The Alter-Protestants: Exploring Adventism’s Radical Identity (Part 4)

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The Alter-Protestants: Exploring Adventism’s Radical Identity (Part 4)

Editorial Note: This series was originally published on the blog

Welcome to the final article in the Alter-Protestant series. If you have been following this series, you will understand by now that Adventism is completely rooted in historic Protestant thought, while simultaneously adopting a whole new way of viewing the story of scripture. This new way has resulted in the most complete Biblical approach to the love of God—an approach which impacts how we interpret every other theme of scripture. The end result is a theology that is focused on revealing God’s character of love in a way not found in any other denomination. (If you haven’t read the previous article, go here first, as this present article won’t make sense without it. You can also read the entire series here.)

However, this conclusion leaves us with a massive elephant in the room. If these things are true, why is Adventism so “non-loving” to so many people? Why have our preachers tended to emphasize a scary picture of judgment, perfectionism, and legalistic/human-centric theology? Why have we promoted doom and gloom pictures of the end times that sound more like conspiracy ramblings than a revelation of the love of God? Why are so many of our churches cold and dead?

In order to give a satisfactory answer to these questions, we need to take a brief trip through the history of Adventist culture. Before I begin, I should note that this is not going to be a detailed or exhaustive study of Adventist history. There are plenty of resources that do that well. In this post, I want to keep things as simple as possible without being shallow. However, if you are looking for a more detailed look through Adventist history I recommend Adrian Zahid’s article: “The One Project: The ‘Jesus. All.’ Paradox (Part 3).”

A Brief Review of Adventist History

When Adventism was born, a large portion of North Americans were already Christians. The Second Great Awakening, which resulted in many conversions, was just beginning to wind down.[1] As a result, Adventist preachers glossed over the stuff everyone already knew (such as the gospel) and instead placed a heavy emphasis on the more eccentric teachings of the church. Among these teachings was the Adventist emphasis on the Sabbath. Although Adventism shared a view of the law identical to other churches,[2] there remained disagreement over whether the Sabbath command applied to the first day or the seventh day of the week.

In addition, a new method of interpreting the Bible began to gain popularity about the 1870’s[3] and taught that “Christians are not under the law in any sense.”[4] Adventists, of course, saw this as a dangerous teaching and reacted to it (perhaps a bit too much).[5] To make matters more interesting, certain laws requiring the observance of Sunday as a day of rest were being enforced by local governments.[6] Due to this context, Adventist preachers and evangelists came to focus almost exclusively on themes like the law and its relation to end-time events.

The unfortunate result was that emerging generations of Adventists were raised on a “law diet,” and heard very little of the gospel.[7] Over time, the church came to lose sight of the gospel completely. Ellen White herself noted that during these years “many had lost sight of Jesus.”[8] Adrian Zahid captured this sentiment well when he wrote, “Sermons that once were preached with vigor and the freshness of a new discovery had, by the 1880’s, grown, as Ellen White put it, as ‘dry as the hills of Gilboa.’ The emphasis had shifted from what Christ was doing for us to what we could ‘do’ for Him. In other words, the message of righteousness by faith had become righteousness by the law.”[9]

In 1888, the message of grace was re-introduced to Adventism through two preachers named E. J. Waggoner and A. T. Jones in what would become the most historic conference in SDA history: the 1888 General Conference. The conversation turned explosive when Waggoner disagreed with the traditional Adventist interpretation of the law in Galatians being the ceremonial law.

According to Waggoner, Galatians was talking about the Ten Commandments, not just the ceremonial law. This view introduced a huge shift for the church which “[f]or three decades […] had interpreted that law as the ceremonial law.”[10] According to Adventist leaders, that belief was key to protecting the view that the law had not been done away with.

