Editorial: Big Tent Advocates Get Unexpected Benefit from Carson Presidential Bid

This website has posted several articles offering analyses and critiques of Dr. Ben Carson's presidential bid.  As an independent Adventist news organization, we can appreciate his core value of living and speaking according to one’s conscience.  Throughout his campaign Carson has steadily spoken his truth to power, whether that power be in the political sphere or within the denomination.  For example, his strident pronouncements against abortion differ from the Seventh-day Adventist Church's official position. And when it comes to responding to an enemy, Carson appears to adhere to a philosophy that is the polar opposite to that of favorite son and hero Desmond Doss.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://spectrummagazine.org/article/2015/11/09/editorial-big-tent-advocates-get-unexpected-benefit-carson-presidential-bid

A specialist is a very broad person honed to a very fine point. In this case, that point is poles apart from competence in governance. He offers evangelical fervor to a very mixed field of candidates, yet his worldview is seriously limited and compromised by his misinformation on history and science. From Joseph to the Hitler To dating creation. Yet his agenda for governance is equally warped and vague. Tom Z

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If he represents the epitome of Adventists, how many who also call themselves Adventist agree with his beliefs?

He represents the DIY Adventists who are legion in some areas, particularly the West Coast, but as he is running for POTUS of the entire nation, the lack of cogent answers to the continuing questions ofhis claims raise more questions for SdA members.


Ben Carson has been an excellent physician, and I have no doubt that he has a “protestant ethos” or about his “gentleman behaviour” and since a certain prayer breakfast nobody would accuse him of being “politically correct”. But this is hardly what it takes to be a president, taken serious around the world. In Germany - even in reputable media - the news about his views on pyramids has gone absolutely viral, his pronouncements on the holocaust and bearing weapons caused pure disbelief … and his views on abortion - valid or not (remember he is a medical doctor) - are barely understood in Europe. Is he taken seriously? No. Are the media fair? Of course not. Does all this help any camp within the church? Not really.


Check out the news item “Welcome to the Big Leagues Ben Carson” by Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann. Ben is a nice man, but he is a novice in the pressure cooker of politics. He attacked the press for attempting to verify his claims and was clearly uncomfortable with their questions. The Knowledge Movement Blog (pro African American and pro Democrat) has also checked out his political statements and compared them to his life experiences eg. his current views on welfare and his reliance on welfare as a child) and found several contradictions. He can learn and grow over time, as we all do, but as it stands he may not be experienced enough to enter the global arena of world politics. Rene Gale


i’m not so sure ben is really such a big tent adventist, at least from a muslim or probably even gay perspective…he also seems to be anti-media, which is kind of counter intuitive for a big tent person, for instance pope francis…from what i’ve seen, i actually suspect that ben may tend towards fundamentalism, or at least some kind of belief in absolutes…he’s certainly being perceived as a person with definite beliefs…

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I’m not sure why “big tent advocates” would benefit from Dr. Carson’s philosophy. He does not set church policy; neither is he an official church spokesman. He’s a layman, like most of us. That fact that he’s in the public eye, and may hold some unorthodox views, does not mean the church will suddenly change its requirements for membership or church office.

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The size of the Adventist theological tent can be rightly determined only by the written counsel of God, not by human opinion, human culture, human scholarship, or human experience. In the case of Ben Carson, he is an embarrassment to the church both on account of his deficient doctrinal witness and his alliance with forces whose agenda seeks unity between church and state—an agenda which runs contrary both to classic Adventist eschatology and the divine reverence for free choice as operative in the great controversy between good and evil.


Ben Carson is operating in a political environment where rationality always takes a back seat to how we feel about a candidate. And in this environment he is doing exceptionally well with how people feel about him and the other candidates.

As for whether he is speaking to “the value of a church full of diverse, kingdom-committed members” is perhaps another matter. He is not speaking as a representative of the Seventh-day Adventist church. He is testifying to his faith.

As a recent USA Today article noted, “Carson, a Seventh-day Adventist, recently described himself in an interview with CNN as “not a real religious person.””

“I’m a person who has a deep and abiding faith and relationship with God,” Carson told CNN. “But I’m not really into a lot of religious dogma and rituals — ‘You can’t do that, and you can’t do this.’ I don’t believe in that. I believe you have to have a deep and abiding faith in God.”

What Dr. Carson is proving is this. Personal testimony is indisputable. He is not saying what is, he is saying what he believes. And when one hears a person believes such and such, there is no argument incited, only acceptance of the person or not.

