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What are the main differences between 7th Day Adventists and Catholic/Protestant churches?

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These are really two different questions--What are the distinctive doctrines of the 7th Day Adventists and why do they worship on Saturdays. –  Narnian May 22 '13 at 12:08
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removed second part.. –  Jomet May 22 '13 at 12:29

7 Answers 7

up vote 20 down vote accepted

The most notable position of the Adventist is the degree of Biblical Literalism. Generally, if the verses can have a literal meaning then that is the belief that they take.

The outsider will notice some or all of these if they spend a short time with an Adventist:

  • Worship on Saturday (after all, it is in their name. I will expand on this later).
  • Not eating unclean animals, per the OT Law distinction. That means no pork, like many Jews. The animal must have a cloven hoof and chew the cud, or be a fish with scales, or a non-predatory bird of the air.
  • No Alcohol or any other recreational drugs including caffeine. Medication is fine when necessary. I suspect they are hesitant of consuming opiates and other pain medications.
  • General emphasis on health and what you eat, although not doctrine, many are vegetarians.
  • No jewelry, save a simple wedding band, or excessively fancy clothes.

All of the above have Biblical justification, although those same verses are either ignored or interpreted differently in other denominations.

The outsider will likely not notice these unless they sit in on Adventist worship services and sermons or read Adventist literature.

  1. Intense disdain for Sunday Worship. According to theology it is the mark of the beast (I will explain this later).
  2. Intense disdain for the Roman Catholic Church (RCC). That is the Harlot Church of Revelation.
  3. Intense disdain for the Papacy, not the Pope specifically. The office of the Papacy is the Antichrist.
  4. High focus on eschatology and the second coming of Christ. "Keeping the eye on the prize" or "Finishing the race strong."
  5. Intense guarding of the Young Earth Creationist view (YEC). They will argue this until they are blue in the face.
  6. No special interest in a person Ellen G. White, but rather in her many writings and visions, most of which are regarded as prophetic or otherwise inspired.
  7. There is no eternal quality of any kind to humanity. There is no such thing as the eternal soul. They are Annihilationists.
  8. The archangel called Michael is another name for Jesus.

I will address each one of these, now, referring to their number when necessary.

The first four are all highly related. That theology is also not new with the Adventists. The idea that the RCC is the harlot church (2) and its leader, the Pope, is the Antichrist has its roots all the way back to the Reformation. The primary distinction concerning the Pope and the RCC between Reformation theology and Adventists is that Adventists call the Papacy, not the Pope (3), the AntiChrist (apparently, calling the Pope the Antichrist was a bit of a name calling thing half the time during the Reformation). What I believe is unique to them is that Sunday worship is the mark of the beast (the Antichrist). I first heard of it when studying Adventistism and have never heard it anywhere else. There is much theology around this, and really could be no fewer than three questions to cover it fully but here is the basics:

  • The Pope is called the "vicar of Christ, His voice on Earth." Antichrist is actually better translated as Psuedochrist. The Papacy is a fake Christ; he is not Christ's voice on Earth.
  • Naming the RCC as the Harlot Church is the same as naming it as the terrible beast from Daniel 7. To them, the RCC is the only "nation" that fits the description. The little horn that supplants three bigger horns is the Papacy. They match all this up very well with history and make a very sound argument.
  • The RCC changed Sabbath to Sunday. There is a lot of History to support that the RCC throughout history encouraged and even forced Sunday rest, instead of Sabbath rest. There is Catholic documents verifying this. With all of this in mind, plus a revelation by E. G. White which I will discuss later, leads them to conclude that calling and observing Sunday as the Sabbath is the mark of the beast, the RCC.

Now to YEC proponents and E. G. White (5 and 6). Ellen White is considered a prophet by Adventists. She wrote thousands of pages and is purported to have had many visions. Wikipedia article on her is extensive. One particular vision she had took her through the entire Creation. She witnessed it happen in 6 literal days and the climax was the Sabbath. Because God created everything in 6 literal days and rested on the seventh He sanctified the seventh day. Therefore, Adventists take the Sabbath very literally. After all, it is one of the commandments.

