State of the Dead: Adventism’s Sexiest Doctrine

I see you were disturbed enough by my title to take a peek at my latest heresy. No this is not about necrophilia and no this isn’t going to water down one of Seventh-day Adventists distinctive doctrines…its just going to give it some sex appeal.

Adventists are one of the few branches of Christianity that believe in the non-immortality of the soul, meaning that when we read Genesis 2:7 we read it literally when it states that man was made a “living creature” [ESV], or a “living soul” [KJV]. Based on the Hebrew word “nephesh” we see this text describing a living–not immortal–entity. The word “nephesh” is used interchangeably with “breath and spirit”. It is the “life force” [for lack of a better term] that God animates humanity with. When we die the “nephesh” goes back to God and the individuals personality/existence is in God’s memory banks sort of speak, until the resurrection when they are raised to meet Jesus at the 2nd Coming.   Scripture says Jesus is the “only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.” [1 Timothy 6:15-16, ESV]. This isnt to say humans won’t experience eternity–but we understand that it is not “inheritant” but rather “given” to us by Jesus when He comes again.  Our immortality is “conditional” on our acceptance and dependance on Him. Okay, thanks Pastor for the trite and familiar SDA study, where’s the sex? Hang on to your hormones my titilated reader–we’re getting there…

Jewish Scholar Martin Goodman says, “Incorporation of the Greek notion of the immortal soul was as partial and sporadic among Jews in the late Second Temple period…In the Hebrew Bible man was concieved  as an animated body rather than an incarnated soul. According to to the narrative in Genesis [quotes 2:7]…Most of the authors of the biblical books seem to envisiaged the ‘nefesh’ [see Adventists didn’t make this up] as the vital principle which gives life to the body without imagining it as something which could survive seperation from the flesh. For most biblical writers, an individual did not have a body. He or she was a body, animated by the life principle.” [Rome and Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient Civilizations, 2007.]

The above quote is not from an Adventist–or a Christian for that matter. In essence he echoes what Adventists have said for many many years. The Jewish community, and later Christian community, were influenced by Greek Dualism–a philosophy that makes a distinction bewteen the “spiritual” [immortal soul] and the “material” [physical body]. As a result of this influence sexuality became something attributed to the “flesh” or “material body.” Sex gradually became something dirty, worldly, and at its very best a neccessary evil reserved for procreation.

Take a look at some quick facts from Christian history brought to you by the view that we possess an “immortal soul” that is stuck in a body:

1. John Harvey Kellogg [the man responsible for Rice Crispies and an Adventist for many years] wrote an influential book  entitled Plain Facts that that influenced views on sex in the 19th and 20th centuries…even today in some places. Here is some stuff from the 1882 edition:

“Sexual life begins with puberty and in the female ends at about the age of forty five years the period known as the menopause or turn of life. At this period according to the plainest indications of nature all functional activity should cease If this law is disregarded disease premature decay possibly local degenerations will be sure to result Nature cannot be abused with impunity The generative power of the male is retained somewhat longer than that of the female and by stimulation may be indulged at quite an advanced age but only at the expense of shortening life and running the risk of sudden death” ~Plain Facts, 123

“The general law that the reproductive act is performed only when desired by the female is sufficient ground for supposing that such should be the case with the human species also…thought parties engaged…the very lively solicitations which spring from the genital sense have no other end than to insure the perpetuity of the race.” ~ 223

 “As soon as they are wedded intercourse is indulged in night after night having any idea that these repeated are excesses which the system of neither and which to the man at least are The practice is continued till health is impaired sometimes permanently…”~226

Wow, sex is detimental to health.

2. Sylvester Graham, a contemporary of Kellogg and inventor of the Graham Cracker in Lectures to Young Men on Chastity 1854:

“But between the husband and wife where there is a proper degree of chastity all these causes either entirely lose or are exceedingly diminished in their effect They become accustomed to each other’s body and their parts no longer excite an impure imagination and when the dietetic and other habits are such as they should be this intercourse is very seldom” pg. 7-8

            “Beyond all question an immeasurable amount of evil results to the human family from sexual excess within the precincts of wedlock …muscular relaxation general debility and heaviness depression of spirits loss of appetite indigestion faintness and sinking at the pit of the stomach…feebleness of circulation, chilliness, headache, melancholy, hypochondria, impaired vision, loss of sight, weakness of the lungs, nervous cough…weakness of the brain, loss of memory, epilepsy, insanity…abortions, premature births, and extreme feebleness…and early death of offspring…are among the too common evils which are caused by sexual excesses between husband and wife.”—79

3. In the Victorian era it was considerded noble for women to suffer from gynecological disorders rather than seek treatment [Sex in History, Reay Tannahill].

