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28 Fundamental Beliefs

28 Fundamental Beliefs

The Revision Process, and What You Can Do to Incite Change  

By Naomi Boonstra

If you believe that the 28 fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist church should be changed as we grow, you’re in good company. The preamble to these beliefs say, “Revision of these statements may be expected at a General Conference Session when the church is led by the Holy Spirit to a fuller understanding of Bible truth or finds better language in which to express the teachings of God’s Holy Word.” [1]   

Although these beliefs deal primarily with our relationship to God rather than to culture, the Adventist church has systems in place to help the wording of these theological beliefs provide newer and clearer understandings of the Bible.  

Elder Bill Knott, editor of Adventist Review, a member of the Fundamental Belief Review Committee of 2011-2015, and a former pastor of Walla Walla University Church says, “Language is a dynamic thing, and the meanings can evolve from generation to generation, and so [the Fundamental Belief Review Committee] was not intended as a theological overhaul but an updating and expression of these truths of Scripture in the freshest and clearest language that we could find.” [2]  

In 2011, the committee set out to make these kinds of revisions through an almost four-year process that culminated in the 2015 General Conference Session. “The first year of that,” says Knott, “October of ‘11 to October of ‘12, was called a Time for Listening. During that year, this four-person committee, the Fundamental Belief Review Committee, would solicit suggestions from individuals . . . I think the count was into thousands of suggestions that came into the Biblical Research Institute at the G.C.” [3]  

Delegates, or those who vote on decisions such as the amendment of the 28 fundamental beliefs, at the G.C. Session. Photo by Josef Kissinger

There was then a Time for Writing, when the committee took all they heard and put it into a preliminary draft. Editing, publication, and discussion happened from October of 2013 until July of 2015, when the General Conference Session took place, and the draft was finalized.   

“I think I was more proud, in the righteous sense, of the way this committee did its work than almost any other,” says Knott. “It was very deliberate; it threw the net as widely as anything I have ever seen; it was very methodical; it took every point of view that was offered; it read every comment that was suggested, and gleaned from those.” [4]   

This process doesn’t have to only take place when the committee specifically designates time for it. Knott says, “At any point, a person can initiate a process.” An idea, originating from anywhere, if merit is seen in it by others, can end up being taken through to the General Conference Session. “For instance, a reader of The Collegian who has a burden about either the expression of a current fundamental belief or believes something important should be added would go usually by a process where they would submit their ideas to the local conference in which they operate, or maybe through the academic institution in which they work. Those are entities that are placed that can carry the idea forward.” [5]  

Delegates voting in change. Photo by Josef Kissinger

Our church, essentially, has in place a way for us as laypeople to declare scrupulously what our beliefs are. “I guess this whole process underlined for me what I will call the participatory nature of Adventism. Adventism assumes that you’re interested in ideas and people and that you’re going to talk with each other about things. We don’t let people impose things on us,” says Knott. [6] 

The things which seem set in stone in our church were actually born of discussion and are truly much more malleable than they seem.   

[1] Seventh-day Adventist Church. (n.d.). Fundamental beliefs. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/3sbFMWx.  

See Also

[2] Zoom interview with Elder Bill Knott, 1/6/21. 

[3] Ibid. 

[4] Ibid. 

[5] Ibid. 

[6] Ibid. 

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