[DH 101-118] 


The Martin-Barnhouse "Evangelical Conferences" and their Aftermath




1 - 1977 - "Adventist Heritage" Article

2 - Statement by a General Conference Worker

3 - Statement by a Seminary Student

4 - 1971 - Froom's "Movement of Destiny"     

5 - November 1956 - Articles In "Our Hope" Magazine       

6 - April 1978 - Barnhouse's Search for Fellowship   

7 - August 1956 to November 1957 - The "Bombshell" Eternity Magazine Articles

8 - 1957 - "Questions on Doctrine"     

9 - 1960 - "The Truth about Seventh-day Adventists"         

10 - December 1956 - March 1958, April 1960 - The "Ministry" Magazine Articles

11 - 1979 - "Without Fear or Favor"     

12 - c. 1961 - "Satan's Last Deception" 

13 - May 1958 - Hudson's Conversation with Barnhouse     

Box: The scapegoat transaction 

14 - January and April 1956 - Two Anderson Letters to Grieve

15 - February 1958 - Cottrell's Letter to Andreasen  

16 - April 1957 to 1966 - The Protestant Reaction    

17 - 1959 - A Medical Missionary Recalls Dr. Barnhouse     

18 - November 1960 - Death of Donald Grey Barnhouse     

19 - 1965 -"Kingdom of the Cults"

20 - 1980 - Correspondence with Walter Martin

21 - August 1982 - Letter from W. Duncan Eva

22 - February 1983 - Getting Ready for a New Bombshell: Martin's Update on Adventism  

23 - March 1983 - Implications of Martin's Lecture


To faithful Seventh-day Adventists back in the mid-fifties it was a fearful doctrinal crisis in our Church. But to the believers in our day it is now seen to have marked the beginning of the end.

For the errors that the so-called "Evangelical Conferences" brought into our denomination grew throughout the sixties and seventies and were used by modernists in our Church, such as Desmond Ford, to lay a solid foundation for what is now called the "new theology."

There would be no "new theology" in our Church today if certain of our leaders had not welcomed its theological roots back in the mid-fifties.

At that time, certain Evangelical Protestants asked a small group of our leaders to reconsider the stated doctrinal beliefs of our denomination- and, if possible, to restate them in "theological terms" that would be acceptable to the Protestant world around us. This seemed but a small concession in view of the golden opportunity held out before us: unity and fellowship with the other Protestant Churches.

There is wisdom in many counselors. And if many counselors had been consulted, they would have pointed out that unity and fellowship with the other Protestant Churches is not one of the objectives of the Second Angel's message of Revelation 14:8, much less that of the Third Angel which follows it.

"Babylon is fallen" and "Come out of her, My people" is the call; not "Go in and have doctrinal unity with her." (Revelation 14:8 with 18:1-5, and Great Controversy, 603-4, 390)

But many in our time do not realize how firmly the error was placed in the foundations of the Church back in the mid-fifties. In fact, many do not realize that it was laid at all back then! But history is a wise teacher. As we study the past we are better prepared to understand the present and meet its challenges.

And the present has challenges. You will find as you read Section Twenty-one, of this lengthy documentary- that you are suddenly being thrust into the present.

Walter Martin is again demanding "answers" from the General Conference. He has recently told us so himself. The new set of "questions on doctrine" have already ready been submitted to them. What will our leaders do in reply? -What kind of doctrinal replies will they give?

And what kind of letters are you going to write? - urging them to stand true to historic doctrinal Adventism, in spite of the liberals and the Fordites in our midst and the Martin's and the other churchmen without?

This is no time to haul down our banner. The Third Angel's Message is inscribed upon it. God has placed you in this world at this time in history for a purpose. Stand true to that purpose, no matter what the cost may be. The Bible-Spirit of Prophecy teachings bequeathed to the Adventist Church are more precious than all else besides. Some go out to the modernists and others flee to the offshoots. But God wants men and women who will stand up IN the Church and "sigh and cry" for the abominations that now threaten it from all sides.

"The Beginning of the End" is urgently needed now;- more so than at any earlier time in our history. Read it carefully and then share it with others. Discuss the issues with those who need to know these issues, Seventh-day Adventists whom you are acquainted with.

Here is the story of the beginning of the end- how it came about and what it led to many years ago. Here is the story of the beginning of the great doctrinal apostasy of our time, that has since developed into a major "new theology "attempted takeover.

Here is the story of the beginning - at a time when we are nearing the end.

