The Eternality of the Liturgy (part Three)

20 12 2010
Truth Matters Newsletters – December 2010 – Vol. 15 Issue 12 – The Eternality of the Liturgy (part Three) – By Rev. Robert Liichow

Discernment Ministries International

The Eternality of the Liturgy (part Three)

Rev. Bob Liichow

Truth matters to God. One revelation of His immutable nature is that of veracity or truth. Our God does not simply possess the truth, He is fount of truth, and truth is part of who God is. The following are just a few examples from both the Old and New Testaments demonstrating that God is truth:

God is true (John 3:33): he who sent me is true (John 7:28); let God be true though every man a liar (Rom. 3:4); he who sent me is true (John 8:26); O Lord, God of truth (Ps. 31:5); the God of truth (Isa. 65: 16); he who is true (Rev. 3:7); do not your eyes look for truth? (Jer. 5:3); I will be their God in truth and righteousness (Zech. 8:8); the Spirit of truth (John14:17; John 15:26; John 16:13); the Spirit is the truth (1 John 5:7); the only true God (John 17:3); Christ came to maintain the truth of God in fulfilling the promises (Rom. 15:8); to serve a living and true God (1 Thess. 1:9); his anointing is true and is no lie (1 John 2:27); grace, mercy and peace from God, in truth and love (2 John 3); the faithful and true witness (Rev. 3:14); O Lord, holy and true (Rev. 6:10); just and true are your ways (Rev. 16:7); his judgments are true and righteous (Rev.19:2); I am the truth (John 14:6); truth is in Jesus (Eph. 4:21); the Word, full of grace and truth (John 1:14); grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17); we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ (1John 5:20); I am the true vine (John 15:1); the authentic light that enlightens every man (John 1:9); the rider is called Faithful and True (Rev. 19:11). (1)

Having read the above passages our Lord’s statement perhaps takes on more importance of gravitas (to use a little political lingo):

You worship what you do not know, we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:22-24

What an indictment! Jesus declares that these people are worshipping a Being that they did not really know. Undoubtedly these folks thought they were doing a fine job and really being of service to God, when in reality nothing was being accomplished apart from enthusiastic ignorance (and I am sure a “good time” was had by all in those services).

Our Master says quite emphatically about “truth” when He says that hour is coming when “true” worshipers (2) as opposed to the hypocrites and spiritual vagabonds will worship in spirit and truth. What is also interesting in what Jesus says is that the Father is SEEKING such a people, those who will worship Him in a manner that pleases Him (and isn’t that our point after all?). The Greek word for “seek” implies an aggressive purposeful search on the part of the seeker, which excites me because I know when the LORD seeks something or someone, He always finds it.

By the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry Jewish religious life had solidified into two major facets. The Jews had both temple and synagogue worship. The temple was the place God ordained to meet with His people, where they were to offer various sacrificial offerings, etc. All the people of the nation were commanded to come to the temple at specific times depending on the events in the Jewish liturgical calendar. The synagogues on the other hand were local places found within the villages and towns. The temple, its worship services, ministers, vestments, etc. were ordained by God, the synagogues were never established by God but were the Israelites response to the man-made legalism which developed. In Jesus’ lifetime worship had denigrated from God’s pattern into a humanistic system of works to such a degree that there was a synagogue in Harrods’s temple. Even though the presence of a synagogue was not in God’s original temple planning, it was the place where many of the people came to hear the Word of God proclaimed by various rabbis of that day:

Readers of the New Testament know what precious opportunities it offered for making known the Gospel. Its services were, indeed, singularly elastic. For the main object of the synagogue was the teaching of the people. The very idea of its institution, before and at the time of Ezra, explains and conveys this, and it is confirmed by the testimony of Josephus (Ag. Apion, ii, 157-172). But perhaps the ordinary reader of the New Testament may have failed to notice, how prominently this element in the synagogue is brought out in the gospel history. Yet the word “teaching” is used so frequently in connection with our Lord’s appearance in the synagogue, that its lesson is obvious (see Matt 4:23; Mk 1:21, 6:2; Lk 4:15, 6:6, 13:10; Jhn 6:59, 18:20). The “teaching” part of the service consisted mainly in reading a section from the law, with which the reading of a portion from the prophets, and a sermon, or address, were conjoined. Of course, the liturgical element could in such services never have been quite wanting, and it soon acquired considerable importance. It consisted of prayer and the pronouncing of the Aaronic blessing (Num 6:24-26) by priests—that is, of course, not by Rabbis, who were merely teachers of course, not Rabbis, who were merely teachers or doctors, but by lineal descendants of the house of Aaron.

There was no service of “praise” in the synagogues. (3)

Whether the synagogue was located in the temple precincts itself or in a small village the same worship format or liturgy was followed. The Jews were a “confessional” people in that they publically confessed their creedal beliefs and tried to live by them. The most famous prayer which Israel prays to this day is the “Shema”

Public worship * commenced on ordinary occasions with the so-called “Shema,” which was preceded in the morning and evening by two “benedictions,” and succeeded in the morning by one, and in the evening by two, benedictions; the second being, strictly speaking, an evening prayer. The “Shema” was a kind of “belief,” or “creed,” composed of these three passages of Scripture: Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:13-21; Numbers 15:37-41. It obtained its name from the initial word “shema”: Hear, O Israel,” in Deuteronomy 6:4. From the Mishnah (Ber. 1:3) we learn, that this part of the service existed already before the time of our Lord: and we are told (Ber. Iii. 3) that all males were bound to repeat this belief twice every day; children and slaves, as well as women, being exempted from the obligation. There can be no reasonable doubt on the subject, as the Mishnah expressly mentions the three Scriptural sections of the “Shema,” the number of benedictions before and after it, and even the initial words of the closing benediction (Ber. Ii. 2, I. 4; Tamid, v. 1). We have, therefore, here certain prayers which our Lord Himself had not only heard, but in which He must have shared—to what extent will appear in the sequel. These prayers still exist in the synagogue, although with later additions, which, happily, it is not difficult to eliminate. Before transcribing them, it may be quoted as a mark of the value attached to them, that it was lawful to say this and the other daily prayers–to which we shall hereafter refer—and the “grace at meat,” not only in Hebrew, but in any other language, in order to secure a general understanding of the service (Sotah, vii. 1). At the same time, expressions are used which lead us to suppose that, while the liturgical formulae connected with the “Shema” were fixed, there were local variations, in the way of lengthening or shortening (Ber. i. 4) (4)

Even the wording of certain prayers was established prior to the time of Jesus. Temple and synagogues prayers were for the most part “scripted” and not uttered ex-cathedra (originating from the heart). For example the confession of the “Shema” involved passages before and after the text in Deut. 6:4-9. Without getting bogged down in minutiae of the prayers I hope you can see that even in the synagogue worship was not disorganized nor was it “Spirit-led.” (5)   The rabbis prayed aloud, opening and closing the services with biblical prayers that the people responded to with an “amen.” Whereas the synagogue liturgy was not as formalized as the temple worship it nonetheless existed and was well known and accepted by all the Jewish people.