As a result, Jones and Waggoner stood against the legalism that had taken hold of the church. But it wasn’t overt legalism that Jones and Waggoner were confronting. Adventists still had enough tradition in them to avoid believing that a person could be saved by works. Instead, Adventists tended to emphasize law so much that grace, while never denied, became a non-essential point.[11]

When Jones and Waggoner entered the scene, they preached Christ as the only hope, de-emphasized the law, and instead lifted up Jesus. Ellen White stood by their side and expressed her support in statements such as:

You will meet with those who will say, “You are too much excited over the matter. You are too much in earnest. You should not be reaching for the righteousness of Christ, and making so much of that. You should preach the law.” As a people we have preached the law until we are as dry as the hills of Gilboa, that had neither dew nor rain. We must preach Christ in the law, and there will be sap and nourishment in the preaching that will be as food to the famishing flock of God. We must not trust in our own merits at all, but in the merits of Jesus of Nazareth.[12]

Some of our brethren are not receiving the message of God upon this subject. They appear to be anxious that none of our ministers shall depart from their former manner of teaching the good old doctrines. We inquire, Is it not time that fresh light should come to the people of God, to awaken them to greater earnestness and zeal? The exceeding great and precious promises given us in the Holy Scriptures have been lost sight of to a great extent, just as the enemy of all righteousness designed that they should be. He has cast his own dark shadow between us and our God, that we may not see the true character of God.[13]

Many Adventists at the time, unaccustomed to a Christ-centered approach to their worldview, interpreted the preaching of Jones and Waggoner as dangerous, and feared that, if fully embraced, it would destroy Adventism. They even rejected Ellen White’s support of Jones and Waggoner with some claiming she had, in her old age, been led astray by the young preachers. To make matters worse, the General Conference president of the day, along with one of the church’s top theologians, fought vehemently against Jones and Waggoner and “held that the new interpretation undermined Adventism’s traditional position on the end-time importance of the law of God.”[14]

At this point, we can begin to see signs that the “God-is-love/with-us” glasses that Adventism was based on (explored in the previous post) were being replaced with “law-glasses” instead. Such a system of thought is bound to lead to the legal and Christ-less religion that Ellen White reacted against. Thus, “[i]n contrast to Ellen White, many of the leading brethren who heard the sermons delivered by Waggoner and Jones in Minneapolis were irritated by them.”[15]

Following the controversial 1888 conference, Ellen White dedicated more time to emphasizing Jesus as “our only hope for time and eternity,”[16] and many in the church began to see the light. However, it was clear that two diverse Adventisms were now emerging. One saw Jesus and His work in the sanctuary as central to the entire narrative of salvation. The other saw the same story primarily through the lens of the law. Thus, Ellen White could say,

The Lord has sent a message to arouse His people to repent, and do their first works; but how has His message been received? While some have heeded it, others have cast contempt and reproach on the message and the messenger. Spirituality deadened, humility and childlike simplicity gone, a mechanical, formal profession of faith has taken the place of love and devotion. Is this mournful condition of things to continue? Is the lamp of God’s love to go out in darkness?[17]

Fast forward over 60 years, and Adventism had undergone some major changes, including the death of Ellen White in 1915 and the arrival of a new and rigid method of relating to the Bible known as “fundamentalism.”[18][19] The remaining law-culture, combined with the rigidity of fundamentalism, proved to have a “bewitching” influence. The combination gave birth to an era marked by a “legalistic style of argumentation and behavior”[20] that fed the flames of narcissism, sectarian ideology, and irrational applications of lifestyle standards that proved impossible to defend from Scripture as new generations emerged to question the status quo.[21]

During this time, “myths” regarding the ministry, application, and proper use of late church prophetess Ellen White, among other exaggerations of Adventist thought, developed.[22] This all laid the groundwork for the next explosion in the 1950’s, when a series of discussions began between Adventist leaders and Calvinist-Evangelicals who wanted to know, from the horse’s mouth, what Adventists really believed. The discussion was published in a book known as Questions on Doctrine (QOD).

