Gabriel and Sivan define fundamentalism as a term used to refer to strict adherence to a set of rules of a religious doctrine (1). Usually, fundamentalists break from a larger religious group to form a smaller group. This happens when two or more groups of people within a religious group differ in their opinions and fail to come to a point of agreement.
Fundamentalism originated in the United States of America in the beginning of the 20th century when the Protestant community split into various religious denominations. After detaching themselves from their parent groups, fundamentalists establish their own rules that guide them during their worship.
A group of conservative Presbyterian theologians started the movement at Princeton Theological Seminary in the United States of America. Later on, it spread to Baptist conservatives and other denominations. The main aim of the movement was to reaffirm and defend theological values against liberal theological challenges.
Malise asserts that leadership of fundamental movements is by one or more charismatic leaders whose role is to ensure that believers know what is expected of them (2). The leaders also ensure that they preach their gospel to many people to convince them of the truth of the movement so that other people can join. Some religions such as the Jewish fundamentalist group limits its gospel to a certain community while other fundamentalist groups preach the gospel to all people regardless of their community and origin.
The media has been very influential spreading religious doctrines. For instance, in modern societies, Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell and Oral Roberts among other television preachers have been able to pass their messages to millions of people. The media has therefore enhanced evangelism. Many charismatic leaders in the United States of America receive support from the modern fundamentalist movements that are widely spread.
The split of religion into smaller groups is common in many countries all over the world. Even though splinter religious groups may continue with some religious practices of their parent religions, they usually have other characters that make them different.
The main reason behind a church splitting into two or more groups is disagreements arising among the members of the church. When a certain group realizes that their ideas are not put into practice, they decide to put up their own church so that they can put into practice what they think fits them best.
Modernization has had major impacts towards splitting of religions. This is because there are those members of the church who do not want to embrace changes arising from modernization and others subjected to changes. This brings in differences and may lead to divisions in the church if members do not take correct measures to deal with the issues (Malise 15).
The Seventh -day Adventist Church
Seventh Day Adventist Church (SDA) is a Christian denomination. The theology of the church is marked by a conspiratorial and apocalyptic tone. SDA is a worldwide denomination with more than eight million members.
The members have a feeling that the church acts as a spiritual home for them. The denomination began in the middle of the 19th century in the United States of America because of the Millerite movement. The movement was composed of people who believed in the teachings of William Miller. Miller believed in Jesus Christ’s second coming advent.
Ellen White whose writings are still valued in the modern world was among the founders of the denomination. SDA followers observe Judio-Christians original seventh day, Saturday as their Sabbath day. Their religious activities are carried out on Saturday making it different from other Christian denominations that recognize Sunday as their Sabbath day. The followers of the denomination hold the belief that Jesus will come back on earth again (General Conference of Seventh-Day Adventist Church 1).
Ammerman and Farnsley point out that some teachings of the SDA church are similar to those of Protestants (93). For example, they believe in the doctrine of the trinity that defines God as a composition of three divine persons, God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Although the three persons are different, they live in unity. The three are eternal, equal and powerful. The Christian doctrine of the Trinity is regarded as a mystery in the religion. This is because one God exists as three persons. This means that that the nature of God the Son and Holy Spirit is similar to that of God the Father.
God is described as powerful, omnipresent, eternal and holy. Christians hold the belief that biblical matters concerning faith and Christian practices are true and useful. They believe in the contents of the bible and see it as a guide and way to salvation. The aim of Christians is to ensure that the gospel reaches to as many people as possible. Long after missionaries spread the gospel to many parts of the world, preachers in the modern world travel from one place to another to preach the gospel.
Through the television, evangelists have been able to reach people all over the world. Many people have become Christian converts after hearing the gospel. Churches have also been established worldwide and act as central places of worship thereby enhancing the spread of the gospel.
Ammerman and Farnsley point out that some teachings of the SDA Church differ from those of other Protestants. An example is the belief that the dead are just in an unconscious state. Christian’s believe that the soul of human beings is immortal (100).