The disciples of Jesus grew up in a liturgical format of worship and knew nothing else, because what they had was revealed to them by God (albeit marred by a few generations of sin). So it comes as no surprise that we see Jesus and His disciples continually in either the synagogues (see Mark 3:11; 6:2) or the Temple (see Mark 13:1; John 8:1).

After our Lord was resurrected from the dead and ascended into heaven what do we see? We find the disciples worshipping God in the temple by attending one of the Jewish liturgical hours for prayer, “Now Peter and John were going up into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.” (Acts 3:1) The Apostle Paul’s practice was to visit the local synagogue first, for example; “And it came to pass in Iconium that they entered together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke that a great multitude both of Jews and of Greeks believed.” (Acts 14:1)

The Christians, who were seen initially by the Romans as merely a sect of the Jews and as such were left alone. (6) The early Church worshipped in the temple and also met together in their homes to hear the Apostles:

And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul; and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and shared all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with al the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. Acts 2:42-27 (7)

The early Christian Church came into being as a liturgical

Naturally, worship has now taken on an entirely new meaning for these fledgling Christians (at this point the word had not even been coined) whereas before they had been looking forward to the coming of the Messiah, now He has come and His flock await His return. The liturgy did not change, but the true underlying meaning behind the liturgy was now fully understood and thus it became more meaningful in the lives of the disciples.

Church because Jews worshipped liturgically. The New Testament records numerous instances of liturgical worship, which range from pure Jewish practices (such as Peter and John going to the Temple because it was the hour of prayer) to Christian liturgical worship (which confirms that the early Christians met and worshipped following Jewish liturgical practices, and added to them the rite of the Eucharist). (9)

The early disciples saw all the feasts and sacrifices fulfilled in Christ and could now fully celebrate these events in His light. Christ now is our Passover Lamb (1 Cor. 5:7) and He Himself established the liturgy for the Divine Service during the last supper (see Matt. 14) which now became the focus of worship.

Historically there is not a large amount of documentation we can refer to regarding the earliest Church practices due to persecution and much of the Church was underground until Constantine the Great. From what we do have recorded in the Book and a few other places the following statement is surely accurate:

Some elements of Jewish spirituality were undoubtedly part of the early Christian worship, such as the use of readings from Hebrew Scriptures and even the use of Hebrew words such as amen and alleluia. New Testament accounts in Luke 4:16-30 and Acts 13:15-16 indicate early Christians were familiar with Sabbath synagogue gatherings involving proclamation of Scripture and preaching. The Christian word service may also be connected with Jewish use of hymn singing and religious discourse associated with meals…Because of the sporadic persecutions, the Church was forced to gather in private homes for liturgical celebrations. Some of the churches in the city of Rome today still bear the names of the owners of the homes where the first Christians met, such as Clement. We also know that the language of worship used in Rome was Greek, since it was the common language used throughout the Roman empire at that time. Like churches in other parts of the world, the Roman Church used the Jewish Calendar to determine the date of the feast of Easter and the following 50-day period of celebration leading up to Pentecost. One point of distinction of the Roman Church is that it always began the Easter celebrations on the Sunday closest to 14 Nisan, unlike some other churches who celebrated Easter on this date, no matter what day of the week it occurred. (10)

Next time we will consider how the early Church worshipped and how that applies to our life of worship today. ¨ 

Copyright © 2010 Robert S. Liichow

End Notes

1. Logos international software, New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, 2010.

2. 1. LN 70.3 real, not imaginary (Jn 17:3); 2. LN 72.1 true, being in accordance with fact (Jn 19:35); 3, LN 73.2 genuine, sincere, true (Heb 10:22+; 1 Pe 1:22 v.r.), Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek New Testament.

3. Obtained from NavPress Bible Software, Quick Verse 2010, Sketches of Jewish Social Life Electronic Edition STEP files Copyright © 2001, Findex.com All rights reserved.

4. Ibid. Underlining and bold type added for emphasis.

5. In saying this I refer to today’s belief that “Spirit-led” means no planning just the unexpected thus unplanned for visitation of God.

6. Obviously this relationship changed once Christianity developed enough to be seen as it was, a “new” religion, one that captivated the allegiance of its followers from the human emperor to that of Jesus Christ and as such Christianity was seen as a danger to the state and persecuted until the coming of Constantine in approx. 312 A.D.

7. The Holy Bible: King James Version, 2009 (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version.) (Ac 2:42-47), Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc. (all Bible unless cited otherwise come from Logos Research Systems.

8. Believers were first called “Christians” in Antioch see Acts 11:26

9. Quote obtained from http://www.liturgica.com/html/litEChLit.jsp on 11-30-10

10. Obtained from http://www.liturgica.com/html/litWLEarly.jsp 12/05/10 bold type added to honor the Scriptures cited.

I have received a few emails making mention of this latest pathetic attempt to keep a money-making revival machine in gear.

As a cat owner and lover I too urge a return to orthodox, Christian worship…Think of the Kittens!





Carlton Pearson’s “Gospel” of Inclusion

23 09 2009
Truth Matters Newsletters- November 2006 – Vol. 11 Issue 1 – Carlton Pearson’s “Gospel” of Inclusion – By Rev. Robert S. Liichow and Gary Hand

Discernment Ministries International

Carlton Pearson’s “Gospel” of Inclusion

By Robert S. Liichow

scanPEARSON0001

We were in the car driving to Church a couple of Sunday mornings ago and I turned to our local Public Broadcasting station hoping to hear some classical music. Instead of hearing Chopin, I heard a familiar voice, one I had not heard in many years, that of Pastor Carlton Pearson.