After the book’s publication, the two Adventisms collided once more. Some claimed the book was a proper reflection of Adventist thought. Others considered it to be a departure from Adventist thought. Among those who opposed it was conservative theologian M. L. Andreasen. Andreasen felt that the authors of QOD had misrepresented Adventism in their dialogues with the Calvinists and expressed his concerns to them, but the conversations did not go well. As a result, Andreasen took it upon himself to expose the church leaders, and accused them of changing Adventist theology in order to pacify the Calvinists. The result was an all-out war. It was through the attention that resulted from this controversy that Andreasen came to promote what became one of the most popular narratives in Adventist thought: Last Generation Theology (LGT).[23]

While LGT held a lot in common with classic Adventist thought, its greatest departure was that it interpreted the Adventist narrative through the glasses of “perfectionism” instead of the sanctuary. This resulted in morphing Adventist theology into a man-centered story which held that in order for Christ to return, Adventists had to first overcome all of their sins and reach a point of sinless perfection where they would no longer need a mediator to intercede for them. Proponents of this view also obsessed over themes such as the human nature of Christ, strict standards of Sabbath-keeping, vegetarianism, dress reform, end-time events, and the need for complete sinless perfection.[24]

In short, they replaced the Adventist sanctuary-glasses with a fanatical version of Wesleyan-Holiness theology and reinterpreted Adventism through that perspective. As a result, many Adventists returned to a Pharisaical mode of relating to the Bible. For example, Adventist youth raised under this way of thinking will often relate how they were taught it was a sin to go beyond the knees into a beach/lake on Sabbath. So long as the water stayed under the knees they were not sinning. If it went over, they were guilty of “breaking the Sabbath.” Regardless of how ridiculous this may sound today, the teaching appealed to the spirit of Adventism which, in 1888, had sided with a law-centered vision.

The Adventist church never accepted LGT in any official capacity; however, LGT became the glasses through which the majority of conservative Adventists read the Bible.[25] Those who shared in the spirit of the men and women who argued that an emphasis on Jesus in 1888 would lead Adventism astray, who pushed for the adoption of fundamentalism into the Adventist framework, and who, in the 1950’s, sided with Andreasen in attacking Adventist leadership and accusing it of apostasy, went on to promote the LGT brand of theology as the only “true” version of Adventism.

However, many others rejected these developments. Thus, the undercurrent of division from 1888 manifested itself with greater force. Many followed Andreasen as though his teachings represented the true, historic theology of the pioneers, and came to view themselves as “Historic Adventists” while others rejected his teachings. To this day, one could say that the mainstream Adventist church is primarily split into two camps: 1) the “Andreasens” and 2) everybody else.

New generations were now raised with a similar narrative as the pre-1888 Adventists—one that emphasized the law, judgment, and apocalyptic themes to such a degree that Jesus—while never denied—was minimized. The new mantra of the Adventist voice was perfection, perfection, perfection—or Christ will not come.

Legalism spread. Lack of assurance of salvation dominated the lives of the members. A fanatical approach to the health message and end-time events demoralized the pulpits and churches. Independent ministries promoting Andreasen’s theology published magazines, hosted programs, and offered resources that continued to feed the legalism and spread distrust of church leadership. Thus, the stage was set for the next great divide in the Adventist church—the Desmond Ford crisis. Adrian Zahid summarized it best when he wrote,

Decades of teaching members to “prepare” for the Judgment had led many to develop an unhealthy fear of it. Dr. Desmond Ford, a preeminent Australian theologian, brought to the attention of the Church his rejection of the Sanctuary doctrine as a foundational “pillar” of Adventism. He replaced it instead with the soteriological vision of Protestant theology. Depicting his own perspective as a solution to the “fear” that people felt regarding the Judgment, he emphasized the ‘assurance’ we could have by knowing the essence of the Gospel.[26]

Although other Adventist theologians at the time were coming to terms with the gospel, and rejecting the influence of LGT and its perfectionistic glasses, Ford pushed ahead with the belief that the problem with Adventism had to do with the sanctuary doctrine itself. However, it was never the sanctuary doctrine that was problematic, but the way in which it had been reinterpreted through perfectionist ideology. It was this foundation of legalism and fundamentalism that created the context for Ford to have the impact he did. Thus, Mike Manea could say that “had it not been for Andreasen’s heretical influence, it is highly unlikely that Ford’s apostasy would have resonated with anyone else in the church.”[27]

Again, Ford’s solution to the tortured consciences of Adventists everywhere was to emphasize the assurance of salvation, and reject the sanctuary doctrine which he saw as an assurance killer.[28] The church was rocked to its core. Many members and pastors abandoned ship. Critics pummeled it from the outside with questions that demanded answers. The Adventist mythology, born out of the unholy union of legalism and fundamentalism, finally came crumbling down.

