My name is Deon Keet and I’m 40 years old and South African. I have lived in Johannesburg with my family for most of my life. I attended the Former Adventist Fellowship (FAF) weekend at Trinity Church recently and did not get a chance to really share my story. Here it is.
I do not have terrible or horrible stories to tell about Adventism. I was born and raised in a reasonably strict Adventist home and even though both my parents have been full-time church employees for their whole lives, they did not subscribe to the more ‘funny’ and fanatical writings of Ellen White regarding diet, health, overly strict ‘Sabbath keeping’, etc. We were ‘balanced’ Adventists. As far as 1844 and the investigative judgment were concerned, they were never topics of discussion in our household and I believe with my whole heart that my parents & brother DO NOT really believe in this concept, even though they defended it one way or another when I started arguing with them. There were even the occasional joke about Ellen White of the variety: “Sister White says you must not do this or that or whatever.” We weren’t vegetarian.
My brother & I had a stable upbringing and were privileged enough to have attended very good, non-Adventist, primary & secondary schools. These schools had a strong Protestant Christian foundation. After school both of us went on to study for degrees in accounting at a very good university in Johannesburg. For some reason my parents believed it not appropriate for us to be in Adventist schools. My parents were very stable, caring, loving people and for this upbringing I will thank them in eternity. I was only 10 years old when the Desmond Ford saga made its waves to South Africa. I remember asking my mom what was happening and she said that certain people want us to discount everything we believed and start a new religion from scratch. I remember my reply: “I do not believe that there is something better out there than Adventism. If Adventism has something wrong with it, then it must still be the least wrong of all the other churches and I’ll happily stay there.”
Life went great and I got baptized when I was 16. I did not know or understand the 1st thing about Adventism. I was asked to attend a series of presentations at the local city hall, given by one of my pastor uncles whom also baptized me later. I attended and saw some pretty amazing stuff! Things I would never have dreamt about. I thought how lucky I was that all this has now been revealed to me. At least I would be saved when the whole world was under fire. All I had to do was to keep the Sabbath and not eat any pork and I would be fine. I felt nothing when I got baptized. I did it because it was expected of me in a ‘silent’ sort of way, if you know what I mean. I did not know Jesus. I did not want to disappoint.
As I grew older in the church I started to get exposed more and more to some ‘funny’ discussions in Sabbath School classes about the investigative judgment and what it really meant. It seemed like a really weird topic and it did not bother or interest me at all. This whole concept sounded dubious to me. I was a ‘lazy’ Adventist when it came to these kind of topics. So lazy, in fact, that I NEVER read ONE book from Ellen White! Not ONE! Not even Great Controversy. Sure, I would have researched certain passages of certain chapters, but I never read any book of Ellen White from cover to cover. I tried to read Great Controversy, but found it written in an extremely boring, uninspiring ‘tone’. I could never get past page 6 or so. It never, ever gripped me. But I held on to the Sabbath. I was quite active in the church and sang in a quartet ministry and also took part in many welfare activities.
Life seemed ok, but something was slowly starting to bother me. If all those stories about the investigative judgment and me having to stand perfectly before the Father WITHOUT a MEDIATOR were true, and if perfect “Sabbath Keeping” and vegetarianism were some of the requirements, then I was in HUGE trouble. It started to dawn on me that I did not have a chance of making it to Heaven despite being in the remnant church – what a shame. All this I kept inside of me. Then there were also the occasional sermon about salvation by faith in Jesus alone, WITHOUT works, which really confused me. I tried to work it out for myself, but I got stuck every time. My parents never discussed these topics in our household. There was always the assumption that as long as you are faithful in the Sabbath, not eating pork, tithe giving, not too extreme in anything, no alcohol, no tobacco, you’ll be “fine.” This didn’t seem like asking too much, did it?
Whenever there was any news in the local papers about the POPE calling for certain workers rights on Sundays, then there was quite a stir in the local church and we were asked to pray to God so that somehow these things would not happen or be delayed or whatever. I always asked WHY. Because if the POPE is really whom WE think he is, then this must be fulfillment of prophecy and we should rejoice! I became very unfulfilled spiritually and I felt dead and depressed for a year or more. Then, during the winter (USA Summer) of 2008 I visited my parents (whom had emigrated to the USA years before) as well as some other relatives in Tennessee. This uncle of mine was a conference evangelist (not the one who baptized me in SA) and he was on about something. He kept talking about Daniel 8:14 and how this had bothered him since the earliest days of his ministry. He said he could not reconcile the traditional Adventist views with the context of the verse and he was writing a whole book about it. To my Father’s dismay, this intrigued me greatly as he was also on about how “us” Adventists have this whole Heavenly Millennium/desolated earth thing of Revelation all messed up. He was also preaching some radical “new” concepts about salvation and that it’s easier than we believe. All those ‘funny’ Sabbath School classes suddenly flashed by in front of me and I knew there and then that I had to dig into this once and for all. We did not discuss the issues at any real depth, but I was going to make contact with my uncle once back in SA.