I have personally met and spoken with Carlton years ago when he spoke at Jubilee Christian Church in Detroit (back then he was a mere Word of Faith heretic). Now many years later I heard his voice again, this time applauded as a heretic of a different stripe. Sadly, like all error when left unchecked it grows worse and worse. Paul rightly states in 1 Cor. 5:6 that a little leaven leavens the whole lump, which is why truth so desperately matters. Pearson had gone from espousing the heresy of the Word of Faith cult to being the “poster child” of the false Gospel of Universalism. He has gone from being heretical in many areas of doctrine to being apostate from the One Holy and Apostolic Church.

The reason why this issue of Truth Matters is devoted to Mr. Pearson and his aberrant doctrine is because I believe that the stage is set spiritually for his deviant message to be embraced by a wide audience. Our era has been culturally prepared by Hollywood movies, television programs, radio talk shows, the music industry, liberal politicians, and even some seeker-sensitive leaders to accept Pearson’s revamped message of universal reconciliation. Pearson has a charismatic personality, he is well spoken, fairly well educated, and has a great deal of media exposure. He is currently being used as a force for the darkness of deception that cannot be ignored.

A Little Background on Pearson —

Carlton grew up in a Pentecostal family. On the radio interview, (1) he readily admitted that all his ministerial mentors had absolutely no theological training. He began his public ministry at the age of 16 and unlike his forebears he decided to attend college. Carlton attended Oral Roberts University, graduated from there, and later received an honorary doctorate from Oral. Oral considered Carlton to be his “black” son in the Gospel. At one point Carlton was a member of the Board of Regents at ORU, but was removed due to his aberrant beliefs (which is saying something when one considers the host of aberrant beliefs upheld by Roberts and his ilk). He also served on the College of Bishops of the International Communion of Charismatic Churches, which has also renounced him and his doctrines.

As a WOF heretic, Pearson built up a large following, eventually leading the Higher Dimensions Family Church (HDFC), a mega-church of close to 5,000 members, in Tulsa, OK for twenty years. He was a regular guest on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), the 700 Club and was even a guest at the White House during the terms of both Bush Presidents. He is also a Grammy nominated singer and he authored a variety of books and booklets as well as a two-time Stellar Award-winning and Dove Award-nominated recording artist. In short, Pearson was a very big fish in the WOF/charismatic pond. He was influential in bringing T.D. Jakes into the limelight. (2) In all fairness to Mr. Jakes, he does not endorse Pearson today. “Bishop T.D. Jakes told Charisma Magazine that Pearson’s theology is wrong, false, misleading and an incorrect interpretation of the bible. (3)

Pearson also held annual revival conferences entitled “Azusa” at the Maybee Center on the ORU campus and marketed the music CD’s through Integrity Music, which has since pulled his contract and no longer publishes his songs. All the hoi polloi of charismatic stardom attended the Azusa conferences. The speakers included Mr. Benny Hinn, Oral Roberts, Bishop Earl Paulk, Marilyn Hickey and others. The Azusa annual conferences was A financial boom to Tulsa’s local economy by an estimated $10 million each year for the last 14 years. (4)

This man was literally the “golden boy” of Charismania. He had the backing of its elder statesman, Oral Roberts, he was bringing in millions of dollars per year through his congregation, recording and book sales. Pearson was an internationally sought after convention speaker, out-spoken conservative black Republican and a regular guest on TBN.

Yet, today all of this is nothing but a painful memory to Carlton and those who once adored him. Gone are the 5,000 members; he is now down to around 100-200 people in a rented hall. The bank foreclosed on the huge complex, Higher Dimensions Family Church. Gone are the recording and publishing contracts. Gone are the speaking engagements and close friendship he shared with Jakes, Hinn, Hickey, the Crouches and other charismatic glitterati. I seriously doubt that G.W. will be inviting Carlton to the next White House Prayer Breakfast.

What Happened?

Simply this Carlton Pearson stopped believing that God would send any people to hell. He denounced the doctrine of eternal damnation as a false teaching from the HDFC pulpit. News of his new doctrinal stance quickly spread and even after many of his charismatic ministry friends and associates tried to counsel Pearson and get him to recant his position he refused. His counselors, for all their doctrinal errors, knew Pearson was wrong on this point and so severely so they rightly broke fellowship with him. Instead of humbly submitting himself to the orthodox teachings of the Christian Church for two thousand years, Carlton, in a supreme act of pride said the Church has been wrong and that he will restore the “true” Gospel back to the Church!

Pearson states: “A careful study of early church history will show that the doctrine of universal restoration was the prevailing doctrine of the Primitive Christian Church.” History does not show that the doctrine of universalism was held by the Primitive Christian Church as he and others claim. It was Origen in the 3rd century who began to espouse this view as he held to a more allegorical interpretation of Scripture, but it was never held as an Orthodox Church view. (5)

Every cult leader has taken this posture. The entire Church is wrong and now God is restoring biblical truth through him or her.

One does not arrive at this position overnight and although Pearson does not go into great detail as to why he took this heterodox stance, I believe we have enough information to come to the reason why he departed from the faith.

Pearson started off as a member of a Pentecostal church, the Church of God in Christ, which is at best semi-pelegian doctrinally. They preach a form of “decision-theology” when it comes to Salvation. They are very works oriented. One works to get saved and then one must continue with various works in order to stay “saved.” From his childhood, through his time at ORU and then as a pastor he has been driven by works evangelism in the classic Charles Finney frame of mind. (6) Pearson admits as much in his radio interview. Here is a transcript of a portion of that interview:

…and it all came to a head one evening, in front of the television, when my little girl who will be nine next month, was an infant, returning from Rwanda to Uganda, and umm Peter Jennings was doing a piece on it, now Majesty was my little girl and I was watching these little kids with swollen bellies, and it looks like their skin is stretched across their little skeleton remains, their hair is kind of red from malnutrition, the babies are, they got flies in the corners of their eyes and mouths, and they reached for the mother’s breast and the mother’s breast are like pencils, there’s no milk, and I, my little fat faced baby with a plate full and a big screen television, and I said, “God I don’t know how you can call yourself a loving Son of God, and allow these people to suffer this way, and then just suck them right into hell,” which was my assumption, and then I heard a voice say within me, “So that’s what you think we’re doing?” and then I remember I didn’t say yes or no, I said, “that’s what I was taught, we’re sucking them into hell,” I said, “yes” well they need to get saved.” “and how will that happen” “someone needs to preach the gospel to them and get them saved” so if you think that that’s the only way to get saved is for someone to preach the gospel to them and we’re sucking them into hell, why don’t you put you’re little baby down and turn your big screen television, I’ll push your plate away, get on the first plane, well get them saved, um, and I remember this all broken up and in tears, I was very upset, I remember thinking, “God don’t pull that guilt on me, “I’ve given you the best forty years of my life, besides, I can’t save the whole world, I’m doing the best I can, I can’t save this whole world. And that’s when I remembered, I believe it was God saying precisely, “You can’t save this whole world, that’s what we did. Do you think we’re sucking them into hell? Can’t you see, they’re already there?” That’s hell. You keep creating and inventing that for yourselves, I’m taking them into my presence. (7)