-Vance Ferrell, for Pilgrims' Rest

- SECTION ONE - 1977

(Although written and published twenty years later (in 1977), yet this article provides a very helpful introduction to the entire Martin-Barnhouse General Conference affair. We shall reproduce the entire article here. It is written from the standpoint of both a defense of the General Conference participation in these conferences and their subsequent publication of the book, "Questions on Doctrines." And this is good. This major documentary, "The Beginning of the End, " will start with a thoroughgoing defense of what was done back in the mid-fifties. In this way, as you read through this entire documentary, you will be enabled to have seen both sides of the issue from the large number of materials from articles, books, letters and personal statements that will be presented to you.

T.E. Unruh, along with Roy Allen Anderson, and LeRoy Edwin Froom, were the primary figures leading out in the Adventist side of those Evangelical Conferences. Walter R. Martin and Donald Grey Barnhouse were the leaders on the Evangelical Protestant side. Anderson was the coordinator and authority figure that kept the wheels rolling toward Adventist-Protestant unity in these Conferences. Froom was the researcher and the one, along with Anderson, who did most of the writing. Martin was the one who approached the Adventists for information and possible conferences to help him in the writing of his forthcoming book about our Church and its doctrinal positions. Although a little dubious about it all, Barnhouse was Martin's influential backer both in the Conferences and the writing of his book. Unruh was the man that initially got them all together to start with. His part in the later Conferences was not as significant. It was primarily Anderson, Froom, and Martin that made the decisions, wrote the books and led out in the defense of entire transaction, by which Adventists moved several significant steps closer to the fallen churches.

The following was a magazine article. It was entitled "The Seventh-day Adventist Evangelical Conferences of 1955-1956, " and was written by Elder T.E. Unruh (the Unruh mentioned above). By the time it was written (1977) only Unruh, Anderson, Figuhr and Martin were still alive. One individual (the General Conference man who comments on the Evangelical Conferences later in this documentary) maintains that this magazine article was Okayed by Unruh but due to his advanced age not actually written by him.

Here is the complete article. It originally appeared in the Fourth Quarter, 1977 issue of "Adventist Heritage", a scholarly journal containing articles of miscellaneous interest to the lover of minute points of earlier Adventist history. [Unruh is now deceased.]

The Seventh-day Adventist Evangelical Conferences of


T. E. Unruh

Now living in Grand Terrace, California, T. E. Unruh is a retired minister. When the events described here took place, Unruh was president of the East Pennsylvania Conference.

A series of conferences between Seventh day Adventist and Evangelical leaders, begun in the spring in 1955 and running into the summer of 1956, led to the publication of two books: the first, Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine; the second, The Truth About Seventh-day Adventism. The first is a definitive statement of contemporary Adventist belief, established on a broad international consensus of church leaders and prepared for publication by a representative committee appointed by the officers of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. The second work, by Walter R. Martin, a leading expert on American cults, defines and examines Seventh day Adventist doctrines, using the first work as source and authority. In his book Martin removed the Seventh-day Adventist church from his list of non-Christian cults and acknowledged that all whose beliefs followed the Questions on Doctrine should be counted members of the Body of Christ (the Christian church in the Evangelical definition) and therefore his brethren. While some Adventist and non-Adventist dissidents have been vociferous in their denunciation of the Adventist definitions and the Evangelical evaluation, in retrospect the conferences improved the understanding and appreciation of the Seventh-day Adventist church on the part of many Evangelical leaders, and likewise warmed many Adventist leaders toward the Evangelicals. It was a time when the gates between sheepfolds stood open.

There was no thought of precipitating anything of such historic consequence when I wrote a letter on November 28, 1949, commending Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse for his radio sermons on righteousness by faith based on the book of Romans. At the time, Dr. Barnhouse was a popular radio preacher, minister of the Tenth Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, author of a number of Evangelical books, and founder and senior editor of the influential Eternity magazine. I was the president of the East Pennsylvania Conference, with headquarters in Reading.

In his reply to my letter Barnhouse expressed astonishment that an Adventist clergyman would commend him for preaching righteousness by faith, since in his opinion it was a well-known fact that Seventh-day Adventists believed in righteousness by works. He went on to state that since boyhood he had been familiar with Adventists and their teachings, and that in his opinion their views about the nature and work of Christ were Satanic and dangerous. He concluded by inviting this strange Adventist to have lunch with him.

We did not then get together for lunch, but we did correspond for a time. I returned a soft answer to the first letter from Barnhouse and sent him a copy of Steps to Christ, at the same time affirming the evangelical character of Adventists doctrine. I thought we had an agreement that Barnhouse would publish no further criticism of Adventists before there was further contact and clarification. However, in Eternity for June 1950, he sharply criticized Steps to Christ and its author. After that, I saw no point in continuing the correspondence.

