"And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life." 1 John 5:11-13.
As a fourth generation Seventh-day Adventist, I grew up without the assurance that I was saved. I wanted to be saved and hoped that I would be, but feared that I would not. I lived in constant fear that should Christ come back to earth or should my life end, there might be some sin in my life that I had not overcome that would prevent me from gaining eternal life. I tried to perfect my life and character but no matter how hard I tried, ultimately in my heart I knew that I was not good enough. I was deeply rooted in legalism and a belief system that acknowledged grace but still required individual works and a legalistic keeping of the ten-commandment law in order to gain salvation. This included a long list of constantly debated acceptable and unacceptable behaviors on the Sabbath.
A statement by the Adventist prophetess that it was wrong to feel or to say that one is saved (Ellen White, Christ's Object Lessons, p. 155) further compounded my fears. I was taught and believed that the SDA Church was the remnant church, had "the truth", and is infallible. Our prophetess had declared, "When the judgement of the General Conference, which is the highest authority that God has upon earth, is exercised, private independence and private judgement must not be maintained, but must be surrendered." (Ellen White, Testimonies, vol. 3, p.492).
I was also taught that the papacy was the beast of Revelation and other protestant denominations were Babylon. I believed that Sunday keeping was the mark of the beast and that Sabbath keeping was the seal of God and the ultimate determinant of who would be saved and who would not be saved during the final days of this earth's history. Anyone that rejected the doctrine of the Sabbath (all the people of the world would be drawn into the Sabbath debate in the final days) would receive the mark of the beast.
Most important was my concept of salvation, which according to Adventism was dependent upon a life of perfection through individual effort. I was taught that the blood of Christ on Calvary did not cancel my sins or provide an immediate atonement. All of my sins would still remain on record in the heavenly sanctuary until my name came up during the Investigative Judgement (Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 357). At that time, if I had not perfectly overcome each sin in my life, even confessed sins would stand as a witness against my life. This unique SDA doctrine also taught that at the completion of the Investigative Judgement, which began in 1844, those living on earth would be left standing before a Holy God without a mediator.
Early in my life I had been taught to believe the infallibility of the SDA prophetess, Ellen White. As the "Lord's Messenger", I believed that she was divinely inspired and that her writings were as much inspired by God as were those of any of the Bible prophets; to be followed without question. This was an enormous task based on an estimated 100,000 pages of manuscript (15-20 million words) written by her. Admittedly, I always had some doubts about certain statements that she made which seemed contradictory to the Bible, her own writings, and to scientific evidence (such as the amalgamation of man and beast resulting in sub-human races and species). I was also concerned about her prophecies that had not come to pass. However, she claimed divine inspiration and I tried to put aside my doubts as something that I just could not quite understand.
When asked who told her "these things" that were expressed in her writings, Ellen White responded that she would not "belittle the testimonies that God has given me, to make explanations to try and satisfy such narrow minds, but shall treat all such questions as an insult to the Spirit of God" (Testimonies, vol. 3, pp. 314-15).
During her lifetime and in succeeding years, many doubts have surfaced as to the sources of her writings including many charges that she plagiarized from the writings of others. Over the past 30 years, such accusations have increased with publications such as The White Lie, by Walter Rea and Whitewashed by Sydney Cleveland. Not wanting to become involved in negative thinking and in "fear of being deceived", I along with most Adventists chose not to read these publications. Instead, I modified my views of her writings, deciding that I could "pick and choose", believing only those things that seemed logical to me. I ignored her own advice concerning her writings. She herself had stated, "There is no halfway work in the matter. The Testimonies are of the Spirit of God or of the devil" (Testimonies, vol. 4, p 230).
God's Grace and The New Covenant
In the autumn of 1996, I began attending Grace Place, which began as an outreach ministry of the SDA church with the goal of reaching the "bored, the burned, and the by-passed." Senior Pastor Clay Peck preached a Christ-centered theme of grace. As I studied the true Gospel of Salvation in Christ alone, I thrilled to the message of God's unconditional grace.
"Godhas saved us and called us to a holy life not because of anything we have done, but because of his own purpose and grace." (2 Timothy 1:9).
"For it is by grace you have been saved, though faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:9,10).
He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy . . . that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:5, 7).
being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24).
For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law (Romans 3:28).
At first it was difficult to comprehend that grace alone would save me. I had always believed in grace plus works for did not James say that faith without works is dead? I went back and read the entire 2nd chapter of James to try and understand the context. For the first time in my life I realized that the works James was speaking of was not adherence to a list of "do's and don'ts", even to the ten-commandment law, but rather how we treat our fellow man according to the "royal law found in Scripture. 'Love your neighbor as yourself' ", verse 8.
