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A Response to the Video:
Seventh-day Adventism, the Spirit Behind the Church

by Bob Pickle

Answers to Questions Raised by:
Mark Martin, Sydney Cleveland
Dale Ratzlaff, The White Lie
. . . and

Discern Fact from Fiction

Wrapping Up the Case

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#221 & #222: " 'Point 5: Cults often urge their converts to leave their families.' "—Narrator. "At last we can find a point on which we can agree. Adventists do not urge their converts to leave their families. That means that out of the five points marking a group as a cult, four of them apply to Seventh-day Adventists. Many feel this is too cult-like for them."—Steve Cannon.

#221: Four of the five points apply to Seventh-day Adventists. As we have just seen, not one of the five points applies.

  1. Has single, powerful human leader who becomes the group's "messiah." Adventists do not make Mrs. White out to be their "Messiah." She is not "revered by all." They do not have a "total reliance" upon her. The Bible is their final authority.

  2. Leader's word or teachings of the group overshadow the teachings of the Bible. Adventism exalts the Bible above all.

  3. Uses pressure tactics to coerce members into submission. Neither Mrs. White nor the Seventh-day Adventist Church uses cultic pressure tactics.

  4. Denies that Jesus is the divine Son of God, and that his death has provided salvation; salvation earned by following the group's teachings rather than accepting Christ and following Him. The Seventh-day Adventist Church has consistently advocated the doctrine of the deity of Christ since its very beginnings. Adventists believe that salvation is provided through the death of Christ. They do not believe that anyone can be saved by works. Even those in Old Testament times were saved by grace through faith in Christ, not by works.

    Roughly 115 years ago, many Adventists had strayed away from a solid emphasis on salvation by faith in Christ. The Lord then used Alonzo Jones, Ellet Waggoner, and Mrs. White to put the doctrine of justification by faith at the center of Adventist theology.

    At least some of the contributors to the video must know about that bit of Adventist history. Too bad the video didn't mention it. Giving Mrs. White credit for at least one positive thing, like her support for the doctrine of righteousness by faith at the 1888 General Conference session, would have made the video seem much less biased.

  5. Urges converts to leave their families. As Mr. Cannon admits, Seventh-day Adventists do not fit this one.

#222: The makers of this video think that these five marks of a cult are important. Do they really?

There are so many denominations out there that are much bigger than the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Suppose a larger denomination could be found that fits these five points better. If Jeremiah Films, MacGregor Ministries, and the rest really feel these five marks are so important, then they should have already made a video about it before making this one.

Let's consider the five marks one more time.

  1. Has single, powerful human leader who becomes the group's "messiah." Many denominations got started by a single, powerful human leader. Calvin, Wesley, and Luther are a few examples of men raised up by God to do a special work at a special time.

    The pope happens to be a single leader too. And as the teaching goes, he's pretty powerful. The official dogma is that he has the power to forgive sins, can lock and unlock heaven, and is the representative of Jesus Christ on earth. You can't get much more powerful than that.

    It's not wrong to have strong leaders. The problem is when the followers of those leaders follow them instead of God's Word.

  2. Leader's word or teachings of the group overshadow the teachings of the Bible. A most unfortunate thing happened after the death of the reformers. As the pilgrims departed from Holland on their journey to America to find religious freedom [p. 143] and a new home, their pastor John Robinson had a few words to say, quoted for us in Great Controversy, pages 291, 292:

    ". . . I charge you before God and His blessed angels to follow me no farther than I have followed Christ. If God should reveal anything to you by any other instrument of His, be as ready to receive it as ever you were to receive any truth of my ministry; for I am very confident the Lord hath more truth and light yet to break forth out of His holy word."—Martyn, vol. 5, p. 70.

    "For my part, I cannot sufficiently bewail the condition of the reformed churches, who are come to a period in religion, and will go at present no farther than the instruments of their reformation. The Lutherans cannot be drawn to go beyond what Luther saw; . . . and the Calvinists, you see, stick fast where they were left by that great man of God, who yet saw not all things. This is a misery much to be lamented; for though they were burning and shining lights in their time, yet they penetrated not into the whole counsel of God, but were they now living, would be as willing to embrace further light as that which they first received."—D. Neal, History of the Puritans, vol. 1, p. 269.

    To be honest, even Seventh-day Adventists are in danger of doing the same. And it isn't just Protestants that are in danger of this. While the Bible says that we only have one mediator (1 Tim. 2:5), yet all too often Catholic Christians look to priests, saints, and Mary as mediators too. And, as John Paul II acknowledges, Jesus forbade the use of certain titles for the pope:

    Have no fear when people call me the "Vicar of Christ," when they say to me "Holy Father," or "Your Holiness," or use titles similar to these, which seem even inimical to the Gospel. Christ himself declared: "Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. . . ." (Mt 23:9-10).—Crossing the Threshold of Hope, p. 6.

    All of us, whether Catholic or Baptist or Lutheran or Adventist, must exalt the Scriptures as being the final authority. The Bible's teachings must supersede every tradition, every human doctrine.