The Barhhouse article was entitled, "Spiritual Discernment, or How to Read Religious Books." It illustrated the difficulty that conservative Christians sometimes have in understanding one another. Here a man of great spiritual stature, a bold crusader for truth, revealed his prejudice against Adventism and Ellen G. White, whom he erroneously called, "founder of the cult." Concerning the first chapter of Steps to Christ, entitled "God's Love for Man." Barnhouse charged that so much emphasis on God's love neutralize His justice and that extending that love to unregenerate man smacked of the universalism characteristic of the writings of the cult. He quoted a number of statements which he called half truths introducing Satanic error, like a worm on a hook, "the first bite is all worm, the second bite is all hook. That is the way the Devil works." Yet this man came to respect Ellen White as a sincere Christian and a great spiritual leader and to acknowledge that Seventh-day Adventists were his brethren in Christ.

In the spring of 1955, almost six years after my correspondence with Dr. Barnhouse began, I heard from Walter R. Martin, who had seen our correspondence and who asked for face-to-face contact with representative Seventh-day Adventists. Martin had written a chapter critical of Adventism in his Rise of the Cults and now wanted to talk with Adventists before doing further writing on the subject of our doctrines.

Walter Martin had come to the attention of Dr. Barnhouse when the former was in this early twenties, a graduate student in the history of American religion at New York University. By 1955 Martin had to his credit several books about American cults, which were recognized as standard works in that field. He was a consulting editor on the Eternity staff, a Southern Baptist clergyman, and a member of the Evangelical Foundation, known to the faithful as "How Firm a Foundation," an organization started by Christian businessmen who managed the financial aspects of the Barnhouse enterprises.

It was understood at the outset that Martin, a research polemicist, had been commissioned to write against Seventh-day Adventism. Nevertheless, he declared that he wanted direct access so he could treat Adventists fairly. When I explained this to friends at the Adventist headquarters in Washington, D.C., they agreed that Martin should be treated fairly, and provided with the contacts he sought. Martin expressly asked to meet LeRoy E. Froom, with whose Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers he was already familiar. Froom suggested the inclusion of W. E. Read, then a field secretary of the General Conference. I served as moderator or chairman throughout the series of conferences.

In March 1955, Martin came to Washington for his first meeting with the Adventists. With him was George E. Cannon, a professor of theology on the faculty of the Nyack, New York, Missionary College. At this first conference the two groups viewed each other with wariness. As the Adventists had anticipated, Martin had read widely from D. M. Canright, E. S. Ballenger, and E. B. Jones, as well as other detractors or defectors. Martin, for his part, seemed to expect a degree of resistance and cover-up, such as he may have met in some of his other investigations. This first meeting can best be described as a confrontation.

Martin began going through a list of questions which reflected his reading. We Adventists, rather than launching into a defense, began with a positive presentation in which we emphasized those doctrines held by our church in common with Evangelical Christians of all faiths in all ages. We stated our conviction that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and the only rule of Adventist faith and practice. We affirmed our belief in the eternal and complete deity of Christ, in his sinless life in the incarnation, in his atoning death on the cross, once for all and all-sufficient, in his literal resurrection, and in his priestly ministry before the Father, applying the benefits of the atonement completed on the cross. And, finally, while setting no time, we affirmed our belief in the imminent premilleniai return of Jesus Christ.

It quickly became clear to the Adventist conferees that both questions and answers would have to be formally stated in writing, that the answers would have to be made crystal clear to the Evangelical conferees and to those they represented, and that a way would have to be found to demonstrate the consensus we were sure we had. Martin was given books and periodicals to substantiate the claims we had made in our opening statement.

Following the first day of discussion both groups were busy into the night. The immediate concern of the Adventists was the list of questions with which Martin had begun his interrogation. Froom, who had a facile pen, took the responsibility of composing the initial answers, in a document running into twenty pages, whipped into shape by his secretary after hours. Until two o'clock in the morning Martin gave his attention to the reading matter we had given him.

The second day will never be forgotten by those who participated in the conferences. As the morning session began Martin announced that, as the result of the first round of discussion and the reading matter he had been given, he was admitting that he had been wrong about Seventh-day Adventism on several important points and had become persuaded that Adventists who believed as did the conferees were truly born-again Christians and his brethren in Christ. In a dramatic gesture he extended his hand in fellowship.

Martin faced serious problems as a result of his turn-about. He had become convinced that Adventists stood with other evangelical Christians on an impressive number of basic doctrines. He was not convinced that Adventists were right on doctrines we describe as "present truth," nor was he ever convinced of these. But how was he to write a book in which he would expose what he considered the errors of Adventism, while at the same time revealing his honest conviction that there existed sufficient common denominators to justify the inclusion of Seventh-day Adventists in the Evangelical Christian community - and still satisfy those who had commissioned him to write a book against Seventh-day Adventism? In his concern, he asked the Adventist conferees to join him in praying for divine guidance.

