Seventh Day Adventists have been around since 1863. There are now over 25 million people in 230 countries who count themselves as members. We consider ourselves to be Christian and adhere strictly to the Bible for guidance on all things spiritual. However, one of our original founders was also a prophet. Over her lifetime, God spoke to her often and we integrated these new teachings into our lifestyle. As a result, we have a few practices that may seem odd to other Christians.
For example, do Seventh Day Adventists drink coffee? Today, most adherents avoid all caffeinated drinks. Generally, no tea, coffee, caffeinated sodas, or energy drinks are consumed. One of the founders of the religion, Ellen White, taught her followers to avoid many unhealthy foods and habits. She counseled against drinking tea and coffee.
While Ellen White never spoke out against all caffeinated beverages, she did against tea and coffee. Taking her message of wellness to heart, our church decided to expand her prohibition to all caffeinated products. Today, with so many caffeinated products on the market globally, it can be tough to abstain. However, we believe the health benefits far outweigh the occasional social awkwardness of not drinking coffee. In fact, health is a key core belief in our religion.
Seventh Day Adventists and Healthy Eating
Mrs. White helped found our religion in the early 1800s. Not only did she help develop our philosophy, she regularly received visions from God which helped her shape our belief system. One of her visions, received in 1863, was instrumental in our ideas on health and wellness. In 1866, after another vision, the Western Health Reform Institute was opened in Battle Creek in order to help care sick patients and educate them on a healthy lifestyle.
In some of her many writings, Mrs. Ellen G. White had this to say about coffee and tea: “The stimulating diet and drink of this day are not conducive to the best state of health. Tea, coffee, and tobacco are all stimulating, and contain poisons. They are not only unnecessary, but harmful, and should be discarded if we would add to knowledge temperance.”
In the ensuing years, much research has been done to uphold her beliefs that caffeinated beverages were doing more harm than good to her followers. Today, the risks from caffeine overconsumption are well-known, if often ignored. Health risks include heart disease, psychological disorders, cancer, and possible links to birth defects.
Health was especially important to Mrs. White. She believed that physical ailments could negatively affect us mentally and spiritually as well. In “Christ’s Object Lessons,” she said, “Anything that lessens physical strength enfeebles the mind and makes it less capable of discriminating against right and wrong. We become less capable of choosing the good and have less strength of will to do that which we know to be right.”
As a result, she advocated not only from abstaining from tea and coffee, but tobacco, alcohol, recreational drugs, and meats as well. She also spoke the danger of rich and indulgent foods, including desserts. She was a proponent of exercise, time spent outdoors, and drinking fresh water.
We follow a vegetarian diet, as recommended by Mrs. White. Most of us prefer an ovo-lacto vegetarian diet (meaning we eat eggs and dairy). However, some of us go vegan, and some of us are even pescatarian (we’ll eat some fish). We do our best to choose whole grains, plenty of vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fruits. We recommend that our members take B-12, flax, chia, or other supplements as necessary to continued health. Finally, we try to avoid eating highly processed foods, including sugary sweets and snacks.
While many people think we don’t eat chocolate because of its caffeine content, the truth is we love it just as much as you. Mrs. White never placed any restrictions on it, and in fact we know she enjoyed it herself from time to time. Because we tend to eat plainly and cleanly, rich desserts are not something we tend to indulge in. However, a good piece of dark chocolate can be a healthy part of our diet, just as it can yours.
We understand that not everybody can stay healthy on the same diet, and that there are also cultural and societal traditions to take into account. We do our best to ensure that all our members are as healthy and happy they can be with the resources they have.
Seventh Day Adventists Beliefs
We believe the Bible is the only source of beliefs we require. We believe that it is God’s word written through the hands of men. It gives us all we need to know in order to live a life devoted to Him.
We currently hold 28 fundamental beliefs that can be broken into six main categories:
Each of these touch on deeper truths. Under the domain of God, we find the holy scriptures, the Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. God is the Father; the source of all love and life in the world. Jesus is the Son; He came to save us and is helping us to prepare for Heaven.
