Monday, September 10, 2007

What If Hell Didn't Really Exist?

Carlton Pearson used to be involved with Oral Roberts' ministry and pastored a mega-church of 5000 people. One day he was watching news coverage of a flood and questioned God on why these poor souls should be going to hell because they weren't Christian. Our still-speaking God spoke to Pearson to assure him that that wasn't the case.

Now Pearson has written a book, "The Gospel of Inclusion." This is from his website:

Have you ever asked how a loving God could condemn most of His children to eternal torment? Bishop Carlton Pearson did, and his answer will change everything you ever thought you knew about God, eternity and God’s plan for humankind.

In The Gospel of Inclusion, Bishop Pearson courageously explores the exclusionary doctrines of mainstream religion and concludes that according to the evidence of the Bible and irrefutable logic, they cannot be true. Instead, he offers us the Gospel of Inclusion—the simple, stunning truth that everyone has already been saved by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

In this astonishing book, Pearson argues that the controlling dogmas of religion are the source of much of the world’s ills, and that we should turn our backs on proselytizing and holy wars and focus on the real Good News: that all of humanity is indeed loved by the Divine!

I look forward to reading this book and potentially welcoming Rev. Pearson as a UCC colleague since he is seeking standing in the United Church of Christ, where we believe we are called to a radical hospitality that includes all.


mkz said...

I find it inconceivable that we have not heard of this amazing man sooner, as he must be more wise than those humble fools who scribbled The Nicene Creed many years ago, more sage than dusty old Luther. Most likely a greater study than the intelligence behind the 33 misinformed chapters of the Westminster Confession of Faith, perhaps privy to a special phone line to God, that Poor Calvin was just unlucky enough not be born in the right century, to have hooked up to his house. Truly this theological giant must be greater than The God of The Bible Himself, or at least His equal as we now have a the 67th book of the Bible! We can only wonder,Does the 'Gospel of Inclusion' come before Matthew? Or is it in a more chronological format, coming after Revelation?
The proof available to this man's eyes alone must have been copied down, transcribed through the ages with special properties in the tablets, papyrus, parchments, and papers imbued with a special code that only he could decipher, so amazing even Leonardo missed it. The fool!
It really is too bad that Jesus got all caught up in that Cross 'fiasco'. Being the Son of God and all, He might have otherwise lived long enough to thank Mr. Pearson personally for correcting Him on the whole "I am The Way, The Truth, and The Life, no one comes to The Father except through Me." Concept.
Who would have thought The Messiah would have messed that up huh?
Now,we can all hold hands as Carlton's intimate and exclusive revelation from The Almighty will be changing everything we thought we ever knew about God, Life The Universe and Everything. I guess we can all just toss out our outdated Bibles in giddy anticipation of the forthcoming 'complete' version of Scripture, where there are no rules or expectations, penalties or fines, and we can do whatever we want to in life as we are all 'saved' and there is no Hell anymore, Virginia.

Culture Dove said...

So I guess that is a vote for exclusion then?

By what logic are you so sure that all those authors listed by you are correct in their understanding of the Bible and this man is wrong? Is it tradition? Is it a subjective decision? Is it a faith revelation?

At least your unquestioned system will save you from wasting time reading this book.

David J said...

I actually heard about this on NPR on a Sunday afternoon a few months back. I was intrigued by it, because this guy was so down with fundamentalism. By the way, Mike, have you ever considered anything outside the realm of where you are spiritually? I know when I was where Rev. Pearson was, I had questioned the hell doctrine numerous times. And my friends over on the right could not explain how folks in Zimbawbwe would be destined for hell because nobody "witnessed" Christ to them or because they didn't own a Bible. This is rediculous, that God can't reach these poor souls.

Pearson was one of these charasmatic Bible thumpers who realized some of what he believed didn't make sense. That is called seeking, instead of blindly believing in something that didn't make sense. I do that all the time. Even folks like Lee Stobel have said that they are not sure what hell is or what it is like, or how we reconcile some of those teachings, but that "they trust God to work ot all out".

I am going to find this book and read it cover to cover as I may find some common struggles and conclusions. If anything, it will be a fascinating story.

mkz said...