From the first formal meeting, to the publishing of the book QUESTIONS ON DOCTRINE, LeRoy E. Froom was actively involved in composing the written distillation of the conferences.

We Adventists also faced problems. The Evangelical conferees were satisfied that we were presenting contemporary Adventist doctrines, because we were supported by the 1931 statement of fundamental beliefs, which appeared regularly in official yearbooks and manuals of the church, and by the amplified statement in the baptismal covenant. But, they asked, if the Adventist church had reached a firm consensus why did they find contrary or misleading statements in Adventist publications, for sale in Adventist book and Bible houses? We explained that this was the result of efforts by the church to avoid an officially adopted creedal statement, and the denomination's preference for an open-end theology which permitted new light to penetrate in depth. This explanation did not impress them. They asked if we did not think that we ourselves were to some extent to blame if these erroneous statements were used against us. We could only reply that correction had begun.

While church leaders had known of the conferences from the start, a point was reached where we thought it was wise to make a formal report to the church. In a long letter to Froom and Read, dated July 18, 1955, I reviewed the progress in understanding achieved so far in the conferences, and expressed the hope that the Adventist conferees could be relieved of other responsibilities so as to have more time for what was expanding into a significant encounter, soon to include such a notable Evangelical as Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse. A copy of this letter was sent co R. R. Figuhr, president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Thereafter Figuhr gave the support of his office to the conferences and the publication of the definitive statement of Adventist belief which resulted.

Martin's immediate concern was his relationship with his sponsor, Dr. Barnhouse. He reported to his chief his conviction that both had been wrong in their judgment of contemporary Adventists, whom he had become convinced were not cultists but truly members of the Body of Christ. He then asked Barnhouse if he, Martin, was still a member of the team, and if he should go ahead with the book he had been commissioned to write, which now would have to be different from the one they had projected. Barnhouse gave him some reassurance but was not troubled himself. Shortly thereafter he asked to have the conferees meet with him at "Barchdale," his home in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.

In anticipation of the extension of Evangelical participation in the conferences Froom early in August urged the enlargement of the Adventist conferee group. He recommended the inclusion of R. Allan Anderson as a regular member because of the latter's background as evangelist, college teacher of religion, author, and especially because of his gift for diplomatic dialogue with leaders of other communions. Anderson was the secretary of the Ministerial Association of the General Conference and editor of Ministry magazine. Since April he had been participating in the conferences. Thereafter he was a member of the team, a tireless and valuable participant in the preparation of the text of the developing questions and answers. We four Adventists were authorized by the General Conference to plan with Martin and Cannon for the meeting with Barnhouse at his home in Doylestown. The planning session was held in Anderson's Washington office on August 22.

So it came about than on August 25 and 26, 1955, we four Adventists, with Walter Martin and George Cannon, sat down with Donald Grey Barnhouse, one of the most influential men among American Protestants and internationally famous as a representative Evangelical, to discuss what Seventh-day Adventists really believe.

Having welcomed the conferees, our host expressed his deep desire that love might prevail, and invited the small company to kneel with him while he prayed for the Spirit of the Lord to be present and to guide.

Dr. Barnhouse, always a very articulate man, began the conference by explaining his attitudes towards Seventh-day Adventists. He told about his boyhood in California, near Mountain View, where he imbibed the prevailing view that Adventists were ignorant fanatics who believed the Devil to be the sin-bearer, and that a person had to keep the seventh-day Sabbath in order to be saved. Later, his bad opinions had been confirmed, he said, by reading books by men who had been Adventists but had left the movement, notably E. B. Jones. But since Martin had begun his conversations with the Adventists, and had shared his findings, Barnhouse had come to see that there were sober, truly born-again Christians among Seventh-day Adventists. With them he was glad to fellowship as brethren, while reserving the right strenuously to refute the two or three positions taught by Adventists which Evangelicals hold to be in error. On this candid note the Doylestown conference began.

In the first Doylestown conference there was much discussion of Froom's Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, as providing an historical background for Adventism. It was clear that the Evangelicals had respect for Froom's scholarly attainments. Also, the questions and answers so far developed were reviewed in depth during both days of the conference. We came to see that many misunderstandings rested on semantic grounds, because of our use of an inbred denominational vocabulary. Our friends helped us to express our beliefs in terms more easily understood by theologians of other communions.

