4. In your publication Seventh-day Adventists Believe ... we read on page 267, "Obedience to the law, as the rule of life, is vital to our salvation." This leads us to believe that our salvation is not entirely by grace if obedience to the law is vital. Could you explain this?
The Bible is absolutely clear that we are only saved by the grace of Jesus. If we have faith in Him and accept His sacrifice for us we will be saved. The law is a set of moral guidelines, designed to point out where we are in our relationship to God and our fellow men. Its main function is to give us a knowledge of sin (Romans 3:20) and remind us that there are divine rules of conduct by which the universe is governed. A person may get "saved" during a revival meeting or something similar, but after a while they start asking, "what now?" The law gives us an idea of the kind of life God wants us to live after we are saved. It can be seen as a long-term blueprint for a happy and fulfilled life. Paul says in Ephesians 2:8 that we have been saved by grace through faith, but he goes on to say that we are "God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."
5. We read further, in the above book that celebrating the Sabbath on a Sunday "had its origins in 'the mystery of lawlessness'." We are further told that all churches that continue to worship on Sunday will "eventually receive the mark of the beast." Surely this terminology is saying that all other churches are under Satan's influence and the SDA's are the only one serving the true Lord?
Seventh-day Adventists believe that the fourth commandment is just as important as the other nine and that God actually wants the people that He has saved to worship on a Saturday. Obviously many other Christians don't see this in quite the same way as we do, but we believe that some time in the future the Sabbath versus Sunday question will become a key issue in Christianity. When it does then Christians will have to make a choice as to which side they are on. It is this decision, choosing to obey God or not to obey Him, that we think will eventually determine who has the 'mark of the beast'. We don't claim to have reached that time yet and we certainly would not say that any truly born again Christian who is currently worshipping on a Sunday has the 'mark of the beast' or is under Satan's influence. However we would ask our fellow Christians to think about the question of the Sabbath. We've done a lot of research on the subject and we're quite happy to discuss it with anyone.
6. It is often said that SDA's believe that Satan plays a part in salvation. Surely if he is to take sin away from the sanctuary to the lake of fire they have a point? How do you respond to this?
This suggestion has come about from the belief that on the Day of Atonement the Azazel goat had sins laid upon it and was sent into the wilderness. But in no sense is that goat a 'sin-bearer'. The Day of Atonement is a symbol of the last judgement when Satan, Hades and death are cast into the lake of fire. The most important part of the Day of Atonement was when the Lord's goat was sacrificed for sin, thus putting things right between God and His people. Only when the atonement was complete (Leviticus 16:16-19) did Azazel enter the picture. I think that the scapegoat was simply an indication that the devil would eventually be faced with the consequences of his action, when sin and sinners will be no more. For most Seventh-day Adventists the identification of Azazel is an obscure side issue. Whatever the truth of the matter we certainly do not accept that Satan is in any sense involved in our salvation.
7. Many people use the phrase "Investigative Judgement" when talking about SDA's, please can you explain what this is?
Probably because we have always had a healthy interest in Christ's Second Coming we have done some detailed studies of the events connected with His return. Revelation 22:12 suggests that the rewards have already been decided before the Second Advent, when Jesus comes as King. Even in the Old Testament Daniel 7:9-14 pictures a judgement scene which precedes the Advent. So obviously some kind of investigation and decision-making process takes place before Jesus actually returns. We get extra details from the rituals and symbolism of the Old Testament sanctuary. Here we see the priests working every day in the outer court and the Holy place. However, once every year, there was the special day of judgement, known as the Day of Atonement. We believe the Jewish sacrificial year was an illustration of God's plan of salvation and that the equivalent of the Day of Atonement has already begun. Thus we believe that Jesus, our High Priest, is now involved in a final judgement phase, the results of which will be seen when He comes again.
8. We received a letter stating that a member of an Adventist Church in the West Midlands told a Christian that Jesus is Michael the archangel. Is this an official teaching of the Adventist Church today, or is it something that they once taught and have now abandoned, with just a few still hanging on to it?
I have to admit that this isn't something that I have heard much about. However, having looked it up I can tell you that apparently the Church discussed this issue some forty years ago and concluded that the precise identification of Michael was not important enough to dwell on at length. (Questions on Doctrine, p.71). The reasoning behind identifying Jesus with Michael probably comes from 1 Thessalonians 4:16 where the voice of the archangel awakens the dead, and John 5:28 where Jesus said that He would arouse the dead.
The name Michael is always used in an apocalyptic context and I don't think that identifying Michael with Christ in any way implies that the Lord Jesus is less than fully divine. He is co-eternal and co-equal with the Father. Seven times He referred to Himself in the fourth gospel as I AM, a clear indication that He is God and not just an angel. The very expression "arch-angel" implies someone over or above the angels.
9. Are there differences between the beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists in the USA and Britain/Europe?
Yes, but only superficially. Around the world Seventh-day Adventists tend to have a different "flavour" depending on the religious and social makeup of the host country. I think that this is probably true of all Churches, but with Seventh-day Adventists spread so widely around the world it is inevitable. The things that differ tend to be connected with worship style rather than with beliefs though there are minor regional differences in beliefs as well. Just what these differences are is hard to say. I'm sure someone is writing a doctoral dissertation on the subject at the moment! From my own experience I feel that, for example, Adventists from former Soviet block countries tend to put more emphasis on rules and standards of behaviour, and American Adventists like to emphasise the historical roots of Adventism (which of course started in America). These are just generalisations of course - there may be just as many differences between two churches in London as between two churches in different countries. Having said all this, there is a remarkable unity among Seventh-day Adventists. You can visit a church in Ghana or a church in Scotland and still know that you are worshipping with fellow Seventh-day Adventists.
10. Do you still believe that Ellen White was a prophetess?
Yes, though she never claimed that title. She preferred to describe herself as God's messenger, or servant, but in today's language we would say that she had the spiritual gift of prophecy. Ellen White used this gift from 1844, when she was just 17, to 1915, the year of her death. We believe that the main purpose of her spiritual gift was to build up the Seventh-day Adventist Church in its early stages. However some of her books, such as Desire of Ages, were written for the general public, and her work on healthy living (most of which seems commonplace today) was startling in its time.
11. Are all the teachings of Ellen White accepted as Biblical today?
No, we have never considered Ellen White's writings to be the same as the scriptures. The Bible and the Bible alone is our standard. Ellen White saw a major part of her work as leading people to read the Bible and helping them to understand it. Her writings are not in any way a substitute for scripture but many Seventh-day Adventists have come to appreciate the Bible better after reading her writings. She never claimed to be infallible and she sometimes had to deal with mundane matters where she didn't claim any divine guidance. Also, some of her writings were directed towards specific individuals or situations in her time and obviously these may not be as relevant today as they once were.