95 Theses for adventists

Five hundred years ago, Martin Luther’s 95 Theses sparked the Protestant Reformation. Here are 95 new proposals in the 21st century for Seventh-day Adventists to experience revival and reformation:

1.   Of all denominations, only Seventh-day Adventists can defend all fundamental beliefs from Scripture alone. Thus there is no need to enthrone Ellen White as lord over the Bible.

2.     You can have doctrine without Jesus, but you cannot have Jesus without doctrine—true doctrine expresses and illustrates Jesus. Any teaching that denies or diminishes His gospel of grace is a doctrine of devils.

3.     SDA doctrine is grace-based, yet we typically present truth in the context of law. We do this in ignorance that “the law came by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).

4.     Adventist pioneers were woefully deficient in grasping the gospel; it is miraculous evidence of God’s leading that their body of beliefs, born and bred in legalism, can now optimally showcase His grace.

5.     Adventist doctrines are intrinsically relational and thus incarnational in the neighborhood, marketplace and classroom. But reluctance to socialize with other denominations stifles our witness (whether through apathy, fear, spiritual pride or in seeking to safeguard SDA distinctiveness).

6.     Since Scripture is primarily narrative (even prophecy is narrative in advance), Adventist doctrines are best understood and appreciated within the salvation saga of Christ’s victory over Satan in the Great Controversy.

7.     Salvation is the story of how Eden lost became paradise restored through the triumphant life, death and resurrection of Jesus. In Eden we all died with Adam in sin; at Calvary we all died with Christ to sin. Saving faith disowns old humanity from Adam in exchange for our new creation in Christ.

8.     Christ as our new Adam is head of a new human race—the church, His body comprised of all true believer-disciples (not limited to Seventh-day Adventists).

9.     Jesus Christ is eternal God as the second member of the Trinity; references in Scripture to Him as “Firstborn of all creation” relate to His role as resurrected Representative of the new humanity He redeemed.

10.  Jesus became human forever—not only to die on the cross but now to serve as our risen Advocate. Throughout eternity He will still be the Lamb upon the throne as Son of Man and Son of God, while retaining His full Godship. (11/4)

11.  From eternity God predestined us to become His children through Jesus. He accomplished that purpose when He accepted and adopted us all together in Christ upon His resurrection. Presently and personally, we choose whether or not to accept God’s acceptance.

12.  By believing in Jesus, we activate God’s acceptance and adoption of us. God then seals us with His Spirit as His children, and we are born again as joint heirs together with Christ.

13.  Through baptism we officially reject our old humanity from Adam, which died and was buried in Christ’s sacrifice 2,000 years ago. We rise from the water of baptism to live out our new humanity by abiding daily in the risen Christ.

14.  Holy Communion with fellow members of Christ’s body celebrates our corporate participation in the historic death of Jesus while reaffirming our commitment made at baptism.

15.  Salvation is more than getting one’s sorry soul justified. Beyond forgiveness, we are resurrected from aimless, selfish living to fulfill God’s purpose of conforming us together into the image of His Son as the living temple of His Spirit.

16.  From that maturing and refining process, God’s people will emerge as His final remnant just before Christ’s coming—those who keep God’s commandments while trusting the faithfulness of Jesus.

17.  Meanwhile, when convicting believers of sin, God is not questioning our salvation or shaming us; instead He gently reminds us: “That’s not who you really are. We can do better next time.”

18.  For a believer, the purpose of confessing sin is not to regain lost salvation but to reaffirm our relation to Christ; we also recommit ourselves to love God with all our hearts and love one another as He has loved us.

19.  Christian living is not an imitation of Christ’s example (a medieval myth) but actually experiencing and expressing His resurrection life together in the Spirit.

20.  Just as we receive forgiveness only through Christ’s death at Calvary, we receive the Spirit based only upon His historic resurrection and glorification.

21.  In vain Adventism today seeks revival and reformation without reference to the resurrection of Jesus, which is our only access to the latter rain refreshing of the Spirit’s historic baptism upon the church at Pentecost.

22.  Shared identity in Christ makes us a symphony of God’s love, experiencing unity while celebrating diversity of gender, ethnicity, culture, personality and age. We respect one another’s uniqueness while embracing our composite unity in the body of Christ.

23.  Adventist doctrine facilitates koinōnia (sharing life together) and shalom (the quality of that life). Thus genuine Adventism is zoetic, communicating “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 8:3).

