[Photo Courtesy of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists]

General Conference

History of the 28 Fundamental Beliefs

President of the Seventh-day Adventist World Church, Ted N.C. Wilson, talks about the history of the Adventist Church’s beliefs.

Silver Spring, Maryland, United States | Ted N.C. Wilson, President, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists

Editor’s Note: Below is a transcript of a message, posted to YouTube on January 6, 2022, from President of the Adventist Church, Ted N.C. Wilson. You can see past messages here

Greetings, friends. As we begin this new year, I'd like to invite you to join me on an exciting journey as we explore what the Bible has to say on many important and relevant topics for us today.

As you may know, we Seventh-day Adventists base all of our beliefs on the Bible, and the Bible alone. The Seventh-day Adventist Church does not have, nor has it ever had, a set creed. Instead, we have a collection of 28 Fundamental Beliefs that express what we believe the Bible teaches.

Week by week, for the next few months, we will be exploring each of these Biblical teachings one-by-one, learning how they enrich our walk with the Lord. Today, however, let's take a few minutes to talk about how these beliefs developed.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church is a movement that began through the providential unfolding of Bible prophecy to prepare a people for Christ's second advent. In the mid-19th century, God raised up a former skeptic-turned-reluctant preacher by the name of William Miller, to proclaim the message of the first angel of Revelation 14: ‌‌"Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come. . .‌‌"(vs. 7). Thousands accepted this message, believing Christ's coming was imminent. However, not all accepted the message, and its rejection by the professed Christian churches is described in the message of the second angel, ‌‌"Babylon is fallen, is fallen‌‌" (Rev. 14:8).

When Jesus didn't come as expected on October 22, 1844, many left the Advent movement. However, a small remnant remained, determined to search the Scriptures for a better understanding. As they prayerfully studied, they saw that the end-point of the 2300-day prophecy of Daniel 8:14 did not culminate in the coming of Christ to this Earth, but instead ushered in a new phase of His ministry in the Heavenly Sanctuary. As they continued their prayerful Bible study with open hearts and minds, further truths were revealed, such as the full meaning of the three angels' messages of Revelation 14, including the importance of keeping holy God's seventh-day Sabbath. Other Bible teachings also became clear, such as the non-immortality of the soul and the state of the dead, the Second Coming of Christ, and more.

Nearly ten years after the Great Disappointment, the small remnant had grown into almost 1,000 believers. And although they did not yet have an official name, they did have an official paper called The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald. On the front page of the August 15, 1854, issue of that publication was printed a brief statement listing five ‌‌"Leading Doctrines Taught by the Review.‌‌" The list included:

  1. The Bible, and the Bible alone, the rule of faith and duty.‌‌"
  2. "The Law of God, as taught in the Old and New Testaments, unchangeable.‌‌"
  3. "The Personal Advent of Christ and the resurrection of the Just, before the Millennium.‌‌"
  4.  "The Earth restored to its Eden perfection and glory, the final inheritance of the Saints.‌‌"
  5. ‌‌"Immortality alone through Christ, to be given to the Saints at the Resurrection.‌‌"

In 1863, the group officially organized and chose the name, ‌‌"Seventh-day Adventist,‌‌" reflecting two prominent beliefs-- the importance of the seventh-day Sabbath, and looking forward to the Second Advent of Jesus Christ.

The Church's first formal statement of beliefs was published in 1872, titled, ‌‌"A Declaration of the Fundamental Principles Taught and Practiced by the Seventh-day Adventists.‌‌" It listed 25 points drawn from Bible study, and begins with the statement that ‌‌"we wish to have it distinctly understood that we have no articles of faith, creed, or discipline aside from the Bible,‌‌" explaining that it was ‌‌"a brief statement of what is, and has been, with great unanimity, held by [Seventh-day Adventists].‌‌"

The declaration of the Fundamental Principles was published again, this time in the first issue of the magazine, The Signs of the Times, on June 4, 1874. It was republished in 1875, and again in 1889, with some added footnotes.

The next statement of our beliefs came 42 years later. Some of the previous points were combined, making a total of 22, and were re-named ‌‌"Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists.‌‌" These were published in the 1931 Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, and in the 1932 Church Manual.

Over the years, some stylistic changes and minor revisions were made, along with further revisions. By 1980, the fundamental beliefs included 27 points and were adopted at the 1980 General Conference Session held in Dallas, Texas.

These fundamental beliefs are dynamic, and as the Church is led by the Holy Spirit to a fuller understanding of Bible truth, it may add to its list of beliefs. In the year 2005, sensing that a new fundamental belief was needed, delegates to the GC Session held in St. Louis, Missouri that year, voted the statement, ‌‌"Growing in Christ‌‌" which was added to the Fundamental Beliefs, bringing the total to 28. While we still have 28 Fundamental Beliefs, the present form is the result of wording revisions made at the 2015 GC Session held in San Antonio, Texas.

I praise God for how the Lord has led this movement, step-by-step, into a more complete understanding of who He is, who we are, and what His wonderful plans for us are, as revealed in the Holy Scriptures. And I look forward to meeting with you again next week as we dive more deeply into the living Word of God.

Let's pray together. Our Father in Heaven, we thank you for the word of God. Thank you for giving it to us, as your precious instructions to us. Words of truth and life. Words that will help us to find clarity in our daily experience with you and with others. but most importantly, they lead us to the foot of the cross, to the living Word, Jesus Christ. So, thank you for the Written Word. Thank you for the Living Word. And thank you for giving us a clear picture of what our future is going to be like, eternity with you, all through the grace and the merits of Jesus Christ. We ask this in Jesus' name, amen.