Many religious groups that have arisen in the last few centuries have faced the problem of their origins in an interesting way. Faced with the fact that the early Christians were not Adventist, Jehovah’s Witness, Mormon, or Armstrongite in either their theology or their practices, these groups had to reject these early Christians as a group who were deceived, precursors to the Catholic Church they view as apostate. Those they reject as apostates often include St Polycarp and St Ignatius of Antioch, both disciples of the Apostle John.
Because of this, they had to find another group, or groups, of people to call “true Christians” if they were to continue teaching that the true faith existed without dying out. Some of these modern religious movements did, however, claim that the true Gospel and true Church DID cease to exist, contrary to the promises of Christ himself in Matt 16:18 and 28:20.
The Seventh-day Adventist church was among these groups claiming spiritual allegiance with peculiar sects of the past, with their prophet making pronouncements on this matter as follows:
The gospel had been planted in Bohemia as early as the ninth century. The Bible was translated, and public worship was conducted, in the language of the people. … Heaven had provided other agencies for the preservation of the church. Many of the Waldenses and Albigenses, driven by persecution from their homes in France and Italy, came to Bohemia. Though they dared not teach openly, they labored zealously in secret. Thus the true faith was preserved from century to century.
— Ellen White, Great Controversy, Chapter 6, paragraph 1, p97.
Century after century the blood of the saints had been shed. While the Waldenses laid down their lives upon the mountains of Piedmont “for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ,” similar witness to the truth had been borne by their brethren, the Albigenses of France.
— Ellen White, Great Controversy, Ch 15, p271.
Recently, the Adventist Review came out with a statement that is an indirect contradiction of those words, words which many Adventists believe to be inspired. In an article by Ed Christian entitled “One Person’s Heretic Is the Next Person’s Martyr,” there is a plain admission as to the beliefs and practices of the Albigensians. He says:
I know people who, because of a few comments in Ellen White’s book The Great Controversy, have a great fondness for the Albigensians (or Cathars), who were also considered heretics. Many were killed for their faith. These Cathars were very different from the Waldensians. They believed that Jesus was an angel, denied Jesus was really a man who died and was resurrected, and believed the Old Testament came from Satan. They discouraged marriage. They were in their day what David Koresh’s Branch Davidians are in ours. Were they heretics or martyrs? Could they be both?
— Adventist Review, Nov 20, 2003 … [Internet Archive here]
It must be somewhat embarrassing to have a prophet who claims that people with such beliefs were the true Christians preserving the true faith. What does that say about her theology? And her status as prophet?
It’s interesting to note that the author also states that James White (their prophet’s husband) and Uriah Smith, early Adventist leaders, taught a similar doctrine about the nature of Christ to that of the ancient Arians and the modern Jehovah’s Witnesses. In their interpretation of Daniel 7, they claim that the papacy uprooted three groups of Arians. Notwithstanding the fact that the historical facts simply don’t fit their interpretation of Daniel 7, it’s interesting that their subtle identification with groups whose doctrine denied the divinity of Christ is made considerably less subtle by the acceptance of that doctrine by the early Adventists.
The author makes a profound statement near the end of his article: “Is anyone who disagrees with church beliefs a heretic, or should we reserve that title for those who deny God and scoff at godliness?”
For more information on these peculiar groups and the unhistorical claims made about them, see Dave Armstrong’s articles on his website, Biblical Evidence for Catholicism: