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Note: this entry is under revision and is not complete. We're planning to update this entry as soon as we can get around to it.
That said, none of the planned updates will in any way change our opinion that the Seventh-day Adventist church is, theologically, a cult of Christinaity. This is due to the movement's continued promotion of doctrines that are contrary to the gospel and unorthodox in nature
As noted below there are various factions with the SDA, ranging from those who wish the movement would fully enter into the 'evangelical mainstream,' while others prefer to hold on to various heresies.
Our view is that Seventh-day Adventist who are unhappy with the movement's unbiblical teachings should leave and renounce Seventh-day Adventism, and instead join a Biblical church instead.
Christian apologists and countercult experts disagree on whether or not Seventh-day Adventism (SDA) should be classified as, theologically, a cult of Christianity.
Some state that while SDA includes a number of doctrines that are outside the mainstraim of historic Christian theology, Seventh-day Adventists do accept the essential doctrines of the Christian faith and should thus be considered Christians. For example, the late Walter Martin, founder of the Christian Research Institute said,
...it is perfectly possible to be a Seventh-day Adventists and be a true follower of Jesus Christ despite heterodox concepts...
Walter Martin, Kingdom of the Cults (Bethany House, Minneapolis, Minnesota), Updated edition 1997, p.517. (Note: See also this interview with Walter Martin.
This is still the position taken by today's Christian Research Institute:
Though several capable Christian scholars (e.g. Anthony Hoekema, J.K. van Baalen, John Gerstner) have concluded that SDA is a non-Christian cult system, CRI has continued to assert that this is not the case. We take this position based on the content of the doctrine which was stated in an official SDA publication (1957) entitled Questions on Doctrine.
Since SDA does accept the foundational doctrines of historic Christianity (The Trinity, Christ's true deity, His bodily resurrection, etc.) we do not believe that it should be classified as a non-Christian cult.
This does not mean that we endorse the entire theological structure of SDA, since a portion of it is definitely out of the mainstream of historic Christian theology (e.g. Sabbatarianism, conditional immorality or soul sleep, annihiliation of the wicked). Though we would adamantly disagree with Adventists regarding these above mentioned doctrines, it should be added that one could hold these views and remain a believing Christian. In other words, these doctrines do not secure or necessarily inhibit salvation.
Source: Seventh-day Adventism">Christian Research Institute statement on SDA
Others point out that SDA also also includes teachings that are contrary to the gospel, and are unorthodox in nature.
Historically, evangelicals have had difficulty defining and categorizing SDA. Much SDA doctrine is biblically orthodox. Within its ranks are many true Christians, some even in positions of prominence. At various points in its history, most notably in the 1888 General Conference, the SDA church has been shaken by the biblical gospel. In the 1970s this became quite intense (Se: Paxton, Geoffrey, J., The Shaking of Adventism). Unfortunately, it produced a polarization. The church administrators generally became more entrenched in the unorthodox positions of traditional SDA, while some pastors and even whole congregations left or were asked to leave the SDA church ("From Controversy to Crisis," CRI Journal, Vol. 11, No. 1, pp. 914). In official publications the SDA church continues to defend Ellen White legends, and maintain there was no difference in the degree of inspiration she received from that received by Bible writers (Review & Herald, 4 October 1928, p. 11; "Source of Final Appeal," Adventist Review, 3 June 1971, pp. 46; G. A. Irwin, Mark of the Beast, p. 1; "The Inspiration and Authority of the Ellen G. White Writings," Adventist Review, 15 July 1982, p. 3; Ministry, October 1981, p. 8; see also, Judged by the Gospel, pp. 12530). In their June, 2000, General Conference they voted to more aggressively affirm and support the "Spirit of Prophecy through the ministry of Ellen White"(Adventist Today, [online: July 2000] ). They also teach a number of other doctrines clearly irreconcilable with the biblical gospel (see "Doctrine," below). So long as these things continue, evangelicals must persist in questioning the status of the SDA church organization in Christianity, and much more, her claim to be Gods only true, end-time "Remnant Church."
SDA teachings most clearly contrary to the gospel and unorthodox in nature are its insistence on water baptism as an essential prerequisite to salvation, its teaching about the end time significance of sabbath observance to identification of true believers, and its doctrine of the Investigative Judgement.