What about the book Song of Solomon? Shouldn’t that be enough to convince Christians that sex is good? Look at some quick facts at the history of its interpretation as Rabbis tried to figure out what to do with such a brazenly romantic book in sacred scripture…

1. Rabbi Akiba “he who trills his voice in the chanting of the Song of Songs and treats it as a secular love song has no share in the world to come.” ~90 A.D.  Oh, and no one under the age of 30 was allowed to read it.

2. Christian allegorists came along, influenced by pagan philosophers of Greek Dualism who believed purity involved renouncing all bodily pleasure including sexual expression as evil. All erotic imagery had to do with the yearning of the soul for Union with God or as an expression of God’s love for His Church, for Jews it was about God’s presence with His people throughout history and a looking forward to the Messiah.

Origin, 3rd century, is notorious for negatively influencing the study of scripture with his “allegorical method” which rejected the plain meaning of scripture in light of finding the deep hidden spiritual meaning [Dualism]. Wrote a commentary “I advise and counsel everyone who is not yet rid of the vexation of flesh and blood and has not ceased to feel the passion of his bodily nature to refrain completely from reading this little book…they must not take anything of what has been said with reference to bodily functions…”

Some of the more delightful allegories are the breasts of the Shulamite woman representing Moses and Aaron…I bet they would appreciate being likened to a couple of boobs.

3.  John Wesley, founder of Methodism, “the description…could not with decency be used or meant concerning Solomon and Pharaoh’s daughter…if applied to them would be absurd and monstrous…it follows that this book must be understood allegorically…”~1765

4. According to Richard Davidson in his massive book on sex, Flame of Yahweh: Sexuality in the Old Testament, “For fifteen centuries the allegorical method held sway in the Christian church, and the Song of Songs became “the favorite book of the ascetics and monastics who found in it, and in expansive commentaries on it, the means to rise above earthly and fleshly desire to the pure platonic love of the virgin soul or God.” [p. 548].  He goes on to point out that only one man Theodore of Mopsuestia asserted the book should be understood literally. His student Bishop Theodoret told on him and said his literal intrepretation was “not even fitting in the mouth of a crazy woman.” The 2nd Council of Constantinople [553] anathematized [proclaim a formal curse] Theodore and condemned his views.

5. The Westminster Assembly in the 17th century stated, cursed Presbyterians who “recieved it [the song of solomon] as a hot carnal pamphlet from some loose Apollo or Cupid.”

The lists can  go on, people are generally familiar with either a ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ approach to sex in the church. At Golden Hills we just completed a series on sexuality and not only did attendance increased but people transferred memberships and expressed desires to become members. Some just because we were talking about sex in a postive way. But for a churh that believes in the State of the Dead doctrine–the idea that the “soul/spirit/nephesh” is “asleep” in the words of Jesus until the resurrection this should be commonplace.

Adventists, because of their holisitc understanding of the soul and body–they can’ t be seperated–above all other Christians should have the healthiest sexual theology and appreciation for it. Adventists understand that sexuality is a part of humanity–we can honestly say we are sexual beings whereas–if they follow their Greek Dualism influenced theology–other Christians cannot make that statement. For them, sex is a part of their body not a part of their spirit. Adventists should, within biblical boundaries, feel the mose free to express sexuality and enjoy it.

So, there you have it, the reason that the State of the Dead is Adventism’s “sexiest” doctrine.




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10 responses to “State of the Dead: Adventism’s Sexiest Doctrine

  1. Belinda Alter-E

    On earth nothing about us can be separate from the rest. Intellect, sexuality, emotions,spirituality and body are all connected to each other and although our parts can battle each other ex. intellect vs. emotions and deciding what action to take..(is it the right spiritual decision) they all influence each other. Our bodies wear out which is why we get a perfect new one in heaven but what makes us up as a unique personality is preserved. There will be no marriage or giving in marriage in heaven but we will have bodies it doesn’t state there will not be a physical expression of love in heaven…maybe there it will truely be free love???