In reaction to the decades of legalism and the influence of Ford, a new Adventism began to emerge to counter the law-culture. Thankfully, this new Adventism was not afraid to admit its limitations. It was not afraid to wrestle with the difficult questions and to uplift Christ no matter the cost.  Through the influence of this new Adventism, the era of legalism and fundamentalism began to meet its end.

However, there was one fatal flaw. This new Adventism, as wonderful as it was, was too reactionary to the Historic camp. Rather than restoring the sanctuary-glasses that led Adventism to a whole-Bible view of God’s love, this reactionary movement made the assurance of salvation its new set of glasses. Consequently, it emphasized 1888 and the gospel, but simultaneously downplayed, and at times rejected, foundational aspects of Adventism’s classical narrative.

Related: Read another article series exploring the development of the many theological “camps” within modern Adventism

The results appeared to be two-fold. On one hand, former Adventists returned to the church, and a new generation was raised with Christ at the center of their worldview. On the other hand, those who dug deep enough discovered that they had little in common with classical Adventism. Many found themselves unable to reconcile their theological lens with some of Adventism’s core beliefs, which they still saw through the lens of perfectionism, and mistakenly concluded that Adventism simply wasn’t compatible with the gospel. As a result, studies began to “[indicate] that more and more church members [were] leaving because they […] changed their beliefs”.[29]

Others disconnected from Adventism’s unique teachings or attempted to undermine them from the inside. However, the most common trend was simply to minimize their relevance. Thus, two major studies conducted by the church identified that among Adventist youth in North America, core Adventist teachings such as the sanctuary and the remnant church found less acceptance than widely accepted teachings like the gospel, Creation and the Sabbath.[30] In short, while this new reactionary Adventism had succeeded in restoring a gospel/Jesus-centered vision to Adventism, it has underplayed, misunderstood, and, at times, opposed its holistic narrative.

Here is a brief overview of what we have explored thus far:

  • Classical Adventism: Began with a “God is love/with us (sanctuary)” presupposition that was used to interpret the entire Bible to arrive at a complete system of truth that celebrated the centrality of Jesus and the beauty of God’s character of love.
  • Pre-1888 Adventism: Replaced the “God is love/with us” glasses with the law of God. Thus, they reinterpreted Adventism’s complete system of truth through the lens of the law and end-time events. Jesus and His sanctuary were reinterpreted via the new law-glasses.
  • Historic Adventism: Took over where pre-1888 Adventism left off. Replaced the “God is love/with us” glasses with character perfection. Thus, they reinterpreted Adventism’s complete system of truth through the lens of perfectionism and end time events.
  • Reactionary Adventism: Reacted to the decades of legalism by rejecting the law-centered/perfectionistic presuppositions. Made the assurance of salvation the new “glasses” used to read the Bible, and consequently downplayed (and at times rejected entirely) Adventism’s complete system of truth derived from its sanctuary focus.

In the midst of all of these developments, it is clear that what has been lost is the sanctuary narrative that gave Adventism a complete system of truth centered in Jesus. Those who continue to promote what they refer to as Historic, conservative Adventism view the entire narrative of Scripture through the glasses of character perfection and the law. Those who promote a gospel-centered brand tend to be so reactionary to the conservatives that they downplay anything that is not “salvational.” Instead, they see the entire story through the presupposition of assurance of salvation. For them, so long as this is understood, nothing else really matters.

What both camps fail to realize is that they are both using man-centered glasses to interpret the story of Scripture, whereas the early Adventist sanctuary presupposition held that it was God’s character of love, and not mankind, that was the central interpretive theme of scripture. In both cases, the sanctuary-God of early Adventism that provided the church with the holistic picture of God’s love, unheard of in Christian history, has been forgotten.

