For the Love of Those Fighting Against Homosexuality

By Todd Pruitt

 

There is a great deal of discussion going on among Christiains these days about the moral status of homosexuality and homosexual desires.
 

In my own denomination, the PCA, the latest dustup is swirling around the Revoice conference being held in St. Louis at Memorial Presbyterian Church (PCA).
 

The stated purpose of Revoice is: “Supporting, encouraging, and empowering gay, lesbian, same-sex-attracted, and other LGBT Christians so they can experience the life-giving character of the historic Christian tradition.”
 

Not surprisingly, this is causing a great deal of division and confusion within the PCA. The confusion is quite understandable. People inside and outside the PCA are wondering if the historically conservative denomination is now embracing homosexuality. However, the organizers and speakers of Revoice profess fidelity to the biblical position on sexual intimacy – that sexual intimacy is a gift of God legitimately experienced in marriage between a man and woman.
 

So, to those wondering if the PCA is in the process of embracing homosexuality let me say that to my knowledge there are no pastors within our denomination promoting the acceptance of homosexual acts or homosexual marriage. May the Lord be merciful in granting us perseverance and courage to remain faithful.
 

Rather, the debate in the PCA is over the moral status of homosexual desires. The debate extends to the legitimacy of sexual orientation as a category and whether homosexuality is a fixed albeit broken marker of human identity. There are some in the PCA who are comfortable with using terms like Gay Christian to describe Christians who have homosexual desires but choose in obedience to Scripture to remain celibate. However, there are others who believe it is vital that terms like Gay Christian or Queer Christian must not be used in the PCA; that we must not adopt the world’s understanding of sexual orientation and identity.
 

I have no reason to believe that the organizers of Revoice are anything other than brothers in Christ who are sincerely seeking to reach those struggling to remain chaste. My quarrel is not with their hearts or their motives. I am not in a position to judge either and I am happy to take them at their word.
 

But I am deeply dismayed at their insistence on using worldly and ungodly categories and language to describe human identity and sexuality. For instance, the category of sexual orientation is deceptive. It is the fruit of 19th century radicalism. It suggests that people are possessed of various sexual proclivities none more valid than any other. The church cannot retrofit the gospel or biblical Christianity onto the notion of sexual orientation because it is fundamentally out of accord with biblical anthropology.
 

Then of course there is the language of Gay Christian, LGBTQ Christian, Queer Christian, and sexual minority. Is it possible that the PCA hosts, organizers, and speakers of Revoice were unaware that such language would vex and confuse a great number of their brothers and sisters in Christ? It stretches credulity to believe the present controversy surprised them.
 

Eve Tushnet, one of the speakers at Revoice, stated the following on her Twitter account: “What’s better than St. Louis in July? St Louis in July but SUPER GAY.” On the site Patheos, Ms. Tushnet promoted Revoice by writing, “This July, Come to the Big Gay Christian Extravaganza!”
 

One of the teachers at Revoice who is also a ministerial candidate in the PCA and serving on staff of a PCA church states of himself:
“I believe my same-sex attractions are broken, but I do not believe they are sinful. It is not a sin for me to be attracted to another man, in the same way it is not sinful for you to be attracted to a woman.”
 

In fairness to this brother I want to be clear that he maintains that sexual intimacy must be confined to marriage between a man and woman. I am grateful for that. I have corresponded with him briefly and I believe he is sincere in his desire to get the gospel to homosexuals. But I do believe that his understanding of sexuality identity and homosexual desire (an understanding embraced by an alarmingly high number of pastors in the PCA) is fundamentally flawed. In fact, I believe that once a church adopts the notion that homosexual desire is a fixed category of human identity, that is not inherently sinful; once the church grants ontological status to homosexuality it is only a short leap to finally blessing homosexual behavior.
 

This is the way it seems to happen with pastors and churches who abandon the truth:
1) Belief that homosexuality is a fixed identity.
2) Belief that homosexual desires can be pure so long as the homosexual remains chaste.
3) Adoption of the language of Gay Christian, Queer Christian, and sexual minority.
4) The realization that it is pastorally cruel to tell homosexuals that their sexual orientation is basic to their identity and not inherently sinful but that they must not ever act upon it.
5) Blessing of homosexual marriage and relations.  
 

This trajectory has been followed by former PCA churches which are now aligned with denominations who embrace homosexuality.
 

