Is Seventh Day Adventism (SDA) Christian or Cult?

TL;DR: I’m not sure on the official positions of the SDA, so can’t say for certain whether it is cult or Christian. Undoubtedly, some in the SDA are Christian and others are not.  The crux of the matter is where they put their trust for salvation, and how they view the authority and interpretation of the Scripture (as explained below)…

I’ve had a couple people recently ask me if I thought Seventh Day Adventism (SDA) was Christian or Cult.  So I thought it might help to write out a brief answer here…

Walter Martin, who was seen as an authority on Christianity and Cults, and wrote the book “Kingdom of the Cults”, said that SDA was Christian (and not a cult).  However, he did express some serious concerns he had with them, later on, and has been challenged by other Christians on his assessment.

As for my own view, I consider 3 things in determining whether certain beliefs are truly Christian:

  1. What do they view as their highest authority?
  2. How do they interpret their highest authority?
  3. How do they define the gospel (i.e. the nature of Christ’s saving work and the nature of Jesus/God)?

These 3 elements are sort of like dominoes, so if 1 falls, the other will be dragged down with it.

The Biblical answers for all 3 questions are:

  1. The Scriptures (which are God’s very words written down) are the highest authority.  These consist of the 66 books of the Protestant Canon – no more, no less.
  2. The best interpreter of Scripture is the Author: God.  And the surest way to know God’s thoughts on a matter is through His written word (Scripture).  Thus, we use the Scripture to help us understand other Scripture (e.g. Matt. 4:6-7).  A good principle of interpretation is to use the plainer portions of Scripture to help give light on the more complex portions.  God aids us in this through His Holy Spirit (e.g. 1 John 2:27), through other teachers (e.g. Acts 18:26), and through natural revelation (e.g. Rom. 1:20ff).  But all of these should submit to God’s word as the highest authority – even as Jesus Himself did (see Matt. 4:4-11).  See more on this.
  3. The biblical gospel affirms that humanity is in sinful rebellion to God and incapable of saving themselves from God’s wrath.  But Jesus (who came to earth as fully God and fully man) took God’s wrath on Himself when He died on the cross.  His resurrection is proof that His death paid the full price of sin.  And all who turn to follow Jesus and trust in His work alone will be spared from God’s wrath, and receive full pardon for our sinfulness.

I do not know precisely the “official” stance of Seventh Day Adventism on these 3 points.  And, ultimately, various people within SDA will fall different ways on these issues – some affirming biblical Christianity and others not.  However, there are some concerns I have on all 3 points within SDA:

  1. The SDA affirms the Bible as authoritative, but also seems to esteem the writings of Ellen G. White at an alarmingly high level.
  2. Similarly, Ellen G. White’s interpretations of the Bible also seem to be alarmingly elevated to a place beyond other interpretations of the Bible.
  3. SDA seems dangerously close to believing that people must obey the law (especially celebrating the Sabbath on Saturday – one of the hallmarks of their faith) in addition to trusting in Christ in order to be saved.  This is in contrast to a Biblical gospel, and the numerous Scriptures that see salvation as happening by Christ alone, and received through repentance/faith alone.  For instance: “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” (Rom. 3:28).

Thus, in my opinion…SDA seems, at best, confusing, and at worst heretical.  But I’d love to learn more from others who have knowledge on this subject.



Choosing a Commentary

Someone recently asked me which Bible commentaries I would recommend.  So I thought it might be worth posting my answer here, as well:

My favorite place to find commentaries that are freely available is:

With so many commentaries at Studylight, I have not explored many of them in a lot of depth. However, I can say that these are the main ones I use (in no particular order):

  • John Calvin
  • Albert Barnes
  • Jamieson, Fausset, Brown (“Commentary Critical & Explanatory on the Whole Bible – Unabridged”)
  • John Gill
  • Matthew Henry
  • Spurgeon’s Verse Expositions
  • Keil & Delitzsch’s Commentary on the Old Testament

I also would add the following honorable mentions (in no particular order):

  • H.A. Ironside
  • John Owen
  • A.W. Pink
  • John Lightfoot’s Commentary on the Gospels
  • Alexander Maclaren
  • Matthew Poole
  • Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

However, some of my favorite commentaries are not in the public domain, and so you have to purchase them or find in a library.  These include:

  • Pillar Commentary
  • Expositor’s Bible Commentary
  • New International Commentary
  • New American Commentary

These are written more recently than most of the ones available in the public domain.

Commentaries written recently have the advantage of addressing current concerns/critiques and building off of the wisdom of all those who came before them.

But they have the disadvantage of being blinded to cultural prejudices and biases that we may also unwittingly share.  For instance, commentaries written after the “Enlightenment” have to deal with the pressures of intensified skepticism of the miraculous that commentaries written earlier don’t have to deal with….and it’s crazy to see how much unbelief has probably eroded society as a result of enlightenment ideas (a great book that shows that is “Miracles” by Craig Keener, where he compares the attitude toward the miraculous in societies affected by the “Enlightenment” vs. societies unaffected…it’s a real eye-opener).