The conservatives continue to promote a rigid and legal view of God, whereas the reactionaries continue to promote the same “incomplete” narrative of God’s love found in other denominations. Add to this fundamental issue the myriad of other theological and cultural challenges that the church is currently divided over (such as women’s ordination), and you end up disoriented. This is the context in which the church currently finds itself.

So if Adventism is, at its essence, the most complete understanding of the love of God in the Christian world, why is it so “non-loving” to so many people? Why have our preachers tended to emphasize a scary picture of the judgment, perfectionistic ideologies, and—quite frankly—legalistic and man-centered theology? Why are so many of our churches cold and dead?

The answer can be narrowed down to this: we have forgotten our story. The legalism that has taken over has resulted in a sectarian and narcissistic culture of elitism and holier-than-thou personalities. The beauty of Adventism has been adulterated by a foreign world-view that has, in many ways, “cast down the sanctuary.” That “God with us” narrative has been morphed into a “God against us” theology comparable only to the errors of the medieval church.

The trail of broken spirits, wounded sojourners, and demoralized seekers that follows us cannot be excused in any way. In reaction, others have come to the defense of Adventism by replacing perfectionism as a set of glasses with assurance, and while they have succeeded at restoring the assurance of salvation lost in the eras of legalism, they have unwittingly assumed that themes such as the law, prophecy, and end-time events are staples of an old and worn-out legacy of legalism.

The result has been a new generation of Adventists more concerned with their personal assurance than with the character of God as revealed in every theme of scripture. Thus, the health message, the prophetic gift, and end-time narratives are either ignored, rejected, or unknown. In all of this, the unique position of Adventism as a holistic God-is-love narrative unheard of anywhere in the Christian world remains in the background.

Moving Forward

So what can Adventism do to correct its course? Is it possible for us to create a culture that is in harmony with our narrative? I believe so. However, the solution I would like to propose as we close has nothing to do with church administration. Rather, I would like to focus on the grassroots—you and me. Here is my solution: We, as Seventh-day Adventists, need to remember our story, build upon it and communicate it. Allow me a few more moments to expand on each of these:

Remember Our Story

Remembering our story begins with the question, What is our story? This question was answered in the previous post. But to summarize, it’s really very simple. Adventism’s story begins with two foundations. The first is that God is other-centered love at its purest. The second is that His entire redemptive plan takes place in harmony with human time. The first reveals the essence of His character. The second applies that essence to all His dealings with men.

The end result is a narrative that is not only Christ-centered, but Christ-filled. To put it differently, Jesus is not only the center of Scripture, He is its fullness. Thus, Adventism is a story that is not about Adventism. Rather, it is a story about the character of God. Through this “God-is-love/with us” lens, we understand every other theme of the Bible, including the law, end-time events, spiritual gifts, the judgment, the state of the dead, and the fate of the wicked.

Ellen White spoke of the importance of the sanctuary when she wrote that our minds should “be directed to the heavenly sanctuary”[31] for the foundation of our faith is found in “[t]he correct understanding of the ministration in the heavenly sanctuary.”[32] But Ellen White was not alone. “The pioneers of the movement saw the sanctuary truth as basic to the whole structure of Seventh-day Adventist doctrine.”[33] Thus, James White could say that, “The subject of the sanctuary should be carefully examined, as it lies at the foundation of our faith and hope.”[34] In the sanctuary, Adventism finds a “harmonious exposition of the Scriptures”[35] that is unheard of in the Christian world. It is “the truth that has made us what we are”[36] and the “foundation for our faith.”[37]

In Exodus 25:8, God instructs the nation of Israel to make Him a sanctuary so that He could “dwell among them.” In contrast to the pagan gods who wanted little to do with their worshipers, the God of Israel desired to “dwell among the sons of Israel and […] be their God” (Exodus 29:45). While the theme of the sanctuary is deep and broad, its simplest meaning is that it communicates God’s desire to be with us, in our time and space, in intimate relationship. Thus, the sanctuary reveals God’s closeness to us and His desire to be with us.

