Throughout this website, you will see references to “Conservative Adventists” being thrown around a lot. This is because there are two major types of Adventists, Progressive and Conservative. For an explanation on Progressive SDA’s, click here. It is very hard to describe the difference. For SDA’s, it is like night-day. They do not need this article to explain it to them. But as non-SDA’s read this site, I will do my best to describe them to you.
As I said, it is very difficult to give an exact definition. Some are more conservative than others; there is a lot of variation. Some families/churches have more “signals” and “identifiers” than others. With this in mind, these are merely guidelines and are to be treated as such. Most people will have aspects of both Liberal and Conservative SDAism. In the end, it usually comes down to their attitude.
Conservative Adventists (otherwise known as ‘Traditional Adventists’)
Traditional Adventists adhere strictly to the 28 fundamental beliefs. This doesn’t mean they necessarily keep them; they get broken all the time. But, in their heart and minds, they believe that they should be kept. They believe that we have a duty to God to keep these beliefs, and these fundamental beliefs to them are the church. They believe that once someone has heard the “the truth”, they need to follow it to be saved.
Conservatives would refer to themselves as Adventists, and many would not be comfortable being referred to simply as a “Christian”. Basically, they are Adventist before Christian. They usually believe that the fundamentals have no room to be wrong; hence they are “traditional”. These beliefs lead them to judge people in “The World” in an incredibly negative way.
Signals at Church
- They speak about Ellen G White a lot. While most will call her “the lesser light, shining brightness on the greater light”, if pushed they will usually say they find her infallible and on the same level as the Bible. The really ‘conservative’ members don’t even need to be pushed.
- At their church services, you will find similar topics being talked about. The sermons usually focus on topics where Adventists have unique theology; such as their prophecies, the Sabbath and the health message. They talk a lot less about “common” Christian ideas – there aren’t a lot of sermons on Sabbath.
- They stick strictly to hymns, with only a little variation into “modern” songs. They do not approve of drums in the church (this is something they will be very vocal about).
- Very extreme conservatives will walk out of a church service if a woman speaks. Usually they are fine with it, but are not OK with women pastors.
- In regular, day-to-day conservations, they will use Adventist-specific phrases, such as calling non-Adventists “The World” and calling Adventist teachings “The Truth”. More examples of this can be found here.
- At the very conservative meetups, their shared meals (potlucks) will be strictly vegan (this does not mean that they are privately vegan).
Signals Outside Church
- Heavy makeup is discouraged. Jewellery is never OK, except for wedding rings. This is somewhat changing; it is becoming more common for youth to wear some jewellery, particular earrings.
- Clothing is generally kept reasonably modest. You would not be able to pick most Traditional Adventists out from what they wear (though females not having earrings is a good identifier); only in the offshoot cult sects could you do this.
- If you asked a Conservative Adventist what they thought on “Liberal” Adventists, they would have long list of complaints.
- Publicly, they will announce the virtues of being a vegetarian and around other SDA’s they will only eat vegetarian/vegan food. Privately, some do eat meat, but they would never break the diet laws; they even avoid caffeine (will not drink coffee). No alcohol, no drugs, no smoking.
- They have conflicting views on media such as TV/books/music/movies. In the past, conservative members would never have gone to the movies – that was an “evil” place. Now, they will regularly go. They will even watch R16 (though not usually R18) movies. They will watch sex on TV (though if asked, talk about ‘how evil’ it is and many will say they have thought about getting rid of their TV’s) and they will watch violence. They are a lot less likely to put up with supernatural shows, and dislike shows that explore religion other than their own. The very conservative SDA’s do not watch/read non-SDA material. If they have a TV, they will only watch the 3ABN network. If you know an Adventist that is like this – or even just an SDA that has 3ABN installed – trust me, they are very conservative.
- While they will break the rules, they aren’t casual about it (it is very shameful and they would not wish to be caught). Unlike Liberal Adventists, they will keep the Sabbath and not be so openly bored during it. They will almost always say it is their favourite day, even if this is a lie.
How Conservative Adventists React to People Leaving the Church
In short; very badly, bar a few exceptions. Seventh Day Adventists believe they have “The Truth”, and that nothing in the fundamental beliefs is wrong. They believe that is you actively disobey God’s commandments, it shows you do not love God. If you do not love God/accept his gift of salvation and commandments, you will not be saved.
There is one issue, though; the SDA church is relatively new and there is no church that, previous to its creation, it can be compared too. Their answer to this is that previous to the Adventist church, there were “true Christians” but they hadn’t heard the truth. Thus, those who honestly loved God will be saved. However, now that the church has been created and has “The Truth”, there are no excuses anymore. Once you’ve been introduced to Adventism that is do-or-die. If you reject “The Truth”, you are condemned by God to die – and the churches mission is that everyone hears it. When they see one of their family or friends reject “The Truth”, the basically see them as losing eternal life – plus they see them as joining “The World” and judge them heavily for rejecting God. This is why leaving a conservative group is such a big deal and so scary.
Traditional SDA’s are exclusive, and they believe that they are special, unique and elect. This contrasts with Liberal Adventists who don’t focus on the doctrines of being elect, and instead draw their exclusivity from their internal social culture. Because Conservative Adventists believe so strong in their beliefs, they are extremely judgmental to “The World”, because they have rejected God. Most see them as being selfish and influenced by Satan. All of this internal pressure makes it very hard to leave a Seventh Day Adventist family that is conservative.