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Creeds and Fundamental Beliefs — 24 Comments

  1. I thought that article rather interesting because I am of those who is concerned about having a creed as in the 27 Fundamental Beliefs. I have not bought one of those books and will not. BUT, the most interesting thing about this article is that it was written by a pathologist. I am also an anatomical pathologist! So now I have to read the article again!

  2. The solution for everybody is to stop arguing. Stop pretending to know everything and that your personal position is the right one. "There are people going hungry... while we stuff our faces with cake." Lets start using our intellect to help those in need and to preach the good news about Jesus (instead of sitting around reading and commenting on articles, blogs, and Facebook even if its for healthy topics). There is no end to all the arguments especially with the invention of the internet.

    • Dear Robert,

      I feel that you have a valid point, but that perhaps you may have overstated it just a bit. As I see it, we should never come to view matters of spiritual truth as merely academic -- a nice intellectual exercise. Souls are at stake. I believe we should say what needs to be said, clearly and as kindly as possible, in articles, blogs, Facebook, and wherever else we can actually help people by so doing.

      God bless.

    • I do agree with you. There is so much for all of us to do in getting out the message for all seasons - THE EVERLASTING GOSPEL. If we give ourselves to Christ and become living sacrifices, then we can count all other things as "RUBBISH" and focus upon His purpose of drawing men and women, boys and girls to Him.


  3. I "believe in" church organization in the sense that organization can make the promulgation of the gospel more efficient than it would be without organization. At the same time, I am a protestant seventh-day adventist. I subscribe to the biblical teaching that the true church consists of those who are believers in the Messiah. Organization is a tool of the church but it is not the church; we (believers) are the church. It is appropriate to have behavioral & doctinal standards for voting membership in our organization. It is appropriate to have higher standards for certain kinds of leadership in the organization. AND it is appropriate to consider to be members of the church (the fellowship of believers) all those who profess faith in the Messiah. This fellowship dos not include those who deny the faith (by professing to be without sin, for example). When I was a child, Sabbath school membership required regular attendance and was considered to be a form of auxillary membership in the SDA organization. Voting membership was reserved for those who were ready to accept the responsibilities of voting membership. Not only would I like to see that concept revived, I suggest that instead of "requiring" people who are paid from tithe funds to teach certain doctrines, they be "required" only to NOT teach the converse of certain doctrines. The word, "fundamental" can be defined as essential to the existance of something. It seems to me that doctrines essential to adventism fall in two categories 1) doctrines held by all of the other protestant denominations and 2) nor more than about a dozen other doctrines. If NOT teaching the converse of those truly fundamental doctrines were combined with an understanding of church oragnization being a tool of the church (rather than a organziation being the church), it seems to me that many "problems" could be avoided.
    Roger Metzger

    • This might be far easier to do, Roger, if some things were not such a moving target. For instance, when I pastored in the late 1970s - early 1980s, baptizing someone wearing a wedding ring could be grounds for dismissal as a pastor. That is no longer the case. So based on the church's position today. A person who taught the opposite of the position held back then would have actually been right by today's perspective. So preventing him or her from presenting their position back then might have been hindering something that was actually correct. What do you think?

      • Forgive me, Stephen, if I don't understand. But are you saying that anything to do with wedding bands is a "fundamental belief"??

        To the best of my knowledge this type of custom has never been a fundamental belief, nor do I expect it to be a fundamental belief.

        Even in her day, Ellen White suggested that in countries, where the wedding band was more or less an obligatory custom, that our people should not try to oppose it, even while she suggested that Americans in such countries should not feel obligated to follow the custom.

        In my mind, what has caused some of the greatest problems in the church is the inability of members and, sadly, often their pastors, to distinguish between biblical principles and their specific application. The biblical principle is modesty and not conforming to the world. The application varies from place to place and is not spelled out in the Bible, being very dependent on culture. And these cultural traditions are always open to some individual judgment.

        My mother and father were married with wedding bands by a Seventh-day Adventist pastor in Germany. My husband and I were married without wedding bands by a Seventh-day Adventist pastor in Canada. Not sure how one son, who is an elder in his church, and his wife dealt with the exchange of wedding bands, but they have worn them ever since their wedding, and we respect their choice.

        By contrast, our fundamental teachings are not "moving targets." Most have their roots in our very early history, even if some have continued to develop and have been refined over time.

        I believe it is reasonable to expect that people who call themselves Seventh-day Adventists uphold our fundamental doctrines -- but especially those who are leaders and are paid from funds contributed by other members. For those who disagree with our fundamental doctrines, there are many other faith communities to choose from who adhere to different doctrines than we do. And certainly there are many other employers.

