Deviations from Christianity: Seventh-Day Advetists

Gerald Bray (DLitt, University of Paris-Sorbonne) is Research Professor at Beeson Divinity School. His massive new book, God Is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology (Crossway, 2012) traces the common theme of God’s love through the Bible categorically. It is a systematic theology, yet it reads unlike any other, revealing Bray’s strength of writing theology through prose. From God’s love for himself and his creation to the cross as the ultimate expression of God’s love, the centrality of God’s love in Bray’s theology reflects a deep conviction that the Bible shows us God for who he really is.

In Part Four: The Rejection of God’s Love, Chapter 22: Deviations from Christianity, Bray masterfully summarizes the concern of evangelicals with Seventh-Day Adventists:

Once regarded as a cult, Seventh-day Adventists are now more widely recognized as a genuinely Christian denomination, though there are still points of controversy concerning their beliefs that have not been fully resolved. The church began in mid-nineteenth-century America and was undoubtedly more extreme and eccentric than it is now. Over the years its edges have softened and it has become more like a conservative Protestant church, though one with special emphases of its own, such as the foot-washing ceremony which is an integral part of their celebration of Communion. The main barrier to their full acceptance as a Christian denomination is their insistence on Saturday as their day of worship. For Adventists this is not a matter of indifference, but an essential part of their faith, which they claim brings them particularly close to the love of Christ. Most Christians do not worry too much about which day is set aside for worship, although Sunday has been all but universal since ancient times and it seems odd to change it deliberately, particularly when it means falling out of step with the rest of the Christian world. The deeper objection to Saturday worship is not to the observance but to the significance attached to it, particularly because this was evidently a problem in the early church, when Jewish Christians tried to insist on keeping the law of Moses even when it had been superseded by the coming of Christ. Paul mentioned the Sabbath specifically as something that was not to be imposed on Christians. Seventh-day Adventists have made a minor issue primary and a mark of their identity, and for this reason other Christians hesitate to accept them as fully orthodox.

In recent years there has been a tendency among some Adventists to move into mainstream Protestant evangelicalism, but other members of the church remain more closely wedded to its legalistic origins. Which of these two will triumph, or whether there will be a split, is not yet clear, but it seems safe to say that the closer the church moves toward other Christians, the less likely it is to stress or even to practice the distinctive traits that brought it into being in the first place.

Gerald Bray (2012-03-31). God Is Love (Kindle Locations 9671-9688). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.

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