His redemptive plan is ministered there on our behalf (Hebrews 8:2), and through it we come to understand His character of love, His plan of salvation and His eventual triumph over sin. Of the sanctuary, David said it reveals God’s “power and glory” (Psalm 63:2) and the narrative of justice and redemption (Psalm 73:17). This theme permeates the entire arch of scripture, which ends with the promise, “‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God'” (Revelation 21:3).

Some may ask, “Don’t all Christians believe that God is with us?” And the answer is yes. But the difference is that in Adventism, God’s “with-ness” is not simply a belief. It is the means by which we interpret every theme of Scripture. For Adventism, then, the entire Bible is to be understood, not through the lens of perfection, assurance, culture, or philosophy, but through the lens of a God who loves relentlessly and desires, from His high and lofty throne, to be with us.

This “interpretive lens,” combined with our commitment to the centrality of Jesus, gives us a fresh approach to the law, the Sabbath, the covenants, the angelic realm, the rebellion of Satan, the judgment of God, the prophetic timeline, the treatment of our bodies, the gospel, justification and sanctification, end-time events, and the process of judgment. And as was made clear, it is not necessarily what we believe about each of these doctrines that is unique—for our beliefs are shared interdenominationally.

Rather, it is the way in which the sanctuary has strung them together into a rhythm that reveals God’s character through and through. The tragedy of Adventism is that we continue to redefine our narrative with man-centered concepts. We continue to turn the story of God into the story of us. My assurance. My character perfection. My culture. My pet doctrine. My favorite philosophy. We have forgotten that it’s not about us. The Great Controversy is over the character of God. Who is he? What is he like? And how does every theme of Scripture—from law to grace, from Israel to church, from the former things of old to the things that are yet to come—reveal the truth about God?

Build upon Our Story

Once we have remembered our story, we need to build upon it. At this point, I need to make a huge clarification. This current series may give the impression that there was a “golden age” of Adventism—a time in which we had it all together, but this is not the case. Adventism has never had a “golden era.” But what our pioneers did have was a clear vision of how Scripture was to be understood. From there, they began to put the pieces together, and developed the holistic system of truth we call Adventism.

But they only got so far before the church veered off into legalism. To this day, the whole-Bible approach to the love of God lives on, but it is still not central. However, the foundation is there, and from it we can build towards a greater understanding of God’s love, and in so doing take the church and the culture by storm. And it’s not like we have a choice. We are told that “[t]he last rays of merciful light, the last message of mercy to be given to the world, is a revelation of His character of love.”[38] It is though the “God is love/with us” approach to unraveling the mysteries of Scripture that this can become a reality.

Communicate Our Story

Rediscovering Adventism should awaken a new generation to the beauty and relevance of what we have to say. And from there, every ounce of Adventist talent needs to be employed—musicians, artists, poets, writers, bloggers, designers, videographers, educators, etc.

But they cannot be stifled by conservative cultural expectations. Rather, they need to be set free with creative control—directed by the holistic narrative of Adventism—to plant new churches with new cultures, write new songs, and create films, vlogs, art, and other relevant resources that communicate our story in culturally savvy ways.[39]

We need to live, once more, as movement eager for the return of Jesus. We need to live once more as people aware of the prophetic events that have been foretold, and be unashamed to speak hope into our communities via our prophetic message. Our church services need to celebrate our holistic story as well. New songs need to be written for us to worship with—songs that capture the beauty of our holistic narrative. New churches need to be planted with new structures and architecture based on the foundation of this God of love and with-ness.

We need to create ministries and projects designed for the salvation of the lost, not the comfort of the saints. We need new Bible study resources that teach the narrative of Adventism—not just disjointed doctrines. We need a deeper commitment to social service and justice from a “sanctuary perspective.” We need to reject any tradition and custom that gets in the way of connecting with a broken culture and preparing it for the judgment currently taking place.

