Union College is owned and operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
That makes our campus family part of a world-wide faith community united and inspired by Jesus Christ. With more than 25 million adherents in 212 countries, the Seventh-day Adventist Church is not among the largest religious groups, but we are one of the most ubiquitous.
Wherever you go in the world, you are likely to find a congregation of Adventists. And wherever there are Adventist churches, you will also find Adventists serving their communities through ministries such as education, healthcare, and ADRA, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency. The Adventist education system, of which Union College is a part, is the second largest private school system in the world, and Adventist hospitals and clinics are world-renowned for their high standard of care.
Frequently asked questions about Adventists
As Seventh-day Adventists, we believe we are saved by grace through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). We also believe our faith should manifest itself in our lives as we embody key Biblical principles such as:
- good stewardship of the earth and our personal resources,
- honoring God with our bodies and health,
- and setting aside time to develop a closer relationship with God and serve our neighbors.
Most of the cultural practices that set Adventists apart from our larger communities grew as we found ways to act on these principles in our daily lives.
We've compiled answers to some of the most asked questions about Seventh-day Adventists based on Google's search suggestions. Please note these are not theologically complete answers and do not cite the source texts. We could write dissertations to answer each question completely, but brevity is key in a FAQ.
Are Seventh-day Adventists __________?
Among Google's most searched questions about Adventists are quite a few asking if we belong under various umbrellas. Here are the most common:
Yes. Seventh-day Adventists are followers of Christ.
Yes. Adventist theology grew from the foundations laid by thinkers and reformers such as Jan Hus, John Wycliffe, Huldrych Zwingli and Martin Luther, and incorporates ideas from later theologians such as Roger Williams and John Wesley. We share the core beliefs of other protestant denominations, including Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Christus, Sola Gratia, Soli Deo Gloria, trinitarianism, and a symbolic view of the Eucharist.
Probably not. It depends on your definition of "Evangelical," of which there are a few. Adventists agree whole-heartedly with the World Evangelical Alliance's statement of faith; however, few Evangelicals would include Adventists among their numbers based on theological differences not addressed in that statement, such as day of worship, the final judgement, and the role and authority of Ellen White. Aside from its theological meaning, "Evangelical" is also used to describe a political grouping in America. Many Adventists include themselves in that cohort, but the majority do not.
No. Seventh-day Adventists have profound theological differences with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Despite our distinct theologies, there are some cultural similarities between the groups. Both Adventists and Mormons have a health message that encourages members to abstain from alcohol and caffeine, and both groups emerged during the same time period in American history known as the Second Great Awakening.
- Jehovah's Witnesses
No. This is another group with whom Adventists have deep theological differences. Despite that, Adventists have historically found common cause to work with Jehovah's Witnesses in advocating for religious liberty, the legal recognition of conscientious objectors, and the freedom to evangelize and sell literature door-to-door.
Probably yes, though this again depends on definitions and could lead to a protracted theological debate. Many early Adventists came from Methodist backgrounds, and Adventist theology mirrors Methodist beliefs in many areas, including a rejection of Calvinistic predestination and a belief in free will.
Since 1864, the Seventh-day Adventist church has been recognized by the United States as a pacifist religion. However, the church supports the personal, conscientious decision of each of its members to decide for themselves whether or not to serve in the military.
Adventists have always endeavored to answer the question, "How can you serve the Prince of Peace in times of war?" For the founders of the church, the answer was to only serve as non-combatants. While many 21st century Adventists now volunteer for military duty and others refuse any participation in the military, during times of conscription, most Adventists have opted for a "conscientious collaboration" approach. That term was used by Desmond Doss, an Adventist serviceman who was awarded the Medal of Honor, to describe his time as a battlefield medic saving lives on the front lines while refusing to carry a weapon.
Dr. Everett Dick, a professor of history at Union College and a World War I veteran, founded the Medical Cadet Corps on our campus in 1939 and later expanded the program to other Adventist schools. Its goal was to prepare Adventists who were draft-eligible to serve as medics rather than fighters. The program lasted until 1971 when conscription ended in the United States.
Who was Ellen White?
Ellen G. White (1827-1915) was one of the founders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and Adventists regard her as a prophet. While we view the Bible as the sole theological authority, her writings have shaped how Adventists interpret the Bible and molded both Adventist beliefs and cultural practices. During her lifetime, she wrote more than 5,000 articles and 40 books.
The best way to learn more about her is through her own words. The Union College library has an extensive collection of her writings, and full texts of most of her books and articles can be found for free online. Author George R. Knight offers excellent advice for those of us approaching her works with a 21st century mindset here.