24.  Eternal life through Christ is more than having a heart that never stops beating; it is being vivified in continuing loving relationality through His Spirit within us.

25.  Life in Christ rescues us from death in all its morbidity: guilt is death of innocence, alienation is death of relationality, selfishness is death of love, sorrow is death of joy, strife is death of peace, etc.

26.  The joy of the Lord is our strength over sin; the life-transforming power of God’s Spirit flows through the joy, peace and hope resulting from believing in Jesus (see Neh. 8:10; Rom. 15:13).

27.  Victory over sin is not through some magical formula that activates Bible promises; it is the outworking of emotional and spiritual healing through God’s loving grace.

28.  Christ does not impart character qualities separately, parceling out patience, purity, etc.; these are bundled together as the fruit of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.

29.  The Holy Spirit within us guides us in living for God, and His law then tests the genuineness of our Christian experience. The difference between “guide” and “test” may seem subtle but is significant.

30.  God’s holy law exposes our faults with devastating clarity; were it not for grace, the law would discourage us and thus cripple the very qualities it requires. We must actually lose the law for Christ’s sake to find it fulfilling in our lives.

31.  We do not trust in our own faith but in the faithfulness of Christ, whose life of perfect victory fulfilled God’s law and secured our salvation in the New Covenant.

32.  The relationship between the Old and New Covenants is more of a contrast than a comparison. Whereas a Sinai-centered focus generated fear and failure, now through Christ we may confidently access God’s throne of grace to receive help in time of need.

33.  One contrast between the Old and New Covenants is that the new is based upon better promises—God makes them, and we trust Him to write His law within our hearts.

34.  Whatever one’s sincerity about solitary sinlessness, whoever neglects the communal and compassionate core of Christianity does not live the truth as it is in Jesus. Biblical perfection is not obsessed with trinkets and trivia but on being built up together in love within the body of Christ, reaching out in His name to a lost world.

35.  Prayer, both personal and corporate, is not primarily to pursue our own requests but to fellowship with God in submission to His eternal purposes.

36.  We are saved to fulfill God’s purposes for our lives: fundamentally worship, fellowship, discipleship, serving and outreach.

37.  The foundation of Christian living is worship, without which everything we do is dysfunctional and inadequate. Worshiping is adoring and exalting God with all our hearts, minds and souls.

38.  Emotion in worship (not to be confused with cheap emotionalism) is a spiritually liberating experience through loving the Lord with all our hearts. Leaders who suppress heartfelt praise music are guilty of quenching the Spirit of love and joy.

39.  Inside the church’s house of worship, we may converse appropriately with guests and members—rejecting the medieval imposition of silence in the sanctuary.

40.  Fellowship is life together in the Spirit by which we participate in each other’s sorrows, struggles and celebrations.

41.  Discipleship is a learning experience in which we mentor and are mentored by others according to our unique stewardship of spiritual gifts, experience and calling.

42.  A key indicator of spiritual giftedness to which God has called you is whatever arouses inner outrage; while other believers are sad about something (homelessness, abuse, heresy, etc.) you may find yourself angry—and that holy passion is the Spirit’s call to ministry.

43.  Our lifelong vacation from guilt inspires a vocation of service, facilitating shalom and koinonia as Christ’s ambassadors to a fearful, alienated world. Everything we do serving people is primarily and ultimately directed toward Jesus, our lord and life.

44.  Outreach is more than a staged event; it is a continuous incarnational mission to our workplace, marketplace or classroom, being always ready to share God’s grace and truth.

45.  All Christians believe in the historic Christ and an eternity with him, but Adventism showcases the real-time Jesus as our high priest in heaven’s sanctuary, ever living to make intercession for us.   

46.  As Christ is our representative in heaven, we on earth are His ambassadors—servants of the sanctuary. Thus Adventism completes the historic insight of the Protestant Reformers regarding the priesthood of all believers.

47.  Heaven’s sanctuary is the human resource center of the universe, where the Lord Jesus has supervised spiritual gifts for service since the day He poured out His Spirit at Pentecost.

48.  As our heavenly Advocate, Jesus confesses us before God and the angels against the accusations of the devil. Thus we are vindicated in God’s celestial pre-Advent judgment.

49.  The question in our salvation is not how good we have become, but which humanity we choose to belong to—the risen Christ’s new humanity versus fallen Adam’s old humanity.

50.  Excitement about the soon coming of Christ without having full assurance of passing God’s final judgment is either irrational or pretentious.