Due to the impact of Finney’s Pelagianism, Carlton and multitudes of others within the Church believe they must do something in order to bring about the salvation of the lost. Pearson said further on in this interview that every time he sat down next to someone on a plane he felt compelled to open his Bible in front of them and challenge them regarding their faith (or lack thereof) in Christ. His goal, like that of Campus Crusade For Christ, was to get as many people as possible to repeat the “sinners prayer” with him. He felt guilt when he did not witness in this manner and he also felt guilt when he did witness and people did not respond to his invitation. Keep in mind according to Finney it is the job of the evangelist to compel the lost into the kingdom of Heaven using any means necessary. (8)

Let me state quite clearly, that I believe in the necessity of witnessing our faith to others. We are commanded by Jesus Christ to go into the entire world and preach the Gospel (Mark 16:15). I have no problem with brothers and sisters passing out tracts, knocking on doors, and inviting people to their local church. However, we must keep first and foremost in our mind that salvation is of the Lord (read Psl. 37:39). God uses the foolishness of preaching to draw people to faith in Jesus (read 1 Cor. 1:21). The Bible clearly states that one man plants and another waters, but it is GOD who gives the increase (read 1 Cor. 3:7).

All Roads Lead to Heaven —

Pearson’s problem was that in spite of all his working to “get” people saved, multitudes were not saved. Instead of simply bowing his head and humbly submitting to a loving sovereign God, who although not obligated to saving anyone, is saving multitudes daily through the Gospel…he gets mad and accuses God of being unloving and unjust and allowing multitudes to suffer and in the end sending them to eternal damnation. In fact Pearson is on record making the following statement about God’s righteous judgment: “a God who eternally condemns non-Christians would be worse than Hitler. ‘Hitler killed six million [people], mostly Jews. He is the most despised man in the twentieth century. Is God worse than Hitler, who’s going to burn eternally, endlessly, billions of people?” (9)

Due to his lack of a biblical worldview (see Matt. 7: 26) when confronted by the sad realities of a fallen world Carlton makes the classic mistake and chooses one of God’s attributes, love specifically, over the other. He chooses to see God now only as a God of love and total reconciliation. Pearson states in an interview “I believe that most people on planet earth will go to heaven, because of Calvary, because of the unconditional love of God, and the redemptive work of the cross, which is already accomplished.” (10) In an interview he states:

“Jesus was not a Christian, He was a Jew. God, however, is Spirit and cannot be confined exclusively to any particular religion including Christianity. He’s not Jewish or Christian or Hindu or Buddhist; yet He is all of that if we want or need Him to be, while at the same time, none of it conclusively, because He can’t be and, in fact, is not limited to a person’s or culture’s perception of Him. He loves everybody, He understands everybody, and He has a covenant with everybody—again, whether they know it or not. (11)

He does this at the expense of God’s other attributes such as holiness (see Rev. 15:4); sovereignty (see Isa. 46:10); the wrath of God (see Deut. 32:39-41); the decrees of God (see Isa. 40:13,14; Eph 1:4; etc.). The point is simply this—always remember that our God is perfectly balanced in all His attributes. He is equally; loving, just, merciful, compassionate, righteous, holy, and vengeful of sin at the same time with no aspect of His Person being more pronounced than any other.

Paraphrasing Carlton’s words he states that he heard a voice which told him that we, the Church, were putting people into hell and that God on the other hand was bringing them into His presence. This voice told Carlton that these poor suffering souls were in hell now, while on earth.

It was on this basis of this experience that Carlton began to create a new version of an old heresy he calls “The Gospel of Inclusion.”

The Gospel of Inclusion

Pearson now believes that since God so loved the world and Jesus died for all the sins of the world, then the entire world is already saved. The following comments come from a brother who has written an excellent article on Mr. Pearson. This information is used with Gary Hand’s kind permission:

A. The death of Jesus Christ on the cross and His resurrection paid the price for all of humanity to have eternal life in heaven, without any requirement to repent of sins and receive salvation.

B. Belief in Jesus Christ is not necessary for a person to go to heaven. Salvation is unconditional, granted by the grace of God to every human being.

C. It is presumed that all of humanity will have its destiny in heaven, whether they realize it or not.

D. All of humanity will go to heaven regardless of their religious affiliation, including those who believe in false religions or adopt any other form of religious persuasion, or who have no religious persuasion.

E. Only those who have “tasted of the fruits” of real intimacy with Christ and have “intentionally and consciously rejected” the grace of God will spend eternity separated from God.

F. There are persons in some type of hell, but the emphasis is “to get away from the picture of an angry, intolerant God. I don’t see God that bitter.”

The Nature of God

Carlton Pearson’s difficulty begins with a flawed concept of God in relation to man. In presenting aberrant doctrines, the attempt is always made to define the nature and character of God as less than who He is, and to raise the level of the nature and character of man to a position which he is not entitled. A wrong view of God leads to a wrong view of Jesus Christ, a wrong view of the Holy Spirit and eventually to a wrong view of the elements of salvation.

Through his claim that the God, traditionally believed by orthodox Christians, is a bitter God, Carlton Pearson sets up a “straw man” argument or a false premise, against which he argues and makes his claims. He does the same by defining the reason for God’s anger being bitterness on His part, which is a human characteristic but not one of god. He wishes to disassociate himself from those who he claims believe in this “bitter God” that he created, for sake of argument, “to get away from the picture of an angry, intolerant God. I don’t see God that bitter,” Choosing his words poorly, he intimates that he actually does believe in a “bitter” God, because to state that God is not “that bitter” is to assume that He is bitter to a lesser degree. Orthodox belief would deny that God is bitter and would state that a bitter God has never been a tenant of true Christian doctrine. In setting up his false argument, he makes a claim against orthodox belief that is not true, and at the same time places himself in a position where he affirms, by his own words, that he accepts a belief in a bitter god who is just not “that bitter.”