  2. Ken Lytle

    Interesting read… Thanks Seth for “exposing” a deeper thought about sexuality and spirituality.

  3. jb

    Your article was thought provoking, but I I have an issue with your statement

    “Adventists are one of the few branches of Christianity that believe in the non-immortality of the soul, …”

    in that Adventism as taught by the modern Adventist church and by Ellen White is not a Christian faith, they merely claim the name of Christ.

    Adventism teaches another Jesus, another Spirit, and another Gospel than what is found in the pages of the Bible.

    For instance, Jesus is not Michael the Archangel, rather He created all things.

    Jesus did not have to go before the Father after the fall of man to plead three times on Adams behalf to become the savior and sacrifice for mans sins, the Bible tells us He was slain from before the Foundation of the world for our sins.

    It is a pure fantasy of EGW to think that Satan became jealous of Jesus when Ellen White claims God chose Jesus over Satan to create man. Satan is a created being, not an equal, and created by Christ no less.

    Ellen G White is not the Spirit of Prophecy, she is proven to be a false prophet, and God’s Holy Spirit is the seal of a true believer, not the Sabbath.

    Finally, the true gospel is the deliverance from the bondage of sin.
    1Corinthians 15:56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.

    When one is dead in Christ, and alive to the true Spirit, he is dead to the law, and therefore dead to sin.

    So, as I said at the beginning, my issue with your article is that Adventism teaches what 2 Corinthians chapter 11 warns true Christians about. False teachers and false gospels.

    • sethoutlook

      I thank you for your honest reply. Unfortunately in order to respond approprietely, you’ll have to provide the passages from EGW and not speak in generalities. Christ did create all things, is the Son of God, is divine, and is God. This is not only what I have been taught and studied out for myself, but also teach from the pulpit.

      I have heard these kinds of sentiments before and are usually the result of run-ins with theologically aberrant “Adventists” who do not hold with church teachings. I have also found these kind of accusation typical of people who have had a legalistic experience with individual Adventists and use that as a springboard to indict the entire denomination. Not to mention many of EGW’s issues/quotes that seem strange–and in some cases they are–come from either a disregard for context or a super-imposed view of the biblical gift of prophecy by the critique upon the denomination.

      Recently I recieved an “anti-Adventist” mailing that had so many historical inaccuracies and preconcieved ideas about Adventism that it made me wonder what sort of issue in the man’s life would prompt such shoddy and shallow critiques.

      I am aware the Adventist church has gone through periods of legalistic leadership–but so has every Christian denomination. I recently baptized someone coming out of a Fundamentalist Baptist church who had all kinds of stories to share about a works oriented Gospel as well as a rigid view of scripture.

      If you look at Puritan history in America you find all kinds of legalistic penalties for not keeping the Sabbath [Sunday] or attending church. And as far as EGW goes, while I believe she had a tremendous gift from the Holy Spirit I also believe she was human and made mistakes–she says as much. Scripture is our ultimate standard for truth–which is Fundamental Belief #1 in Adventism. Just because some don’t practice that doesn’t mean nobody does. And in terms of spiritual leadership, we can take a powerful figure like Martin Luther and instead of praising his role in the Protestant Reformation–we can write him off for persecuting Jews and Anabaptists. But we don’t because we understand that no matter the giftedness of an individual–we are all sinners in need of grace for salvation. This includes Bible prophets such as Moses [murderer/anger issues], David [adulterer/liar], and even the Apostle Peter [foul mouth/denied the faith/hypocrite].

      So, Im sorry your experiences have been negative–but I can assure you a belief in Jesus Christ for salvation is central to Adventism, every other doctrine finds meaning in Jesus and what He accomplished on the cross [the truth as it is in Jesus as EGW would say]. Therefore, we are as Christian as anybody else, and because we are a Christian church full of broken people needing grace we also fall short many times in our treatment of people and our treatment of the truth we have been given.

      • jb

        Here are a few references from Ellen White.

        Ellen White states clearly
        “The man Christ Jesus was not the Lord God Almighty.” (Letter 32, 1999, quoted in the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, p.1129).