In addition, they believe that after an individual has died, the soul remains uncomprehending until the judgment day when the person will resurrect. This period is referred to as the intermediate state. The Seventh Day Adventist Church believes in an investigative judgment a unique character of the denomination. This is the belief that Christians have been undergoing a process of divine judgment since 1844.
The origin of SDA denomination is related to the belief that Ellen White, a pioneer of the church describes as one of the main Adventist beliefs. Investigative judgment is important in understanding the concept of Heavenly sanctuary in the denomination. The terms investigative judgment and heavenly sanctuary are sometimes used interchangeably to mean the same.
The teachings of heavenly sanctuary in the theology of the seventh day assert that various aspects found in the sanctuary or Hebrew tabernacle represent the reality of heaven. Jesus is regarded as the High Priest who sacrificed himself and whose blood cleanses sins of human beings.
Organization of the Seventh Day Adventist Church
The General Conference body found in Maryland in the United States of America governs the Seventh Day Adventist Church. All issues concerning the running of the church are taken care of in the central office of the Church.
The body ensures that activities in the church run smoothly by ensuring good administrative conditions. The leader of the executive members of the General conference is the president. The church holds a General Conference meeting after every five years in which new members are elected in the office. Last Year’s meeting was in Georgia in the United States of America.
The church has a representative from of the government even though the General Conference is the head office. It is upon the members of the local church to choose the leaders who would represent them in the next level. Leaders are elected from one level to another until the highest level where executive leaders are elected in the General Conference who governs the church for the next five years (Land 70).
The structure of the church goes through four main levels. First, a local church elects some of their members to represent them. In the next step, leaders are elected from the representatives of various local churches. The leaders form a union conference in the local areas. Collection of several conferences and mission in a wide geographical area form a division. General Conference is the overall governor of all SDA Churches in the world. The body has established offices in the regions called divisions, which administer church issues in their distinctive areas.
The divisions are further sub-divided into unions, conferences and missions. This is because the general conference cannot administer the large number of churches in the world successfully. They have to establish offices up to the local areas that will closely administer issues of the church. Leaders of local churches are expected to report any issues arising in the church to the higher level so that it finally gets to the knowledge of General Conference executive leaders. This eases the work of administering the church (Land 80).
Seventh Day Adventist members face many challenges from other Christian denominations. They argue that some teachings differ from the accepted beliefs. For example, the way they perceive hell is different from other denominations. They believe Christian’s will be destroyed unless they get salvation, which is the only way to eternal Life. They hold the belief that human souls become immortal after people gain eternal life.
According to them, God will destroy the wicked leaving behind the righteous people who will live forever. They also believe that the wicked shall be punished in the lake of fire before being destructed. Others do not believe in the existence of hell. They associate its origin with groups of non-believers. This is different from the original understanding of the concept of eternal life held by other churches that all people will be saved (General Conference of Seventh-Day Adventist Church 11).
The denomination also differs with others in their belief that professed Christians have been going through a process of divine judgment. When Jesus was crucified, the blood that he shed on the cross was a symbol that human beings were forgiven for their sins. Christians believe that God will always forgive his people as long as they repent.
Judgment for people’s sins will take place after the second coming of Jesus Christ. According to the bible, Christians are sure that there is heaven and hell and the bible promises them that God will destroy the world with fire. Finally, they disagree with others on the issue of Sabbath. Other denomination regard Sunday as the Sabbath day. The work of creation took God six days and he rested on the seventh day, the Sabbath (Evans 42).
Evangelists face some challenges in their effort to spread the gospel the whole world. One of the greatest challenges is the language barrier. Many preachers use the media as a way of reaching out to as many people as possible. However, this may not meet the target because of language barrier.
They mainly use English, which is not understood by all people. Unless those people get somebody to translate the message, they do not get the message. For evangelists travelling to remote areas to preach the gospel, they find it hard to communicate because they are neither understood nor do they understand indigenous languages of the locals. Accessibity is another problem. Some areas have poor transport systems making it difficult for people to travel to those areas.