Donald Grey Barnhouse, Jr., a theology consultant on Billy Graham's staff, sat with us for a time on the first day. That evening, having seen his father's attitudes change, the son challenged the father to reveal through the pages of Eternity his new position on Seventh-day Adventism. Before we separated that evening our host told us he had decided to do this, though he knew it would precipitate a storm and would cost him many subscriptions.

That same evening, in our motel, Martin and Cannon came to express their amazement over the change they had witnessed in Dr. Barnhouse. To them it seemed a miracle. To Martin it meant that he would not have resistance from Barnhouse in writing the truth about Seventh-day Adventism, as he had come to see it.

On the second day we observed a change in the attitude of Barnhouse toward Ellen G. White. Anderson called Walter Martin's attention to a statement in Mrs. White's Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, which Martin in turn passed to Barnhouse. The latter was so impressed with it that he excused himself to take it upstairs for his secretary to copy. The statement reads in part:

We should come to the investigation of God's work with a contrite heart, a teachable and prayerful spirit ... We should not study the Bible for the purpose of sustaining our preconceived opinions, but with the single object of learning what God has said.

... If there are those whose faith in God's word will not stand the test of an investigation of the Scriptures, the sooner they are revealed the better; for then the way will be opened to show them their error. We cannot hold that a position once taken, an idea once advocated, is not, under any circumstances, to be relinquished. There is but One who is infallible, - He who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

We appreciated the warmth, honesty and deep spiritual dedication of the man who was our host at "Barchdale." We have pleasant recollections of his hearty hospitality and that of his charming wife. Our entire days were spent at the Barnhouse home, necessitating our having our meals there. For these, Margaret Barnhouse went to great lengths exploring the unfamiliar land of vegetarian cookery.

Following the two days with Dr. Barnhouse the conferees went to their tasks with renewed confidence. We Adventists had come to see that we could state our doctrinal positions with clarity, in language understood by theologians of other churches, yet never bending for the sake of clarity or harmony alone. Our position was clearly stated by Froom in a letter to Martin:

In our statements we seek to honor and safeguard truth, not merely to pass ... scrutiny of some group. We are not seeking the approbation of any organization. All we ask is understanding of our actual teachings. We must live our own denominational life under the eye and scrutiny of God. Our sole purpose is to please Him, to whom we are accountable and whom we adore.

We saw that, while there had been doctrinal deviation, and this was still a possibility, it was essential for us to demonstrate the existence of a majority position, a preponderant view, that a consensus actually existed, and that we were correctly reflecting that consensus. As means to this end the General Conference arranged a trip for Martin to the West Coast, where Anderson was to introduce him to representative Adventists. On this trip Martin spoke in Adventist churches and met the staff of the Adventist radio station, Voice of Prophecy. In the East, Martin met with the staff of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary and spoke at an assembly there. On overseas trips he observed Adventist missions in action and found occasion to clarify misconceptions about Adventists held by missionaries of other denominations.

In another dimension, it was planned to demonstrate consensus by submitting the questions and answers to Adventist leaders in North America, and then around the world, using a mailing list of more than 250 names. The document by this time had grown to some sixty questions and answers, and was beginning to be thought of as having book possibilities - a definitive statement of contemporary Adventist theology, in convenient reference book form. A committee of fourteen members was appointed with General Conference approval, to prepare the document for distribution to church leaders, then to analyze and evaluate the feedback. Figuhr, the president of the General Conference, was chairman of this committee.* Correspondence relating to the project was entrusted to J.I. Robison, the president's secretary. The response was good, the consensus was demonstrated, and the decision to publish was made. Thus Questions on Doctrine came into being.

The conferees on the Evangelical side were also assessing the support of their new stand on Adventism. Martin, in November 1955, reported talks with Pat Zondervan, who was to publish The Truth About Seventh-day Adventism and who was interested in the new direction the book was taking. A month later, Martin reported going over the questions and answers in their entirety in a five-hour session with Dr. Barnhouse, and stated that Barnhouse was satisfied that Adventists were fundamentally evangelical in all matters concerning salvation.

Martin also reported that Grank E. Gaebelein had written to James DeForest Murch, stating his opinion that the Seventh-day Adventist church would qualify for membership in the evangelical group, if they so desired. Dr. Gaebelein was the founder and director of the famed Stony Brook School (of which Martin was a graduate), a member of the Reformed Episcopal church, and an official in the National Association of Evangelicals. Dr. Murch, prolific author of religious works, publications director and later president of the National Association of Evangelicals and the editor of United Evangelical Action, was a member of the Disciples of Christ.

*Members of the committee: R. R. Figuhr (chairman), A. V. Olson, W. B. Ochs, L. K. Dickson, H. L. Rudy, A. L. Ham, J. I. Robison, W. R. Beach, C. L. Torrey, F. D. Nichol, T. E. Unruh, R. A. Anderson, L. E. Froom, W. E. Read.

