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The Great Awakenings

The Essence of Contemporary American Religion

Part Twenty-Four

By Shlomo Phillips © 1989
(most recent update February 26, 2015)

Recorded Live on Facebook
Video 5:
Parts 22 - 25

Prophet Ellen White

Those who remained loyal to Miller's teachings and calculations had to come up with an answer for this catastrophic failure. And they did.

They explained that Miller's dates were indeed correct, however there had been a misunderstanding about the phrase "cleansing the sanctuary." Many of the remaining Millerites explained that in 1844 Jesus had in fact entered the Heavenly Sanctuary to begin his investigative judgment in preparation of the end. This is what Miller discovered and it did indeed happen (they claim)!

One problem with this explanation is that the Seventh Day Adventists, like all Fundamentalists, claim to be biblical literalists. This bizarre doctrine has no biblical support whatsoever! Indeed from a literal reading the teaching is pointed to by Jesus as a significant end time heresy! He warns:

Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.... For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.... Matthew 24:26, 27
If Jesus is referring to himself here, which all Christians say he is, then he is not in a secret Heavenly Chamber.

The White's 'revelation' did solve certain organizational problems however and the Seventh Day Adventists and its offshoots (like the Branch Davidians) continue to teach it to this day. How long this investigative judgment will take is apparently anyone's guess... but the time is at hand! or so they continue to declare. This odd doctrine may be attributed largely to James White, husband of 'Prophet Ellen White'.

As the Whites and others continued reinterpreting their founder, Adventists like Joseph Bates 'discovered' that Christians, like Jews, are commanded to honor the biblical Sabbath (or Shabbat/Shabbos). In part to recast the movement as more than a (failed) single issue sect, Sabbath Observance became an important Adventist teaching. For more information on the Shabbat, apart from Seventh Day Adventist teachings, consider my Shabbat study.

The Seventh day Adventist denomination was officially established in 1863. They believe themselves to be the "Remnant Church" of biblical prophecy (Revelation 12:17) and that Ellen White held the "Spirit of Prophecy" in a unique way that surpassed even William Miller (who doubted his revelation). Their 28 Fundamental Beliefs state that "[Ms. White's] writings are a continuing and authoritative source of truth which provide for the church comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction." Her teachings therefore are deemed essential for understanding the Bible, which is considered the final authority.

Like J's Christian Witnesses and other Third Great Awakening movements, the SDA believes that prior to taking human birth Jesus was the archangel Michael. Most Christians consider this idea blasphemous and don't know this is what they believe. Like other Millerites, the SDA originally accepted a basic Arian theology. As we discussed above Bishop Arius (250 or 256 - 336 CE) maintained that Jesus was fully human and not at all divine. Like Judaism (and the Bible) Arianism maintained a strictly monotheistic theology. There is but one indivisible eternal God. Where Jesus fits into this equation varies with the group but he was not viewed as God nor as part of a trinity according to most Millerites and originally according to the White's.

As Millerism declined and SDA missionary work and influence increased, the Seventh Day Adventists began courting acceptance from greater Christendom. At the time most Christians considered SDA to be a cult. Like most Christian Fundamentalists, doctrinally SDA views Catholicism as an abomination. SDA stresses this view more adamantly than most. They wanted to be accepted into mainstream American religious life and were willing to negotiate their doctrine to achieve this goal. SDA would have to embrace the deity of Jesus.

Most Christians then and now believe as a primary article of faith that if one does not accept Jesus as God incarnate one is by definition not a Christian. So the SDA disregarded the Bible and amended their views. However what they now believe goes well beyond what even Constantine dared to hope for!

Most Christians will tell you that they are monotheists, that they believe in only One God. They see Jesus as part of a godhead, consisting of one God in three persons. This is not biblical monotheism, but it is not classic pantheism either. The SDA doctrine is so far removed from both Christianity and biblical religion that it bears considering. Here's an e-mail snippet from a recent conversation I had on this subject with an respected SDA pastor who oddly asked not to be identified:

Unlike most Christians, Seventh Day Adventists are literal polytheists. They believe in and worship three separate gods. Not in the historic (and unbiblical) Trinity sense, believed by most Christians, but in three literal separate gods. Whether these three gods are in 'accord' or they are still three distinct god. That is polytheism.

While most Christians embrace the belief in One God Who mysteriously eternally manifests in three forms (as Father, Son and Holy Spirit), the Adventists are literal polytheists and they worship Michael the Archangel who they believe was also God (i.e. Jesus).

Unlike the Seventh Day Adventists, J's Witnesses and several of the other Millerite sects maintain Arian beliefs and reject the belief that God incarnated as a man. Doctrinally these groups are closer to Judaism and biblical religion than most other Christian sects (this is not an endorsement).

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