What people are attracted to when his personal faith is examined is not his faith, but his personhood as a person with religious beliefs. And while people may disagree with the prospect that the pyramids were grain storage systems, they are perfectly OK with Ben Carson because he does not attempt to change their beliefs about the pyramids.

The Gospel of Jesus does not attempt to change people’s beliefs. It attempts to assure them of God’s love for them, a love that comes with no pre- or Post-conditions. What is refreshing to me about Ben Carson’s testimony is that he declares faith boldly but without pretext.

Seventh-day Adventist evangel(istic) presentations seek not so much to assure people, but to convince people of who they are as bearers of the Gospel and why those who hear must join the bearers and adopt their social conventions. Ben Carson does not embrace that method or outcome, which is in many ways an asset in the wider community, while it feels dissonant for some within the church.



Undoubtedly, you are correct Kevin!


Why is a diversity in the way we rest on the Sabbath necessary. Surely, the Scriptural principles are sufficiently broad to cope with the boundless energy of our youth and the need for rest of octagonarians and others. These Scriptural principles are designed to help us avoid the multitude of distractions that would prevent us from benefiting from the opportunities God offers us through his presence.

And then you suggest that big tent Adventism “repents of the narrowness of traditional interpretations of the AntiChrist and of end time eschatology.” Yes, I agree that through the years we have often erred in our expression of the truth of the apocalytic prophecies. And there is constant need to study the Word so that we might rightly divide the Scriptures. I agree that the apocalyptic prophecies were not intended to make us political pundits in these end-times, experts in the geo-politics of the last generations.

Rather, the broad-brush big picture of the end-time world as presented in the apocalyptic prophecies is designed to provide a challenge to followers of the lamb to avoid apostasy and deception. Saints and martyrs across the centuries have had no difficulty in identifying Antichrist! Why should we?! Have we succumbed to an hermeneutical slumber and historical amnesia, the better to fit the spirit of the age? Those that have succumbed to such things will be swept away in the absolute deluge of apostasy and delusion, abroad in this generation! May God preserve each of us from such a fate.

I want to ask you a genuine question or two? Have you ever heard an extended presentation of our traditional understanding of Antichrist and of end time eschatology by a well-honed teacher of the Word? And perhaps, more to the point, have you ever made these subjects the focus of prayful study and meditation?

Then too, Carmen, you write to distinguish yourself from those, like me, who believe that the Spirit of God can and does lead believers to a committment to “monolithic truth.” Such a united committment to monolithic truth is the exact reason why the GC Session in San Antonio was invited to study deeper in search of a united Scriptural hermeneutic. Unfortunately, several Adventist scholars have already declared their personal disinterest in such a project, believing it to be an unworthy goal.

The apocalyptic prophecies give a breadth and depth to an understanding of the reality of “gospel of the kingdom” as few other Scriptures do. The kingdoms and political powers of this world are indeed shaking. But we will “receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken.” So then. “let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear.” (Heb 12: 28)

I wish like every thinking Adventist to live “according to the dictates of my own conscience.” I have little fear to be offside with Adventist leaders. And I want my conscience to be informed by “rightly dividing the Word of truth” and by millennia of Christian history.

[Why has my comment been edited without my permission].

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In America, if something is shown to be crazy, inaccurate, or just plain false it often doesn’t matter. We can dismiss just about anything with the comment: “It’s the liberal press. You can’t trust anything they report.” It’s a wonderfully convenient way to bury our heads in the sand.

An interesting take on the Ben Carson run for the presidency, but I am not convinced it is “big tent” Adventism being portrayed. I am not sure Dr. Carson is running on a truly servant platform as a visionary leader that will bring America to a higher standard, or simply a blinded by politics and Christianity blending that carries with it a lot of self promotion. Does he have a vison for all Americans or is it only for those who embrace a Judeo-Christian value system? Does he see the Constitution as a document truly meant to be of “the people” (meaning all the citizens believers and non believers) or is it a document that can only be supported by Judeo-Christian virtuous peoples? What kind of truth is he speaking to power? What kind of power is he speaking to? What kind of power does he want to replace that which he is speaking to, with?

Sure, Dr. Carson presents himself as a humble, approachable believer, but not especially tolerant nor friendly to others that don’t share his views of morality. He must be a president for all the people, not just conservative, fundamentalist Evangelicals, for which the polls tell the story of their enthusiastic support of him. What of the rest of the elecorate?

What it boils down to is who is the real Dr. Carson? Does he even know?