An editorial committee chosen by the General Conference prepared the book SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISTS ANSWER QUESTIONS ON DOCTRINE, based on the points raised in the evangelical conferences. credit: Review and Herald

Meanwhile, correspondence between Froom and E. Schuyler English, editor of Our Hope and chairman of the revision committee of the Scofield Reference Bible, resulted in an editorial statement by Dr. English in February 1956, correcting misconceptions about Adventist doctrines as to the nature of Christ in the incarnation, the Trinity, and the completed atonement on the cross, followed by an article by Walter Martin in November 1956, the earliest affirmation of the essential Christianity of the theology of Adventism on matters relating to salvation to appear in a non-Adventist journal of note.

A second two-day conference at the home of Dr. Barnhouse took place in May of 1956, days which Barnhouse described as spent in mediation, communion, and discussion. This time our host questioned the Adventist conferees closely about our concept of the role of Ellen G. White as God's messenger to the remnant church and the weight the Seventh-day Adventist church gave to her writings compared to the Scriptures. There was also thorough discussion of the Adventist teaching regarding the heavenly sanctuary and the role of Christ as priest, mediating the sacrificial atonement completed on the cross. By this time we had assembled an impressive exhibit of references which demonstrated that, from the early days of our church, Mrs. White had held the doctrinal concepts we were espousing, and showing that deviations of persons or groups were misrepresentations of the inspired messages, however sincerely held.

In August 1956, Russell Hitt, the managing editor of Eternity, came to Washington to go over with us the long-awaited Barnhouse article repudiating his former position on Adventism. Supporting articles by Martin, to follow in Eternity, were also gone over. We were given permission to quote or otherwise refer to these articles.

So it came about that a year after the first Doylestown conference, where Dr. Barnhouse had come to see that he would have to report his new position on Adventism, Eternity for September 1956, carried his article, entitled "Are Seventh day Adventists Christians?" The article was written with courage and clarity, and it was lengthy. The author began:

In the past two years several evangelical leaders have come to a new attitude toward the Seventh-day Adventist church. The change is a remarkable one since it consists of moving the Seventh-day Adventists, in our opinion, out of the list of anti-Christian and non-Christian cults into the group of those who are brethren in Christ; although they still must be classified, in our opinion, as holding two or three very unorthodox and in one case peculiar doctrines. The steps in our change of attitude must be traced and the justification of our changed attitude documented. Adventists who read this should realize that evangelical readers have been conditioned through the years for thinking that Adventists must be classified as non-Christians. This present article will explain reasons why this should no longer be so.

Barnhouse went on to give an account of the conferences and the mutual understandings resulting, and to announce the two forthcoming books, Martin's and ours. He defined the areas of agreement which he considered sufficient for identifying Adventists as members of the Body of Christ, within the evangelical definition. The three major areas of disagreement he described as conditional immortality, observance of the Seventh-day Sabbath, and the investigative judgment. To these he could give no credence at all, though the first two had historical foundation in the Christian church. The last he described as a doctrine never known in theological history until the second half of the nineteenth century.

The supporting articles by Martin appeared in later issues of Eternity. The first gave the historical background of modem Adventism, the second a comprehensive statement of what Adventists really believe, and the last dealing with Adventism's unique or unusual doctrines. In these articles Martin was both lucid and fair. And while Adventists did not find his criticism of their distinctive doctrines either palatable or convincing, they did appreciate his candor, as he wrote at the end of his second article:

"However, whatever else one may say about Seventh-day Adventism, it cannot be denied from their truly representative literature and their historic positions that they have always as a majority, held to the cardinal, fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith which are necessary for salvation, and to the growth in grace that characterizes all true Christian believers."

Barnhouse, speaking for Martin as well as himself, ended his historic article with these words:

In conclusion, I should like to say that we are delighted to do justice to a much-maligned group of sincere believers, and in our minds and hearts take them out of the group of utter heretics .... to acknowledge them as redeemed brethren and members of the Body of Christ. It is our sincere prayer that they may be led to consider further the points on which they are so widely divergent from the rest of the Body of Christ and in so doing promote their own spiritual growth and that of their fellow Christians.

It was a sobering experience as the conferees came to this point in the lengthy dialogue to see the warm Christian friendliness of the Evangelicals. They expressed a concern that the Adventists might come to see as they saw. But they also realized that we Adventists, moved by the same Christian spirit, hoped that exposure to the special truths we believed would lead the Evangelicals to believe as we did. This we all saw as a dilemma of the Body of Christ, which only the Holy Spirit could resolve.