        • Stephen, apparently you know something I don't. However I would consider there to be a major problem if a pastor clung to a ring so firmly that he would be willing to be fired over it. This sword cuts both ways, it seems.

          No, that doesn't make it a fundamental belief. I know nothing about the local situation, so obviously cannot comment further.

        • There are always various local forms and customs that must be considered for any organization to be successful on a global scale - requiring certain local rules and regulations (for which an employee must be responsible if he/she wishes to maintain employment). However, in no sense do these equate to truly "fundamental" doctrinal positions of the Adventist Church which are not subject to time, place, or circumstance - positions which have been clearly detailed by the Church as an organization.

          While the church does make certain recommendations with regard to various basic principles for diet, health, personal apparel, the bearing of arms, etc., the church has not taken a fundamental stand with regard to the specifics of how these basic recommendations must be applied by all congregations and peoples in all circumstances.

          This is not true for when it comes to truly fundamental doctrinal issues such as the origin and holy nature of the Sabbath day as a memorial of a literal creation week, the imminent Second Coming of Jesus, the non-immortality of the soul or soul sleep in death, etc. These are truly fundamental doctrinal beliefs that do not change or become modified depending on time, place, or circumstance.


  4. While this article is interesting for the historical insights it provides, I would have liked to have seen a more balanced perspective. For instance, it could have also examined Ellen White's concerns over the tendency of some to use the organizational structure to exercise "kingly power." (i.e. Testimonies, Volume 8, "A Division of Responsibility," {8 T 231-235}) The issue of church organization is not as black and white as one might be tempted to believe from the tenor of this article.

    • Kingly power is a concern and it is for this reason that the government of the SDA Church has not been placed into the hands of a single or even a small group of individuals. However, this is not to say that no church hierarchy of any kind is needed. There is a place for governmental structure and order with powers of enforcement from within for those who would wish to take on the title of official representatives of the church. At first all forms of order and government were resisted by the founders of our church. However, they soon found that such powers of order and government were indispensable to the effective transmission of the Gospel message.

      Sean Pitman

        • If someone doesn't agree with the path an organization has chosen to take, on a fundamental level, that person is always free to leave and join or start another organization that is more in line with his/her own personal convictions... without the fear of any civil reprisals of any kind. Fortunately, our church has chosen not to strive to take on powers of civil authority and strongly believes in a very clear separation between church and state.

          Sean Pitman

  5. Stephen while I fully understand what you are saying I do believe we have to be very wise here. In the reference you provided, Ellen White uses the phrase “kingly power” many times. Her point seems to be that any institution in the church and by extension the church itself should never come under the control of any one person or small group of people because sinful man has wrong tendencies and will be like the blind leading the blind (Mat 15:14). While she raises a warning on this I do not believe she is in the least bit saying we should not have organization. It is the kind of organization that she is discussing.

    She also says about the same thing concerning the tower of Babel episode:

    “These enterprises were designed to prevent the people from scattering abroad in colonies. God had directed men to disperse throughout the earth, to replenish and subdue it; but these Babel builders determined to keep their community united in one body, and to found a monarchy that should eventually embrace the whole earth. Thus their city would become the metropolis of a universal empire; its glory would command the admiration and homage of the world and render the founders illustrious. The magnificent tower, reaching to the heavens, was intended to stand as a monument of the power and wisdom of its builders, perpetuating their fame to the latest generations.” {PP 118.5}

    As a church it is my conviction that we need structure and we need a system of beliefs that defines what we believe as a group – our culture. Luke Lassiter defines culture as, “a shared and negotiated system of meaning informed by knowledge that people learn and put into practice by interpreting experience and generating behavior”(“Invitation to Anthropology” by Luke Eric Lassiter, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. 2009). That is what we do with doctrine and scripture. It is what determines what we are and do as a church. Without that foundation we are nothing but a haphazard, confused mess without direction.

    It isn’t just a matter of being good either. There are many “good” people out there who basically reject God and do things their own way or as Solomon said, “There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death” (Pro 14:12 NKJV). So we need a set of codified principles that defines what we believe and how we act as a group with respect to God. What we don’t need is micromanagement by a top heavy hierarchy that feels that they should control everyone else. That is what politics is about and what Jesus condemned (Mat 20:25-28).

