Tom: Well, this is our second session with Dale Ratzlaff. We’re discussing the theology of Seventh-day Adventism, and for your information, if you missed our session one, he’s a former SDA pastor trained in Seventh-day Adventist schools and seminary. He’s the author of numerous articles and books addressing Adventist doctrines, including Cultic Doctrine of Seventh-day Adventism and Sabbath in Christ. He and his wife, Carolyn, left the SDA church over doctrines they believed undermined the biblical gospel and now teach biblical Christians about the theological errors of Adventism.
Dale, welcome back to Search the Scriptures 24/7.
Dale: Yeah, it’s good to be with you again, and we’ll pick up where we left off last week.
Tom: That’s for sure, and something I haven’t done before, but I think it’s really important: you presented with three points what are the errors—what are the basic errors of Seventh-day Adventism. So what I’d like you to do, Dale, is repeat that for us. You have three points, starting out the with the cleansing of the sanctuary. But go ahead.
Dale: Yeah. All right, there are three basic pillars upon which the Seventh-day Adventist theology is based, and one of those pillars is called the “central pillar,” and Ellen White called it that, and it’s noted in—that phrase, the central pillar—in several of their books. And that is—it’s the 1844 Cleansing of the Sanctuary and the Investigative Judgment. That’s a big—whole big problem full of errors. It’s not only unbiblical, but it compromises the gospel in many, many ways. That’s the first main error.
The second is that I believe that anybody who wants to say that they accept Jesus Christ and the Pauline gospel, they need to reject the prophetic claims and ministry of Ellen G. White as a teacher of truth. Now, she has written like 52 books, and if you stack them up it’d be almost up to your armpits, but she’s a plagiarist, and she has many good things she’s copied from the evangelical writers, but intermixed in those good things are poisonous errors theologically speaking, and anybody that claims to believe the gospel ought to renounce her as a teacher of truth.
And three, any true believer needs to openly reject the idea that the Seventh-day Sabbath is the seal of God and Sunday worship is the mark of the beast. It’s very clear in Scripture that the Holy Spirit is the seal that we receive the instant we believe in Jesus Christ. So these three things are the foundational pillars upon which the Seventh-day Adventist Church was founded. They are dead wrong and should be openly renounced by anyone who claims to be a believer in the Pauline gospel of justification by faith. That’s pretty heavy, but it’s my feeling very strongly.
Tom: Well, and it’s really important, and as I look ahead to what some of the things that we’re going to discuss, it needed to have that foundation of truth, those points that you presented, because we’re going to be dealing with some things that you say, “Well, no big deal about this, or no big deal about that.”
And I want to start off with some Seventh-day Adventist church and their works throughout: hospitals…acts of what you’d call good works certainly are there—some things beneficial, and some things maybe not so beneficial, but I want to talk about some of those things. And one of the things that people bring up is that, “Well, what about the issue of the dietary rules?”
You could tell us where that came from, and what may be some of the good aspects and some of the problems with it, Dale.
Dale: Okay, this is an interesting topic, and there’s a book that’s been written on it. Ellen White claimed to have a big health reform vision, and she began writing out much or many of her dietary rules. And later some people looked around—I guess there was no internet in those days—but in libraries and so on, they found that she was quoting from many people, many doctors and other health professionals who had written on diet and health before she wrote, and she was copying. And she acted like, “Oh, I was amazed that they were so close!”
And they found some of these books in her library.
And she’d go, “Well, I did not read them until after I had written out what the Lord showed me in vision.”
So that whole thing is plagiarism.
Tom: For sure.
Dale: Now, as far as the actual rules, many of them are good, and many of them are wrong. She talks against tobacco and alcohol, and that’s fine. We all know that those are wrong. But she went a little bit further—she said that if you eat cheese, that’s wrong. And if you feed your children eggs, your prayers won’t go higher than the ceiling. Now, why would that be? Because she said if you eat eggs, it will strengthen the animal propensities and the animal organs in the brain. That’s—she actually said that!
And she had reference to sexual urges, and so she was deaf on sex. She even told the missionaries that they should never have children and should live as if they weren’t married.
She talked some good things about fresh air, sunshine, fresh water, clean water, and rest, and exercise. Good points. But she also says that tea is wrong. Well, now we know that tea is good for you. And she says that you should never, never have an alcoholic drink. Well, I don’t drink alcohol. I mean, I’ve had a few—bought a few bottles of wine through the years, but I can usually not drink it before it goes bad, because I don’t drink very much. And many people are, you know, teetotalers, and I basically am. But I don’t think that God condemns people who drink a little bit of wine, you know? Jesus had wine in the communion service.
