Carlton Pearson: The closest to God you’ll probably ever get

Carlton Pearson: The closest to God you’ll probably ever get

Bishop Carlton PearsonThe Carlton Pearson curiosity continues.

Over the last few weeks I’ve noticed the amount of search engine queries landing on this site have shot heavenward for Carlton Pearson. The searchers have typed:

  • carlton pearson goes bad
  • carlton pearson has cancer
  • carlton pearson has lost his mind
  • is carlton pearson gay?
  • did carlton pearson get a divorce?

As far as I can tell, Carlton Pearson’s “badness” quotient has gotten no worse than when I wrote my semi-definitive exploration of his doctrine of inclusion back in early 2006: “Carlton D. Pearson: The Charismatic Bishop of Heresy.” I’ve read that around 2005 Pearson had been diagnosed with prostate cancer but, according to last night’s 20/20 program (read the segment: ‘Nobody Goes to Hell': Minister Labeled a Heretic), it is now in remission and might avoid urology surgery. Pearson appears to enjoy full possession of his faculties, as far as the TV demonstrates (though he did once hear revelatory voices from God), he has not publicly admitted to any homosexual inclinations that I know of (or can find), and nobody anywhere has reported a divorce.

But Pearson did publish a book recently, and I figure that caused some of the alarm. God Is Not a Christian defends his views, answers his critics, and, according to the sole reviewer “he also throws in a lot of ideas about God, the divinity of man, and why he views Scripture as flawed in places. This will bother some of his conservative Christian readers.”


If there are any.

Pearson’s book currently ranks #829,524 on (as of Saturday, July 14, 2007). It’s no Mere Christianity-style instant classic to be sure (which ranks at #405), and Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (ranked at #1,432) must have a marketing genius pushing the tome when compared to Pearson’s sales rate.

But the media love Pearson and I’m sure his sales will pick up well before Hell freezes over. Not that Pearson wants to profit off of Hell. No, he’s done getting paid for Heck-Fire:

“If I say everybody’s going to heaven, then I can’t raise money from you to get me to keep people out of hell.” (20/20, “‘Nobody Goes to Hell': Minister Labeled a Heretic“)

Problem is, once you’ve done away with Hell, why stop there? Since, in Pearson’s view, the doctrine of Hell rests on man-made documents about a man-made myth, then the doctrine of Heaven itself is on shaky grounds.

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.” (Reuters, “Checking in with Carlton Pearson – who doesn’t believe in hell – in Tulsa“)

Not a quote I’d want to enter Eternity with, for sure.

•  •  •

I watched Bill Weir’s 20/20 documentary on Hell last night, but after Tivoing the program, I must have run out of disk space. I only captured 33 minutes of the program. Sadly, the show cut off before the commercial break leading into Pearson’s segment. Otherwise, I would have shown you a clip. But if you hurry, you might be able to catch it streaming off of the website.


(Pearson photo by Scott Griessel via Flickr.)

[tags]2020, abc, afterlife, bill-weir, bishop-carlton-d.-pearson, bishop-pearson, blogrodent, calrton-pearson, carlton, carlton-d-pearson, carlton-pearson, death, documentary, eternity, gehenna, gospel, gospel-of-inclusion, heaven, heaven-and-hell, hell, heresy, heretic, inclusion, pearson, rich-tatum, salvation, universalism[/tags]

20 thoughts on “Carlton Pearson: The closest to God you’ll probably ever get

  1. Rich Post author


    Thanks, good catch, Clay!


    Dude, everything I do on BlogRodent is link-bait. According to that all-knowing source of information on pop-culture, here are some typical forms of link-bait:

    Types of link bait

    Although there are no clear-cut subdivisions within link bait, many attempt to divide them into types of hooks. This is a short list of some of the most common approaches with brief descriptions:

    Informational Hooks — Provide information that a reader may find very useful. Some rare tips and tricks or any personal experience through which readers can benefit.

    News Hooks — Provide fresh information and garner citations and links as the news spreads.

    Humor Hooks — Tell a funny story or a joke. A bizarre picture of your subject or mocking cartoons can also prove to be a link bait.