  6. The systematic organisation of adventist church is commendable as the author puts it.Any person critizing and seing the governmental structure to be deficient I liken him/her with the originator of error who claimed in heaven that there were no need for the law of God which brings order and tranquility in the universe.Since the time of old in jewish economy we see the same system of government with fundamental beliefs like circumsion,passover,feasts etc.Humility and reverence to GOD guides us to be humble and obedient to the organized structure he has established through his faithful sevants which go in line with biblical docrines.

  7. Sean, I operate bibledoc.org where a comment on my article included a reference to this article of yours. So let me respond here briefly: First, yes, the church needs doctrinal unity on points that it aims to promote to the world. Second,the Fund Beliefs were not designed to serve that purpose.

    What I mean is that the FB were designed for non Adventists to be able to discover what is generally believed among us. And that bar is much different than the bar of what-should-be-a-test. On the issue of the Godhead, for example, Trinitarians looking in want to know if we are Trinitarians. And most of us, generally speaking, are. So the Fund B gives that answer. But that should not be understood that we are making a test over orthodox views of the Godhead.

    Yet the 28 Fund have been used that way commonly now to our shame.

    • The problem is that there are no other statements of "doctrinal unity points", that I know of, beyond the Fundamental Belief (FB) statements of the SDA Church. You argue that the FB statements are simply for outsiders looking in to see what SDAs most commonly believe, not for what the SDA Church, as an organization, stands for as basic required elements of doctrinal unity within the Church.

      Of course, there is and there should be a difference between what it takes to be a basic member of the SDA Church and a leader, an official representative, within the SDA Church (such as a pastor or teacher or head elder for instance). Basic membership within the SDA Church should have a much lower bar to cross as compared to being a pastor or a teacher.

      You mention Trinitarians, as an illustration. Should trinitarianism be a test of membership within the SDA Church? I don't think so for basic membership, but I do think so when it comes to being an official representative of the SDA Church - such as in the role of a pastor or teacher.

      In this sense, it seems to me as though the FB statements of the SDA Church function in a dual role - for both those outside of the Church looking in and for those within the Church looking to become or remain official representatives of the SDA Church as an organization.

      • I agree, Sean, that teachers should have a much higher bar. They should have personal devotions, well ordered families, good reputations, and be apt to teach, for example. But one of the most helpful pastors I know is a closet non-trinitarian. Before I would let him go over something so inconsequential (that his members don't even know), I would fire all religious teachers in our universities who do not acknowledge the IJ, the MHP work, and the authority of the Testimonies in the church. It would be bye-bye to all who do not believe in a six day creation, or who have somehow weathered a sexual scandal. The 27 FB might stand alone as a vetted statement, but their purpose determined their shape. So it is the pillars again that need to be revived as the basis for judging the credibility of workers.

        • That's just it. A non-trinitarian also cannot really support the "Testimonies" of the "Spirit of Prophecy" as penned by Mrs. White - because she was emphatic in her statements regarding the "three living persons of the heavenly trio - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit" (E.G. White, Evangelism, 615. 7ABC 441.9) and consistently refers to the Holy Spirit as a real individual "person" or the "third person of the Godhead".

          So, you see, it is hard to be opposed to just one of the FB of the SDA Church. While I probably wouldn't actively seek to remove a closet non-trinitarian from the ministry, I would recommend removing a pastor who openly presented his non-trinitarian views. And, I would advise a closet non-trinitarian pastor to seriously consider why he/she is an SDA pastor... and consider resigning in order to join some other organization that is more of a match to his/her views. This would be the most honest and consistent thing to do.

          Again, the FB of the SDA function in a dual role here. They are actually considered to be the doctrinal "Pillars" of the SDA Church and those who wish to official represent the SDA Church as a pastor or teacher should be able to support the stated FBs of the SDA Church.

          • Now, Sean, I don't know how many persons you know in the non-trin movement, but I know many that love those EGW statements as much as do you, and even refer to the Spirit as the third person of the Godhead, while simply not buying some of the more speculative parts of the trinity doctrine (the eternal pre-existance of the Spirit, for example.) And as for that pastor, there is no where he would feel is other than Babylon except the SDA Church.

          • Again, the problem Eugene, as I see it anyway, is that Mrs. White states quite clearly that the Holy Spirit, along with Jesus and the Father, is, in fact, "eternal".

            "Also there would be the eternal heavenly dignitaries—God, and Christ, and the Holy Spirit — arming them with more than mortal energy, and would advance with them to the work, and convince the world of sin." (EGW, MR, Vol 16, p. 205)

            This only makes sense because, by definition, a "God" who is equal in all ways with the Father, must be eternal and cannot be a created being. Those anti-Trinitarians who suggest otherwise seem to me to be taking on a form of Arianism...


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