Dale: Of course, they say that was hydrated raisins. [laughs]
Tom: Right. But what about the—more than a suggestion: “Take a little wine for your stomach issues,” and so on? You’d think she would jump on that!
Tom: And obviously it’s contrary to her…to what she was promoting.
Dale: Yeah, she said you shouldn’t use pickles, you shouldn’t use butter, because the day will come when milk will not be fit to eat. You shouldn’t use pepper, and the list goes on. Oh, flesh meats—she said that before Christ comes, those who are “translated” (think raptured, okay?) will have to have given up all use of flesh foods, and she said that the ministers should not ever eat meat of any kind. And yet even while she was giving these kinds of statements and making these kinds of rules, she was eating meat, often secretly, and even sometimes unclean meat.
So there are some good things, and some bad things. And the bad part about Ellen White and health is that she took it from the area of health and inserted it into things you must do to be right with God and salvation, and that was a big mistake. But she says that health reform is the right arm of the gospel, and it is true that that has helped the Seventh-day Adventist church to grow, with all of their hospitals and their emphasis on health—much of it is good. Nevertheless, it’s not part of theology.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Well, that’s absolutely a fascinating…and I know many of our listeners are just not aware of this. So you’re presenting some things…
And again, all documented—these are in your books, so it’s not like we’re shooting from the hip here. This is certainly—this can be certified, all right, based on her writings, you know, all 52 books.
One of the other issues that people say, “Well, it’s no big deal,” with regard to the Sabbath… Maybe some out there think, “Well, the Sabbath is Sunday.” No, the Sabbath is Saturday.
But, Dale, address that: what’s the issue with regard to the Sabbath, and how critical is it with regard to what Adventists believe?
Dale: Well, I have no issue with somebody who wants to worship on Saturday, okay? I think you can worship any day of the week. But the problem with Adventism is that they force Sabbath observance as the main tenet of their teaching, and let me just read a couple of quotes from Ellen White, and you’ll see that for her, the Sabbath was more important than Christ. For example, she said this: “I saw that the holy Sabbath is and will be the separating wall between the true Israel of God,” and in context she’s referring to the truth of the Adventists, "and unbelievers." That’s Early Writings, page 33.
She also said, “The Sabbath observance was of sufficient importance to draw a line between the people of God and unbelievers.” So if you look at that—and that’s what Adventists believe: that if you don’t keep the Sabbath, you’re going to be lost.
Here’s another one of her quotes: “The Sabbath will be the great test of loyalty when the final test shall be brought to bear upon men. Then the line of distinction will be drawn between those who serve God and those who serve him not.”
Now, any evangelical should see that those statements are totally wrong. Christ is the testing truth, not the Sabbath, and not only is that true, but nobody keeps the Sabbath according to biblical rule!
Dale: And Ellen White has pages and pages of rules for Sabbath keeping that she has added. I won’t read them, but she says you should never let children play indoors or outdoors on the Sabbath. Now, little tiny children, how are you going to keep them from playing indoors or outdoors?
Tom: Right. Incredible.
Dale: And you should…anyway, I won’t go into all that, but it’s a very legalistic thing. But if you go to a Revelation Seminar and you learn that the Sabbath is the seal of God and Sunday is the mark of the beast and that Ellen White is the spirit of prophecy, and the last church is going to keep the commandments of God, then you need to join the true church, which is the Seventh-day Adventist Church, so that you know you’ll be saved and you won’t get the mark of the beast. That has tremendous appeal in evangelistic seminars that Adventists present.
Tom: Mm-hmm. I used the word “irony”—it’s worse than an irony. It’s really a fraud. For example, this idea of going back to the Sabbath and the laws and so on, as you know, they pick and choose what they’re going to adhere to or enforce, but I don’t know. Maybe I’m missing something here, but they say, “All right, here are the commandments that we are to live by.”
But I never hear anybody address, well, the punishments in the Old Testament for when you broke these rules and broke these laws, why haven’t they continued? Why aren’t they talking about that?
Dale: Well, exactly, and they just do not understand the covenants: that this whole Mosaic law was made between God and the nation of Israel, the sons of Israel only. And it’s hard for people, at least Adventists, to grasp that.
By the way, you get Proclamation Magazine, I’m assuming. The latest issue has a long article on the covenants which I think is useful.