He seems to believe that God’s intolerance of sin and consequent anger expressed against it, an taught in the bible and found in orthodox belief, is equated with bitterness. By his acceptance of a bitter God himself, he assigns to God a deviant human characteristic which is the result of a fallen nature, and at the same time denigrates the character and integrity of God by assuming that He acts on the same level as human beings.

Carlton Pearson, by an ever-so-subtle method, begins to teach about a different God than is found in the Bible. He teaches about a God who is less than is His Holy nature, and by just a slight degree, is closer to the nature of humanity than the Bible reveals. So the character and nature of God is lessened by that small step which will lead to a greater lessening of the character and nature of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, and a consequent vast change in the nature of salvation.

Jesus Christ

The question that is presented in Carlton Pearson’s doctrine, which has been discussed and answered many times, is, “For whom did Christ die?” Carlton Pearson would answer that He died for every person in the world that ever lived and will ever live. At the same time he would claim that the death of Christ was also efficacious (effective) for every person in the world that ever lived and will ever live. By that claim, he then states that all men are saved and going to heaven as a result of the death and resurrection of Christ, regardless of their religious view, even if they do not know or believe in Jesus Christ.

However, in his theology, the majority of human beings, who are saved and going to heaven, are second class persons in the heavenly scheme of things, because those who are a “Born Again Believer” and are the “sanctified” individuals through a specific belief in Jesus Christ, are also “set apart to and for special service, ranking and relationship both with and to The Lord Jesus Christ…,” which he claims is taught in 1 Corinthians 1:2. (This is strikingly similar to the Trip To Heaven dream that Jesse Duplantis claimed to have, in which there are two catagories of Christians, where the weaker ones must smell the leaves of the Tree of Life in order to get strength.) So, his theology becomes apparent: salvation is given to every human being, unconditionally through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, because, a personal relationship or faith in Jesus Christ is not necessary to obtain salvation. However, sanctification, or the setting apart to a higher ranking, is accomplished by a specific belief and relationship with Jesus Christ. This is the absolute reverse of orthodox belief. Since Carlton Pearson claims to have this belief and relationship with Jesus Christ, he presumes to be set apart, ranked higher and anointed to a higher level than the normal, every day person who is simply going to heaven on a scholarship.

Salvation

The difficulty in Carlton Pearson’s theology is that it turns salvation on its head. He claims that salvation is granted to every human being, unconditionally. This salvation is granted at birth, because the ultimate destination of every human being is presumed to be heaven. Even those who believe in another religion or another god are saved; they just don’t know it.

The death of Christ made it possible for God to accept sinful man, and that he has, in fact, done so. Consequently, whatever separation there is between man and the benefits of God’s grace is subjective in nature and exists only in man’s mind and unregenerate spirit. The message man needs to hear then, is not that he simply has a suggested opportunity for salvation, but that through Christ he has, in fact, already been redeemed to God and that he may enjoy the blessing that are already his through Christ.

Carlton Pearson, Jesus: The Savior of the World

Even though the Bible states that man is estranged from God and requires redemption through belief in Jesus Christ, John 3:18, Carlton Pearson claims that this estrangement is only in the mind of man and that all man needs to do is realize that he is already saved, rather than needing to be saved. As a result of this view, Carlton Pearson states that Romans 5:12-21 supports his belief, claiming that the apostle Paul taught the gospel of Universal Reconciliation. He then claims that faith in Jesus Christ does not accomplish salvation, but brings about sanctification or the setting apart of a person from the rest of the crowd who are going to heaven. So, the object of faith is still Jesus Christ, but the purpose is not to secure salvation but to obtain sanctification. He teaches that belief in Jesus Christ, or being “Born Again,” gives a person special status and an exalted position over other persons. This is a major difference between his belief and orthodox belief. It is at the point of salvation that Carlton Person departs from the faith and proceeds to define, on his own terms, the means by which salvation can be obtained. He says that salvation is granted by God through means of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to all human beings, even through they may not know or even care about the events. Salvation, in his theological system, is unknown to the majority of human beings, but they are saved just the same. He claims that those human beings who do learn about Jesus Christ and are consequently “Born Again,” receive sanctification and not salvation, because they have already been saved through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The salvation claimed by Carlton Pearson is simply a given entity. It is possessed by every human being without their knowledge. However, this is not what the Bible teaches. Salvation is not possessed by default, but is obtained in a specific manner, by a process which may be slow or quick, but it is a process of obtaining knowledge about Jesus Christ. You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 3:14-15. Apostle Paul “But what does it say? The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ –that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” Romans 10:8-10. The apostle Paul teaches a different message regarding salvation than does Carlton Pearson. Paul did not preach a gospel of universal reconciliation applied to all, but a specific gospel to be universally preached to all. The difference is quite profound. The gospel of Universal Reconciliation is not the gospel taught by the apostle Paul. Salvation, according to the apostle Paul, is not automatically granted and is not possessed by people from birth.  Salvation must be found and it is obtained through faith in Jesus Christ. It is at the point of faith that it is granted, not by default or by inheritance. Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves ‘the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men) remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:11-13

The apostle Paul was teaching a radically different gospel than that claimed by Carlson Pearson. The apostle Paul was teaching that those Christians, who were Gentiles, had formerly been separate from Christ, without hope and without God while in the world. They did not have salvation until they were brought near through the blood of Christ. The same view is taught by the apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:18. The gospel of Universal Reconciliation is not taught by the apostle Paul and the claim that he does teach such a doctrine is false.

What Carlton Pearson teaches is a difference means of salvation, provided in a different manner, than is found in traditional orthodox belief or in the Bible. The grace of God in salvation is redefined to be the granting of it to all human beings. Faith is redefined as applying to sanctification and not to salvation. Faith is not necessary to obtain salvation in his theological system because it is automatically provided by God to every human being. Everything changes in the gospel of Carlton Pearson. God is less than He is, grace is devalued, faith is not directed to the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross and as such, the Jesus Christ of his theology is not the Jesus Christ of the Bible.