Ellen White was a driving force behind the creation of Adventist schools at all levels, including advocating for the construction of a "Western school" supported by a union of the churches between the Mississippi River and Rocky Mountains. That school opened as Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1891. She visited our campus and spoke at the church in 1905. Her writings on education are still the foundation of the philosophy, culture and mission of Union College.
Do Adventists eat meat?
Many do; many don't. Since 1863, many Adventists have followed the advice of Ellen White to cut meat out of our diets, a practice which has been upheld by scientific studies many times since then. Being vegetarian is not an issue of salvation for us, but rather one way in which we can live healthier lives and treat our bodies as God's temples.
Adventists have contributed greatly to research on vegetarianism and nutrition, and Adventist vegetarians are responsible for the invention of many meat-free foods that are now common. These include breakfast cereals, peanut butter, and imitation meats, including veggie burgers. Union College was among the first places in the world (likely the second location after Battle Creek, Michigan) to produce and sell granola and peanut butter. One favorite Adventist food, the haystack, was invented by Ella May Hartlein, a 1941 Union College graduate.
Union College's cafeteria serves food consistent with a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet and provides vegan options at each meal.
Do Adventists eat pork?
No. While Adventists are divided on eating meat, even those who are not vegetarian avoid consuming products from animals listed in the Bible as "unclean," most notably pigs. This is not an issue of salvation, rather the assumption that if God tells His people not to do something, He probably has good reasons.
One commonly cited scientific justification is that pigs are more likely than other domesticated animals to be an intermediary through which viruses jump from other species to humans. The "Bird Flu" of 1918 (which killed more people than World War I) is an example of a disease that was transmitted by pigs to humans.
Do Adventists believe in hell?
In Adventist theology, hell is not a physical place but an event in which those who have not accepted Christ's gift of salvation cease to exist. This belief is called "annihilationism," and is seen in keeping with the nature of a loving God who would not subject His creations to eternal torment. Read more on the subject at Adventist.org.
Do Adventists drink coffee?
Some do; some don't. Many Adventists follow the counsel Ellen White first gave in 1868 to avoid caffeinated beverages, whether that's coffee, tea or Coca-Cola. As with vegetarianism, it is up to each member to decide what is in keeping with the principle of healthy living. However, Union College does not sell caffeinated beverages on campus and encourages students to practice healthy sleeping habits rather than relying on stimulants.
Do Adventists celebrate Christmas?
Yes. Some families believe the pagan roots of holidays such as Christmas and Easter outweigh any Christian significance now assigned to those dates, but the majority of Adventists celebrate Christmas and other holidays. Many Adventist churches have special programs for religious holidays, and we would love for you to join us at Union College for our annual Christmas concert!
Do Adventists believe in the Trinity?
Yes. While we are opposed to creeds on principle, Adventists accept the meaning of the Nicean Creed in its entirety.
Do Adventists believe in the secret rapture?
No. Adventists believe in the literal, physical return of Christ as described in Revelation 1:7. It is our belief that there will be nothing secret about it. For more on the second advent beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists, refer to this article.
Do Adventists celebrate birthdays?
Yes, we do. You're probably thinking of Jehovah's Witnesses.
Do Adventists wear jewelry?
Some do, some don't. The twenty-second fundamental belief states, "While recognizing cultural differences, our dress is to be simple, modest, and neat, befitting those whose true beauty does not consist of outward adornment but in the imperishable ornament of a gentle and quiet spirit …"
Many cultures require some jewelry, such as a wedding ring, to be considered modest. Members may also face cultural expectations to wear some other form of adornment, such as a neck tie or scarf, in order to be seen as neat or be taken seriously in their professions. In other words, what adornment is appropriate varies greatly by the personal, professional and cultural context of the church member. However, the principles remain the same: embrace modesty and use our financial resources to glorify God and not ourselves.
Union College asks its employees and students to wear no jewelry other than wedding bands, but does not fine or punish students for jewelry.
Do Adventists drink alcohol?
No (or at least we shouldn't). To Adventists, alcohol and tobacco are both viewed as harmful drugs that all members should avoid because of the health principles we try to embody. As with most things, you will find some church members who disagree with this stance. Here at Union College, neither drinking nor smoking is allowed on campus. Students drinking on campus or returning to campus drunk will face disciplinary measures.
What do Adventists believe?
Seventh-day Adventists do not have any creed other than the Bible, but the world church has identified 28 beliefs upon which Adventists agree. Each of these statements is founded on the principle that our Creator seeks with wisdom, grace and love to heal a relationship fractured by sin, giving us a more abundant life both now and for eternity.