We dont know about you, but here in the Diocese of Oakland we cant tell you how many times weve heard a homilist intone something like this: Gods love is unconditional. God loves you just the way you are, faults and all. You dont have to jump through hoops to please God. Just accept the fact that God accepts you. The unspoken message is that you dont have to repent of your sins to find favor with God. Still, weve never heard the logical conclusion of that song and dance, namely, that no one goes to Hell.
Well, we take our hats off, left-handedly, to Bishop Carlton Pearson, a black Pentecostal preacher in Oklahoma, who has dared and it is daring in the Bible Belt to announce the logical conclusion: How can you say Gods love is unconditional, but if I dont love Him back right, you go to hell? Yes, his grammar is off, but you do see what hes saying, dont you? Hes asserting that if Gods love is truly unconditional, He would never condemn anyone to Hell (or, if you prefer, He would never let anyone wind up there).
But Jesus said in John 3:16, For God so loved the world . Lets stop right there. Its not just that God loved the world, but that He so loved the world. This is Gods love at full intensity. But the verse continues with a condition: that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (yes, theres invincible ignorance, but many there be who are not invincibly ignorant).
That Gods love is unconditional has become mantric in many Catholic circles. One can even hear perfectly orthodox people incant it but what precisely they mean, were not sure.
Julia Duin tells Bishop Pearsons story in the National Weekly Edition of The Washington Times (Mar. 24-30). Bishop Pearson has come up with what he calls his Gospel of Inclusion. Interestingly, the bishop isnt your looney liberal. Remember, hes a Pentecostal preacher in Oklahoma and hes also a protégé of Oral Roberts and an outspoken Republican.
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