2nd LETTER TO A SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST - Part I

Following is a letter from James Likoudis, president emeritus of Catholics United for the Faith, answering a member of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.

 

Dear ________

Thank you for your last letter with your cassette which was very interesting. I admire your love of the Scriptures, your kind words, and your willingness to dialogue on the most important religious issues – those affecting the salvation of souls.

You are mistaken that Seventh-Day Adventism is the object of much attention by Catholics – with the exception of normal concern that people not be drawn into its various heresies and errors establishing it as a sect out of the mainstream of Christianity. Judging by the Seventh Day Adventist "comic book" you sent me ("The Prophecies of Daniel and Revelation"), it would seem that the Catholic Church is the special target of very bitter attacks by your co-religionists.  Anyone who didn't know better could not help being absolutely frightened by the hateful images presented [in that "comic book"] concerning the Catholic Church:

Beware, says the Bible,...
  • of the "anti-Christ" Papacy,
  • and of Catholic beliefs and practices.
  • "The Church of Rome is a fallen 'Spiritual Babylon'... There are good Christians within the Roman Church, but they must leave her if they wish to avoid God's wrath which is the seven last plagues! Beware, says the Bible - Babylon is fallen, and has become the habitation of devils."

Quite an indictment hurled against the true Church of Jesus Christ which is always kept incorrupt in faith and morals by the Holy Spirit Who indwells the Church as its very soul.

The Catholic Church is both divine and human, like Her Lord, and just as Our Lord's divine nature as God was not perceived by those spiritually blind in His own day, so the Catholic Church is not perceived by its enemies to be that divine authority established in this world to " teach all nations " whatsoever He commanded to be taught as His "Gospel."

It is interesting to note that there are no similar "comic books" published by Catholics caricaturing and slandering Seventh Day Adventist beliefs. The bitter hatred and disinformation concerning Catholic doctrines manifested in the "comic book" obviously flow from Seventh Day Adventist' conviction charging the Catholic Church of "corrupting the Scripture and usurping the place of God" and following mere "human traditions" rather than "the Bible." It does not seem to occur to Seventh Day Adventists that were it not for the Catholic Church they would not even have the amount of the Bible they do. As our American Bishops pointed out recently:

"The New Testament writings did not come before the Church but from the Church. The first generation of Christians had no New Testament at all - but they were the Church then, just as we Catholics are the Church today."

Another serious question is why Seventh Day Adventists prefer to place their trust and confidence in 19th century human traditions manufactured by William Miller and Mrs. Ellen White rather than in that Tradition which comes to us from the Apostles and preserved in the only Church that can trace its existence to the very days of Christ and His Apostles.

"Thou art Peter (Rock) and on this Rock I will build My Church" (Matt. 16: 18). Christ is the Rock and Head of the Church, to be sure, but what makes it impossible for Christ to communicate these qualities to the Chief Bishop of the Church He established in this world? That He did so is the witness of the ancient Fathers and theologians of the Church. The Pope as the visible head of the visible Church Christ founded is indeed called "Vicar of Christ". But "Vicar" does not mean "substitute" as you allege, for there can be no substitute for Christ Who is the Author of our salvation and Invisible Head of the Church and Dispenser of all the graces He won for us by His Bloody Atonement on the Cross.

The power of Christ Our God extends to control of all creation whereas the power of the Pope as His visible Representative and Chief Steward is exercised only among the members of the Church on earth to preserve their Unity in faith and morals.

The Pope as Bishop of Rome has a universal jurisdiction over all the members of the flock committed to Peter, but this headship of the Church remains only during his period of office as heir to Peter's prerogatives in the Church. As Vatican II noted, "The Holy Spirit preserves unfailingly that form of government which was set up by Christ the Lord in His Church" (Lumen Gentium, 27). That form of government is the Catholic episcopate united to the Pope who is its visible head and center of unity.

It is as a member of this Catholic Church that one is a true "Bible Christian" and has access to the full Gospel. It is as a Catholic that one has access to the full "deposit of truth" in faith and morals handed down by the Apostles to their successors, the bishops of the Holy Church. The latter together with the Catholic faithful of every century have never believed the rather peculiar beliefs of Seventh Day Adventists:

  • a 66 book-Bible (rather than 73) as the only rule of faith to be interpreted by the individual Christian (though Seventh Day Adventists allow the prophecies and visions of Mrs. White to interpret the Bible for them despite their "Bible alone" claim);
  • observance of the 7th Day Sabbath as an immutable commandment;
  • the belief that the dead are unconscious until final resurrection;
  • belief in a 1000 year Millennium before the resurrection of the wicked;
  • belief that Hell fires will reduce "the wicked to a state of non-existence, as if they had not been";
  • rejection of infant Baptism, Purgatory, veneration of Mary and the invocation of Saints and Angels.

What should trouble Seventh Day Adventists is that such beliefs as the foregoing (and there are others that could be mentioned) CONTRADICT the beliefs and practices of the early Christians who professed "One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church."

The manner in which Seventh Day Adventists twist the meaning of Scriptural texts brings to mind the words found in Shakespeare:

"in religion
What damned error, but some sober brow
Will bless it and approve it with a text
Hiding the grossness with fair ornament?"
(Merchant of Venice, 3)

Thus, I must say that I thoroughly disagree with your interpretation of 1 Tim 3:15 as to what exactly the Apostle Paul called "The Pillar and bulwark of the truth". The entire context is that of The Church being the House or Household or Temple having solidity and permanence in its role of safeguarding and transmitting Christ's truth. It is The Church which is the "Pillar and bulwark of truth," – not God Himself in this passage, as you allege (though God Himself is too – but He has made His Church participate in His own qualities!)

The interpretation you rely on is typical of the effort to make the only Church Christ founded disappear from the history of the apostolic age.

Your denial of the perpetual virginity of Our Lady similarly obscures the uniqueness of the Blessed Virgin Mary's place in salvation history. Your denial would have shocked Luther and Calvin and Zwingli who professed with the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church that Mary was ever-virgin. Denial of this mystery constituted in their mind blasphemy and sacrilege. The traditional belief of the Catholic Church was enunciated about 350 A.D. by such writers as Zeno of Verona:

"How great a mystery! The Virgin Mary conceived inviolate. After the conception, a Virgin gave birth. After the birth, a Virgin she remained."

Again, this is a truth "handed down" from the Apostles and preserved by the apostolic succession of Pope and Bishops in the Church who are always preserved in the truth of Christ by the Holy Spirit. That the Blessed Virgin Mary was ever-Virgin is a truth of Christianity, and believed by the generality of the faithful from the beginning.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
—  James Likoudis
President Emeritus
Catholics United for the Faith (CUF)

Go to Part II of the above letter.


About James Likoudis
James Likoudis is an expert in Catholic apologetics. He is the author of several books dealing with Catholic-Eastern Orthodox relations, including his most recent "The Divine Primacy of the Bishop of Rome and Modern Eastern Orthodoxy: Letters to a Greek Orthodox on the Unity of the Church." He has written many articles published by various religious papers and magazines.
He can be reached at:  jlikoudis@cuf.org, or visit  Mr. James Likoudis' Homepage