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The Exclusivity of the “Gospel of Inclusion”

We don’t know about you, but here in the Diocese of Oakland we can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard a homilist intone something like this: “God’s love is unconditional. God loves you just the way you are, faults and all. You don’t have to jump through hoops to please God. Just accept the fact that God accepts you.” The unspoken message is that you don’t have to repent of your sins to find favor with God. Still, we’ve 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 God’s love is unconditional, but if I don’t love Him back right, you go to hell?” Yes, his grammar is off, but you do see what he’s saying, don’t you? He’s asserting that if God’s 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….” Let’s stop right there. It’s not just that God loved the world, but that He so loved the world. This is God’s 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, there’s invincible ignorance, but many there be who are not invincibly ignorant).

That God’s love is unconditional has become mantric in many Catholic circles. One can even hear perfectly orthodox people incant it — but what precisely they mean, we’re not sure.

Julia Duin tells Bishop Pearson’s 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 isn’t your looney liberal. Remember, he’s a Pentecostal preacher in Oklahoma — and he’s also a protégé of Oral Roberts and an outspoken Republican.

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