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August 17, 2006

Heresy: the Carlton Pearson remix

Part one in a three part series
Disgraced and discredited Bishop Carlton Pearson says gays have embraced his old/new doctrine of "inclusion". He's right, they do. The question is why a doctrine rejected as heretical such a hit with religious homosexuals? Pearson has remixed the ancient heresy, adding some horns, drum recesses and recurring vocal snippets. And according to Pearson, gays are flocking to his dancefloor.

Pearson's story is a sad and tragic one indeed. The once wildly popular --and talented-- Pentecostal minister whose Azuza conferences drew thousands fell quickly after announcing that he no longer believed some of the most fundamental tenets of the Christian faith were applicable or even relevant. Pearson was a top gospel recording artist and had sat in high places in the religious world, enjoying close relationships with men such as Oral Roberts, TD Jakes and Bishop Charles Blake. One can't help but making comparisons to satan's fall from heaven after introducing a new "doctrine" of superiority.

Before I examine why Pearson made it a point to mention that homosexuals have embraced his wayward stance, let's look at the main points of Pearson's claims. According to On Doctrine, a website which reviews doctrinal challenges to the traditional Christian faith, Pearson's remixed revelation contains about 6 main claims:

A. The death of Jesus Christ on the cross and His resurrection paid the price for all of humanity to have eternal life in heaven, without any requirement to repent of sins and receive salvation.

B. Belief in Jesus Christ, is not necessary for a person to go to heaven. Salvation is unconditional, granted by the grace of God to every human being.

C. It is presumed that all of humanity will have its destiny in heaven, whether they realize it or not.

D. All of humanity will go to heaven regardless of their religious affiliation, including those who believe in false religions or adopt any other form of religious persuasion, or who have no religious persuasion.

E. Only those who have "tasted of the fruits" of real intimacy with Christ and have "intentionally and consciously rejected" the grace of God will spend eternity separated from God.

F. There are persons in some type of hell, but the emphasis is "to get away from the picture of an angry, intolerant God. I don't see God that bitter."

Pearson's new revelation is really nothing more than a regurgitated form of an old belief called universalism. It too has been soundly rejected however it hasn't stopped borderline apostate denominations like United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalists and some swaths of Episcopals from adopting it.

It was seeded beliefs such as these which prompted the Joint College of African American Bishops (JCAAB), comprised of Pearson's contemporaries to publicly declare him a heretic. “To suggest that the reward of heaven–the ultimate gift of salvation–will be provided to unrepentant, unregenerate man … is ludicrous in its concept, lethal in its effect and contrary to both the content and intent of holy writ.”, the wrote in an 18 page indictment. They strongly reccomended that pastors nationwide deny Pearson access to their pulpits. Pearson, ever unrepentant, defended his beliefs here.

Pearson may not be back in local churches, but he is back in the media proclaiming a victory of sorts. His crowing caught the attention of gay activist Keith Boykin who said Pearson's doctrine "made sense" to him. Of course. In part two, I'll examine why this repudiated doctrine "makes sense" to people like Boykin and reveal for the first time some of the contents of two personal letters Pearson wrote to me almost a decade ago about my ministy, Witness. Additional:

  • View Pearson's jabs and stabs at his detractors at a Harvard symposium on "reimagining" Pentecostalism.
  • Carlton Pearson interview [mp3] with This American Life.
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