51.  Judgment initially took place on the cross when Jesus was judged guilty as the representative of sinful humanity. Christ’s own righteousness was then vindicated in His resurrection—and that is our birthright in Him.

52.  The pre-Advent judgment does not threaten our salvation or question our acceptance in Christ. Instead, God’s celestial court vindicates us against Satan. We overcame the devil’s accusations by the blood of the Lamb, which is the theme of our personal testimony.

53.  In the celestial judgment, God allows Himself to be audited by His universe, demonstrating how He has been consistently loving and fair-minded in all His doings throughout history.

54. In releasing us from condemnation, God comes under satanic accusation as chair of the heavenly parole board. The pre-Advent celestial judgment vindicates God in justifying sinners who repent.

55. The final judgment executed at Christ’s coming will divide His sheep of compassion from the devil’s goats of selfish religiosity.

56. In a word, the greatest contribution of Adventist doctrine is closure. There is an organized end to evil itself after the millennium, during which we will gain insight into God’s dealings throughout history.

57.  Hell itself facilitates closure—the place where those who reject the atonement of Christ will tragically experience their own punitive atonement.

58.  Realizing that lost people will not suffer eternal torture provides Adventists with additional insight and inspiration for loving God, since He is not vindictive toward those who reject Him.

59.  Because of Sabbath rest in Christ, Adventists can be the most refreshed and refreshing people on the planet. At sundown on Friday, we rest from our works even though we haven’t fulfilled the law’s requirement to finish all our work in the previous six days.

60.  Since the seventh-day Sabbath continually offers opportunity to celebrate our rest in the finished works of Christ, it is the greatest teaching tool of the gospel.

61.  The final Sunday law will attempt national salvation by works, seeking to rescue Christendom from its mortal enemies. America will forfeit civil and religious liberties in quest of national security.

62.  Bible prophecy predicts a renewed end-time theocracy in the name of Jesus—a collaboration of church and state to save Western civilization from a coalition of militant Islam and leftover Communism. We see this in Daniel 11’s prophecy of King of the South versus King of the North preceding earth’s final time of trouble.

63.  Because Ellen White never warned about militant Islam (not an issue in her day), Adventists are reluctant to teach prophecy in our contemporary context. Being locked into a 19th century prophetic scenario cripples our relevance in the 21st century.

64.  Final generation sabbatarian Pharisees will not receive the seal of God reserved for those who trust in Jesus as Lord of the Sabbath. They will wake up 1,000 years too late to hear the sad dismissal, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”

65.  The Sabbath memorializes both original human life and new life in Christ, preserving both the knowledge of and the importance of creation and re-creation.

66.  The age of the earth is irrelevant to belief in divine Creation; what matters is seven literal days in Genesis 1 culminating with Adam and Eve as human progenitors who then worshiped their Creator on His designated Sabbath memorial.

67.  More than merely a doctrine to be taught in SDA classrooms, creation life is an ongoing reality for every human being in mother’s womb. Defending elective abortion is therefore inconsistent for Adventists, who are called to worship Him who created everything, including unborn human life.

68.  The Seventh-day Adventist Church, by officially permitting elective abortion, not only betrays the Sabbath as the memorial of creation life but also violates the sixth commandment, which protects human life. Such is not the behavior of God’s final remnant, who will actually keep the commandments of God—not merely sermonize about them.

69.  Marriage and the family comprises another hallmark of creation. Because sexuality produces human life, it is the ultimate expression of being created in the image of the Creator. Any sexual behavior other than that of a man with a woman—having no power to create life—is therefore illegitimate.

70.  Male-female sexuality without a lifelong marriage commitment is also inappropriate, destroying the sanctity of the home circle and threatening the security of children born outside of wedlock.

71.  While Adventists must uphold the highest moral standards among ourselves, we should befriend seekers with all their struggles and welcome them to our worship services and fellowship experiences.

72.  Adventists are not called to police each other regarding health principles or lifestyle standards. Jesus did not commission us to canonize our own convictions but to love one another (and He never said a word about jewelry).

73.  Key to Adventism’s appeal is our holistic lifestyle. The heart of this is Ellen White’s eight natural remedies: “Pure air, sunlight, abstemiousness, rest, exercise, proper diet, the use of water, trust in divine power.” This vintage Adventist lifestyle is vindicated by contemporary medical and nutritional science.

74.  The gift of prophecy, along with the other gifts of the Spirit, operate under the authority of the Bible—our only rule of faith. SDA fundamental beliefs are all found in Scripture and thus are not dependent upon Ellen White.

