Of course, some situations can't be improved — one in particular: Carson believes in the apocalypse. “We believe that Christ is going to return to the earth again,” he said.
When the apocalypse comes, there's supposed to be a lot of tribulation. Could what's going on in the world qualify as tribulation? “It could. Of course it could, yeah,” he says. “I think [the return of Christ] could come any time.”
Since we don’t know the exact moment when Jesus is coming back, he said, “you live your life as if he’s coming back today. As if he’s coming back tomorrow.”
There are things Carson, a Seventh-day Adventist, does not believe. He dismisses the “Rapture” — the idea, embraced by many evangelicals, that at some point before the last days described in the book of Revelation, many Christians will literally be, as predicted in the New Testament, “caught up together … in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.”
Carson doesn't share that view. “I don’t see any evidence for that in the Bible,” he says.
He also does not believe in hell: “I don't believe there is a physical place where people go and are tormented. No. I don't believe that,” he says.
But Carson does believe in God — though he can't quite describe the divine. “There’s no man who can explain God, or he would be God. ... He’s a force that doesn’t believe in dictating and gives you a choice: whether you want to be associated with Him or not. It can provide enormous strength and power if you do. And He has been an integral part of my life. There are many things I would have never taken on in the medical had I not felt that He was behind me.”
And he believes in the idea of heaven a physical place. “The Bible says when you die, you know, there is no soul that kind of floats away. But essentially, when you die, the next thing you know is the coming of Christ because you don’t know anything when you’re dead. If you’re dead for a second or a thousand years, it’s the same. But when he comes, according to the book of First Corinthians, that the sound of the archangel will rise and that’s when things happen.”
So if you’re good, you go to heaven, and if you’re bad, you just get annihilated?
“Pretty much,” he says.
Some evangelical Christians and Baptists have a problem with this view.
“Well, you know,” Carson says, “there’s going to be different interpretations. You know, I see God as a very loving individual. And why would he torment somebody forever who only had a life of 60 or 70 or 80 years? Even if they were evil. Even if they were only evil for 80 years?”
Carson says he certainly hopes he’s going to heaven. “I try to lead a life that would be consistent with the principles that God has set before us,” he says.
Even if it’s foreordained by God, Carson says, he would try to stop any tribulation even if Jesus doesn’t come until after they end. And since we don’t know when Jesus is coming, “I can’t live my life sort of thinking ... 'This is the apocalypse.' I think that’s the wrong way to think about it.”
And that, he says, means his views on the apocalypse wouldn't influence his presidency. “I don’t see how it would,” he says.