The focus on grace alone and not on traditional doctrinal teachings created too much controversy for the SDA church. In response to outcries from the "faithful", the Adventist church disavowed Grace Place in 1997 and revoked the ministerial credentials of Clay Peck. However, Grace Place continued to grow and thrive as an inter-denominational group. It was about this time that Clay began a series on "New Covenant Christians". Together we examined all of the covenants of both the Old and New Testaments. I was amazed at how often and in what detail the new covenant was spoken of and contrasted to the old covenant, particularly in the writings of Paul.
"You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant-not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters of stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!" 2 Corinthians 3:7-11.
"He declared to you his covenant, the Ten Commandments, which he commanded you to follow and then wrote them on two stone tablets." Deuteronomy 4:13.
"Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nightsAnd he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant the Ten Commandments." Exodus 34:28.
"When Moses finished writing in a book the words of the law from beginning to end, he gave this command to the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord: 'Take this Book of the Law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God. There it will remain as a witness against you..'" Deuteronomy 31:24-26.
Through these and many similar texts, I came to understand that the old covenant is all the laws of Moses. The entire writings of Moses, often referred to as the "Book of the Law" are inclusive of the ten-commandment law, often referred to as the "Words of the Law", or the "Words of the Covenant".
In contrast, Isaiah had promised a new covenant when he wrote
"I will make you [The Messiah] to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles" (Isaiah 42:6).
"I will keep you and make you to be a covenant for the people" (Isaiah 49:8).
Jesus is the new covenant!
"For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. But God found fault with the people and said: 'The time is coming when I will make a new covenant It will not be like the old covenant I made with their forefathers'" Hebrews 8:7-9.
"By calling this covenant 'new' He has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear." Hebrews 8:13.
It is obvious that the new covenant was a better covenant than the old covenant. So why was the old covenant given?
"Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law." Galatians 3:23-25.
It also became clear to me that the new covenant was not really new at all, for Jesus is eternal. Galatians 3 talks about the faith based covenant God made with Abraham. The new covenant in Jesus is thus a continuation of the faith-based covenant given to Abraham.
"Consider Abraham: 'He believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.' Understand, then that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: 'All nations will be blessed through you.'" Galatians 3:12.
In contrast to the covenant of faith God made with Abraham, the old covenant or law covenant was not based on faith.
"The law is not based on faith; on the contrary. 'The man who does these things will live by them.'" Galatians 3:12
As I gained an appreciation for the contrast between the old and new covenants and their purposes, I needed to understand the application for my life. Was the old covenant to be continued after Jesus came in fulfillment of the promises given to Abraham?
"What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. For if inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise. What then was the purpose of the law? It was added because of the transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come." Galatians 3:17-19.
Paul goes on in Galatians 4 to contrast the old and new covenants, liking them to the slave woman (Hagar) and the free woman (Sarah).
"Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and one by the free woman. His son the by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as a result of the promise. These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free and she is our mother." Galatians 4:21-26.
Are we then to continue in the old covenant?
"But what does the Scripture say? 'Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman's son.' Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman." Galatians 4:30-31.
"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1.
"Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away." 2 Corinthians 3:12-16.
My Religious Dissonance
My spiritual world was changing as I prayed for guidance and studied the Epistles. Repeatedly Paul warned the early Christians not to be drawn back into the slavery of those insisting on a Christ plus something else gospel. Specifically he was speaking of the Christian Jews in the early church wanting to impose on the Gentiles the many requirements of the laws of Moses, including circumcision and the observance of certain feasts and holy days. He pleads with the early Christians to focus on Jesus alone and His grace.
"Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it as through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are." Acts 15:10,11.
"All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.'" Galatians 3:10
Paul further admonished the early Christians to live in harmony and to not judge one another on debatable matters.
"Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ." Colossians 2:16,17.
"One man considers one day more sacred than another, another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind stop passing judgement on one another." Romans14: 5,13.
I began to understand that the discord and divisive judgements warned against in the early church were nearly identical to the "pillars" of my belief system. Although I had often read these texts as I was growing up, I had always accepted the Adventist way of dismissing or explaining them away as referring to "ceremonial laws" rather than inclusive of the ten commandment law. Interestingly, I was still being expected to observe even selected ceremonial laws, particularly in the area of diet. In light of my new understanding of the covenants I was convinced that the entire Mosaic Law, including the ten commandments, was the old covenant that God had made with Israel; a covenant that was to last until the coming of the Seed. So now what? Was I to believe that the ten-commandment law had been abolished? Was I to follow Paul's advice and get "rid of the slave woman"? I studied further and found my answer.