The culture of America is getting so depraved by the week that if a candidate can …
have the gift of gab,
be funny,
lie through their teeth promising wealth and security for as many as possible,
be a media darling
offend as few as possible…
then they might…
get some good poll numbers

This article does not endorse Ben Carson for President.

This article is not about Ben Carson advocating for a big tent in any sphere.

The purpose of this article is to invite one to observe that a denomination which gives breathing room for individual conscience and belief (in this case it is Ben Carson’s conscience and belief) is a healthy denomination. God’s way allows for each to be persuaded and to serve in his own way. This would make the music of a harmonic orchestra, which is more appealing than a monotone chant.


It is impossible for us in Europe to decide what Ben Carson has really said and what is only distortion by the press. But I appreciate that you find these kind words about him. I have only met him one week, but you are describing the Ben Carson I met. Of course we don’t agree in every detail and every point, but he seems to be an open minded person, who actually reads books that don’t have neurosurgery in the title. I don’t know if he is good for the job, but then, who is?


You’re letting your bias direct your perceptions - as we all do :grinning:.

Of course, a specialist in any are is a “specialist” because he has honed in on a specific area of study. As a result, other fields get less scrutiny. The question then becomes, what about Ben Carson’s specialty qualifies him to run a government. The same question can be asked any of our former presidents, including the present one. When it comes to that, Carson has had to deal with life and death issues, and human relations associated with those issues; while Obama was community organizer for the black community.

Whether the pyramids housed grain or mummified bodies makes no difference to how someone governs. We all know where the observation about “grain storage” came from. Other presidents had their own personal religious biases and were able to govern. At this point, we have no idea what Obama’s religious beliefs are, unless we can surmise by what “church” he attended most of his adult life in Chicago.

The salient point is, Carson was able to struggle his way out of Detroit and become a world leader in medicine; while Obama is still culturally in Chicago working diligently on his political legacy.

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Hmm. Carmen Lau is suggesting that Carson’s candidacy enlarges the viewpoint (or tent) of Seventh-day Adventism, in part because he has expressed some personal views that do not follow specific GC positions (I believe he suggested that women ought to be ordained as an example). I guess I disagree with Lau’s point.

In 2012, Mormon’s had similar feelings to Romney’s candidacy. Many were thrilled that one of their own was running for President (more than Adventists actually) and most would vote for him. However, they were concerned at the negative publicity it would have for their church (some of which occurred). However, in my view Romney went out of his way to not mention any non-mainstream aspects of Mormanism. Carson has not shown similar restraint, as early in the campaign he has been specific in regards to asserting his beliefs (you can argue that he is not allowing his faith to be held hostage to politics if you wish).

Rather than expanding the tent that is Adventism, it opens it up to criticism. Some of that criticism is factual (yes, SDA’s have unusual historical beliefs regarding the Catholic church), some of it is not factual (no, not all Adventists believe that the pyramids were used to store grain). Articles about SDA’s, some true, some not; most a mix will continue to grow depending on how long Carson is a leading candidate.

The problem with the opening the tent theory is that the issue is not Carson’s celebrity, or media scrutiny. Rather, it’s the tent’s size is dictated by the relationship and struggle between Adventists. Those who want to expand the tent and those who prefer the tent to look exactly like it did in 1950. This is a no-compromise, take no prisoners struggle that in fact mirrors more like the politics that have recently been between conservative and moderate factions in the Republican Party, than any exposure from Carson’s candidacy.

Given Carson’s politics, I’m not sure you want this guy in your tent.


I think his thinking revolves more around a mindset that has developed as a world class surgeon with people fawning after him to the point where he thinks he also knows more about any subject matter because he is Ben Carson.

As regards his faith vs religiosity, the question is whether he really believes that or is just watering down his public persona for votes. That is the real question.

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Like Kevin (and others at this blog), I’m also disappointed by some of Carson’s positions. But I have to agree with the author’s main points: the fact that Carson is widely regarded to be one of us, even by a small tent advocate like Kevin, is indeed a nod to Big Tent Adventism. I’m not seeing any clamor to disfellowship the man. I’m comfortable with some diversity of views within our Church, and I’m comfortable having Carson being a part of us - even if his candidacy makes many of us squirm at times.

subequent edit:[quote=“jeanniebrown, post:27, topic:9980”]
I don’t squirm at any of his theological positions

I agree with much of what you say apart from this one point, Jeannie. Carson’s rhetoric appears to embrace legislation of morality, which many of us (including Ms. White and even the staunchly conservative Kevin Paulson) reject. I wish Carson would recognize how his position contradicts scripture.