Here are some things that the Statement of Fundamental Beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church never mentions.
- It never says which translation of the Bible to use, nor how many books are in it. You can use the KJV with Apocrypha or NIV without.
- It never takes a position on the “eternal generation of the Son.” But it does speak of “the eternal Father” and “the eternal Son,” suggesting that they always had this relationship to one another. That protects Orthodox Trinitarianism from the encroaches of Tritheism.
- It takes no position on free-will, except to say that we had free will at creation, and freedom is restored in redemption. Augustine, Calvin and Arminius would approve.
- It has no theology of ordination. It does not mention ordination, or a single office of pastoral ministry. It doesn’t mention elders or deacons. It does say all members have spiritual gifts and there are multiple ministries (and it doesn’t restrict any ministry to either sex).
- It doesn’t tell you what you can and can’t do on the Sabbath, except that the day is for rest, worship, and ministry.
- It never talks about what that worship is–whether informal or formal, liturgical or non-liturgical, with drums or without drums.
- It never mentions meat eating or vegetarianism.
- It never mentions coffee or cola or tea or caffeine.
- It avoids most of the historic controversies over what baptism does or doesn’t do, except that it is by immersion and follows a conscious decision. Symbol or sacrament–the Adventist church doesn’t have anything to say.
- It affirms that Christ is present in the Lord’s Supper (thereby rejecting a mere memorial view), but doesn’t get into the how. So there is room for Calvin and Luther and Cranmer.
So while there are some unique teachings that define who Adventists are, there are many areas of historic conflict that separated denominations that are adiaphora (“things indifferent”) to Adventists. So one pastor could lean Puritan, another Methodist, another Baptist, another Lutheran — like the early Adventists did. They didn’t worry about their denominational roots, but were concerned about those things that bound them together.
It’s funny, I wasn’t considered for one job a few years ago because someone thought I was “too Lutheran” in my theology. That person had no problem with a family of converts from the Amish church retaining their distinctive lifestyle. But the Statement of Fundamental Beliefs is happy to embrace both, as long as we both agree on those things which define Adventism.
And I think that’s how it should be.