The Seventh-Day Adventist church claims a membership of approximately 21 million world-wide. The numbers are said to total about 1.2 million in the U.S.A. and Canada (Who Are Seventh-Day Adventists?, nadadventist.org).
1. The Great Second Advent Awakening
In the first half of the nineteenth century, many preachers in England and America began to proclaim that Christ’s coming was near. This is known as “The Great Second Advent Awakening.”
One of these preachers was William Miller. He was a Baptist preacher in Low Hampton, New York. He concluded from his study of Daniel that Christ would return between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844. When it did not happen, new dates were set – first April 18, 1844 and then, October 22, 1844 (He took the 2,300 days of Daniel 8:14 to refer to 2,300 years. He started counting with 457 B.C., Artaxerxes decree. This would make 1843 A.D. 2,300 years later by his calculations).
Failure of these dates resulted in what is known as “The Great Disappointment.” Many had “their faith and their hearts broken, never to trust man or God again” (Foy Wallace Jr., God’s Prophetic Word, p. 232).
Some regrouped. Among them were those who formulated explanations or why Christ had not returned. Among them were also those who began to teach various unique doctrines.
2. Three Groups
Three of the groups are of interest to our study. (a) One group, led by Hiram Edson, was located in western New York. They believed that the problem was not with the date, but with the location. Walter Martin explains, “They had expected Christ to come to earth to cleanse the sanctuary, but the sanctuary was not the earth but was located in Heaven! Instead of coming to earth, therefore, Christ had passed from ‘one apartment’ of the sanctuary into the other ‘apartment’ to perform a closing work now known as ‘investigative judgment” [Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults, p. 416). [As a side note: Members of the Bahai Faith believe that the fulfillment of William Miller’s calculations is the Bab (Barron Harper, Did You Miss the Return of Christ? Bahaiteachings.org)]. (b) Another group, led by Joseph Bates, was located in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. They began to advocate Sabbath keeping (Martin, pp. 417-418). (c) A third group, led by James White and Ellen G. Harmon (later White) was located in Portland, Maine. This group recognized Ellen “as the possessor of the ‘spirit of prophecy,’ a restoration of the spiritual gift of prophecy” (Martin, p. 418).
3. Seventh-Day Adventist
The S.D.A. church was formed when these three groups united. Walter Martin writes, “When the Edson-Crosier, Bates, and White adherents joined forces, the Seventh-day Adventist’ denomination was launched. Although the name ‘Seventh-day Adventist’ denomination was not officially assumed until 1860 at a conference held in Battle Creek, Michigan, nevertheless Seventh-Day Adventism had been launched. In 1855, the Adventist headquarters were established in Battle Creek and remained there until 1903, when they were transferred to Takoma Park, a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C.” (Martin, p. 418). Its headquarters is now located in Silver Spring, Maryland (adventist.org).
1. The Bible
“Seventh-day Adventists uniformly believe that the canon of scripture closed with the book of Revelation we hold that all other writings and teachings, from whatever source, are to be judged by, and are subject to the Bible, which is the spring and norm of the Christian Faith” (Questions on Doctrine, pp. 89-90).
2. Ellen G. White
“Seventh-day Adventists regard her writings as containing inspired counsel and instruction concerning personal religion and conduct of our denominational work… we base our teaching on the scriptures, the only foundation of all true Christian doctrine. However, it is our belief that the Holy Spirit opened to her mind important events and called her to give certain instructions for these last days. And inasmuch as these instructions, in our understanding, are in harmony with the word of God… We as a denomination accept them as inspired counsels from the Lord” (Questions on Doctrine, pp. 92-93).
Ellen G. White wrote 53 books. Some describe her as a plagiarist. Seventh-day Adventist pastor, Walter Rea so describes her. He said that he had not found a single major work by White that did not use a previously published source. He provided examples. Rea said, “The important thing is that she and the denomination always claimed that she didn’t copy and that she wasn’t influenced by anyone” (John Dart, Seventh-day Adventist Prophet White is Called Plagiarist, Los Angeles Times, Nov. 7, 1980). Others admit that she borrowed from others but likens it to a New Testament writer quoting from an Old Testament writer (ibid).
Let’s be clear, the real issue is not whether she borrowed from other sources or not. The real issue is whether or not she had the gift of prophecy. It is the position of this writer that a proper understanding of 1 Corinthians 13 implies that she did not.