A Creed of Adventist Apostasy

By admin On October 2, 2015 Under General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists

preacherI have been watching as our church more closely defines its creed and seeks to enforce it. Before my eyes it is becoming a persecuting power. Yet some say, “We can’t just let every wind of doctrine blow freely within our church. We must ‘cry aloud and spare not’ to show our brethren their sin.” To that I ask, “How can we show our brethren the speck of sawdust in their eye and pay no attention to the plank in our own?” We have one of two choices: giving our brethren the freedom to disagree with us on doctrine or persecuting them.

What Is Wrong With A Creed?

  • Exalting A Creed Results In Persecution

For some time I have been impressed by the statement, made by J.N. Loughborough in the Seventh-day Adventist Review and Herald, on the formation of a creed, :

“The first step of apostasy is to get up a creed, telling us what we shall believe. The second is, to make that creed a test of fellowship. The third is to try members by that creed. The fourth to denounce as heretics those who do not believe that creed. And fifth, to commence persecution against such.” (Review and Herald, October 8, 1861)

When creed is lifted up, liberty of conscience is nearly always threatened. History illustrates this principle over and over, proving the authenticity of Elder Loughborough’s statement.

  • Jesus Spoke Against Creeds

The first question that comes to my mind is: “Without a creed how can we keep error out of the church?” In Matthew 13 Jesus answers my question in His parable of the wheat and the tares. In answer to the workers’ desire to gather up the tares, Jesus said: “Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest.”

By Christ’s own words, we must not make up fundamental beliefs by which to try our fellow Christians. We must not excommunicate those who don’t see the Christian life just like we do.

  • A Creed Exalts Doctrine Above Faith In Christ

In John 4:23, Jesus talked about a time when things would be put to rights and His people would worship him “in spirit and in truth.” The biggest error of creed is that is exalts “the truth” at the expense of “the spirit.” Sets of doctrines are lifted up as the only way to salvation, forgetting that good works are the result of a heart experience with Jesus.

  • A Creed Destroys Our Witness

Upholding a creed is at the heart of a critical issue for the church in these last days: our witness. The most powerful part of our witness in the end times is how we (finally) reflect God in how we love one another. As Ellen White observes, our emphasis has been much to heavy on creed at the expense of love. How can our love be expressed when we form a creed that must be strictly obeyed throughout the world or else?

It is important for us to embody what marriage has always symbolized: a fellowship of all believers, where we are all the bride, focusing on the bridegroom and celebrating each other’s insights, gifts, and differences. By setting up any creed and condemning people by it we are destroying not only our unity, but also our witness.

Creed-Web-BannerHow Should We View the 28 Fundamental Beliefs?

Biblically, our 28 fundamental beliefs should be guidelines that delineate how the majority of Seventh-day Adventists believe, but not binding decrees by which to force our members into uniformity.

Yet creed reaches out to demand more than this. It seeks to legislate and enforce decrees that are not even fundamental. Even though this tendency is strong in our church, most would agree that the Seventh-day Adventist church has a structure that discourages the formation of creed. Unlike the papacy, our seat of power was formed to be in the local church, the local conference, and the union. The General Conference exists to glue us all together, not to rule with kingly authority. Local decisions should be in harmony with the GC as much as possible, but harmony is not unison. Unity is not uniformity.

These are powerful reasons why we must refrain from making even our 28 fundamental beliefs a test of fellowship. Our only test should be 1 John 5:11-12: “And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.”

Persecution Is The Spirit Of Apostasy

Even though we must preach the truth as we see it, we will never fully agree on it. That is okay. What is not okay is the papal spirit of coercion by which the Seventh-day Adventist General Conference seeks to force every Adventist to adhere to its creed. This is the point upon which those who believe in women’s ordination are categorically right and the GC and some overzealous ministries (and ministers) are direly wrong. There is no room in our church for the persecution against brother and sister, a persecution that is already starting. This is the spirit of apostasy.

Apostasy? Really? Yes. As you read above, J.N. Loughborough called it apostasy. Ellen White also defines the inclination to force others against their conscience as apostasy:

“When our nation, in its legislative councils, shall enact laws to bind the consciences of men in regard to their religious privileges, enforcing Sunday observance, and bringing oppressive power to bear against those who keep the seventh-day Sabbath, the law of God will, to all intents and purposes, be made void in our land, and national APOSTASY will be followed by national ruin” (The S.D.A. Bible Commentary 7:977 1888, emphasis mine).

It is not any gross sin that etches “apostasy” on the books of heaven. It is the sin of forcing another against their conscience that heaven considers especially foul. This principle, more than any other, is contrary to love.