"'Do not think that I am come to abolish the Law or the Prophets: I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.'" Matthew 5:17-18.
Adventism had always taught me that this text meant that the Law would last until heaven and earth disappeared rather than "until everything is accomplished". I now understood that throughout Matthew, each time the word "law" is used, it is referring to the Torah, the entire writings of Moses with all of the sacrificial offerings and ceremonies, and not just the ten-commandments. All these shadows pointed to Christ and His sacrifice through whom was the accomplishment and fulfillment. If the law and prophets were to continue until heaven and earth disappeared (rather than when everything is accomplished), then each and every aspect of the Torah would continue to be a requirement, not just the ten-commandment law.
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross." Colossians 2:13-14.
"For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations." Ephesians 2:14-15.
"Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes." Romans 10:4
The entire Mosaic Law, the old covenant, was fulfilled at Calvary. Now that we are in Christ we no longer live by the Old Covenant, the ten-commandments. We have a new law, written on our hearts.
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:34,35.
"So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. Bu now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code." Romans 7:4-6.
"You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself'" Galatians 5:13-14.
"Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" Galatians 6:2
"Love does no harm to a neighbor therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." Romans 13:10
Finally it became clear to me. Jesus has fulfilled the old covenant requirements and we cannot continue to live under both covenants. Either we accept the new covenant, Jesus Christ, and His full atonement and His grace, or we choose to live under the old covenant requirements, including a life of absolute perfection, for it is a law of sin and death. We cannot have grace PLUS something else that we must do to earn salvation. For me, to believe that I have any part to play in my salvation is to not fully accept His gift. It is paramount to telling Him that His gift was nice but not enough. For most of my life, I had rationalized that in this debate between righteousness by faith and that of works, by doing good works I was in a more favorable relationship with God than those relying on grace alone. Certainly it couldn't hurt to have this hedge of good deeds by my name! Now I realize the fallacy of my thinking and the associated "boastfulness" in my life that Paul had been speaking of. I began to realize that ANY dependency on works is a denial of His gift of grace and in essence made me a non-believer.
"Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be met fully in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit." Romans 8:1-4.
The Adventist Prophetess
During this time of heartfelt searching, my prayerful study had been focused completely on the Bible. I had opened my heart and my mind and with a hungering desire asked for God's leading in my life. I had done so without the "filtering" influence of Ellen White's writings. I knew that I had some serious intellectual dissonance with what I had learned and what my church was teaching. I was rejoicing in my new heartfelt convictions on God's grace and His atonement and praising Him. I knew that I must now go back and decide once and for all whether or not Ellen White was a true prophet. I was ashamed of my many years of intellectual and spiritual dishonesty in "picking and choosing" which of her writings I thought were inspired and those that I did not, primarily based on what I personally wanted to believe or not believe. Again, her words reminded me, "If the Testimonies speak not according to the Word of God, reject them." (Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 691) and "There is no halfway work in the matter. The Testimonies are of the Spirit of God, or of the devil." (Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 230).
No longer fearing that an open mind was a mind susceptible to deception, I purchased a copy of Whitewashed by former SDA pastor, Sydney Cleveland and began to read. Some of the failed prophecies, biblical contradictions, contradictions of herself, denials of things she had previously said, charges of plagiarism, etc., were previously known to me, but others were not. I was not prepared for the amount of information that I found, or its implications in terms of the number of direct contradictions between the Bible and Ellen White.
I was most concerned with her views and biblical contradictions on the subjects of Christ's atonement and on the subject of grace including man's role, if any, in eternal salvation. Not trusting the accuracy of Whitewashed, I took out my Bible and my Ellen White books to read the passages in context for myself. I cannot begin to list all of the contradictions here, but will include some that were most significant to me.
TIMING OF THE PLAN OF SALVATION
"While Moses was shut in the mount with God, the plan of salvation, dating from the fall of Adam was revealed to him" Selected Messages, vol. 1, pp. 231-232.
"The kingdom of grace was instituted immediately after the fall of man when a plan was devised for the redemption of the guilty race." Great Controversy, p. 347.
"You were redeemedwith the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake." 1 Peter 1:18-20.
For similar scriptures supporting the plan of salvation having been planned before creation, see Titus 1:2, Ephesians 1:4, 2 Timothy 1:9, and Revelation 13:8.
IS SIN BLOTTED OUT WHEN WE REPENT
"The blood of Christ, while it was to release the repentant sinner from the condemnation of the law, was not to cancel sin; it would stand on record in the sanctuary until the final atonement." Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 357.
