Last week while reading the news I came across an article about pastor Carlton Pearson of Tulsa, OK. The article reported that he lost his megachurch congregation when he opted out of belief in hell. One of the quotes from the article really stood out to me:
"The more he studied, the more Pearson saw the Bible not as the literal word of God but a book by men about God -- primitive men prone to mistranslations, political agendas and human emotions. "
According to the article, he says that it was his emotional wrangling over his unsaved family members that caused him to doubt that God could be both merciful and just. He says, according to the article:
"I couldn't reconcile a God whose mercy endures forever, and this torture chamber that's customized for unbelievers," Pearson said... How can you really love a god who's torturing your grandmother? And that's what I went through for years."
As soon as I read that, I couldn't help but think of this passage:
"This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith." (2Tim. 3:1-8)"
Obviously the emphasis is mine here, but this is what came to mind. Here you have a man that professes faith in Christ and faith that the Word of God is true - and then after studying (the article says he studied the ancient Greek and Hebrew Scriptures - how proficient he is in the ancient languages is not mentioned, but the mere fact that he came away from such a study, an unbeliever in the truth of hell, speaks volumes) and after battling an emotional reaction to the different attributes of God, he had an "inner voice" tell him that hell is the creation of man. He goes on in the article:
"The bitter torment of the idea of an angry, visceral, distant, stoic, harsh, unrelenting, unforgiving, intolerant God is hell. It's pagan, it's superstitious, and if you trace its history, it goes way back to where men feared the gods because something happened in life that caused frustration that they couldn't explain."
After just recently finishing James White's Scripture Alone, there's a lot to me that stands out here. Aside from the fact that this article claims this man was casting out demons at 16 and that he was "born to work the pulpit" - whatever that means - and that he thought Oral Roberts was the third cousin to the Holy Ghost (I am not making this up, read the article for yourself), it's pretty clear to me that this man never had a clue what Biblical Christianity really is, to begin with. In fact, from reading this article it sounds a lot like what we call cultural Christianity - something that he went into as a young man because that's what his family was into.
Obviously I can't judge the man's heart - but it's pretty clear from what's said about him and by him in this article that he saw the televangelist ministry as a lucrative form of show biz. He was groomed from a young man to follow in his family's footsteps and take the stage. There is a world of difference between that life, and the life of a servant of Christ, humbled under the weight of his own guilt of being a sinner saved through God's merciful grace. One seeks the applause of men and financial gain, the other seeks to serve and bring only glory to God.
It's also quite striking that (at least according to the article) that his own emotions coupled with giving an ear to an "inner voice" would so easily send this man off the narrow road into a position of unbelief, about the doctrine of hell. If an inner voice told me anything that contradicted the Bible, I'd know immediately that this voice was not of God.
More than anything I find this whole thing quite sad. Over and over again, I notice more clearly all the time that the denial (either openly or in practice) of sola Scriptura is at the foundation of heretical teachings. The minute you remove the final, inerrant, inspired, authoritative word of God, you open a wide door to any and all kinds of absolute garbage to flood in. And flood in, it will.
Equally disturbing is that while this particular pastor once lost his mega-congregation, he now has a following that is growing, according to the article. That isn't so surprising since there are plenty of people out there willing to follow after false teachers. The disturbing part is that it's a growing number of people being willfully deceived.
Just to give you an idea of how far this man has departed from any kind of Biblical Christianity:
"People who believe in hell create it for themselves and others. People who believe in devils and demons become that in consciousness, and they act it out... My hope is that, that people will learn to love themselves, accept themselves and celebrate themselves. That's pretty dramatic, but I think it'll save the planet."
Yes it's dramatic. It's also a nice warm-fuzzy to make the lost and dying world feel awfully good about themselves, on their way to hell.