Sunday, December 07, 2008

Carlton Pearson

Last night I heard an interesting show on This American Life about Carlton Pearson, who is a pastor up in Tulsa, OK. It was a replay of an interview from 2005, so this isn't new...A number of years ago he decided that hell couldn't possibly exist, because a loving God couldn't really condemn people to hell. So he began to preach "the gospel of inclusion" in which there isn't any hell, and that Jesus' death on the cross covers all sins of all people regardless of their willingness to repents and receive salvation through Jesus.

The show was from Carlton Pearson's perspective, and he talked about how painful it was to be declared a heretic by Oral Robert's University, and have his church of 5000 disintegrate to 200. People stopped hugging him in the grocery store, stopped asking him to speak, basically turned their backs on him. They also included an interview with one the members of his congregation about how her neighbors used to confront her and tell her how wrong she was to not believe in hell. She felt so relieved that she didn't have to tell people that anymore, because it was mean.

Now his congregation meets in the Unitarian Church in Tulsa. They consider themselves part of the spirit-filled church, they believe that Jesus' blood paid for their sins, and set them free from bondage, and they're glad that they don't have to preach a gospel that condemns anyone. reflections: I went through a time where I realized that I was really mad at God for the existence of Hell. It seemed so unfair that some people would go to heaven, and some go to hell for eternity. That is a huge punishment. I believe that God is Love. How could a loving God send anyone to Hell?

However, I did believe the Bible is true, so I knew that:

John 3:16-21
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.

For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.
But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God."

I have learned over the years that Love doesn't operate in control, so because God is love, he allows us to make choices. We get to choose our response to Jesus' death on the cross. I believe that Christ's blood covers each and every person on the planet, like it says in the first two verses. But then, in the next few, it clears up the other half of the playing field: ours. "He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already." And it goes on to describe the reason that people might not choose to believe in the name of Jesus: "For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed."

One thing I know is that exposure of shameful things is of the most scary, painful, humiliating thing possible. It's because our sinful nature and our pride wants to keep our bad deeds hidden. But I also know that exposure is the best possible thing to happen, because when the evil is exposed, we can repent, be forgiven, and move on.

I've come to my own conviction about the tension over a Loving God and the existence of Hell. I believe that God sees and understands the heart of each human ever born, and no matter what their circumstances, he gives each person an opportunity. Perhaps more than one opportunity. Regardless of culture, upbringing, location, I believe that each soul has a crisis moment where they get to choose to rebel, or surrender to God. It might look different in different circumstances, or cultural identities. It might look like totally orthodox Christianity. But instead of worrying about the questions of whether or not the native who has never seen anyone from the outside world to bring them "the gospel" as I've learned it, I've come to trust that the loving God who created the world will give them their chance to choose Him.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Thank you Cesar

Lately...We had a great Thanksgiving. We invited a family in our neighborhood who have three kids who are friends with our kids, and we've enjoyed getting to know the parents in the process. We also invited an older couple from our church who don't have family in town. It was fun to have a minor houseful of people, and enjoy new relationships over the table. I haven't had as many large group hospitality opportunities since we've moved to Texas, so I felt a bit rusty getting ready, but everything went off without a hitch, and we all had a great time.

We enjoyed vegging out the rest of the weekend, and today back at work I felt rested and ready to do my job. In fact, everyone at the office was quite chipper. I think the holiday did us all good.

I'm anticipating our trip to CA in 19 days. It will be so fun to see all our family there, and enjoy Christmas as part of the bigger group. We've enjoyed our quiet Christmases for the last two years, and are ready for a wild litany of gatherings.

We checked out The Dog Whisperer on DVD from the library, and have been watching Cesar in action. It's a crack up how the people project so much onto their dogs; I know we do the same with Dolce. (Just see her blog; it's an extreme example of owner projection.) So I've been thinking about exuding "calm assertive energy," especially with my children. My children know when I don't believe in what I'm telling them to do, and my own ambivalence undermines my authority. So, I'm thinking about parenting, thanks to Cesar Milan.