This ought to concern every pastor, elder, and layperson in the PCA: The philosophical and linguistic foundation for ultimately approving of homosexuality is already being laid in the PCA.
 

The following are 3 examples of sessions taken directly from the Revoice site:
 

Possibility Models in Queer Theory and Literature: An Adventure
Presenter: Grant Hartley

For the sexual minority seeking to submit his or her life fully to Christ and to the historic Christian sexual ethic, queer culture presents a bit of a dilemma; rather than combing through and analyzing to find which parts are to be rejected, to be redeemed, or to be received with joy (Acts 17:16-34), Christians have often discarded the virtues of queer culture along with the vices, which leaves culturally connected Christian sexual minorities torn between two cultures, two histories, and two communities. So questions that have until now been largely unanswered remain: what does queer culture (and specifically, queer literature and theory) have to offer us who follow Christ? What queer treasure, honor, and glory will be brought into the New Jerusalem at the end of time (Revelation 21:24-26)?

 

How To Be A Straight Ally
Presenter: Preston Sprinkle, PhD

What does it mean to be a straight ally for gender and sexual minorities? Join speaker, author, and New Testament scholar Preston Sprinkle as he shares about his journey of learning from LGBT people and the way they experience the world around them. Topics covered will include learning how to own the weight of the straight white evangelical tradition and its sins against gender and sexual minorities, how to show genuine compassion to LGBT people, and how to advocate for them so that they are empowered to thrive in their local faith communities.
 

Coming Out in the Shadow of the Cross: Queer Visibility as Redemptive Suffering
Presenter: Jack Bates

The LGBTQ culture at large tends to stress the personal nature of coming out: it’s up to you to determine how and when and whether you come out. The queer Christian, however, can derive some of the contours of her or his coming out from Scripture and tradition. The particular manner of one’s coming out should be determined according to practical wisdom and oriented toward preservation and reconciliation of Christian fellowship, insofar as that is possible. Further, there is a presumption in favor of coming out for the Christian, in light of the possibilities for suffering on behalf of the other that being out in a Christian context provides. The prospect of coming out can be particularly difficult for the Side-B Christian, but the sufferings of visibility offer redemptive possibilities that the closet cannot offer.
 

In response to the many concerns and complaints being expressed about Revoice the pastor of the host church who will also be speaking wrote a thoughtful piece affirming his commitment to biblical sexual ethics and the intention of the organizers to reach people for Christ.
 

His response was clearly heart-felt, and I believe, sincere. But in many ways he was responding to a complaint that is not being made. The debate is not whether the church should be committed to reaching homosexuals for Christ. I do not know of one pastor in the PCA who does not share that goal.
 

The pastors I know, myself included, minister weekly to former homosexuals and those who fight daily against homosexual desires. We love these precious souls. Each Lord’s Day we labor over them through preaching and prayer. Like all those struggling against sin we seek to help them walk in holiness in this sin-sick world. Calling them Gay Christians, Queer Christians, or sexual minorities undermines not only their ability to fight for holiness but the very way they are to understand themselves as new creations in Christ who have been washed clean.
 

What the organizers and speakers of Revoice do not seem to understand is that those of us raising concerns are not doing so because we are opposed to reaching out to homosexuals with the good news of the gospel. We are doing that with heart and soul every week. Rather, we firmly believe that their approach and the language they are using are counter-productive to that goal. Indeed, many us of believe that by adopting worldly and ungodly categories for human identity the promoters of Revoice and all those embracing Gay Christian lingo are failing to love those fighting against homosexuality.
 

So for the love of God, for the love of his truth, and for the love of those fighting against homosexuality let us reject the world’s twisted notions of human identity and sexuality. Let us reject their language. And let us fight for the souls of those precious men and women whom the enemy is seeking to devour.
 

Related:

 

Thinking They Are More Merciful Than God

I Am Not Homo-sexual, Hetero-sexual, Bi-sesxual, or Any Other Kind of Sexual

Should We Equate Homosexual and Heterosexual Sin?

 

 


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Mortification of Spin is a casual conversation of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Mortification of Spin and the mission of the Alliance.

Theological Discipleship

By Todd Pruitt

 

There is a new and exciting initiative from Scott Swain and Michael Allen of Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando. It is called the Paideia Center for Theological Discipleship.

 

The Paideia Center will offer regional reading groups of classic Christian texts, monthly gatherings, and an annual conference.

