Protestant Realizes There Is No Eternal Torment

Minister Labeled a Heretic ABC News (20/20) – July 12, 2007

Virtually every religion throughout human history has some notion of a horrible life after death. And though the threat of fire and brimstone is not preached as fervently in this age of reason, one man in Tulsa, Okla., knows just how hard it is for modern believers — and their religious institutions — to let go of the medieval vision…

Carlton Pearson was born to work a pulpit.

“My dad was preacher, his dad was preacher,” he said. “Tongue talkin’, pew jumpin’, holiness, …and brimstone.”

Pearson began casting demons out of people at age 16, and he couldn’t wait to go to Oral Roberts University. Once there, his love of the Scriptures and his stage presence was so obvious, the renowned televangelist took him under his wing and took him on the road as one of the World Action Singers.

“Oh man, that was heaven on earth for me,” Pearson said. “In our opinion, Oral Roberts was the third cousin to the Holy Ghost.”

After years preaching to crowded arenas and television audiences, he built the Higher Dimensions church in Tulsa and soon became an evangelical megastar with a megacongregation — up to 6,000 people would attend his services each week, and he was in high demand in the Christian world, sharing pulpits with Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.

After the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, he was called to lead the grieving in prayer. And he counseled both President Bush and President Clinton on faith-based initiatives.

Throughout his rise, Pearson preached the fundamentals: Everyone is born a sinner…Jesus Christ as lord…

A Crisis of Faith

Through the years, as Pearson studied the ancient Greek and Hebrew Scriptures, he developed a crisis of faith.

“I couldn’t reconcile a God whose mercy endures forever, and this torture chamber that’s customized for unbelievers,” Pearson said.

And he often agonized over the fate of his non-Christian family members. …

“How can you really love a god who’s torturing your grandmother? And that’s what I went through for years.”

…The more he studied, the more Pearson saw the Bible…prone to mistranslations, political agendas and human emotions. And one night, as he watched Peter Jennings’ report on the parade of suffering in Rwanda, he had a revelation.

“I remember thinking that these were probably Muslims because God wouldn’t let that happen to Christians,” he said. “Unbelieving Muslims, little starving babies and that…”

“And that’s when I said, ‘God, how could you, how could you call yourself a loving God and a living God, and just let them suffer like that…'” he continued. “And that’s when I thought I heard an inner voice say, ‘Is that what you think we’re doing?’ I said, ‘That’s what I’ve been taught…’ And that voice said, ‘Can’t you see they’re already there?…“The bitter torment of the idea of an angry, visceral, distant, stoic, harsh, unrelenting, unforgiving, intolerant God is…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.”

Losing His Followers

Pearson began sharing this message, and it wasn’t long before Christian magazines demonized him. The denomination that made him a bishop officially labeled him a heretic. His assistant pastors quit, and his congregation dropped from 6,000 to fewer than 300.

“When people leave by the thousands, it’s like pulling clumps of your hair out at one time,” Pearson said. “…It wasn’t some secular, atheist, God-hating infidel that denounced me … my own brethren, with whom I sat, and ate, whose babies I dedicated.”

As his life came apart, he agonized over his new belief…

It seemed like that prayer might be answered when his doctors found cancer.

Life After …

Pearson stuck with his new message, even after losing his church altogether. He now rents space from the Episcopalians across town. And his congregation is growing. Slowly, people from all faiths are adding to the few who never left, despite being labeled heretics themselves…

After the avalanche of hate mail and all the rejections, Pearson says people are slowly warming to his ideas. His cancer is in remission, and he doesn’t regret his difficult path.

“Religion won’t let you love yourself. Religion is the accuser of the brethren, that’s what the devil is. It’s legal systems, religious dogmas that say you’re not good enough, you’re not God enough,” he said.

While I do not agree with everything in the article (which is part of why I edited out portions), it is nice that sometimes, even Protestant preachers realize that some of the doctrines they teach do not square with the God of the Bible.

False religion is a tool of Satan, who the Bible states is “the accurser of the brethren”.  But it is true that the idea of Gehenna as a place of never-ending torment is not a biblical concept (it would be nice if Protestants actually believed in Sola Scriptura.

It is also true that God is a God of love and has a better plan for humans (including Moslems, Hindus, and others not in the Church of God) than nearly all realize.  And this is clearly taught in the Bible.

Please see the articles:

Universal Salvation? There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis Do you believe what the Bible actually teaches on this?
Hope of Salvation: How the COGs differ from most Protestants How the COGs differ from mainstream Protestants, is perhaps the question I am asked most by those without a COG background.
Sola Scriptura or Prima Luther? What Did Martin Luther Really Believe About the Bible? Though he is known for his public sola Scriptura teaching, Martin Luther’s writings about the Bible suggest he felt that prima Luther was his ultimate authority.

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