Others do not have roads at all and people are forced to walk for long distances. Finally, some people are so much for their culture that they cannot embrace new changes. Since the doctrine is against their cultural practices, they fear that they will annoy their ancestors and spirits by doing away with their culture. Converting such people is a challenge for many preachers (Land 80).
London states that members of the SDA church are very much concerned with the issue of health and diet (96). The doctrine puts major emphasis on wellness and health. Since the establishment of the church back in 1860, the issue of health and diet has been taken seriously. Members of the church are supposed to be vegetarians. They are supposed to abstain from eating meat from animals like pigs and shellfish that are described as unclean.
The book of Leviticus in the Old Testament forbids Christians from eating pork, owl, donkey and other unclean animals. These are mainly animals that lack hooves. In addition, the followers are not supposed to consume drugs and alcohol. They believe that drugs will make them impure and therefore unfit for entering the Kingdom of God. Members of the church are very much determined as they follow these doctrines keenly so that they can enter the kingdom of heaven.
According to London, the pioneers of the church encouraged western communities to incorporate cereals in their breakfast (100). Research conducted in Bethsaida, Maryland in the year 2005 that was funded by the National Institute of Health showed that on average, Adventists lived longer than average Californians, approximately between four and ten years. Abstinence from smoking and drinking alcohol is the reason behind them living for long according to surveys done.
They are not prone to diseases like lung and liver cancer caused by consumption of alcohol and tobacco, which lead to deaths of many people. Their low fat diet content also prevents diseases related to excessive fat in the body. Followers have a long expectancy period because they mainly take in healthy diets in addition to abstaining from substances that are harmful to their health.
The church has established large hospitals and other institutions that provide health services to its members and the larger community. An example is the Hugly Memorial Hospital located in Texas. The hospitals have well trained specialists who deal with problems associated with health.
They diagnose and administer treatments to patients. Other services like guidance and cancelling are also offered in the hospitals. Doctors advise patients on how to prevent occurrence of diseases as well as advising people on how to care for their patients especially those suffering from infectious diseases like tuberculosis, which can be spread from one person to another. The organization has managed to reduce death rates caused by various diseases because of their efficient health services (Evans 32).
The denomination runs academic institutions like Loma Linda University in California in which students are trained to be doctors. The organization equips students with knowledge on human health and general knowledge of what goes on in the world. It is a way of creating job opportunities in the country because qualified people are employed in the institution to teach students. The students will be in a position to earn living after completing the course.
The church owns companies like Sanitarium Health Food Company in Australia. This is a fast growing company in Australia and the largest manufacturer of vegetarian and health products. The church contributes to the economy of the country by supplying its citizens with food. They have managed to spread the gospel to the whole world given that it is found all over the world. These are some of the successes of the Seventh Day Adventist church (Evans 32).
In spite of the challenges faced by the Seventh Day Adventist Church, they still aim at spreading the gospel to the whole world. Getting as many converts as possible is their goal. The group wishes to establish projects that will help it in spreading the gospel. These include activities like establishment of schools, hospitals and churches. Other projects based on the community include helping orphans, widows and the needy in the society. Such projects will motivate people into joining the organization (Ammerman and Farnsley 105).
Ammerman, Nancy and Farnsley, Arthur. Congregation & Community. New York, NY: Rutgers University Press, 1997. Print.
Evans, Robert. The seventh-day Adventist Church: Its History, Doctrines and Missionary Activities. London: Columbia Bible College, 1954. Print.
Gabriel, Almond and Sivan, Emmanuel. Strong Religion: The Rise of Fundamentalisms around the World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003. Print.
General Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists. Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual. New York, NY: Review and Herald Pub Assoc, 2005. Print.
Land, Gary. Historical Dictionary of Seventh-Day Adventists. Washington: Scarecrow Press, 2005. Print.
London, Samuel. Seventh-day Adventists and the Civil Rights Movement. New York: Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2009. Print.
Malise, Ruthven. Fundamentalism: The search for Meaning. London: Oxford University Press, 2005. Print.