that I could cast myself into the arms of, and trust in the mercy of, such a One.2

As he continued to study the Bible, “I found everything revealed that my heart could desire, and a remedy for every disease of the soul. I lost all taste for other reading, and applied my heart to get wisdom from God.” 3 This scriptural quest led to his conversion. “I saw Jesus as a friend, and my only help, and the Word of God as the perfect rule of duty.” 4 And in response to his earlier Deist friends who taunted him, he asked them only for more time so that he could continue his biblical quest. He concluded:

Give me Jesus, and a knowledge of His Word, faith in His name, hope in His grace, interest in His love, and let me be clothed in His righteousness, and the world may enjoy all the high-sounding titles, the riches it can boast, the vanities it is heir to, and all the pleasures of sin; and they will be no more than a drop in the ocean. Yes, let me have Jesus Christ, and then vanish all earthly toys. What glory has God revealed in the face of Jesus Christ! In Him all power centers. In Him all power dwells. He is the evidence of all truth, the fountain of all mercy, the giver of all grace, the object of all adoration, and the source of all light; and I hope to enjoy Him to all eternity.5

This is not to say that Adventism hasn’t struggled with this quest either. By the 1880s, Ellen G. White noted that the church had drifted into legalism. “Many had lost sight of Jesus,” she admonished. And the source of light came in the most unexpected way—two missionary pastors and editors working in California. And as various individuals at the infamous 1888 General Conference session got caught up majoring in the minors, so to speak (especially over the identity of the horns in Daniel 7 and the law in Galatians), Ellen G. White recognized there was something far more significant. These young men were preaching Jesus and emphasizing righteousness in Christ in a way that was spiritually refreshing. She stated that this 1888 message was given “in clear and distinct lines” so that “the world should no longer say that Seventh-day Adventists talk the law, but do not teach or believe Christ.” 6

Shortly afterward, Ellen G. White shared how Adventists indeed had promoted “the commandments of God, … but the faith of Jesus had not been proclaimed … as of equal importance.” The faith of Jesus was “talked of,” yet it was “not understood.” What constituted the faith of Jesus? She replied: “Jesus becoming our sin-bearer that He might become our sin-pardoning Saviour. He was treated as we deserve to be treated. He came to our world and took our sins that we might take His righteousness. Faith in the ability of Christ to save us amply and fully and entirely is the faith of Jesus.” 7 She later reflected on this 1888 meeting: “My burden during the meeting was to present Jesus and His love before my brethren, for I saw marked evidences that many had not the spirit of Christ.” 8

The most authentic form of Adventism—in its truest and best sense—is when Jesus is at the very heart and center of all things Adventist. Adventism quickly falls apart when Jesus isn’t at the center of it. And, while there are many good things that we do and believe, from figuring out the prophetic dates to health reform, none of these really matter if Jesus is not at the very heart and center of our Adventist experience and identity. Adventism is truly at its very best, as both James White and William Miller discovered, and as the church needed to be reminded again in 1888, by falling ever more deeply in love with Jesus. And, when we do, we will be eager and fervently looking forward to that day and doing everything in our power to hasten so that as many others as possible can know Jesus and be ready, too.

Michael Campbell, PhD, is director of archives, statistics, and research for the North American Division of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. He has spent over a decade teaching in higher education in schools in Texas and the Philippines. Previously he pastored in Kansas and in the Rocky Mountain Conference. He is married to Heidi, a PhD candidate at Baylor University, and they have two teenage children, Emma, and David.

White, J. (1878). Bible Adventism; or, Sermons on the Coming and Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association, 7 42.

2  Miller, W. (1845).  William Miller’s Apology and Defense, August 1. Boston: J. V. Himes, p. 5.

3  Miller, W. (1842). Miller’s Works: Views of the Prophecies and Prophetic Chronology. Boston: Joshua V. Himes. Vol. 1, 11.

4  Ibid.

5  Bliss, S. (1853). Memoirs of William Miller. Boston: Joshua V. Himes. III.

6  White, E.G. (1962). Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers. Pacific Press. 92.

7  White, E.G. (1993). Manuscript Releases. Ellen G. White Estate. Manuscript 24, 1888, 12:193.

8  Ibid.

24 Jul


What does it mean to be an authentic Seventh-day Adventist? At first glance, answering that question seems easy. It is all in our name, right? Seventh-day refers to our belief that the true Bible Sabbath falls on the seventh day of the week … Saturday. Our name also indicates we believe in the second coming of our Savior and eagerly await His soon return. Why would we need to add anything to this simple explanation coming from our name?

