While in Atlanta, I saw a clip on CNN about a pastor in Oklahoma who went from opposing homosexuality to accepting it. He now preaches a “Gospel of inclusion.” Bishop Carlton Pearson of New Dimensions Church in Tulsa changed his theology because of people he knew who came out of the closet.
Pearson asked, “Do you ever see anywhere in Scripture where Jesus rejected anybody? Period.”
Most people would say, “No.” But I immediately thought of the time that Jesus rebuffed a Canaanite woman who sought deliverance for her daughter. Eventually, Jesus gave in to her request although he rejected her pleas at first.
Then I thought about a warning that Jesus gave. He said, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'”
Pearson has a point that Jesus showed love to many people who were rejected by the religious establishment. Unfortunately, the same thing happens today. But I believe Pearson strays from Biblical truth when he makes the leap from loving people to condoning their sin. Jesus never did that.
Although Jesus was willing to be seen and associate with prostitutes and sinners, he never told them their sin was okay. I get a sense that people who spent much time around Jesus were so amazed at what they saw that they left their old lives of sin. People came to Jesus so that they could change.
A number of years ago Pearson had built a 5,000 member mega church in Oklahoma. He earned big speakers fees for conferences and was a regular on Christian TV programs. Then he made a drastic change on his beliefs about sin, hell and salvation. He lost it all. Most of the members of his large church left. Nobody wanted him for conferences any more.
Now, Pearson pastors a much smaller church that openly embraces and condones homosexual behavior. Pearson denies the existence of hell as is traditionally taught in most Christian theology.
Basically, Pearson believes that almost everyone will be saved and very few people will go to hell. He believes that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross covers the sins of the world, including those who have not confessed faith in Christ.
While part of me respects Pearson that he would take a stand for something even though it would likely cost him a lot, I also reject his conclusions and theology. I would have left his church too just because I believe his new teaching compromises Scripture. The Bible is clear about salvation and sin. Scripture is also clear that homosexual acts are a perversion of God’s standard and design.
Pearson said, “All this hyper conservative, fundamentalist religion is probably not working.” That’s true. I believe that much of the rhetoric gets in the way of reaching wholeness and proclaiming the Gospel. Many people use God and morality as talking points to get elected or obtain power. God is not a registered Republican or a Democrat. At the same time, God decides what is right and wrong not men. And for the Christian, the Scriptures are the basis for judging morality. The Holy Spirit reveals the mind of Christ to us through the Bible.
Pearson said, “We have idolized the Bible and used it to denounce anything we don’t like, don’t understand or we fear.”
While I agree that some people seem to worship the Bible by denouncing any other way for God to speak today, Pearson’s conclusions about homosexuality are unfounded. Throughout times, some people have used the Bible to support all sorts of horrible things, such as the Crusades, racial bigotry or slavery. On the other hand, I strongly disagree with Pearson’s characterization that people are doing the same thing today by using the Bible to condemn homosexuality as a sin. I don’t believe that fear, dislike or misunderstanding has anything to do with the fundamentalist position that homosexuality is a sin.
Fear, dislike and misunderstanding may be behind inappropriate reactions by misguided Christians. But that has nothing to do with the proper interpretation of the text. There are times where Christians say and do things to homosexuals that are horribly wrong. This includes gay jokes, stinging comments, physical harassment, judgmental attitudes, etc. Those actions stem from fear, prejudice, pride and other sinful conditions.
You see I believe that a Christian can say homosexuality is a sin without being judgmental. The real test comes in how we treat a gay person. Do we show them the love of Christ? Would we treat them like a leper?
If you believe homosexuality is a sin, it would be a dreadful thing to tell others that it is not. One of the last things you ever want to do is call good evil and evil good. That is lying, and it doesn’t really help anyone in the end.
Pearson also said, “Scripture says that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself not counting men’s sins against them. So if God doesn’t count men’s sins against them, why are we Christians or religious people so comfortable doing that.”
Pearson is right that God has forgiven the sins of those who are Christians. But that doesn’t mean we should keep on sinning. The Apostle Paul dealt with this issue. He wrote that we should not keep on sinning but should live holy lives as empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Christ may not hold our sins against us, but that doesn’t mean it is okay to live in sin. Jesus not only came to forgive our sins. He also came to set us free from being a slave to sin. We don’t have to give in to temptation because we can escape it by God’s power.
The real danger of Pearson’s teaching is that it makes people feel comfortable in their sin. They are likely to think that they will receive a free get-out-of-hell card regardless of what they do or believe. The devil wants people to believe that so many lost souls will go to hell. It sounds like this Gospel is something that you don’t want to be included in.