 

From the Paideia website:

  • Do you desire a rich theological diet so you can develop whole and mature in Christ?
  • Do you want to read Christian classics but don’t know where to start?
  • Would you like to grow with people who share your love for theology?
  • Are you eager to connect biblical teaching with everyday moral discernment?
  • Do you need greater biblical wisdom to lead in your church?
  • Are you eager to stand on the shoulders of men and women who have gone before you?

 

Be looking out for the Mortification of Spin interview with Michael Allen about the vision and work of The Paideia Center.

 


The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is member supported and operates only by your faithful support. Thank you.


Mortification of Spin is a casual conversation of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Mortification of Spin and the mission of the Alliance.

The Wedding Sermon and the PCA

By Todd Pruitt

 

I am not sure if it is possible for me to find anything I care about less than the royal wedding. I care more about how liver is cooked and I don’t eat liver. So I have no interest in the festivities that took place last weekend at Windsor Castle. At least I did not care until brothers in my own denomination including pastors began publicly praising Rev. Michael Curry and the sermon he delivered.

 

I won’t get into the details of Curry’s sermon. David Robertson of St. Peter’s Free Church in Dundee has done that in a clear and convincing critique HERE.

 

It must be pointetd out that the Rev. Curry is one of the leading forces in the continued apostasy of the Episcopal Church. He is not a friend of biblical orthodoxy. He is no friend to the truth concerning human identity and sexuality. Ironically, he is no friend to marriage as he is actively seeking to change his churches liturgy thus vandalizing the biblical vision for marriage.

 

His conception of Jesus and what it means for him to have died on the cross are very different from the witness of Scripture. Likewise, his conception of what it means to love our neighbor and love God would depart in many ways from what we understand from Scripture not least of all in terms of getting the gospel right and speaking the truth about human identity and sexuality.

 

Reverend Curry’s sermon was a rather typical paean to “the power of love.” I rather think John Lennon would have been pleased. No wonder the secular media, various celebrities, and theological liberals were so enamored with it. But one would expect more wisdom and discernment from Reformed evangelicals. To say the name of Jesus is not the same as proclaiming Christ. Rascals throughout the history of the church have used the name of Jesus from Arius to Pope Leo to Fosdick to Kenneth Copeland.
 

Yet there it was on my social media feeds: fawning praise for “brother Curry” and his beautiful proclamation of the gospel from some of my brothers in the PCA. I could not decide whether to be surprised or not. Regardless, it was a sad thing to see.
 

In addition to the lack of discernment think of the unkindness it is to those faithful Anglicans who are hanging on or who have had to flee the ever-apostasizing Episcopal Church for reformed evangelicals to heap praise upon Rev. Curry and his sermon. These faithful brothers and sisters have been harassed in court by the denomination which Michael Curry leads. They have been sued and the property they occupied confiscated under the leadership of Curry. So much for the power of love I suppose.
 

This event served as something of a canary in a coal mine experience for me. It has revealed the presence of a dangerous leak. PCA pastors publicly praise an apostate for a moralistic sermon and call it gospel proclamation from a brother. And yet when some of us express concern about the doctrinal trajectory of the PCA we are met with anger, incredulity, or demands to prove such a trajectory exists.

 

From David Robertson’s piece:

When Curry spoke of the cross, [he] spoke of it as sacrificial, as exemplary, not as THE atoning sacrifice.  We too can be sacrificial and it is that sacrificial love that is redemptive and changes the world.   Can you see what he is doing? He is turning the cross from being THE redemptive work, to it being an example of redemptive love that we can all show. He is teaching us that we can save ourselves and indeed save the world by just having the kind of love that Christ had and following his example. That is not the Gospel. It is the antithesis of the Gospel.

 


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Mortification of Spin is a casual conversation of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Mortification of Spin and the mission of the Alliance.

Take and Read

By Todd Pruitt

 

When was the last time you read a book on Patristic exegesis that was a genuine page-turner?

If you have not yet had that experience then you must add Craig Carter’s outstanding new book Interpreting Scripture with the Great Tradition to your reading. The subtitle of Dr. Carter’s book is “Recovering the Genius of Premodern Exegesis.” You will find this book to be both intellectually stimulating and spiritually refreshing. Carter is not shy about challenging some of the presuppositions many of us were trained to accept in exegeting the biblical text. Some of these exegetical assumptions and methods depart from the Patristic tradition and, in Carter’s estimation, threaten to undermine the biblical doctrine of God and the basis for accepting Jesus Christ as Messiah. He demonstrates how aspects of the modern approach to biblical interpretation, even among many conservatives, has more in common with enlightenment skepticism than with the believing presuppositions of the fathers.

