Checking in with Carlton Pearson – who doesn’t believe in hell – in Tulsa

May 24, 2007

Pearson2.JPGCarlton Pearson doesn’t believe in hell. And he’s pretty uncertain about heaven as well. Which wouldn’t be all that exceptional, really — except Pearson is an ordained Pentecostal minister and a former protégé of Oral Roberts, the Tulsa-based televangelist. So when the Route 66 Team passed through Tulsa this week, we spent an hour with Pearson in his offices on the 29th floor of a downtown skyscraper. 

Pearson, 54, wasnt always so unsure about core doctrinal issues. In the 1980s and 1990s, he ran Higher Dimensions Family Church, a Tulsa-based megachurch that hewed to a much more unforgiving and traditional view of the afterlife.

He also served on Oral Roberts Universitys board of regents and was one of the first African-Americans to be a regular guest on mainstream religious TV programs.

But Pearson tells Reuters that while he was a successful conservative evangelical, he was an unhappy man. “I was hating, hurting and hitting and being mean,” he says today. “That’s the way you function in that religion.”

Then, Pearson had what he characterizes as an epiphany and he began preaching something new: God, he told anyone who would listen, had already forgiven everyone Christians, Jews, Muslims, Mormon, Hindus, Buddhists — for their sins. No one — not even Adolf Hitler or the devil himself needed to worry about eternal damnation.

I dont think theres an eternal consequence for doing wrong, he explains today. There are immediate ones. Pearson also backed off the idea that the Bible was the word of God. I take it serioPearson4.JPGusly, he says. But I dont take it literally. I dont believe it is the inspired word of God. I believe it is the inspired word of man about God.

The response from the general public was remarkably positive. “I got tens of thousands of letters,” he says, “from gays, Hindus, Muslims, Catholics, Jews and atheists. Some of the most profound letters about God came from the atheists.”

But this gospel of inclusion, as it came to be known, wasn’t so popular closer to home. Pearson’s fellow Pentecostal bishops and other conservative Christians denounced him as a heretic. His congregation melted away. Weekly offerings tumbled. The bank foreclosed on his church.

Today, Pearsons new church — New Dimensions Worship Center — has a fraction of the members of his old one and is forced to borrow space for its services from an Episcopal church in downtown Tulsa.

Im 54 years old and Im somebodys foster child, he jokes.

But Pearson is unbowed. He continues to preach his gospel of inclusion and make pronouncements about the concept of hell that are likely to raise the hackles of his one-time friends in evangelical community.

He bristles, for instance, at the idea that God is a vengeful being who holds grudges for 6,000 years — not only because it flies in the face of his belief in a merciful God but because it also creates a rationalization for vengeance and punishment here on earth.

“When you worship an angry God,” he says, “you make anger good. That’s what creates a Saddam Hussein or a George Bush.”

The flipside of Pearson’s hell-doubting theology, however, is that he sounds awfully skeptical about the existence of heaven. “We don’t know what happens after this life,” he says. “But we presume something good happens. So we’ve come up with these thrones and gates and virgins  … But the closest to God you’ll probably ever get is you.” 

13 comments

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Not to boast, but Unitarian Universalism (400 plus years of religious history) beat you to this epiphany a long time ago. Welcome to the age of of “spiritual” reason.

Posted by Charles Holman | Report as abusive

Matthew 24:23-25 Jesus said that the day would come when the elect would be deceived. It is a sad philosophy because it does not offer any motivation to make positive changes in your life to ward Jesus Christ and forgiveness from the past. If you are a serial killer or racist why change because Carlton Pearson says God does not care about you or what you do.

Wasn’t sure if the first went through but like I said earlier, it takes “faith” to believe in God and to let go of “religion” and the brainwashing of it…..I am happy to see that another person has taken that step because I know the cost of losing friends but also gaining a “peace that passes all understanding”…the bible says that whenever the law is read, that the people become blinded and that is what we were…

Posted by Colleen | Report as abusive

Sadly, Mr Pearson has lost all perspective on truth. The idea of truth has become vague and distant, and God is so distant now that we can be sure of nothing. So let’s get together and start a church that sells this malarkey. What’s the point. We don’t know what God is saying. We don’t know if there is a heaven or hell. Our actions here mean nothing. Mr Pearson has emptied, if we believe him, of all things meaningful.

I refuse to follow a man armed with only vague and confused reasoning.