For point 7, the lack of an eternal soul, there is much to say and this could also be a separate question. They are not the only group to say this nor are they the only group to profess it today. The primary points that they use to support this are that in Genesis the word translated soul can also be translated as living creature or just plainly creature. It is the same word used for the animals that were created earlier. Also, no where in the Bible do the words "immortal soul" appear together. If that weren't enough the Bible says in more than one place that only God is immortal.

New section: I am always learning, it seems and I only recently learned that a large chunk of Adventists believe that the Archangel called Michael is Jesus (Point 8). Unlike the Jehovah's Witnesses, in the Adventist's mind this does not reduce the character of Jesus to a mere angel. It increases the character of Michael to the divine and holy Christ (Source). So when reading passages that mention Michael, Adventist's read Jesus, the begotten Son of God. To them, it is a lesser issue not worth "dwell[ing] upon at length." This is mostly because they way they interpret the scriptures redefines Michael, not Jesus; Jesus is still God.

For other Christian beliefs, they generally agree with the mainstream. The Trinity, Christ's divinity, holiness and infallibility of Scripture, etc.

The only group that is similar to Adventists is Jehovah's Witnesses, but only on the smaller issues like jewelry, save Annihilationism, which both groups hold. The Witnesses do also believe that Michael is Jesus, but in the opposite direction of Adventists; they believe that Jesus is lesser than God and they use the Michael is Jesus arguments to support that. Both Charles Taz Russell and E. G. White were influenced by Millerite Christians. After that, I would call them, and their theology quite unique.

There might be the inclination for outsiders to call them cultic or just plainly a cult, however, having studies with them (though I am not one), that is far from the truth. They are kind and understanding people, never resorting to trickery typical of a cult, very willing to help fellow Christians, whether Adventists or not, and even non-Christians, have a heart for mission work and to bring the gospel to all who will hear it, and are passionate about God, the Bible, Christ, and finally meeting Him at the end. They are a great bunch of people (the ones I have met anyway) and are worth knowing even if you do not buy the theology.

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+1 But, don't you think it's too straightforward to mention about the Anti-Christ? :-) –  Mawia May 23 '13 at 6:10
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@Mawia Why? That is one of their main theologies. There is a very big focus on eschatology and the end days. That includes the Antichrist. They are one of the few denominations that even names the Antichrist. That is what makes them interesting. I realize that some may not like to hear such a thing even said, especially Catholics, but that is their belief. –  fredsbend the Grinch May 23 '13 at 7:22
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+1 well documented, comprehensive answer –  HelloWorld Sep 22 '13 at 15:27
    
"Meeting Him at the end" - but not for long, if they're annihilationists? (Only half tongue-in-cheek) –  Benjol Mar 6 at 12:55
    
@Benjol Only the wicked are annihilated, while the righteous are given eternal life. –  fredsbend the Grinch Mar 6 at 15:22

I am a Seventh Day Adventist, was a Catholic for 55 years, converted 10 years ago. I would like to respond to your statements here.

Sunday Worship as the mark of the beast. Ellen White specifically said that it is NOT NOW the mark of the beast. Sometime in the future, laws will become in place requiring Sunday worship (with the strength of Evangelical Christianity in the US today, I can see it coming sooner than later). When Sunday worship is required, and Sabbath keepers are persecuted for keeping the Sabbath holy, then the mark of the beast will be enforced. The mark of the beast is really efforts on the part of the individual to work their own way into heaven. Adventists keep the Sabbath because it is a blessing. Those who think that it merits them the Kingdom are no better than those Catholics who think that going to church on Sunday is a key ticket to heaven. The only ticket to heaven is what Christ said in John, that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. To get to the Father, you must go through Him. I will respond to other points as I go through them. Wanted to get this down now.