“It seems to me, and I am personally convinced, that the Church must never speak from a position of strength…It ought not to be one of the forces influencing this or that state. The Church ought to be, if you will, just as powerless as God himself, which does not coerce but which calls and unveils the beauty and the truth of things without imposing them. As soon as the Church begins to exercise power, it loses its most profound characteristic which is divine love [i.e.] the understanding of those it is called to save and not to smash…” – Metropolitan Anthony Bloom

A forcing of conscience to conform to creed has no place in our church! In this the General Conference and these ministries must back off. They must allow for what Ellen White calls “unity in diversity” or they are fighting against God and are in the worst sort of apostasy. I would not be nearly so vocal if the issue of ordination didn’t involve liberty of conscience and freedom in Christ.

In the end, both sides could debate a long time about who is right, but there is no debate about how the General Conference should treat those who disagree with them on any doctrine. We must be careful not to force each other on matters of conscience.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church Speaks Like A Dragon

I was moving naively along in the Adventist church, believing that papal Rome was our only concern for persecution in these last times. I had no idea that our church might raise up a creed and persecute our own people by it. However, the events at San Antonio (and subsequent events) have shown me that I was indeed naïve.

In the recent letter to the NPUC, the General Conference was clear, intentional, and hostile about the fact that the NPUC had no authority to ordain women. Many other individuals and ministries have joined in the attack. “Rebellion!” is the cry of the day. The fact that I believe this is a gross violation of our church policy is eclipsed by the spirit of such action. Only the spirit of papal Rome would enforce a non-fundamental issue against the conscience of many in the world church.

“Many claim that a position of trust in the church gives them authority to dictate what other men shall believe and what they shall do. This claim God does not sanction.” – Ellen White, Desire of Ages 414

Ellen White and our founding fathers were afraid of this very thing. It was to prevent a General Conference dictatorship that they gave the unions autonomous power. This bottom-up structure is all that stands in the way of fruition of their concern, all that discourages our formation of a creed. The fact that ordination is not a fundamental issue is even further evidence that we should allow much of our working policy to be decided by Unions according to conscience and culture. Regardless, our General Conference is beginning to speak like a dragon.

God help us! It yet remains to be seen how far they will take this.

Stilke_Hermann_Anton_-_Joan_of_Arc's_Death_at_the_StakeWe Are Lighting the Fires of Persecution

How can the men of God that make up this organization believe that the General Conference can act like Rome and that is okay? Their arguments make it clear that they believe we have a top-down structure like the Catholics. Can’t they see this?

Those in our church that are screaming “rebellion!” are crying for active reprisals to (and I quote an article by the Council of Adventist Pastors on OrdinationTruth) “take whatever action necessary to…prevent fragmentation by rebel units.” This sounds more like the spirit of the Galactic Empire in Star Wars than the humble voice of the bride of Christ. Do they really even hear what they are saying? In those words I can hear already their shouts for the stake and the rack! They apparently know not what spirit they are of. What kind of Seventh-day Adventists can persist in such a course?

Yet we all know what persecution does. It is seed, and this seed will sprout and reap a rich harvest of the very thing these men are fighting against. Marcus Aurelius said, “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” Indeed, persecution births change, and we in the Seventh-day Adventist church are watching that principle in action.

For me, the spirit exhibited by the anti women’s ordination side of this controversy has only solidified my belief in the pro position.

And Fanning the Flames of Disunity

Voting to force others on such hotly contested non-fundamental issues upon which there is no consensus only breeds disunity. Gordon Bietz accurately predicted it:

“Disunity will come to the church when the majority seeks to impose convictions on the minority in areas that are not defined by the 28 Fundamental Beliefs. Ordination should be a policy determined at the division level; it cannot become Fundamental Belief No. 29, because there is no consensus on the issue in the Church. The worldwide unity of the Church will be assured when the focus is maintained on Jesus and our shared mission outlined in the 28 Fundamental Beliefs. Disunity will result when all are required to come to an agreement on issues over which we have developed no consensus…We must avoid the temptation to continue to more narrowly define the truth so as to exclude those who have a different perspective” (Gordon Bietz, Is the Ordination of Women a Threat to Our Unity?).

We who believe in an equal fellowship of all believers are willing to let many issues be solved locally, according to culture and conscience. Yet there are others who lift up creed and demand uniformity throughout the world. “Conform oh rebels or receive the judgments of God at our hands!” is their cry. “Capitulate to our creed or burn at the stake!”

This is not the way of the Lord…

Exercising the freedom God gives us in Christ is hardly rebellion against God! Our church may, like the papacy, seek to force all against conscience and culture, but this is nothing more than rank apostasy. If to stand against it (like Luther) is rebellion, then it is a Christ-like rebellion of the holiest kind.

And I am a rebel.



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