        Adventists tell us Satan bears your sins, not Christ
        “It was seen, also, that while the sin offering pointed to Christ as a sacrifice, and the high priest represented Christ as a mediator, the scapegoat typified Satan, the author of sin, upon whom the sins of the truly penitent will finally be placed. Christ will place all these sins upon Satan,:so Satan,:will at last suffer the full penalty of sin.” (Great Controversy, p.422,485,486).”

        The Adventists claim that Christ as the savior of man was a second thought, devised by Him after the fall of man. They cannot show you that by way of the Bible, it is a fairy tale made up in the imaginations of Ellen G White.

        “Sorrow filled Heaven, as it was realized that man was lost, and the world which God had created was to be filled with mortals doomed to misery, sickness, and death, and there was no way of escape for the offender; the whole family of Adam must die. The heart of the Son of God was touched with pity for the lost race. Upon his lovely countenance rested an expression of sympathy and sorrow. Soon he approached the exceeding bright light which enshrouded the Father, and he seemed to engage in close converse with him. The anxiety of the angels was intense while Jesus thus communed with his Father. Three times he was shut in by the cloud of glory; the third time he came forth his countenance was calm, free from all perplexity and trouble, and shone with benevolence and loveliness, such as words cannot express. He then made known to the angelic host that a way of escape had been made for lost man. He told them that he had been pleading with his Father, and had offered to give his life a ransom, and take the sentence of death upon himself, that through him man might find pardon; that through the merits of his blood, and obedience to the law of God, man could again have the favor of God, and be brought into the beautiful garden, and eat of the fruit of the tree of life. {ST, January 30, 1879 par. 1}” The Plan of Salvation Chapter Four

        She prophesied slavery would not end with the Civil War, making her a false prophet according to Deuteronomy 18:20-22

        “”Thousands have been induced to enlist with the understanding that this war was to exterminate slavery; but now that they are fixed, they find that they have been deceived, that the object of this war is not to abolish slavery, but to preserve it as it is. {1T 254.1}

        I was shown that if the object of this war had been to exterminate slavery, then, if desired, England would have helped the North. But England fully understands the existing feelings in the Government, and that the war is not to do away slavery, but merely to preserve the Union; and it is not for her interest to have it preserved. {1T 258.2}
        “BOOKS/1T – Testimonies For The Church Volume One (1855-1868)/Number Seven Testimony for the Church – Chapter 53 – The North and the South “

    • Ryan Watson

      Let’s look at some of those quotes from Ellen White and maybe a few others for clarification.

      First, here is that quote from the Bible Commentary, including the parts you left out: “There is no one who can explain the mystery of the incarnation of Christ. Yet we know that He came to this earth and lived as a man among men. The man Christ Jesus was not the Lord God Almighty, yet Christ and the Father are one. The Deity did not sink under the agonizing torture of Calvary, yet it is nonetheless true that ‘God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ ” (Letter 32, 1899, quoted in the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, p.1129).

      I think it is clear that Ellen White is making a distinction between the Father and the Son (the doctrine of the trinity), not undermining Christ’s divinity.

      Your second argument is so flawed it is almost amazing that you posted it. Here is your quote with your “proof” of claim: “Adventists tell us Satan bears your sins, not Christ
      ‘It was seen, also, that while the sin offering pointed to Christ as a sacrifice, and the high priest represented Christ as a mediator, the scapegoat typified Satan, the author of sin, upon whom the sins of the truly penitent will finally be placed. Christ will place all these sins upon Satan,:so Satan,:will at last suffer the full penalty of sin.’ ” (Great Controversy, p.422,485,486).”

      The Adventist claim is that Jesus bore our sins on the cross. I shouldn’t have to make this statement to anyone who has given reasonable consideration to Adventist teachings; the weight of evidence in Ellen White’s writings alone (since you are using her writings to distort Adventist doctrine) is so colossal that your claim can only be made out of ignorance.
      As far as Satan bearing the penalty of sins, this is with reference to final punishment. Christ bore the penalty for our sins for the sake of our redemption, however Satan (the inventor of sin and the one who has led the world into ruin) will be punished, as are all who do not accept salvation.
      Adventists do not believe (nor say) that Satan bears our sins and NOT Christ. We believe (and say) the Christ bore our sins once, and in the end Satan will bear the responsibility of our sins and receive final punishment.

