9. Are Seventh-day Adventists subject to some sort of authoritarian centralised control over their beliefs and actions, as is often found in modern-day cults?

No.  This is another oft-cite 'proof' raised by critics that the SDA is supposedly a cult.  However, as observed by non-Adventist theologian Kenneth Samples, of the Christian Research Institute:
“As an interested outsider with my nose pressed to the window, I see quite a bit of theological diversity within Seventh-day Adventism. In some ways it reminds me of present-day evangelicalism. One strand of Adventism appears quite traditional, another very liberal, and still another distinctly evangelical. There also seems to be a segment that is atheological in nature and reflects what I would call a cultural Adventism.”  (emphasis added)
In fact, some outside Christian commentators have even criticised this lack of centralised control, as it has arguably prevented the SDA Church from stating ‘the official position’ on a range of subjects:
“Because of Adventism's strong emphasis on progressive scriptural understanding, they have been reluctant to adopt any formal creed. Even their doctrinal statement known as the "27 Fundamental Beliefs" allows for change and revision. Historically, this lack of a formal creed and emphasis on progressive biblical understanding has given place to a wide spectrum of doctrinal interpretation among Adventists. In the 1950s, as today, this tolerance of divergent and sometimes heretical views has hurt the unity and doctrinal soundness of their denomination. This was a critical issue for the evangelicals, who could not hope to accurately represent the position of Adventism to the evangelical world if the Adventists themselves lacked consensus as to those positions.” (emphasis added)


  1. Exactly – which is it – too much control from the top or not enough control from the top? Point in kind, consider 3ABN network. Although it is unofficially affiliated with and run by Adventists, it has no official connection with nor endorsement by the SDA Church hierarchy. Sometimes it says things critical of the official SDA leadership, and yet the official Church is fairly supportive and regularly gives interviews and provides guests.

    Does anyone think this example of a de-centralised, independent ministry, would be possible in an authoritarian cult some critics claim the SDA Church to be? I am obviously an Adventist.

    1. Yes indeed. Also consider very well known websites/magazines as Spectrum Magazine and Adventist Today. There you will find Adventists of all types, including ex-Adventists, all discussing issues, and often holding polar opposite views on things from: women ordination, homosexuality, evolution, Church leadership structures, music, cultural issues etc etc. These websites/magazines exist outside of the official SDA Church but are run by people very much still involved in, both officially and unofficially, the support of the SDA Church.

    2. Individual churches can be, however. That is why I left behind my Adventist upbringing years ago. I am finding it interesting now, just how diverse Adventists can be. If only I lived near one of the more progressive churches, I would be tempted to return. However, here in southern Missouri, walking into an Adventist church is like going back in time.

  2. Ironically, because the official SDA Church has pretty poor control over its churches and members, many individuals are free to engage in Gospel mission largely as they see fit. However, that same freedom naturally allows people on the fringe to develop quite extremist ideas. It is these fundamentalist extremists who end up becoming splinter groups that leave the official Church. These offshoots then end up in the media as supposedly representing the cultish, authoritarian SDA Church. Thus, one comes full circle, where it is ironically the official SDA Church's large degree of freedom and laxity of control that eventually results in the misconception of it as being an authoritarian cult.

  3. Wow! Seventh-day Adventist Church is actually a money-making Corporation, who can be dissolved at Church level, or conference level by the General Conference CORPORATION in Maryland, which if you read the rules states that they have control of rules and individiual churches and divisions must follow. That is control and authoritarian. A few rule everyone.

  4. While I enthusiastically agree with most of the grace-filled answers provided on this website, I strongly disagree with this one. I have personally experienced unreasonable (medieval-like) authoritarian centralized control over my beliefs and actions, both in the Seventh-day Adventist church and in several Seventh-day Adventist forums.