In effect, Seventh-day Adventism's doctrines span the range from orthodox through aberrant, heterodox, sub-orthodox and heretical.
For this reason, the publishers of Apologetics Index advise Christians not to get involved in Seventh-day Adventism, and urges those who are already part of the SDA church to instead seek out a church that teaches sound, biblical theology.
There also is a lot of confusion among Seventh-day Adventist themselves. Their problems are compounded by the fact that over the past two decades, deep divisions or factions have developed within the SDA. The Christian Research Institute states:
Those who follow Adventism closely know that the last two decades have been characterized by a deep internal conflict which has divided the denomination and left many Adventist [sic] disillusioned. Today, there are various divisions and factions within SDA. Some wish that Adventism would fully enter into the evangelical mainstream, while maintaining certain Adventist distinctives. Others, the more traditional or fundamentalist Adventists often reject portions of Question on Doctrine and seek to hold on to several heresies which arose early in the Adventist movement, such as the investigative judgement, the sinful nature of Christ, and viewing Ellen G. White as the infallible interpreter of Scripture. It is the division of Adventism, who often refer to themselves as "the remnant church," or God's exclusive agent, that CRI would regard as being cultic. Some within this camp would anathematize all of Protestantism, arguing that as Sunday-keepers they will receive the mark of the beast just prior to Christ's second coming. Admisttedly, this is the extreme part of SDA, but nevertheless well-represented.
The crisis that exists within SDA today essentially centers around the investigative judgment, an unbiblical doctrine which severely compromises if not outright denies the biblical doctrine of justification by faith. Second only to the investigative judgment issue is the all-encompassing question of the inspiration and authority of the writings of Ellen G. white. The controversy which has raged regarding the writings of Mrs. White has undoubtedly shaken the entire structure of SDA.
It is out sincere hope that this 5 million member church body, which has historically been a mixture of orthodox and heretical doctrine, will move toward a more soundly biblical position and away from the doctrinal errors it has held in the past. It is our hope that the leadership of SDA will lead its people out of all forms of legalism and into the liberty that results from being justified by God's grace through faith alone (Eph. 2:8-9).
Source: Seventh-day Adventism
Discernment ministry Watchman Fellowship notes:
SDA teachings most clearly contrary to the gospel and unorthodox in nature are its insistence on water baptism as an essential prerequisite to salvation, its teaching about the end time significance of sabbath observance to identification of true believers, and its doctrine of the Investigative Judgement.
(...) Other distinctive SDA teachings include vegetarianism and other ''health'' issues, and the doctrine of ''soul sleep,'' a misnomer for the belief that between death and resurrection one is essentially non-existent except in the memory of God. This is definitely aberrant from the Bible, but does not conflict the gospel. Much of the SDA health message may actually be helpful. But when, as is often the case, spiritual stigma is attached to non-observance of its asceticism, then the gospel is compromised (Gal. 2:11-16).
(...) Even when speaking of being saved by the righteousness of Christ, Adventist writers refer to imparted righteousness, seldom to the biblical concept of imputed righteousness. Calling it ''Christ's righteousness,'' while insisting on the believer's perfection of character as a prerequisite to salvation, is at worst a thinly veiled works salvation, or at best an attempt to mix grace and works, something the Bible says is impossible to do (Rom. 11:6). Mrs. White's words are crystal clear - one will not be forgiven till all sins are eradicated from one's life and one's character is perfected. Precisely the same heresy is found (besides many others) in Mormonism. It is not the salvation by grace alone through faith alone offered in the Bible. The error is compounded by the teaching that this latter day 1844 event must be believed in to exercise the proper faith necessary to be saved. When Jesus said on the cross, ''It is finished, '' i.e. completed, paid in full, it cannot be that there is yet another salvation event more than 1800 years later, just as essential to salvation as Christ's death on the cross, in which one must believe in order to be saved. This is clearly ''another gospel'' (Gal. 1:6-9).
Even Seventh-day Adventists themselves understand that certain things set them apart from historical Christianity:
In a move almost certain to invite the scrutiny of evangelical apologists, the 57th General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church voted July 2 ''to intensify efforts to inform all church members, especially young members, about the gift of prophecy through the ministry of Ellen G. White.''
