Carson Tells AP: Seventh-Day Adventism Is Right for Him

30 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Ben Carson Talks About Religion.

As his surge in heavily evangelical Iowa puts a spotlight on his faith, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson is opening up about his membership in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. As Ben Carson seeks the Republican nomination for president, he’s also drawing notice to the church that has counted him as a member since he was a child. In an interview with The Associated Press, days after GOP rival Donald Trump criticized Carson’s church, the retired neurosurgeon said his relationship with God was “the most important aspect. And in his own criticism, he said it was a “huge mistake” that the top Adventist policymaking body recently voted against ordaining women. “I don’t see any reason why women can’t be ordained,” he said.

Voters have come to know him for his faith-infused policy stands, including his opposition to abortion and gay marriage, without hearing much from him about his Adventism. Ben Carson, who is considering a run for President in 2016, has been invited to speak and close the Sunday night session at the SBC Pastors’ Conference in Columbus.

The denomination was established in 1863 in Battle Creek, Michigan, and now claims 18.7 million members worldwide, including 1.2 million in North America. Carson and the Pastors’ Conference leadership, and yet his invitation to speak at a conference for SBC pastors does cause us some concerns, as it has concerned other SBC pastors as well. Let’s interpret it this way.’ ” Trump has appeared to be trying to paint Carson as part of a faith outside the mainstream, not a religious conservative who shares the values of Iowa’s evangelicals. Ellen White is considered a prophet, but her extensive religious writings, while deeply influential in shaping the church, are not given the same weight as Scripture. In 2012, Mitt Romney, a Mormon, won just 14 percent of Iowans who described themselves as born again or evangelical Christian, according to Iowa caucus exit polls, amid deep skepticism about his church and his politics. “Donald Trump is Donald Trump.

Their official theology denies the doctrine of Hell in favor of annihilation, denies the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, and believes that those who worship on Sunday will bear the “mark of the beast.” Also, on Easter, Dr. Adventists also have a heavy emphasis on education and many go into the medical field, due in part to the spiritual discipline within the church of staying healthy.

Carson wrote on his Facebook wall, “Let us also remember that Jews, Christians and Muslims all believe in God, and while there are ideological differences in who Jesus was, we should find peace in the fact that we are all God’s children.” Certainly, we do not all worship the same God – we worship the Trinity whom Muslims and Jews would deny. Many of these disheartened faithful, called Adventists for their belief in Christ’s imminent return, continued studying the Bible together and set Saturday as their Sabbath day of worship. Adventist officials, like Southern Baptist leaders, eschew the formal interreligious dialogues that are part of American Christian life and also don’t join the major ecumenical alliances and associations that try to unite Christians. However, Johnny Ramirez-Johnson, an Adventist who is also a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, a prominent evangelical school in Pasadena, California, said Adventist and evangelical theologians have increasingly collaborated in recent years, signaling that at least on a scholarly level, common ground is being found.

Along with their focus on health, Adventists are known for making religious freedom a very high priority, not just for the church, but for all faith groups. However, why not invite another courageous voice whose doctrines would more closely align theologically with Southern Baptists, and who would equip us to live courageously in the midst of our culture where religious freedom is eroding? Over the years, the church has developed a broad religious freedom focus that includes collaboration with a wide array of other religious organizations. While the reasons for the objections were mixed, some cited the religious weight given to White’s opinions, even though Adventists, like other conservative Christians, consider only the Bible authoritative.

This past May, Seventh-day Adventist officials issued a letter in light of Carson’s candidacy urging members to preserve the separation of church and state during the 2016 election season and keep politics out of the pulpit. His mother was an Adventist, and he was baptized into the church twice at his own request, because he felt he was too young the first time to grasp the significance. These perceptions continue to hamper our witness in an increasingly purple America, where missional efforts are often misunderstood as Southern Baptists asking people to become more politically conservative. While the convention hall room will be full of red politically, many of our congregations back home are increasingly politically diverse, and these one-sided affiliations can be difficult to explain, considering many already believe that Southern Baptists view God as a Republican.

Videos are plentiful online of Carson debating atheists, upholding Adventist teaching that God created the Earth in six days, and giving personal testimonies at churches. Many have lamented the lack of participation in SBC meetings by younger leaders (though trends have started to move in a positive direction, and we think that’s because of a more gospel-centered focus), and we are concerned that these kinds of speaker invitations will only hinder younger involvement. In the interview, Carson revealed he went through a brief period of questioning as a Yale University student about whether Adventism was right for him. The reason is that a younger generation is often prone to avoid anything that seemingly weds the church with a specific political party, and portrays a “God and country” narrative that is not the gospel.

So much of Bible-belt Christianity has equated, whether consciously or unconsciously, being a Christian with being a conservative, patriotic Republican. The narrative many of us were raised with was that the path to changing America or maintaining good values in our country was simply electing the right people and passing the right laws, but legislation will not transform a nation. We believe Southern Baptists must be engaged politically, but that the focus should be shaped by Scriptural convictions before generic American values.

Our desire in raising these concerns is to start a conversation regarding the purpose of our annual gathering, and why our affiliations matter, as we advance the Great Commission in America. The denomination filed a brief in support of the Muslim woman who won a Supreme Court case this year against Abercrombie & Fitch, which refused to hire her because she wore a headscarf. Given the denomination’s traditional concern for religious freedom, some Adventists have been upset by Carson’s recent comments that the U.S. should not elect a Muslim president.

Sign-up here today. ***Note: Out of our love and respect for Willy Rice, who is the president of the conference, we offered him an opportunity to respond to this blog before we posted it.

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