Last month I did a post called “The Faith of Donald Trump” where I discussed his religious background and the theological implications of it. Since then Trump and Ben Carson have had an exchange or two over the subject, so I felt that it would only be fair to do a follow up post on Carson’s faith.
Most people have heard Dr. Carson’s inspiring story of growing up poor in Detroit, one of two boys raised by an illiterate mother who insisted that they read and excel in school. After he graduated from high school he earned a degree in psychology from Yale and an M.D. from the University of Michigan Medical School. He went on to become a world renown neurosurgeon. It was such an inspiration that in 2009 it was made into a movie starring Cuba Gooding Jr. entitled “Gifted Hands”. His faith is mentioned in that movie, but not really discussed in depth. However, I’m not going to focus on his impressive medical background any more than I emphasized Trump’s remarkable entrepreneurial accomplishments. What I want to discuss here is his theological views.
In his book “Gifted Hands” (from which the movie script was taken) he tells of his being baptized as a boy in the Seventh Day Adventist church. When he was twelve he asked to be baptized again because he didn’t feel that he adequately understood the significance of water baptism the first time. This demonstrated a spiritual sensitivity and contemplation that is rare at that age. I was baptized in the Baptist church when I was eight, but when I awakened to the world of theology at the age of seventeen or eighteen I wondered if I should be rebaptized. I finally concluded that I didn’t need to be baptized again because I had a genuine conversion experience when I was eight even though I lacked the ability to think on the level of a young adult. My point is it never occurred to me until I was five years older than Dr. Carson was.
In the same book Dr. Carson told the story of losing his temper when he was fourteen and attempting to stab a classmate. He stated that the blade fortunately struck the boy’s belt buckle and did no harm, but the incident sounded an alarm to him and he realized that he had to get control of his temper. He took the matter to God in prayer and never had another issue.
As an adult he remained in the Adventist Church and has served as an elder and Sabbath School (obviously they don’t have Sunday School since they meet on Saturdays) teacher. In a 1999 interview with the Religious News Service however, Carson said “I spend just as much time in non-Seventh-day Adventist churches because I’m not convinced that the denomination is the most important thing”. He added “I think it’s the relationship with God that’s most important.” For those of you who aren’t familiar with the views on the Seventh Day Adventist Church, they believe that the Sabbath should be observed on Saturday rather than Sunday. They also place a great deal of emphasis on proper diet and health. And on matters of eschatology (end time events) they have some really radical views. For more on the beliefs of the Adventists, see my page on the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.
Carson has stated that he prays prior to conducting surgery or making speeches. He asks for God’s direction and wisdom. While the views of the Adventists are theologically troublesome to most Evangelicals and mainstream Christians, Carson’s inclusive comments and expressions of personal faith might help set their minds at ease.