Joe Carter has written an article entitled “9 Things You Should Know About Seventh-day Adventism” found here.
Nathan Busenitz has written a brief review of Seventh Day Adventism here.
This article is not about politics. But Dr. Ben Carson’s involvement in the Republican primaries has raised questions in the minds of many evangelicals about his religious affiliation as a Seventh-day Adventist. Those questions include things like, “What is Seventh-day Adventism?” and “How should evangelicals evaluate the SDA movement?”
A seminary student recently asked me to address those questions. Today’s post gives me an opportunity to do just that.
What Is Seventh-day Adventism?
The Seventh-day Adventist church began as a distinctive movement with the teachings of a lay preacher named William Miller (1782–1849). Miller embarked on a personal study of Scripture (and particularly Daniel 8:14) which convinced him that Christ would return between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844. When that prediction failed, Miller and his followers adjusted the date, determining that October 22, 1844 would be the day of Jesus’ second advent.
But the Lord did not return on October 22, 1844, and Miller’s followers (known as Millerites) experienced what they called ‘the Great Disappointment.’ Most of Miller’s followers realized his predictions had been wholly mistaken. But a small group of Millerites (from whom the Seventh-day Adventists emerged) insisted that the date he identified could not have been wrong. They claimed Miller’s error was not in his mathematical calculations, but rather in what he expected to take place on that date. Consequently, they concluded something significant occurred in 1844, even if it was not Christ’s second coming.
Phil Johnson points out the irony of establishing a religious movement on the basis of a failed prophetic prediction:
By the early 1840s, the Millerite movement had expanded into a huge international phenomenon. In one five-month span in 1843, 600,000 copies of Millerite literature were distributed in New York alone. People sold their homes, gave away their possessions, and gave up their livelihoods in order to demonstrate their faith in William Miller’s predictions.
Of course, Christ did not return—not in Miller’s lifetime; not even in that century. Miller tried adjusting his dates a time or two, but he himself gave up hope of finding a way to adjust his calculations to keep the expectation alive. He died baffled and disillusioned. He never joined the Seventh-day Adventists himself.
To this day, Adventists refer to Miller’s failed prediction of the second coming as “The Great Disappointment.” That would seem a pretty shaky foundation on which to found [a new religious movement]—a false prophecy that culminated in disappointment and worldwide embarrassment.
But out of ‘the Great Disappointment,’ the Seventh-day Adventist movement was born. Continue reading
Matt 28:1 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.
1 Cor 16:1 Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. 2 On the first day of every week (Sunday), each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.
There are some in our day who suggest that Sunday worship is something that was entirely unknown among Christians until the time of Emperor Constantine (272 – 337 AD), and make the claim that its religious roots are entirely pagan. However, the facts of history totally negate this theory. In celebration of Christ’s resurrection, the early Church moved the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday (the first day of the week), calling it “the Lord’s day.”
Here are some quotes from the early Church:
The Didache – “But every Lord’s day . . . gather yourselves together and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. But let no one that is at variance with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned.” (Didache 14 [A.D. 70])
The Letter of Barnabas – “We keep the eighth day [Sunday] with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead.” (Letter of Barnabas 15:6–8 [A.D. 74])
Ignatius of Antioch – “Those who were brought up in the ancient order of things [i.e. Jews] have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s day, on which also our life has sprung up again by him and by his death.” (Letter to the Magnesians 8 [A.D. 110])
Justin Martyr – “But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead.” (First Apology 67 [A.D. 155])
The Didascalia – “The apostles further appointed: On the first day of the week let there be service, and the reading of the holy scriptures, and the oblation, because on the first day of the week [i.e., Sunday] our Lord rose from the place of the dead, and on the first day of the week he arose upon the world, and on the first day of the week he ascended up to heaven, and on the first day of the week he will appear at last with the angels of heaven.” (Didascalia 2 [A.D. 225])
Athanasius – “The Sabbath was the end of the first creation, the Lord’s day was the beginning of the second, in which he renewed and restored the old in the same way as he prescribed that they should formerly observe the Sabbath as a memorial of the end of the first things, so we honor the Lord’s day as being the memorial of the new creation.” (On Sabbath and Circumcision 3 [A.D. 345])
“For the Christian, every Lord’s Day is to be a celebration of the resurrection of Christ.” – R.C. Sproul
Here’s Dr. John MacArthur addressing the subject:
Phil Johnson speaks on the subject, “Is Seventh-Day Adventism a Cult?” at this link.