"At the time appointed for the judgement the close of the 2300 days, in 1844 began the work of investigation and blotting out of sins." Great Controversy, p. 486.
"For I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more." Hebrews 8:12.
"He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations" Colossians 2:13.
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9.
"I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation." 2 Corinthians 6:2.
For other texts showing that our sins are forgiven when we repent, see Ephesians 1:7, Hebrews 13:12, 1 John 1:7, 1 John 2:2, 1 John 4:10, Revelation 1:5, Isaiah 43.25, Jeremiah 31:34, Psalm 103:12.
WAS THE ATONEMENT COMPLETED AT THE CROSS
"Jesus entered the most holy of the heavenly (sanctuary), at the end of the 2300 days of Daniel 8, in 1844, to make a final atonement for all who could be benefited by his mediation" Early Writings, p 253. (A similar statement appears in Great Controversy, p 480.)
"Now, while our great High Priest is making the atonement for us, we should seek to become perfect in Christ." Great Controversy, p. 623.
"God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood." Romans 3:25.
"Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him." Romans 5:9
WHEN DID JESUS ENTER THE MOST HOLY PLACE IN HEAVEN
"I was shown thatthe door was opened in the most holy place in the heavenly sanctuary, where the ark is, in which contained the ten commandments. This door was not opened until the mediation of Jesus was finished in the holy place of the sanctuary in 1844. Then Jesus rose up and shut the door of the holy place, and opened the door into the most holy, and passed within the second veil, where he now stands by the ark." Early Writings, p. 42.
"He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption." Hebrews 9:12 (Written in A.D. 60)
"We do have such a High Priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of Majesty in heaven and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man." Hebrews 8:1,2.
"Those who are living upon the earth when the intercession of Christ shall cease in the sanctuary above are to stand in the sight of a holy God without a mediator." Great Controversy, p. 425.
"Because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them." Hebrews 7:24-25.
A SINLESS LIFE
"Christ died to make it possible for you to cease to sin, and sin is the transgression of the law." The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, vol. 71, no 35, p 1.
"Those only who through faith in Christ obey all of God's commandments will reach the condition of sinlessness in which Adam lived before his transgression." Manuscript 122 quoted in Seventh-day Adventist Commentary, vol. 6, and p. 1118.
"To everyone who surrenders fully to God is given the privilege of living without sin, God requires of us perfect obedience. We are to purify ourselves, even as he is pure." The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, September 27, 1906, p 8.
"The blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives." 1 John 1:8,9.
CHRISTIANS CONDEMNED BEFORE GOD
"'Am I practicing temperance in all things? Is my diet such as will bring me in position where I can accomplish the greatest amount of good?' If we cannot answer these questions in the affirmative, we stand condemned before God." Counsels on Diet and Foods, PP 19-20.
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:1-2.
CHRIST"S ACCEPTANCE OF US
"From what was shown me, there is a great work to be accomplished before you can be accepted in the sight of God." Testimonies, vol. 2, p 84.
"You have a great work to do It is impossible for you to be saved as you are." Testimonies, vol. 2, p 316.
"Accept one another, then, just as Christ has accepted you, in order to bring praise to God." Romans 15:7.
"To obey the commandments of God is the only way to obtain (earn) his favor." Testimonies, vol. 4, p.28.
"Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, 'The righteous will live by faith.'" Galatians 3:11.
WHAT IS THE SEAL OF GOD
"Too late they see that the Sabbath of the fourth commandment is the seal of the living God." Great Controversy, p. 640. See also, Testimonies, vol. 8, p 117.
"You were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit." Ephesians 1:13
"Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." Ephesians 4:30.
CAN YOU SAY YOU ARE SAVED
"Those who accept the Savior, however sincere their conversion, should never be taught to say or to feel that they are saved. This is misleading Those who accept Christ, and are in their first confidence say, I am saved, are in danger of trusting to themselves." Christ's Object Lessons, p. 155.
"I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life." 1 John 5:13.
"I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life." John 6:47.
"It is by grace that you have been saved." Ephesians 2:5.
See also, John 5:24, John 6:54, Acts 15:11, Romans 10:10-11, 1 Corinthians 15:2, Ephesians 2:8, Colossians 1:21-23, 2 Timothy 1:9, Titus 3:5.
John the Revelator had some additional words of caution relative to adding to or taking away from the Bible which began to concern me. Has Ellen White added to or taken away from the Bible?
