The Great Controversy


It is hard to describe to someone who did not grow up a Seventh Day Adventist how integral the Great Controversy motif is to their worldview.  We are taught this perspective from a very tender age, and it is made to sound fun.  I used to look forward to seminars on such topics because to me it was like watching Star Wars.  I enjoyed the graphic art, imagery, and apocalyptic language.

In this post I will attempt to define my understanding of the Great Controversy and then analyze it to determine the major premises it is predicated upon.

The Great Controversy Defined

Below is a cut and paste from the 8th fundamental belief of the Seventh Day Adventist Church that defines the belief well enough.  It is important to remember that the fundamental beliefs of SDA don’t define the whole scope of their teachings, but since this is one of the fundamental beliefs it allows Ellen White’s teachings on the topic in the door as they are the only source of the hermeneutic.

“All humanity is now involved in a great controversy between Christ and Satan regarding the character of God, His law, and His sovereignty over the universe. This conflict originated in heaven when a created being, endowed with freedom of choice, in self-exaltation became Satan, God’s adversary, and led into rebellion a portion of the angels. He introduced the spirit of rebellion into this world when he led Adam and Eve into sin. This human sin resulted in the distortion of the image of God in humanity, the disordering of the created world, and its eventual devastation at the time of the worldwide flood. Observed by the whole creation, this world became the arena of the universal conflict, out of which the God of love will ultimately be vindicated. To assist His people in this controversy, Christ sends the Holy Spirit and the loyal angels to guide, protect, and sustain them in the way of salvation.”

Though the SDA confession touches on these things I will expound with a few extra details that you have to attend their seminars to learn.  After this rebellion kicked off in heaven a third of the angels are cast to the Earth right after the fall along with the Devil.  While this is going on created beings on other planets are curious and cannot discern who is wrong and who is right so they are watching Earth to see how everything shakes out.

What they won’t plainly state is that in this view the Devil is seen as an equal with God, not in the divine sense, but certainlyInvestigative Judgment in the sense of a rival.  In this motif it is actually possible for Satan to win and for the universe to fall into darkness.  Fortunately, Jesus pulled it off and managed to defeat Satan by the skin of his teeth on the cross and everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

SDA believe that it was made clear at the cross to all of the other created planets which side was right afterall.  SDA will tell you that today the Great Controversy is over who we will choose.  Will you choose to be saved by keeping the Sabbath day and proving your loyalty or will you choose to serve the Devil and go to church on sunday instead?  Ultimately SDA believe that the Great Controversy is God’s plan of proving his character and vindicating himself from those who have wrongly accused him of evil.

What is sad is that I am not putting forth a straw man argument, this is actually what they teach. In this series I am going to Biblically disprove this heresy thesis by thesis in the same fashion that I did the Investigative Judgment.

Great Controversy Analysis


My assessment of the Great Controversy Doctrine is that it is based on a few Biblical claims that if fairly evaluated and proven false would topple the whole framework.  Because of this I am going to focus on each one at a time.

Aliens:  According to the Great Controversy Aliens not only exist on other planets but this fact is taught in scripture and we have just missed it the whole time.  Is this true?  What does the Bible really say?

The Nature of God:  For the Great Controversy to work there must on some level be an equality with God and Satan in that it could at least have been theoretically possible for Satan to win and defeat God at some point in the Biblical narrative.  How does such a view distort the scriptures on the nature of God?

Burden of the Law:  Part of the Great Controversy motif is that the Devil accused God of making the law too burdensome.  In this Great Controversy it is God’s ultimate goal to prove that the Devil was wrong and that the law isn’t too hard to keep after-all.

Example of Christ:  A key element of the Great Controversy is the means by which the character of God is vindicated.  To do this human beings are called to ultimately reach a plane of sinlessness in this life.  Doing so gets God off the hook for presumably making the law too difficult.

Vindication of God:  For the Great Controversy to be true it would need to be Biblically necessary for the character of God to be in question.  Also, the scriptures would have to teach that created beings are in some way standing in judgement over God at least in the same sense as a Jury does over a defendant in a court of law.