We arrived back in SA a couple of days later. I had to teach a Sabbath School class the next Sabbath and I felt empty inside. I contacted my uncle and poured my heart out to him about my Adventist fears about being lost forever unless I’m perfect before the Father. I also wanted to know about Daniel 8:14. I was about to enter a world which was unknown (maybe for good reason) to me for the past 38 years…Wow! This Daniel 8:14 embraced a massive doctrine which seemed to hold the entire system of Adventism in place. If this was faulty, the whole system collapsed – as simple as that. I first checked up on the official doctrine as in 27 Fundamental Beliefs. I tried with all my heart to connect this with the Bible, but I couldn’t. What a terrible Adventist I had been! I then studied A LOT of essays for and against by top SDA (some of them FORMER) scholars and teachers. For me it was simple: this foundational doctrine had to be 100% biblical and bullet proof or it was completely false. I could not believe what unveiled in front of my eyes. I do not wish to bore everyone with details, but suffice to say that given the overwhelming weight of the evidence, this was an easy doctrine to leave behind. Secondly I started to research Ellen White and I stumbled across a website called ellenwhiteexposed.com. The amount and clarity of the material was staggering! Here’s some advice to all Adventists out there: if you want to stay Adventist, please DO NOT read the material on this website. It WILL change you now or later, but some time for sure. I checked up on EVEYTHING. I made sure that those statements were REALLY made by Ellen White. I suspect that most Adventists do not know or understand the slightest clue about their history. Once you do, you won’t stay Adventist for long. The ‘Hierarchy’ has obviously tried to withhold and protect this info for ages. Thank God for the internet and that He’s inspired people like Dirk Anderson and Mark Martin! Once again, the weight of the evidence was overwhelming. Ellen White faded away for good. Not that she was really ever ‘up there’ in my life, but I knew I couldn’t ignore her. Looking back, if I had started with this info, I would not even have needed to study so much about the 1844 doctrine – it would have taken care of itself.
So what now? Ellen White has fallen and so has 1844, but what about the SABBATH? Surely this was totally untouchable in scripture as I had been taught and believed? No, this I would not tamper with. I would still attend church on Sabbaths, but I’ll just keep quiet about this other ‘stuff’. After all, my uncle in the USA had written a book called “The Fourth Dilemma”. Even I read this a couple of times and every time I read it, it sounded better! But my informational ‘thirst’ would not be quenched until I had had a careful look at what Christian authors & teachers had to say about the Sabbath/Sunday issue. Besides, going to church has suddenly become a very painful experience as just about everything I heard from the pulpit and Sabbath School classes shouted against me. I remembered my uncle telling me that there was good material on Dale Ratzlaff’s website (LAM) about 1844 & Ellen White, but that I must be careful as Dale Ratzlaff has also called farewell to the Sabbath and that is ‘wrong’. So off I went to see exactly what Dale Ratzlaff had to say about the Sabbath/Sunday issue and also some other prominent authors. Again, I will not bore you with too many details, but the single biggest turning point came after I had read a published debate between two SDA & Christian pastors in a Las Vegas newspaper in 1950. I discovered a whole new world! I found like I had discovered the Bible for the 1st time. This whole thing about the old/new covenant had been completely diminished and underplayed in SDA circles and theology so that it felt to me like I was in grade 1! I read the entire debate about 4 times. I knew I could not be SDA anymore and I knew there was going to be a price. It was agony going to church and staying involved. I slowly started to release myself from my church responsibilities during the course of 2009. Then I started to tune my ears to some Christian sermons. Then Jesus started saying: “Deon, I have shown you many wonderful things the last 2 years, isn’t it time you give your heart and life to ME. We’ve explored THINGS, but I really want YOU and I want you to love ME, personally and forget about all the ‘stuff’.” This I did one evening in August 2009. All I can say is that the peace of knowing Jesus and knowing that you’re saved and have eternal life NOW compares to nothing out there. Everything else looks very small.
My SDA church responsibilities ended at end December 2009. The 19th of December 2009 was my last Sabbath ‘attendance’. In January 2010 I started attending a large non-denominational Christian church in our local community with a membership of about 6000 people. It sounds like a lot, but in my experience it feels small. I sent my official letter of ‘resignation’ to the local SDA pastor & church board in April 2010. I was very straight forward about my reasons for leaving. I had a very good reputation in the church and people were shocked (so I’m told) to hear about this. I believe the letter was read out loud in front of the whole church by the head elder. I hope this was true because maybe it shocked some people enough to ask some serious questions. I also developed this huge urge to get baptized into my new Christian faith and did so during September 2010. This time it felt good. I did it because I WANTED to.
I do not regret my Adventist history. Everything was planned for me by a fantastic GOD and HE ALONE prepared my heart for something much better at exactly the right moment. The peace and Christian freedom I now experience daily could not have had such profound significance had it not been for my Adventist background.
The cost of my decision came in the form of damaged family ties--especially with my Parents. Almost all my family and extended family is SDA. Quite expensive. It’s hopeless to argue with an Adventist--ask me, I was one! As stated before, GOD ALONE can remove the veil AND give you the courage to WALK. Oh, we speak and laugh and chit chat, but things are not the same anymore. I got some really scathing, attacking, personal letters from people I don’t want to mention. Yeah it hurts a lot, but it fades into insignificance when compared to what I live & experience now. It DEFINITELY was worth it.
To God be ALL the Glory!
Johannesburg, South Africa
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