Did anyone else see this episode of Dateline on Sunday? It was an interesting look at pastor named Carlton Pearson who had built up quite an impressive pentecostal ministry with the help of Oral “900 Ft. Jesus” Roberts. While riding high with a wildly succesful ministry in Tulsa, he came to a different understanding of Hell and then proceeded to watch his ministry dwindle to next to nothing.
Pearson claims to have had a revelation of sorts that lead him to believe that hell is not a place we go after we die, but that hell is a part of our life now. In the end, Pearson began to teach that everyone would be redeemed after death and that the widely accepted view of hell that christians have held on to is not an accurate portrayal.
While watching this piece, I was really impressed with Pearson and his story and I related well with much of what he shared. Regardless of his views, it took a great deal of courage for him to push forward toward where he felt God was calling him, even though that meant loosing his ministry he worked so hard to build up. In that regard, it was a very inspiring story. Plus, the story has a little Ted Haggard action in it as well! It was fun for everyone, regardless of what views of hell you share! Gotta love Ted.
Hell is such an interesting subject. I’ve was taught as a child that it’s a real place you go to after you die when you’ve failed to accept God “into your heart” and it’s a lake of fire and that it’s really hot. As I’ve gotten older I’ve found that belief impossible for me to hold on to. If my failures as a human being require a seperation from God after I die, then the fact that some have to throw in hot flames to boot seems to undermine the agony of simply fully knowing you’ve failed to honor the one who has created all things.
I really enjoyed Brian Mclaren’s book “The Last Word and the Word After That” in which he discusses the issues of hell and judgement. In one section of the book he highlights the idea that the New Testament pharisees used the idea of a literal hell as a device of control and fear as they propagated their Jewish purity system (a system Jesus came to dismantle). I can certainly see a parallell between the pharisees of the New Testament and the Ted Haggard’s of today. If hell isn’t a literal scary place of fire and pitchforks where people might go if they die, then the transactional gospel so many evangelicals offer up is rendered totally useless.