    Evil Hooks — Saying something unpopular or mean may also yield a lot of attention. Writing about something that is not appealing about a product or a popular blogger. Provide strong reasons for it.

    Tool Hooks — Create some sort of tool that is useful enough that people link to it.

    Seriously, I try to add something of interest and value to everything I post here. If it generates enough interest for folks to link to the post, I’m happy for them.

    As for my motivation to write this particular post: it’s news. People are searching for the latest on Carlton Pearson, I help by providing at least a few answers.

    I use my powers for good, not evil.


  2. carl

    I was only (partially) kidding. Its your blog. Post on!

    But seriously, i think it is only a matter of time before the news on Pearson is more on a personal rather than doctrinal note. Everything points in that direction, but at this point, who would care?

    If you create a religion where you can do no wrong, there is no one to judge your actions when you publicly fall.

  3. Common Swift

    For once I agree with Carl :: Rolls eyes:: but not for the reason he thinks. A few months back I called Pearson a heretic for his “All Are Saved” point of belief and dismissing Hell, I’m sticking with that. If I remember the debate right the last time, the only ones sticking up for Mr. Pearson where heterosexual Christians.

  4. Mark Brand

    Rich, I do not know if it is available streaming via ABC’s website, but it did come through on 20/20’s video podcast, along with other episodes in their series on hell.

  5. Pingback: Carlton D. Pearson: The Charismatic Bishop of Heresy via BlogRodent

  6. Common Swift

    Interesting read Robyn. I’m just sorry it took Pearson falling into heresy for him to see gays as God’s creations too.

  7. cincinnati

    Hmm… C Pearson heresy. I was intrigued by the definition and its exclusionary thrust. It is either denial of years of conventional wisdom or just a position that does not sufficiently meet current standards. Once there were religious beliefs and doctrinal ideas that kept society in check. These beliefs existed for centuries prior to a certain birth. Then, seemingly a single man taught a view of life, faith and redemption that can only be described as heresy- an idea in conflict with conventionally, long established beliefs. This man was ostracized by his own, cast out by friends and associates, denied by religious peers and eventually punished by community leaders. Is Carlton Pearson on par with Jesus, no, not to the best of my knowledge but his torturers are very much similar to those persecutors from thousands of years ago.

    How is it that one religious strand that found its beginnings in a teaching not meant for it come to dominate the thinking of a vast majority of people from around the world? It was itself a heresy by its own definition. A little religious tolerance rather than fear and ruination might go a long way in allowing all of Gods children to have enough faith to enter the pearly gates.

    A core problem with Carlton Pearson’s excommunication is that Jesus died for of our sins and we are therefore cleansed at birth. To imply that thousands of years later, Jesus died for some sins, only those commited by those of certain faiths seems problematic. GOD created man, all men, all animals, all things of earth that we use use to create continual life. He did not allow another to create the bad. Mankind creates the bad through its actions not through some travel to and commitment to hell. GOD could only create things that are good and therefore could not create bad, evil, deestructive behavior. Biologically, man was created with the capacity to do both good and bad. And without the ability to fully understand why we can kill, covet and destroy; the creation of Hell and satan was required from a human point of view. Again GOD is absolute and perfect and did not create the imperfect. Man’s limited understanding of its abilties, good and bad, had to create the type of world where we spiritually confine the evils of life- Hell.

    The Basic Instruction Before Leaving Earth-

    Oh, by the way, those who want to ruin anyone with contrarian view may want to do some reading. Is there there a possibilty that the Bible was a compilation from the Council of Nicea?

    Because we want, no, need to, understand our world, having views that may challenge conventional wisdom is not in and of itself bad. Punishing a man who goes from preacher to teacher is only following in steps of another man called a “rabbi” (teacher). Are we ready to continue the persecutions?

  8. Common Swift


    Please know when I use the term “Heresy” it is not said lightly, on the contrary, it is said with fear and trepidation, knowing consequences, if I am wrong.

