The Self-Destructiveness of Adventist Arrogance

We’re on the brink of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. If you’re like me, that means you’ve attended a multitude of graduations this season (congrats grads!). And if those ceremonies have been within the Adventist system, you may have noticed our ever-dwindling number of students, and consequently, graduates. Most of our schools were never huge to begin with. A few outliers like Loma Linda Academy notwithstanding, most of our elementary and high schools typically yielded double or even single-digit graduating classes. Decades ago, my 8th-grade class only had 18 students and my 12th-grade class had just 30. That’s not exactly bursting at the seams. But now, neither school even exists in its previous form. They’ve been consolidated with other schools and become a preschool and junior academy, respectively. Our colleges and universities are facing shrinking populations too. Friends who went to Atlantic Union College saw their alma mater disappear years ago. And if things don’t turn around, more of our institutions will likely follow the same fate.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Absolutely on target.

Personal experience - When my two kids were entering grade 8 and 11 we moved to be near an SDA school (from a public school situation). After a short time, the the kids came home wondering why the kids in Adventist school had worse language than public school.

Fast forward to when I began teaching in that same school, ending up as principal. At that point, we accepted quite a number of non-SDAs, reaching a total enrolment of 85 and not enough teachers to cover the Sr High subjects. One of the non-SDA students showed up to register dressed in “black grunge” - black eyes, black lips, and black everything else. We discussed the fact that we didn’t have uniforms, as such, but our “uniform” was getting rid of all the “black” stuff. The parents were Mormon and the girl did come. After a couple of weeks, I asked her how she was doing, and she said, " It’s been hell, but I know it’s good for me to be here." She was in grade 11.

I have several stories with similar outcomes. The tragedy was that the school board decreased the number of non-SDAs and denied my request to start an intramural sports program with another church school (Baptist). “We don’t do competitive sports.” (As per the red books.) These kids never learn to to win with humility and lose gracefully.


And there is the root of the problem, an absolute untruth. SDAism has sold that bill of goods for generations. It’s nonsense based on what? A distorted reading by the denomination of itself into the Bible, and a complex doctrinal edifice that comes tumbling down when the biblical texts are read in their own contexts.

Ideas matter. Bad ones bear bad fruit.



There is a really good YouTube video by Ready to Harvest on this topic, however it is not about the SDA church but about one of our "cousins the Grace Communion International. They went through the whole “we are the remnant” thing but have recently walked it back. It is a great lesson for Adventists. What is Grace Communion International? - YouTube

Add to that another video on identifying cults on the same YouTube channel.


I find this concept reprehensible.

Rather than victimizing children, what’s wrong with waiting until the child has developed the critical thinking skills and rational capacity which only come with maturity and adulthood to introduce him to SDA-ism’s arrogant brand of self aggrandizing exceptionalism?

Or how about this: let the child’s understanding of his creator develop naturally and organically by taking him for adventures in the real world rather than subjecting him to myopic and intractable religious conundrums where god is assumed to be ever present but is also said to be ineffable, absolutely transcendent, utterly unreachable and untouchable by mere mortals?

And not that I’m in a position to tell Jesus what to do, but Christ, if you really are still alive and have something-in fact, anything-that you can say or do for the kids, how about stop all this suffering by putting an end to all the interminable guesswork about your “gospel”, and deliver the message yourself?



Thought so.


This appears to be a North American Division challenge. I retired at the end of 2022 as the South Pacific Division Education Director. The SPD has embraced the broader community with Adventist Education. Within Australia, about three quarters of our K-12 enrolments are from the broader community. It is our most effective evangelism agency the church has. A wonderful opportunity to Reveal Jesus in all we do. Many of our broader community families and students come to us from a very secular, non-faith background.

Thus our emphasis is on Revealing Jesus - a God who loves and accepts. Across the Pacific we vary from 90% broader community to slightly less than 50%. But it is an intentional ministry with a strong emphasis on ensuring our schools are distinctly Adventist. Yet clearly something our broader community here value.

We have something very worth-while to offer. As Matthew 5 notes, we are called to be salt and light. Neither of which are any good cooped up in a fortress.


When I graduated from SDA boarding school in the '80’s, we had 83 in our class. That school closed 15 years later. It didn’t have to, we just didn’t/couldn’t adjust.

My two kids recently completed academy. They had low 20’s in their classes. In the meantime there are substantial number of private and parochial schools in the area that are thriving (and a few who are not). I spent the better part of 10 years showing this to 4 different principles, to no avail.

I have a friend who was the head of a Catholic high school (shocking, I have a Catholic friend) who took his school from 200 students to 900 students with 99% graduation rate, 80% scholarship rate with 35% receiving full-ride scholarships (he’s now president of a small Catholic college). He was kind enough to give me hours of his time talking about how that changed happened. When I brought this to the Education head at our local SDA Conference I was told “we know how to do this”. Today my children’s SDA school is 30% less than it was 10 years ago.

In the US, there is a demographic cliff that’s just starting to hit. Los Angeles Unified has 20% less kids than a decade ago. Schools at all levels will have to add value or die. Just being SDA isn’t enough.