 

Interpreting Scripture with the Great Tradition stands tall among the new books which are, thankfully, recovering the riches of Nicene Christianity for the modern church.
 

Here is just a taste from the preface:

The purpose of exegesis is to understand what God is saying to us today through the inspired text. The text may have one or several meanings because of the complexity of God the Holy Spirit inspiring the text through a human author. The authority of the Bible is God’s self-authenticating Word speaking through it, and in order to hear God’s Word, it is crucial that we interpret it as a unified book with Jesus Christ at its center. The interdisciplinary practice of biblical studies as found in academic settings today is an agent of secularization in the church and needs to be reformed so that it becomes the servant of Christian theology and spirituality rather than a confusing amalgam of history, philology, archaeology, literary theory, sociological theory, and philosophy operating with unacknowledged metaphysical assumptions and without any material center. The meaning of the text for today is what we seek to hear as we study the text carefully, intensively, and reverently. Biblical exegesis is a spiritual discipline by which we are gradually made into the kind of readers who can receive with gladness the Word of God. Ancient reading practices, which have never died out completely in the church, can help us hear God’s Word in less subjective and more ruled ways than modern hermeneutics makes available to us…

The Enlightenment has exercised more influence on scholars who wish to make an impression on the secular academy than it has on faithful pastors who wish to cultivate a love of the Bible in their congregations. Many books seek to bring church practices into line with academic theory; this one seeks to do the opposite. It is my conviction that academic theory needs to be reformed according to church practice when it comes to biblical interpretation.

This book has grown out of a decade of reading, research, and reflection on the Christian doctrine of God. I have become increasingly disillusioned with modern theology in general and with the twentieth century’s so-called revival of Trinitarian theology in particular. The post-Kantian, Hegelian, Trinitarian theology that has dominated the twentieth century is actually not a revival of the Trinitarian classical theism of the fourth-century pro-Nicene fathers or of creedal orthodoxy as it has been understood throughout church history. It represents instead a massive revision of the Christian doctrine of God. The Great Tradition of Christian orthodoxy begins with the Old and New Testaments, crystalizes in the fourth-century Trinitarian debates, and then continues through Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, the leading Protestant Reformers, post-Reformation scholasticism, and contemporary conservative Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant confessional theology. The locus classicus of the Christian doctrine of God is qq. 1-43 of Part I of Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica, which sums up and carefully sets forth in a clear and coherent form the wisdom of Athanasius, the Cappadocian fathers, and Augustine – that is, the Trinitarian classical theism that is expressed in the Nicene Creed. The same doctrine of God is also embodied in the seventeenth-century Westminster Confession of Faith and in the twentieth-century Catechism of the Catholic Church. It has a timeless character that stands in contrast to the shifting winds of doctrinal innovation and cultural fads.
 


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Mortification of Spin is a casual conversation of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Mortification of Spin and the mission of the Alliance.

The Pink Elephant in the Room

By Carl Trueman

Amid all of the discussion surrounding the so-called Pence Rule and also the forthcoming book from my friend, Aimee Byrd, there is one lacuna that is slightly puzzling.

 

 

It is certainly the case that what the Rule seeks to achieve for Mike Pence are good and proper things, and the mockery to which it was subjected by the wider world was simply silly.   And it is also true that our highly sexualized culture means that the matter it addresses cannot be ignored by anyone.  But, given the nature of that culture, why is it that the Rule is only being applied to heterosexual temptations?   Two of the biggest evangelical scandals of the last twenty years — that of Roy Clements in the UK and Ted Haggard in the US — involved inappropriate relationships with men.  And men leave marriages for other men and women for other women every day of the week.  The polymorphous pansexuality of our highly pornified world means that it is simply naive to prioritize one particular form of sexual temptation over another.

 

 

Which would seem to leave those who regard the Pence Rule as a virtual Kantian imperative, and not simply as the wise and prudential strategy of one man which may or may not be useful for others, in a bit of a bind: Can they ever be alone or have a meeting or offer a lift in a car to anyone, regardless of gender, without a chaperone? And can anyone therefore be friends with anyone else?  


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Mortification of Spin is a casual conversation of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Mortification of Spin and the mission of the Alliance.