Logic? Logic tells us dead men do not rise. Maybe Mr.Carlton can clear that up for Jesus also,when he meets Him. I wonder how sharp his debate skills are?
As for exclusion, how many times does the Bible give us the same simple message? Ever entered one of those jellybean in a jar contests? Let's not for now. The Bible likens us to sheep. Sheep are fairly low down on the animal I.Q. scale Ian, so the comparison is reasonable, and we do so desperately need a shepherd, I don,t think that can be seriously argued. By His Grace we are given guiding words by humble men willing to die for The Faith. By His Holy Spirit through the hands of many we are given wonderful parables, concise directions, accounts of witness, and warnings dire for the safety of our souls. This by a Creator who so loves us that it pleased Him to put His Son to the press of His wrath, that His own Blood would wash us clean of our sin. He even blesses us with His Holy Spirit in confirmation, that we understand this truth. Based on that small amount of information alone, what logic would ever lead you or I to the conclusion that a God so Holy would, after 1,600 years or so, despite all His own warnings to the contrary, suddenly give new revelation to the detriment of all He established?
Maybe some see God as a sadistic satirist, doing what pleases Him out of casual cruelty though they may do well to think differently. I see no such evidence for this view.
I do believe Christ is called The Shepherd and we who believe His sheep for good reason, and if that leads me to shear or slaughter for His Name's sake, amen. I also know from time to time as no surprise to the Shepherd, a sheep will wander from the flock to be brought back by his Master's voice, His sheep know the sound of it.
We can also hear the chorused voices sing warning of wolves among the flock, and they are very real. Just as their destruction by His hand will be. We may be easily fooled, but He will not.
The system is not mine but His, and I will do my best to follow His Word as my trust is in Christ alone, who's answers to my questions are for my good and His glory, weather I like them or not, understand them or not.
So you are correct, I will not waste my time with the presumptions of vanity, But follow the Word of God, and the guided wisdom of humble men.

David J said...

"who's answers to my questions are for my good and His glory, weather I like them or not, understand them or not"-Mkz

Mike, it's not neccessarily about liking the answer. I'm not sure I like the fact that my mom is dying a slow death, and there's little medical science can do for her. It's more about a God who makes sense. If God is om-everything, why is God difficult to understand?
The Pearson theolgy makes sense even by Biblical standards, "God wants none to perish".

Can you explain to me why God would take pleasure in torturing someone for all eternity? Why not just end that soul's existence? Extinguish it. Although still cruel, it atleast makes sense that God would just eliminate the bad and keep the good. What kind of an example is that for us that God would torture a soul forever? Should we torture a murdered until he dies? Should we live the example of eternal torture and subject our fellow man by the hell standard? I'm not sure why asking questions is such a dastardly thing. To put your head down and accept the unacceptable is somehow good and glorifying to God? I just don't get it.

mkz said...

Hello David,
Why is God difficult to understand if He is om-everything? Simply because we are not. In reality are we not the difficulty? God's will for us is clear, through His Mercy and Grace He has done everything to show us this. Do you remember what was told to the rich man suffering in Hell when he asked Abraham to send Lazarus from Heaven to warn his five brothers of their possible fate?
"If they do not hear Moses or the Prophets,neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead."
This example is the Word of God telling us we have been given everything we need to believe. We have also been given free will not to believe if we so choose. Does not 'logic', common sense, best odds as well as Scripture tell us what to do? And do we do it?
We do not, and because of the nature of Sin, the inheritance of the Fall we cannot.
If we could, we would never have need of Jesus, our trust in God would be perfect, and you nor I would ever have any questions.
But what caused the problem in the first place? Pride, from this sin all others arise, and we are faced with the world as it is, shaking our tiny fists at God petulantly shouting "that's not fair!" Without justification because it was our choice to disobey.
Biblical standards need context, this is one place where Mr. Pearson's theology fails. God does not want His people to perish, He Has created both those to serve and those to cast aside, Malachi 1:2-3, "Jacob I have loved, Esau I have hated", and Isaiah 29:16, the verses about the clay and the potter? A line from the Bible out of context does not a sound theology make.
What would make you think God takes pleasure in tormenting anyone?, He does what he does for His Glory, not out of sadistic desire! Why would he send His Son to teach all that He did, put the Light of Hope into the world then send Him to die a brutal death for creatures He cares nothing about? Is this how you perceive The God of The Bible David or is that just the pain speaking? This is where bad theology leads, not to questions, but the wrong assumptions when The Truth is distorted or marred by false teachers.
As to examples, in all your post here you failed to cite the most Glorious example of God's love. Sacrifice. His Son's life for our sins, laying down of one's life for a friend, the Shepherd spending the coin of His Life to save His sheep.
With so bright and shining an example of God's love for us, right before your eyes, did you close them and turn away?
Questions are a good thing David, but seek answers from a source other than someone who proves themselves to know less than you.
Carlton Pearson in his pride, not only has turned the Glory of God, and the Crucifixion of Christ to dung with his heresy, he is fixed upon the heap crowing about it!
I can say with certainty that I feel the same pain you do, as I told you my mom died of cancer also, in early 2005. I never saw her from her diagnosis to her death as I was in prison, and after my release, she requested that I not visit her, so that I would remember her the way I knew her. Do not let bad theology and the teeth of wolves destroy the opportunity God has granted you! To be the Witness of Christ you were purchased at Calvary to be. In the end the choice is each ours alone, you, me, every one of us will face God, whether or not The advocate will be there to intercede depends on the choice we make to believe, and that choice can be influenced by witnesses, make sure of who influences you by the standard of God's Word, not men's.