Over the next 20 years, I would expect that 20% of our schools at all levels including university will close. Lost to those that adapted better - I guess evolution, at least in schools will triumph… :slight_smile:


No, just being SDA isn’t enough…it never has been but too many feel/think/act as though it is.


“The level of denominational hubris is embarrassing and borderline cultic.”

Borderline??? :thinking: You may be generous on this one.

“We have a longstanding superiority complex. Decades of boasting about our uniqueness have cultivated a collective cockiness. Even now, some reader is thinking, “but we are a special, peculiar people!” We relish this identity to an unhealthy degree. Such haughtiness permeates the organization.”

Best description of the egoistical SDA thinking I have ever heard/read. I don’t know if it can ever be reversed due to the internalization that goes on. Jesus will never come if He is relying upon the Adventist form of “Perfection”…sadly enough.


Great topic! Where I live we’ve seen sda schools closing more and more and graduating classes shrinking more and more. I’m sure there’s a lot of reasons for that but I our schools here (Southern California) don’t limit enrollment to just sda kids.

As long as the staff and leaders are sda and are committed to our message then I think our schools can do a great job of evangelizing non sda’s.

It’s true some have a conceited view of our church but I also think it’s true out church has a unique and valuable message and we do have to take measures to make sure we don’t lose or obscure that message. We’re not better but we are different and some of those difference are very important and we should take care to protect that. I think the administration plays a big role in ensuring our schools stay sda while incorporating non sda’s . It’s a great way to share our message

Could you describe that “unique and valuable message”.


Amen, in my opinion, indoctrination of children into any form of religion is despicable.


When it comes to education, children are the same. They are very teachable at a young age, and believe anything you tell them - until they don’t. At some point they start growing their own opinions, and they are driven by their own personal experiences. Further down the road, they start wanting autonomy. If they don’t get it - permission to make mistakes - they become resentful. Adventist schools have a lot of resentful kids. The PKs are the most rebellious. They have to be perfect, they represent the pastor etc. If these children are not allowed to make mistakes and learn from them through natural (not imposed) consequences, they make the mistakes later when the cost is much greater to their lives.

The Adventist system aims for obedience - to rules and commandments. But beyond that, they have to be seen obeying rules and keeping commandments. It’s about the appearance regardless how they feel about the rules. Adults play that game well, but kids tend to be more honest, and at some point they rebel.


Less “filters” and the ability to speak with less inhibitions…thus, the “challenges”. Those that leave Adventism are those who most likely see that there is no place for them. They see that it isn’t about spiritual growth but about “rules” and there is a lot of spiritual “smugness” and arrogance as well…hardly an inclusive and welcoming environment.


If you wait until their brains are developed and they can think properly, many of them wouldn’t join the club.


Yeah, I’ve read that SDA’s “get ‘em early and often” education system is a great way to get Adventism’s message across-this as opposed to whatever Jesus’ gospel might have been-but based on my immediate family results-brothers, sisters, in-laws, etc.-the denomination is batting 0-10.

I would consider this failure to retain future members a great success were it not for the money (my inheritance, BTW) that my wife’s parents and mine spent/wasted on trying to keep their offspring safely sequestered in the SDA propaganda bubble.



Could it be that this arrogance may have arisen from our perception of who we are, our belief system and by extension the way we see others.?
May God help us to recognise that He has no favourite denominations, neither is he biased to one as opposed to the other. God would have us understand that all people can be candidates in His kingdom, by accepting Jesus as Lord and Saviour. He has an equal and tender love for all humanity.



  1. We believe the 10 commandments are still binding on all humanity
  2. We believe that we are a soul and that we don’t possess a soul and when one dies they are unconscious
  3. We believe hell is not burning right now and won’t burn eternally but all punishment will eventually come to an end
  4. We believe the end time Babylon will be a mixture of Catholic/Protestant teachings mixed with religious miracles (this is key because it helps us not to be fooled by Babylons intoxicating doctrines)
  5. We have the health message which has been proven to lead to longer healthier life
  6. We have the sanctuary doctrine which provides a fuller vision of Christ’s redemptive work
  7. I realize some churches have some of these in common with us but no other church has them all and and some are extremely important because they are directly related to not falling under end time delusions

Are you saying that teaching these points of SDA doctrine constitutes the Gospel we should be spreading to the world?

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I’m noticing each of these points of “valuable beliefs” begins with “WE”. Are we supposed to proclaim ourselves as the “good news” of salvation? We are talking about educating our kids, and in this context, also the value of Christian education to those who, perhaps don’t know about the “good news”- the Gospel of Christ.

Not once today, or even this week, have I been heartened by "Babylon being a mixture of Catholic/Protestant teachings - your point #4 for an example; nor has the sanctuary doctrine ever helped me through the tough times in my life. Actually, the idea that the 10 commandments “are binding” on me - to be meticulously kept, represents bad news because I can never keep those commandments to the perfection needed for me to qualify for salvation. Why would I place my students under such a threat… If that is indeed the focus of SDA education. This litany of beliefs helps no one grow to know Christ, or His message.