Will the Real Potiphar’s Wife Please Stand?

By Aimee Byrd

“We should be friends,” quoth Potiphar’s wife;
but Joseph turned, and ran for his life.
“Avoidance is not purity!,”
she cried; but he ignored her plea.
 
One example from Scripture that I often hear to support the Mike Pence or Billy Graham Rule is Potiphar’s wife. I’ve heard, “If Joseph followed the Mike Pence Rule, he would never have gotten himself in this trouble.” He is also used as a warning for men not to trust women’s accusations of sexual abuse. But I have to say, I was quite surprised when someone directed me to Eric Hutchinson’s jab at my upcoming book, on Mere Orthodoxy of all places, in the form of an “Ode on the Pence Rule.” It opens with the above quote.
 
This first stanza compares me to Potiphar’s wife, using the title and subtitle of my upcoming book as her words. That is quite a caricaturization! I am to be equated with a seductress sexual predator. And so is the idea of friendship. Hutchinson introduces the piece with a quote: “Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?”–King Solomon. I’m unsure: am I the fire in the bosom, or is friendship?  
 
I know that Hutchinson is taking some poetic license here with the point he is trying to make, but I am flummoxed at the portrayal of this biblical account and the straw man that he sets up in which to warn others about my book. First, let me affirm that there are both male and female sexual predators out there, and that we are all to use discernment and wisdom in our relationships. Pushing back against the Pence Rule does not mean that we throw caution and common sense out the window.
 
The first half of my book addresses all the reasons that men and women cannot be friends: we’re letting the wrong voices tell us who we are (no, I’m not Potipher’s wife!), we don’t view each other holistically, we don’t know our mission, we misunderstand the nature of purity, we’re immature and fearful, we’ve forgotten what friendship really is, and we’ve overlooked our biblical status as brothers and sisters. These are all reasons that would hinder any possibility of friendship. For example, if a man could only see me as a sexual temptress who may harm his reputation, then he obviously isn’t a friend and it would be unwise of me to pretend so. You can’t be friends with everyone. 
 
Hutchinson is right that you can’t be friends with Potipher’s wife. But we all know that is not what she was suggesting. This account found in Genesis 39 is not about friendship or men and women setting up boundaries. It’s about God’s sovereignty and his faithfulness to his promises to Joseph as we see this pattern of humiliation and exaltation in his life. We see that God is with Joseph, even as he is sold into slavery. We see the divine providence of an aristocrat acquiring him, finding favor in him, and setting him over his household. Interestingly, Scripture adds the line, “Now Joseph was well-built and handsome” (Gen. 39:6). We barely ever see a male described this way in Scripture. Women may lean in a little here because we know the tension of being described this way in the work place. It makes you a target in these kinds of stories. We know where it’s going.
 
And so as Moses sets up the reader, the very next line describes Potiphar’s wife’s lustful desire to have sex with Joseph. Bruce Walke quotes an insightful line from Sarna, “’She, the mistress of the house, is a slave to her lust for her husband’s slave!’” (520). The reader is not thinking about the possibility of friendship here. It’s pure lust, plain and simple.
 
And, Joseph could not just avoid her. He had to do his job. He is her husband’s slave! I’m sure he avoided her as much as he could. But he was in a situation where he had to endure the harassment. He even tries reasoning with her, that he would never “do this immense evil” of a sex act with her to his boss or as a sin against God. Joseph is virtuous even as she continues to harass him. And when she finally gets him alone, as predators have a way of conniving, he shows integrity. This is like #MeToo in reverse. Yes, men and women can both be sexual harassers and predators. But as we see in this account, usually the consequences are different. A similar situation ends differently for Bathsheba. 
 
Joseph seems to have a bit of bad juju when it comes to coats. Potiphar’s wife aggressively grabs his outer garment, trying to force herself on him. But Joseph is stronger and he flees this attack, leaving his garment behind. This is when she cunningly works out the scheme to turn the tables on Joseph as the attacker. Men like to point to Potiphar’s wife as the object lesson for the Pence Rule to teach potential leaders about women who make false charges. Yes, that does happen. And it is ungodly and very bad. But that isn’t the thrust of the text: avoid women because you never know when they are going to pull false charges on you. 
 
