World Church: "Questions on Doctrine" Book Annotated, Republished

Silver Spring, Maryland, United States
Mark A. Kellner/ANN


After a 40-year hiatus, the book "Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine" is back in print.

After a 40-year hiatus, the book “Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine” is back in print. Andrews University Press, part of the church-owned university and seminary in Berrien Springs, Michigan, recently released the 597-page, annotated edition of the book.

“This book played an important role in the history of the Adventist Church,” said Dr. Gerhard Pfandl of the Biblical Research Institute. Adds George R. Knight, professor of church history at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, and editor of the annotated volume, republication of the book makes a valuable contribution to church life.

“It’s a very positive and aggressive statement of Adventist beliefs,” Knight told ANN. “It had been lost to the Adventist public because it had been put on the back shelf.”

Ronald Knott, director of Andrews University Press, refers to the reissue of the book as presenting a “scholarly explanation of Adventist beliefs.”

Original publication of the landmark volume came about following a series of meetings between the late Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse, an evangelical Christian pastor and editor of “Eternity” magazine, and the late Walter R. Martin, then a young writer for the periodical. Martin later founded the Christian Research Institute, gaining fame as author of “The Kingdom of the Cults,” a key text on alternative religions.

Adventism, due to its differences on key points with evangelicals over the Sabbath, the state of the dead and the present ministry of Christ, was often viewed in the 1950s as a “cult” by evangelical Christians, despite Adventists’ affirmation of an unwavering approach to the Scriptures, Trinity and other key Christian doctrines.

The series of meetings between the two evangelicals and Adventist Church leaders and scholars LeRoy E. Froom, E.E. Read, R.A. Anderson and T.E. Unruh led to a growing acceptance of Adventists as fellow Christians by many evangelicals. Martin submitted a list of 40 questions, which the Adventists were to answer; the result of those discussions became the book, which was often referred to as “Questions on Doctrine” or “QOD.”

In the text, which was credited to “a representative group” of Adventist “leaders, Bible teachers and editors,” the Adventist Church set forth its belief in the main teachings of Protestant theology: the Bible as the sole rule of faith and practice; an understanding of a triune Godhead; and salvation by grace alone through faith alone. These answers helped put Adventism squarely within the mainstream of evangelical thought.

However, QOD did not depart from defending Adventism’s more distinctive doctrines, including the seventh-day Sabbath, the “state of the dead” and the present ministry of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary. Also defended was the Wesleyan-Arminian theology held by Methodists, Nazarenes and others as well as by Adventists, in contrast to the Calvinism supported by Barnhouse. (Calvinism teaches only the “elect” will be saved, while Wesleyan-Arminian teaching stresses anyone can respond to the Gospel’s invitation.)

“Questions On Doctrine,” said world church president R.R. Fighur in 1958, “endeavors to set forth as clearly as possible a reason for the hope that is ours so that non-Adventist inquirers may understand.”

The book apparently accomplished that goal, and then some: Barnhouse and Martin praised Adventism in the pages of “Eternity,” an evangelical magazine which ceased publication in 1988. In 1960, Martin wrote and published “The Truth About Seventh-day Adventism,” with evangelical publishers Zondervan; the title enjoyed wide circulation. Martin’s acceptance of those Adventists who embrace evangelical thought extended to “Kingdom of the Cults” and remains the policy of the Christian Research Institute to this day.

Although the church never disavowed the book, debate over one section on the nature of Jesus Christ and whether the Savior had a propensity to sin, which was contained in “Appendix B” of the original volume, eventually sidelined its distribution. Another conflict Adventist critics found in the book centered on the question of whether Christ’s atonement was completed at the cross. Both QOD and Ellen White, in some of her writings, referred to the atonement as being “completed” at the cross, though Mrs. White also taught that it is applied to believers during the present judgment being conducted in the heavenly sanctuary. Thus, she could speak of a “final” atonement.

Because of these conflicting areas of Adventist thought, some church leaders, in particular a retired theologian named M.L. Andreasen, claimed the book did not represent Adventist teaching properly. Andreasen, who believed QOD had removed one of the “foundation pillars” of Adventist thinking in its view of the atonement, began a campaign of broadsides against the book, which resulted in the suspension of his ministerial credentials. After reconciliation with church leaders three days before his passing in February 1962, Andreasen’s credentials were restored the following month. (Knight’s commentary in the republished volume makes it clear that some of Andreasen’s complaints about certain sections—particularly the controversial “Appendix B”—were valid.)

While between 138,000 and 147,000 copies of the QOD book were eventually placed into circulation—figures vary—disputes over these elements of the book were part of the process that led to the book going out of circulation in 1963. Three years before his death in 1989, Walter Martin, in an interview, cautioned Adventist leaders that QOD should return to the shelves: “If the Seventh-day Adventist [Church] will not back up its answers with actions and put Questions on Doctrine back in print ... then they’re in real trouble that I can’t help them out of; and nobody else can either,” he told “Adventist Currents,” a now-defunct magazine published by church members in North America.

The new edition includes pages of additional material clarifying the issue of Christ’s human nature, as well as adding context and background to numerous other matters raised in the book. While conceding that previous generations of church leaders sometimes held varying opinions, the revised book makes clear Adventist thought today—and in a line traceable to Ellen White and other pioneers—accurately reflecting general Christian understanding that while Jesus took on the “innocent infirmities” of hunger, pain, weakness, sorrow and death, He did not have the propensity toward sin that humans after the fall possess.

In 1988 Adventist leaders published “Seventh-day Adventists Believe ...”—a book detailing the church’s 27 “fundamental beliefs,” and the book was promoted as an explanation of the movement’s doctrines. Yet the difficulty in finding the QOD text fueled the arguments of some critics who claim that its absence from circulation proved that Adventism is “aberrant” or even a “cult,” despite the church’s orthodox stand on key tenets of the Christian faith.

The 1957 edition’s text has been available online, via a private Web site, for several years. However, republication of the volume makes it available in an annotated format that adds historical and theological context not available a half-century ago, including more recent scholarship that supports many points of Adventist theology, Knight said.

Information about the new book can be found on the publisher’s Web site,

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