Dr. Martin William Bredenkamp. D.Sc.; M.Sc.; B.Sc.
Dr. Martin Bredenkamp shares his disillusionment with certain of the Church’s doctrines and his search for Biblical alternatives
Editor’s Comment: The editorial context of this blog
My Adventist background
I was born a Seventh-Day Adventist, and have been a strong supporter of the Church all my life. I spent 10 of my twelve school years in Adventist schools, and completed my first tertiary degree at an Adventist College. For the past eight years I have supported the Church in working at its university in Thailand (AIU).
I believe, being in the Adventist school system during my formative years, gave me a fairly good grasp of what Adventist dogma is all about.
“Mere reflector’s of other men’s thoughts”
At school and at College we were often reminded to think and to study for ourselves.
The context of these reminders usually related to the fact that members of other beliefs often just accept what their priests or pastors tell them and they do not investigate for themselves. We were also reminded that our Adventist Church originated because our own church fathers did not just blindly accept what their Churches told them to be the truth, but set out on their own journey of truth-seeking.
The well known “Sabbath conferences” that took place in the years following the 1844 disappointment were often cited as prime examples of such self-study efforts. These investigations eventually led to the rejection of many of the doctrines of the “mainline” churches and eventually to the establishment of our own Adventist Church with its distinctive set of doctrines.
Strangely enough, this is what we were taught, but in practice most Adventist church members do just what others do and we blindly accept “the traditions of our fathers”.
I have fallen into the same trap
It has only been in recent years that I realized that my understanding of church dogma is to a great extent the result of rather blindly accepting the instructions of the organized Church.
I consequently set out on a journey to re-examine my own belief system. Once I commenced this journey I soon started to feel uncomfortable with some of the doctrines of the Church that I grew up with. Together with my wife Charmaine, we decided to investigate “from scratch” what the Bible actually teaches with regard to the doctrines of our Church.
Other men’s footprints
As we prayed and read the Bible and investigated sources that are available on the internet we discovered that we were not the only ones on this journey. Others were also researching and discovering. Some had already walked further along this way than we and we could follow in their footsteps and learn from them. Having said that, I am also aware of the danger of again just becoming another pair of reflectors of other men’s thoughts. And it is with this awareness that we approach each of our doctrines.
A “clean slate”
Our purpose, in a sense, is to be a clean slate and to let the Bible itself reveal to us that which is hidden in its pages. In all of this we have decided to tread very lightly and carefully. We realize that other greater minds than ours have gone before us and we would hate to be presumptuous and believe that only our own discernment can be of value!
In the following paragraphs I would like to share some of our discoveries regarding our church doctrines that we are seriously disgruntled with.
Because of the complexities of the issues that we have discovered it is impossible to even begin to do justice to each topic in the span of one blog. The purpose of this particular article is therefore to highlight a few of the doctrinal areas that we are struggling with and to mention some aspect of each that is of outstanding importance to us. In future blogs I would like to delve a little deeper into each of these topics.
Spirit of Prophecy
The first doctrine that we do not agree with is the application of the Spirit of Prophecy, as mentioned in the book of Revelation, to Ellen White. We believe there must be a wider application for the Spirit of Prophecy than one person. Joel indicates many people prophesying at the end of time.
The doctrine of the Trinity has also come under our scrutiny and we are convinced that the way that it is taught by the Seventh-day Adventist Church is incorrect.
It has become clear to us from scripture that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not equal beings, but that the Father takes primacy. The Son is submissive and inferior to Him, and that the Spirit does the bidding of both Father and Son.
Doctrine of the Trinity not part of our 19th century doctrines
We furthermore discovered that the 19th century Adventist church did not hold the doctrine of the Trinity as it is spelled out today in our statement of fundamental beliefs. The Adventist church’s modern day doctrine of the Trinity was only formally accepted as official church doctrine (1980) and seems to have been popularized by the work and publications of Leroy E. Froom, a well known Adventist scholar between 1930 and 1950.There seems to be some indication that Froom himself was influenced in his thinking by his association with the Catholic Church.
The “Investigative Judgement”
The 1844 disappointment came about as the result of a misinterpretation of Biblical prophecy. Afterwards the Adventist church fathers tried to justify it by building a theology around the cleansing of the heavenly temple.
A study of the Bible, of history, and an understanding of science does not support this doctrine. The reality is, 1844 was a mistake, and nothing more. God does not need to investigate because He already knows (John 3:18).
172 years have passed since 1844, and much progress has been made in understanding prophecy. We have no reason to cling to the original interpretation made to these prophecies almost 200 years ago.
The foundation of these prophecies were conjured with the expectation of the Advent in 1844. Naturally all the pre-Advent prophecies had to find interpretation in history since the Advent was expected in 1844. There are far better and more literal interpretations to many of the prophecies now, 172 years later.
The taboos relating to Sabbath observance
Adventists have through the years developed a whole culture of do’s and don’ts around Sabbath-keeping, making it in many respects burdensome like it was to the Jews in the time of Christ.
Christ was quite radical about Sabbath-keeping measured against the Jewish culture of his day. If He were here today, I guess He would again be quite radical toward some aspects of Adventist Sabbath-keeping. I must add that Sabbath observance in the Adventist Church today differs from culture to culture, and nation to nation, and many of the strict observance taboos of 50 years ago have been put on the back burner – to the chagrin of some older die-hards and the rejoicing of others.
These, in a nut shell, are the main issues we have come to question through our own Bible study. In the next blog I will focus in greater detail on some of the key issues around the doctrine of the Trinity.
Read a response by Pastor Evert Potgieter to Martin Bredenkamp’s Article.
|Please climb onto our soapbox and share your take on Martin’s journey to rediscover “true” biblical doctrine.|