In Carlton Pearson’s theology, if Christ died for every person in the world that ever lived or that will ever live, then His death and resurrection must have been efficacious for all of those individuals. In other words, they were all saved at the point of His death and resurrection, when the penalty for their sins was paid. Since this must be the case, if Christ died for every person in the world, then what accounts for his claim that some who were saved when Christ died and rose from the dead for them, lose that salvation at a future date? He presumes that those who have “tasted of the fruits” of a real relationship and intimacy with Jesus Christ and have “Intentionally and consciously rejected” that relationship and grace, will spend eternity separated from God. The reality is, that in Carlton Pearson’s doctrine, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was not sufficient to secure salvation for every person in the world, and in fact, He died and rose again for people who have salvation for a time in their life, but reject it and will not be saved when all is said and done. So, by definition, they were not granted a universal salvation by God and were not saved, since they are separated from God at their death. Salvation is no salvation if it does not actually save. Carlton Pearson redefines and devalues salvation to mean simply going to heaven. In that context, it is easy to lose salvation since it is just the act of going to heaven. However, in orthodox belief, going to heaven is a fringe benefit of the act of salvation, which is a reconciliation of man to God. Salvation is much more than just going to heaven, and, as such salvation is truly what the term signifies; being kept secure by God Himself. It is a difficult concept to claim that Jesus Christ died for those who deliberately reject His placement of salvation on their lives. However, this goes very well with most charismatic belief, because it is a common thread in those doctrinal systems that salvation can be lost at any point. Just how a person is supposed to know at what specific point that occurs, is not specified.

In his theological system, human beings have no say or control over being ranted a universal salvation by God. It is given without their knowledge or consent. However, human beings obtain control over the possession of their salvation if they are told the gospel message (as Carlton Pearson define it) and reject it after having “tasted of the fruits” of a relationship with Jesus Christ, whatever that is defined to be. Fro the majority of people in Carlton Pearson’s theological system, God is sovereign in their salvation, in that they are going to heaven whether they know it or not, even if they might reject that destination if they were told. For the others, who have been told the gospel and “tasted of the fruits” of a relationship with Jesus Christ and rejected that message, they are able to break God’s sovereignty over their eternal destination and take from themselves the ability to determine their own destiny. The question must be asked, “Is God sovereign or is man sovereign? In Carlton Pearson’s theology, man is master and God becomes the victim. At one point, God grants salvation, but at another point that salvation has no effect and the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is pointless, and is powerless to maintain the salvation given.

Even in his own theological system, it would be better if Carlton Pearson would stop preaching his gospel, because the person who does not hear his gospel will not have the opportunity to reject the message and be separated from God as the result. If they do not hear the gospel and reject it, they will go to heaven. Preaching Carlton Pearson’s gospel to a person is, in reality, doing that persona disfavor by presenting to them the option of choosing to be separated from God. Truly, in his theological system, ignorance is bliss, because to be without knowledge of Jesus Christ will assure a person of a place in heaven. Again, what Carlton Pearson claims is the opposite of orthodox belief and what the Bible actually says. Salvation, according to the Bible, is obtained by hearing the gospel and placing faith in Jesus Christ, while damnation is not to hear the gospel or reject the gospel.

In Carlton Pearson’s theology, God grants salvation to every human being on an unconditional basis. The granting of sanctification is conditional, based on the choice of the individual. So, the major aspect, which is salvation is unconditional, which the minor aspect, sanctification, is conditional. In higher education, one spends the majority of time on their major, or the chief area of their study, and the minority of their time on their minor, or the secondary area of their study. In this theology, the major becomes the minor; the minor becomes the major and the individual majors on the minor element, which is sanctification. God and Jesus Christ have gone to the limit in order to provide salvation for humanity, but in this system it is simply granted, even to those who are ignorant of its provisions. But at the minor point of the issue, that of sanctification, the choice is given to continue in the belief or choose separation from God. The great work of Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection is relegated to an insignificant part of the life of a person, while the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing about sanctification is elevated to the major portion of a person’s life to such a degree that a person’s decision on that more minor element determines whether a person will be separated from God or will go to heaven. This is a theological system turned upside down in which a person is forced to major on the minors and minor on the majors.

The glaring fault in Carlton Pearson’s teaching is that he creates two classes of people who are going to heaven. There are the ordinary people, who have never heard of Jesus Christ or have another religious belief, and there are the “sanctified” persons who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and are set apart to a higher level. The difficulty is apparent, in that the first class of people is going to heaven in the same spiritual condition in which they live on this earth. Nothing has changed, because they are ignorant of Jesus Christ, believe in other false religious systems or have no religious belief at al. The Holy Spirit has never worked in their lives and they have never been spiritually changed in order to conform to the image of Jesus Christ.

Carlton Pearson has a gross misconception regarding the elements of salvation. Salvation is not about just going to heaven. If a person could obtain salvation without sanctification, then heaven would be filled with the same sinful, reprobate people in their same sinful reprobate condition, that inhabit this world, which is what his new theology allows.

In Carlton Pearson’s theology, not only is the method by which salvation is obtained redefined, the nature and composition of salvation itself is redefined and the elements of that salvation are detached from each other. Carlton Pearson assumes that salvation is going to heaven, but there is much more to it than just going to a pleasant place when one dies. Even if there was no such place such as heaven, salvation would still be a necessity because the issue of salvation is about the reconciliation of human beings to God, from whom they are separated.  Reconciliation is not accomplished by going to heaven, but by means of the elements of salvation in which God demands accountability by man to the provision made by Jesus Christ by His death and resurrection, through faith, repentance, regeneration, justification, adoption and sanctification, those elements being accomplished through the work of the Holy Spirit. These elements constitute the totality of salvation and cannot be separated. It is not possible to obtain salvation without salvation without accomplishing sanctification, just as it is not possible to enter heaven without all of the elements being accomplished in the life of the believer.

Salvation in the Scriptures, is granted as a result of faith; that faith being exercised toward the person and work of Jesus Christ on the cross and His subsequent resurrection. Faith has always been the means by which salvation was granted, even in the Old Testament, as Hebrews chapter 11 shows. To accept Carlton Pearson’s view of salvation is to conclude that one possesses salvation by virtue of simply being human. Presumably if one is born, one has salvation. That is the disaster in his theology. To presume that one has salvation when one does not, is to be lost and damned to an eternity in hell, without the presence of God. Heresy leads to damnation because to preach a wrong gospel about salvation is to preach a damning message to those who would believe it.