The Nature of Man:  For the Great Controversy to work unregenerate man must posses a salvifically relevant free will.  By that I mean, such free will  must have the cosmic power to in some way assist in their own salvation and alter or impact the divine Will of God.

I will be examining each of the above topics one by one.  It is my assessment that if even one of these can be proven not to work in line with SDA teaching the Great Controversy motif would collapse completely as it is presupposes all of them in a systematic framework.

Do you think that I missed something important?  Please drop a comment and let me know.  Also, if you would like to study the same material you now have my outline so please feel free to add your thoughts with each post if that is something you want to do.


About ACTheologian

I am a layman who blogs my Biblical studies. Enjoy, please read with an open Bible and do double check with your pastor.
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16 Responses to The Great Controversy

  1. Benjamin Campomanes says:

    I am a second generation SDA. Was Adventist for 70 years. I transitioned out of Adventism since 2009. It was my son who encouraged me to examine very diligently the doctrine of SDA. I read the bible from cover to cover and found out that what I learned before many were non- biblical, EGW stuffs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Armchair Theologian says:

      Hey thanks for sharing! I am also second generation. It was a shock for me too! But overall I’m so blessed as now I have the Word instead of an SDA lense. I hope you enjoy my studies. Please feel free to comment as much as you like.


  2. Otieni says:

    Ellen white writing are in harmony with the scriptures and at no point do the writings contradict the wisely don’t
    be deceived


    • Armchair Theologian says:

      With respect, she is not even in harmony with herself let alone the scripture.

      I have a post that catalogues her false prophecies and Biblical errors. You can find it here.


    • Ben says:

      Please read SDA bible commentary Vol.5 page 1129 last paragraph. EGW contradicts Isa. 9:6-11. Gal. 1:6-9 and also in book Early writings of EGW she wrote that the plan of salvation was planned after the fall of Adam and Eve.


  3. Joseph says:

    your aim is to contradict sda doctrines but your not telling people the want people to live in the world of relativity but remember God’s law are absolute..


    • Armchair Theologian says:

      I don’t really understand your point. This comment of yours is rather vague. My posts on the Great Controversy will focus more on Christology and Salvation rather than the law. I have posts on the law if you’re interested. I’ll link one for you below. To respond though, I was once SDA but I found through Bible study that they are wrong. Please check out my studies. If I mishandled a text or egw quote let me know.

      Law of Christ


      • David M says:

        it not there empty page …but nice web page …if we can NOT be sinless in the last days than how can we be in heaven with the same mind set of sinning….and Jesus failed to change our heart (mind set )


      • ACTheologian says:

        Thanks for pointing that out. Some of my old links are broken. Here’s a new one to what I was referencing.

        The answer to your question is glorification.

        So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
        1 Corinthians 15:42‭-‬44 ESV


  4. david says:

    very interesting commentary. but slightly to the left of center.or very to the left. but i have concluded that her writings have been tamper with ….there are contradiction that maybe there, only due to the how she received the light and time sensitive to that time period, or someone tampered .but let me say this the WORD of GOD is not a lie if he says to keep the 7th day than keep it why keep any other day Exodus 31;13-17..why would he tell His Son to keep any other day or the disciples…so just keep it simple is what it is St.Patrick keep it …next point flesh foods Genesis 9;3-6 He say NOT to eat the blood ….can we buy flesh meat with blood ..yes but who is a into eating leather… get that out of your diet….that if you or any SDA says they obey the word of GOD….can we be drunk in the last days …i would not miss this event for the world …base on the promise of Rev 20 thru22…sorry got to be sober i have drunk enough…like a about smoking why burn a car payment {that if it is a one pack a day….a Lexus if it is a 2 packs a day} .its cheaper to be a veggie kinda guy…. easy clean up… but you make sense and some of these SDA will have to explain themselves better than they are doing now …we repeat many quoits but cannot find them…but i do not conclude to some extreme views like some of them do …Jesus prayed for us to be kept in the world ,but be not part of it. my email is part of my phone #


    • ACTheologian says:

      Thanks for reading and thanks for your comment David. To answer your question on the Sabbath I recommend my series on the new covenant.