75.  If Ellen White had power to define Scripture, we could not deny other final generation prophets (who are promised in Scripture) the authority to reinterpret the Bible—and even Ellen White's own writings.

76.  Ellen White was not automatically once-saved, always-saved upon being called to prophetic ministry, which is another reason everything she says must be tested by Scripture.

77.  Ellen White, particularly in her early writings, suffered much of the same legalism as her fellow pioneers. For decades her books and testimonies were deficient in such Christian fundamentals as the personhood of the Holy Spirit and the eternal pre-existence of Jesus.

78.  Anyone who insists that Ellen White’s earlier writings are as theologically orthodox or useful as her later writings is either ignorant or intellectually dishonest.

79.  Adventists who empower Ellen White to adjudicate Scripture convey upon her even more authority than Catholics give the pope. His infallibility is limited to occasional ex cathedra pronouncements (under strict guidelines) regarding faith and morals, whereas many SDAs take anything Ellen White wrote or said and impose that upon Scripture—even the words of Christ.

80.  It is worse to make Ellen White the referee of all Scripture than it would be to add her writings to the canon of 66 inspired books—which would make her just one voice among many Bible authors. But many Adventists exalt Sister White as the infallible interpreter of all the Biblical prophets—even the Lord Jesus Christ. So they are guilty of an antichrist mentality by attributing to Ellen White authority over Christ’s established words in Scripture.

81.  Adventists who thus dilute biblical authority bring themselves under the curse of Revelation 22:18-19, which forbids adding anything to the Bible—whether to the volume of Scripture (as Mormons do) or to the exclusive authority of its closed canon.

82.  Contrary to popular myth, Ellen White warned that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is accountable to God and could ultimately be found “weighed and wanting.”

83.  There is no once-saved automatically always saved for any church organization. The stewardship of grace and truth entrusted to Seventh-day Adventists conveys greater responsibility rather than immunity.

84.  Lacking courage, some Adventist leaders neglect their responsibility to effect change in the church by clinging to the popular delusion that “no matter what we do, this church is going through.”

85.  Global Adventism is increasingly imperiled by its expanding extremes: pseudo-conservatism versus pseudo-liberalism, as in Christ’s day with Pharisees and Sadducees. For young adults who remain in the church, the fast track to influence is hyper-conservatism—a clear and present danger to liberty of conscience.

86.  Those who lack personal assurance of salvation in Christ compensate by seeking security, power and identity in denominational once-saved always-saved status. Actually, salvation is certified by having one’s name recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life rather than on a denominational membership roster.

87.  God’s final remnant will be an inclusive group that transcends any particular denomination. Their doctrine will be thoroughly Adventist, but other Christians may bring insights regarding prayer, worship, outreach and purpose-driven living.

88.  The General Conference in session is not to be deified as the voice of God, which constitutes blasphemy and papal-style idolatry. Church policies must be adapted to time and place and are not to be confused with Scripture's timeless principles and doctrines.

89.  Christ alone is head of the church, not the General Conference president or any denominational committee or council.

90.  In Scripture, the end time “shaking” is an act of God—not a human initiative. As a consuming fire, His powerful word rids the earth of everything that opposes the New Covenant and establishes His kingdom of peace and awesome, glorious worship. (new 11/4)

91.  It is a tragic, colossal mistake to disrupt church unity by forbidding ordination of women pastors, since ordination itself is not a Scriptural mandate—even for men. Ordination of leaders over laity is actually a sacrament inherited from the Catholic Church.

92.  General Conference policy actually allows the ordination of women as local elders and deacons, so those who limit ordination to male leaders need to explain why they are “out of compliance” with established church policy (while claiming to uphold it).

93.  Those who promote the “plain reading” of Scripture without cultural interpretation must explain the biblical prohibition against women teaching in church—something Ellen White did continually, even to publicly exert authority over ordained male leaders.

94.  The Adventist Church should not be a top-down hierarchy. All administrative entities, schools and hospitals exist to support the local church—where God’s Word is taught every Sabbath and people are baptized and married, celebrate Communion and evangelize the community.

95.  Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is empowering liberty—not coerced uniformity. Such is the unity of true believers, the body of Christ who will comprise God’s final remnant.

Note: any thesis in colored type is linked to commentary you can access by clicking on it. Changes to a thesis or its commentary are date-stamped, e.g. (11/2). Also check the “Blog” tab for fresh content.

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