Jesus died for our sins, and in that sacrifice is where we find salvation. We believe that God made Jesus perfect, so that when he paid the ultimate price for us, He delivered us from our sins. By accepting Jesus into our lives, we find hope and love in our hearts instead of evil. By trying to be more like Jesus, praying to Him, and reading the Bible, we are free. By living our lives as close to Him as possible, every task turns into a spiritual experience and we become even closer to God.
Our Restoration might also be called the End of Days. You see, we believe that when we die, we are merely unconscious. We will stay that way until Jesus returns to earth and awakens the righteous and takes them to Heaven to reconciling ourselves to God. Over the next 1,000 years, Satan his minions will walk the earth. After a millennium has passed, Jesus will return to earth along with the Saved. Once on earth, he will awaken the unrighteous and they will face judgement. Then God will destroy all sin and sinners forever.
On this new earth, those of us who have led lives according to God’s holy laws will live with Him and Jesus in everlasting an eternal life filled with joy. There will be no more suffering, death, or sin.
We also believe that the Sabbath is on Saturday, not Sunday. According to God’s rules in the Bible, we set aside the day for prayer, religious observance, and family togetherness. Any kind of work (professional and household chores) needs to be set aside. Families are encouraged to find time to study or serve the community together after church services.
What Other Restrictions Are There?
Because we keep strict practices about how we live and worship, many people think we’re “not allowed” to do all kinds of things that simply aren’t true or aren’t always true. We live our lives according to God’s exacting standards, and that sometimes makes us look a little different.
Within our 28 Fundamental Beliefs, we have set out a moral code to help us live a life devoted to God’s Will. In the 22nd Belief, it states: “While recognizing cultural differences, our dress is to be simple, modest, and neat, befitting those whose true beauty does not consist of outward adornment but in the imperishable ornament of a gentle and quiet spirit.”
Because of this, many people think we’re against jewelry of all kinds. The truth is, for many of us, this means not wearing any kind of jewelry at all. However, we also recognize that other cultures have different thoughts and practices about jewelry, and we’re sensitive to that. For example, wedding rings are a very popular adornment the world over. Because in some parts of the world, wedding rings are a social requirement, they aren’t considered adornments. In the end, it is up to the individual churches to teach this rule with sensitivity and grace. We hope that, over time, those of us who chose to wear jewelry will come to understand that it isn’t necessary in God’s eyes.
According to Deuteronomy 22:5, “A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this.” Because we believe the Bible is the Word of God, many people interpret this to mean that women shouldn’t wear pants. Which isn’t actually true. What this actually means is that men need to dress and men, and women as women. How that can be interpreted depends on the cultural and societal norms we each live in, and what is available to us.
Because we believe so strongly in the separation of church and state, many people think we aren’t allowed to vote. Just the opposite! We are encouraged to vote. Moreover, we recognize the importance of the government in supporting religious freedom. We are, however, encouraged to cast our vote after much prayer and asking of God’s guidance.
Mrs. White discouraged us from dancing, saying, “In our day dancing is associated with folly and midnight reveling. . . . The music and dancing in joyful praise to God at the removal of the ark had not the faintest resemblance to the dissipation of modern dancing. The one tended to the remembrance of God and exalted His holy name. The other is a device of Satan to cause men to forget God and to dishonor Him.”
However, music is very much encouraged. Because God made us in His own image, our appreciation goes deep. As it says in Job 38:7, when he created the universe, “the morning stars sang together and the angels shouted for joy.” We must be careful about the music we chose to enjoy, however, because it isn’t all created equal. Much (but not all) secular music today is devoid of uplifting morality. Even some sacred music can’t be trusted. The music we do enjoy always glorifies God. The music we make is a gift to Him. In the end, we believe that our body is a temple to God, and we try to treat it with profound respect. We do our best to stay healthy in His honor. Some of our practices have seemed strange to people who don’t understand, but over the years many of our ideas (like abstaining from tobacco and eating vegetarian) have been proven to be the healthier choice.
If you are interested in learning about other Religions in the world, then check out this book on World’s Religions on Amazon.