    Jesus was not seen creating something “new” that was labeled a heresy, He came to extend what was already known to “the Jew first.” He fulfilled, with his life and death, the “law” that was pre-given to his chosen people with the end result (Salvation) benefiting Gentiles also. The Man, who’s birth of which you speak, got into trouble because being the Son of God, He exposed man-made hypocrisies contrary to His Father’s will, not because He taught something radical from His own volition. How you see Pearson in this equation is beyond me.

    One of the loveliest attributes of the very Maker of the heavens and earth is His patience, willingness, to wait for our love in respect to our free will, loving us enough to let us choose him if we will. You on the other hand you see that as exactly with what’s wrong with Salvation I believe in.

    I don’t believe in your premise of “good people” because our root core is evil as fallen beings. I believe we did not invent Hell because man is much too proud, too arrogant, to make something he cannot be reprieved from. Mankind has made enough Hell here for himself to take it any further. Jesus spoke more on hell than He did heaven and I have nothing to add.

    P.S. If your going to try to use that “The Council of Nicea changed the Bible” line, your knowledge of history is on par with laughable religious conspiracy’s long debunked.

  9. Bea K.

    Common Swift from Cincinnati, Thank you so very much for what you’ve written (I suspect with inspiration from God), because your response was absolutely correct, the main problem is mankind has become so full of themselves they very likely wouldn’t believe God or Jesus, if they came down from heaven and presented themselves in a way that ‘they think’ they’d understand.

    I read Pearson’s story about his ‘enlightenment’ as to why has life was ‘suddenly’ changed (suddenly, but in another article he’d said that he’d had ‘doubts’ for a number of years???), so does that mean he never actually took God/Jesus at ‘their Word’, because while I believe there are some things we will and ‘won’t’ understand about the Bible, God/Jesus has been ‘more real’ to me than anything man can (or will) ever present to me.

    Lastly, as for Pearson’s ‘life changing’ incident, whatever happened to “trying the spirit by the Word”? His ‘commentary’ with the ‘un-identifiable spirit’ should have lead him straight to the Word for clearification with confirmation by the Holy Spirit. My heart goes out to this ‘man’ (there by the Grace of God go I), his family, former congregation (who might still be praying for him and his family), and others lead astray by his present train of thought. I pray earnestly for him (his family, and all involved), that the Lord will cause a heavy shaking in his life that will shift his heart, mind, and spirit back to the ‘real God/Jesus of the Bible’, and not the ones that he’s ‘made up’ for himself and others involved.

  10. Will

    My number one critique of Pearson comes from the idea established in the movie “Amistad.” In the movie the accused where acquitted by the idea of “summoning up one’s ancestors.” Well what would Pearsons Pentecostal ancestors say about his doctrine? William Seymour, G. T. Haywood, Charles Harrison Mason (founder of the Church of God in Christ). If these men were alive they would have rebuked Pearson privately and publicly. Old time Holiness/Pentecostal preachers always held to a strict interpretation of the Bible, i.e. either your are saved or you are lost, either you are going to heaven or you are going to hell. Their theology did not have gray areas.

  11. J

    It is outrageously weird that some fundamentalists call Christian universalism and open theism “heresies” (especially when one considers that open theism is more in keeping with the concept of a dialectical God found in Judaism—Judaism being the religion of Jesus !)

    Nowhere do any of the verses of the bible state that universalism , nor open theism are any “heresies” .

    As a NON-fundamentalist Christian , I will always hope and pray that eventually every person will be redeemed by Jesus –or if not redeemed perhaps remediated). There may be some people who persist in some immoral behavior so tenaciously and severly that their souls may have to be destroyed partially and then have the elements of their souls reconstructed later –or their spirit somehow redeemed without the soul ..(perhaps serial killers and such might be included in such a prospect) .

    Thank Jesus for universalist theologians !

    Here below I am posting two articles that make the case that the use of terms like ‘heresy’ and ‘heretic’ in the New Testament epistles–should NOT be interpreted in the broad way that many ultra-Fundamentalists do…

    The case is made that since in the epistles of Paul , where words such as ‘heresies’ and ‘heretic’ appear in the text…nowhere does Paul state explictly which specific doctrines are to be considered heretical , and since the only place in the bible scriptures where there is anything close to a definition of “heresy” is in the epistle of 2 Peter, where the author refers to people , ‘denying the Lord that bought them’ and NOT to Christian Universalism , open theism , or every form of unusual doctrine , but specifically to denying the Lord…and so the broad accusations that such and such a doctrine is “heresy” (that many ultra-Fundamentalists like to cast around) are playing fast and loose with the text .