Waltke rightly points to the theme that God is with Joseph, and that “Joseph must trust God even in the face of unjust treatment. He is learning to put aside cloaks, trusting the Lord to clothe him with dignity and honor” (522). And unlike the many exploitations that we read about in #MeToo stories, “his refusal of Potiphar’s wife’s advances entails that he does not take advantage of his superior physique to dispossess his master but rather accepts his God-given social standing as a slave. Joseph participates in the eternal covenant: he has the law of God in his heart” (523). Waltke reminds the reader that this humiliation/exaltation in the life of Joseph typologically points to the life of the Israelites, and ultimately to Jesus. 
 
Hutchinson compares both me and friendship with women to Potiphar’s wife, which leads men to the promiscuity of King Solomon. His Ode on the Pence Rule contrasts my so-called voice with that of reason,  
 
Joseph, he’s so dull and boring;
Solomon is clearly soaring.
Joseph, self-protecting–tired;
Solomon, enlightened–wired.
 
I do write against the prevalent evangelical morality of individualistic self-protection that places a purely negative responsibility in our relationship before God and with others. Joseph is anything but boring and self-protecting in this account. He exercised character and virtue, taking the hits to his reputation while trusting in the Lord. We see faithfulness and holiness promoted in this story, not mere self-protection. 
 
Fortunately we are not left with the false dichotomy at the end of Hutchinson’s Ode:
 
And so, dear readers, you can see
the choice in front of you and me.
To be like Joseph? That’s a shame.
But Solomon? Well, he’s got game–
 
his dad was rich, sent him to Yale,
while rustic Joseph went to jail.

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Mortification of Spin is a casual conversation of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Mortification of Spin and the mission of the Alliance.

The Gospel of Inclusion

By Aimee Byrd

Sometimes I enjoy listening to the This American Life podcast on my road trips. It is a secular podcast that provides storied snippets portraying all kinds of different thoughts and experiences within American life. Although I often am saddened by the typical narrative that follows the current secular worldviews and portrayals of the Christian faith. And yet it does help me to see how the world sees and that can be profitable in strengthening the church’s witness. 
 
This American Life is debuting a movie on Netflix called Come Sunday, which covers the life of Pentecostal Carlton Pearson, his rise to fame, and sudden downfall. So they are rerunning an older podcast called Heretics, where Ira Glass describes Pearson as a “rising evangelical megastar” that “at the height of his popularity, became involved in a scandal: He didn’t have an affair, he didn’t embezzle money, he didn’t admit an addiction to prescription painkillers—no, no, none of that. He stopped believing in hell.” He explains that this is “the kind of thing that happens from time to time here in America, even now. He became a heretic. A very prominent heretic….it didn’t end with the Salem witch trials.” As you can see by the language used, the church is not painted in a positive light. We are still hunting witches; they just look different.
 
Reporter Russell Cobb narrates the story in the podcast, along with many excerpts from his interviews with Carlton Pearson, who grew up in a “strict Pentecostal denomination: no smoking, drinking, cursing, or dancing. But there was lots of church going.” Pearson elaborates, “The devil was as present and as large as God. He had most of the people. He was ultimately going to get most of the people.” He explains how demons were all over the neighborhoods, the churches, and the schools. And “if you believe it, you experience it.” So naturally, Pearson cast out his first demonic spirit, from his own girlfriend at that, at a church revival when he was a mere 17 years old. He made a name for himself as he cast out several demons during that 3-day revival. 
 
And yet Pearson recalls how he was smothering in the black, anti-intellectual ghetto and found a way out by attending Oral Roberts University. Oral Roberts changed the image of Pentecostalism with a more positive message that reached a wealthier class. He also took Pearson under his wing as a sort of “second son.” By joining Roberts’ World Action Singers (with Kathy Lee Gifford), Pearson found a sanctified way to travel the world. However, tension with Roberts’ son caused Pearson to branch out on his own. 
 
As Pearson found his preaching voice, congregants flocked to him. He was funny, taught them about some of the Greek roots in his talks, and therefore was seen as giving a scholarly, in depth analysis of Scripture in an entertaining fashion. “He flew around the country guest preaching with some of the biggest names in the evangelical world. People like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. He was in and out of the White House, under both Bushes and Clinton. And when George W. Bush started his faith based initiative program, Carlton sat on an advisory panel and became a spokesman for the plan. He hosted a show on TBN, Trinity Broadcasting Network, a Christian cable channel. He was appointed to the Board of Regents at Oral Roberts University and made bishop in 1995 by the International Communion of Charismatic Churches. And he started a revival called AZUSA, a modern day evangelical festival.” Pearson gave TD Jakes his break, introducing him to an international audience. Attendance to the church he founded, Higher Dimensions, grew to regular attendance of 5,000 people in Sunday service, successfully integrating a diversity of race. He was well loved, even as he continued to preach about hell with all the supernatural flair of the Pentecostal faith, rebuking the devil and speaking in tongues.
 