Tom: Okay. Well, there are so many things within this: hypocrisy related to—well, you know, I shouldn’t say that, because, as you pointed out, there are different sects of subgroups within Seventh-day Adventism. But I know, driving by a local Seventh-day Adventist Church, and they have no problem renting out their church facilities to evangelicals to worship on Sunday! That’s…again, if they adhere to the basic doctrines of Seventh-day Adventism, that’s nothing more than hypocrisy, don’t you think?
Dale: Well, I’m going to disagree with you there.
Tom: Okay, go.
Dale: I’ll tell you why they think it’s not hypocrisy…
Dale: Almost every Seventh-day Adventist Church has in the foyer some kind of a literature rack with literature on it regarding Seventh-day Adventist doctrines and free Bibles and free Bible studies. And having been a pastor in the Adventist church for a number of years, and we rented out to—one time we rented to the Worldwide Church of God.
Tom: Well, there you go!
Dale: That’s all for their central feast days, and so on. Anyway…
Tom: Yeah, not too far removed, by the way, in terms of legalism, you know, with regard to that.
Dale: Yeah. So what they’re going to do, they will think this way: they’ll say, “Well, let’s go ahead and let this Sunday church worship in our church, and hopefully they’ll pick up some fliers in our foyer, and maybe they’ll come to our evangelistic series, and we’ll win members.”
So Adventism is and was built on the idea of getting other Christians into their church by showing them the new truths regarding the Sabbath, the state of the dead, and the true church. That’s the way that they operate.
Tom: Yeah. Well, I can see that as a device. I mean, we’re seeing those kinds of things within evangelical Christianity to the point where, well, whatever we can do to get this thing—to get the truth to people. But, you know, it ends up…when you play around with compromising the Word of God, you’re going to be in trouble, I think.
Tom: But, you know, Dale, you just mentioned…there’s another doctrine I’d like you to address: what about soul sleep? We know that’s not just a doctrine of Seventh-day Adventism, but there are other groups, cults, that believe that teaching. So tell us the perspective of the SDAs on soul sleep.
Dale: Okay, they take the definition of “soul” from Genesis where it says that “God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life,” and was made out of dust, okay, "and he became a living soul." So they have a formula that says body plus breath equals soul. There is no human spirit in Adventist theology, okay? And so when a person dies, they’re basically gone. They’re annihilated, but they don’t use the word “annihilated.” And they believe that a person who is going to be saved will be recreated at the time of the resurrection, and God will place in that person’s mind the memories, I guess, of the person that died. Now, there’s some real problems—ontological here. For example, let’s say that I’m a Seventh-day Adventist and I’m about on my deathbed: of what value is it to me to know that God will someday create something new up there and put my memories in that person, but it’s not me? You see what I’m saying? So there’s no real connection there between what’s now and what’s then. Most Adventists when they die have no assurance. I’ve been at the death sites of many people as they were dying, and they say, “Well, I hope I’m going to make it. I’ve tried to be good, I’ve lived the best that I can…” That’s often what they say at that time.
Now, there’s another problem with soul sleep, and that is if a soul has to be a breather, that affects one’s attitude toward abortion. And one of the Seventh-day Adventists that graduated from Loma Linda University set up a chain of abortion clinics, and he claims to have aborted 125,000 babies. And he said that if he had it to do over again, he would do even more. He said he’d like to go down to Mexico and have all kinds of abortions down there for these Mexican girls.
Now, the interesting thing about this is that Loma Linda University recently dedicated a building to him with his name on it because of his entrepreneurship in setting up this chain of abortion clinics, and he was the one that they said started the idea of real fast abortions, you know, kind of an assembly line. And at one time they said that he was doing almost as many as Planned Parenthood. He’s a Seventh-day Adventist, and he’s honored as a Seventh-day Adventist, and they honor a building in his name.
Tom: Well, Dale, just repeat his rationale according to Seventh-day doctrine. Just state that again. I mean, that’s just so far-fetched. It’s…
Dale: Well, his rationale is partly to control the population, that’s number one. But the idea that a soul is not a soul until it’s a breather, and that he can kill them before they’re a breather, then it’s no big deal.
Tom: Oh, man. Unbelievable.
Dale: And yet you go to Scripture, you know, and you find that John the Baptist and Jesus and Paul says, “In my mother’s womb,” and so on. It’s very obvious that, you know, we’re a living being the moment we are conceived. And so this…
Now, many people don’t know that the Adventists are strong on abortion. In fact, I’ve mentioned to some, and they say, “Oh, no we’re not.” But their hospitals do perform abortions, and I’ve been told that one in Washington, it’s kind of like an abortion clinic. They go to the Catholic hospital and they say, “No, we won’t do it. Go across to the Adventist hospital, and they will.”