    Furthermore, the doctrines of Fundamentalism are not on every point “orthodox Christianity” . True orothodox Christianity is more in keeping with the Eastern Orthodox sect—NOT the doctrines promoted by lousy theologians like John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon ect. Gregory of Nyssa and a number of the early church fathers supported universalism .

    I see that some have posted words to the effect that they were going to pray that Carlton Pearson stop supporting universalism and support a fundamentalist outlook . That is disgusting !

    In light of how Jesus taught that ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive’ and how that applies even to salvation , please do not pray that I become a fundamentalist. If it turns out that an ultra-Fundamentalist deity is running the universe (a different Deity than the Father of the Jesus who gave us the sermon on the mount)—then me becoming a fundamentalist and going to a fundamentalist heaven while other people (even nice people) are being tortured endlessly for not praying a Christian prayer prior to bodily death ..I would regard as a worse state of affairs than me being sent to a hell of fire and brimstone . It would be outrageously selfish for me to go to a fundamentalist sort of heaven —if there are people being tortured for an endless period of years .

    If an ultra-Fundamentalist wants to send people to a fire and brimstone hell (or “allow” them to go there) where people are endlessly tortured —even nice people—then I’d just as soon rather try to persuade such a deity to to torture me instead *in the fire brimstone forever , rather than them and let the other people out of such a hell. If such an ultra-Fundamentalist deity maintains that such persons who have died without converting to Christianity are unworthy of heaven because of their sin or belief , then they could still be let out of that hell and sent to some other place that is *neither heaven nor a painfull variety of hell —that does not have any of the pleasures of heaven and yet does not have the pain and sufferring of hell—a neutral place of endless tedious boredom , or embarassment maybe .

    Those ultra-fundamentalists, who would be disappointed in Jesus, if Jesus eventually saved everyone, remind one of the weird atitude by the people in ther parable of the laborers in the vineyard who were disappointed that the people who were hired at the last hour were given the same wage as those who worked all day long and endured the heat of the day .

  12. J

    NOTE: Though I am defending Rev.Pearson, I lean towards a different version of Christian universalism then he does —one that does have the hope that eventually all will make some sort of confession in Jesus —that every toungue shall confes that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father .


    In this present era especially , there is a lot of talk in some sectarian groups–especially Fundamentalist protestant groups and in some anti-progressive factions of Catholicism about so-called “heresy” and “heretics” . What’s odd is that in some of these religious factions –especially Fundamentalist factions to label some notions “heretical” apparently because these notions seem way too exotic or way too unusual , even though some of the beliefs supported by such Fundamentalist pundits and theologians were, at one time in history, themselves called “heresy” by many of the other earler dominant churches when these religious movements, to which these Fundamentalists belong, emerged .

    An example: the practice of the Baptist denomination to baptize people as adults when they had made more of an inquiry into what Baptism meant about 3 or 4 centuries ago –when the Baptist sect was young–was condemmed as a heresy by the earlier dominant church denominationsin Europe.

    It is also quite hazy as to whether a lot of the hunters who object to so-called heresy have any fixed criteria for deciding if some notion is heresy or not. Calvinists and those factions of Arminian /Protestants who believe in free will (and are ALSO fundamentalists) tend to regard the doctrines promoted by each other as alternative forms of Christianity –the Calvinists disagree with Arminian doctrine and vice versa (but with perhaps a few odd exceptions) don’t call each other heretics, yet might call other doctrines so-called “heresies” like open theism (to give an example) or say elements of the Charismatic movement -to give another example .

    Jesus in the gospels never uses the word ‘heresy’ . Jesus denounces some people for being NON-consistent.. having internal contradictions in beliefs and attitudes, and/or for being petty , superficial , venal /greedy, NOT for having some exotic theology ! Though Jesus is fond of pointing out internal inconsistency in the beliefs that some people express , he does NOT in the gospels show any desire to support some doctrinal ” correctness” as any goal for its own sake .

