Monday, September 12, 2005

The Reformed Pearson

If one could look back almost six years ago, we could easily recall the super strength of Bishop Carlton Pearson, one of America's most celebrated bible teachers, pastors and spiritual leaders of all time. The Azusa movement, which became a modern revival of the early Pentecostal movement of the 20th century, intensified with time and featured prominent speakers and gospel artists such as Bishop T.D. Jakes, Bishop Noel Jones, Donnie McClurkin, Juanita Bynum, Daryl Coley and Dr. Myles Munroe. Their Stellar and Dove nominated live recordings helped revolutionize that moment and placed Pearson in a league of his own. Pastors across America even rushed to claim Pearson as their spiritual father.
The present reveals a different chapter. Bishop Carlton Pearson has been attacked by every right-wing conservative in all forms of communication and media. Ever since the Pearson decided to jump on the Republican circuit and lost a bid for mayor for the city of Tulsa, OK in 2002, Pearson has been under fire ever since. There was even a super praise-and-worship project under the arms of Integrity Music that never seen the light of day, but the reasons for that decision circulated around something even larger than an African-American pastor deciding to run for mayor as a Republican.

Bishop Pearson began teaching on the Gospel of Inclusion and began reforming his theological standpoints around this time and caused many renowned Christian leaders to depart their associations with Higher Dimensions Family Church and Bishop Carlton Pearson Ministries. The Azusa conference even changed venues from its Oral Roberts Mabee Center location on the ORU Campus to Pearson’s church home. The attendees and supporters dwindled down in numbers and a down-sized Azusa conference took place on May 23rd through May 28th, 2004. But Pearson never gave up. His persistence to take his "inclusive" theology, based on God’s unconditional love for all mankind and the Apostle Paul’s theological foundation about reconciliation, across the world created a campaign of generational changers that would bring a form of evolution to modern Christianity. Questions such as "Did Jesus Christ only die for Christians?" and "Do you think most people are going to hell?" remained taboos in the traditions of Christian fundamentalism but proved to be no problem for Pearson to deal with. Of course, his brand of teaching and analyzing has never failed to baffle most theologians and Bible historians, since he has been compared to geniuses of the faith such as Dr. Oral Roberts, Dr. Myles Munroe and Bishop Harold Ray. But Pearson wants to truly explain and make plain to all people that God’s love is all-inclusive, to put larger emphasis on God’s love for the whole world. Because of his press statement and position paper on the subject of inclusion, which was submitted to the National Council of Bishops and was declined thereafter with strong disagreements, many of Pearson’s respected colleagues have distanced themselves from him publicly. Maybe they desired to avoid Pearson so that the subject won’t interfere with their normal ministry engagements or won’t bring any eventual downfall to their reputation or ministry growth. Regardless of what anyone says, Pearson is not the public super giant that he once was. But in light of all of the changes and disarray, he remains fixed on preaching and teaching the fulness of this controversial subject.

It should be known that every preacher or teacher or student of God’s Word develops their own interpretation or personal theology about God. Sometimes we may be wrong and sometimes we may be right, or probably both, but as we search and seek to understand God more, a part of us die in the process; due to the revealed truth that God desires for us to be holy, even as He is holy.

Pearson makes a few observations in his study that may make you wonder. Just wonder.

"If, in fact, Jesus is the Savior of (not just for) all men, and especially those who believe, is it not quite reasonable to assume that He is, in fact, the Savior of those who don't believe, have never heard or perhaps didn't hear accurately?"

