How important is it really that Dr. Ben Carson is a Seventh Day Adventist? And does it matter if the Seventh Day Adventists are a cult?
Donald Trump, the master at sowing doubt while retaining deniability (“it wouldn’t be nice if I said [insert insult here] but I have to be nice.”), said “Seventh Day Adventist, I don’t know about. I just don’t know about.” Trump says nothing without a purpose—of course he knows that many people consider them a cult, and he’s playing the card.
Questioned about the remarks on Face The Nation on Sunday (see the video at the 2:50 mark), Trump doubled down on his “I don’t know” comment. “That wasn’t meant to be an insult,” he said—so why bring it up at all? He brought it up because he knows some people think it’s a cult and will react accordingly.
Almost a year ago, I wrote a popular piece titled “8 Signs You May Be In a Cult” and used the Adventists as an example.
Since I know Christianity best, I’ll use that for my examples. The Seventh Day Adventist church professes 28 fundamental beliefs. Number 18 is entitled “The Gift of Prophecy” and states in part:
One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is prophecy. This gift is an identifying mark of the remnant church and was manifested in the ministry of Ellen. G. White. As the Lord’s messenger, her writings are a continuing and authoritative source of truth which provide for the church comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction.
The simple test is this: would the Seventh Day Adventist beliefs survive independently if Ellen G. White were a false prophet? I am not arguing whether she is or is not, but you see how the test makes this question very clear. If a Seventh Day Adventist would defend Ellen G. White’s standing as a prophet above the Bible she preached from, that’s a sign.
The easiest way to determine whether Carson holds firmly to Adventist teachings is to ask him. By all appearances, he seems to keep their doctrine: he’s a vegetarian, doesn’t drink coffee, and appears to agree with many of their views on health. None of those are bad things. And so what?
If the Seventh Day Adventists are a cult, they’re a benign one, from a political viewpoint. I’d say the same about a whole lot of other groups which I won’t name.
And that doesn’t detract from Carson’s statement that he wouldn’t support a Muslim in the White House. Islam is a fundamentally different system than Christianity or other religions, in that it contains a political-legal system within it. That’s what Carson was referring to, not some religious doctrine.
Also, people are free to leave the Seventh Day Adventists without having their heads forcibly removed from their bodies. That says a lot.
A larger point here is that a person’s religious beliefs and doctrine don’t disqualify them from the office of president—their commitment to America and their political views may disqualify them in that without loyalty to the country how can they be trusted, but the job in the Oval Office is not to lead people to a religious solution.
So if a Catholic were running against a Mormon, I’d have to consider their political views as paramount, and my personal views of their religious doctrine as a separate issue. If I don’t like Mormons because of their doctrine, or because I consider them a cult, I have to determine if those are really relevant to their ability to lead our country, or just my own private dislikes.
There were people in 2012 who thought Mitt Romney should never be elected president because he’s a Mormon and would deceive people about the nature of Christ–and because he wears funny Mormon underwear. If it was the job of the president to supply Biblical truth about Christ, I’d agree that’s a disqualifying factor, but it’s not. So it’s nonsense to use that argument. Even a committed Christian in the White House won’t necessarily lead people to Christ, so having a cult member in the White House isn’t necessarily the worst possible thing.
I’d rather have someone who believes in God, and has some doctrinal issues, but espouses a Biblical morality than an atheist, humanist, or Barack Obama, who’s functionally an atheist. And honestly, I’d rather have Ben Carson, Seventh Day Adventist, than Donald Trump, lapsed Presbyterian.
I’m not about to become a Seventh Day Adventist, and I don’t hear Carson proselytizing about his faith. He only applies it to his life. We should all learn the truth and pray for our leaders (and candidates), but let’s not descend into the fear-mongering and name-calling we’ve seen throughout American political history.
(crossposted from sgberman.com)