But in the height of his career, Pearson has a heart-to-heart with God that changed everything. He began to have doubts about the message he was preaching, Russell Cob sets it up that all his Hebrew and Greek studies were leading him in a different direction. Pearson recalls a moment of clarity when he was watching a TV program showing the images of starving children in Uganda. And he said to God, “I don’t know how you can call yourself a loving, sovereign God and allow these people to suffer this way and then just suck them right into hell.” And God replied, “So that’s what you think we’re doing?” Pearson answered, “That’s what I’ve been taught.” In this conversation with God, Pearson says that he has been taught all these people need to get saved. And then he lamented that he can’t do it all: pastor his huge church and go save all these people by preaching the gospel to them. He remembers thinking “God, don’t put that guilt on me…I’ve given you the best 40 years of my life, besides, I can’t save the whole world. I’m doing the best I can.” That’s when God agreed with Pearson that he can’t save the whole world, but that they (because apparently God calls himself they to Pearson) are not sucking all these people in hell—they’re already there. Hell is something we invent for ourselves and God is going to take everyone into his presence. And God wants Pearson to “represent him to the world.” This is when Pearson began preaching his “gospel of inclusion.” Everyone is going to heaven.
 
This American Life sums up what followed like this:
 
Once he starts preaching his own revelation, Carlton Pearson’s church falls apart. After all, when there’s no hell (as the logic goes), you don’t really need to believe in Jesus to be saved from it. What follows are the swift departures of his pastors, and an exodus from his congregation—which quickly dwindled to a few hundred people. Donations drop off too, but just as things start looking bleakest, new kinds of people, curious about his change in beliefs, start showing up on Sunday mornings.
 
The story turns sad, as Pearson laments about his friends leaving the church, the leaders not being on board with the gospel of inclusion, and all the beautiful babies he baptized moving on. His offerings dropped $40,000-$50,000 a week. His important friends abandon him. He misses not being celebrated by all these people who adored him. Now it’s like he died and they moved on. 
 
It was important for these people to keep believing in hell for some reason. Hey, they might not like it, but they didn’t make the rules, as Cob explains. Pearson was formally denounced as a heretic, as he was “assaulting 1,500 years of tradition.” It’s “hard giving up hell after a lifetime of believing in it.” And so many still believe in a salvation based on scaring people with hell to lead them to Jesus. 
 
Although he has to eventually close the doors of Higher Dimensions, Pearson’s gospel of inclusion attracts a new crowd. Muslims and gays stand and applaud him after he preaches his gospel of inclusion. Finally he is getting the notoriety he deserves. One of the holiest moments of his life was when a same gender leader washed his feet. Ira Glass concludes, “When it comes down to it, it’s a lot easier to believe in a world without hell. For one thing, you don’t have to worry about saving everybody.” Pearson is relieved that he doesn’t have to deal with the guilt of not saving every person he meets. He doesn’t need to talk for 2 hours on the plane insulting people by telling them they are going to hell (violin music playing softly in the background). It was all very virtuous of him to follow God in this way. What a martyr. 
 
I was moved too, but not because of the violin music. I’m sad that an episode about heresy and an inclusive gospel never gave the true gospel. A false gospel was presented as the traditional Christian message, and then so-called better news was offered that was pronounced a heresy. Both were centered on the self-importance of the celebrity pastor. The bad news isn’t that the devil is behind every rock trying to pull us into hell, but that our own sin has condemned us and separated us from the holy God. The sensationalism of casting out demons left and right, speaking in tongues as “true believers,” and scaring people into some sort of salvation from the devil is just as bad as the universalism (which still involves tongues, I believe) that Pearson is now preaching, because God still isn’t represented to the world. Pearson’s message leaves people in their sin.
 
Our Triune God has created us for holy communion with him. Our sin, that saturates us in body, mind, and soul, separates us from God and condemns us to his just wrath. Hell isn’t the place the devil drags us, but the eternal presence of God’s wrath for sin. His wrath is just. Our sin enslaves us. We will never be free under it. We will always serve sin. The devil always serves sin, so yes, he is happy to help us join him. I don’t want anyone under that kind of inclusion. But the devil is not as present and as large as God—not even close.
 