While studying theology in college, I, myself, ran across John Hick, one of the modern developers in the Christian universalism renaissance. I had problems trying to study such a complex subject on broadening the theological box I have for years grew comfortable living in. My church home provided me the foundation, my in-depth studying of God’s Word on my own helped revolutionized the basics and opened a new world of relevant truth to me. So when focusing on writing a term paper on Hick’s difficult precepts surely created thoughts of confusion for me. But I achieved in writing on the subject at matter and received an A in that class. Since then, I have learned that there is truth in all things revealed by God. But to go the extreme in calling Hick’s theology the absolute truth would be debatable. I even wondered if Hick really was saved, even though he claims to be Christian. Hick spoke on the subject of Christianity being the One and True religion to a Theological Society in England:

"If we think for a moment of the analogy of the solar system, with God as the sun at the centre and the religions as planets revolving around that centre, the inclusivist position says in effect that the life-giving light and warmth of the sun falls directly only on our earth, but is then reflected off it to the other religions, which thus receive it at second hand. Or in terms of economics this is a kind of trickle down theory of salvation. We Christians are the spiritually rich at the top but our riches trickle down in varying measure to the people of the other world religions below. And just how realistic this is will depend on what we mean by salvation."

Though Pearson isn’t as brash or as serious as Hick when detailing Christianity as just another religion, he does reveal a sensitivity to the growing differences in American culture today. The controversial aspects of abortion, women’s rights, acceptance of gay and lesbians, legalizing marijuana and the Big Dawg better known as gay marriage, people are growing into a new stream of ideas and concepts that storms over the one-sided teachings of our forefathers. It seems that a revolution, or a great awakening, to some degree must be made in modern Christianity in order to survive. One of the speakers at Pearson’s "Inclusion 2005" conference was Bishop John Shelby Spong, a former Episcopal bishop, has even written a book, with critical acclaim, stating that Christianity must change or it will die. To change Christianity or what Christ teaches, to many people, would prove to be a failure since God’s Word shall not change. So if the religion itself should change, what is it that must be changed. Is it how we think or is it how we act about what we think?

Definitely a controversial subject and one that many are afraid to battle. But if it nos dealt with, we may be missing the greatest revival the Body of Christ will ever witness. Our ways of worship have changed. Our music has changed. Our way of evangelizing has changed. Our church telecasts have changed. Even our church protocol has changed. What’s next? Maybe Carlton Pearson knows.

Not trying to be too controversialm, but I began to wonder why Pearson uses quotation marks around the terms "born again" and "call to preach" in his biograhpy; as if the quotes are also under fire for future investigation.

More to come.



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lcc said...

I am so glad to discover your blog - one of the few out of, now thousands, on the scene that is intelligent and kind, yet thought provoking. I happen to be a former member of the once elite praise and worship team of Bishop Pearson's Higher Dimensions Church. I have recorded with them at Asuza, in the studio, and on TBN. My family and I love Carlton, Gina, and their kids with all our hearts. Thank you for not dismissing or immediately denouncing him as so many have done. If one listens closely to his continued teachings, it would be realized that Carlton hasn't made a 180 turn, nor turned away from the centrality of the cross; in fact, he emphasizes it's power now more than ever. Although, we no longer live in Tulsa (now in NC), we listen to his teachings weekly and consider his studies/teachings as exacting. I trust his intelligence and fervor now more than ever. No way could I ignore the courage it took for him to admit he'd long been too judgmental and harsh on the "unchurched". I often wonder if his clergy critics could so easily admit their own faultings. If Pastor David Smith (the Director of Fine Arts/Worship) is still there, faithfully leading with his magnificent talents, then I cannot ignore the transitions Carlton is making in his own walk with God. Some say Carlton is leading people down the wrong path, straight to "hell"; on the contrary for me, illuminating the almight power of the cross has served to only make me more faithful and excited to be close to the Lord. If any of his critics were to visit a Sunday or Wednedsay night service at the "now dying" Higher D. they would recognize more clearly than ever, the power of Christ's love. We cannot be blinded by the media's dangerous editing of interviews, excerpts from Carlton's teachings, etc., created for sensationalism and popularity. Please listen closely to the man as he loves the Lord with all his heart. I sang with the choir when there were 80 voices, and now with less than 15, I still would be proud to worship in that house and with those persons. Thanks so much for being kind in your observations of where Carlton may take us in his teaching.