  3. Uses pressure tactics to coerce members into submission. Sometimes when folk talk about persecution, they point the finger at the Medieval Church. It is true that somewhere between 50 and 150 million people were put to death during that time period at the behest of Rome. It is also true that the oppression did not cease with the end of the Middle Ages. One writer, loyal to the papacy till the end of his life, served as a spy and diplomat for three popes. He tells us the following:

    Between 1823 (death of Pius VII) and 1846 (when Pius IX was elected), almost 200,000 citizens of the papal states were severely punished (death, life imprisonment, exile, galleys) for political offenses; another 1.5 million were subject to constant police surveillance and harassment.

    There was a gallows permanently in the square of every town and city and village. Railways, meetings of more than three people, and all newspapers were forbidden. All books were censored. A special tribunal sat permanently in each place to try, condemn, and execute the accused. All trials were conducted in Latin. Ninety-nine percent of the accused did not understand the accusations against them. Every pope tore up the stream of petitions that came constantly asking for justice, for the franchise, for reform of the police and prison system. When revolts occurred in Bologna, in the Romagna, and elsewhere, they were put down with wholesale executions, sentences to lifelong hard labor in the state penitentiary, to exile, to torture.—Malachi Martin, Decline and Fall of the Roman Church, p. 254.

    Yet Protestants have not been squeaky clean on this matter either. The established churches of Protestant countries all too often, in days gone by, repressed and persecuted the faiths that were in the minority. Such practices were then exported to America in the days of her infancy. Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island, faced just such persecution from Protestants in Massachusetts. Though quite ill at the time, he fled into the wilderness in the depth of winter, and endured fourteen weeks of misery.

    Today there are those who wish to take us back to those times by once again forcing people to keep religious observances:

    Laws in America that mandated a day of rest from incessant commerce have been nullified as a violation of the separation of church and state. In modern America, shopping centers, malls, and stores of every description carry on their frantic pace seven days a week. As an outright insult to God and His plan, only those policies that can be shown to have a clearly secular purpose are recognized.—Pat Robertson, The New World Order, p. 236.

    While it is an insult to God's plan to conduct commerce on His holy Sabbath, it is by no means an insult to not force people to keep Sunday.

    Regarding the lack of enforcement of the first table of the Decalogue, including the Sunday substitute, another American writer lamented:

    In other words, things that should be criminal because they represent an affront to the very foundations of society and of justice are declared legitimate. [p. 144]—John Whitehead, The Second American Revolution, p. 80.

    Then we have John Paul II calling for Sunday legislation as well in his 1998 apostolic letter, Dies Domini. Where are the voices of protest from Catholics and Protestants who believe in religious freedom? Is the only impediment to such agendas the pervasive secularism of our society? Or are there still some people of faith who believe that no one must be pressured to serve God?

  4. Denies that Jesus is the divine Son of God, and that his death has provided salvation; salvation earned by following the group's teachings rather than accepting Christ and following Him. Regarding Christ's death providing salvation, consider the following insightful quotation from Conway's The Question Box:

    "In the economy of salvation the sinner is bound to give personal satisfaction; if he does not, his lot is damnation. Christ was not punished instead of the sinner, nor against His own will as sinners are punished; by the holiest of free acts He bore the penalties of sin in order to merit for the sinner a means of satisfying which lay beyond human power. His vicarious satisfaction is not the transfer of punishment from the unjust to the just, but the transfer of the merits of the just to the unjust."—1903 ed., p. 63.

    Did Jesus die in our place, or must we pay our own debt? This quotation seems to say the latter. Similar ideas underlie the papal doctrine of indulgences. Indulgences are a way to get merit placed to your account through good works, thus lessening the "temporal punishment" you will receive for your sins.

    And Protestants aren't clean on this one either. The various denominations have been ravaged by skepticism due to the infiltration of what is called higher criticism. This philosophy does not take the Bible to be the infallible Word of God, and has resulted in many preachers rejecting certain basic Bible truths. These rejected truths include the Bible teaching that Christ's death was a substitutionary atonement, that His shed blood purchased our pardon. In reaction to the rejection of such teachings by liberal Protestants, the fundamentalist movement began.

  5. Urges converts to leave their families. While some have left family and friends to pursue a life of celibacy and exclusion, it doesn't seem like this one is too common.

    There was an incident that hit the newspapers in 1855. A seven-year-old Jewish boy in Bologna in the Papal States was kidnapped by the authorities. The Jews of Bologna raised a considerable amount of money for the ransom of the boy, all to no avail. Piedmont, France, England, and America were outraged. Emperor Napoleon III insisted that the pope return the boy to his parents, but he refused. The boy was catechized and eventually became a priest (R. De Cesare, The Last Days of Papal Rome, pp. 176-179).

The Bible-believing Christian, regardless of his particular faith, will shun the doctrines and practices referred to above. And down through the years, many have.

Are these five marks really important? The hesitancy of denominations to accept anything their founders didn't teach, the religious right's desire to enforce religion, liberalism's departure from the Biblical teachings of salvation, the doctrines and persecutions of Rome: Have Jeremiah Films, Mark Martin, and the rest made any videos on these topics yet?

A Response to the Video

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