The key differences between Adventists and other Christians are as follows:

  1. The Sanctuary, it's meaning and message. 20 some chapters in the Bible are devoted to the Sanctuary. There is a reason. God thinks it is important and so do we.
  2. The state of the dead. It is not Biblical that a soul outlives the body. 40+ verses support the Adventist position. See the movie Hell and Mr. Fudge, or read Edward Fudge's book, A Fire that Consumes. Or read the Bible!
  3. The Sabbath. The Catholic church, which was the ONLY Christian church at the time (200-350 AD), changed the day of Sabbath rest, and admits to doing so in their own Catechism.
  4. The imminent return of Christ in His Second Coming (it too is in the Bible)
  5. Historicist viewpoint of the Book of Revelation, originally posited by the Reformers. Adventists, I believe, are the only ones that currently hold this position. Most Christians either don't think about it, or don't have a position, think it is too difficult to understand (though Jesus says it is a Revelation for all to understand), or hold the futurist or preterist position, which originally started as a Catholic position, in the Counter-Reformation.
  6. The health message is admittedly not entirely Biblical except that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and we must be careful what we put in them (and on them). Consider Romans 12:1,2.
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Welcome to Christianity.SE Frances, one question regarding the health message wouldn't Adventists consider the health message Biblical for example this study by an Adventist website - amazingfacts.org/media-library/study-guide/e/4990/t/… ? –  HelloWorld Sep 22 '13 at 15:25
    
Nice post. I would be interested in reading more under point 1; I think I know what you are talking about but I would like to see more information there. I think most Christians also believe in point 4, unless I misunderstood what you are saying. –  fredsbend the Grinch Sep 22 '13 at 22:15
    
On a different note, welcome to the site; we are happy to have you here. Please see the tour and help center pages to learn how to use the site. Please see these meta posts to learn some of our site policies: 1 2. –  fredsbend the Grinch Sep 22 '13 at 22:18
    
@fredsbend: Regarding point 4, at the time the church was founded, not many Christians believed in a literal, iminent Second Coming of Christ. Thus, we Adventists hold it to be a defining doctrine of our church. Of course, these days we aren't nearly as alone on the topic as we once were. I should note that our eschatology doesn't leave room for the "secret rapture" or other such common teachings. –  Scott Severance Jan 23 at 21:52
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Please provide historical proof for the change of the Sabbath for a more comprehensive answer. –  Tony Jays Mar 4 at 19:31

Seventh-day Adventist traces its roots to American preacher William Miller, a Baptist who predicted that Second coming would occur between March 21 1843 to March 21 1844 to cleans "the sanctuary" (as referred in Dan. 8:11-14; 9:26) which he interpreted as earth. When Christ failed to appear it was claimed that it was not the earth that Christ will come but in Holy of Holies in God's heavenly temple. Instead of coming out of the heavenly temple to cleanse the sanctuary of the earth, in 1844 Christ, for the first time, went into the heavenly Holy of Holies to cleanse it instead.

In addition to this, they also hold many false(from Catholic and Protestant view) and strange doctrines. Among these are the following:

  1. They accuse Catholic Church of changing the day of worship from Saturday and to Sunday and also hold Protestant in the same weigh scale for adopting this practice. They insist that Christians observe the Jewish Sabbath.
  2. They are intensely anti Catholic Church and anti Pope
  3. They believe that in the last days, Sunday worship will be "the mark of the beast"
  4. They believe that there is a future millennium in which the devil will roam the earth while Christians are with Christ in heaven
  5. They also believe that the soul sleeps between death and resurrection and
  6. On the last day, after a limited period of punishment in hell, the wicked will be annihilated and cease to exist rather than be eternally damned.

Nevertheless, Seventh-day Adventist agree with many Catholic and Protestant doctrines, including the Trinity, Christ's divinity, the Virgin birth, the atonement, a physical resurrection of the dead and Christ's Second Coming. They use a valid form of baptism. They believe in original sin and reject the Evangelical teaching that one can never lose one's salvation no matter what one does i.e. they reject "once saved, always saved. Adventists also subscribe to the two Protestants views, sola scriptura and sola fide. However Evangelists often attack Adventist on these two points claiming they do not really hold them and labelling them as cult.