According to Carlton Pearson, the orthodox Christian church has gotten the salvation message all wrong for 1900 years and he has finally been the one to discover the truth and set everyone and everything straight. In a sense, he is maintaining the old apostasy theory that claims the early church believed one thing, but at some point that belief was changed and the church became apostate. He has now come along to end that system of apostasy and restore the truth of the real gospel as he has discovered it. The Apostle Paul, whose teachings were the first to be referred to as heresies in Acts 24:24, was the first to teach the message of Universal Reconciliation, as he tried to convince Jews and Jewish Christians that the Gospel was inclusive of all of Humankind and not confined to a so-called ‘faithful few.” Subtly trying to compare is situation with the apostle Paul, he intimates that the claims of heresy brought against his teachings are similar to those in Acts. However, he misrepresents the charges of heresy brought against Paul, because they were not charges from within the Christian community, but from the old Judaistic religious system that was abolished on the death of Jesus Christ.

“A careful study of early church history will show that the doctrine of universal reconciliation was the prevailing doctrine of the Primitive Christian Church.” It is clear from the Scripture that this was not the prevailing doctrine of the early church. To claim otherwise is simply a perversion of the Scriptural record and the historical record as well.   Carlton Pearson’s approach is mirrored by the claims of Joseph Smith in Mormonism, who is considered to be “The prophet of the restoration, “John Thomas of the Christadelphians and Charles Taze Russell of the Jahovah’s Witnesses, who all claim that the Christian Church has been wrong all along, but they and only they, by their own brilliance or by a revelation uniquely given to them, have discovered the truth. The absurdity of Carlton Pearson’s claim, according to its own system of theology, is, it does not matter what a person believes; they are going to heaven anyway. So, even if the orthodox church got the message wrong, everyone is still going to heaven. In point of fact, it is not even necessary for there to be preachers to give a message, a church to attend or a religious belief to hold, since all men are going to heaven regardless of what they may or may not believe. If Carlton Pearson were true to his theology, he would have to admit that his job as a pastor or evangelist is completely unnecessary.

Carlton Pearson wishes to preach about a kinder, gentler God than is actually revealed in the Scripture. He wishes to redefine God in a manner that suit’s the message that he wishes to preach, rather than reveal the true character and nature of God. He wishes to do the same with Jesus Christ, so he states, “It is my objective to simply represent Jesus in a softer and more loving way, being less excluding and more “inclusive” in His love, tolerance, acceptance, and glorious promise to all.”

Redefining God in the image of Carlton Pearson is his goal, in order to present a gospel that people want to hear. It is a gospel in which they can go to heaven just like they are. It is a gospel in which people are presumed to be worthy of heaven in the condition that they find themselves. It is a gospel in which they can excel to higher levels through the message of sanctification by faith, never dealing with the sin and depravity in their soul.

Carlton Pearson is adopting a gospel that is strangely reminiscent of Robert Schuller and his positive thinking theology. Robert Schuller took a survey and asked people what message they wanted to hear. They told him what it was, and he now preaches the comforting homilies of a positive self-image and high self-esteem. Salvation, according to Robert Schuller, is the adoption of a gospel of self-love, a positive self-image and high self-esteem that is sufficient to approach God. This is a gospel of arrogance, presuming that a person has the right to stand before God based on their own definition of adequacy. Claiming that the apostle Paul taught a negative message, Robert Schuller states that he does not preach the message of the apostle Paul. He takes upon himself the authority to determine what is important to preach from the Bible, and as such, he places himself in a greater position of authority than God, who is the author of all Scripture.

Carlton Pearson has adopted Robert Schuller’s popular approach, wishing to eliminate from his theology what he considers to be a negative message. The gospel message that repentance of sins and the acceptance of Jesus Christ as Savior will deliver a person form the judgment of God, is hard to understand. However, when salvation is given to every human being at birth, there is not much of any other message that can be preached.

Placing himself in the position of authority over the message of the gospel established by God, he assumes that he has the power to redefine God, Jesus Christ, and salvation in the manner that best suits his true ultimate goal of extending the boundaries of his ministry. His new “doctrine” came about, not as a result of a desire to present doctrinal purity, but in order to extend the appeal of his ministry to a vast group of people who do not wish to hear or know about a gospel in which sin must be realized and confessed in their lives. As such, he teaches a gospel that says, “I’m ok. You’re ok. We’re all ok.” To that end, Carlton Pearson has created his own gospel, just as Robert Schuller has created his. He is taking a calculated risk, willing to lose some followers now in order to appeal to a greater number as time goes on.

Carlton Pearson wishes to see himself as the leader of a new theological approach, redefining God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, salvation and sanctification. He looks to himself as the head of the movement and to others in order to provide a foundation for his beliefs, pointing toward those who call themselves “Universal Reconciliationists,”  with similar views. He uses the trendy terminology, that is so overused in charismatic circles today, that is supposed to assign a high level of importance and intellectual credence to what is being stated, indicating that a “paradigm shift” in thinking identifies his theological system, hoping to convince other people that he is doing great and mighty things.

Paradigm shifts, no matter how they are defined by their proponents, must adhere to the teachings in the Scripture, otherwise, like Carlton Person’s “new” theology, they are simply the old heresies wrapped in another package.

Today, Mr. Pearson speaks in a rented hall, his mega-church property having gone into foreclosure. Seated before him are no long thousands of sign-seeking WOF cultists. Instead his “congregation” includes people dressed in Muslim clothing, openly homosexual people, some Unitarian cult members and just a handful of people from HDFC who sadly have been thus far deceived into believing the apostate Pearson’s seemingly kinder false gospel.

I cannot say whether or not Pearson was ever a genuine Christian, God only knows. I can say that one cannot deny the unique redemption that is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone to be a member of Christ’s Body. On the following page I have cited just a few of the biblical texts that Mr. Pearson seems to have either forgotten or has attempted to redefine. Like we used to say “there is a heaven to gain and a hell to shun.”

A Few Biblical Verses to Share With Those Who Believe In Universal Atonement

Psalm 21:9 Thou shalt make them as a fiery oven in the time of thine anger: the LORD shall swallow them up in his wrath, and the fire shall devour them.

Matthew 3:21 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

Matthew 23:23   Ye serpents ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?