The expected storm broke quickly. There were at least a few of the peers of Barnhouse and Martin, English, Caebelein and Murch, for whom their stand was gall
and wormwood. The Sunday School Times, published in the City of Brotherly Love where Dr. Barnhouse had his pastorate, carried a series of articles against Adventism. The King's Business, official organ of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA), ran articles by Louis Talbot, the editor, attacking not only the Adventists but the editor of Eternity as well. While these attacks could not be considered typical, they at least showed that the editor of Time was less than correct when he announced in the December 31, 1956 issue that the Fundamentalists had made peace with the Adventists.

The three part series Martin wrote for ETERNITY magazine cited points of agreement and difference between Evangelicals and Adventists. Though he still argued against certain doctrines, he acknowledged that they had been held by Church leaders throughout history, such as Luther. credit: Eternity Magazine

When Eternity lost one-fourth of its subscribers in protest, and the sale of Martin's books plummeted, Barnhouse asked anxiously, "Are you sure of your positions?" On Martin's affirmative answer, Barnhouse said, "Then we will go ahead." Within a year the Eternity subscriptions were higher than before, and there was again a good market for Martin's books.

Meanwhile, the General Conference of Seventh day Adventists was taking a direct hand in planning the book taking shape from the questions and answers. In September 1956 the General Conference Officers appointed a small editorial committee.* On January 23, 1957, the Review and Herald Publishing Association was invited to manufacture the book "as compiled by a committee appointed by the General Conference," accepting the manuscript in its completed form.

*Members of the editorial committee: A. V. Olson (chairman), W. E. Read, M. Thurber (book editor of the Review and Herald Publishing Association), W. G. C. Murdoch, R. Hammill, L. E. Froom, and R. A. Anderson, consultants.

ETERNITY magazine, which carried both Barnhouse's and Martin's articles acknowledging Adventists as Christians, lost nearly one-fourth of its subscriptions as a result. The loss was temporary though, for within a year circulation was higher than ever. credit: Eternity Magazine

And on January 30 the executive committee of the publishing house accepted the manuscript for publication on a "text basis." The General Conference officers approved the title, Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine, and also the short title, Questions on Doctrine. The officers also approved the exact wording of the introduction as it later appeared in the book over the signature of the editorial committee. Here it was made clear that the book was the work of a representative selection of participants, not of an individual, nor even of the committee, and that those preparing the answers made no claim to having provided the final word on Christian doctrine.

In September the officers recorded a series of actions having to do with publicity and distribution. Union conference papers and Adventist magazines would be asked to run advertisements. Non-Adventist periodicals would be invited to run ads and to publish book reviews. A suitable four page folder was to be printed for distribution to non-Adventist clergymen. High-ranking religious leaders in North America were to receive complimentary copies. Churches were to be invited to put copies in their libraries and to present complimentary copies to Protestant ministers in the community. Book and Bible houses were to stock Questions on Doctrine.

Questions on Doctrine was published late in 1957. It was designed to begin with the "Statement of Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists," first published in 1931, later given General Conference approval, and regularly included in church manuals and yearbooks of the denomination. This was to make clear to Adventists and non-Adventists alike, that in presenting an amplified statement on doctrine the General Conference was not setting forth a new theology, but was clarifying and amplifying the doctrines most generally believed by contemporary Seventh-day Adventists. Included in appendices was an extensive compilation from the writings of Ellen G. White, covering such subjects as the Deity and eternal preexistence of Christ and His place in the Trinity; His divine-human nature in the incarnation; His completed sacrificial atonement on the cross; and His priestly ministry in the heavenly sanctuary. These were the areas which had been found to be most frequently misunderstood and misquoted. This compilation was later included in Volume 7-A of the Seventh-day Adventists Commentary series. Many of these same quotations appeared in the Ministry magazine, between May 1956, and March 1957, under the title, "Counsels from the Spirit of Prophecy."

The editor of Ministry, R. A. Anderson, made sure during the months preceding the publication of Questions and Doctrine, that the Adventist clergy was fully informed of what to expect. He described the conferences with the Evangelicals and the removal of century-old misunderstandings. He explained the procedure for getting a doctrinal consensus from world leaders in the church. The unity of belief so demonstrated he attributed to the influence of the writings of Ellen G. White. There were also articles during this period from W. E. Read on the nature of Christ and from L. E. Froom on the atonement.

It came as a surprise to the planners, after the demonstration of a solid consensus from world leaders in the church and the preview in Ministry of what was to come, that Questions on Doctrine should be subjected to attack from Adventist sources. The critics seemed to be saying the same things, suggesting a common source. This was not hard to find. M.L. Andreason, a respected retired Adventist theologian, author and Bible teacher, had widely circulated eleven mimeographed documents and six printed leaflets addressed to the churches. In these the writer accused the compilers of Questions on Doctrine of attempting to change traditional doctrines, and he accused the officers of the General Conference of planning to revise the writings of Ellen White to conform.