Unlike JW and Mormons, Seventh-day Adventists by virtue of their valid baptism and their belief in Christ's divinity and the doctrine of Trinity, are considered ontologically and theologically closer to mainstream Christians.

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Points 5 and 6 are the same, no? –  fredsbend the Grinch May 22 '13 at 17:19
    
Point 4 is misleading and needs expansion to know what you are really saying. Although they have roots in the Millerite movement, it was E. G. White who was responsible for the Adventist movement which lead to the formation of the 7th Day Adventist denomination. She was raised a Millerite, but was only 16 when Christ did not come in 1844. –  fredsbend the Grinch May 22 '13 at 17:26
    
@fredsbend Soul sleep is different (even if correlated with) annihilation. The former concerns what happens before judgment day and applies to the redeemed and the damned (and is more a lack of consciousness?) while the latter concerns what happens after judgment day, applies only to the damned, and is an ending of existence (which is presumably different than even an unending "sleep"). –  Paul A. Clayton May 23 '13 at 0:20
    
@PaulA.Clayton Perhaps to some that take the Annihilationist view. The Adventists seem to only mention it in passing, because it is a logical conclusion if you deny the eternal soul. Because there is no eternal soul, dead is dead. The body returns to the Earth and the spirit (life) returns to God. Those resurrected have their body remade and the life put back in it. The unresurrected wicked remain dead; their body remains dust and the life remains with God. In fact, I have never heard of a group that believes in an eternal soul and is Annihilationist. –  fredsbend the Grinch May 23 '13 at 0:53
    
@PaulA.Clayton I suppose that "sleep" merely refers to an unconsciousness; then in the end there is full destruction. That is kind of splitting hairs to me, though. Those who use that terminology, mostly JW, say it more "it is like sleep without dreams." –  fredsbend the Grinch May 23 '13 at 0:55

This is a very vast topic.This link has all the details of the comparison.

In short, it differs on how we understand and interpret the Bible. We all have the same Bible, albeit with differences in Canons. Some major points are:

  1. Observing Old Testament Laws. Many laws like Sabbath, unclean animals, tithe are a major subject of debate. Some say we need to observe and others say we don't.
  2. Baptism: Our Baptismal rites are all unique. Some believe in immersion, some sprinkle it, some believe in infant baptism and so on.
  3. Trinity: Some discredit the concept of Trinity and some strongly embrace it.
  4. Son of God: Some explicitly proclaim that Jesus is God and suppress the idea of "The Son of God". These people usually rejects Trinity as well.
  5. Worship style: Some like to have good modern music systems, some prefer old tradition, some like to clap hands and some doesn't like noisy things in the church

Despite all our differences, I believe that, if we share one common faith, which is "Salvation only through Jesus Christ", we are all the same. After all, we all use the same Scripture. Only our perspectives differ.

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This doesn't quite answer the question. Good link though. –  fredsbend the Grinch May 22 '13 at 18:19
    
Yeah, it's not specific, it's general. –  Mawia May 23 '13 at 7:13

Would like to add some additions and details on specific points:

a) The Sabbath It has been written before that we as SDAs would force the Sabbath on the people, in like manner we accuse the Catholic Church would do, the latter of which will result in the so called "Mark of the Beast", which to us is similar to the term "Sunday-Law".

Some details need to be clarified.

First, neither the Roman Catholic Church nor the Seventh-Day Adventist denomination is forcing anybody to keep a specific day of worship. Both denominations state that they believe in keeping the Sabbath in their way and members should do accordingly - but nobody is forced to be a Roman Catholic or a Seventh-Day Adventist, and nobody is forced to be it any longer if he wants to live different to the beliefs of either denomination. As long as neither Religion becomes a prescribed (enforced) state religion none of both would fulfill the requirements of the "Mark of the Beast" and enforce anything on the free choice of anybody (maybe infant baptism is a smaller kind of "enforcement", but as stated everybody is free to leave at any time).