      As for your theory on Ellen White, I find that interesting. If you have any resources on that let me know. I suspect her inconsistencies are either due to demonic influence or stem from the different documents she copied.

      I agree with your smoking assessment actually. I’m not interested in wasting that kind of money either. I like your car payment analogy. I don’t believe smoking is a sin but i do believe it’s very unwise.


      • david says:

        well as to say i was poising a question …i was not ,sorry , it is a fact keeping the Sabbath 7th day is a day of keeping separated from all other days is biblical ,historical and BLESSED to keep in accordance, from Genesis to Romans { why stop at Romans, cause there really is no direct ordering of keeping other than , when John in Revelation speaks of it seeing Jesus in that time,} To keep Sunday is a direct order, from what i think you know who ,not to offend them that follow the historical country that has been curse with having the 7 hills that they sit upon …they themselves know that it is paying homage to them ,cause they have enforced from the beginning , they try to even defend a law by the “lord’s day institution,” in 1889. we all know it is about sun worship from the time of Egypt …
        as far as EGW being under the Devil control…, hardly she leads to Jesus in too many occasions,Satan would not take that chance we all know all writings serve for inspiration…but I do believe that when 7 th day Adventist get a hold of her writing ,some want to anoint you with oil while others want to make sure they heat it up to 200 degrees ….,some repeat a quote they never read and do not complete it or like use this one… “spare the rod and spoil the child “… not looking up that word “rod ” can mean a measuring tool also in the bible so,,,if you don’t measure a child .can you ruin a child ? yes, you can ruin him, improper training…. boy i wish my old man would have seen it that way …as for being unwise for smoking is that of GOD? .and shouldn’t you be careful to using His money unwisely. and getting sick directly is that a blessing ? anyone can see that you would be supporting an industry that ruins people has zero value no more than cocaine marijuana alco- “hole” you don’t have to believe in GOD to know that. Just remember the tree of knowledge had GOOD and evil in it and it equaled sin in the eyes of GOD ,,,
        ps … I use to drink and smoke …zero benefits…but boy i did look cool doing it… but my butt was broke… lol


  5. david says:

    so what you think of the fish and flesh food….that on the money…we guilty or what

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Luise says:

    There is this view with some Adventists that is called “Last Generation Theology”. Those people think that humans have to be sinless at the end in order to vindicate God’s character. But this is neither official SDA teaching nor mainstream (see a recent book of Andrews University on that topic). It would be a misrepresentation of SDA doctrine to confuse that.
    The Great Controversy view also does not imply that God and Satan are equally powerful. It is clear from the start (even for every SDA believer) that God could destroy all evil forces in a second. But he does not do that – he voluntarily restrains himself from doing that.
    Thirdly, God’s making his judgment transparent to human beings is not the same than making them jury. God wants everyone to recognize his justice in a context of a relationship but he is not dependent on our recognition.
    Just some thoughts on your view of SDA theology.


    • ACTheologian says:

      With respect, I see your clarifications as a misrepresentation. Let me explain.

      I don’t address last generation theology I only brought up Ellen White’s teachings on the requirement to be sinless. This is fair game because she’s still listed as a prophetic authority on the fundamental beliefs. Remove her and label her as a false teacher and I will happily remove my claims.

      I didn’t say equal in power but rather as a rival. Nevertheless Doug Batchelor does entertain the possibility of Christ losing in his book. He is mainstream teacher in the church and I quote him later in this series when exploring that idea. It’s no doubt rooted in the early arian beginnings of Adventism that do formally portray Christ and satan as created rivals in heaven before creation of the earth.

      If it’s merely transparency then what’s the controversy exactly? How is it a controversy with no stakes? No.

      In the great controversy narrative the stakes are who wins and who loses. The jury analogy is a fair one. On the one hand you have the universe shattering with Christ working at cross purposes with the Father as Doug Batchelor portrays and in the other you have Christ victorious. What hangs in the balance is the personal choices of individuals. Remy, decision theology is big in Adventism. I would lay the same accusation at many Arminians. The juror analogy sticks just fine.


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