    Jesus criticizes the false prophets not for teaching unusual doctrine , but instead for fostering unethical conduct . The difference between a true prophet and a false prophet was a true prophet produced good fruits and false prophet bad fruits .

    St.Paul uses the term ‘heretic’ in the epistle to Titus , but does NOT define a list of doctrines that make a person a heretic or make up ‘heresy’. Thus it is presumptuous to claim support from St.Paul for the broad use of the term ‘heresy’ that many Fundamentalists and some factions of Catholics like to bandy around .

    The only time the word ‘heresies’ gets anything almost like a definition is when in the New Testament epistle called 2 Peter chapter 2 verse 2 which describes heresy as ‘denying the Lord that bought them’, and NOT in the broad sense that the word ‘heresy’ is used today. Thus, according to 2 Peter chapter 2 verse 2, the term ‘heresies’ specifically refers to denying the Lord. It does NOT in that verse have a broad application of applying to each and every exotic or unusual doctrine or belief .

    In the book of Revelation, there is a particular doctrine that is villified called ‘the doctrine of the Nicolotaines’ (Revelation 2:15) . However, according to many of the early church fathers like Iranaeaus , the doctrine of the Nicolataines was rejected and opposed by the author of Revelation out of an objection that was more basic , inasmuch as the Nicolaitaines were anti-nomians (i.e. hedonists) of a sort who espoused wild sexual promiscuity and also eating foods set aside to be devoted to polytheistic pagan idols . Hence, the opposition in the book of Revelation was NOT based on some sort of doctrinal groupthink which sought to reject notions because they were too exotic–but, instead, out of ethical objections having to do more with personal conduct and also a disapproval of accepting polytheistic practices .

    It is interesting to note that in Phillipians I :15-18, St. Paul acknowleges that those in the Christian community which were against Paul as leader were, nonetheless, preaching the same Jesus and rejoiced in that they were doing so .

  13. Blain Scott Chamberlin

    Rich, Thank you so much for this site, it has been very enlightening to say the least. I have been reading all the comments, the agreements and disagreements, the theological dissertations on this doctrine or that, and I’ve come to no conclusion that I hadn’t already previously believed. However, I have gleaned a considerable amount of personal revelatory knowledge that pertains to those of us who are inclined to seeking a higher power (and I believe we all are).

    I once heard a man say that he “sought the company of those who were seeking the truth” and that he ran from those who had found it. One of my favorite verses of scripture in the bible is Matthew 6:33 “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you…” The times in my life that i felt the most stagnant were the times that i thought i had found the truth and i sat back, relaxed, and admired what i had found, until my truth became an idol. In my relatively short lifespan Ive found many truths, but have yet to discover the full truth of Gods kingdom let alone his righteousness.

    Its open honest dialogue such as this that sparks the desire to continue the search with renewed strength…

    Thank You All… And someday may we truly be Altogether One…

  14. Jered Johnson

    I have lived in Tulsa, OK for over 20 years. When I moved here Carlton was one of the top 5 preachers in the city. Probably one of the top 100 in the nation. His church had over 5000 members. He eventually had yearly conferences that filled a 12000 seat auditorium. He was one of these most famous black preachers in America. He used to have a quote on the back wall of his church that said “everything is going to be alright!” But those days are long gone. He is now basically a nobody. In 2010 he is theologically a heretic. He was renting an old church downtown and might have had a couple hundred members if that. He turned his back on all his preacher friends and the church community that “made” him. He is now a pariah. It is a joke that 20/20 interviews him. I wonder where they will be when he is on his lonely death bed. I guarantee these liberal fools that love to follow him around and quote him will be no where to be found. Things are certainly not going to be alright for Carlton. Very sad.

  15. Pingback: Bishop Carlton Pearson\\\'s Divorce |

  16. Sally

    Check out his best friend David Smith who used to be the pastor of Trinity Assembly in Cedar Hill, Tx.

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