Second, the "Mark of the Beast" is fulfilled by "the Beast", not by "a Woman" (That's why it is called the "Mark of the Beast" and not "Mark of the Woman" :-)). Biblical pictures describe churches with the picture of women (either clean, tidy and beautiful when speaking about Gods Church or as a harlot when speaking of God's apostate Church) and political entities with the pictures of Beasts or Horns. Therefore the enforcement of "Keeping Sunday" will be a work of a political entity, not the work of a Church. The main problem is not that it enforces this day or another, but that it enforces something that is entirely an area of God's Authority alone - it is an area where one can only act on his free will and own conscience to obey or not. The "error" is that it enforces something by law which can only be rendered by free choice (for something to be genuine it has to be given out of love, freely). The reasons to enforce such a sunday-law may be, from a human perspective, very good and logical. But they will enslave the free choice of the human race - and because of that God will intervene and the events of Christ's Second Coming will be set in motion.

Let me clarify. If the coming Sunday-Law would not be a Sunday-Law but a Sabbath-Law or a Saturday-Law. We as Seventh-Day Adventists would oppose it as strongly as a Sunday-Law - even if at first glance we would be benefitted by it. But, because it would be a human law on something that can only be given by free choice our of pure love to someone else, we would oppose it. Take for example this: if your boy or girl-friend, your wife or husband would invite you to dinner on Thursday evening, surely, because the day does not matter, you would be there on Wednesday or on Friday, right? Of course not. You would respect the choice of the other one because you love them. Same with the biblical Sabbath. God has said that he loves us 24/7 but every Sabbath he wants to meet with us and have a special time together. And out of love towards him I will agree to that and meet with him every Seventh Day. Only in this way I truly can "Keep the Sabbath".

b) The Trinity I don't want to go at full length on this topic (because this doctrine is not fully accepted by all members of the SDA church and the movement to support a different view on the Godhead is well and growing). But share some differences in viewpoints.

First, there are several different groups within the Adventist Church who believe different about the Trinity. Some 100% agree with the Athanasian Creed that God consists of one indivisible Substance / Essence. Others strongly disagree to that specific point because Ellen White once wrote: "The great Teacher [i.e. Jesus] held in His hand the entire map of truth. In simple language He made plain to His disciples the way to heaven, and the endless subjects of divine power. The question of the essence of God was a subject on which He maintained a wise reserve, for their entanglements and specifications would bring in science which could not be dwelt upon by unsanctified minds without confusion." {The Upward Look, p. 146}

If that would be officially accepted by the SDA church today we would not be deemed as mainstream Christians, because one can only be that, if one accepts the Athanasian Creed. So we still have an issue to be resolved. But as far as I can see it, the growing discussions about Trinity or not will lead to a clarification in the end… .

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Welcome to C.SE. I always tell everyone when you get the chance, please check out our tour and specifically How we are different than other sites. That said, it was great answer. +1! –  Affable Geek Nov 25 '13 at 15:49

The Sanctuary

If one wants to point to a specific doctrine which lays at the root of Seventh Day Adventism and which also makes us different to other denominations, it would not be the Sabbath, the State of the Dead, the Spirit of Prophecy, Jesus second coming or our understanding of the personality of the Father and the Son, but it would be the Sanctuary and our understanding of what it stands for.

First, there were two Sanctuaries: one always in heaven, and at some points in the jewish history one on earth (either as the sanctuary in the wilderness or the Temple in Jerusalem). The earthly was meant to be a shadow of the heavenly one. ALso the ministry in the temple as well as the temple itself was designed to show several aspects of the "Christian" life expressed as a shadow, and explain how thinks work out in the plan of salvation.

Let me explain in more detail: Christianity today is a little vague on the topic of how salvation works and what consequences arise out of it. The old problem between: salvation by works or salvation by grace. Which one is it? Or is it neither? You can find the answer when you look at the old testament sanctuary service which explains the way God want's us to walk if we finally want to come back into his presence (which was to be found in the most holy compartment. There are six steps which separate man from God and those six steps we can go back towards him. And those six steps are represented by the six articles of furniture in the Sanctuary.