And God’s love is greater than our sin. He sent the Son to live the life that we cold not live and die the death under the curse of sin in our place. In Jesus, and only in him, we are given God’s very own righteousness and saved from the curse of sin. Death no longer has its sting. Jesus doesn’t just pull us out of hell; he gives us righteousness. All those in him are no longer under the reign of sin, but rather serve in the reign of grace as we are being transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ. By faith we see that Jesus is Lord and we repent of our sin as we turn to him. Without repentance there is no salvation. How could we embrace a holy Lord in our sin? But there is forgiveness and restoration. The Lord Jesus, who triumphed over the rulers and authorities, making a public display of them by disarming them, doesn’t leave us in our sin! (Col. 2:15)
 
And it’s not about us. Or celebrity pastors. It’s all about him! Jesus is the one to be celebrated! And we long for that great day when we will be resurrected in new, eternal bodies to reign with him on the new heavens and the new earth in that blessed eternal communion, to God be the glory!
 
The call to Christ is inclusive. But it is exclusively in him that we can repent and have eternal life. God will reach all of his people. Christians are privileged to be included in sharing that message as we live a life of faith and obedience. We love to introduce sinners to Christ the Lord. And we don’t have to wait for Carlton Pearson to do it.
 
Maybe this movie will gain popularity on Netflix. And the false gospel that keeps people in their sins will further spread. But let the church use this to reaffirm the true gospel and stir us to share it all the more until our Lord returns.
 
Come Sunday, Oh come Sunday.
That’s the day.

The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is member supported and operates only by your faithful support. Thank you.


Mortification of Spin is a casual conversation of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Mortification of Spin and the mission of the Alliance.

Rachael Denhollander Responds to SGM

By Todd Pruitt

Like many, I was troubled by the response from Sovereign Grace Ministries to Rachael Denhollander’s stated concerns about their handling of sexual abuse allegations. I was equally troubled by the number of men who forwarded SGM’s response along as “thoughtful” and “helpful.” I found it to be neither.

 

Mrs. Denhollander has written a thorough response to the SGM statement. It is carefully worded and free of rancor. It would be well worth your time to read it. And I do hope that those who forwarded SGM’s statement will read and carefully consider Denhollander’s assesssment.

 

Pastors, we must be vigilant in these matters. The impulse to protect our reputation or that of our church must never be considered when abuse is revealed. We have an obligation to the vulnerable. We also have an obligation to the civil authorities. We have an obligation to our Lord to act in defense of those who have been abused. If we mess up in the process then let us give full disclosure and offer full repentance.

 


The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is member supported and operates only by your faithful support. Thank you.


Mortification of Spin is a casual conversation of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Mortification of Spin and the mission of the Alliance.

The Road to Nowhere

By Todd Pruitt

 

Recently Carl delivered two lectures at Reformed Theological Seminary (D.C.). They are entitled The Road of Nowhere and are well worth your time. Broadly speaking, the subject is how we have become a people for whom the statement “I am a man trapped in a woman’s body” makes sense. Or perhaps, how we became a people fascinated by the wife of Kanye West. This is public theology done well and a great alternative to the shallow thinking that often accompanies Protestant interaction with the spirit of the age.

 

 

 


The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is member supported and operates only by your faithful support. Thank you.


Mortification of Spin is a casual conversation of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Mortification of Spin and the mission of the Alliance.

Rachel Denhollander Responds to SGM

Like many, I was troubled by the response from Sovereign Grace Ministries to Rachel Denhollander’s stated concerns about their handling of sexual abuse allegations. I was equally troubled by the number of men who forwarded SGM’s response along as “thoughtful” and “helpful.” I found it to be neither.

Mrs. Denhollander has written a thorough response to the SGM statement. It is carefully worded and free of rancor. It would be well worth your time to read it. And I do hope that those who forwarded SGM’s statement will read and carefully consider Denhollander’s assesssment.

Pastors, we must be vigilant in these matters. The impulse to protect our reputation or that of our church must never be considered when abuse is revealed. We have an obligation to the vulnerable. We also have an obligation to the civil authorities. We have an obligation to our Lord to act in defense of those who have been abused. If we mess up in the process then let us give full disclosure and offer full repentance.