White, who was one of the leading figures in the founding of the church, has remained a controversial figure in Adventism since her death in 1915. While describing her own writings as ''the lesser light'' leading to the ''greater light'' of the Bible, the promotion of her writings by the church has stirred charges of cultism against the group.
According to a report by the Adventist News Network, several delegates registered discomfort with the resolution: "Is there any resolution with similar wording that deals with the Bible?" asked Jurrien den Hollander, an Adventist pastor from the Netherlands. Hollander's motion for such a resolution was voted and referred to committee.
And, said Don C. Schneider, a 57-year-old Adventist leader from Berrien Springs, Mich., who was just elected to head the church's North American Division, while some outside the group may question the resolution's meaning, Adventist church leaders line up behind the Bible as their source of doctrine.
"There's a very clear understanding here that Seventh-day Adventists believe in the Bible, and our faith comes out of the Bible," Schneider told CT in an interview. "There's no question among the group here."
Schneider, who had been in charge of one of church activities in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin, added that he would gladly explain the group's position to any apologists or others who have questions.
"I'd be most pleased to tell anyone about my priorities of the Bible ahead of anyone else," he said.
Mark Kellner, Adventist Church Reaffirms 'Gift of Prophecy', Christianity Today, July 7, 2000 (Author is a Seventh-day Adventist)
(NOTE: Mark Kellner - who authored the above-quoted article some 30 months before he became the assistant director for news and information for the SDA's General Conference Communications Department - wants to make sure people read his entire article at the URL provided. He has been made aware of the fact that - as a matter of policy - Apologetics Index is specifically designed to encourage indepth research.
As an aside: previously, the quote shown above was shorter, which led Mr. Kellner to ask us to quote more - and to complain to Christianity Today that we quoted too much...)
It is, of course, always good to see people 'line up behind the Bible as their source of doctrine.' But Jan Paulsen, president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, shows that the official line is quite different - emphasizing both the Bible and the writings of Ellen G. White:
A further word needs to be said about our being "loyal to our heritage and to our identity." Some would have us believe that there have been significant shifts in recent times in regard to doctrines that historically have been at the heart of Seventh-day Adventism.
Take specifically our understanding of judgment and Christ's ministry in the heavenly sanctuary and the prophetic messages in which these teachings are contained. Some are suggesting that since the 1980 (Glacier View) meetings, the very teachings that the church affirmed that year at those meetings have been abandoned, and that the church has essentially moved to accept the very positions it rejected then. Such a claim is a distortion of reality, and nothing could be further from the truth. The historic sanctuary message, based on Scripture and supported by the writings of Ellen White, continues to be held to unequivocally. And the inspired authorities on which these and other doctrines are based, namely the Bible supported by the writings of Ellen White, continue to be the hermeneutical foundation on which we as a church place all matters of faith and conduct. Let no one think that there has been a change of position in regard to this.
Source: Perspectives on Issues Facing the World Seventh-day Adventist Church, by Jan Paulsen, president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Adventist Review, from comments made at the May, 2002 SDA General Conference. Emphasis added by Apologetics Index.
Thus officially, Seventh-day Adventists rely on what they consider to be the 'inspired authorities', here identified as 'the Bible supported by the writings of Ellen White.'
The SDA's reverence for Ellen G. White is problematic, to say the least:
Ellen White never held official title as the head of the church, but was one of its founders and acknowledged spiritual leader. She rather disingenuously declined to claim the title of "prophet," calling herself a "messenger" instead (Damsteegt, P.G., et. al., Seventh-day Adventists Believe. . ., p. 224). But she claimed to have the "spirit of prophecy," and that her messages were direct from God for the guidance and instruction of the church. With her knowledge and consent others called her a prophet, and even "the Spirit of Prophecy" (Barnett, Maurice, Ellen G. White & Inspiration, pp. 517). Having only a third grade education, Ellen White said for years she was unable to read, bolstering the claim that her beautiful prose was inspired by God. However, it has been discovered that she not only read, but plagiarized other Christian authors throughout virtually all her writings. The sad facts of this matter have been thoroughly and indisputably established in several books. (e.g., see; Rea, Walter, The White Lie; and Judged by the Gospel, pp. 36183). Ellen White died in 1915 at age eighty-eight.