Yet, under this umbrella of our name, there have been many theological viewpoints held by many different people. So, over the years, there was some confusion as to what our church’s official stand was on various doctrine. As a church, we started with just a few pillars of doctrine that we stood for, deriving our beliefs from the Bible and the Bible alone. The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald put these five pillars on the front page of their magazine on August 15, 1854. Here is the list as they published it:

  1. “The Bible, and the Bible alone, the rule of faith and duty.‌‌”
  2. “The Law of God, as taught in the Old and New Testaments, unchangeable.‌‌”
  3. “The Personal Advent of Christ and the resurrection of the Just, before the Millennium.‌‌”
  4.  “The Earth restored to its Eden perfection and glory, the final inheritance of the Saints.‌‌”
  5. ‌‌”Immortality alone through Christ, to be given to the Saints at the Resurrection.‌‌”

The church came out with other lists of fundamental beliefs along the way, but in 1980, at the World Session of Seventh-day Adventist General Conference, a list of 27 fundamental beliefs was formed and voted in. It was made clear when this took place that this was not a creed, but rather a set of beliefs that guided our movement. At the 2005 General Conference Session, a 28th fundamental belief was added on the importance of “Growing in Christ.”

There are still a number of different theological thoughts people have within our church that go beyond what we have voted in for our 28 fundamental beliefs. Some members will even get quite angry if you disagree or try to refute them. We must make sure our umbrella for what makes an Adventist stays large enough for all of us to fit under, as long as we are together on the 28. After the 28, other theological positions may be correct, but are considered “private interpretations” until the church body votes on it at a General Conference Session.

So, is this what makes an authentic Adventist? Someone who believes these 28 fundamental beliefs and obeys and follows them on their life’s journey? These beliefs are certainly important to being an authentic Adventist, but I don’t believe they cover the whole picture.

To the Adventist, the Reformation is critically important. What Martin Luther and the other reformers did was to stand up for the Bible and the Bible alone as our rule of faith. The concept embraced by the reformers was one in which church dogma was not going to influence their thinking; their doctrine was to be based on what the Word of God was telling them. The reason we do not have a creed is that we must never stop studying and learning from scripture. In other words, the reformation needs to be ongoing, never stopping until Jesus comes.

In her book, Counsel to Writers and Editors, Ellen G. White makes the following statement (p. 35):

There is no excuse for anyone in taking the position that there is no more truth to be revealed, and that all our expositions of Scripture are without an error. The fact that certain doctrines have been held as truth for many years by our people, is not a proof that our ideas are infallible. Age will not make error into truth, and truth can afford to be fair. No true doctrine will lose anything by close investigation.

The Biblical Research Institute, which is part of the General Conference, has developed a process for someone to go through who wants to bring new light to our movement. I am thankful we have a process for new theological discoveries because it shows we are willing as a church to keep the Bible—not the 28 fundamental beliefs—as our authority.

So, beyond our name and what it stands for, beyond our 28 fundamental beliefs, and beyond being people of the Word who never stop studying to find new light to guide our path, there is one more attribute I believe we need to talk about in regard to being an authentic Adventist.

I believe an authentic Adventist will be someone who reflects the character of Christ. It is put this way in 2 Corinthians 3:18: So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image (NLT). Reflecting Christ and His character is without question, one of the trademarks of an authentic Adventist.

What does it mean to reflect the character of Christ? My wife gave me a beautiful piece of metal artwork which has the fruits of the spirit flowing out from a tree and being gathered in a barrel. It hangs on the wall right across from my desk and I look at it every day I’m in the office. I quite often miss the mark, but those attributes make up the core of how I want to treat people in my journey—whether they are the clerk at the store, my neighbor, a church member, or someone I work with. These are the core values I hold on to.

Ellen G. White makes the following comment: “The object of the Christian life is fruit bearing—the reproduction of Christ’s character in the believer, that it may be reproduced in others … The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance (Gal. 5:22-23). This fruit can never perish, but will produce after its kind a harvest unto eternal life.” (Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 67-69). I believe an authentic Adventist is someone who is reflecting the fruits of the spirit, which best represents the character of God Himself.

Don’t pass over this qualification too quickly with the idea that the concept is simple and you don’t need to dwell on it. I believe this should be the subject of our prayers every day. And when we treat others with this kind of grace, we will be quite different from the rest of the world.

