Pastor Peter’s “Letter to My Grown Children: Ben Carson & SDA”

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An open letter to my grown children

Hi fellas,

You know that I regarded Mitt Romney unelectable for Presidency because he belongs to a cult – Mormonism. There are aspects of Mormonism so patently irrational that someone with such views become unelectable. (e.g. Polytheism, extra Scriptural books, native Americans being Jews turned dark for their sins, etc.)

What about Ben Carson? He is a Seventh Day Adventist, and in evangelical circles, the SDA church is considered a cult. I like many things Ben Carson said, but is he electable? Even if you are not really interested in politics, you can learn a little about Seventh Day Adventism from here.

Ben Carson

The media has been very confused reporting about evangelical views on Ben Carson. I can’t speak for all evangelicals, but I offer my view as one who is familiar with the SDA.

First, what is a cult? Essential Truth: A cult perverts the teachings of the Bible to the point that one cannot find God’s redemption through their teachings. Conduct: A cult tends to claim they are the only ones who can saved, has founders and teachers they regard as equal or almost equal in authority as Scripture, and has oppressive or manipulative practices designed to hold the consciences of their members in captivity.

Unlike the Mormons, most SDA doctrines are similar to Evangelicals, such as the authority of Scripture, the Triune God, the deity of Jesus, the redemptive work he did on the cross, his return, etc. Where they stand out as being different from other Christians are: (1) the Seventh Day; (2) Adventism; (3) Faith and Health.

The Seventh Day. They are called “Seventh Day” because they hold to the Jewish Sabbath (Saturday) as the proper day to worship. While I believe they are mistaken in this, I don’t think this error qualifies them as a cult. Worshiping God on the wrong day should not disqualify one from salvation.

The conduct of the SDA concerning the Sabbath, however, is disconcerting. They believe that anyone who worships on Sunday has the mark of the Beast which precludes salvation from all of us. This is supporting belief is core to the SDA, and makes salvation almost exclusively theirs. They are also legalistic about what it means to keep the Sabbath, like the Orthodox Jews, creating the kind of social structures Jesus repeatedly challenged and rejected. In addition, they have created a conspiracy theory that the government of the USA will eventually begin to persecute those who worship on the Jewish Sabbath. Consequently, they regularly engage in fear mongering about a government crackdown on them, when in reality, the US government can’t be bothered with them. There actions to support the Saturday Sabbath have clear features of a cult. So their seventh day error (minor) is made more serious with (1) condemnation of all others; (2) legalism; (3) conspiracy theory with fear mongering. In this last regard, you can understand why Carson supports the right to bear arms against a government that can turn tyrannical.

Ben Carson has been breaking the Sabbath as the SDA understands it. The SDA General Conference signed a petition called, “PLEASE DON’T” asking Carson not to go into politics. When Carson did not desist, they called for a formal hunger fast until Carson quits. He is considered “barely Adventist.” He is not supported by the SDA for run for office. It seems apparent that Carson rejects the cult-like manipulation of the SDA with regard to the Sabbath. While he has not spoken up against it or leave the SDA, his actions in breaking the SDA Sabbath, in rejecting their petition, and in refusing to submit to their formal hunger fast for him to quit, all speak well of him, that he is not conditioned by the mind control that SDA imposes on its members.

Adventism. They are called “Adventists” because they have an peculiar emphasis on the coming (advent) of Jesus. One of their founders (William Miller) predicted the return of Christ to be between 21 March 1843 and 21 March 1844. When nothing happened on 21 Mar 1843, he recalculated it to be 18 April 1844, still nothing happened, so a third date was proposed (22 October 1844). Of course nothing happened. They call it their “Great Disappointment.” Another person than proposed that 22 October 1844 was correct all along. What they got wrong was the event. On 22 October 1844, Jesus entered the “heavenly sanctuary,” that is, he left heaven, came to this place somewhere between heaven and earth, to conduct “investigative judgment.” It was a two-stage return.

Mrs Ellen G. White was one of the Millerites who claimed the gift of prophecy and visions. She galvanized this view of the pre-advent investigative judgment in the heavenly sanctuary teaching into the Seventh Day Adventist Church. The SDA will not claim her teachings are on par with Scripture, but they are slavishly committed to them as works that result from her gift of prophecy. She became the reference point from which they cannot depart. They could disagree with her theoretically, but practically, they say she has been given prophecies and visions and so she cannot be wrong. It is a deliberate doublespeak. However, it is also apparent that many in their ranks have reinterpreted her teachings. They ascribe to White more authority than any other Christian group.

Ellen G White

Their teachings about the coming of Christ are bizarre, and not supported by Scripture. In order to retain their teachings, they have to elevate the prophecies and visions of White, so her teachings should not be contradicted. Like the seventh day issue, which does not make them a cult, the supporting arguments are cult-like. Similarly, the strange teachings on the second coming do not make them a cult, but their resorting to the authority of White makes them cult-like.

Faith & Health. Adventists place a heavy emphasis on diet. In this regard, they look to the OT and suggest that the dietary laws of the OT should be more or less obeyed if we want to honor God in our bodies. They do not require people to abstain from food like pork, but strongly suggest it; and are strong advocates of vegetarianism or compliance with OT food laws. (e.g. Kellogg of the SDA creating cereal for breakfast.) They consider it a denominational tenet not to consume alcohol, coffee, tea, or anything with caffeine, and will hold health talks about the negative effects of caffeine, which are all very dubious. They established hospitals and other health institutions which probably form the thrust of their outreach. They are regarded as somewhat intrusive into the daily life of their members, extreme and controlling in their view of diet, and engage in pre-Christian legalism in their daily living. They do live healthily as a whole, but their health attraction is not enough to draw people in on account of their legalism.

Conclusion

My take is that the SDA were cultic in the way they operated and tried to control their members, but they have been loosening up. I find it hard to determine the extent to which they have relaxed their enslavement of the consciences of their members. They are not a viable denomination and we should never point a person to an SDA church, or subscribe to their teachings. I would consider them not a cult, but they are in that gray zone, and I may change my take if they become more extreme. I believe they are redeemed people (unlike the Mormons who are without the possibility of redemption within the Mormon Church.)

If we look at those who are “barely Adventist,” we have a more reasonable group of people. Carson is definitely regarded by the SDA as barely Adventist, not one they support, not one they hold up as example of what SDA should be. That speaks rather well of him.

The belief of worship on Saturday does not make him unelectable, but the beliefs created to support Saturday worship are potential problems. (1) Does Carson believe that we all have the mark of the Beast? (2) What is his view of the role of the government? Does he think it is patently evil and incompatible with his faith as the SDA teaches it? If so, why does he run, if not, why is he still in the SDA?

Saturday

I will be ready to say he is electable if he can address these two points satisfactorily. At this point, I am withholding judgment on whether Ben Carson is electable.

With all my love,

papa

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