A Little Leaven ...
by Rolaant McKenzie
Adventism was built on the investigative judgment, a false doctrine used to excuse its unbiblical (and unfulfilled) date-setting. Soul sleep was developed to support the investigative judgment, and the resulting belief in the purely physical nature of man has led to Adventism’s practice and support of abortion.
Several years ago, I heard a portion of an interview of Cecile Richards, the previous president of Planned Parenthood, on Fusion TV’s America With Jorge Ramos (February 27, 2014). She was asked the question, “When does life begin?” After some evasiveness, she expressed her view that her children began to live when she delivered them. This reminded me of a common Adventist belief that a person is not truly alive until the first breath of air is taken at birth.
This belief is illustrated in an excerpt from “Seventh-Day Adventists Believe”, which is an explanation of the organization’s 28 Fundamental Beliefs. It clearly states that a soul comes into existence when a child is born:
This foundational belief, that a person becomes alive when he takes his first breath, helps to explain why many Adventists have a pro-choice, really pro-abortion, viewpoint. This belief is also why Adventist hospitals perform abortions. The rationale is that since the child has not taken his first breath, he is not truly alive, and so a living human being is not really being killed.
The Progression of Leaven
The Bible says, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9). Leaven is used often in Scripture to illustrate how sin can start in such a seemingly innocuous way and lead to much greater and pervasive sin.
How did this teaching come to have such a foundational place in Adventism? The early Adventists disregarded Jesus’ teaching that no one could know the day or the hour of His return (Mark 13:32) by setting the date of October 22, 1844 for His return. When this date-setting message failed, instead of repenting and returning to Scriptural teaching, the early Adventists formulated the doctrine of the investigative judgment to validate their date-setting message.
The doctrine euphemistically known as “soul sleep” was adopted to support the investigative judgment teaching. It was reasoned that a person cannot have an immaterial soul that goes to heaven at the death of the body before the investigative judgment was completed, otherwise the Lord would have to expel people from heaven who did not pass it.
As a result, the nature of man came to be understood in Adventism as being a physical body plus breath, with no immaterial “soul”. This belief led to the de facto dehumanization of unborn children and the disposal of an unwanted child through abortion being permissible.
An Important Conversation
About 10 years ago, I was doing information technology support work at a local Jewish Community Center. The Jewish librarian, knowing I was a Christian, asked me a question regarding what I thought of the abortion issue. She was in favor of keeping this practice legal. I think I gave her an answer that she did not expect, because it was not really a political one.
I told her that 150 years ago people that looked like me were considered less than fully human. Consequently, it was permissible to enslave people like me and dispose of us when we were no longer considered useful or convenient. More than 65 years ago in much of Europe, people like her were declared to be less than human, the cause of the ills of society, and inconvenient to be allowed to exist. Therefore, it was permissible and mandated that they be exterminated. Today, there is another group that has been similarly dehumanized because they were not considered useful or convenient. Tens of millions of this group have been killed already. They are babies in the womb.
I went on to say that when a society dehumanizes and exterminates the weakest and most vulnerable among them, none of us is safe from being similarly treated. Where there is no sanctity of human life, when we come to some point in life when society deems us to be inconvenient or not useful, then we will likewise be dehumanized and eliminated.
I do not know if she ever changed her mind regarding abortion, but I could tell that what was said gave her something to seriously consider.
Creeping Consequences of False Doctrine
One of the reasons God found so many of the inhabitants of Canaan so detestable that He sent the children of Israel to utterly destroy them was because they practiced, among other evil things, passing their children through the fire. That is, they sacrificed children as burnt offerings to their gods.
As Israel prepared to enter the Promised Land, the Lord through Moses gave the following warning:
Having sons or daughters “pass through the fire” meant making them a burnt offering to the false pagan god Molech. If the Lord so judged those nations that were engaged in child sacrifice, I wonder what will become of nations today that do so on a greater, more industrial scale through abortion?
Some Adventists may object and say that their organization does not advocate for or practice this kind of child sacrifice. That may be so, but the point is to show the progression of false doctrine and the catastrophic consequences it can have. The inhabitants of Canaan over time adopted a wrong view of man that allowed them to view their own children as a sacrificial commodity by which they could “purchase” benefits from their gods.