"I testify to everyone who hears the word of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God shall add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book." Revelation 22:18-19
In comparing Ellen White's writings to the Bible, I made my decision as to whether or not I could accept her as a true prophet. Not only did the many failed prophecies, contradictions, plagiarism, and a pattern of denominational cover-ups and excuses spanning many decades undermine my faith in her writings, but I also began to see a real danger in accepting her writings as those of an inspired prophet. Her writings undermine and make of little importance the atonement of sin by the blood of Jesus. They prevent Christians from full freedom in Christ and the confidence they can enjoy in knowing that they are saved through his grace, concentrating instead on striving for a life of personal perfection in order to attain salvation. I know that I can never trust in myself! I want to put my trust in Christ and know that I am totally dependent upon Him.
Ellen White's statement, "When the judgement of the General Conference, which is the highest authority that God has upon earth, is exercised, private independence and private judgement must not be maintained, but must be surrendered." (Ellen White, Testimonies, vol. 3, p.492), really began to bother me. How is this claim of denominational infallibility any different from similar papal claims against which Adventists are so vocal? Is not the Holy Spirit the highest authority that God has upon earth, whose duty it is to convict individual hearts and minds that are open to Him? I realized that based on my Spirit lead convictions I could not surrender my private judgement to earthly men!
It further amazed me how many of the Adventist doctrines really are founded, not on the Bible, but on Ellen White. This includes biblical doctrines that Adventists interpret in a way much different than they would aside from her teachings, and doctrines that have no biblical basis at all, such as the Investigative Judgement of 1844. Many things that I thought were in the Bible were not; they were in Ellen White's writings. SDA church leaders acknowledged back in 1883 that "Our position on the Testimonies is like the keystone to the arch. Take that out, and there is no logical stopping place till all the special truths of the message are gone. Nothing is surer than this, that this message and the visions belong together and stand or fall together." (Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, August 14, 1883). For me, they had fallen. In my opinion, the gospel proclaimed by Ellen White is "really no gospel at all" for there is no good news in self-righteousness and in trying to earn our own salvation. This is not a recent problem; it has existed since the days of the apostolic church.
"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!" Galatians 1:6-9.
In February 2000, I made my decision to stand for a Christ centered gospel that made Him the Lord of my life. I decided to trust in Christ alone and not depend upon the writings of a prophet that I could not believe completely, or in the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists to make decisions for me. Months earlier, I thought I could continue to be an Adventist with differing views from the traditional set of Adventist beliefs. My entire life had been spent in Adventism where I had devoted my time and talents, serving in many church capacities, including deacon, elder, Sabbath school teacher, and pathfinder leader. I was educated in Adventist schools, as were my children, and the majority of my career has been spent working for an Adventist health care system whose mission I admire and continue to fully support. However, I began to realize how much out of step I was with traditional Adventism, both in beliefs and behavioral expectations. All of the rules and regulations associated with Ellen White and with the old covenant were constantly being argued about in my SDA church and being used to pass judgement upon one another. All of this was preventing a focus on Christ and Christ alone. I could no longer enjoy the arrogance of "having the truth", realizing that only God possesses truth and I began to cringe each time I heard these frequently used, boastful words applied to Seventh-day Adventists.
In one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made, I asked to have my name removed from SDA membership. This was not easy; most of my friends and relatives are Adventists. I do not regret my Adventist heritage, however I am thankful to now be working from victory (that of Christ) and not toward victory! I view my own life in the context of a personal passing from the old covenant into the New.
As strange as it now sounds, even to me, I am no longer a Seventh-day Adventist with 27 fundamental beliefs. I am a "Seven-day Christian" with Jesus Christ as the one and only "pillar" of my faith. I trust in Him alone for my salvation and thank him daily for His unmerited grace so abundantly bestowed on me.
Certainly, I do have other doctrinal beliefs but I consider them "disputable matters" as many conscientious Christians from all ages and cultures have studied the same Bible and yet disagree. I hope to always respect and uphold the differing views others may have on issues of doctrine, rather than classifying them as Babylon. This includes the seventh-day Sabbath, which I now view in the context of a special day of rest, enjoyment, and communion based on creation and not on a list of rules and regulations that were imposed by the old covenant law (and subsequently added to by man!). I certainly no longer believe it to be the "seal of God" and the determinant in the final days of who gets "in" and who is "out". I do not view the majority of Christendom to be in error if they consider every day alike.
I am overjoyed in knowing that I am saved and rejoice daily, thanking Him for revealing his perfect plan of salvation to me. My days are spent having the assurance of salvation, hoping for His soon return, and are no longer spent in fear of not being saved.
"We know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." 1 John 4:16-18.
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