I was born and raised in a devout Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) family. The church was our whole life; we attended services every Saturday, participated in Bible studies and youth groups, went to Adventist schools, and mostly socialized with other Adventists.
Leaving was an extremely difficult decision for me. My family and friends are all part of this community, so stepping away meant losing those close relationships. However, over time, my perspectives changed, and certain beliefs no longer aligned with my views.
Here, I will explain some of the core reasons why I decided to leave the Seventh-Day Adventist church after over 20 years of membership.
The Rigidity of SDA Doctrine and Lifestyle Rules
Legalism Over Spirituality
One major challenge I had was the legalistic approach the church took towards spirituality. There are many rules about lifestyle: no jewelry, no makeup, no dancing or theaters, no competitive sports, and no work on Saturdays. The list goes on.
Rather than focusing simply on developing a personal relationship with God, there was great emphasis on strictly abiding by all these rules. I often felt drowned in guilt over minor infractions. Over time, this began diminishing my joy in faith rather than uplifting it.
Indoctrination Over Critical Thought
Additionally, questioning or debating doctrine was strongly discouraged. We were taught to accept Adventist theology without critique. This expectation of blind acceptance significantly bothered me.
As I grew older, I could not ignore my sincere questions and doubts about certain biblical interpretations and prophetic teachings. However, voicing any concerns or dissent met swift disapproval and correction. I no longer felt intellectually or spiritually satisfied in such a rigid environment.
Unfulfilled End-Times Prophecies
A major focal point of Adventist doctrine rests upon end-times prophecies, particularly those tied to the books of Daniel and Revelation. Specific predictions were made about Christ’s second coming and the end of the world based on these prophecies.
The Great Disappointment
Most notably, the Adventist movement has its origins in William Miller’s prophecy that Jesus would return between March 1843 and March 1844. When this did not occur, it became known as “The Great Disappointment.”
However, Ellen G. White, Adventism’s founding prophetess, claimed the date was correct but that Jesus had begun the last “investigative judgment” phase in heaven instead of returning to earth on that date. This explanation did not satisfy me.
Continued Failed Predictions
Beyond this initial failure, other prophecies have continued to go unfulfilled. For example, White predicted that some Adventists living in 1856 would be translated to heaven without seeing death when Jesus returned very soon.
This did not materialize as anticipated. For me, the inability to admit errors and recalibrate theology appropriately is highly troubling. It brings into question the credibility of White’s prophetic claims overall.
Doubts Over Ellen G. White’s “Prophetic” Status
Indeed, the extensive veneration of Ellen G. White as an end-times “messenger of God” played a significant role in my departure as well.
Firstly, critics have shown extensive evidence that she plagiarized material from other authors in her written works without acknowledgment. Analysis indicates that up to 30% of her seminal book, The Great Controversy, contains unattributed content copied word-for-word from earlier sources.
The church refuses to acknowledge this and suppresses some of the primary sources of evidence. As a “prophetess,” I expect greater integrity and transparency.
Inconsistencies with the Bible
Furthermore, some of White’s theological assertions do not align with my understanding of the Bible itself. Her teachings are held as nearly equivalent in authority within the church. I became uncomfortable with this, along with the special reverence she was accorded that closely resembled worship.
No human figure, no matter their role or insights, should supersede the Bible in significance for Christians. The unwillingness to honestly evaluate her writings caused great unease for me.
Isolationism from Other Christians
Finally, one of the most isolating aspects of being a Seventh-Day Adventist is how separated the church remains from the rest of the Christian community even today.
Sense of Remnant Uniqueness
Adventists view themselves as the “remnant church” continuing the “true” teachings of Jesus after other denominations have been corrupted. There is very much an “us vs. them” mentality that permeates culture and doctrine.
Little effort goes into building fellowship or unity with Christians of other backgrounds. In fact, Adventists are actively discouraged from venturing into other churches or studying alternate theological perspectives at all.
Rejection of Ecumenism
Reflecting this isolated positioning, Adventists also wholly reject the ecumenical movement towards greater togetherness amongst global church bodies. I always found this difficult to accept when contrasted with Jesus’ own words in John 17:21: All who believe in Him “may be one.”
Unity with only those who agree with you doctrinally is not truly unity at all. The church’s insularity from the wider Body of Christ signaled a red flag to me scripturally.
The Seventh-Day remains my family church home, holding wonderful memories. However, the restrictiveness and isolation required to remain a member troubled me greatly. I could no longer comfortably adhere to certain narrow doctrinal views or pastoral control over my lifestyle in good conscience.
Stepping away allows me to retain faith in Jesus while finding fellowship with a wider, more accepting community of believers. My spiritual journey continues, opening new horizons. I am at peace with my choice, though the separation from family ties continues to be profoundly hard. I know God sees my heart; that must be enough going forward, wherever the path leads from here.
(This is the story of Yeop Tae, who is a regular visitor to the KCCNJ.)
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