Are you filled with love for others … even the unlovable? Is there joy in your journey? Do you wake up excited about what kind of plans the Lord has for you that day? Are you at peace? Do you have that “peace that passes all understanding?” Are you patient? Are you patient with the people closest to you when they seem to be under a different time frame than you are working in? Are you kind? Are you kind even to those who are not kind to you? Are you kind to the person who just let you down in some way?

Are you full of goodness? Do you care for others around you with graciousness? Are you as gracious to your family as you are to others? Are you honest and do you display integrity in your daily walk? Are you faithful in your work, your home, and in your church and community? Are you gentle with people in all circumstances? Even with those who are not gentle with you? Do you have the self-control you need to live a healthy, productive life?

The fruits of the spirit truly do paint a picture of Christ’s character. If you are like me, you fall woefully short of getting it right all the time. Yet these qualities are something I aspire to. I believe it will make me the most useful I can be in the Lord’s hands.

So, in review, what do I believe makes you an authentic Adventist?

  1. You whole-heartedly embrace our name. You are someone who believes in the Seventh-day Sabbath and eagerly awaits the soon return of our Lord and Savior.
  2. You know and understand Seventh-day Adventist 28 fundamental beliefs.
  3. You don’t hold our beliefs, however, as your final authority; that is reserved for Scripture and Scripture alone. You will continue to study God’s Word to learn even more about who He is and His plans for each one of us.
  4. Your heart’s desire is to reflect the character of Christ to the world, which is best understood in the fruits of the spirit.

I am sure each of you could make your own list as to what makes someone an authentic Adventist, but these are my thoughts as I reflect on the church and people I love. May the Lord bless each of you as you continue to walk in His glory and grace.

Gary Thurber is the president of Mid-America Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Email him at: [email protected] 

24 Jul


Seventh-day Adventism is a particular faith. When formalizing the organization of the church in 1863, the Adventist pioneers chose to put that peculiarity and particularity in the name of the new denomination. Particularity is important, but sometimes zooming in close can cause us to miss some of the bigger picture.

When we can see the brushstrokes, we experience a painting in one way. When we see the painting from the other side of the room, the brush strokes are still vital elements of the artwork, but we might also see, respond to, and understand the painting in a different and larger way. This longer vantage point might also be a way to better appreciate the individual textures and brush strokes in their proper context.

Seventh-day Adventist Church is a particular way of describing our faith. But if we step back for a wider view, we might appreciate the unique elements of our faith differently. Provisionally describing ourselves as “Sabbath Hope Grace-people” seems an experiment worth trying—that could offer a greater and more practical authenticity when we return to the particularity of what we believe.


The seventh day is an important particular of Adventist faith. It is not any Sabbath—we insist—but the seventh- day Sabbath. For much of our history, we have put a lot of effort into arguing against other Sabbaths. We might have won some arguments, but we have often lost the larger battles as increasingly our society has turned away from any kind of Sabbath-keeping. Now we like to claim to be one of the largest Sabbath-keeping faith communities in the world, which ignores the reality of the general disregard of Sabbath in most consumer cultures, where our particular claim is cause only for incomprehension for most people.

There has been some renewed interest in Sabbath in recent years. But our insistence on particularity has meant that such interest is suspect among many Adventists, we have created barriers to contributing to these conversations, and others have been hesitant to engage with our presentations of Sabbath. For example, most of the best books on the topic of Sabbath have not been written by Seventh-day Adventists1 and even those worthwhile books that have been written by Adventist scholars and authors2 have not received wide readership or acceptance, either within or beyond Adventism.

As important as it might be, Sabbath as Saturday is nowhere near as interesting or inviting as Sabbath as rest, delight, and liberation. While we continue to insist on the importance of Sabbath as a particular day commanded by God, we need to take that step back to rediscover these other components of Sabbath and its practice. After we do this work, we might then be able to share how the particularity of the seventh day can actually enhance these more meaningful aspects of Sabbath. That we rest when Sabbath comes to us, rather than when it suits us, gives rest more reliability and sustainability. That we delight in Sabbath means we begin to look forward to it more and to order the rest of our week in its light. That Sabbath comes to all, not only to us, means that we seek ways to share Sabbath with others in ways that benefit their lives, even if it costs or inconveniences us. We will be more authentically Seventh-dayers only after we are more fully Sabbathers.