Those six steps are based on the righteousness of Christ which he demonstrated and perfected in his human life and death at the cross. This is his righteousness and our salvation by grace. We cannot add anything to that. And this is represented by the outer wall of the sanctuary and the ONE door through all who wanted to enter into the sanctuary had to enter it. Likewise Jesus is the only ONE door through which we can enter back into the presence of God. And when we have done this, when we have accepted the righteousness of Christ as our own, six steps will follow back to the presence of God. But don't worry, there is no works involved. Watch and see:

First Step: Altar of Sacrifice In the Sanctuary service a sinner had to come and bring a sacrifice if he performed a sin. Likewise today we have to come to Christ and confess him our sin(s) so he can take them away and forgive us. This also represents laying everything we are and have at his doorstep so he can take it and cleanse it. All of our life has to be given him daily. Remember that in the time of the old Testament a daily sacrifice had to be burned in the evening and the morning.

Second Step: Laver of Water Another representation of the cleansing was to be taught through the washing which took place at the Laver of Water. Today this is represented by baptism. We not only have to give everything to Christ, lay everything at his doorstep, but also have to die to our old self. This is represented by todays baptism.

Third, Fourth and Fifth Step: Daily living The former two Articles of furniture were found in the outer courts of the Sanctuary. There are three more articles in the inner compartment, called: The Holy Place. Those were the table of shewbread, the altar of burnt offerings and the 7fold Candlestick. Those were particularly connected to the word: Daily. The priest had to check those three daily if everything was alright with them (enough oil in the candlestick, altar of incense burning, fresh bread on the table of shewbread. And those three represent the daily life of the Christian. Eating the Bread, meaning studying Gods word; daily praying to God (incense which represents the prayer of the saints); and daily letting our light shine to others (represented by the Candlestick), meaning sharing with others our faith and giving them the Gospel. Interesting that mission work is considered to be a daily activity, right?

Sixth Step: Ark of the Covenant / Mercy Seat The last article of furniture can be found in the Most Holy Place. This is where God is present on his Throne, the Ark of the Covenant on which lay the Mercy Seat. The first five steps lead up to this last step which is entering the presence of a Holy God. This was only possible for men who were cleansed of sin. The High Priest only could have entered there for the yearly services when he was cleansed from all sins. As to what those sins are, we can find them on the two tables found within the Ark: the 10 Commandments. Those commandments show as to what is sin and what righteousness is and what men has to be cleansed from and who he shall live henceforth (covered with the righteousness of Christ, acting as he did). So here turns the wheel back to the beginning to the Altar of Sacrifice where we have to confess our sins to God - which we only learn as to what they are, if we enter into the presence of God and learn it from his law. Those 10 are an expression of what Jesus summarized in the two basic commandments: Love God and thy neighbor as you love yourself. This will be the final outcome if one walks these six steps - daily.

1Joh 3,4: "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law." Rom 3,23.24.28.31: "23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. 31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law." Rom 6,1.2.14.15: "1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. 15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. 18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness." Joh 14,15.21: "15 If ye love me, keep my commandments. 21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him." 1Joh 2,3.4: "3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him." 1Joh 5,3: "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous." Rev 14,12: "Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." Rev 22,14: "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city."

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Nice informative answer but a bit hard on the eyes. You might like to try breaking it up into less of a 'wall of text'. –  Benjol Mar 6 at 13:08

Catholics forced the Sunday on others (and Protestants did likewise). Adventists force the seventh day. Neither did Christ, nor Paul.

Christ said: The priests break the Sabbath and remain free of guilt. (So he and his disciples.)

Paul wrote: Slaves obey their lords as they do God.

Either party emphasizes on less important matters. (Regarding denominations, not Christ or Paul)

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This not only does not answer the question it posits certain beliefs as Truth that should be followed. To the Adventists, Sunday worship is the mark of the beast, and therefore a matter of eternal security. Please see the faq if you have not yet. You should edit or delete this answer. Until then -1. –  fredsbend the Grinch May 22 '13 at 16:19

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