Ben Carson, former Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at John Hopkins Hospital, and the subject of the film Gifted Hands, is running as a Republican candidate for the 2016 Presidential race. Carson credits his Seventh-Day Adventist upbringing, guided by his single mother, as one of the main factors in his success as a brain surgeon and bringing his family out of poverty (photo credit: cnn.com)
What is a Seventh-Day Adventist? To most people who know anything about them, Seventh-Day Adventists are those who go to church on Saturdays, instead of Sundays, and who have a pretty strict diet. Until recently, evangelical and mainline Christians have tended to view Seventh-Day Adventism as some type of strange sect or “cult.” But attitudes have been changing over the years.
I have not followed the political race for President much this fall. But what I have noticed is a large number of evangelical Christians have come out as strong supporters of Republican candidate Ben Carson. What is surprising about the Ben Carson phenomenon among evangelicals is that he is a Seventh-Day Adventist.
It was primarily through the influence of Baptist theologian and cult expert, Walter Martin, that evangelical Christians started to rethink attitudes towards Seventh-Day Adventism, as far back as the 1950s. In The Kingdom of the Cults, Walter Martin observes that there have been signs of change within the movement (p. 535):
It should be carefully remembered that the Adventism of today is different in not a few places from the Adventism of 1844, and with that change the necessity of new evaluation comes naturally…It is my conviction that one cannot be a true Jehovah’s Witness, Mormon, Christian Scientist, etc., and be a Christian in the biblical sense of the term; but it is perfectly possible to be a Seventh-Day Adventist and be a true follower of Jesus Christ despite certain heterodox concepts.
Not everyone agrees with Walter Martin’s assessment. Some still view Seventh-Day Adventists to be “outside of the camp.” But the general trend appears to be that Seventh-Day Adventists are “within the camp” of evangelicalism, even though they do possess some quirky beliefs.
So, how did Seventh-Day Adventism start, how did it get branded as being heretical, and then how has the movement become cautiously accepted today by other Christians as being relatively OKAY? No matter where you come down on Seventh-Day Adventism, the story of it all is quite peculiar.