When we talk “Adventist,” our particularity directs to thinking about, anticipating, and perhaps even “getting ready” for the second coming of Jesus. Of course, this is important and holds an overwhelmingly significant place in the identity, purpose, and mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It is the fundamental impulse and perpetual longing of Christian history, but has flowered anew in the Adventist movements of the past two centuries. It is also the as-yet disappointed expectation of our earliest pioneers and the focus of sometimes frantic attempts at prophetic interpretations among many misguided date-setters and preachers since.

Taking a small step back for that larger view, we can observe that Adventist describes the full story of Jesus, including His incarnation, which necessarily grounds His promises to return. A second coming does not happen without a first—and if we don’t know Jesus, news of His second coming is most likely unnerving. So a more authentic Adventism devotes more attention to Jesus, His life and teachings, death and resurrection, as key elements in any and all hope of His return.

The next step back for a bigger perspective takes us to the concept and practice of hope. As it is often used today, hope is a slippery and somewhat ephemeral word, more akin to wishful thinking. But we must insist on a more substantial understanding of hope.

Meaningful hope is not merely some distant beacon, but a future-oriented practice of present transformation based on past experience. What we believe about the future is based on what we believe about the past, which—most importantly—shapes us, our lives and our world today. The formula in Hebrews 6 includes the promises God has given to us in the past plus our present and enduring faithfulness leading to a future inheritance. This formula also insists that our present hope-shaped lives play a role in creating that future: Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true (Hebrews 6:11).

When we reframe our anticipation of the Second Coming in the story of Jesus and the daily practice of hope, sharing Bible prophecy will sound less like the conspiracy-mongering that some have made it into and more like a truly blessed hope (see Titus 2:13). It will also be an increasingly transformative influence in our attitudes to the world around us, undermining evil and injustice and motivating us to make a difference with those who are most disadvantaged and marginalized. We will be more authentically Adventist when we are more hope-filled, hope-shaped and hope-motivated.


There are so many assumptions and images that leap into our minds with mention of the word church—and so many of them are less than what it ought to be. A few years ago, I was making a brief presentation to one of the “highest” denominational committees in our region, and I had the temerity to point out that, for all its church leaders and representatives, this executive committee was not the church. At best, it could offer only an administrative support structure for the actual church that lives, works, and worships together in so many local communities across the region in so many everyday ways.

Taking a step back from the particularity of church—in this case the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a worldwide organizational structure or even any of its more regional or localized constituent components—we might observe a community of grace, people drawn together from many different backgrounds and stories by little more than their common following of Jesus. They bring their large and small experiences of transformation and hope into common gatherings for worship, encouragement and service, primarily because somehow, He invited them individually together.

Such a community is welcoming and includes and invites people who might not otherwise interact, but for grace, as well as those who are not yet there. We are called out of the world, but not away from the world (see John 17:14–16). Church that makes sense is always about people, both those within the community of faith and those around it. Any church organization, institution, or policy is only useful to the degree that it supports, encourages, and enhances these communities of grace.

We will be more authentically church when we recognize our highest expression in the gathering of a few local followers of Jesus, perhaps with a few more who are trying to follow Him or are even quite uncertain about following Him, seeking to share their lives, encourage each other, and serve their wider community together.

Sabbath Hope Grace-people

The particularity that we know as the Seventh-day Adventist Church must not be allowed to eclipse the bigger meaning that the particular elements of the name rely upon. These wider perspectives must inform our understanding of the particulars. We cannot be an authentic Seventh-day Adventist Church without a better appreciation of Sabbath and hope practiced together by people in communities of grace.

Particularity is important, but our faith draws us into a broader view and a larger world. Sometimes we need to step away from the canvas. While admiring their precision or flourish, if we get lost in the brush strokes, we might miss the larger beauty of which they are a part and for which those brush strokes were created.

Nathan Brown is a writer and editor at Signs Publishing in Warburton, Victoria, Australia. Nathan recently launched Thinking Faith, a collection of his articles in Mountain Views over the past few years, as well as being co-editor of A House on Fire: How Adventist Faith Responds to Race and Racism. Email him at: [email protected]

1 For example, The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel (1951), Sabbath by Wayne Muller (2000), Sabbath As Resistance by Walter Brueggemann (2014), and The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer (2019).

2 For example, The Lost Meaning of the Seventh Day by Sigve Tonstad (2009).