Seventh-day Adventism is a rich and beautiful movement of belief centered in Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone). However, those learning about it for the first time, or even those raised in the church, risk having misinformation, societal norms or cultural understanding filter into the bedrock of our understanding about Adventism. Frank Hasel, the Associate Director for the Biblical Research Institute, joined hosts Sam Neves and Jennifer Stymiest to discuss the 28 Fundamental Beliefs and their application in our lives.
The 28 Fundamental Beliefs are a comprehensive list of our beliefs as Adventists based purely on scripture. These beliefs act as the backbone of our faith and understanding. This list of Fundamental Beliefs are foundational in how we live our faith and interact with the world around us. That each fundamental belief is from scripture is an application of our belief that we are to be guided by God’s word alone, however it is important to note that these Beliefs are, as Hasel states “an expression of how we understand certain teachings of the Bible.” In other words, though scripture and its truths are unchanging, we as believers are forever growing in our understanding of God’s word, through study and relationship with the Lord. Neves points out that such growth is normal and encouraged in the Christian walk citing disciples like John and Peter’s growth in understanding: “this progression of truth is what the people in the bible times experienced and it's the same thing that keeps happening. God is constantly expanding, constantly progressing in His revelation of truth and that has not ended.”
The 28 Fundamental Beliefs stand in the place of traditional creeds found in most Christian denominations. We are not tied to a man made creed inspired by scripture, but founded and led by scripture itself. In living by scripture and seeing the bible as a singular narrative made to bring us in relationship with God, we are able to grow as believers. Adventism exalts that growth. We as believers recognize that our progression in understanding will morph, providing the space for us to develop as a church through greater intimacy in scripture. Taking the bible at face value cuts through many misconceptions about biblical truths. Two of which being the state of the dead and the Sabbath. Neves clarifies the former by explaining “the bible believes that when you die you go to sleep, and one day you'll be resurrected in the body and you will either go to heaven, or you will find yourself in this one moment of destruction based on your choice, which we refer to as hell.” This understanding is corroborated through biblical accounts in both the Old and New Testament, and in the original Hebrew. Another truth found in the bible is the importance of the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a holy day, observed every Saturday, in which we commune with God and each other.
These two beliefs have been the topic of debate for generations amongst believers. However, when read in the scriptures at face value, those outside of Adventism are able to accept its legitimacy. Both the state of the dead and the Sabbath are crucial beliefs because they speak to a core facet of Adventist belief, which is understanding the meaning of time. The timing and process from our deaths to the time of Christ's return, as well as the state of our bodies and minds is of vital importance. In the same way, Sabbath is meant to be a rich weekly celebration that has been gifted to us, yet we do not determine the day in which Sabbath is observed. Biblical interpretation is necessary for spiritual development, however it must be viewed as a sole narrative from Genesis to Revelation. When any interpretation contradicts another portion of the narrative, there is a risk of inaccuracy. When the timing is applied to the gospel narrative we lose its richness. Hasel unpacks this by saying:
Those biblical prophecies that you find in the book of Daniel, in the book of Revelation, and other places in the bible that teach us not just the daily rhythm of time like the Sabbath day that structures our week and our daily things that we need to do, but it gives you meaning in the flow of where we belong in world's history.
Understanding the meaning of time is foundational in understanding Adventist belief. When viewing Adventism through the 28 Fundamental Beliefs, we are given a clear and cohesive way to live our lives. Such beliefs have been found in scripture and stand as immovable pillars of truth. Yet we must also pray for discernment and clarity when it comes to living these truths.
God’s truths are immovable, yes, but He never created us to be carbon copies. The time and attention our Creator poured into our individuality, to build culture and identity, should never be ignored. The way in which we live these fundamental beliefs is to be determined by the Holy Spirit's guidance, not by pastor nor conference. In our application of God’s guidance, we must never allow cultural preference or interpretation to stand on the same level as our fundamental beliefs. The Adventist faith must always be known through the context of God’s goodness and the grace extended to His children to grow in understanding.