David J said...

Quite a lot to wade through as usual Mike. You can certainly be commended for making a complete case for your point of view. At this point, as in the post prior to my last on my blog, I have to kind of implore the same plea. I cannot argue in one direction on a point of logic and have you argue Biblically and never intersect on anything.

I have to ask this question again, however, because it's crucial for me, as a citizen of planet earth, and one that I think shares similar emotions with you and Ian and my wife and other folks on this orb. The question is this Mike; DOES IT MAKE SENSE FOR INNOCENT PEOPLE, WHO'VE ALREADY SUFFERED ON THIS EARTH, TO BE THEN THROWN INTO A FIREY FURNACE OF SORTS AND NOT CONSUMED BY THAT FIRE, BUT INSTEAD ALLOWED TO SUFFER FOR ETERNITY IN THAT STATE?
I just want a Mike answer sans the John Piper/Tom Crouse theology. And there has to be a gut response that looks at that as unfair. Otherwise, I'm not sure we are part of the same family tree. If I told my 6 year old son Ian that bad people are put into a furnace forever, it would #1 scare the crap out of him, #2, make God into a cruel and unusual punisher that he would fear, but not the holy reverent kind, but more so the "why would I worship an irrational God" kind. What kind of psychological damage would occur if he knew "the truth" as you believe it? What kind of timid life would result, for the angry hand of God lurks and is ready to smack the poor boy if he steps out of line. If this is central to God's nature, or even if it's a fringe element of who God is, then I too, would react like my son and be afraid, but not in the proper context. If your son or daughter was an unrepentant alcoholic, would you wish them eternal torture for their addiction? The only person that even comes close to that indictment would be Hitler, and after year 106,745 you'd have to say, okay, what's the point?

Again, Mike, I would still love the unrepentant son or daughter until death and thereafter. Why would God's nature be less loving than mine? God is love, right? Or is that verse unimportant. I trust that God is merciful and abounding in steadfast love. His ways truly arent our ways and it makes no sense, and regardless of what the ancient societies wrote and believed, that God would torture a soul for all of etenity. That is why mental assent is such a weak argument for salvation as it proves nothing about the individual. But the bottom line here is that God cannot be that sadistic, or He's probably not my God.

mkz said...

Since you are asking me David, I am trying to give as complete an answer as possible. Sorry for the Illiad, while God has given me a passion for His Word I have a long way yet to go maybe in being able to artfully compress my explanations.
What makes you assume innocence? By who's standard, yours, or god's? Do you know the Heart? How can you tell if a person you really don't know is planning a murder? Or if they are a pedophile? Or if they don't secretly torture animals because it pleases them? Tell me you have never been completely surprised by someone you thought you knew, or that you yourself have not ever done anything you you would never in a million years believe you would do? And you propose a God that fits into the box of your perceptions, instead of humbly and gratefully worshiping The One who sacrificed His Son in a painful and humiliating public execution, bleeding Him dry to cleans the stains of your otherwise worthless soul? That is my gut reaction. Not to you David, because I can not see into your heart but I know what is in mine. All the terrible thoughts I have, all the pornography I lasciviously consumed, all the physical harm I had planned or brought or wished on people? Even worse the betrayal of my daughter, my wife, family, and friends. I can go on but I think you feel the point, only you and god know for sure.
The question we have to ask is not what kind of god would send a creature he made to eternal damnation, but why The Eternal God of Creation would condescend to save even one of us from the fire, let alone crucify His only son to do so.
I have been making the intersection between Faith and our perceptions all the while, you are missing the turn. The intersection is this, we live a horizontal life on earth, birth, life, death. We have five senses that tell us 99% of what we 'know', this 99% is our perception, based on experience past, feelings of the moment, and expectations of the future. This is a straight horizontal line.
The intersection is a vertical line that forms the Cross Jesus died on, that 1% is what we wonder about, what we believe to be true from other sources, stories, pictures, or even archaeological 'evidence', even though we have no experience from the other 99%. You know about the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima, but you have no experience of it(99%), yet because someone may have been on the plane and can tell you about it, or you have seen footage of the mushroom cloud, or perhaps pictures of the terrible effects on it's victims as they died of radiation sickness. You trust based on what man can show you what happened and you believe, based on the 1%, you connect it to the 99% of what your experience tells you is possible to make the truth plausible.
We were given free will and enough evidence of God's existence to be 99% sure He is real, but because of the 1% we can not 'know' we fall short of making the connection. Christ is that connection, the God Man. God on earth, born, lived, died. We have eyewitness accounts, written down and preserved and the only God in the human pantheon of all the 'gods' that ever sacrificed Himself for us, rather than us sacrificing someone else, or an animal, or anything else to 'it'.
It seems I have done it again, but I am passionate that you make that connection. It is what God has given all of those He saves to do. Only you can make that 1% leap if He has called you to believe. It certainly seems like He has given you the heart to pursue Him, and showing you His Blessings in your wife, your kids, your job. You live in luxury and abundance compared to 90+% of the world, most people would consider killing to acquire what you have, maybe even for a day. Let go of trying to control the 99% of everything around you and look for the 1% He has laid before you.