Tom: Yeah. Dale, just one other note with regard to soul sleep: I remember sitting down with a couple of Seventh-day Adventists, and their rationale was, “Well, you see, this doctrine, this teaching, really demonstrates to us because of annihilation that any attempt at whether it be séances or communication with the dead, and so on, that all has to be demonic, because annihilation trumps that.” You know, it’s like compounding the error with a rationale that just…it’s sad, and it’s contrary to the Scriptures.
Now, Dale, we’ve got about three minutes left. Let me just have you address many of our listeners have friends who are SDAs, and what would you recommend in terms of their witness to them? I know each case can be different, but in general, how would you help us to approach SDAs in terms of ministering to them the truth of the Word of God?
Dale: Almost everybody who has left the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and we through our ministry, Life Assurance Ministry, and our books, we have helped thousands make that transition. But almost everybody that leaves or makes a transition out of Adventism comes to understand the true gospel, and that is the foundation of Christianity that it is messed up in Adventism. So the first thing, I guess, is to show the simplicity of the gospel of grace, and Adventists will say, if you ask them, “Are you ready for Christ to come?” they’ll say, “Yes.”
But you don’t understand what’s behind that “yes.” That “yes” would be based on, “I have asked forgiveness for all of the sins that I’m currently aware of, but I don’t know in the future if I will sin again, or if I will forget to confess, so I can’t say I’m ready for Christ to come now, but I’m ready to die if that should happen.”
And also if they’re a “good Adventist” (that would be a historical Adventist), they need to give up the eating of meat before the coming of Christ. And so you might ask them, “Well, are you ready for Christ to come?”
And then you might say, “Well, what if I knew about the Sabbath as you teach it, I went to one of your evangelistic series, and I don’t keep the Sabbath. Am I going to be saved, or am I going to be lost?”
And if they’re true Adventists, they will say, “Well, you’re going to be lost,” because Ellen White says that God can take people who don’t know about the Sabbath into heaven. But if you know about it, then you have to keep it. And she said—I don’t have it in front of me, but she said one time she saw people howling in agony in the flame, and she asked her angel, “Who are these people?”
And her angel said, “These are those who have once believed in the Sabbath and have given it up.”
So for Adventists, the Sabbath still is the key doctrine. So I would say that’s number one.
Number two is the best thing to do is to get them involved in a home Bible study group with other Christians so they begin to study the Bible contextually.
Dale: Adventism as well as Jehovah’s Witness groups are proof-texters, as you well know. They’ll read a text there and a text there and a text somewhere else and make the conclusion say something that none of the texts say in isolation. So contextual teaching is one of the best things to do with Seventh Day Adventists.
Now, we have found two of our books to be very—and I hope you don’t mind my saying this…
Tom: No, no, go—go for it.
Dale: The book Truth Led Me Out, it’s my story, and then Carolyn’s story is good, as well. Her title is My Cup Runneth Over. It’s more a study or a description of our life together as we were leaving Adventism. But Truth Led Me Out, I talk about my journey out of Adventism. And the first chapter, people can see I’m a very real conservative Adventist, so they buy into that right away. And then they face problems as I face them, and we’ve had a number of people that say, “Well, now that I’ve read Truth Led Me Out, I’m ready to read Sabbath in Christ or Cultic Doctrine,” or something like that. But it kind of opens the door for them to get to know us so that they have a little bit of trust in us. But sooner or later, they’ll need to deal with the Sabbath, because that is the issue, and it’s the hardest thing for them to leave.
I’m meeting right now with people online—I have an Adventist pastor I’m meeting with, and he says, “I don’t believe in Ellen White, I don’t believe in the investigative judgment…Boy, I still believe in the Sabbath, buddy!” That’s what he called me.
Tom: My guest has been Dale Ratzlaff, and I hope…well, I know for me it’s—you’ve opened my eyes to some things that I thought I knew, but you’ve given us some terrific insights into Seventh-day Adventism. And now, you know, I want to mention your other books—you’ve mentioned a couple, but Cultic Doctrine of Seventh-day Adventism and Sabbath in Christ. These are terrific books, and I encourage our listeners to get a hold of them.
So, Dale, thank you so much. It was really incredibly informative. So God bless you, brother!
Dale: Well, thank you for the opportunity to share.