Dr. Thomas R. Horn
A new movie titled Come Sunday (originally titled Heretic) is garnering highly positive reviews for actor Chiwetel Ejiofor’s portrayal of Bishop Carlton Pearson. At one point, Pearson was senior pastor of Higher Dimensions Family Church, a Pentecostal megachurch in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was personally mentored by Oral Roberts and served on the board at ORU. “Then Pearson declared that he no longer believed in hell and preached what he called the ‘gospel of inclusion.’ As a result, he was forced to resign from [the] board of regents and was deemed a heretic by his former peers. He traded his Pentecostal ministry for universalism.” [i]
Why am I personally interested in this story and the new movie?
Ironically, it started a while back when searching for a particular document that I had placed in an old photo album years ago for safe keeping. I had gone through at least a dozen books of images, old newspaper clippings, seeing members of churches we had pastored and records of events frozen in time from nearly 30 years inside institutionalized Christianity, when finally between dusty storage bins and spider webs I found what I was looking for. I placed the coveted item among the research notes for a book project, then returned everything else to the closets.
That should have been that, but for the next week the old memories in those boxes kept calling to me about things and friends I had nearly forgotten—people who represented the true mission of the Church and were wonderful examples to my wife and I about what it means to be a Christian. Their names would not be recognized by most today—dedicated believers like O.R. Cross, Henrietta Stewart, Lorraine Morgan, Wyoming Rosebud Dollar, C.K. Barnes, Eugene & Evelyn Fuller, Annie Walton, and others of the New Testament clan.
And then there was that other group, hiding in plain sight among the believers, sometimes even leading them, the ones the Bible calls “clouds without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots” (Jude 1:12).
Among this second class were—and still are—some fantastic heretics I have known.
Take our old friend Carlton Pearson for instance, the central figure of the new film Come Sunday. When I was pastor of Life Center and then Family Worship Center near Portland, Oregon during the 80s, my church was the host for TBN’s West Coast broadcasts and special events where some of America’s top evangelists appeared almost nightly for a while. In those days, the Church was in flux. The Great Generation with its Faith of the Fathers was getting older, and errant doctrines made delicious by nasty end-time agents known as demons were finding more and more willing hearts who were having the time of their lives abandoning solid theology in exchange for such teachings as “The Doctrine of Inclusion” (in which nobody goes to hell) eventually branding such false prophets as heretics (including Carlton Pearson) among thoughtful evangelicals.
Then there were those who embraced things far worse than “Inclusion.” For instance, “Kingdom Age” theology (also known as Reconstructionism, Kingdom Now Theology, Theonomy, Dominion Theology, and most recently, Dominionism), which singularly has wrought some of the most far-reaching destruction within the Body of Christ this century.
Dominionism is a form of hyper-Calvinism (though supported by both reconstructionists and non-reconstructionists) that ultimately seeks to establish the Kingdom of God on earth through the union of politics and religion. Though ravenously popular among most talking-heads for the Religious Right (reinvigorated since the election of Donald Trump, who I also voted for), combining religious faith with politics as a legislative system of governance such as Dominionism would do, hearkens the formula upon which Antichrist will come to power. Note how in the book of Revelation, chapter 13, the political figure of Antichrist derives ultra-national dominance from the world’s religious faithful through the influence of an ecclesiastical leader known as the False Prophet. Similar political enthusiasm exists among dominionists despite the fact that neither Jesus nor His disciples (who turned the world upside down through preaching the gospel of Christ, the true “power of God,” according to Paul) ever imagined the goal of changing the world through supplanting secular government with an authoritarian theocracy.
In fact, Jesus made it clear that His followers would not fight earthly authorities purely because His kingdom was “not of this world” (John 18:36). While every modern citizen—religious and non-religious—has the responsibility to lobby for moral good, combining the mission of the church with political aspirations is not only unprecedented in New Testament theology—including the life of Christ and the pattern of the New Testament church—but a tragic scheme concocted by sinister forces that seek to defer the Church from its true power while enriching insincere bureaucrats. So… let me take this moment to state that, while I personally appreciate the values represented by some people in the President’s Evangelical Advisory Board, my prayer for believers is that they will not be fooled (again) into believing they can fulfill the will of God by pulling voting levers.
That said, while great heresies like “Dominionism” and “Inclusion” are, or should be, self-evident, other contenders for the most spectacular heresies in the world today would have to include lingering devotees of the Prosperity Movement, Ecumenical Modernism, and Dual Covenant (wherein Jews do not need to accept Jesus as Messiah) espoused by some well-known preachers. Yet those aged voices that called out to me recently from my fading boxes of memories also reminded that, while it’s easier today to get an “amen” while condemning teachings like Dominionism, the most insidious doctrines are those “smaller lucifers,” which are often harder to perceive. For instance, how easy it is (and was) to see through the glaring examples of self-serving and lavish lifestyles that some of my old televangelist friends sought support for, while overlooking or even excusing Luciferianisn (selfishness) that is measured in the tiniest of portions, minute amounts so cleverly concealed within subtle and popular doctrines today that they are nearly impossible to detect.
Ask any evangelist who has tried to take the Gospel outside the four-doors of the local assembly what I mean and hear them repeat stories of how quickly certain members arose to resist the plan and to grumble over the resources that could otherwise be used to benefit them. This is the cancer that two decades of prosperity preaching, inward focusing and me-ism has produced. Of course, most of these anti-evangelists wrap their Luciferianism in nifty religious phrases—like Judas Iscariot did when he pretended to care for the poor but secretly wanted to steal the value of the oil that was used to anoint the feet of Jesus (John 12:1-6). These types resemble Judas in another way as well; they don’t even know how they are thus being used as fleshy gloves, the earthen hands of that invisible spirit, the master of waterless clouds operating within or behind them that hates true fishers of men. But for those with eyes to see, the father of lies always gives himself away through his envy of others, seeking what he can gain from believers and religion, not what he can give, then pretending that there is something wrong with those he cannot control, those that get things done like Jesus did, disparaging them, while he himself accomplishes nothing but division, diversion, troll-ism, and destruction.
Perhaps you have seen this spirit in the actions or heard it in the mouths of people you thought were your partners. When once you (or somebody you knew) had nothing more to give them, they turned away from you, or worse, against you and revealed the awful truth: their religious spirit had only come for what it could get, gain, take, absorb, and then turned “to kill and to destroy” (John 10:10a).
Thankfully the verse above goes on to describe the true spirit of Christ, which comes so that people might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. This is why it is wise to observe what religious people do, not only what they say, so that ultimately it becomes clear what spirit is operating within them. “Ye shall know them by their fruits,” Jesus said in Matthew 7:16.
We extend our prayers to Bishop Carlton Pearson and others like him in the sincere hope they may yet be corrected and walk in true fellowship with God through Jesus Christ, His son.