We need a unity based on the sanctuary God—a unity that is built on the knowledge that God is working in all cultures, at all times, and in diverse manners. Such a worldview would provide a strong foundation to unity in diversity, as opposed to the relativism that is often used. Most importantly, we need to be a sanctuary people by becoming centers of influence—”little sanctuaries” that reflect God’s love and desire to be with us by coming close to our communities and being “with” them in intimate ways.

If we take our beliefs seriously, we can’t get away from the fact that the sanctuary vision “call[s] us to step out of our spiritual myopia and become actively involved in helping the addicted, the broken, the lonely. It is a call to reach out to this lost world with more urgency than ever before that they may come to know Christ and his cleansing blood[…].”[40]


I do not pretend to have all the answers. Neither do I pretend that a renewed “God is love/with us” presupposition would magically solve all of the problems in the church. But one thing I am convinced of—we have to remember our story. Because our story is not about us; it’s about Him. Until we choose, from the ground up, to rediscover the narrative of Adventism as a narrative about God’s character of love, we will continue to wander aimlessly amidst a broken culture seeking answers to questions that God has already given us. We will continue to perpetuate dead and vision-less churches that “major in the minors” and have little-to-no connection with the communities in which they reside.

Although the sanctuary narrative is inexhaustible, I love how Ellen White summarized it in the following statement:

In the temple in heaven, the dwelling place of God, His throne is established in righteousness and judgment. In the most holy place is His law, the great rule of right by which all mankind are tested. The ark that enshrines the tables of the law is covered with the mercy seat, before which Christ pleads His blood in the sinner’s behalf. Thus is represented the union of justice and mercy in the plan of human redemption. This union infinite wisdom alone could devise and infinite power accomplish; it is a union that fills all heaven with wonder and adoration. The cherubim of the earthly sanctuary, looking reverently down upon the mercy seat, represent the interest with which the heavenly host contemplate the work of redemption. This is the mystery of mercy into which angels desire to look—that God can be just while He justifies the repenting sinner and renews His intercourse with the fallen race; that Christ could stoop to raise unnumbered multitudes from the abyss of ruin and clothe them with the spotless garments of His own righteousness to unite with angels who have never fallen and to dwell forever in the presence of God.[41]

Notice that in this statement is found nearly every theme in Scripture. In it, we find God’s character of love and desire to be with us. We find His holiness, His power, and His wisdom. We find His justice. His law, judgment, and mercy are also there. Jesus as our mediator, His blood, and our redemption are central. Heaven is there. Angels are there. The battle between good and evil is there, and toward the end we are once again reminded of God’s intimacy with us, Christ’s salvific power and grace and love, and—at last—the ultimate end of the narrative of Scripture: our eternal reunion with our creator for which He gave His son on the cross.

This whole-Bible approach to the love of God is what Adventism is all about. He is a sanctuary God—a God of “with-ness”—who both loves us and longs to be with us. That is our story, and we tell it, not only in one or two books in the Bible, not only with a side-blinded focus on the law, assurance, or any other doctrine, but in every theme and song and prophecy. And we must do so, until the day finally arrives when “[o]ne pulse of harmony and gladness beats through the vast creation. From Him who created all, flow life and light and gladness, throughout the realms of illimitable space. From the minutest atom to the greatest world, all things, animate and inanimate, in their unshadowed beauty and perfect joy, declare that God is love.”[42]

Click here to read the rest of this series



Certain portions of this article are edited excerpts from the article “REclaiming Adventism (A Response to the Testimony of former Adventist Eliana Matthews).” The original source of these excerpts has not been cited in order to maximize reader experience. You can access that source here.