Posted by Brian M | Report as abusive

Wow! Finally a minister who “gets it” (in my opinion).
I don’t believe that there is any religion in this world that is absolutely right or absolutlely wrong. I think that there are as many interpretations about God as there are people in this world. I believe that religion is merely a creative expression of spirituality shaped by culture. I believe at the heart of every religion, there is the same goal – to evolve towards God. Ironically, as I grew up Christian, I never really understood the Bible until I started learning a little about Buddhism. I can’t explain why, except that I believe that everyone is uniquely receptive to communication, and it often takes different words or a different language of thought for someone to “get” the same thing.

I agree with Mr. Pearson when he says that “when you worship an angry God, you make anger good.” That is what I believe fuels wars and violence, the perception that God is angry, which contradicts the idea that God is loving.

Posted by Amanda | Report as abusive

It takes courage to seek to live a life of spiritual truth. How unsettling and confusing it is to be told that God is love on one hand only to be exposed to the occasional selfish humaness of “church leadership” that oftentimes manipulates and controls on the other. It is good to be forced to re-examine our faith. I believe in a loving God. And I do believe we can experience a heaven on earth if there weren’t so many who behaved so hellishly. Mr. Pearson’s logic and reasoning is not vague. It is very clear and invites reasoning into the conversation of religion. When God is ready to make Himself truly known, there is no man who can stop it.

“When you worship an angry god, you make anger good.”
Being a JUST GOD does not constitute God as angry.
Does God include (INCLUSION) ALL of mankind in his redemptive plan? Of course as long as man chooses to be included. Mr. Pearson made a statement that the rays from the sun shines on everyone whether they want it to or not. Did he ever realize that If I stay indoors the suns rays will not reach me. That would be my choice.

Posted by M.D. | Report as abusive

WHAT YOU HAVE DISCOVERED IS NOTHING NEW. YOU HAVE ALWAYS SEARCHED IN THE SAME PLACE AS EVERYONE ELSE. PEOPLE ONLY GET THEIR BELIEFS FROM THEIR PLACE OF BIRTH. BORN IN A CHRISTIAN COUNTRY…CHRISTIAN. BORN IN A MUSLIM COUNTRY… MUSLIM. BORN IN A JEWISH COUNTRY… JEWISH. WHAT ARE PEOPLE BELIEVING. HOW MUCH TRUTH CAN THERE BE WHEN OUR BELIEFS ARE DETERMINED BY BIRTHPLACE. KNOW THE TRUTH AND THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOU FREE. PLEASE REPLY.

It is so refreshing, encourages and strengthens my faith, when I see that people actually read the Bible and have the courage to see what the Greek and Hebrew word actually said and then pronounce it for all to hear. I think all the hell fire teachers have not researched the facts and if they have just cant give up the fame and money they have aquired with their following, so they just continue to mislead the people with their fear tactics. I am so thankful to my mother for teaching us what she learned reading the bible and concordance and so glad she did not take us to the churchs to be mislead….Trust in what the Bible says and take out the word hell, it was not used in the original text and look up the history of the word hell and when it was started and then replaced words in the original text..Prove it for yourself

Posted by LaVerna Brown | Report as abusive

Carlton,

A merciful and loving God…

Only the meek shall inherit the earth…Sell your black Mercedes and pompus robes and walk more like Christ.

God bless you,

Tom

Posted by Tom B. | Report as abusive

It would be great if there were no hell and only a heaven, but we need a line to draw on, or anything goes. I would rather beleive in hell, I also beleive you only need to confess Christ to not go there. It dosen’t make God an angry God because you choose hell, it makes Him sad.

I think Carton Peason done lost his natural born mind what in Gods world is he thinking. Now i know it’s sure enough time to pray as never before. This is so sad how can u turn from God The blind leading the blind!!!!!!!!!!! I pray for carlton peason that our GOD will give him more understanding and show him and lead him in the right direction.

Posted by joycina Thompson | Report as abusive

Unforgiveness separates us from God’s forgiveness and healing, and opens the door for satan. I pray that Carlton asks GOd for forgiveness in dealing with past issues (grandparents). Those issues are deeply rooted, but GOD CAN FIX ANYTHING!! Carlton you cannot let satan win…….What does it profit a man(Carlton) to gain the whole world(through your ministry) and lose his (Carlton) own soul?

Posted by JJack | Report as abusive