QuickTip – Are Seventh-day Adventists a cult?
If someone says SDAs are a cult because of the Investigative Judgement doctrine, ask:
1) Do you believe all Arminian denominations are a cult?
2) Do you believe all groups that hold the doctrine of ‘Soul Sleep’ are a cult?
If no, the SDA doctrine of the Investigative Judgment is simply a combination of Arminianism and belief in soul sleep.
QuickTip 2 – Are Seventh-day Adventists a cult?
Probably the most important thing to understand before engaging in this discussion is the difference between Calvinists and Arminians. (See a brief summary here: http://www.crivoice.org/tulip.html)
Virtually all protestants can be divided into one of three categories regardless of whether they accept the label and it is imperative that you know who you’re taking to before continuing. Are they:
1) Pure Calvinists
2) Pure Arminians
3) Hybrid – O.S.A.S.
The hybrid group, once saved always saved, often calls itself Arminian but takes items 1-4 from the Arminian side and item 5 from the Calvinist side (See link).
** People who consider Adventists a cult are almost always either Calvinists or hybrids or else base their options on the writings of Calvinists/hybrids.
QuickTip 3 – Are Seventh-day Adventists a cult?
Here is a three-part process to use before addressing any specific doctrines.
A. Ask the following:
Are there beliefs held by other denominations that you disagree with even though you don’t consider the respective denomination itself a cult?
If so then ask the person to arrange SDA doctrines into three categories:
1) Doctrines they agree with
2) Doctrines they disagree with but not cultish
3) Cultish doctrines
B. Confirm this selection by making sure they also consider other denominations a cult if they hold any of the beliefs in category 3. (are they impartial)
C. Ask them for the rationale for considering any doctrine in category 3 as cultish.
Make sure the conversation stays focused on items in category 3 and they don’t also bring up items in category 2 as additional evidence against Adventism.
QuickTip 4 – Are Seventh-day Adventists a cult?
Ask for their definition of ‘cult.’
The secular public understand the word ‘cult’ to refer to often dangerous extremist religious groups that use manipulation techniques to control members.
In Christian circles the word has a very different meaning and refers to groups that depart from what is considered orthodox Christian belief in key areas such as the trinity or salvation theory.
The term is often used with the intention to mislead since, even though only the second meaning is applicable, the public assumes the first meaning was intended and becomes frightful of exposure to the group.
QuickTip 5 – Are Seventh-day Adventists a cult?
“Adventists follow the false prophet Ellen White.”
1) The word ‘prophet’ has a significantly different meaning today than in the Bible. It should never be used in reference to Ellen White.
Prophets today are people who start their own religion and whose views/writings hold absolute sway. (Ex. Joseph Smith – Mormonism, Mohammed – Islam)
2) Adventists view Ellen White like one of the people who God used to deliver messages in the Bible but whose writings never became part of the Biblical cannon. (Ex. Agabus – Acts 11:28, 21:10 or the daughters of Philip – Acts 21:8,9)
3) Adventists are fully Protestant and firm supporters of Sola Scriptura. We base all our beliefs on the Bible and the Bible only.
4) If someone feels that the church should abandon her writings anyway because of the many errors:
a. Tell them that there are 10 times more books/websites claiming there are errors with the Bible than with Ellen White.
b. Ask them to take some time, go through all the anti-EGW books and websites they can find and pick the top 10 worst errors/problems in her writings.
c. Ask them to give you a week to research those issues and get back to them.
If you can provide satisfactory answers to their top ten, chances are the rest of the objections are unfounded as well.
QuickTip 6 – Are Seventh-day Adventists a cult?
“SDAs believe they are the remnant church”
When SDAs refer to themselves as the remnant church they are essentially making the same mistake as someone claiming to be gay while meaning ‘happy.’ What people hear is something totally different than what was intended.
When it comes to what Adventists actually mean by the phrase however, all denominations consider themselves the remnant church. Essentially, it is the belief that one’s own denomination is most similar to the New Testament model. Or else, what would be the alternative? For a denomination to believe ANOTHER denomination is more similar to the New Testament church?
QuickTip 7 – Are Seventh-day Adventists a cult?
“Adventists think they are the only ones who are saved.”
The ironic thing here is that even though this isn’t something Adventists believe, it often is what the person making this accusation believes.