David J said...

Mike, although you give me an explanation here, you failed to answer my question. Doesn't the theology in question atleast make you pause and think to yourself that it sounds a bit cruel and unusual? and at this point, I have to also assume that you have also "created a God" as well based on theology and not the experience of Him. You suggest I trust this template, not question it, not doubt it and dutifully commit to it.But when something doesn't add up, I'm supposed to rely on Scripture to literalize the point and then learn to live with it.

By the way, you are right about all the evil we are capable of. I did some horrible lustful things that I deeply regret and pay for each day. There's no question that we deserve a fate worse then we get. But that is where grace comes in. It worked for the thief on the cross, and it works for you and I. Few are scared into the Kingdom, the majority of us are love into the Kingdom. And I'd suggest that is where I am theologically. Again, what use to God is someone burning for eternity?

mkz said...

I guess when it comes down to it David, about as much use to a person as He was when that person was alive on Earth. Reject the Son and His sacrifice freely given, and you reject the Father. If anything God is more than fair, unfair I would say as I do not deserve Salvation, yet He has provided me with this gift of His Glory. I am glad that in all fairness He does not give me what I deserve.
I hope in the understanding given to me by the Holy Spirit, and in The Word that I have in my perception that which He is, as much as my finite mind can grasp.
I can only hope you trust in The Word, and in Christ. If there is something that does not add up for you, again go to a concordance, cross-reference, and pray for understanding. While I have certainly found things in The Bible that took me years to understand, things that I wish were different, that I have yet to understand and things that were hard to believe, I am learning all the time. I have found all these things so far, yet I have not yet found any evidence that God is deceiving me.
This does not mean I do not have questions, this does not mean that there are not times alone at night I have no doubts. God made us human and these are human characteristics. But I have learned that just because I do not understand a thing or have doubts that they are not true, and I guess that is where Faith comes in. I did not see Christ die on the Cross personally, I did not hear the Sermon on the mount preached in real time, I did not see Jesus' Ascension. But I have seen His Work in my life, I know The Holy Spirit convicts me when I sin, and that I was changed in so many ways that were beyond me when I was Saved, just as His Word says. So I have connected my experience with what I have never known personally but understand to be true and do not find conflict, only some things I wish were not true. But who am I? Remember that our Faith is not blind, we have witnesses to actual events, the words of The Prophets who told us of Christ's coming, the teachings of Jesus Himself, and His own words about what will be according to God's Will and for His Glory. I pray something here will help shed light on your struggle.

David J said...

I want to challange your introductory sentences here. "I guess when it comes down to it David, about as much use to a person as He was when that person was alive on Earth. Reject the Son and His sacrifice freely given, and you reject the Father".

First of all, if a whole country is dying of hunger or thirst or malaria or AIDS or any kind of malady, and they have no choice but to go to their graves without "the knowledge of God revealed in Chirst" that somehow is justification for an eternal torment?

I posed the same thesis to my wife who responded perfectly, "well God would excuse those people if they were never told about Christ, I mean that's not fair..." was about how she replied. If you are going to dot every theological "I" and cross every theological "T" then you better have good Biblical explantions for the things that are explainable, or your theology is weak and has no salvific power.

By the way, I though we were "a little lower than the angels". My point is that you and most fundamentalists have a very low opinion of humanity and it's depravity. Even after "salvation" it seems that Christians hate themselves and think that God is some sort of thunderbolt tosser who seems to err on the side of wanted destruction of those whom He created.

To me that sounds like sadism. And I can't serve a sadistic God who's looking to punish and who punishes those who did nothing but live a life of hell to begin with. Mike, even though you do some great Tom-like expository, it sheds little on my questions. In fact, it ends up validating my current sterotypes of those in the fundamentalist church. Fundamentalism was an over-reaction to Catholic theology that put the church ahead of the Bible. What we need is a return to the early teachings of those who followed the Way of Christ. And that is nothing like the fundamentalism of today. Peace, bro.

Culture Dove said...

A short interview with Pearson on the UCC site here