Much of western society, however imperfect, previously had a strong Judeo-Christian foundation. It held to a belief in God and our accountability to Him. There was a general belief in the Biblical view of humanity. In addition to being God’s special creation made in His image, human beings were more than physical bodies plus breath. There was an immaterial aspect to each person formed from the womb that made human life unique and sacred, consistent with being made in the image of God (Genesis 9:6). But when western society centuries later adopted Darwinian evolution and rejected God, materialism became the prevailing view. Human beings were no longer made in God’s image, but were just body plus breath formed out of random chance with no immateriality. In time this view has contributed to the idea that a person is not alive until birth and the first breath of air taken. Children in the womb could be sacrificed when deemed inconvenient or profitable. Today, there are even some in society openly promoting and working to pass laws to kill babies after they are born.
Similar to many who hold to a Darwinian evolutionary worldview, Adventists have a materialistic view of man. It presents the idea that human beings are merely body plus breath, with spiritual life residing in a physical brain. The spiritual, or immaterial, aspect is denied. This unbiblical view has contributed to the development of the belief that a person is not truly alive until the first breath of air is taken at birth; therefore it is permissible for Adventist hospitals to terminate a child in the womb.
The small amount of leaven in the dough that started this downward path began with not believing the words of Jesus regarding setting a date for His return. Refusing to repent of this error and formulating new and unbiblical teachings to save face has led to the leavening of the whole lump, and the participation in modern western culture’s shedding of innocent human blood on an industrial scale.
Acceptance of this practice in its hospitals while claiming to be the “remnant church” is reminiscent of Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ day who maintained the belief in their exclusive relationship with God and adherence to the Law, faithfully and piously going to the synagogue every Sabbath, while plotting the betrayal and murder of Jesus.
Can Leavened Dough Become Unleavened?
Of all the kings of Judah and Israel, Manasseh of Judah was probably the most evil one of all. His story can be found in 2 Kings 21 and 2 Chronicles 33. He engaged in the kind of evil that characterized the abominations of the nations that God had driven out before Israel. He erected altars to pagan gods, worshiped the host of heaven, and built altars for them in the temple courts, shed much innocent blood from one end of Jerusalem to the other, practiced witchcraft and divination, and took part in sorcery and consulted mediums. He even made his own sons pass through the fire. His reign of evil misled and encouraged the people of Judah to sin more than the nations that the Lord destroyed before Israel.
At some point early in his life, Manasseh chose not to follow the godly example of Hezekiah his father. This likely did not begin with one big decision, but with small choices that gradually led to his life becoming engulfed in evil. This corruption, like leaven spreading through a lump of dough, filtered down to the common people of the kingdom.
Even though God spoke to Manasseh and the residents of Judah, they refused to listen and turn back from their downward spiral into depravity. In response, the Lord sent the nation of Assyria against Judah. Manasseh was captured, bound, and carried off in humiliation to Babylon.
But in Manasseh’s affliction, something wonderful happened.
The rich grace and restoration of God led Manasseh to a genuine repentance (Romans 2:4). For the remainder of his reign he worked to undo all the evil he had done. He destroyed the pagan idols and altars, and called upon the people of Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel (2 Chronicles 33:15-16). This return to the Lord set the stage for the great national revival that took place under his grandson King Josiah.
Many of us previously in life held to false religious or philosophical worldviews. Assent to these views may have started as small steps away from truth that over time developed into acceptance of, or participation in, some very evil things. But thanks be to God for the grace and forgiveness that is found in Jesus Christ. Just how big is God’s forgiveness? It is big enough to forgive the worst of sins and the worst of sinners. How great is the cleansing power of Jesus’ blood? It can make the most deeply embedded crimson stain of sin whiter than snow (Isaiah 1:18).
By the grace of God, even people in leadership who have been led astray can experience miraculous change and set the stage for those who follow them to change also. Repenting of the error of participating in setting a date for Jesus’ second coming, of promoting extra-biblical revelations as inspired messages of God on par with Scripture, of the subsequent manipulation of Scripture in formulating doctrines teaching an incomplete atonement at the cross, and of an incorrect view of humanity would set the stage for the unleavening of the dough. Such repentance would open the door to not only embracing a Biblical view of humanity and the sacredness of the life of the unborn, but the salvation of a people formerly in darkness through believing the Biblical gospel.