(I like this presentation for its careful documentation of various statements.)
Throughout their history Seventh-day Adventists have affirmed that “the Bible and the Bible only” should be the Christian’s creed and that they have no creed but the Bible. However, over the years they have issued various statements of belief gradually moving toward the 27 fundamental beliefs published in the denominational Yearbook since 1981 and in the Church Manual (1990).
1. James White’s Informal Statement. In August 1853 James White, as editor of the Review and Herald, replied to an inquiry from a Seventh Day Baptist in what was perhaps the first SDA statement of faith-merely the all-inclusive scriptural phrase “the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus” (Rev. 14:12).
“As a people we are brought together from divisions of the Advent body [the Millerites], and from the various denominations, holding different views on some subjects; yet, thank Heaven, the Sabbath is a mighty platform on which we can all stand united. And while standing here, with the aid of no other creed than the Word of God, and bound together by the bonds of love-love for the truth, love for each other, and love for a perishing world-“which is stronger than death,” all party feelings are lost. We are united in these great subjects: Christ’s immediate, personal second Advent, and the observance of all of the commandments of God, and the faith of his Son Jesus Christ, as necessary to a readiness for his Advent” (James White, in Review and Herald 4:52, Aug. 11, 1853).
In December of the same year, White proposed a “Charter” for gospel order in a series of four articles. The second article, on doctrine, explains the relationship of gospel order (church organisation) to unity of belief. This was evidently a delicate subject, as numerous reproofs for “creed-making” were published in the Review and Herald. Carefully the editor suggested a basis for “doctrinal purity” as essential to order in the church: “Is the church of Christ,” he asked, “to be left without a rule of faith? We answer, that she is provided with a creed that is sufficient. ‘All scripture is given by inspiration of God” (ibid. 4:180, Dec. 13, 1853).
2. Review and Herald Masthead Statement. A list of five “leading doctrines taught by the Review” was published in the masthead of the Review and Herald from Aug. 15 to Dec. 19, 1854. The author is not identified, and no reason was given for its omission in future issues. The doctrines read as follows:
“The Bible and the Bible alone, the rule of faith and duty.
“The Law of God, as taught in the Old and New Testaments, unchangeable.
“The Personal Advent of Christ and the Resurrection of the Just, before the Millennium.
“The Earth restored to its Eden perfection and glory, the final inheritance of the Saints.
“Immortality alone through Christ, to be given to the Saints at the resurrection.”
3. “Fundamental Principles.” In 1872 the press at Battle Creek issued a pamphlet containing 25 propositions, unsigned. The introductory statement reads in part: “In presenting to the public this synopsis of our faith, we wish to have it distinctly understood that we have no articles of faith, creed, or discipline, aside from the Bible. We do not put forth this as having any authority with our people, nor is it designed to secure uniformity among them, as a system of faith, but is a brief statement of what is, and has been, with great unanimity, held by them” (“A Declaration of the Fundamental Principles Taught and Practiced by the Seventh-day Adventists,” p. 3).
These were reprinted in Signs of the Times (1:3, June 4, 1874); then in the last of four installments of Uriah Smith’s “The Seventh-day Adventists . . .” in the Review and Herald (44:171, Nov. 24, 1874); again in Signs of the Times (1:108, Jan. 28, 1875); it appeared as a pamphlet, both as “Fundamental Principles” and as part of the reprint of all four articles in 1875 and later, for example, in 1877–1878, 1884, and 1888, under the same or slightly varied titles, and with identical or similar introductions, declaring that Seventh-day Adventists “have no creed but the Bible; but they hold to certain well defined points of faith, for which they feel prepared to give a reason” (1875 Signs reprint, and 1877–1878 complete pamphlet).
In the 1889 Yearbook of the denomination, which was a larger volume than usual, containing general information about the church and its activities, these “Fundamental Principles” were included in a slightly revised and expanded form in 28 sections (pp. 147–151). This was not continued in subsequent issues, but it was inserted again in the Yearbook in 1905 and continued to appear through 1914.
Twenty-eight “Fundamental Principles,” “by the late Uriah Smith,” were reprinted in the Review and Herald (89:4, Aug. 22, 1912). They also appeared in pamphlet form as No. 5 of the Words of Truth Series, with 29 sections, the additional one being No. 14, on religious liberty.
4. Fundamental Beliefs-1931. On Dec. 29, 1930, the General Conference Committee voted that a statement of beliefs be prepared by a committee of four, including the General Conference president and the editor of the Review and Herald. This was printed first in the 1931 Yearbook and the next year in the Church Manual. At the 1946 General Conference session it was voted that it, as well as any other portion of the Church Manual, should be revised only at a General Conference session. This statement, entitled “Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists,” containing 22 sections, was still published with minor revisions in those two books until 1980. It was considered to be a summary of the principal features of Adventist beliefs.
5. Fundamental Beliefs-1980. During the General Conference session in 1980, in Dallas, Texas, the delegates from the world church approved a revised edition of the Statement of Fundamental Beliefs. The process of revision was initiated by the President’s Executive Advisory and went to the Church Manual Committee. The chair of the committee and the president of the General Conference, Robert H. Pierson, following a recommendation from PRADCO, appointed an ad hoc committee, chaired by W. Duncan Eva, to work on the revision of the document. The first revised draft of the statement was circulated among a group of theologians for their input. This document was taken to the Annual Council in 1979 and voted in principle to recommend it to the General Conference session for final approval. The Annual Council also recommended that the statement “receive wide exposure to the world field” and that written suggestion should be welcome. Consequently, the document was sent to members of the division committees, to all the unions in North America, and to all the union colleges of the church. In addition, the statement was published in the Adventist Review (157:8, Feb. 21, 1980), inviting church members “to consider it carefully and to send comments or suggestions” to the committee. For the first time in the history of the church, the world church was actually involved in the revision of the Statement of Fundamental Beliefs.
Copies of the statement, incorporating the suggestions received from the world fields, were sent to the delegates to the GC session six weeks before the session convened in the summer of 1980. The statement was extensively discussed during the session and finally approved by the delegates. This statement is published in the Church Manual and the Yearbook. In its introduction it is stated that the fundamental beliefs “constitute the church’s understanding and expression of the teaching of Scripture.” It is also affirmed that the church has no creed except the Bible.