For those of you who are wondering, yes the lady pictured above represents Ellen White. The doctrine of Salvation in Adventism is a sad thing. They try to confess it in a way that doesn’t contradict the teachings of Ellen White or the Apostle Paul. In doing this they end up contradicting both at the same time. To demonstrate this, we must first take a look at the belief itself, see below:
“In infinite love and mercy God made Christ, who knew no sin, to be sin for us, so that in Him we might be made the righteousness of God. Led by the Holy Spirit we sense our need, acknowledge our sinfulness, repent of our transgressions, and exercise faith in Jesus as Saviour and Lord, Substitute and Example. This saving faith comes through the divine power of the Word and is the gift of God’s grace. Through Christ we are justified, adopted as God’s sons and daughters, and delivered from the lordship of sin. Through the Spirit we are born again and sanctified; the Spirit renews our minds, writes God’s law of love in our hearts, and we are given the power to live a holy life. Abiding in Him we become partakers of the divine nature and have the assurance of salvation now and in the judgment.” – SDA Fundamental Belief #10
The above confession reads like the Roman Catholic Council of Trent in that it obscures it’s thesis in verbosity. Notice that the power to live a holy life is presented as the objective reality of one who has received and performed all the preceding verbs in the right order. And in the very next sentence it hinges this upon assurance of salvation itself. To hold to that you either need to lower holiness down to the level of fallen man or claim that man can actually live sinlessly in this life.
This is an absurd notion that will either cause one to doubt their salvation in despair when they fail to meet the standard or to be puffed up in pride when they lower the standard to their liking. Even Paul was a Sinner (Click HERE). And in his despair he was encouraged, as are we, that the Grace of God is sufficient even in our weakness. Not to bring us to perfection in this life but rather to be our penal substitute.
“7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. ; 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. ; 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Cor 12:7-10 ESV
It is very important in SDA theology though for this concept of receiving the power of Holy Living. You are expected in Adventism to reach a state of total perfection in word thought and deed, especially in Sabbath keeping.
That is because of two things, first of all Adventism teaches the “Prophetic Authority” of Ellen White in Fundamental Belief #18.
“The Scriptures testify that one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is prophecy. This gift is an identifying mark of the remnant church and we believe it was manifested in the ministry of Ellen G. White. Her writings speak with prophetic authority and provide comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction to the church. They also make clear that the Bible is the standard by which all teaching and experience must be tested.” – Fundamental Belief #18
The second reason is became Ellen White taught that you have to reach a state of perfection before the close of probation, at which time you would stand before God without Christ.
“Those who are living upon the earth when the intercession of Christ shall cease in the sanctuary above are to stand in the sight of a holy God without a mediator. Their robes must be spotless, their characters must be purified from sin by the blood of sprinkling. Through the grace of God and their own diligent effort they must be conquerors in the battle with evil. While the investigative judgment is going forward in heaven, while the sins of penitent believers are being removed from the sanctuary, there is to be a special work of purification, of putting away of sin, among God’s people upon earth.” The Great Controversy, Pg. 425 Ellen White
To maintain fundamental belief #18 Adventist doctrine on salvation cannot contradict the above statements from the Great Controversy. That’s why they will use language more compatible with reformation theology on sola-fide at the outset, but then put forward perfection as the proof salvation has occured.
Intimately tied to this is the keeping of the Sabbath day, which by this theology must also be kept perfectly in order to be saved at the close of probation. It is a part of your “own diligent effort” etc. This is how SDA wrap up a veiled exclusive hold on salvation as Sabbath keeping is rare enough in Christianity that it can be counted as an SDA particular. The not so subtle conclusion is that Adventism claims for itself corporate ownership of salvation in the End Times.
Notice that the Fundamental belief on Salvation does not directly quote Ellen Whites comments but allows for them in the wording with placing divine power for holy living in this life. In doing so they have crafted a confession that attempts to confess both works righteousness and salvation by faith at the same time. This is because an honest soul who has not become perfect is going to logically question whether or not they have faith at all.
Why the deception? Why give the appearance of attempting to confess two contradicting beliefs at the same time?
To answer that I can only give you my best guess. I believe that by confessing something confusing the reader will generally pick the understanding they prefer. An evangelical unaccustomed with Ellen White might gloss over the fine print and read sola fide into the text. Conversely, an Adventist might gloss over the language intended for the evangelical and focus on the meaning of Holy Living as catechized by Ellen White, whom he would be familiar with.
So as with the other fundamentals of Adventism you have a political statement rather than a confessional one. SDA theologians are educated in the nuances of theological terms. They didn’t have to put out a public political compromise. At the end of the day they have chosen to lie to both their membership and the public about what they believe.