Richard Kyle, an evangelical Christian writing from the perspective of a historian in his largely un-critical book ''The Religious Fringe: A History Of Alternative Religions In America,'' writes:
Whether the Seventh-day Adventists are a sect, a cult or a denomination is a matter of intense controversy. Some evangelical scholars have insisted they that are cultic. Others have claimed that they are not. Some scholars have reviewed the institutional developments of the Seventh-day Adventists and asked whether this onetime sect has now become a denomination. This study will regard Seventh-day Adventism as a sect. To be sure, they possess some cultic characteristics. The Seventh-day Adventists have added a significant number of new and deviant teachings to the Christian tradition. They uplift a prophetic teacher, Ellen G. White, and come close to making her teachings a "third testament." Some of the prophetic positions and their teachings on the ''Investigative Judgment'' have pushed at the boundaries of Christian orthodoxy. In particular, the Investigative Judgment doctrine, which diminishes the work of Christ on the cross by emphasizing his continuing atoning work, stretches the limits of orthodoxy. The Seventh-day Adventists maintain some other beliefs and practices that give them a pronounced sectarian character, not only in the nineteenth century but also in the late twentieth. In particular, their maintenance of the sabbath and rigid dietary practices separate them form most of Christian society.
Richard Kyle, The Religious Fringe: A History Of Alternative Religions In America. InterVarsity Press, Ill. 1993. p. 150-151.
The publishers of Apologetics Index consider Seventh-day Adventism to be a cult of Christianity, due to its adherence to un-biblical and extra-biblical doctrines and practices, as well as the movement's failure to repent from its reliance on the works of Ms. Ellen G. White.
Note: Regarding the Clear Word Bible, referred to in the articles below, SDAnet declares:
''Out of his personal devotional life and study of the Scriptures Dr. Jack Blanco, chairman of the religion department at Southern College of Seventh-day Adventists in Tennessee, produced his own paraphrase of the New Testament. He undertook this project at his own initiative and was not commissioned to do so by any committee or administrator of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Though it was printed by the Review and Herald Publishing Association the issue of officially endorsing it has never come up in any church council. As such, it represents the effort of an individual Seventh-day Adventist to make the Scriptures more readable for himself and for those who choose to read it. As a paraphrase it is appropriate for ones personal devotional study. For detailed doctrinal Bible study the serious student will choose to use a more literal translation of the original languages. The Seventh-day Adventist Church does not limit the various meaningful avenues through which its members study the Scriptures and we would hope that Dr. Blanco's significant personal effort would contribute to this purpose as well. Those who read it prayerfully should receive a blessing from it, just as they do from other paraphrases of the Bible. This Bible should in no way be considered an official Seventh-day Adventist Bible, nor did Dr. Blanco intend for it to be considered as such.''
However, another statement at the site shows the Clear Word Bible, a paraphrase that includes the teachings of Ellen G. White, is widely used within the Seventh-day Adventist churches:
The introduction suggests that it is not for public reading in churches,etc., but what we are hearing suggests that it is already getting a fairly wide usage for that purpose, Sabbath School lessons, church school Bible classes, etc. IT has been advertised at least twice with a full-color full-page advertisement on the back of the Adventist Review, which includes endorsements from the General Conference president, Richard Davisson of Andrews University, and others. (These endorsements also appear on the back jacket of the book).
