SAN ANTONIO, November 5, 2015 — Dr. Ben Carson, an accomplished neurosurgeon currently rising in the polls for the Republican nomination for president, is a member of the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) church, a Christian sect with beliefs odd even by Christian standards.
Among the many beliefs held by Carson and other members of the SDA Church are:
- a literal interpretation of the Bible leading to a denial of evolution in all its forms and a full embrace of creationism;
- the condemnation of all non-SDA Christians — particularly Catholics — to an existence the SDA Church equates with hell;
- that Ms. Ellen G. White was a prophetess who was visited by angels from God and was divinely inspired to write thousands of pages of rules and regulations that the SDA faithful accept as holy writ (there are now SDA “Bibles” which include White’s’ writings side-by-side with the scriptures without indicating which passages are biblical and which are White’s);
- an “investigative judgment” that claims that believers must show Jesus through their works that they are worthy of going to heaven, not just based Biblical commandments, but also on those written by White; if they do not strictly abide by those rules, they will end up burning like other non-believers;
- that the end-times will begin when the Roman Catholic Church and the United States government collude to harass, imprison, and kill members of the SDA Church for observing Saturday as the Sabbath rather than the traditional Sunday Sabbath of Catholics and other Christians; and,
- that Christ’s return is imminent, that those deemed worthy based upon the strict SDA code of conduct will be lifted up into heaven, that the rest of the Earth will be scorched and destroyed until the SDA believers return with Jesus, and that only non-sinners — true followers of SDA beliefs — will be the only ones allowed to live with Jesus for eternity on the New Earth.
Are these beliefs what most Americans would want from a presidential candidate?
The SDA Church’s roots begin with one man, William Miller. Between 1830 and 1843, Miller preached the imminent return of Jesus Christ based upon his novel interpretation of one Bible verse, Daniel 8:14: “Until two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.”
Miller somehow decided that this verse was the secret to determining the exact date of the Second Advent (second coming) of Christ. He believed that the phrase, “then shall the sanctuary be cleansed” indicated the literal destruction of the Earth by fire at Christ’s second coming.
Miller believed that “2,300 days” really meant 2,300 years and that the 2,300-year period started in 457 B.C. with the decree by Artaxerxes I of Persia to rebuild Jerusalem. Based on his interpretation of Daniel, he predicted the Second Coming on several dates, each of which came and went without the appearance of Christ. His thousands of followers (“Millerites”), who had sold all of their earthly possessions, were devastated, and Ellen G. White was one of them.
Prophetess White was soon thereafter allegedly visited by angels of God on a regular basis. This may sound familiar; it is the same story told by Muhammad and Joseph Smith, among others.
White claimed that the dates Miller claimed for the return of Christ were not wrong per se, but that Jesus had moved to different positions in heaven on those dates, not that he had planned to return to Earth.
These revelations by White revived much of the SDA Church. She claimed further that she would manifest wings and visit other planets, where she would encounter aliens like the creature Enoch before returning to Earth to write about her experiences.
Even by the standards of Muhammed flying up to heaven on a horse and the miracles of Jesus, this is pretty extreme stuff.
Carson and other Seventh-Day Adventists believe like other Biblical literalists that the Earth was created in six days, that it is only 6,000 years old, and that the ancestors of every animal in the entire world today were placed on Noah’s ark, two by two, to survive a flood that killed every living creature on earth, one of many vicious fairy tales found in the Bible.
Carson gave the keynote speech at the 2011 “Celebration of Creation” conference put on by the SDA Church, in which he made clear not only his disbelief in, but even his contempt for the theory of evolution.
“Now, this whole creation/evolution controversy has been raging on, really, since the beginning because, what is Satan’s plan? To get rid of God,” said Carson in his 48-minute speech. “To disparage God. To mischaracterize God. And what is creation?” he asked. “Creation is God’s signature, that he created the world and that He created us.”
With this Carson shows that his entire belief system, a system upon which he has focused his entire life, is based upon the completely invalidate notion of creationism without Darwinian evolution by natural selection.
Carson expressed his desire to write a book called “The Organ of Species,” a play on Darwin’s “Origin of Species.” He said that this book would describe the complexity of many of the organs in the human body in an attempt to prove that we were created and not evolved.
The notion of irreducible complexity is an argument often put forth by creationists. It can be easily refuted: If, as Carson postulates, the human body’s complexity is proof that there must have been a designer or creator, then the designer or creator must be vastly more complex than the human body that he designed, hence an even more complex designer must have created the extremely complex designer.
This is called an infinite regression.
Not only does Carson refuse to believe in evolution — even the Catholic Church refuses to deny it and instead stands by the irrefutable, and thus quite underwhelming, argument that, “God works in mysterious ways” — but he endorses the creation fairy tale in the Bible.
Carson never discusses his SDA beliefs on the campaign trail, and there is good reason for that; most Americans would consider them insane. But Carson continues to believe these things.
Americans are tolerant of odd religious beliefs. Most of us don’t believe that a candidate’s religion disqualifies him from public office. But that a physician, a man trained in science should be able so blithely to hold beliefs so at variance with the evidence is reason to think twice about his candidacy, no matter how charming and intelligent he seems to be.