Ask the person, ‘Do you think that people who have never heard of Christianity can be saved?’
Many will tell you that, since there is no other Name under heaven whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12), they cannot. And thus, according to them, 99% of all people that have ever lived will be lost for the simple fault that they were born in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Adventists believe that even though salvation is through Christ, the Holy Spirit can bring anyone to repentance and surrender such that they can be saved through Christ even having never known of Him. (Zach. 13:6)
QuickTip 8 – Are Seventh-day Adventists a cult?
“Adventists believe Jesus took Adam’s nature after the fall.”
The historic Christian debate regarding Jesus’ human nature (sinless vs. sinful) is not applicable to Adventists since we are not dualists.
QuickTip 9 – Are Seventh-day Adventists a cult?
“Adventists are trying to earn their salvation by keeping the Sabbath.”
Let’s say we found 1000 people that don’t know anything about Christianity (Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists etc.). And, let’s say we gave them a Bible and asked them to read it from cover to cover.
We then asked them the following question:
‘Given that the Bible says that Christians should not forsake the assembling of themselves together (Heb. 10:25), and, given that to assemble together everyone needs to show up at church on the same day of the week, what day should that be according to the Bible?’
The answer from anyone who knows nothing of Christian tradition and is responding entirely based on the Bible will be, The Sabbath.
Now there are Protestant denominations that choose to baptize their members by immersion as opposed to sprinkling infants. They do this not to earn salvation but in order to stay as close to the Bible as possible. And, no one considers them a cult because of this. Neither should Adventists be blamed for doing the same in reference to the Sabbath.
QuickTip 10 – Are Seventh-day Adventists a cult?
“Adventists believe that Satan helps atone for sins.”
This is an unfortunate misunderstanding. Consider the following analogy:
A mob boss hires a hit-man to kill someone. When the murder is committed, who is responsible for that crime? The person who pulled the trigger definitely, but so is the one who commissioned the crime.
Whenever someone sins, Satan, through his temptations, shares in the responsibility for that sin. And, in the end, he will be punished for his share in that responsibility.
QuickTip 11 – Are Seventh-day Adventists a cult?
“Adventists believe people who worship on Sunday have the Mark of the Beast.”
The mark of the beast describes a situation where a government enacts laws forcing people to do things that are contrary to their conscience or else suffer punishment.
For example, in the Old Testament book of Daniel, (ch. 3) Daniel’s three friends were sentenced to death for refusing to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s idol. During New Testament times as well, some Christians were sentenced to death for refusing to burn incense to Caesar.
Yes, Adventists believe that at the end of time the issue will be Sunday/Sabbath veneration. But the guilt of those who receive the mark as described in Revelation 14:9-11 (see also Rev. 13:11-17) is not in worshipping on the wrong day but in using legal measures to force others to disobey God.
QuickTip 12 – Are Seventh-day Adventists a cult?
“Adventists believe Jesus is Michael the Archangel.”
The only reason this would be a problem is if Adventists believed that an archangel is a created being. Archangel however simply means ‘commander of the angels.’
QuickTip 13 – Are Seventh-day Adventists a cult?
“Adventists don’t have assurance of salvation.”
The Adventist doctrine of the Investigative Judgment allows Adventists to be more secure in their salvation than any other Arminian group. (see this article for more details How Adventism Ended the Gospel Wars)
QuickTip 14 – Are Seventh-day Adventists a cult?
“Adventists believe that the atonement wasn’t competed at the cross.”
This is an example of an equivocation fallacy. The word ‘atonement’ has different uses in Scripture.
Adventists do believe that Christ’s sacrifice was complete and sufficient to purchase salvation. Like every other Arminian denomination, we also believe that salvation can be lost and that some determination has to be made as to who ends up in heaven in the end. Use of the same term in both contexts does not imply that one is incomplete without the other.
QuickTip 15 – Are Seventh-day Adventists a cult?
I mentioned in one of the first QuickTips that a differentiation should be made between doctrines that are considered wrong and doctrines that are considered heretical. You will find however that, many times, the person will want to continue arguing a topic with you even if you’ve demonstrated that the Adventist view cannot legitimately be considered cultic.
In such a case, tell them that you are more than willing to come back to that topic and discuss it more fully later but, for as long as they consider the Adventist denomination a cult, an open discussion characterized by mutual respect is not yet possible.