The SDAnet site also includes a letter from David Newman, editor of Ministry magazine (an SDA publication), citing his reservations regarding the Clear Word Bible:
(...) He makes it clear in the first paragraph of his Preface that "This is not a new translation but a paraphrase of the Scriptures. It is not intended for in-depth study or for public reading in churches." Unfortunately most people do not read prefaces so this very important information will be lost. Already I am hearing reports of it being used in the pulpit and as a textbook in teaching religion. Second the author misunderstands the meaning of the word "paraphrase." A paraphrase is not a loose rendering of someone elses' words with added commentary. A paraphrase whether you use the dictionary definition or the definition used in active listening simply means restating the words of another in your own words without adding to or subtracting from the original meaning. A cursory examination of the Clear Word Bible reveals the prolific addition of many ideas not found in Scripture. Thirdly, where Scripture is ambiguous the author removes the ambiguities. One is left not having to make hardly any interpretations for him or herself. The author has done it for you. God evidently intended that each reader struggle with the text and decide personally how to resolve these ambiguities and tensions. Two quick examples come to mind. In 1 Cor. 15:29 we find the difficult phrase baptized for the dead. The author resolves the difficulty by telling us that being baptized in the hope of seeing dead loved ones is meaningless if you do not believe in the resurrection. Revelation 1:10 no longer has us puzzling over which day of the week the Lord's day is. The author tells us that it is the Sabbath. Fourthly, the author has intertwined so much of Ellen White into his commentary that the general effect has been to canonize Ellen White. The author adds to Scripture in Genesis 2:25 by following Ellen White and saying that Adam and Eve were clothed with a garment of light. Daniel 8:14 is now clear that the judgment began after 2300 prophetic years. Fifthly, the title chosen for this work is most unfortunate. This is not a Bible. It is a personal commentary on Scripture but it is not the Bible. Yet the title clearly identifies it as a Bible. It is really a specialized commentary on the Bible. Sixthly, while the author says it is a paraphrase the format inside is not that of a paraphrase but that of the King James Bible. While most modern versions format by paragraph this "Bible" is formatted verse by verse so that it clearly looks like a traditional bible. Seventh, I fear what our critics will say when they find how much Ellen White has contributed to this ''bible'' without any credit being given to her at all. It would be interesting to find out what percentage of this work owes itself to Ellen White.
The Clear Word Bible: Is It The Word Of God? (Contra) By Dale Ratzlaff and Verle Streifling. Watchman Fellowship examines the SDA's Clear Word Bible: "The many changes made to the biblical text in the Clear Word Bible are ultimately destructive to the integrity of God's Word."
Seventh-day Adventists are Tampering with the Word of God (Contra) By Dale Ratzlaff
The Clear Word Bible (Contra) by Gary Mayo
Clear Word Bible Examples of where Ellen G. White's teachings were inserted into the ''paraphrase.''
Facts Seventh-day Adventists Won't Tell You At Their Seminars (Contra) ''SDA's often make every effort to appear ''evangelical'', joining in with inter-ministry groups and trying to "blend in" with the Christian community''
Seventh-day Adventism Position statement of the Christian Research Institute
Seventh-day Adventism Profile by Watchman Fellowship
Seventh-day Adventists and the US courts: road signs along the rout of a denomiationalizing sect. by Ronald Lawson, in the Journal of Church & State, June 1, 1998: "The changing participation patterns of Seventh-day Adventists in the U.S. courts are therefore excellent indicators of shifts over time in the level of tension between Adventism and the surrounding society. They thus represent road signs along its route from sect towards denomination."
Should Christians Keep The Sabbath? (Contra)
Walter Martin Interview "Walter Martin, Christianity's cult-watcher discusses Adventism in trouble," from Adventist Currents, July, 1983. Note: Make sure you also read, Did Adventist Leaders Lie To Walter Martin?
Cast Out For The Cross Of Christ by Albion Ballenger
Sabbatarianism Re-Examined Robert D. Brinsmead, Editor
Seventh-day Adventism and the Writings of Ellen G. White by J. Mark Martin (see the "7th Day Adventism - What You Should Know" site.
Seventh-day Adventism Renounced by D.M. Canright
An Evangelical Adventist? 6 messages by pastor J. Mark Martin (Requires RealAudio) The series can also be ordered on cassette tape. Part of the "7th Day Adventism - What You Should Know" site.
The Spirit Behind The Church (Video)
For those who may agree or for those who strongly disagree, viewers of this documentary will find it a most fascinating exploration into the cultic aspects of the teachings of Ellen G. White. Recommended for Christians who seek genuine answers based on the best scholarship and firm adherence to the truths of God's word.
Dr. James Kennedy, Ph.D., quoted at The Spirit Behind The Church
This video shows beyond all doubt that Ellen G. White meets all the qualifications of a false prophet. This is done with historical accuracy and heavy primary documentation. What is shown as well from the writings of the Adventist Church, is that the authoritative teachings cannot be changed and challenged. This included law keeping for salvation (conditional salvation). Also documented is the Adventist propensity for altering and changing Scripture itself. This is a video that needs to be seen not only by individuals but needs to be shown in churches as well.