A formal denial of these charges was prepared by A. V. Olson, a General Conference vice president, and chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Ellen G. White Estate. This reply, dated September 6, 1960, was sent at the request of the General Conference officers to officers of the overseas divisions of the church and to all union conference officers and local conference presidents in the North American Division. The incident was soon closed, and the author of the criticism made his peace with the church to which he had formerly given distinguished service.

The Zondervan Publishing House had originally scheduled publication of Walter Martin's The Truth About Seventh-day Adventism for January 1957, as part of the series on cult apologetics. There were delays, but so long as there was a possibility of his book coming out first he was supplied with page proofs of the Adventist book, so he would have reliable references. Martin had promised that in describing the teachings of contemporary Seventh-day Adventists he would only use statements from the book to be published with the approval of the General Conference. As late as October 1959, R. A. Anderson and W. E. Read, with H. W. Lowe, chairman of the Biblical Study and Research Group of the General Conference, were going over Martin's gallies, preparatory to writing a statement to be included in the book. The Truth About Seventh-day Adventism was, and is, a notable book. In the "Foreword" Barnhouse stated:

Since leaders of Adventism agree that this book fairly represents their theological position, this work is a milestone in Christian apologetics; for, during this study, brethren talked and prayed together, assessed each other's position and agreed to disagree while still obeying the Lord's command to love one another.

In the author's "Preface" Martin reminded both Adventists and non-Adventists that still to be healed were wounds caused by ignorance, prejudice, and an unforgiving spirit, of which Adventists as well as non-Adventists were guilty. But, he wrote, the place of healing is at the cross. Meeting there, we find strength and grace to keep the "lost commandment," that we love one another.

The Adventist statement, over the name of H. W. Lowe, as it appeared in Martin's book, asked that members of the Adventist church, when reading the last chapter of the book, in which Martin described his points of disagreement with Adventism, would remember the fair and accurate statement of Adventist teachings set forth in the earlier portions of the book. Lowe also expressed the gratitude and respect the Adventist leadership felt toward Martin for his correct recording of their beliefs and for his attitude of Christian brotherhood.

In retrospect, the publication of The Truth About Seventh-day Adventism and Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine, improved relations between Evangelicals and Seventh-day Adventists. Martin's book did not convince all Adventist isolationists that its author and Barnhouse spoke for the Evangelicals, or that fraternal relations were desirable or safe. And the publication of Questions on Doctrine did not convince all Evangelicals that Adventists were not heretics in Christian robes. Isolated attacks on Adventism continued. And Martin's book could not be bought in Adventist book stores.

Paul. Hopkins, the executive secretary of the (Barnhouse) Evangelical Foundation, struck a hopeful note in a letter to me, dated May 6, 1960:

Quite honestly, I can see that what you began with us is still only the beginning and I recognize that you are going to have the same problems within your group that we have in ours. There is much land still to be possessed before the members of the Body of Christ can recognize one another as we should. In the meantime, let us continue to work and pray that the day may come sooner than we might normally expect.


Froom. LeRoy Edwin. Movement of Destiny. Washington. Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1961.

Martin. Walter R. The Truth About Seventh-day Adventists. Grand Rapids. Zondervan Publishing House, 1960.

Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine. Washington. Review and Herald Publishing Association. 1957.


Eternity. June 1950. September 1956 - January 1957.

Ministry. May. September, December. 1956, January. March, April. 1957, March, 1958.

Sunday School Times. December 1. 1956 - January 12. 1957. The King's Business. April - June. 1957. Time. December 31, 1956.


Mrs. Margaret Barnhouse. September 24, 1976.

Roy A. Anderson. December. 1976. January. 1977 (numerous).


Roy A. Anderson. to: LeRoy E. Froom. Oct. 1956.

Donald G. Barnhouse. to: T. E. Unruh, Dec. 1949.

LeRoy E. Froom, to: R. A. Anderson. Aug. 1956: Walter R. Martin

Jan. 1956: T. E. Unruh, Aug. Nov. and Dec. 1955, May 1960.

Paul Hopkins. to T. F:. Unruh. May 1960.

T. E. Unruh. to: Donald G. Barnhouse. Nov. 1949: LeRoy E. Froom and W. E. Read. July 1955

"The Seventh-day Adventist Evangelical Conferences of 1955-1956," by T.E. Unruh, in "Adventist Heritage," Fourth Quarter, 1977, pages 35-46.