[1] “Second Great Awakening”:
[2] See Torres, Marcos D. “The Hole in Adventism: Identifying Our Place in the Continuum of Protestant Covenantal Thought”:
[3] Weber, Timothy. “Dispensational Premillennialism: The Dispensationalist Era, How a once-mocked idea began its domination of the evangelical world”:
[4] Harbach, R. C. “Dispensationalism and the Christian Under Law”:
[5] See Knight, George R. Ellen White’s World: A Fascinating Look at the Times in which She Lived, (Ch 8: Religious Impulses).
[6] Nam, Julius. “Adventists in American Courts—The Sunday Law Cases”:
[7] See Knight, George R. A Search for Identity: The Development of Seventh-day Adventist Beliefs, (Ch 5: What is Christian in Adventism?).
[8] White, Ellen G. Testimonies to Ministers, pg. 92.
[9] Zahid, Adrian: “The One Project: The Jesus All Paradox (Part 3)”:
[10] Knight, George R. “What Happened in 1888? A Historical Account of a Very Historic Event”:
[11] See Moore, A. Leroy. Adventist Cultures in Conflict: Principles of Reconciliation
[12] White, Ellen G. The Review and Herald, (March 11, 1890).
[13] White, Ellen G. The Review and Herald, (April 1, 1890).
[14] Knight, George R. “What Happened in 1888? A Historical Account of a Very Historic Event”:
[15] Maxwell, C. Mervyn. “What is the 1888 Message?”:
[16] White, Ellen G. Faith and Works, pg. 25.
[17] White, Ellen G. “The Review and Herald Extra”, (December 23, 1890). Notice the question, “Is the lamp of God’s love to go out in darkness?” This “lamp” Ellen White speaks of is the Adventist movement, which as we saw in the previous post, stands alone in the Christian world in terms of its whole-Bible approach to the love of God. When the gospel was rejected by many church members and leaders, Ellen White mourned the possibility that without Jesus as the unifying element of all of Scripture, Adventism’s lamp, which shone brightly on the love of God, would go out in darkness. Such a context sheds light on her renewed emphasis on Jesus following 1888, where she authored classic works such as The Desire of Ages (a commentary on the four gospels) and her signature book Steps to Christ.
[18] See Timm, Alberto R. “A History of Seventh-day Adventist Views on Biblical and Prophetic Inspiration”, (1844-2000): []; and Knight, George R. A Search for Identity: The Development of Seventh-day Adventist Beliefs, (Ch 6: What is Fundamentalist in Adventism?)
[19] Zahid, Adrian: “The One Project: The Jesus All Paradox (Part 3)”:
[20] Canale, Fernando. “The Eclipse of Scripture and the Protestantization of the Adventist Mind: Part 1: The Assumed Compatibility of Adventism with Evangelical Theology and Ministerial Practices” p. 137, footnote 11, []
[21] See Hayden, Kevin. Lifestyles of the Remnant: A Refreshing Look at the Principles of Christian Living, and Weber, Martin. Adventist Hot Potatoes.
[22] See Knight, George R. Myths in Adventism
[23] See Moore, A. Leroy. Questions on Doctrine Revisited?
[24] See Torres, Marcos D. “Reclaiming Adventism”:
[25] ibid.
[26] Zahid, Adrian: “The One Project: The Jesus All Paradox (Part 3)”:
[27] Manea, Mike. Biblical vs. Andreasenist LGT”:
[28] Johns, W.H. “The ABCs of Dr. Desmond Ford’s Theology”:
[29] Nash, Andy. “Beyond Belief”:
[30] See both “Seventh-day Adventist Young Adult Study,” Barna Group, 2013:
and “21st Century Seventh-day Adventist Connection Study”:
[31] White, Ellen G. Selected Messages, pg. 67.
[32] White, Ellen G. Evangelism, pg. 221.
[33] White, Ellen G. Christ in His Sanctuary, pg. 8.
[34] ibid. pg. 8
[35] White, Ellen G. The Great Controversy, pg. 435.
[36] White, Ellen G. Christ in His Sanctuary, pg. 13.
[37] ibid. pg. 12.
[38] White, Ellen G. Christ Object Lessons, pg. 415.
[39] See Asscherick, David. “The Ecclesiastical Trajectory of Reform”:
[40] Torres, Marcos D. “Adventism Oozes Social Justice, Do You?”:
[41] White, Ellen G. Christ in His Sanctuary, pg. 92.
[42] White, Ellen G. The Great Controversy, pg. 678.

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Marcos Torres

Marcos Torres is a pastor in Western Australia where he lives with his wife and children. He loves talking about faith, culture and Adventism. You can follow his blog at