I was first introduced to Seventh-day Adventism several years back, when I was in high school I believe, when I overheard a television broadcast my father was watching. He explained to me that the speaker was Adventist and commented that he was saying some pretty wild things. I sat down for a few minutes and listened. It was about a week before Easter and the speaker was extravagantly claiming that attending Easter sunrise services was sin. I don't remember much else the man said, but that comment stuck with me. I did not understand why he said that, but then my father explained that Adventists worship and go to church on Saturdays, not Sunday. I simply nodded in acknowledgment. Following that evening, I really never gave Adventism much of a thought.
When I met my wife, she was going through some emotional problems. We had talked a lot about her problems, and through talking, we found out we were both Christians. When she mentioned that she was Seventh-day Adventist, that evening years before began to flash through my mind. I knew about the whole Saturday thing, but no details, just that I thought it was wrong. I thought perhaps we could learn some from each other.
While our relationship grew, our understanding of each other's theology did not. Several times we came to a head about the Sabbath. I began to learn why they keep it the way they do, and I even took some time to examine their Biblical basis. We had other discussions about the Left Behind book series, of which at the time I was a strong proponent. (The rightness or wrongness of the book series not being discussed here.) Through those discussions, I learned a bit about Adventist eschatology, which I just dismissed as false.
Then for about six months or so we hadn't spoken much about the differences in our beliefs, other than acknowledging that we had them. During the summer of 2001, Sara introduced me to Amazing Facts, and I began to read material on their website. Also during that summer she moved back to Florida from California. (It's a bit complicated to explain, but we met on the Internet. We had dialoged about 10 months before we met face-to-face.) We had Bible studies on non-Adventist issues, but privately I continued to read their material. It was pretty much a scattershot of material, reading about the Sabbath, their unique end time teachings, etc. Nothing made much of any sense, but I was intrigued.
When the Fall semester began, my study stepped up considerably. I had met an Adventist in one of my classes, and I told him about my inquiries. He invited me to the local SDA church in town and I went a few times. While there, he gave me boatloads of reading material, including a copy of Ellen White's Desire of Ages. I began reading it that night.
I remember lying in bed thinking about the implications of Sabbath keeping. I began thinking about how I could have been wrong all those years I'd been a Christian. I thought about how so many people could be wrong by worshipping on Sunday. Following September 11th I asked Sara to marry me, and we began making tentative wedding plans. I emailed my future mother-in-law telling her that I had been attending SDA church and tried giving Sabbath keeping a shot. She could not have been happier. For a period of about three to four weeks, I seriously flirted with Adventism.
Then, about a month later, I "accidently" stumbled upon the Former Adventist Fellowship Online. I searched through the site and surfed the links. Finally I had found what I had been looking for all along: material countering Adventist beliefs. Finally I could begin a more organized, two-sided study.
The first thing that really piqued my interest was Chaplain Dave Dephino's testimony. His statements about Ellen White were alarming at first, especially since I was unaware of her prominent role in the church and I was in the middle of reading one of her books. I took his advise and began my study with the Miller Movement and EGW's role in it. I spent a good two months on Dirk Anderson's EGW site. I filled a whole notebook with notes and journalled my thoughts. The evidence was overwhelming as to EGW's involvement in the movement, the emergence of the Adventist Church and its early beliefs. Reading through the exposition of the investigative judgment really settled the issue for me. It was not before long that I threw away my copy of Desire of Ages.
I felt so ashamed that I had ever gotten myself so engrossed with Adventism. I tried to share what I had found with Sara and her mom, to no avail. I shared with my classmate, and he was alarmed to the point where he left the Adventist church, but strongly held onto the Sabbath. I knew that this was going to be the biggest point of difference in my relationship with Sara, and I honestly was scared as to what might develop. That fear was exaserbated when we found out that we were expecting our first child.
As we hastened our wedding plans, we discussed how we would teach our son Biblical truths as he got older. I obviously knew that she would want heavy emphasis on the Sabbath. The more I studied, the more I came to realize that SDA Sabbath doctrine was not true, especially when you add on the investigative judgment, the mark of the beast, and the other end time doctrines. The Internet opened up a wide array of study material for me. I was constantly learning. I desperately wanted to share with Sara the truth of her beliefs, but every time we just ended up arguing. This continued even after our wedding in May 2002, until I basically gave up. Arguing was getting us nowhere.
When we moved to our apartment in Gainesville, she began raising questions that she knew challenged her beliefs. We read through Galatians and Romans, and for the first time she began to see things that she had never seen before. By personal conviction, she no longer could consider herself Adventist. The truth set her free.
After about a year of study, I not only familiarized myself with how to deal with Adventism, but I began to realize the wonderful grace of God. I read Bob George's Classic Christianity a few times over this past summer and then again with Sara. The New Testament has come alive to me more than it ever has. I find it amazing that God used Adventism to lead me to His wonderful love and grace.
Seventh-day Adventism has a very Satanic claim upon it. Only recently have I been comfortable expressing that because it has taken me awhile to come to that reality. Several of its doctrines are not just deceptive, but cultic. When I read Dr. Walter Martin's exposition of Adventism from the 1950s, I could only shake my head at his conclusion, because his worst fears did indeed come true. The current movement within Adventism is towards a reinvigoration of its founding doctrines. Those familiar with the denomination should be fearful if it reaches its full potential. Adventism's exclusivity and rightness could very well lead to more damaging views of other Christians. Adventism is much more closer to regaining its widespread cult status that it had before Dr. Martin's exposition. The current Adventist generation will likely suffer the most because of how much the church chooses not to tell them. It is indeed a group that needs praying for.
I am not an Adventist. I have never been an Adventist. I did come close to being one though. I praise God that He "hit me over the head" when He did. I love the Adventist people. I somewhat feel a calling to reach out to the Adventist population, particularly the young who know nothing of its complicated history. I praise God for what He has done through my wife, and for the unlearning process she is still undergoing. (We all are come to think of it.) I pray for my mother-in-law that God will break through to her and see the true Sabbath rest in Christ. I praise God for the community at Former Adventist Fellowship. It has truly been a blessing to me in my growth in Christ.
As Bob George put it so well in Classic Christianity, "If truth sets you free, it must be error that binds you." May we continue to praise God for His grace that led us into His truth and pray for those who are still bound by the error of Adventism.
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