      Your next accusation reveals yet another incomplete examination. You say, “The Adventists claim that Christ as the savior of man was a second thought, devised by Him after the fall of man. They cannot show you that by way of the Bible, it is a fairy tale made up in the imaginations of Ellen G White.” You are either unaware or choosing to ignore one of her quotes which would leave no room for confusion. Referring to Revelation 13:8, she says, “The plan of salvation had been laid before the creation of the earth; for Christ is ‘the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world’; yet it was a struggle, even with the King of the universe, to yield up His Son do die for that guilty race. But…” and then she quotes John 3:16.” (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 63)

      That the plain of salvation was laid since before earth was even created is central to Ellen White’s teaching and it is part of Adventist theology. I imagine you would have to look quite a while before finding an Adventist who believed anything else (not exactly effective teaching, as you claim that Adventists do).

      And for your final accusation: “[Ellen White] prophesied slavery would not end with the Civil War, making her a false prophet according to Deuteronomy 18:20-22.” After making this claim, you then cite quotes made by Ellen White. However, I think it is obvious with only minimal examination of the quotes that you posted that Ellen White never says that slavery would not end. She simply states, “that the war is not to do away slavery, but merely to preserve the Union” and for that she is not mistaken. I studied early American history–at a secular institution–and it seems that the purpose of the civil war was indeed to prevent states, like South Carolina, from seceding and therefore dissolving the Union. Abolition of slavery was not the primary purpose, only a means to achieve unity throughout the Union. Many Union leaders were not morally objected to the existence of slavery.

      The point is, Ellen White says nothing with reference to whether slavery would continue or cease after the Civil War. Again, I am almost amazed you posted this. Almost.

  4. An important perspective, thank you!

  5. Allan

    You are inventing answers and depend on your own understanding. Try to read the Bible and you will find the truth, the truth that will set you free.

  6. @jb – re: in that Adventism as taught by the modern Adventist church and by Ellen White is not a Christian faith, they merely claim the name of Christ.

    Adventism teaches another Jesus, another Spirit, and another Gospel than what is found in the pages of the Bible.
    I often take the name SDA as a shortened way to say, “I believe in the Bible, the whole Bible and nothing but the Bible, and there are about half a dozen ‘religions’ on earth (that I know of) who teach about 95% of that, give or take (though most claim that to be 100%, I have a few different viewpoints). If I want to fellowship and/or be in a body of Christ, working toward one goal with many parts, I must pick one and do my best to get along.” I taught Sabbath School in an Adventist Church for 3 years, I taught Vacation Bible School in another for 5 years, and I taught The Parallel Prophecies of Daniel and Revelations in my home for 3. I currently teach Bible Study with a first day church, who all seem very open to the Word so far. (Just a bit of background on me and where I’m coming from.) I agree that EGW was a deeply faulted human being, like you and I, and I (for one) do not take her word (often speculation at best, IMHO) as scripture. Now, I know most Adventists will tell you they do not take her word as scripture, then quote from it and use it in discussions as one would the Bible. I believe that you and I feel the same way about that, though my issues with her are not among those you listed (perhaps a bit of reading IN CONTEXT would clear some of that up for you). I would like to say that I think your statement of, “Adventism teaches another Jesus, another Spirit, and another Gospel than what is found in the pages of the Bible.” was unjust, unfounded and unkind. I’ve picked SDA doctrine apart (from the inside, mind you, with access to all materials) and found absolutely no bases for that statement. In facts, most of my (admittedly few) issues with Adventism aren’t actually IN their world-wide teachings, but merely what most of them believe. Since we’re on the subject, they are what almost all of Christianity believe, regardless of the clear assertion that David was (with the exception of the Bathsheeba incident) a man after God’s own heart. I shan’t debate his relationship with Jonathan, since there is no supporting evidence for or against my personal beliefs, but no one can deny how many wives and concubines he had. Anyway, none of that is really central or all that important, unless it comes down to treating people in a way that Christ never has, never would have and never will, turning people out of God’s House or away from His communion table or in any other way showing or telling a child of God that they are less valued in His eyes because of their gender/ gender identity/ sexuality/ polyamorism. THEN, it does become a huge issue, and is nearing blasphemy to treat humans so shabbily and claim it is in God’s name.
    At any rate, I praise God that those of us who are here, interested, searching and reading, are. I can’t say that I have some sort of deep, all wise understanding of all 66 books, but I can say this: I was blind, and now I see. God bless us all & may I see every one of you inside The City on That Day.

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