Items added after August, 2002:
» Religion News Blog News Collection, various sources
» Database of archived news items
(Includes items added between Oct. 25, 1999 and Jan. 31, 2002. See about this database) Older item not in the searchable database: (Sep 8, 1999) Task Force Considers Recruiting On Campus [SDA joins other cults in lawsuit against Task Force study on Cults]
Adventists (Neutral) Entry in the Encyclopedia Britannica, includes a look at the sect's history and beliefs
Seventh-day Adventists Church Profile (Contra) by Watchman Fellowship, representing the evangelical Christian point of view.
7th Day Adventism - What You Should Know (Contra) The site is operated by pastor J. Mark Martin (Calvary Chapel), who grew up in SDA. It includes clear overviews and refutations of SDA doctrine, audio message (listen via RealAudio, or order the tapes), and a thorough bibliography.
J. Mark Martin is senior pastor of Calvary Community Church in Phoenix, a Calvary Chapel. Pastor Mark received a B.A. in theology from Pacific Union College in Angwin, California and for six years pastored in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In 1982, the Adventist Church became indignant as Mark began to teach God's grace and he was forced to resign and was ostracized from the church.
The Ellen G. White Web Site (Contra) "Investigating the claims of SDA prophet Ellen G. White" Extensive collection of research materials.
Examination of Seventh-day Adventism and Ellen G. White (Contra) 2200+ pages
Former Adventist Fellowship Online (Contra) "A place for former Adventists who have found Jesus to be their true Sabbath rest." Includes a web-based discussion forum.
Life Assurance Ministries (Contra) Former Seventh-day Adventists pastor Dale Ratzlaf reveals the hidden errors of Adventism. The site primarily describes Dale's two books, "Sabbath in Crisis," and "The Cultic Doctrine of Seventh-day Adventists."
SDA Anonymous A site...
...run by former SDAs who are neither highly supportive nor totally critical and rejecting of everything from SDAism. In others words, just because SDAs teach something does not mean it is wrong. However, everything is open to investigation, resulting in the keeping of some things and, in many cases, rejection of others. The main thrust behind this ''SDAnonymous'' website is to serve as a ''transitional ministry'' for both current and former SDA Christians.
SDAnet is a media organization operated in the public interest by members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. While the owners and operators of SDAnet are members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, they are not acting in any way as official spokespersons for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Except for those contributions which are clearly labeled as official Seventh-day Adventist Church material, the opinions expressed by contributors to the various SDAnet activities are those of the individual authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, nor do they necessarily reflect the opinions of the owners and operators of SDAnet.
Seventh-day Adventists: Christian or Cult? (Contra) A series of articles examining SDA beliefs. Concludes:
We cannot accept that Adventism is a Christian Church just because it asserts that it teaches Christian dogma from the Bible. Instead, we must compare Adventism's fundamental doctrines with those long accepted by Christianity When we do so, we are forced to conclude that Adventism distorts the Bible to perpetrate its own religion essentially denying the true Good News of the Bible in order to focus upon its own heretical theology.
The Seventh Day Adventist Church (Contra) Good collection of articles on all aspects of Seventh-day Adventism
Seventh-day Adventist Church (Pro) The official site.
What Seventh-day Adventists Need To Know (Contra) "I simply want to supply some important information that has been 'hidden' for a long time by the church and it's hierarchy, some things that you won't hear in the Doug Batchelor's 'Millennium of Prophecy Seminar'."
For statistical information, see Adherents.com
The modern commercial concept of cereal food originated in the vegetarian beliefs of the American Seventh-day Adventists, who in the 1860s formed the Western Health Reform Institute, later renamed the Battle Creek Sanitarium, in Battle Creek, Mich. The entrepreneurial possibilities of the ground, thin-baked cereal dough served to the Sanitarium's patients inspired two men, C.W. Post and W.K. Kellogg, each to found his own business. In the late 20th century the ready-to-eat breakfast cereal industry sold the equivalent of several billion bowls of cereal to Americans yearly, having far surpassed the market for the traditional "hot" cereals made from rolled oatmeal or enriched wheat farina.
Breakfast Cereal, Encyclopedia Britannica
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