Matthew 25:33,41   And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory. And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on is right hand, but the goats on the left…Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

Mark 16:16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

Luke 13:3 I tell you, Nay: but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

Romans 12:2 For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;

1 Cor. 6:9-10  Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

2 These 2:10-13 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that the should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:  ♦

Copyright ©  2006 Robert S. Liichow

End Notes:

1. The interview is available on the internet on various web sites. The program is called “This American Life” hosted by Ira Glass. To hear it one can go to http://www.audible.com or other sites.

2. Mr. Jakes, as DMI and other ministries have been warning the Church, is an anti-Trinitarian and teaches a unique syncretism of WOF error, prosperity nonsense and feel-good psycho-babble. Mr. Jakes leads The Potters House in Dallas, TX. A congregation with over 15,000 members.

3. Obtained from http://www.evangelizeamerica.org/general/carlton%20pearson.htm.

4. Charisma magazine, Feb. 2000, People & Events section.

5. Obtained from an article on Pearson found at http://www.letusreason.org/Curren35.htm on 12-31-05

6. Charles Finney was a heretic who, unfortunately, has had a great impact on today’s so-called evangelical movement. Truth Matters has exposed him as a wolf in sheep’s clothing and there are many web sites devoted to demonstrating that Finney was not a genuine Christian.

7. Transcribed from the audio version of This American Life by Dominique Liichow who labored long over her Christmas vacation to help with this edition of the newsletter.

8. We have Finney to thank for the concept of the anxious bench” and “altar calls.” According to Finney, man has totally free will to receive or reject Christ it is up to the skill of the evangelist to make the message as appealing or powerful as possible. I have seen coffins on the platform with people laying in them, a bugle is blown and only 1 man rises, and then the evangelist shouts “I’ll count to 10 and if you want to rise when Jesus returns like this man run to the alta…” Other evangelists will literally turn up the heat in the building as they preach about hell and the need for Christ. Such tactics leave no place for the true work of the Holy Spirit.

9. From This American Life radio interview and it can also be found at http://www.letusreason.org/Curren35.htm as of 12-30-05

10. http://www.evangelizeamerica.org/general/carlton%20pearson.htm obtained on 12-30-05.

11. http://www.beliefnet.com/story/127/story_12772_1.htm#cont  obtained on 12-30-05.





Jesus Could Have Sinned! (According to Kenneth Copeland)

27 07 2009
Truth Matters Newsletter – November 2005 – Vol. 10 Issue 11 – Jesus Could Have Sinned! (According to Kenneth Copeland) By Robert S. Liichow

As I was waiting to take our daughter to school on Wednesday morning (10-26-05), I was surfing around the television dial and happened to stop briefly at Kenneth Copeland’s morning broadcast. He was speaking at one of his “Believer’s Conventions” and I heard him emphatically state that although Jesus was perfect and sinless, He could have sinned. After all, Adam was created perfect and he sinned, thus it was a real possibility that Jesus, God the Son, could have sinned and ended up in need of redemption Himself. Copeland held forth the basic belief of many Arminian preachers who posit that in order for the temptations to be real temptations Christ had to have had the option of sinning. Theologically this view is called “peccability.

Orthodox evangelical Christianity does not uphold this view and we hold to the theological position of “impeccability,” or that Jesus Christ could not have sinned. I like the manner in which our view is stated by brother Roy L. Howdyshell:

The purpose of the temptation was not to see if Christ could sin, but to show that He could not sin. The temptation came at a critical time: the beginning of Christ’s public ministry. The temptation was designed to show the nation what a unique Savior she had: the impeccable Son of God. It is also noteworthy that it was not Satan who initiated the temptation but the Holy Spirit (Matt 4:1). If Christ could have sinned, then the Holy Spirit solicited Christ to sin, but that is something God does not do. (James 1:3). Christ’s peccability could relate only to His human nature; His divine nature was impeccable. Although Christ had two natures, He was nonetheless, one Person and could not divorce Himself of His deity. Wherever He went, the divine nature was present. If the two natures could be separated then it could be said that He could sin in His humanity, but because the human and divine natures cannot be separated from the Person of Christ, and since the divine nature cannot sin, it must be affirmed that Christ could not have sinned.

The theologian William Shedd makes the following seven statements regarding the impeccability of Christ and I believe they will prove an invaluable aid when this topic comes up (as it has a way of doing among Christians and cultists alike).

(1) The immutability of Christ (Heb. 13:8). Christ is unchangeable and therefore could not sin. If Christ could have sinned while on earth, then He could sin now because of His immutability. If He could have sinned on earth, what assurance is there that He will not sin now?

(2) The omnipotence of Christ (Matt 28:18). Christ was omnipotent and therefore could not sin. Weakness is implied where sin is possible, yet there was no weakness of any kind in Christ. How could He be omnipotent and still be able to sin?

(3) The omniscience of Christ (John 2:25). Christ was omniscient and therefore could not sin. Sin depends on ignorance in order that the sinner may be deceived, but Christ could not be deceived because He knows all things, including the hypothetical (Matt. 11:21). If Christ could have sinned then He really did not know what would happen if He would sin.

(4)  The deity of Christ. Christ is not only man but also God. If He were only a man then He could have sinned, but God cannot sin and in a union of the two natures, the human nature admits to the divine nature (otherwise the finite is stronger than the infinite). United in the one Person of Christ are the two natures, humanity and deity; because Christ is also deity He could not sin.

(5) The nature of temptation  (James 1:14-15). The temptation that came to Christ was from without. However, for sin to take place, there must be an inner response to the outward temptation. Since Jesus did not possess a sin nature, there was nothing within Him to respond to the temptation. People sin because there is an inner response to the outer temptation.

(6) The will of Christ. In moral decisions, Christ could have only one will: to do the will of His Father; in moral decisions the human will was subservient to the divine will. If Christ could have sinned then His human will would have been stronger than the divine will.

(7) The authority of Christ  (John 10:18). In His deity, Christ had complete authority over His humanity. For example, no one could take the life of Christ except He would lay it down willingly (John 10:18). If Christ had authority over life and death, He certainly had authority over sin; if He could withhold death at will, He could also withhold sin at will.

Mr. Copeland is simply parroting the very heresy that got Rev. Edward Iving (1792-1834) excommunicated from the Scottish Presbyterian Church in 1833. Irving was one of the early fathers of Pentecostalism and he was one of the earliest Pentecostals to believe God was restoring both prophets and apostles back to the New Testament Church, which naturally , he started. ♦

scanIVING20050001

 

Copyright © 2005  Robert S. Liichow