Beset by theological dissension and accusations of plagiarism in the writings of founder Ellen G. White, the Seventh-day Adventist church (SDA) has taken the offensive against critics and set the optimistic goal of adding one million members to its ranks by 1985. This comes despite what SDA World President Neal Wilson has called “Satan’s subtle sophistiy and cunningness.”

Wilson made that comment at the 1981 Annual Council of Seventh-day Adventists, held in October. He had in mind the cases of SDA theologian Desmond Ford and former SDA pastor Walter Rea. The church stripped Ford of his ministerial credentials last year (CT, Oct. 10, 1980). Administrators were angered by his attack on the SDA doctrine of investigative judgment, which holds that Christ entered into a heavenly sanctuary in 1844. From there, according to the doctrine, Christ began passing judgment on each professing believer.

Rea, on the other hand, alleged late last year that much of White’s 53 books was taken shamelessly from non-Adventist authors of the mid-nineteenth century. Administrators have responded that not too much was taken from other authors and that White was no less a prophet for selectively using outside material—just as New Testament writers sometimes used segments from apocryphal literature.

These developments, president Wilson told the church at its conference, are ploys of the devil to sow seeds of discord and suspicion. But he happily noted that membership is increasing in America and overseas despite the problems. (Not all problems are theological—the church is also involved in an internal audit to determine how much money its agencies lent a prominent member who has filed for bankruptcy.) The 3.8-million-member denomination was challenged ...

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